Proverbs 15
Biblical Illustrator
A soft answer turneth away wrath.
There are three parties whose wrath it may concern us to appease by mild and submissive language.

I. THE WRATH OF GOD. He is provoked every day by the crying sins of an ungodly world, and would quickly break out as a devouring fire upon it, but that there are, and always have been in it, humble and holy men, who have been much given to confession and prayer. Illustrate by Moses, the prophets, and Daniel as intercessors in their day. See also submissive response of Nineveh to the warning of Jonah.

II. THE FURY OF A TROUBLED CONSCIENCE. It is allayed by a soft answer, i.e., by obviating the terrors of God's threatenings with a just display of His infinite mercies.

III. THE INFLUENCE WHICH AN OFFENDED SERVANT S CARRIAGE HATH UPON HIS OFFENDED MASTER. If the offender, when reproved, returns a mild and yielding answer to his master, he commonly assuages his wrath and prevents the further progress of it. But if he gives saucy and contemptuous language upon such occasions, he exasperates his master's passion, and renders his own offence much more provoking than it was before. Two things are advised in this text —

1. That an answer be made.

2. That it be ingenuous.It is not wise to stand mute, nor to delay answer, but the answer should be soft and temperate. Illustrate ease of David and Nabal (1 Samuel 25.). Ingenuous submission does not always succeed, because it does not always meet with ingenuous and placable minds on the other side. Sometimes, too, the offender is a mere reprobate, who does but flatter with his tongue. Some commentators interpret the text as a common maxim of peaceable conversation, teaching us to avoid all unnecessary contentions which spring from pride, ambition, emulation, and a remorse, wrathful and splenetic nature. He that is desirous to live at peace in the world must consider that both himself and other men have many infirmities; and that, in matter of right and wrong, other people will take the liberty to differ from his opinion, and will sometimes contradict and thwart him, even when he has the clearest truth and reason on his side. He must expect to meet with pride, self-love, and confidence in others; and he must not imagine that his own conversation is always free from the influence of such irregular passions. Therefore he must resolve to bear reproof and opposition with patience, because it is quite possible that he may deserve it

; and if he does not, those who converse with him may think so. He who would save himself and others much trouble and contention must not be too apt to censure and find fault with things when they are tolerably well. The practice of the text is not every man's talent. The weakness of our minds, or the warmth of our temper, commonly making it a difficult task. David was some years in learning the due observance of this lesson. Grievous words are inconsistent with good policy, and contrary to true religion. The Lord Jesus never spake unadvisedly with His lips, so He calls upon all His disciples to learn of Him this lesson of meekness. It is almost always of advantage to give soft answers.

(W. Reading, M.A.)

I. ILLUSTRATE THE TRUTH OF THIS PROPOSITION BY SOME EXAMPLES FROM SCRIPTURE HISTORY (Genesis 13:8, 9; Genesis 32:3-5; Judges 8:2, 3; 1 Samuel 1:15, 16; 1 Samuel 26:18-20).

II. ENDEAVOUR TO ACCOUNT FOR THE PREVALENCE OF MILDNESS OVER WRATH FROM THE CONSIDERATION OF THE PASSIONS CONCERNED. Obstinacy of temper is increased by opposition, as much as it is abated by yielding. Thus says the son of Sirach, "He that striveth with a man of tongue heaps wood upon his fire." Though we have truth on our side, though we are able to support that truth by the most irrefragable arguments, yet if these are pressed with scorn and bitterness their reasonableness will not so much enforce as their virulence disparage them. To conclude:

1. Acquiescence and submission in our language and manner, as far as truth and generosity of spirit will allow, is an argument of our prudence; it is as profitable to society as it is acceptable to God, as it captivates the hearts of men, and as it consequently contributes to our own honour, quiet, and safety.

2. It is an argument of the politeness of our education, for none but spirits unreclaimed by civil converse vent themselves in boisterous language.

3. But it is not only an argument of prudence and politeness, but of magnanimity; the greatest man is never more triumphant than when he overcomes insolence with humility, and wrath with meekness.

(H. Usher, D.D.)

