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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Proverbs 23

 

 

Verses 1-3

Proverbs 23:1-3

Put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.

Moderation

This virtue the people of God ought to practise in everything. They should exercise self-government in the desire, the use, the enjoyment, and the regret of all that pertains to the present world. Here is commended laying restraint on the animal appetites.

1. There are few things, if any, more disgusting and degrading than the studied and anxious indulgence of these appetites. It is particularly loathsome when the man appears to catch with extraordinary avidity the occurrence of a feast, and to be resolved on making the most of his opportunity.

2. There are on such occasions temptations to over-indulgence and excess. And then our self-jealousy and watchfulness should be proportioned to two things--the strength of propensity and the amount of temptation. Eat as if a knife were at thy throat. Eat in the recollection and impression of thine imminent danger. Or the expression may mean, “Otherwise thou wilt put a knife to thy throat if thine appetite have the dominion.”

3. A man’s conduct on such occasions is marked, especially if he be a religious professor. He may in this way bring reproach upon religion, which ever ought, and which, when genuine and duly felt, will impose a restraint on such indulgences.

4. We should also be on our guard against the ostentation of abstinence and plainness--the affectation of extraordinary abstemiousness.

5. There should be special vigilance if there be reason to suspect any snare, any intended temptation for answering a selfish or malicious purpose. Worldly men sometimes do, very wickedly, lay snares for the godly. (R. Wardlaw, D.D.)


Verses 1-35

Verse 4

Proverbs 23:4

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.

Mammon

All the precepts of Scripture have their origin in the benevolence of God. Man labours to be rich because he is voluntarily ignorant or forgetful of the requirements of his nature.

I. Labouring to be rich implies the consecration of our powers to that one object in particular. But this is not the end for which we are endowed with an intellectual faculty and all the susceptibilities of a moral nature. The accumulation of riches as an end is no more worthy the noble powers of man than building a pyramid of sand. Infinitely beneath the dignity and Divine origin of man is the labouring to be rich.

II. Whatever tends to widen the distance between God and man must be regarded as an aggravation of our fallen and ruined condition. We are so constituted that we cannot be engrossed with the successful pursuit of two objects at once. You cannot be labouring to be rich, and to be wise unto salvation at the same time. By our own wilful act to alienate the heart from God must be the most inconceivable of all misfortunes, since the highest object of man’s existence is to hold communion with God. For this his nature was originally framed, and in this alone will his nature ever find contentment or repose.

III. The ruinous effects that the passion under notice occasions in all the moral powers of its victim. People imagine that riches confer greatness. A man is honoured according to the abundance of his capital. The tendency of this is to inflate the mammon-worshipper with personal vanity. But the greatness which is the exclusive offspring of opulence is a hollow, spurious, and mere visionary greatness. Unsanctified riches tend to render their possessor vain, proud, impatient of restraint, forgetful of the sources of true greatness, and insensible to the wants or respect that is due to others. And the pursuit of riches always ends in disappointment. “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” The true riches, like an overflowing stream, irrigate the heart, and make it bear fruit for eternity, but avarice of gold rushes like a torrent of scorching lava--it may excite the wonder and attract the common attention of mankind, but it leaves behind its devastating march a solitude, and barrenness, and ruin, and death. (W. H. Hill, M.A.)


Verse 7

Proverbs 23:7

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.

The importance of a man’s thoughts

1. A man is as his thoughts.

2. A man has control over his thoughts.

3. God helps him in the exercise of that control.

“We are that really, both to God and to man, which we are inwardly.” (Matthew Henry.)

Thoughts

I. The infinite importance of men’s thoughts. This text, in counselling for a particular case, and bidding us test the sincerity of one who invites us, asserts a principle of wide application. You do not know a man until you know his thoughts. God knows him perfectly, because He knows his thoughts.

1. You cannot know a man merely by listening to his words or watching his actions. There is always more, and often better, in men than comes into expression.

2. The revelations of close and trustful friendships are revelations of the thoughts.

3. The claims of God reach beyond right action, and demand right thought. The law of God searches the secret intents of the heart.

4. The redemption that is provided includes in its scheme the sanctification of the very thought.

5. All sin is represented as springing up out of, and finding expression for, lust in the sphere of thought. Show, by appeal to Christian experience, the difficulty found in the restraining of thought. In the unrestrainedness of thought often comes to us the feeling and the mastery of sin.

II. The amount of control man has over his thoughts. If he had no control over them his moral responsibility would be gone. We cannot help the evil thoughts coming to us. We have control--

1. Over the material of our thoughts. The materials are the sum of past impressions. Thinking is the combining, comparing, and rearranging of the actual contents of the mind. We can direct ourselves away from the evil and towards the good. We can fill our minds with good suggestions and associations. Illustrate from going into scenes suggestive of vice; reading questionable or immoral books, etc.

2. Over the processes of thought. There may be the nourishing of the evil. There may be the swaying of the mind through the power of the renewed will, and with the help of the indwelling Spirit. Apply to wandering thoughts in the house of God. Do we make the mastery of such evil the subject of real effort?

III. The help God renders man in the exercise of such control. An attempt to regulate thoughts will bring the conviction of human helplessness. When a man has mastered conduct he cannot say that he has mastered himself. When he thinks he has mastered “thoughts” he will surely find that he needs to cry unto God, saying, “Try me and know my thoughts . . . and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Robert Tuck, B.A.)

The thoughts of the heart the best evidence of a man’s spiritual state

The knowledge of ourselves is one of the most noble and excellent attainments in human life. He that knows himself stands fair for immortal felicity. Doctrine: The thoughts of men’s hearts do evidence what their spiritual state is. These do ordinarily give the best and surest measure of the frame of men’s minds. What thoughts, then, evidence the spiritual state of men? Not occasional thoughts. Not such as arise from strong convictions, that come on us suddenly. Not such as arise from apparent Divine desertions. Despairing thoughts are no sure evidence of the condition of souls. Not such as arise from violent temptations. Not such as arise from men’s particular calling and manner of life. Not such as arise from attendance upon, and the performance of, religious duties. The religious discourse of others may produce pious thoughts in an unregenerate person. A man may read God’s Word and be yet far from the kingdom. So he may attend the preaching of the Word, and even pray, without having more than surface thoughts. Answering the question affirmatively, mention may be made of voluntary thoughts, such as the mind is apt for and inclines towards. Four qualifications must attend them if they are to be a complete rule and a perfect standard of trial. They must be natural, numerous, satisfactory, and operative. Let us each see to it that our thoughts be such as evidence us to be holy persons. Practise frequent, serious, and close examination. (Nathanael Walter.)

The heart-state

The body is not the man. Our bodies die. Neither are a man’s words himself. Words are often used to conceal, to misrepresent, to counterfeit. Neither is it possible, universally, to discern the essence of character in action. What good man is there who has not again and again failed to do himself justice in his life? Often, on the other hand, actions are much more beautiful than the thoughts of the heart. The essence of human character is found in the heart. It is the disposition, it is the heart-state, which is the true man. This test of human character is a just one, for our life is a progress, is in the direction of the realisation of this heart-state. Action is but heart-expression. The heart-thought, or purpose, is the true man. Not only is human progress towards the realisation of this heart-state, but the separation of the man from this full expression and realisation of his inner desire is not a matter of his own choice or creation, and therefore cannot enter as an element into his character. The field open, covered by the human choice, is only this, present desire. It often happens that a man is to a certain extent kept under the power of religious truth who is in heart utterly disloyal to the Divine law. When the life differs from the heart the latter, not the former, must be regarded as the true man. Sooner or later the full coincidence between the external and internal is inevitable; the full expression of the heart is sure to come.

1. Tendency is everything in the moral world.

2. Explain the different destinies of the Christian and un-Christian life.

3. Abstain from all judgment of your fellow-men.

4. Encourage those who are true and good at heart. (S. S. Mitchell, D.D.)

Thought the index of character

I. This is the Hebrew way of telling us in a casual word about feasting that a man’s inmost thinking is the true index to his character. Talk is superficial. The lip gives a smiling welcome whilst a lofty disdain is in the heart. Mellifluous speech often comes from a malign spirit, whilst “groanings that cannot be uttered” are signs of a yearning supremely Divine. To the perfect ear of God, who catches the faintest quiver of hypocrisy in our devotion, and the lightest tone of insincerity in our song, our “words” justify or condemn us; but to our dull and insensitive organs they are unreliable signs, and our conclusions from them require to be corrected and qualified by the study of other data. We are, therefore, driven back upon the Hebrew teaching that a man is built up from within; that as he does his inward work--all his inward work--so he is in character, being, and power. He must be a whole man in his thinking in order to be to all intents and in all respects a man; for manly thinking, according to our ancient Scriptures, lies at the basis of manhood.

II. Christianity accepts and endorses this inward and broad basis of manhood, and employs its fact and revelation, impulse and inspiration, to secure a thorough regeneration of man’s inmost life. It seeks to re-create him as a thinker, refuses to look on the mere “scholar” as the full man, and works on the Hebrew idea, lately re-announced by Emerson, that the true notion of manhood is “man thinking; not man the victim of society and a mere thinker, or still worse, the parrot of other men’s thinking”--but man, thinking “in his heart,” with all his inward forces, conscience and will, fancy and emotion, hope and experience--thinking in the whole of him, and with the whole of him, and for the whole of him and his race, and so making speech the clear, full, and indivisible echo of his thought, and deed the visible garment of his inward life. God means us to be men, and He evokes the forces of an inward life by compelling us to wield the sword with our full strength against the enemy. For as a man battles for truth in his heart, so is he. Cowardly thinking makes a weak and poor life. Christ creates inward courage, heroic daring for reality and right, and renews the manliness of the world.

III. This is a thinking age. The sluggard intellect has received an unparalleled awakening, and thinking of nearly all kinds is proceeding with astonishing celerity and productiveness. The manliest thinking is done with the heart, i.e., with the whole of the inner forces of the life.

IV. Modern thinking, ignoring the Biblical rule, is smitten with the blight of cowardice, falls a victim to unreality, and lacks, notwithstanding its pride, Lutheran courage, holy daring, and self-devotion. Young men, do not be misled by the syren of a false peace. Truth is a prize to be won by strenuous battle with the shows and pretences of error, and the shock of downright attack with the foes of faith ought only to whet desire, quicken appetite, and concentrate your forces so that you may become masker of the situation. Give to your thinking the courage of the heart, the force of a resolute energy, the patience of an inflexible will, and as sure as you are true to your whole self God will be found of you in Christ Jesus, and become the sunshine of your life and the joy of your heart.

V. Another form of this mistake is that we expect too much to be done by mere thinking. Science thinks everything out, and we want to make all life scientific, and so we take out of it our personal trusts, and the subtle ministry of the reflex action of deeds on our thoughts. Convert thought-out truth into loyalty to Jesus Christ, and obedience to His laws. Courageous deed, following intrepid thinking, made the Reformation.

VI. No thinking is manly which fails to take adequate account of the force of intense moral enthusiasms. It is provable that only in the white heat of a glowing passion for an ethical goal have we the clearest vision of eternal fact.

VII. Again, the thinking that is of the brain only and not of the heart is in serious danger of passing over the “unseen” order and treating it as though it did not exist. It ignores the invisible forces which somehow or other, and from somewhere or other, undeniably find, move, and educate men.

VIII. But, above all things, do not let us be alarmed at any of the mistakes and mischiefs that cause disobedience to the Christian law of manly thinking. We need have no misgiving about the future. Man is essentially a thinker and a unit, and he must think towards unity, and truth, and perfection. Be his mistakes numberless, he cannot stop. He is made for God. “God is his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”; therefore, after every temporary eclipse, the Sun of Righteousness will break forth and reveal again the way to the Father. (J. Clifford, D.D.)

Thought

The capacity of thinking is a most wonderful thing. Here lies man’s supremacy ever all the visible world about him. All great undertakings, the glorious enterprises of men for men’s salvation, were once only thoughts. The character of a man’s thoughts determines the character of his life. His actions are inspired from within. Every product of the soul, whether it be an action or a purpose, is first a germ. Sin lies in the soul in germs--in germs as well as in actions. The moral success of life consists in killing evil thoughts in the germ. There are few purer and richer pleasures in this world than the enjoyment of sweet thoughts, happy thoughts, holy thoughts. The heart determines our everlasting destiny. A heart without holiness never shall see the Lord. Christ is the only purifier of the heart. (Theodore L. Cuyler, D.D.)


Verse 10-11

Proverbs 23:10-11

Their Redeemer is mighty.

Social injustice

I. Social injustice indicated. “Remove not the old landmarks.” What are the landmarks? The rights of man as man.

1. Every man has a right to personal freedom.

2. To the produce of his own labour.

3. To freedom in religion.

II. Social injustice perpetrated on the helpless. “Enter not into the fields of the fatherless.” Orphans have their rights. There are villains in society who perpetrate outrages on orphans.

1. This is cowardly.

2. This is cruel.

3. This is common.

III. Social injustice judicially regarded by God. “Their Redeemer is mighty.” Redeemer here means “next of kin.” The mighty God is the protector of the helpless. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

The fatherless

These are taken under God’s special protection; with Him they not only find mercy shown to them, but justice done for them. He is their Redeemer, their God, their near kinsman, that will take their part, and stand up for them with jealousy, as taking Himself affront in the injuries done to them. He is mighty--almighty; His omnipotence is engaged and employed for their protection, and their proudest and most powerful oppressors will not only find themselves an unequal match for this, but will find that it is at their peril to contend with it. Every man must be careful not to injure the fatherless in anything, or to invade their rights. Being fatherless, they have none to redress their wrongs, and, being in their childhood, they do not so much as apprehend the wrong that is done them. Sense of honour, and much more the fear of God, would restrain men from offering any injury to children, especially fatherless children. (Matthew Henry.)