A kind, gentle, patient, peaceful answer to an angry, loud, rude word, turns away wrath, sends it off so that it passes by you like an arrow glancing off a shield. If anybody says a rude or angry word to you, and you answer in the same way, you are adding fire to fire, you are helping to make a bad thing worse, you are multiplying one evil by two — the very worst part of arithmetic. But "a soft answer" is like water to fire; it helps to put the flame out. This is what the firemen do. If you give a soft answer to angry words you will be one of God's firemen, you will have helped to put out a fire that might have done great harm. It is very hard to speak softly to people sometimes, very hard indeed. But it is worth while learning to do it; and though hard, like most other good things, it is not too hard. It can be managed. How? First of all by making up your mind to do it, and then setting to work to practise the art of soft speaking, and asking God to help you and give you strength. It needs no courage to be angry and loud and rude. Bullies and cowards have always plenty of angry words at their command. Brave boys do not brag or threaten, and the bravest thing of all is patience and self-mastery. Illustrate from the patience of the Lord Jesus in the judgment hall and on the Cross. The highest courage is the Cross of Christ. You will prove yourselves truly brave, not when you strike back, but when rising above the temptation you master yourselves and those around you.

(J. M. Gibbon.)

1. "A soft answer" is a Christian answer. It exemplifies the Spirit of Christ. "When reviled He reviled not again."

2. "A soft answer" is a fitting answer. It is a sensible thing to do. As a matter of mere policy it is the wisest course a man can take.

3. "A soft answer" is the most effective answer, the only effective answer in the way of good results. Gentle words, a forgiving spirit will do what hard blows and angry epithets and a belligerent attitude never did and never can accomplish.

4. "A soft answer" is the evidence, the test, of a man's moral character.

(J. M. Sherwood, D. D.)

Men who manage men must be self-controlled. If liable to outbursts of passion they cannot deal with the anger of other men. Men who are masters of themselves may become masters of mankind. And as in nature the greatest and most beneficial forces are silent, so in society the mightiest men are the gentle-spirited. We do not hear the grass grow; the light comes stealing into our room, we do not hear its footfall. It is the angry voices of nature which tell of disaster, as in the earthquake, the tempest, the thunderstorm, and the flood. It is not the rain sweeping down the hillside, carrying soil and crop before it, but the gentle shower that fructifies the land. And so the meek-hearted "shall inherit the earth " as uncrowned kings. The peacemakers are the true sons of God, full of independence and manly energy, yet speaking softly like a clear stream rippling through the green, flowering meadows. Speak gently, yet truly, and thus win the world for God.

(W. Unsworth.)

Understand by "a soft answer," not a reply marked by intellectual feebleness, but one inspired by the very spirit of modesty and graciousness. Such an answer cannot be returned as a mere art, because the wrath to which it replies excites natural surprise and indignation, and may be supposed to necessitate a communication in its own key and temper. The soft answer is unique by contrast. It is so unexpected, so unlike the surrounding circumstances, so much more than what is generally regarded as human, that the man to whom it is addressed is astounded as if by a miracle. Only he can give soft answer who has a soft heart — that is to say, the answer is not a mere art or trick of the vocal organs, it is the direct and blessed creation of God. A soft answer may appear to be spiritless, but in reality it expresses a greater energy than is possible to ill-regulated and resentful wrath. Light is mightier than lightning. Thunder is harmless; it is a mere collision and crashing together of electric clouds. Meekness endures longer than wrath, has greater staying power, feeds itself upon the very grace of God, and is sustained through long watching and much suffering. Wrath fumes and splutters, and brings upon itself swift destruction. Wrath is altogether unprofitable; it convinces no one; it is mere explosion ending in impotence and humiliation. Grievous words stir up anger as certainly as an effect follows its cause. They lead to recrimination, resentment, self-defence, and self-assertion. For the moment they seem to be smart and spirited, betraying dignified temper and a haughty courage, but in reality they are nothing more than proofs of littleness, spitefulness, chagrin, or other emotion lying on the same degraded line.

(J. Parker, D.D.)