Verse 12

Proverbs 23:12

Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.

Spiritual knowledge

I. Because of its own worth. A knowledge of the creation, its elements, laws, objects, extent, is valuable, but a knowledge of the Creator is infinitely more valuable. “This is life eternal, to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent.”

II. Because man is prone to overlook the importance of this knowledge. It is sad, that that which man requires most he cares least for, that the most priceless treasure is least valued.

III. Because to attain it there must be personal application. “Apply thine heart unto instruction.” It is a knowledge that cannot be imparted irrespective of the use of man’s own faculties. He must apply persistently, earnestly, devoutly. (Homilist.)

The heart and the ears

Observe the connection between the application of the heart and the ears. The heart open to sound advice or moral precept is yet shut to Christ and His doctrine. It is closed up in unbelief, prejudice, indifference, and the love of pleasure. A listless heart, therefore, produces a careless ear. But when the heart is graciously opened, softened, and enlightened, the attention of the ear is instantly fixed. This, indeed, is the Lord’s creative work; yet wrought by a God of order in the use of His own means. Awakened desire brings to prayer. Prayer brings the blessing. And precious then is every word of knowledge. (C. Bridges, M.A.)


Verse 15

Proverbs 23:15

My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.

The happy parent

I. The attainment required. A pious youth is said to be wise in heart.

1. To show us that religion is wisdom.

2. That this wisdom is not notional, but consists principally in dispositions and actions. Religion has to do “with the heart”; and a knowledge that does not reach the heart, and govern the heart, is nothing.

II. The consequence anticipated. Pious children afford their parents pleasure on three principles.

1. A principle of benevolence.

2. Of piety. God is particularly pleased and glorified by the sacrifices of early religion.

3. Of self-interest. Distinguish between self-interest and selfishness. The piety of children affords parents evidence of the answer of their prayers and the success of their endeavours, and so delights them. It becomes a means of their usefulness. By such children parents hope to serve their generation. It ensures to parents a proper return of duty. And it will free them from a thousand bitter anxieties, such as are caused by children’s removal from home; taking any important step in life; or being bereaved of their dearest relations.

Conclusion:

1. Address those who, instead of a joy to their parents, are only a grief.

2. Address parents. Have you conscientiously discharged your duty towards your children? If you have, and nevertheless find your “house not so with God “as you desire, yield not to despair. Never cease to pray and to admonish. Some shower of rain may cause the seed, which has long been buried under the dryness of the soil, to strike root and spring up. (W. Jay.)

Religion, true wisdom

I. Why religion may be described as true wisdom.

1. As it involves the possession and right application of knowledge.

2. As it gives the first attention to the most momentous concerns.

3. As it adopts the most likely means for securing these great ends.

4. As it secures the greatest amount of good both for the present and the future.

II. The importance of this to young people.

1. Because of their necessary inexperience.

2. Because of the countless perils which surround them.

3. Because the future circumstances of life depend much upon the course adopted in youth.

III. The certain means of its atttainment.

1. There must be a deep conviction of its need and value.

2. There must be the hearty and simple application of faith, for its realisation.

3. Let this resolution, and application of devout earnestness and faith, be adopted now.

In conclusion, present the subject to your serious attention--

Parental wishes

Persons may form a judgment of their own dispositions from their wishes about their children. Worldly men make it their great work to provide those things for their children which they account their own best things. Saints desire above all things that the hearts of their children may be richly furnished with wisdom, and that their lips may speak right things; for the heart is the throne of Wisdom, and by the lips she discovers her possession of that throne. (George Lawson, D.D.)


Verse 17

Proverbs 23:17

Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.

Envy of sinners forbidden, and the fear of God enjoined

I. Some of the reasons why men very frequently are induced to envy sinners.

1. They perhaps see them possessed of wealth, in the enjoyment of many outward comforts, and encircled with the means of gratification; and these are things after which human nature hankers. The idea of happiness is commonly connected with the possession of them. But, surely, to envy these fleeting possessions little becomes a wise man. Surely his lot is not to be desired who lives here under the Divine displeasure, and who must very shortly endure the righteous judgment of a justly offended God.

2. But we find men sometimes disposed to envy sinners on account of the apparent freedom from care and anxiety in which they live. But that gay unconcern about eternal things which is attributed to them we ought to commiserate rather than envy.

3. But whatever circumstances in the condition of the sinner men may admire, unbelief is the source from which all envy of his lot must proceed.

II. The nature and effects of the fear of the Lord.

1. It is not a fear of Him as an irresistible and implacable enemy; but it is a fear grounded on a just perception of the excellency of the Divine character, connected with love to Him, and with an expectation of the largest blessings from His hand.

2. But what are the effects which the fear of God will produce?

The cure for envy

The cure for envy lies in living under a constant sense of the Divine presence, worshipping God and communing with Him all the day long, however long the day may seem. True religion lifts the soul into a higher region, where the judgment becomes more clear, and the desires are more elevated. The more of heaven there is in our lives, the less of earth we shall covet. The fear of God casts out the envy of men. The death-blow of envy is a calm consideration of the future. The wealth and glory of the ungodly are a vain show. This pompous appearance flashes out for an hour, and then is extinguished. What is the prosperous sinner the better for his prosperity when judgment overtakes him? As for the godly man, his end is peace and blessedness, and none can rob him of his joy; wherefore, let him forego envy, and be filled with sweet content. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The nature and advantages of the fear of the Lord

Scarcely anything has a more immediate influence upon our duty or comfort than the due government of our passions. Hence the wise and virtuous, in all ages, have employed themselves in forming rules for their regulation. But it is found more easy to prescribe, than to reduce these rules to practice. The religion of Jesus provides the assistance requisite to enable us to comply with rules.

I. What is it to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long? Fear is a passion of the human mind, and stands opposed to hope. It always has for its object some evil, real or supposed. Here its object is the evil and danger of sinning against God, and the just displeasure of God, in consequence of offending Him. To fear these is to fear the Lord in the best sense of the phrase. We should live under the habitual influence of this holy temper, and carry it with us into all the duties of the religious and social life.

II. Why should we study to be in the fear of the Lord all the day long?

1. It is an excellent guard against the commission of sin. The man cannot knowingly and deliberately sin against God who has a suitable sense of His being, perfections, character and government.

2. It really assists us in the right performance of duty. It greatly tends to invigorate the graces of the Spirit in the soul, and to call them forth into lively exercise.

3. It excites us to the important duty of watchfulness, and greatly assists us therein.

4. God recommends this duty to our study and practice, by His Divine authority. Then if you would be in the fear of the Lord--

Of the duty of fearing God

The fear of the Lord is sometimes the whole duty of man; sometimes the devotional duties of religion.

I. The true notion of fearing God.

1. It must be such a fear as includes in it a high degree of love. Then we shall make a difficulty of nothing He commands. Then our service of Him will be rendered more acceptable.

2. It includes it in a generous hope and confidence. Hope is the spring of industry.

II. The influence this fear has to suppress in us all envious and disquieting thoughts. By a holy fear we secure to ourselves an interest in His special providence and protection and grace here, and in the promises of glory and eternal life hereafter.

III. Proper motives and arguments to enforce this duty of fearing God.

1. From the consideration of His infinite power and majesty.

2. From His intimate knowledge of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and of the secret springs of them.

3. The consideration of God’s justice. He hath appointed a day wherein He will judge the world in righteousness. This is an irresistible argument to excite us to the practice of piety. (R. Fiddes, D.D.)

The principle by which each person is to be perpetually governed

Many mistake by viewing religion as separate from common life, and as hardly to be made to accord with it.

I. The principle which is to actuate us. “The fear of the Lord.” The fear attends the whole of religion.

1. As a quality, to temper the whole; to bind doctrine and knowledge; to keep confidence from growing up into rank presumption, and liberty from degenerating into licentiousness.

2. As a quickener, to excite and to enliven the whole.

II. The extensiveness of its influence. To be in the fear shows the frequency of its exercise, and of its invariable constancy. See the attributes of this fear as regards--

1. Devotions, regular and ejaculatory.

2. The business of the day.

3. The trials of the day.

4. Its relaxation, recreation, and refreshment.

5. The company of the day.

6. The opportunities and occasions of the day.

III. The advantage of its habitualness.

1. It will render religion more easy and pleasant.

2. It will render your religion more obvious and certain. It furnishes the best evidences of its reality. Then be concerned to exercise diligence.

The wicked not to be envied

I. What is it in sinners that we are apt to envy?

1. Many sinners have much money. Riches are not necessary to any man. Still, human nature is so weak and so corrupt that but few men can look at the wealthy without envying them.

2. Sometimes the wicked seem to have a great deal of pleasure. Take their word for it, and no people are so happy. Those who have not health, or money, or time thus to live at ease, are very apt to envy these lovers of pleasure.

3. Some sinners seem to get many of the honours of life. They seek the honour that cometh from man, and they have their reward. Silly people stand off and admire and envy.

4. Some envy the wicked for their apparent freedom from restraint. The law of God does not bind them any further than suits themselves. To a carnal mind this looks like a fine way of getting through the world, and the foolish envy these lawless ones.

5. Sometimes sinners seem to be, and for a long time are, free from afflictions, which so much distress the righteous.

II. There is no good ground fob preferring the state of sinners. There is really no Divine blessing permanently resting on the wicked, as there is on the righteous. There is also a sad amount of alloy mixed up with all that sinners have. The passions of sinners are at war with each other and with mankind. The devices of the wicked will ruin them. The wicked are not without smitings of conscience. All nature is armed against the wicked. Instead of envying sinners, pity them and pray for them. Let the righteous show that they are pleased with the choice which they have made. (W. S. Plumer, D.D.)

Divine providence

The text is a persuasive to contentment and satisfaction with Divine providence, which permits wicked men to flourish for awhile, enforced with this reason, that there is a reward laid up for all such as trust in God and meekly submit to His will.

1. Let the times be never so perilous and dangerous, yet God’s providence ought not to be questioned by us, whatever its unequal distributions be. Answering the objection that, if God’s providence governs all the issues and events of things, virtue should never go unrewarded, plead that there is no man but has grievously sinned against the Lord. Therefore they can have no cause to question His justice in their suffering. Besides this, it may be urged that affliction is a proof of God’s tender love and kindness; that the prosperity of the wicked often turns to their hurt and disadvantage; and that the day of judgment will set all things right.

2. Show how we are to demean ourselves under the actual oppressions of prosperous wickedness. The best course for a man to take is to hold himself to God, to trust in Him, and order himself according to His will.

3. We must not go out of the road of duty, and do as the wicked do, because we see them prosper.

4. The flourishing condition of the wicked is but short-lived, and therefore not to be envied.

5. There is an assured reward, if ye have patience awhile, and meekly submit to the will of God in His providential administrations. Then seek to live so that God may bless you with the continuance of His blessings. (T. Knaggs, M.A.)

All the day long

I. The prescribed course of the believer “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” We must be in the fear of the Lord before we can remain in it. The fear is for all the day, and for every clay. Some have a religion of show, others a religion of spasms. Ours must never be a religion that is periodic in its flow, like certain intermittent springs. Beware of the godliness which varies with the calendar. Note the details which are comprised in this exhortation. Remember not merely to associate religion with the routine of life, but also with special occasions. There are excellent reasons for being in the fear of the Lord all the day long. He sees us all the day long. Sin is equally evil all the day long. You always belong to Christ. You can never tell when or how Satan will attack you. Your Lord may come at any hour.

II. The probable interruption. It has happened to godly men in all ages to see the wicked prosper, and they have been staggered by the sight. There is no real cause for envying the wicked; and envying them will do you serious harm. Envy helps in no way, and hinders in many ways.

III. The helpful consideration.

1. There is an end of this life.

2. There is an end of the worldling’s prosperity.

3. God has an end in your present trouble and exercise.

4. There will be no failure to your expectation. The promise of God is in itself a possession, and our expectation of it is in itself an enjoyment. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

A caution against envy and a call to piety

I. A serious caution. This should be regarded--

1. Because envy is a disposition of mind whose influence can never be justified.

2. Because to envy sinners is absurd.

II. The admonitory precept. This implies--

1. To be in possession of correct and spiritual ideas of His holy and exalted character.

2. To cultivate suitable dispositions of heart towards Him.

III. An encouraging assertion. “For surely there is an end,” etc.

1. There is an end to that prosperity with which the efforts of sinners are crowned.

2. There is an end to the tribulation of the saints.

3. The expectation of those who continue in the fear of the Lord shall not be cut off. Human expectations are cut off by slothful and indolent habits, and by unforeseen occurrences. Instead of envying sinners, saints should pity them, pray for them, set them good examples, and try to save them. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)


Verse 18

Proverbs 23:18

Surely there is an end.

The end

Let religion be the very atmosphere in which you live and move and have your being; and the reason for this is, “surely there is an end.”