We greatly need an instrument capable of turning away wrath, for there is much wrath in the world to be turned away. If all our anger were grief for sin, and grief for sin our only danger, the emotion would neither displease God nor disturb men. Most Of the anger that prevails is sinful and dangerous. We are on dangerous ground when we are contending in our own cause. A man may indeed, through Divine grace, rule his spirit aright even there; but it is his wisdom to be jealous of himself. Self-love ties a bandage over the eyes of the understanding, and then leads the blind astray. In man as he is, a sally of wrath from another seems to produce a similar sally in return, as naturally as a mountain-side gives back an echo of the sound that strikes it. Wrath generates grievous words, and grievous words aggravate the wrath that produced them. The most important practical rule, for our guidance under provocation, is to consider, not how hard a blow we can deal in return, consistently with a character for Christian meekness, but how far can we yield without being faithless to truth and to God. In view of our own corruption, and the temptations that abound, a leaning to this side seems the safest for a Christian name. But when all rules fail to meet the case, let us have recourse to the great Example. Jesus is God's answer to the wrath of man. The answer is soft, and yet it is the greatest power that can be applied — the only power that will prevail to turn the wrath away, and win the wrathful back to love.

(W. Arnot, D.D.)

Bad temper causes more suffering than the modified severity with which we judge it would imply. It is in a home what toothache is in the body: the pain is insufferable and yet it is not treated as serious. A passionate man or woman spreads a pervading sense of irritation in the house or in the workshop, and all the other occupants of the place are as if they dwelt in a country subject to earth-quakes; life for them is divided between anxiety to avoid the explosion and a painful effort to repair its devastations. We are not severe enough on these faults of temper in ourselves or in others; we are too prone to excuse them on the ground of temperament, as if we were no more responsible for outbreaks of passion than for the colour of our hair or the tone of our complexion. Probably here the plea will be urged that we cannot help our temper, and it may be said, the suffering which it brings upon us is the best proof that it is an infirmity rather than a vice. Now this excuse cannot be allowed to pass; a certain good bishop on one occasion hearing it urged, in extenuation of a man's conduct, that he had such an unfortunate temper, exclaimed, "Temper, why temper is nine-tenths of Christianity!" If we are not to be blamed for bad temper, then there is no fault or defect or vice which we cannot shift off our own shoulders and lay to the charge of our constitution. But our constitution is no excuse for sin; the most that can be urged is that if we are constitutionally inclined to any particular sin we must seek for a special strength to fortify us against it. In Christ Jesus are forces, moral and spiritual, strong enough to control the most uncontrollable rage and to soothe the most irritable temper; and as we can point to no other power which is sufficient for such a change, so few things manifest so strikingly the blessed presence of Christ in the heart as the softened and gentle temper, the removal of all those explosive elements which before He entered were constantly causing trouble and suffering and alarm.

(R. F. Horton, D.D.)

I. THE GRACIOUS POWER OF "A SOFT ANSWER." It is not intended here to state a bare philosophical fact, the result of observation and experience. Here is a truth intimately connected with man's present and future peace. In our intercourse with men our object is liable to be misinterpreted, and our motive to be misconceived. There arise occasions when indignation seems to acquire the attribute of a duty, possibly of a religious duty. Beware of giving way to a hasty spirit. A little delay would have calmed your spirit; a little inquiry might have produced an explanation.

II. THE GRIEVOUS POWER OF AN ANGRY ANSWER. It is not a light matter to be warned that we bear about within us a fire, which needs only to be quickened and blown up by the breath of man's mouth to produce in its ravages upon ourselves and others the most cruel and disastrous issues. This is the end at which we must aim, and after which we must never cease to strive and pray until it has been attained, that the law of God may reign supreme in all our hearts, enlightening the understanding, inclining the will, subduing all unhallowed passions, purifying and sanctifying even lawful affections, and "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." Forbearance is oftentimes a difficult and a painful duty, the incentive to retaliation quick and urgent. At such times we need to prove the power of prayer.

(Geo. Spence, D.C.L.)

Few writers, ancient or modern, say so much about words as Solomon. "Words," says Richter, "are often everywhere as the minute hands of the soul, more important than even the hour hands of action."


1. The pacifying power of words. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." Several things are implied in this short passage.

(1)The existence of anger against you.

(2)The importance of turning away this anger.

(3)There is an effective method of turning away this wrath.That is a "soft answer." A response free from excitement and resentment, uttered in the low tone of magnanimous forbearance.

2. The irritating power of words. "Grievous words stir up anger."


1. The right use of words. "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright."

2. The wrong use of words. The fool's heart is full of folly, and folly flows from his lips. Foolish words are either words without meaning, empty jargon, or words of bad meaning, the vehicles of filth, insubordination, and blasphemy.