I. The solemn certainty which nobody can deny.

1. All our actions, thoughts, feelings, capabilities, everything about us, relations and all the rest of it, will come to a close, and leave behind them consequences that never come to a close. Behind everything something else lies, and that afterwards is made by the present, and is an outcome of it. The fleeting events and fugitive thoughts and feelings and actions of our daily life, that pass away and are forgotten, all leave behind them consequences which grow and grow for ever and ever.

2. Everything we do here will mould our character and help to make ourselves, and will spring up after many days. That is true of life and of the great hereafter beyond life.

II. The bright possibilities which go along with this text. The hereafter to which the end of life is the narrow portal shall more than fulfil all thy expectations. Take Christ for your Saviour, and Master, and then swift-footed time may work His will; when this wide earth and all its fleeting scenes will change, you will be brought to the fulfilment of all your hopes, receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Duties and reasons

The words of the text contain--

I. Duties.

1. The avoidance of envy. Envy is that affection which causes grief at the happiness and prosperity of others. It is associated with maliciousness. It is derived from a Latin word signifying “not to see.” The name is therefore characteristic. Why should not sinners be envied? Because it is foolish to do so. It is a false supposition that they are happy because they possess temporal advantages. Because it is unjust. Because it is un-Christian. We are taught by God to pity and pray for sinners.

2. A reverence for God. This fear is not slavish, that urges us to flee from danger, but filial, Divinely wrought in the soul.

II. Reasons. All obligations are founded on reasons.

1. There is an end to the sinner’s prosperity. There is an end to every Christian’s trials.

2. God here promises to realise the expectations of those who fear Him. What do they expect? Their temporal wants supplied. Deliverance from dangers. Help in trouble. Grace to restrain from sin, to sanctify their souls, and to prepare them for heaven. These expectations shall not be cut off. (T. Harland.)

The afterwards and our hope

The Book of Proverbs seldom looks beyond the limits of the temporal, but now and then the mists lift and the wider horizon is disclosed. Our text is one of these exceptional instances, and is remarkable, not only as expressing confidence in the future, but as expressing it in a very striking way. “Surely there is an end,” says our Authorised Version, substituting in the margin, for end, “reward.” The latter word is placed in the text of the Revised Version. But neither “end” nor “reward” conveys the precise idea. The word so translated literally means “something that comes after.” So it is the very opposite of “end “; it is really that which lies beyond the end--the “sequel,” or the “future”--as the margin of the Revised Version gives alternately, or, more simply still, the “Afterwards.” Surely there is an afterwards behind the end. And then the proverb goes on to specify one aspect of that afterwards: “Thine expectation”--or, better, because more simply, “thy hope”--shall not be cut off. And then, upon these two convictions it builds the plain, practical exhortation: “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.”

I. The certainty of the hereafter. My text, of course, might be watered down and narrowed so as to point only to sequels to deeds realised in this life. And then it would be teaching us simply the very much-needed lessons that even in this life “whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap.” But it seems to me that we are entitled to see here, as in one or two other places in the Book of Proverbs, a dim anticipation of a future life beyond the grave. Now, the question comes to be, Where did the coiners of proverbs, whose main interest was in the obvious maxims of a prudential morality, get this conviction? They did not get it from any lofty experience of communion with God, like that which in the seventy-third Psalm marks the very high-water mark of Old Testament faith in regard to a future life. They did not get it from any clear definite revelation, such as we have in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but they got it from thinking over file facts of this present life as they appeared to them, looked at from a standpoint of a belief in God, and in righteousness. And so they represent to us the impression that is made upon a man’s mind, if he has the “eye that has kept watch o’er man’s mortality,” that is made by the facts of this earthly life, viz., that it is so full of onward-looking, prophetic aspect, so manifestly and tragically, and yet wonderfully and hopefully, incomplete and fragmentary in itself, that there must be something beyond in order to explain, in order to vindicate the life that now is. You sometimes see a row of houses, the end one of which has, in its outer gable wall, bricks protruding here and there, and holes for chimney-pieces that are yet to be put in. And just as surely as that external wall says that the row is half-built, and there are some more tenements to be added to it, so surely does the life that we now live here, in all its aspects almost, bear upon itself the stamp that it, too, is but initial and preparatory. You sometimes see, in the bookseller’s catalogue, a book put down “volume one; all that is published.” That is our present life--volume one, all that is published. Surely there is going to be a sequel, volume two. What is the meaning of the fact that of all the creatures on the face of the earth only you and I, and our brethren and sisters, do not find in our environment enough for our powers? What is the meaning of the fact that lodged in men’s natures there lies that strange power of painting to themselves things that are not as though they were? So that minds and hearts go out wandering through eternity, and having longings and possibilities which nothing beneath the stars can satisfy, or can develop? The meaning of it is this: “surely there is a hereafter.” God does not so cruelly put into men longings that have no satisfaction, and desires which never can be filled, as that there should not be, beyond the gulf, the fair land of the hereafter. Every human life obviously has in it, up to the very end, the capacity for progress. There may be masters in workshops who take apprentices, and teach them their trade during the years that are needed, and then turn round and say, “I have no work for you, so you must go and look for it somewhere else.” That is not how God does. When He has trained His apprentices He gives them work to do. “Surely there is a hereafter.” But that is only part of what is involved in this thought. It is not only a state subsequent to the present, but it is a state consequent on the present, and the outcome of it. To-day is the child of all the yesterdays, and the yesterdays and to-day are the parent of to-morrow. The past, our past, has made us what we are in the present, and what we are in the present is making us what we shall be in the future. And when we pass out of this life we pass out, notwithstanding all changes, the same men as we were. And so we carry ourselves with us into that future life, and “what a man soweth that shall he also reap.” “Oh! that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their ‘afterwards.’”

II. Now, secondly, my text suggests the immortality of hope. “Thine expectation”--or rather, as I said, “thy hope”--“shall not be cut off.” This is a characteristic of that hereafter. What a wonderful saying that is which also occurs in this Book of Proverbs, “The righteous hath hope in his death”! Ah! We all know how swiftly, as years increase, the things to hope for diminish, and how, as we approach the end, less and less do our imaginations go out into the possibilities of the sorrowing future. And when the end comes, if there is no afterward, the dying man’s hopes must necessarily die before he does. If when we pass into the darkness we are going into a cave with no outlet at the other end, then there is no hope, and you may write over it Dante’s grim word: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here.” “The righteous hath hope in his death.” “Thine expectation shall not be cut off.” But, further, that conviction of the afterward opens up for us a condition in which imagination is surpassed by the wondrous reality. Here, I suppose, nobody ever had all the satisfaction out of a fulfilled hope that he expected. The fish is always a great deal larger and heavier when we see it in the water than when it is lifted out and scaled. But there does come a time, if you believe that there is an afterwards, when all we desired and painted to ourselves of possible good for our craving spirits shall be felt to be but a pale reflex of the reality, like the light of some unrisen sun on the snowfields, and we shall have to say “the half was not told to us.”

III. And now, finally, notice the bearing of all this on the daily present. “Be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” Why, if there were no future, it would be just as wise, just as blessed, just as incumbent upon us to “be in the fear of the Lord all the day long.” But, seeing that there is that future, and seeing that only in it will hope rise to fruition, and yet subsist as longing, surely there comes to us a solemn appeal to “be in the fear of the Lord all the day long,” which, being turned into Christian language, is to live by habitual faith, in communion with, and love and obedience to, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Surely, surely the very climax of folly is shutting the eyes to that future that we all have to face, and to live here ignoring it and God, and cribbing, cabining, and confining all our thoughts within the narrow limits of the things present and visible. “Surely there is an afterwards,” and if thou wilt “be in the fear of the Lord all the day long,” then for evermore “thy hope shall not be cut off.” (A. Maclaren, D.D.)


Verse 19

Proverbs 23:19

Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.

Three important precepts

The words are very direct and personal.

I. The precept contained in the word “hear.” I take it to mean, “Hear the gospel.” “Take heed what ye hear.”

1. Take care that you hear with a view to obtaining faith in the Lord Jesus.

2. Hear without prejudice.

3. Hear for yourself.

4. Hear when the sermon is done.

5. Hear the gospel as the voice of God. He that hath an ear towards God will find that God hath an ear towards him.

II. The precept contained in the words “be wise.”

1. Try to understand what you hear. Try to know saving truth.

2. Believe the gospel as it comes from God. This is an age of doubt. But it does not take any great quantity of brain to be a doubter.

3. Be affected by what you have heard.

4. Take care that you do not wander into evil company.

5. Take care to do what you hear.

III. The precept contained in the words “guide thine heart in the way.” There is but one “way.” The “way” is often described in Scripture. It is the way of faith; of truth; of holiness; of peace. It is a narrow way. Then put your heart into your religion. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The self-discipline suitable to certain mental moods

In our course through life our minds are liable to be placed in certain states of feeling, strongly marked, and for the time strongly prevailing. And this by causes, by influences and circumstances, independent of our will. We might call them moods--by some they are denominated frames. These states of feeling should be carefully turned to a profitable account; we should avail ourselves of what there is in them specially adapted to afford improvement. The states of feeling to which we refer are such as are not essentially evil. They may be called a kind of natural seasons in the soul. These varied feelings are of the two great classes, the pleasing and the unpleasing; the latter being felt oftener and more sensibly. Take the image of a person in a high state of exhilaration; his soul over-running with delight, his countenance lighted up with animation. What will be the benefit of this if he do not exercise reflection, if he do not “guide his heart”? It may lead to direct evil. At the best, he will just indulge himself in the fulness of his satisfaction. He will have no use of his delight but to enjoy it. One point of wisdom in such a case may be, somewhat to repress and sober such an exhilaration of the heart. Some of this exhilaration should be directed into the channel of gratitude to God. It should lead a man to watch narrowly to see what kind of nature he has to be acted upon; a sad nature, truly, if he finds that the more its wishes are gratified the worse it becomes, if left to itself. The spring and energy of spirit felt in these pleasurable seasons of the heart should be applied to the use of a more spirited performance of the Christian duties in general, but especially to those that are the most congenial. How much time is passed by mankind collectively in a state of feeling decidedly infelicitous, as compared with their experience of animated pleasure! And how small a portion of this painful feeling is turned to any good account! There are occasional states of darkened, gloomy feeling, in which sensibility becomes pensiveness, and gravity sadness. The immediate cause may have been some untoward turn of events; some painful disappointment, or death of friends, or constitutional tendency, or defective health. But this infelicitous season of the soul may be turned to lasting advantage. When the disorder is mainly due to bodily conditions, expedients of alleviation may properly be sought. But at such times opportunity is given for serious consideration. Are there no great and solemn questions which you have hitherto left undecided? This is reasonable pleading. It is but requiring that a man should not be willing to come out from a temporary and special state of feeling without having availed himself of that advantage which it has specially offered him. Apply to another state of feeling--an indignant excitement of mind against human conduct. (John Foster.)


Verse 23

Proverbs 23:23

Buy the truth, and sell it not.

A domestic homily on buying the truth

When the wise man counselled his pupil to “buy the truth,” he had the whole range of truth before his mind: truth in history, in science, in social economics, in morals, and in religion. It is a slander that revelation, or the religion which accepts revelation as its guide, seeks the shade of ignorance and demands to lead its devotees blindfolded through the universe. Revelation demands light, and ever more light. The words of the text are a warrant for all investigation that has truth for its object. But it more especially refers to moral and religious truth.

I. The truth is an eminently desirable possession. Truth is capable of becoming much more intimately and inseparably the possession of a man than any of those things which men usually call their possessions. The truth bought secures to men the great end of all possessions--blessedness. The truth restores conscience to an active and undisputed sovereignty, harmonises the will and the reason, and casts out the foreign elements which have disturbed the movements of the inner life.

II. It is our duty to secure the truth as our possession. “Buy.” Do not stand chaffering about it; promptly make it your own.

1. We must go in quest of it. A man must be assiduous, painstaking, persevering in his search. And he must be cautious.

2. We must approach Truth, and live with her, trustfully. The intellect may assent, while the soul remains sceptical, and stands aloof.

3. The truth must be obeyed. She enters the soul as a queen. She demands to dictate every action, to shape every plan, to control every feeling. There is, perhaps, no utterly conclusive evidence of what is strictly moral or religious truth, but that of the inward witness, which speaks in the soul of the man who is living in the truth; that is, cordially and spontaneously obeying it.

4. We must be ready to make sacrifice for the truth. Prejudices must be sacrificed. Tastes, appetites, and passions, which the truth cannot sanction, must be sacrificed. If we are to get and hold the truth we must search, trust, obey, and make sacrifice. (Alex. Hannay, D.D.)

Buying the truth

To be said of all truths, but especially of the highest.

I. How is truth bought? In one sense it is free as air, but in seeking and keeping it we make surrenders. Labour and search may need to be paid. Prejudice, pride of heart, illusions broken. Sins of heart and life forsaken. Esteem of friends and of the world may need to be parted with.

II. How truth may be sold. Not when it is communicated; thereby we buy more. But when it is not communicated, when it is betrayed from fear or allurement, when it is held in unrighteousness, selfishness, treachery, inconsistency, we sell the truth.

III. Why, when bought, it should never be sold. It has a value beyond all you can get for it. Its value grows the longer you keep it. It buys all other good things at last. When sold, it is hard to be bought back. (John Ker, D.D.)

Buy the truth, sell it not

I. Inquire what truth is. Of truths there are many kinds.

1. Those proper to the studies of great scholars.

2. Those concerning the preservation of our bodies.

3. Those concerning the making and executing of laws.

4. Those relating to husbandry, tillage, and business. The truth here is “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”

II. The nature and quality of this merchandise. It containeth all those precepts and conclusions that concern the knowledge and service of God, and that conduce to virtue and integrity and uprightness of life. This truth is fit and proportionable to the soul of man, which is made capable of it. As it is fitted to all, so it is lovely and amiable in the eyes of all, even of those who will not buy it.

III. The truth must be bought. It will not be ours unless we lay out something and purchase it. We do not stumble on this truth by chance. If men’s faith cost them more, they would make more use of it than they do.

IV. What is it to buy the truth? The price is yourselves. Ye must lay down yourselves at the altar of truth, and be offered up as sacrifice for it. You must offer up your understandings, your wills, and your affections. Give up your prejudices. Cast away all malice to the truth, all distasting of it, all averseness to it. What helps does the God of truth afford us for the obtaining of the truth?

1. Meditation, or fixing of our thoughts upon the truth.

2. Prayer, which draweth down grace.

3. Exercise and practice of those truths we learn. (A. Farindon, B.D.)

Buying the truth

Truth is but one, and it is in God, and of God; nay, it is God Himself. This truth is from Him conveyed into divers things, which are therefore termed true. The Word is the truth, because God is the author of it; because inspired men wrote it; because Christ confirmed it; and because the Spirit of Truth interprets it. Buying includes a desire of the commodity; a repairing to the place where it is set to sale; a skill to discern and know the goodness of it; giving a price proportionable to the value of it; and a storing of it up for necessary uses. (S. Hieron.)

The birthright of truth

I. Truth is a matter of purchase. Truth is, in itself, one, perfect, and eternal. To us it is a growing and increasing treasure. The truth we consider is that which has been delivered down to us through the Scriptures. We get truth by having the eye ever open to observe it; by reading, meditation, and conversation.

II. Truth must not be sold. Amongst other shrines at which we shall be tempted to sell the truth is--

1. The commercial spirit of the day. We are tempted by the mode in which the arrangements of the kingdom of Christ are compelled to make way for the arrangements of this world. This absorption of mind by the spirit of earthly gain gives little time for religious exercises, and breeds an inclination to extol certain business virtues.

2. Men sacrifice the truth on the altar of narrow-minded exclusiveness in the application of the privileges and blessings of truth. Truth is lost in sectarianism.

3. There is peril for truth in the spirit of rationalism that is abroad. (E. Monro.)

The price of truth

I. What it costs to know truth. By truth we mean, an agreement between an object and our idea of it. We want to know, What is moral truth? What is universal truth? To attain it, take seven precepts. Be attentive. Do not be discouraged at labour. Suspend your judgment. Let prejudice yield to reason. Be teachable. Restrain your avidity of knowing. In order to edify your mind, subdue your heart.

II. The worth and advantages of truth.

1. It will open to you an infinite source of pleasure.

2. It will fit you for the various employments to which you may be called in society.

3. It will free you from many disagreeable doubts about religion.

4. It will render you intrepid at the approach of death. (E. Monro)

The sale of truth

“Sell not the truth” means--

1. Do not lose the disposition of mind, the aptness to universal truth, when ye have acquired it.

2. It reproves those mercenary souls who trade with their wisdom and sell it, as it were, by the penny.

3. By selling may be understood, betraying truth. To betray truth is, through any sordid motive, to suppress, or to disguise, things of consequence to the glory of religion, the interest of a neighbour, or the good of society.

There are six orders of persons who may sell truth--

1. The courtier.

2. The indiscreet zealot.

3. The apostate.

4. The judge.

5. The politician.

6. The pastor. (E. Monro.)

Buy the truth

The meaning of the exhortation seems to be, that we should endeavour to acquire that happy disposition of soul which will make us give to every question the time and attention it deserves; to every proof its due force; to every difficulty its full weight; and to every advantage its true value. But this disposition cannot be had for nought; it must be acquired by attention and toil: it must be bought by the sacrifice of dissipation and of indolence. We can easily observe in what narrow bounds the mind of man is confined; how defective its powers are, and how limited their operations. If, therefore, when it is necessary to consider some combined proposition, we do not bestow upon it proportionable attention, we shall infallibly overlook some of its properties, and, consequently, our conclusion will be partial and absurd. This reasoning is confirmed by invariable experience: for every man may remember some things which have appeared false or true, certain or doubtful, according to the hurry or the attention with which he examined them. To acquire this habitual attention is commonly a toilsome work, and therefore demands the sacrifice of our indolence. The labour of the mind is evidently more wearisome than that of the body: for we may see the greatest part of mankind submitting without repugnance to the heaviest bodily toil, rather than suffer that which is mental. This labour, however, is surmountable; and, like all others, by custom, may be rendered easy. Exercise is therefore necessary to acquire the faculty of continued attention, which, when once acquired, will enable us to compare the most sublime ideas, and to investigate the most abstruse parts of knowledge. Then shall we reckon as nothing the sacrifices we have made; and the truth, when we have obtained it, will never be deemed too dear. It will open to us a fruitful source of pleasures; it will form us to fill with propriety our different employments; it will rid us of all troublesome scruples; and render us intrepid at the approach of death. The placid and serene pleasures of the intellect are beyond comparison sweeter than those which are excited merely by the gross organs of sense, or by the more turbulent passions of the soul. And if the pleasure of advancing in human knowledge be very great, as it is universally allowed to be, what charms must accompany the attainment of that knowledge which concerns the things of immortality! It is in retirement that our attention can exert its full force, and consider religion in all its views. Truth will enable us, besides, to fill with propriety the different employments to which we are called in society. A man who has cultivated his mind will distinguish himself in every station; and a man whose way of thinking is erroneous or futile, will in every station be pitied or despised. Truth will, moreover, free us from every importunate and troublesome scruple. “To be tossed about with every wind of doctrine” is a most violent situation; and yet it is a situation which none can avoid, except those who are seriously engaged in the study of truth, or those who are utterly insensible. Finally, the value of truth appears in the serenity which it procures at the approach of death. The famous story of Cato Uticensis is well known. Having resolved to quit this world, he wished much to be assured that there was another. For this purpose he read over attentively Plato’s book concerning the immortality of the soul; and the reasonings of that philosopher satisfied him so fully, that he died with the greatest tranquillity. He saw beyond the grave another Rome, where tyranny could have no dominion, where Pompey could be no more oppressed, and Caesar could triumph no more. So long as the soul fluctuates between light and darkness, between persuasion and doubt; so long as it has only presumptions and probabilities in favour of religion; it is nearly impossible to behold death without dread; but the Christian who is enlightened, confirmed, and strengthened, being raised above its power, is secure from all its terrors. If Cato the heathen could brave this terrible king, what would not Cato the Christian have done? (A. Macdonald.)

Buy the truth

I. The value and importance of truth. Were it a matter of equal and unavailing indifference whether we embraced truth or error, what advantages could be derived from the culture of education, from the progress of learning, or the discoveries of knowledge? Were this maxim once admissible, the untutored heathen, and the enlightened Christian would be completely on a level. Were truth of no importance to the security, the welfare, and the happiness of mankind, what occasion is there for the deep researches of philosophers, for the ardent zeal of theologians, and for the wearisome labours of the real student? But in the awful concerns of religion, where the salvation of the soul is at stake, the value and importance of truth rises in an infinite proportion!

II. In what manner we must buy it. Solomon does not intimate in my text at what rate we must buy the truth, because we cannot buy it too dear. We may be said, then, to buy the truth when we devote our earthly riches to the attainment and diffusion of Christian knowledge. For it has been well remarked, “Riches should be employed for the getting knowledge rather than knowledge for the getting riches.” We also buy the truth when we pay attention to the means of obtaining it. Thus, when we diligently search the Holy Scriptures, and make them our chief study, when we pray to God in secret, and when we strictly regard the ordinances of the gospel, we then bestow some pains to know the truth.

III. The danger and guilt of selling it. (John Grose, M.A.)

The practical value of opinions

There is hardly anything so plain in respect to human duty, that a wrong state of moral feeling may not cause it to be doubted, or even to be denied. It is an every-day occurrence to hear the value of truth disputed. The usual form is this--“It is no matter what a man believes if his life is only right.” The assertion sounds familiar and trite, yet on examination it will appear to be one of the most glaring and self-evident of falsehoods. To act right without knowledge is hardly less a practicable thing than to see without the proper organs. Consider what is necessary to be done in order to prove the position true that it is no matter what a man believes on religious subjects if his life be right. It must be shown either--

1. That there are no certain truths pertaining to religion; or else--

2. That these truths have no necessary connection with the conduct of men; or--

3. That the consequences of their conduct, whether right or wrong, will be the same. Our conclusion is, that it is not to be expected that the conduct, the lives of men, will be materially better than their opinions; by opinions understanding the actual living convictions of their minds. It is therefore an imperative duty to set a high value upon truth in our religious thinking. Religious opinions should not only be firmly fixed; they should also be right opinions. (R. Palmer, D.D.)

Buy the truth, and sell it not

In every subject there is a “truth” somewhere. The original of “truth”--the mould in which it is all first cast--must be the mind of God. But, how do these great archetypes of the mind of God reach and impress themselves upon the mind of man? First, God has given us revelation to be their reflector. But because the most important “truth” of all truths to us is how a sinner can be saved--how a just God can forgive a rebel--therefore, as Christians, we generally call the gospel “the truth.” And well it deserves the name! But the teaching of one who had a right to speak, from the largest experience, perhaps, that any man had, is, that “truth” is hard to get and difficult to retain. “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” And what is the cost of “truth”? You must get out of the littlenesses and narrownesses of party feeling. You must go high enough to have large views of things. Next, you must feel and act as an infant in intellect, being conscious of weakness and ignorance--even in your strongest point; willing to be taught. Whatever your talent may be, you can never purchase “truth” but by fag. There must be a real expenditure of hard work. And you must build up carefully, accurately, systematically; taking nothing for granted. And your prayers must not be easy, common-place things. But now, I would suppose that the contract is complete, and that, with the necessary expenditure--much effort and much prayer--you have bought the “truth,”--some “truth”--little it may be, but real and genuine. Let me give you a caution. “Truth” is a precious treasure. But where there is, a treasure there the robbers will come! And they will come very deceptively. Not by force, but by artifice. And they will pretend to “buy.” But the bargain is ruinous! For it is one thing to “buy,” and it is another thing to “sell”; and men often will give us very little for that for which we have given a great deal! It will be a bad bargain if you sell “truth” at any price. But many things will lure you. It may be a little love of making an excitement, which will tempt you to exaggerate the “truth”; and if you exaggerate it, you have well-nigh lost it. Or it may be a love of popularity, which makes you wish to please every one with whom you are, and therefore to accommodate your views to everybody; and you pare off a little on the one side, and you add a little on the other side, till the whole shape and character is changed, and the “truth” comes out no “truth” at all. Or it may happen that “truth,” which you feel to be “truth,” stands in the way of your worldly interest, and you are tempted to sacrifice it on the altar of fame or mammon. Or the prejudices of your social position, or your professional ideas, lead you to view and present “truth” under such a medium as shall altogether misrepresent and well-nigh pervert it. Or mere indolence may creep over you, and you may give away to carelessness what you once obtained by so great an outlay! And it often takes as much to keep “truth” as it does to get it. A little worldliness, a little frittering of pleasures, will enervate the very fibre of “truth.” And still more and more solemnly, one vice can emasculate all “truth.” If a man continue in sin, the “truth” must go. (J. Vaughan, M.A.)

Bartering for eternity

Some of the characteristics of a wise spiritual merchant.

1. He will not neglect to take an account of stock.

2. He will be on his guard against burglars.

3. He will watch the state of the markets.

4. He will be careful to get a profit out of everything that passes through his hands.

5. He will not take any unnecessary risks. (T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)

The preciousness of the truth

This statement is not to be understood in a literal or commercial sense. Following the figure that is here used, see--

I. That the truth ought to be carefully examined. No wise man buys an article without looking very closely into it. There is no good thing but has its counterfeits and imitations. The article we are here advised to purchase is admitted to be the most valuable of all things, and it is therefore the last thing that should be taken on trust. That it is liable to be perverted and debased we all know. The great Teacher did not require His hearers to take His declarations upon trust. He courted and even demanded inquiry. The principle of private judgment may be abused.

II. The truth has to be appraised. A careful estimate of its value has to be formed. It is offered only on one condition--the sacrifice, or at least the free surrender of all we have.

III. To complete the transaction we must close with the terms on which article is offered. The truth is a system of doctrine and discipline, which needs to be carefully studied, thoroughly grasped, and diligently improved.