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

It was Abigail's gentle apology that disarmed David's fury; and Gideon's mild and modest answer stilled the hot and hasty Ephraimites. Lay but a flint upon a pillow and you break it easily, but hard to hard will never do the deed. It is not the vieing one angry word with another; grievous words stir up strife — harsh and angry, words cast oil upon the flame; set the passions afloat, there is no hope, not one wise word to be expected.

(J. Spencer.)

There is sound philosophy, as well as religion, in the advice of a cheerful man to his surly neighbour, who had just given a cross answer to the inquiries of some children who had lost their way: — "Jim, a man's tongue is like a cat's. It is either a piece of velvet, or a piece of sand-paper, just as he chooses to use it and to make it; and I declare you always seem to use your tongue for sand-paper. Try the velvet, man; try the velvet!"

(Blind Amos.)

Taking a stroll in the country one bright spring morning, sudden turn in the road brought me to a clear, running stream. A little rustic bridge was thrown across it, and the whole scene formed such a pretty picture, I stopped to gaze upon it. While thus engaged a steady-looking errand-boy came posting over the bridge, with a shallow basket full of packages hanging on his arm. At the same instant a merry little lad appeared in the opposite direction, and carelessly running past the other, inadvertently pushed against his basket, and knocking it over, more than half the contents were sent rolling in the dust. The colour mounted to the errand-boy's cheeks in a moment — his eyes flashed, he threw down the basket, and prepared to avenge the affront and give battle-royal to his adversary. The innocent author of the mischief, however, looked up in his face with a pleasant smile, and exclaimed, "Now, really, I'm so sorry; but I'll help you to pick them all up again as fast as I can, and you see it wasn't as if I'd done it on purpose!" All anger thereupon vanished from the countenance of the aggrieved party, who was not one of those implacable beings on whom "a soft answer" is thrown away. The two boys set cheerfully to work, and soon replaced the fallen goods, after which, with light hearts, they went whistling on their different roads. I pursued mine, musing on the wisdom of the cottage lad, and thinking how many quarrels, great and small, might be avoided by timely acknowledgment and ready explanation. There seemed something beyond mere good-nature in our little rustic; was not perhaps his simple reply an "answer of the tongue from the Lord"?

The celebrated Aboo Yusuph, who was chief judge of Bagdad, in the reign of the Caliph Hadee, was a very remarkable instance of that humility which distinguishes true wisdom. His sense of his own deficiencies often led him to entertain doubts, where men of less knowledge and more presumption were decided. "It is related of this judge, that on one occasion, after a very patient investigation of facts, he declared that his knowledge was not competent to decide upon the case before him. 'Pray, do you expect,' said a pert courtier, who heard this declaration, that the Caliph is to pay for your ignorance?' 'I do not,' was the mild reply: 'the Caliph pays me, and well, for what I do know; if he were to attempt to pay me for what I do not know, the treasures of his empire would not suffice.'"

(Malcolm's "Persia.")

The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.

1. Where a cause or agent acts, there that cause or agent must virtually be. The power of the Almighty Father is manifest in every part of creation. The Divine agency is very different from any laws of mechanism, or operations of chance, that we can even imagine. These can relate only to matter, while the former comprehends instincts and passions, reason and imagination; the minds of intellectual creatures in their origin, their endless diversity, and progress to perfection. The Supreme Cause, therefore, is ever acting, and ever present. His presence governs, animates, and preserves the whole universe of existence.

2. Another argument may be derived from the consciousness of the human soul in the moment of transgression. This consciousness, and its effects, are not originally produced by prejudice and superstition, but are the great moral instinct of our nature. Given us by our heavenly Father, it serves as an additional sense to remind us of His continual presence, then, when we chiefly need it, in the season of temptation and in the hour of guilt. Further, the omnipresence of God follows, as a natural consequence, from His wisdom and His power. And it seems absolutely necessary to that perfect justice which we are assured He will render to every man at the last day.


1. It is one of the highest privileges of our nature. In the course of nature, and in the affairs of mankind, are found His

(1)Sustaining and

(2)Directing power.That God sustains and upholds all things alone can account for our bodies putting themselves in motion at the command of our wills; or for the curious circulation of the blood within our veins; or for the adhesion of matter; or for the descent of all bodies toward the earth, which the philosophers call gravitation. Prophecies and miracles prove that God directs and interposes in our human affairs. If God sustains and upholds all things here below by His power, this calls upon us reasonable creatures to exert ourselves in praise and thanksgiving, in all the other duties of gratitude and in prayer.