IV. The truth can never be sold, except at a serious loss. It may be sold or sacrificed--

1. From a spirit of mere cowardice.

2. From a feeling of false charity and selfish complaisance.

3. By being accommodated to what is called “the spirit of the age.” (Walter M. Giloray, D.D.)

The important purchase and prohibited sale

I. The commodity recommended. “The truth.”

1. There is doctrinal truth.

2. There is experimental truth.

3. There is practical truth.

II. The counsel given. “Buy the truth.” To obtain the truth we must--

1. Come to the mart of truth.

2. Sacrifice the hindrances to truth.

3. Employ the means truth recommends.

III. Let this purchase be urged by several considerations.

1. From your absolute need of it.

2. From the free and easy mode of its acquisition.

3. From its essential worth. When possessed it must be retained.

IV. By whom is the truth sold.

1. By the mercenary minister.

2. By the temporising professor.

3. By the false speaker.

4. By the flatterer.

5. By the backslider.

V. Reasons why we should not sell the truth. (J. Burns, D.D.)

The cost of religion

The Bible contains the truth which we have to buy. He that has a religion that has cost him nothing has a religion that is worth nothing. You cannot be religious without some sacrifice. It costs less in early than in later life. (E. Birch, M.A.)

The nature and importance of truth

I. What truth is. By truth, I mean a right apprehension of all those things which tend to promote the happiness of mankind. This includes the idea of all virtuous and religious obligations. Truth, in its utmost latitude, relates to a variety of things which are matters of mere speculation only; and these may afford some pleasure to men of deep thought and learning. But that truth which is the object of all men’s concern has a more immediate respect to happiness. And this consists in a right knowledge of religion and virtue. This shines in practice more than in speculation. Other truths may please the ear, and soothe the fancy; but this improves the judgment, and mends the heart.

II. We should use all proper means to obtain the knowledge of truth. It is absolutely requisite that a man should first know, before he can rightly do, what is good; and therefore if the soul of man be ignorant of truth, it must at the same time be destitute of virtue; and if it be destitute of virtue, it is utterly incapable of happiness. Nor is the search after truth less pleasant than profitable. For, in the course of our inquiry, we must contemplate God, nature, and ourselves. In contemplating the Divine Being, what a spacious field of pleasure lies open to the mind! What noble transports must the soul feel from a view of Him, who is the fountain of perfection; in whom dwells beauty, knowledge, truth, wisdom, virtue, and all moral excellence! In the contemplation of nature, we see as it were in perspective an infinite variety of beautiful appearances, and relations of things to each other; all which serve to fill the mind with the most pleasing ideas of beauty, order, and harmony. And in the survey of ourselves we may observe a curious machine consisting of various springs and movements, each of which contributes some pleasure or advantage either to ourselves or others. Again, truth is the most beautiful, as well as pleasant. For all “beauty is truth. Thus, in architecture true proportions make the beauty of a building. In music, true measures make the beauty of harmony; and in poetry, which deals so much in fable, truth still is the foundation: for all fiction is no longer pleasing than while it bears a resemblance with truth.” And so, in like manner, the beauty of actions, affections, and characters arises from honesty and moral truth. For what can be more beautiful than just sentiments, graceful actions, regular passions, and agreeable behaviour? Thus nature itself leads to virtue, and truth has a kind of moral magic in it which charms irresistibly. Who, then, would refuse at any rate to purchase the knowledge of truth, which is so pleasant, so beautiful, so advantageous? But in this honest way of merchandising truth, and in all our researches after it, great care must be taken that we are not imposed upon either by ignorant or designing men. Falsehood often courts us under the appearance of truth, as some sort of glittering stones will counterfeit true diamonds. Thus, among some professors of Christianity, superstition counterfeits the name of religion, and many idle ceremonies pass current instead of pure substantial virtue. To prevent this, we should study human nature, and the nature of God, so far as He is discovered to us by the light of reason and revelation.

III. When by our faithful endeavours we have gained the truth the text suggests to us, we should upon no consideration part with it. “Buy the truth, and sell it not.” If truth be of so great importance as to have virtue, religion, and even happiness depend upon it, what wise man would ever part with it? For can any equivalent be given for the loss of it? And why should we exchange a greater for a lesser good? In our journey through this world we meet with many rugged ways and difficulties. But truth will lead us safely through all into the wished-for haven. All worldly goods are imperfect and of short duration; but truth is eternal in its original, and will never fail to give complete satisfaction to all who persevere in it. But you will ask, When may we be said to part with the truth? We part with it whenever we let any interest, prejudice, or passion prevail over us, contrary to the dictates of right reason. As, therefore, we value our greatest interest, let us honestly endeavour to know the truth; and let us apply ourselves to all proper means for this purpose, such as reading, conversation, and prayer to God. The same honest diligence which is used in learning other arts and sciences will bring us to the knowledge of all that truth which is necessary for any to know. And God requires no more of us than what our respective capacities and opportunities will allow. (N. Ball.)

The merchandise of truth

I. The valuable commodity requisite for human life. Truth is that commodity which feeds the moral life.

1. It is of universal comprehension.

2. It is of common necessity and fitness.

3. It is a thing of common end in life.

4. It is the crown and complement of life.

II. The commerce of truth.

1. One compartment in the market of truth is acquaintance and fair dealing with ourselves.

2. Communion with the Father of our spirit.

3. Study of the works and words of God.

4. Acquaintance with humanity.

5. Christian means and provision.

Truth is cheap at any cost. One condition in the pursuit of truth is a high and holy motive. Another is right use of our powers and opportunities. A third is seeking and following the best. A fourth is submission to the Divine will. Another is perseverance; and another faith.

III. The conservative Duty. It is easy in the sale, but difficult to buy. Nothing can compensate for its absence. The sale of truth always means an unjust bargain. (T. Hughes.)

Truth should be purchased, but never sold

I. The truth is a precious thing. “Buy the truth.” What is truth? It is reality. In contradistinction to all that is fictitious and false.

1. Reality in relation to the chief good. What a number of false theories there are concerning human dignity and human happiness. Truth is the reality of these.

2. Reality in relation to personal conduct. There are hollow men, sham men. Truth makes men real. Brings their conceptions into perfect accord with eternal facts, and their personal conduct into perfect accord with their conceptions. Christ is embodied truth. The preciousness of this truth may be estimated by the influence it has exerted on the race. Intellectual truth is precious, moral truth is more precious, redemptive truth is more precious than all.

II. Truth to be obtained must be purchased. It can only be purchased by--

1. Study.

2. Devotion.

3. Labour.

4. Self-surrender.

III. Truth once purchased should never be sold. “Sell it not.” Truth can be sold. Judas sold it. It can be sold for power, for fame, for worldly pleasure, etc. “Sell it not.” If you sell it, you sell your moral usefulness. You sell your self-respect. You sell your power of conscience. You sell your dignity. Hold it as Daniel, Stephen, and Paul held it. (Homilist.)

The highest commerce

I. The importance of acquiring the truth.

1. We should make diligent search for it.

2. We should be willing to sacrifice and surrender all for it.

3. Again, truth must be obeyed in order to be made our own.

II. The importance of retaining the truth. “Sell it not.” We should not part with it.

1. Because of its intrinsic value.

2. Because it does not rise and fall in value like other things. The markets of this world are for ever fluctuating, etc. Truth is ever the same.

3. Because it can be appropriated or made our own as nothing else can. “A man’s life (well-being) consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.” Worldly goods are of no value to a man when the last hour comes. But true religion will go with him into adversity, into affliction, and will comfort him even in death. (D. Morgan.)

Truth cannot be disposed of without injury

Truth is not like a watch-seal, which a man can dispose of without any injury to his character. It is a vital element of character, and thus of happiness; and he who barters it for anything, will soon realise that he has not only sacrificed the greater for the less, but given up the chief thing in human nobility and joy. (T. Carlyle.)


Verse 25

Proverbs 23:25

Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.

Filial piety

Respect and love for parents are not, indeed, the motives which operate with the greatest force upon minds renewed by the Spirit of grace and truth. With such the most powerful incentives to action are those which derive their origin from the relation we sustain to God, the author of life and salvation. It is sometimes the case that an ingenuous youth is more influenced by the recollection of the counsels of a departed father or mother than he would have been by the same counsels had that father or mother not been taken from him; and never, in any circumstances, does filial piety appear more lovely and attractive.

I. Cultivate a reverence for parental counsels and authority. At no period of their lives are young persons so tempted to disregard parental authority as when they are passing from boyhood to manhood. They are desirous to be thought independent, and capable of directing themselves. They become impatient of restraint, and the advice even of parents whom they both reverence and love is often irksome. Better show your claim to be considered youths of a truly noble and independent spirit by always daring to do what is right, and by always yielding due obedience to parental commands. Despise not a mother’s fears, however unfounded they may be. Be it your aim to remove them, not by maintaining that there is no ground for them, but by reverently receiving her admonitions, and conforming yourself to them.

II. Seek with all earnestness after truth. To how many a father and mother it would be as life from the dead could they be assured that you were all earnestly seeking the pearl of great price, ready and desirous to purchase it at any cost--at any sacrifice! But do not be indifferent to other truth, truths of physical, ethical, or political science. And always keep to truth as opposed to falsehood, dissimulation, and hypocrisy. The commands of God, the social interests of men, the very existence of civil society, call for an unwavering adherence to truth. Attend also to truth in the sense of fidelity, sincerity, and punctuality in keeping promises.

III. Seek after “wisdom, instruction, and understanding.” These different terms were employed not so much for the purpose of exact discrimination, as to indicate the earnestness with which they should be sought. Be it your aim to make all possible advances in both human and Divine knowledge, but especially in the latter.

IV. Seek the company of the wise and good, selecting for associates only those who are distinguished for sobriety of conduct. Your associations, of whatever kind they be, cannot fail to exert an influence over you. If your companions be the wise and good, you cannot but receive advantage from the connection.

V. Be careful in your choice of books. Such is the constitution of our minds that everything we read makes an impression upon them. As is your reading so are you.

VI. Cherish virtuous sentiments and virtuous habits. That your sentiments may be virtuous, you must give yourselves to the study of virtue. (John Maclean, D.D.)


Verse 26

Proverbs 23:26

My son, give Me thine heart.

The heart a gift for God

I. Love prompts this request of wisdom.

1. Only love seeks after love. We care not to be loved by those whom we do not love. When God asks human love it is because God is love. It is an instance of infinite condescension that God should say, “My son, give Me thine heart.” The Great Benefactor becomes Himself the petitioner. It must be because of the great love of God that He condescends to put Himself into such a position.

2. It can only be supreme love which leads wisdom to seek after the heart of such poor things as we are. Wisdom must be of a most condescending kind. Only infinite love would come a-wooing to such hearts as ours. For what has God to gain? He is too great for us to make Him greater, too good for us to make Him better, too glorious for us to make Him more illustrious. He can gain nothing--we gain everything by the gift. Yet He does gain a son.

II. Wisdom persuades us to obey this loving request. To take our hearts and give them up to God is the wisest thing that we can do.

1. Many others crave our hearts, and our hearts will surely go one way or the other. It is well to guard your heart with all the apparatus that wisdom can provide.

2. Wisdom urges to immediate decision, because it is well to have a heart at once occupied and taken up by Christ.

III. Let us be wise enough at once to attend to this admonition of wisdom. When? At once. How? Freely. Do it thoroughly. You cannot give Christ a piece of a heart, for a heart that is halved is killed. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The heart for God

Here thou art a giver, God the petitioner, thy heart the gift which He claimeth by the name of a son. Once God required offerings and sacrifices which men were unwilling to give, because it was a dear service of God; but now He saith that the heart is more than all burnt-offerings and sacrifices. Thy alms to the poor, thy counsel to the simple, thy inheritance to thy children, thy tribute to Caesar, but thy heart to God. Not a piece of thy heart, not a room in thy heart, but thy heart. Some have a double heart, but God acknowledgeth only one heart. God doth not require the heart as though He required no more but the heart. The heart carrieth the whole man with it. There is much strife for the possession of man’s heart. Unless we feel that we owe it to God we shall but give it against our will. The wise man, picking out the heart for God, spake as though he would set out the pleasantest, and fairest, and easiest way to serve Him, without any grudging or toil or weariness. Touch but the first link, all the rest will follow; so set the heart a-going, and it is like the poise of a clock, which turns all the wheels one way. God’s requiring the heart showeth that all the things of this world are not worthy of it, or even a piece of it. We should serve God for Himself, and not for ourselves, as he which gives his heart doth all for love. God challengeth the heart by the name of a Son. Therefore now ask your hearts whose they are, and how they are moved with these words. What shall become of hearts when He who craves them now shall judge them hereafter? (H. Smith.)

The Divine request

I. The nature of this request. “Heart” is another term for “soul,” or the immortal part of man. The soul of man possesses certain powers or faculties, by which he is enabled to reason, judge, remember, choose, determine, and perform all the acts of rationality. To render the heart to God is--

1. To give the understanding to know and contemplate the Divine perfections. The understanding is the leading faculty in the human soul.

2. To offer Him the will. Every man possesses a self-determining power.

3. To surrender the affections to Him. This giving of the heart must be done, in an entire dependence on Divine aid; promptly, cheerfully, entirely, perpetually.

II. The reasons for complying with the request.

1. Gratitude.

2. Fidelity. You have promised to do it, resolved to do it.

3. Justice. Every human being is emphatically the property of the Most High. God is the absolute, unalienable proprietor of all. In demanding your heart He asks for that to which He alone has right.

4. Safety. This depends on being in the holy keeping of God.

5. Self-interest. Here your duty and interest go hand in hand. Inferences:

God’s appeal to man

I. The human heart is not by nature in God’s possession. This fact is sustained--

1. By man’s actions. Man’s actions in his unregenerated state prove that his heart is not under the control of the Divine. Man in this condition has no sympathy with the truths, realities, principles, and pleasures of the blessed gospel of God.

2. By the experience of the good of all ages.

3. By the testimony of God’s Word.

II. God desires possession of the human heart. This desire of God--

1. Is founded on judicial ground. It is only right that God should have the heart. We are not our own; He who made us has an inalienable right to all we have and are. “He bought us with the precious blood of Christ.”

2. Is founded on filial relation--“My son, give Me thine heart.” God and man are near relations; man is the offspring of the Divine.

3. Is founded on God’s love to man. God’s love to man prompted Him to make this appeal. He desires his heart that He may enlighten it with His Spirit, cleanse it with the blood of His Son.

III. God desires a willing possession of the human heart--“My son, give Me thine heart.” God says, “Give Me thine heart” wholly, voluntarily, unreservedly, gratefully, and believingly.

1. That God does not exercise compulsion on man’s will--“ Give Me thine heart.” God recognises man’s free agency.

2. The dignity of man recognised by God. Man’s consent is necessary.

3. The glory of the Divine character. If God would compel man to serve Him and surrender to Him his heart, his service would not render any glory to God; the service would be void of virtue. (J. O. Griffiths.)

God’s request and man’s duty

Take the words as those of a greater than Solomon.

I. Why does God make any request of man? God loves a voluntary offering, a willing surrender from such a creature as man. A man is able to disobey. God is pleased when man yields Him a hearty and willing obedience.

II. What is the request God makes of men. “Give Me thine heart.” Heart is another name for the affections, and the affections are as essential a part of every man as his intellect or his will. God says, “Give Me thy supreme love.” Here is a demand which few men comply with, which none in their natural state comply with. Men will give God everything except their hearts. This is a request concerning which some people stand in doubt whether they ought to comply with it.

III. Why does God make this request of man?

1. Because the heart is the most valuable thing we have.

2. Where the heart is given, everything else will follow.

3. The heart can never be happy until it is given to God. So that God makes this request not for any selfish reason, but in the greatest goodness, and the most God-like loving-kindness.

IV. How does God make this request of man? In various ways. He does it by all the comforts of our present life. He does it by experience of the sorrows of life. In the Cross of Jesus this request is uttered. (Francis Tucker, B.A.)

Giving the heart

I. The command.

1. Its nature. “Thy heart”--the centre of thought and life.

2. Its extent. Includes the will, strength, love.

3. Its reasonableness.

II. The obstacles.

1. Its singularity.

2. The tendency of human nature--to flee from, instead of drawing nigh to Him.

3. The world’s temptations.

4. The influence of Satan.

III. Encouragements.

1. God’s love.

2. God’s invitation.

3. Our desolate condition.

IV. Helps.

1. Earnestness.

2. Carefulness.

3. Jealous regard.

4. Prayer, and the means of grace. (Homilist.)

The Divine requisition

I. Explain the text.

1. Men do not naturally give their hearts to God.

2. God will not force us to comply with the demand.

3. To give the heart implies--

II. Enforce the text.

1. It is just and right.

2. Our interest requires it.

III. Now, what answer will you give my Lord to the text?

1. “Oh,” say some, “I gave it long since. I am only sorry I did not give it before, and sorry I have so often backslidden in heart; but to whom shall I go?”

2. “Yes,” says another, “I desire and endeavour to do it; but what a struggle for life!” Do not despair; lift it up as thou art able, and “if darkness endure for a night, joy shall come in the morning”; the Lord is nigh thee; He can loosen thy heart. Look up--the day of redemption draweth nigh.

3. “Yes,” says another--“my heart? Do you desire that? Ask for my money, my tongue, my voice, my feet, my hands, anything and everything but that. It is otherwise engaged.” My Master has not left a power in my commission to compromise it; He will not take aught else.

4. “Yes,” says another, “by His help I will; it is right. I cannot be safe without, and it is kind He seeks it. But when? Tomorrow--to-night is impossible; in a very short time I will.” I doubt thou wilt perish for ever! (J. Summerfield, M.A.)

The surrender of the heart to God

I. The reason why the surrender of the heart is indispensably required.

1. Nothing less is worthy the acceptance of Him who knows the most hidden purposes of the mind.

2. God alone can satisfy the heart.

3. None but God can renew or sanctify the heart, and thereby prepare it for the holiness of heaven.

II. In what manner this necessary command can be complied with.

III. The happy effects that will follow from a prompt and universal obedience. The morality of the gospel is founded on the basis of gratitude and the efficacious principle of love to God. A sense of His pardoning love and favour will be the completion of our wishes, the source of our joys, and the very foretaste of heaven. (John Grose, M.A.)

On giving the heart to God

I. What is meant by giving God our heart. “Give Me all thine affections. Let Me be their object, let Me be the centre where they all meet. Give Me thy hope, thy fear, thy joy, thy desire, thy love, thy delight. Hate that which I hate; love what I command; desire what I promise. Rejoice in hope of My favour; fear My wrath; delight to do My will. Let all the powers of thy mind, under the influence of these affections, be given to Me. Let thine understanding be employed in comprehending and admiring My works, and ways; thy conscience in approving and disapproving according to My holy will; thy will in yielding an implicit conformity to Mine; thy memory in retaining the instructions and consolations of My Word.”

II. How reasonable it is to give God our heart. If a fellow-creature is entitled to our affections because of his moral excellences, how much more God, who possesses these excellences in infinite perfection!

III. How blessed it is to give God our heart.

IV. How important it is to give God our heart. Without giving the heart to God all our works are only varnished sins, splendid vices, pleasing abominations. And further, it is the giving of the heart to God that prepares us for a better world.

V. How we may be enabled to give God our heart. (Miles Jackson.)

The surrender of the heart to God

God is to exercise lordship over all the capacities and volitions of the soul; over all our spiritual, moral, and intellectual powers.

I. The nature, extent, and reasonableness of this command. It implies a clear and enlightened understanding of the things of God, especially the gospel method of salvation. The command is reasonable in view of the relations of God to us.

II. Difficulties in making this surrender. Such as affect the young. Temptations of young manhood. Trials and evils of school experience. Entering business. Forms of recreation. Directions:

1. Be in earnest.

2. If you have given God your heart take care what goes in and what comes out of it.

3. Look well to whom beside you give any share of your heart.

4. Beware of carelessness in secret devotion.

5. Keep up attendance on holy ordinances. (Daniel Moore, M.A.)

The gift of the heart to God (to young men)

The heart is never truly ours until we have given it away. Until we have put it in some hand, or laid it upon some altar, we never fully realise its possession, never feel its power, never know its capacities, never understand how profound are its wants, nor how sublime are its aspirations. No man can live an earnest, social, or spiritual life, and keep his heart unto himself. And sooner or later the heart will be given either to some purpose, or to some object, or to some idol, or to God. Because of this necessity in the heart to belong to some object, the clamour for it is great. The applicants positively throng up the path of life. Fashion is there, and Pleasure is there, and Fame is there, and Knowledge is there, and all that fascination and subtlety and loud-sounding promises can do they import into their appeals. But a voice of tenderness and authority speaks to us from above, “My son, give Me thine heart.” This appeals to us by the simple majesty of right. God’s right to the heart lies in this--

1. He created that heart. And His request tells us at once of God’s right and of man’s freedom.

2. He has bestowed, and is bestowing, continually upon it His care. Home and friendships, and the myriad bright hopes of life, testify that we have a Father in our God. God has been watching over your life, arranging with His wisdom and forethought and love the interests of your soul, and for all this care and anxious fatherhood, He asks this return, “My son, give Me thine heart.”

3. He has provided redemption for it. We are not our own, we are bought with a price. In asking for the heart God asks for that which controls the life--for your love, your supreme love, your undivided love. God does not want your service without your heart. Reasons why your heart should be given to God now:

God requires the heart

I. The relation. “My son.” He speaks here, and not to a stranger--to a son (Ephesians 2:19). A son, not a slave. A son; thou wert not always so (Ephesians 2:1-4; Ephesians 2:13; 1 John 3:2). A son; therefore, in a way of gratitude and mutual affection, give thy heart to thy Father.

II. The manner of yielding up the heart to God. It is here expressed by a way of giving.

1. Give it cheerfully (2 Corinthians 9:7).

2. Presently (2 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 4:7).

3. Give it; do not lend it only. Many lend their hearts under a sermon, like those in Ezekiel 33:32. God is pleased to call that a gift which indeed is a debt (Romans 8:12; Romans 12:1).

III. To whom the heart must be given.

1. Not to the creature (Matthew 10:37).

2. Not to the world (2 Timothy 4:10; 1 John 2:15).

3. Not to Satan (Ephesians 2:2).

4. Not to sin (chap. 1:10).

5. Give it to Him who gave Himself for thee (Galatians 2:20).

IV. The gift itself. “The heart.”

1. Not the outward man only, not the body only: God dwells not so much in these temples as in broken and contrite spirits. He doth not here ask for the shell, but the kernel; not for the casket, but for the jewel.

2. Not in appearance, but in reality.

3. Not a part, but the whole. God is like the true mother (1 Kings 3:26).

4. Give thine heart, i.e., all the powers and faculties of thy soul.

To conclude:

1. Because it is His due. He is the maker, the purchaser (1 Corinthians 6:20); the spouse (Hosea 2:19).

2. It is pleasing and acceptable to Him. He asks it; it is all thou canst give Him. It is a comprehensive gift. He that gives the heart will give all things (Romans 8:32).

3. All performances without the heart will be rejected (Amos 5:21-22).

4. Give thine heart to God: if it be a hard heart, He will make it new (Deuteronomy 30:6; Ezekiel 36:26). (T. Hannam.)

First give the heart to God, and then delight will follow

Would it not be much more natural to reverse the order? First, learn to delight in God’s ways, and the more we rejoice in them the more easily we may learn to love Him, to give Him our heart. So it would seem love will grow out of delight. But how wise is God’s order! First the heart, then delight. For the second is, in reality, only possible when the first has been accomplished. Thousands strive to find pleasure in the ways of God, but because they have not yet given their heart to Him, because they still go their own ways, and God crosses those ways again and again, they only get as far as to bow their heads in a kind of dull resignation under some Divine visitation; but they never delight in all God’s ways; they never attain to a comforting hope which even in dark days does not cast away its confidence, and which has so great a reward. Oh, examine thyself, whence comes it that thou hast so often murmured at God’s ways, hast felt thyself hardly dealt with, and couldst not forgive Him that He did not lead thee by another way, that He took this away from thee and left that, when thou wouldst have chosen the contrary? It comes from this--thou hast not given thy whole heart to God! Only when thy heart shall rest in Him, and in His peace, will it be contented with all His dispensations. (T. Christlieb, D.D.)

Giving the heart to God a reasonable duty

Mankind are reasonable creatures, and the religion which God enjoins upon them is a reasonable service. But it has always been found extremely difficult to reason with men upon religious subjects. God here speaks with paternal affection and authority.

I. Explain the precept in the text.

1. It implies the exercising of love to God. To love, and to give the heart, signify the same thing.

2. It implies loving God for what He is in Himself. Men may love God for His favours, without loving His true character.

3. It implies loving God supremely. He is the Supreme Being, He possesses supreme natural, and moral excellences; and to love Him for these is to love Him supremely.

II. The reasonableness of complying with this Divine injunction. Consider--

1. That we are the offspring of God.

2. He is infinitely worthy of the love of all mankind.

3. The conduct, as well as the character, of God makes giving Him our hearts reasonable.

4. This will afford us the highest happiness that we are capable of enjoying.

5. There is really nothing to hinder us from thus giving our hearts. Improvement:

The hearts of young people demanded for God

The subject to consider is not the giving of your hearts to God, in opposition to hypocrisy and mere devotion, but the giving your hearts, that is, yourselves, to Him, preferably to all other competitors for your affection. Many will be courting your youthful affections, and endeavouring to engage your hearts to them--the world, the flesh, the devil, vain and wicked companions.

I. Who has the greatest claim to your hearts? Consider the equity and reasonableness of the demands of God, your Creator and Redeemer. Contrast with the pretensions of the devil, the world or the flesh.

II. Where may you bestow your hearts with the greatest advantage?

1. Suppose that the world and the flesh are able, at present, to make good their specious promises, what will come when the transitory pleasures are passed away?

2. Even with regard to this life, the advantage is far from being so much on their side as they would make you believe. The insinuations that religion will make you unhappy are mere calumnies that stand confuted by a thousand experiences to the contrary. The devil, the world, and the flesh promise you indeed riches, honour, and abundance of pleasures, but they promise what it is not in their power to give.

Motives urging to the immediate surrender of the heart to God are--

1. This will be particularly acceptable to God and the Redeemer.

2. It will be singularly comfortable and advantageous to yourselves.

3. If you refuse God your hearts now, perhaps hereafter it will be too late to offer them.

4. Consider what the refusal of your hearts to God implies in it.

5. Think how you will answer your refusal at the great day. (John Oakes.)

The gift of the heart

If we would have any of our offerings find favour in the eyes of God our hearts must go with them. It is the heart which is challenged and demanded; withhold that, and you withhold all. The wise man uses the word “heart” in its fullest sense. Sometimes it only denotes some one particular faculty of the soul, the understanding or the will or the affections. Here it includes the whole mind, spirit, and soul. All these the Lord claims. This is a very comprehensive claim. The best way to comply with it is to identify God with everything which will bear contact with Him. Nothing will bear this contact but what He has constructed and ordained. A life thus controlled and regulated would be indeed a blessed and a model life. Nothing could take one whose life was thus regulated by surprise. God demands your heart that He may enlighten, convince, pardon, sanctify, keep, dignify, and save you. We press for this surrender on the ground of right, for your heart belongs to Him who challenges the surrender; on the ground of reason, for your heart was formed for Him who claims it; on the ground of gratitude, for no other has such claims on you. We might press it on the ground of self-interest. God is ready to take possession if you are ready to yield. Then give your heart to Him humbly, believingly, unreservedly, cheerfully, irrevocably. (A. Mursell.)

The gift for God

(to the young):--

I. What it means to give God our hearts.

II. Why we should give our hearts to God.

1. Because He has the best right to them.

2. Because He can make the best use of them. He can make them new. He can make them clean. He can make them happy. (R. Newton, D.D.)

A gift God asks

(to the young:--

I. God asking something. God who is continually giving to us all, is here asking for something.

II. From whom he asks it. Not from any’ one great, but from us.

III. What he asks. We could not give Him the things we have, for they are His already. He asks for yourself.

IV. Why he asks it. This you may learn from the name He gives you. “My son.” You are even by nature precious to God. (C. A. Salmond, M.A.)

Heart in religion

In this text God speaks to man and asks for his heart.

I. The Divine request.

1. Sincerity. A man is said to be sincere when he engages his heart in any work. And God asks for sincerity. He will not be satisfied with a bare profession.

2. Earnestness. When a man is in earnest about anything we say his heart is in it. So when God asks for the heart He means us to be in earnest. He hates indifference.

3. Entire devotion. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart,” etc.

4. Delight. Whatever a man engages his heart in he is said to delight in. Some men set their heart upon earthly things, and find in them their chief delight.

II. The nature of the request. “My son, give Me.”

1. It is an affectionate request. All God’s wooing breathes forth an air of affectionate regard for the welfare of man.

2. It is a reasonable request. (Homilist.)

Characteristics of a great love

1. It likes to be with the object of its affection.

2. There is the presence of a desire to serve the object of its affection. Love is tireless in ministry. It is always giving itself away.

3. It desires union with its object in thought, if not in body. Love never journeys unaccompanied by love.

4. The chief characteristic of love is its unselfishness. Is your love for God unselfish, or do you love Him only as a means of securing His favour? Your duty is to set yourself to apprehend God. To know Him is to love Him, and your not loving Him shows that you do not know Him. The question which concerns your highest happiness, here and hereafter, is not touching technicalities of creed, of ceremony, of intellectual interpretation of selected passages out of God’s Word. The supreme question is, Do you love God? (W. H. H. Murray.)

The heart given to God

I. Consider the question of right and justice. God demands you for Himself; the Lord Jesus Christ claims your heart. In opposition to them are ranged sin and Satan, the world and the flesh, the vain, the worldly, and the profligate. Can you hesitate as to the justice of these opposing claims? “Behold,” saith God, “My hands have made thee and fashioned thee. My visitation hath since preserved thy soul in life. Thou hast lived on the provisions of My bounty. Thou hast indeed provoked Me with thy sins, yet have I borne with thee. Nay, I have sent My only begotten Son to redeem and save thee.” Hear, also, the Lord Jesus Christ urge His claim upon you. “I left the bosom of My Father, and united Myself to flesh and blood, that I might suffer and die for thee, when thou wast lost beyond recovery by any human power.” And now what are the pretensions which the devil, the world, and the flesh can make to your affections that will admit for one moment to be set against these powerful claims? What have they done; what can they do for you? They deceive, they ensnare, they corrupt, they defile, they trouble, they ruin you; but they neither will nor can promote your real good.

II. Consider on whom you may bestow them with the greatest advantage. And here I must confess that the world and the flesh have more to say for themselves than under the former head. Right and title they have none at all; but they promise you much in the way of interest and advantage. Under their guidance, they tell you, you will enjoy a life of pleasure and ease, free from the restraints of religion; you will have unbounded liberty of conduct, and withhold your eyes from no joy; whereas religion is an irksome and melancholy service.

1. I will suppose, for the sake of argument, that the world and the flesh are able to make good all their promises. Delightful prospect! Yes, but how long is it to last? You are to enter into another world, and to appear at the bar of God, there to give an account of your conduct. Had you given your hearts to God, He would now have opened the kingdom of heaven to you, and given you a share in its everlasting pleasures. Your choice has been different, and you now reap the fruits of it. Is it, then, worth while to purchase the short-lived pleasures of sin at so dear a rate as this?

2. Supposing, therefore, that the world and the flesh were able to make good those promises by which they estrange your hearts from God, even then it would be the height of madness to listen to them. But this is far from being the case. On the contrary, the ways of religion will be found to be eminently ways of pleasantness, as well as its end peace. There is nothing truly desirable, even in this life which the servants of God are not as likely to partake of as any other persons whatsoever. Religion is friendly to health, and, generally speaking, to reputation. The idea, therefore, that religion tends to make men unhappy is a mere calumny. The truth is, the devil, the world, and the flesh promise you what it is not in their power to give. For even the good things of this life are distributed by the providence of God, and without His leave you cannot enjoy the meanest comfort. But if you give your hearts to God, He will certainly bestow as much of those things upon you as His wisdom knows to be best for you. Since, then, the cause of piety has thus plainly the advantage, you will be inexcusably blind to your own interest if you give not your hearts to God. Thus, if God spare your lives, you will be fitted to be eminently useful in the world; or if you die at an early age, you will be prepared to meet death, and to bid it welcome. Consider what the refusal of your hearts to God implies. You in effect say, “I dislike His service; I disown His title to me; I can place my affections on better objects; I desire to have nothing to do with God.” This is the plain language of your conduct. (Christian Observer.)

And let thine eyes observe My ways.--

Observation

Observation is the earliest preceptor of infants, and the grown-up man’s every-day guide. The infant learns to prattle, and to utter those sounds so endearing to its parents, by hearing those around it repeat them; it observes the sounds, and imitates them. We cannot learn from nature except by observation. She has indeed a voice which speaks loudly and continuously to the ears of all who will listen. She has a school in which all who will may learn. It was observation in Newton which led to the discovery of the laws of gravitation. He observed the apple fall, and reasoned on it. But, had he not observed the falling body, he might never have discovered what is so useful for us to know. It was observation on the part of Galvani’s wife which led to the knowledge of galvanism and electricity. She observed the legs of some frogs to twitch, on which her husband was experimenting. She marked the fact and the result was the discovery of that useful and all-pervading agency, electricity. The value of the discovery has of late been more forcibly impressed on us by the successful laying of the Atlantic telegraph, by which distant countries, separated by seas of vast extent and great depth, are brought into almost momentary connection. It was observation which led to the discovery of glass. Sand and flint were accidentally melted together on the seashore, and the result was a transparent substance which we call glass, and which in cold countries like our own is so invaluable in lighting our homes, while the chilly air is kept outside. It was observation on the part of the architect, Smeaton, which led to the successful building of the Eddystone lighthouse. Two buildings had been previously erected on that fatal rock; the one was burnt, and the other blown down. He observed that the form of the oak-tree seemed the strongest in nature. He acted on this, and built the lighthouse after the model of an oak-tree’s trunk. Its continuance for so many years proves the truth of his deduction. (Church of England Magazine.)


Verses 29-35

Proverbs 23:29-35

They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.

The woes of the drunkard

The ugly sketch given here should be enough to warn all young people against tampering with a vice which may make it a portrait of them. The questions, six in number, fall into three pairs, which deal respectively with the man’s feelings of discomfort, his relations with others, and his physical sufferings. Who is the original of this foul picture of degradation and misery? The answer is keenly sarcastic. It is the man who “lingers long over the wine.” The loss of the power of self-control is indicated in the term. If we would only realise the “afterwards” of any vice, we should turn from it with dread. The misfortune is, that we do not look an inch beyond the present pleasure. Note three degrading effects of drunkenness.

1. The effect in deceiving the senses and lowering the moral tone.

2. The common sense, the instinct of self-preservation, ordinary prudence, and the sense of the fitness of things, are suspended.

3. The last piece of degradation is given, for greater liveliness of impression, in the form of the drunkard’s own soliloquy. He feels himself all over as he begins to rouse from his tipsy sleep, and pities himself that he has been so badly handled. He is waking, but he is not yet himself. As he staggers back into consciousness, the first thing that he thinks of is a renewal of his debauch. The awful tyranny of the evil habit, which has become a diseased second nature, is only too well known. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)

Returning from evil ways

The first difficulty in the way of return for the intemperate, who have got on the wrong tack, is the force of moral gravitation. It is easier to go down than it is to go up. The next thing is the power of evil habit. If a man wants to return from evil practices, society repulses him. How may these obstacles be overcome?

1. Throw yourself on God.

2. Quit all your bad associations.

3. Seek Christian advice. If you have a Christian friend, go to him. (T. De Witt Talmage, D.D.)

Against intemperance

As implied in this passage this indicates the tendency of human nature.

1. The moral degradation of intemperance. It is the destruction of everything manly and noble in human nature.

2. The physical degradation. Corruption in the heart works out its marks upon the face and in the manners. A distinguished German authority has given the scientific degradation resulting upon the generations succeeding the victim of the drink habit.

3. The social degradation. Intemperance as an evil reaches the state. Nine-tenths of the crimes of society result from, or are abetted by, drink. This theme is a warning. Directly and indirectly, the appeal is made to all who come within the sound of its voice. (D. O. Mears.)

Drunkenness

I. The evils of drunkenness.

1. Sorrow (Proverbs 23:29). Drink has probably broken more hearts than any other thing. It is taken to drown sorrow, but, alas! it creates it.

2. Folly. “Babbling”--a profanation of the sacred gift of speech, and as such is to be avoided (1 Timothy 6:20).

3. Disease. “Wounds.” Look in at the hospitals. Read the medical reports.

4. Disfigurement. “Redness cf the eyes.”

5. Waste of time. “Tarry long.”

6. Dissatisfaction. “Yet again” (Proverbs 23:35). Drink creates an insatiable appetite for itself.

7. Insensibility. “Felt it not” (Proverbs 23:35). The nerves of the drunkard are benumbed, and nature’s monitors are impaired. Physical insensibility is followed by moral insensibility (Ephesians 4:19).

8. Uncleanness. Drink fires the passions, and gives the “strange women” (Proverbs 23:33) their best opportunities.

9. Exposure to danger (Proverbs 23:34).

II. The remedy for drunkenness (verse31). It is very simple. Abstain from strong drink--don’t even look at it. Temptation sometimes enters through the eye. But beyond and above all look to Jesus for deliverance from this and every other form of evil. (H. Thorne.)

Pleasant vices dangerous

Gas is a great spoiler of the air; but it has the merit of giving timely warning of the danger by the horrible smell which accompanies its escape. This smell is perceptible when there is only one part in a thousand parts of air; becomes very offensive when the proportion Isaiah 1:1-31/750 or 1/500, and is almost insupportable as the proportion increases. If the gas has escaped from a crack in the pipes, and been allowed to mingle with the air in which a free circulation by ventilation is possible, so that the proportion of gas amounts to 1/11, it explodes on the introduction of a candle. But the reason why this catastrophe so seldom occurs is because the smell of gas is so utterly offensive that the evil demands and receives proper attention long before it reaches danger point. This fact illustrates very well a great truth in the moral world, namely, that when evil is offensive in itself its danger to the community is slight. In exact ratio to the pleasantness of vice is the danger to be apprehended from it. (Scientific Illustrations.)

A temperance topic

1. The use of intoxicating drinks is financially unbusinesslike. It keeps men in poverty, and they keep their families is the deepest want.

2. It destroys self-respect.

3. It defiles the body.

4. It destroys life.

5. It enfeebles the mind.

6. It breaks down the will.

7. It obliterates heart and conscience.

8. It destroys souls. Let us use our every influence to correct this evil. (G. B. F. Hallcock.)

On the sin of drunkenness

I. The causes which lead to it.

1. Example. Seeing others in this state, and imitating them without being aware of the results which will follow.

2. Evil associations. We cannot be too careful in selecting our associates.

3. Afflictions of a peculiar kind, especially mental, and those produced by disappointment.

4. The ease with which liquor is procured.

II. Some of the evils attendant upon drunkenness.

1. Babbling. Owing to temporary deprivation of the use of reason.

2. Contentions. The man acts like a madman.

3. Wounds without cause.

4. Redness of eyes.

III. The consequences resulting from this sin. Woe and sorrow.

1. From the consumption of his property.

2. From the loss of his reputation.

3. From the decay of his health.

4. From the injury done to his family.

5. From the loss of his immortal soul.

IV. The duty of avoiding the sin of drunkenness. Think not that it will do you good, but reflect on the consequences to which it leads, so abominable in the sight of God, so injurious to yourselves and those around you, and so hateful in the estimation of all those who truly reflect. (E. Miller, M.A.)

Drunkenness

The Bible considers intemperance in all its phases, and shows that, with all other sins, it springs from a sinfulness which is common to mankind, and shows that the true remedy for it, as for all sins, lies in the deliverance Divinely provided for the sinfulness which is their root.

I. The drunkard’s condition is described. Woes and sorrows, strifes and anxieties, wounds and diseases, deadened perceptions and a destroyed will, mingle in this awful picture. Here is disclosed a general wreck of manhood.

1. Physical evils. Alcohol vitiates the blood and fills it with poisonous humour. The changes produce gross and enfeebled bodies, diseases of the heart, lungs, and other organs, and a constant waste of physical powers.

2. Mental evils. Alcohol directly affects the brain. It creates an unnatural brilliancy of intellect. But this brief advantage is purchased at the cost of the mind itself. Other effects on the mind seriously deteriorate a man’s progeny. Drink destroys not only the mind of the drunkard, but also the mind of his offspring.

3. Moral and spiritual evils. Drunkenness inflames the passions. It leads to contentions. It is the great cause of crime. It destroys self-control and thus overthrows the citadel of manhood.

II. The steps by which men become drunkards. Alcohol is first taken in its simplest, as wine, beer, cider. At first it is taken only occasionally, and at the invitation of others. Literature lends its voice to enticing temptations. Those who allow themselves to acquire the habit of drinking make that which they hate a part of themselves.

III. The way to avoid being a drunkard. Let alcohol alone. Keep in view that the woes of drink come from an indulgence that was moderate in the beginning. No temptation to drink is more dangerous than that which makes it a sign of good-fellowship. Total abstinence is the only safe ground to stand upon. But the Christian will do more than hold himself in safety. The Christian must give all the weight of his influence, by example, word, and action, as a Christian, a neighbour, and a citizen, against this evil. (Monday Club Sermons.)

Against intemperance

I. The delusiveness of this sin. Call no pleasure pleasurable until you have asked what the cost is to be.

II. The traits of disposition resulting from wine-drinking.

1. The drunkard is contentious.

2. He is a discontented man.

3. He loses his mind.

4. He is a reckless man.

III. The results of drinking are in part suggested.

1. The speech of the drunkard is bad.

2. The body is harmed by drink.

3. The drunkard tends to become possessed of all evil desires.

IV. This way of living becomes permanent. In its origin drunkenness is but an episode; in its conclusion it is a character. What a man does once he tends to do again.

1. This permanence is shown in the deliberateness of the drunkard’s full-grown folly.

2. And so the habit fastens itself more and more firmly upon him, until at last, even when he is grovelling in the lowest depths, he still calls ever for more of that which has brought him there. The more a man drinks, the more he does not want to stop. (D. J. Burrell.)

The woes of the drunkard

Is it not Shakespeare himself who says, by the mouth of the disgraced and ruined Cassio, “O thou invisible spirit of wine, if thou hast no name to be known by, let us call thee Devil”? What does drink cost in human misery? Ah, how can I tell you? Can I count the leaves of the forest, or the sands upon the shore? And the sounds of this misery are like the sighing of the leaves of illimitable forests, and the plashing on the shores of unfathomable seas. For it is the horrible fact that the drink which we, as a nation, are drinking, not from the necessities of thirst, but from the mere luxuries of appetite--drink often adulterated with the vilest and most maddening ingredients--yes, this rubied and Circean cup which we sip, and smile while it is converting thousands of our brethren into swine--this subtle, serpentine, insidious thing which we cherish in our bosoms, and laugh and play with its brightness, while it is stinging thousands of our brothers into raging madness--costs us millions of money, myriads of criminals, thousands of paupers, thousands of ruined women, hundreds and thousands of men and women goaded by misery, into suicide and madness, with every blossom in what might have been the garland of their lives blighted as by a fury’s breath. (Dean Farrar.)

Safety imperceptibly passed by the drinker

Who can detect the line of demarcation that separates the colours of the rainbow, where the yellow tint blends into the deep orange colour, and that deep orange colour into the deeper red! What mind, however disciplined or practised, can tell the line of demarcation that shades off the varying sentiments of men, and separates the schools of theological opinion? And if the human eye, aided by the most powerful lenses, cannot discern any line of demarcation in the tints of the rainbow, and the skilled theologian cannot pronounce as to where or what is the dividing line between one school of theology and another, how can we expect the dulled, darkened, blunted brain of the drinker to be able to detect that imperceptible line in his progress, at one side of which is safety, and beyond it danger? Or, suppose he could, would it be ethically right for a man to push forward designedly to the furthest verge where he supposed that moral innocence merged into guilt and sin? The rainbow tints may indeed thus meet and blend; phases of thought and opinion may shade off into each other; but it surely can never be that moral innocence and moral guilt could ever stand in such close proximity together as that the one should merge into the other. (R. Maguire.)

The warning against intemperance

We should mind this warning against the serpent of intemperance, because--

I. Its sting is a costly sting.

II. Its sting is an injurious sting.

III. Its sting is a disgraceful sting. (R. Newton, D.D.)

The drink serpent

Drink is like the serpent--

I. Because it is poisonous. Alcohol is primarily a brain-poison, but there is not a tissue nor an organ of the body which it does not injure.

II. Because it is subtle (Genesis 3:1). As a rule men glide into drunkenness unconsciously to themselves. Probably the drunkard is the last person to know that he has become such.

III. Because it is like the devil. In the Scriptures the serpent is the symbol of Satan. Drink, like the devil, leads men into all kinds of sin. The connection of drink with unchastity is set forth in this passage. (G. A. Bennetts, B.A.)

Description of drunkenness

An inferior master in the art of moral painting gives us a just picture of drunkenness in these words. “Drunkenness is a distemper of the head, a subversion of the senses, a tempest of the tongue, a storm in the body, the shipwreck of virtue, the loss of time, a wilful madness, a pleasant devil, a sugared poison, a sweet sin, which he that has, has not himself, and he that commits it, doth not only commit sin, but is himself altogether sin.” (George Lawson, D.D.)

The drunkard’s picture

1. His sensual indulgence.

2. His offensive garrulousness.

3. His bloodshot face. The habits of the man come to be marked by their effects upon his looks.

4. His wretched condition.

5. His easy temptability. He is ripe for the crimes of adultery, falsehood, blasphemy, and other enormities.

6. His reckless stupidity.

7. His unconquerable thirst. However bitter his reflections upon his awaking, and his remorse, his thirst remains unquenched. (D. Thomas, D.D.)

Woes of intemperance

The Assyrians had a fancy that, if a demon saw his own face in a mirror, he could not bear the ugly sight, and would vanish. Unfortunately, vicious men are not so easily frightened, for many a drunkard knows perfectly what a degraded creature he has made himself, and yet is not restrained. But the photograph may deter others from beginning so suicidal a course. The appeal to consequences may not be the highest, but it is legitimate, and ought to be powerful with all rational beings. The consequences here appealed to are exclusively personal ones, there being no reference to the drunkards’ miserable homes, to wrecked family blessings, nor even to blasted prospects, and the havoc wrought by drink in pauperising and bringing to rags. What it does to the man himself in body and soul is the portrait painter’s theme here. The torrent of questions with which he begins brings out the mental discomfort and bodily mischief consequent on intoxication. The two questions in verse 29B repeat the substance of the’ three in A. “Complaining” seems to include “woe” and “sorrow,” and “wounds without cause” are the natural results of the “contentions” equally without cause. According to the best and most recent authorities, the bodily symptom here noticed is dulness, not “redness,” of eyes, the glazed, unperceiving stare so sadly well known as a sign of intoxication. There are far more grave physical consequences of the habit than that--shattered nerves, shaking hands, knotted livers--but the painter here is thinking rather of the act than of the habit. His answer to his questions comes with emphasis, and has a dash of sad irony in it. What an epitaph for a man: “He was a connoisseur in wines; he did not know much about science or history or philosophy or theology or art or commerce or morality, but he was a perfect master at blending whisky!” A solemn warning follows the etching of the drunkard, which is bitten in on the plate with acid. The wine appeals to the sense of sight, as it gleams in golden cup or crystal goblet, and it appeals also to the sense of taste as “it goeth down smoothly.” But it is not done with when it is swallowed, and, like all delights of sense, it has an “afterwards” which is not delightful. “Violent delights have violent ends.” In Proverbs 23:33 we see him in the height of his excitement; in Proverbs 23:34, in the stupor that follows; in Proverbs 23:35, in his waking. The first stage is marked by hallucinations and a torrent of vile speech. “Thine eyes shall behold strange things,” by which are meant the absurd delusions of the drunkard. Imagination is stimulated, and the senses befooled, by the fumes; the man reels about in a world of his own creating, which has nothing corresponding to it in reality. There is a still more terrible meaning possible to this part of the picture, though probably not the one intended--namely, the frightful visions accompanying delirium tremens, which dog the drunkard’s steps, and drive him into paroxysms of terror. Further, his loss of self-control is signalised by the loose speech in which the rank heart pours itself out in “perverse things.” There is a strange and awful connection between intoxication and foul words from the depths of the “evil treasure” of the heart. The second stage is that of collapse and stupor. The excitement, of course, ends in that, and the drunkard flings himself down anywhere, utterly careless of danger, and utterly unconscious of his surroundings. He is like a man that “lieth down in the midst of the sea,” neither a comfortable nor a safe bed, “or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast,” where there is neither room to lie, nor security as the ship rolls, and the uneasy couch rolls still more. He sleeps out his heavy slumbers, and, when he does, he discovers for the first time the bruises and wounds which he has received. But these do not curb the tyrannous appetite which brought them on him. Undeterred by them, he wishes for the complete return of sober consciousness, only that he may renew his debauch. Christ’s solemn saying, “Whoso committeth sin is the slave of sin,” has no more tragical exemplification than in the miserable drunkard, who can no more resist the craving for drink than he can stop Niagara. (A. Maclaren, D.D.)


Verse 35

Proverbs 23:35

They have beaten me and I felt it not: when shall I awake?
I will seek it yet again.

Satan’s anesthetic

1. The application of anaesthetics to surgery is one of the most beneficent discoveries of the present age. One shudders at the very thought of the surgical operations of the olden days, executed without the merciful drug that makes the patient unconscious of his agony. But almost every good thing in the kingdom of God is travestied in the kingdom of Satan. Satan has therefore his own anodyne which he uses to the ruin of the bodies and souls of men. It is evident from the proverb that alcohol was known to be an anaesthetic three thousand years ago. Modern science corroborates the ancient saying. Most people know that a man in liquor often appears insensible to wounds which otherwise would cause intense pain. Medical men occasionally use alcohol as an anesthetic when chloroform is inadmissible. The practical result of this property of alcohol is that the intemperate man--and many a regular “moderate” drinker, too--is unconscious of the gradual deterioration of his bodily frame. The vital organs are becoming diseased and their functions deranged; but meanwhile the process is most rapidly going on in the brain. Hence all the perceptions are dulled, and the painful sensations, that otherwise would give timely warning of the growing mischief, are to some extent unfelt. One of the purposes of pain is to sound a warning note, to give a signal that something is wrong, that some part of the complex mechanism of the body is out of gear. Our duty is, therefore, not to be contented with allaying the pain, but if possible to cure the disease which causes the pain.

2. The moral anaesthesia to which alcohol gives rise is even more terrible than the physical. Acting as a subtle brain-poison, it works sad havoc with the moral perceptions. All delicacy of conscience is quickly lost, the distinctions between right and wrong become blurred, and the man once honoured and trusted becomes a liar, a thief, and an ingrate. The loving, dutiful son becomes selfish, morose, and attacks his mother with murderous violence. Now, in such cases as these (which are, alas! only too common) we cannot believe that the honest man wilfully takes to lying, the affectionate father wilfully becomes the savage brute, or the dutiful son is filled wilfully with a fierce hatred of his mother. Evidently the mind, conscience, and will become diseased. Alcohol not only dulls the sense of pain in the physical system; it is an ansesthetic that dulls the mind so as to produce unconsciousness of the moral havoc that is being made. The unhappy being loses his power of truthfulness, and yet is hardly conscious that he is a liar. It should be remembered that absolute drunkenness is not always necessary to produce such results. The free and regular use of alcoholic beverages, though stopping short of intoxication, will assuredly produce more or less injury to the body and degradation of the mind and will, both in the drinker and in his children. Let us beware lest we even in the least degree impair these God-like qualities with which we have been endowed.

3. The last words of the text express what we are accustomed to call the “drink crave.” When intoxication is over, and all the misery and depression that are the after-results of excess are felt, then the unhappy victim of the drink-habit says in effect, if not in the actual words of the text, “I will seek it yet again.” The man who is always strictly moderate in his use of alcohol then steps in and says, “But why are you so foolish as to seek it again? Has it not done you enough harm already? Why not leave it alone?” But if he knew into what a state the poor drunkard had fallen--a state of both physical and mental degradation--he would not talk so glibly. First of all, the drink-crave has a physical basis. Certain of the vital organs are so affected and in such distress that the overpowering crave for drink is as natural, under the circumstances, as the craving of an excessively hungry man for food. Inebriety becomes, in fact, an actual and terrible bodily disease, not easily to be cured. Further than that, the mind of the inebriate is so obscured that he does not realise his fall as do those about him. The horror of his position does not appear to him. Strange and sad to say, this mental blindness, often extends to the near relatives.

4. Probably many moderate drinkers would agree with what has been said, and would give thanks that they are not as other men are. Yes, by all means let them give thanks for God’s protecting grace. But let them also ask themselves whether their example as moderate drinkers is helpful to their family and friends, whether the edifying spectacle of their self-restraint is likely to diminish the number of drunkards or to lessen the peril to which so many are exposed. (J. E. Crawshaw.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 23:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-23.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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