(Bp. Z. Pearce.)

The great truths of divinity are of great use to enforce the precepts of morality.

1. An eye to discern all; not only from which nothing can be concealed, but by which everything is actually inspected, and nothing overlooked or looked slightly upon. Secret sins, services, and sorrows are under His eye.

2. An eye to distinguish both persons and actions. He is displeased with the evil, and approves of the good, and will judge men according to the sight of His eyes (Psalm 1:6; Psalm 11:4.)

( Matthew Henry.)

The Divine Spirit penetrates, pervades, and actuates the whole mass of beings, and is intimately conscious to every motion and operation throughout the whole extent of created nature. In the text God is described as intimately present with moral agents and with human minds.


1. By way of similitude, consider the operations of a human soul in and upon a human body. How our spirits actuate our bodies is one of those mysteries which we cannot penetrate. But we are conscious of the power, though we know not how we came by it. The fact is undisputed, that the mind is present at once to each and every part of our little world, animates with its constant influences every particle of our vital clay, keeps watchful guard upon all the avenues and portals of our senses, at the same time presiding in the more secret chambers of sublimer thought and finer speculation. So related, it is incapable of division or diminution, of composition or separation. Imagine the Spirit of God thus acting through every part and portion of the universe, yet with a fulness of power and perfection, neither limited by it, nor passive in any degree or manner from it — imagine Him superintending the whole with the united efficacy of His wisdom, goodness, and power, and you will then have as clear a notion of His presence with the whole system of created nature as you have of that intercourse which your own souls maintain with your bodies. But you must be careful to exclude from this comparison whatever shall imply any passiveness in God, or any limitation of His infinite mind.

2. The Scriptures have represented God as present in some places more, or rather, than in others, and most eminently above all, in the peculiar habitation of His holiness and glory. Explain this by reference to the former comparison. While the human soul actuates each part and particle of our human body, the head is the manifest laboratory of its finest and noblest operations, where it exerts the purest and brightest and strongest acts of contrivance and invention of thought and understanding. Now, what the soul of man is formed to do by the skill and wisdom of its heavenly Architect, He may choose for Himself to do, upon the reasons of state and providence, which He hath partly revealed to us, and partly concealed within the veil of His hidden counsels. No reason can be given why the same uniform, simple, undivided Essence must equally everywhere exert itself, or why it may not manifest its acts and operations more, and rather, in one place than another.

3. As place hath in strictness a near relation to bodies, and to the order of their several positions and situations, the idea of local presence is apt to mix itself with that relation when we apply it to spirits. It is better to speak of the Divine presence as a vital energy, a knowing influence, a powerful activity. His presence with all things acquaints Him with all things, and makes all things easy to Him.


1. A disquisition of the fact. Of this fact there will be little question, if the premisses are agreed to. Surely moral truths, and the eternal differences between good and evil, will plead as strongly for a close regard to them as any degrees of symmetry or beauty, of harmony or proportion in the natural world, shall engage the attention of a curious observer. Much more amiable and entertaining must be the spectacle of moral than of any natural beauty.

2. The uses we should make of this fact. The sinner may reasonably stand aghast with terror and confusion at the deformity of his own actions. He is breaking in upon the counsels of eternity, and thwarting the purposes of Divine wisdom and holiness in the sight of his awful Governor, and the observation of his all-seeing Judge.

3. Let the good man consider the comforts he may derive from a sense of God's constant presence with him. His Maker observes him in all his pressures; in all the difficulties and conflicts of virtue.

4. Let us all be persuaded to live and to behave in every circumstance of life like a people sensible who is the Spectator, and who is to be the Judge of all their actions. Cicero advised that we should habituate our imaginations to the view of some person eminent for the gravity and sanctity of his manners; should suppose ourselves in his presence, and carry ourselves in all points as we would before him. How much more should a sense of the all-seeing eye control us; the presence of Him who is a lover of righteousness in others, and a sure avenger of all ungodliness and wrong.

(N. Marshall, D.D.)


1. That this knowledge is essentially inherent in the Divine nature is evident from the creation of the world. For as the beautiful variety of beings conspicuous in the universe were made by God, He must necessarily know the things He has made. Infinite power presupposes, or at least implies, infinite knowledge. Suppose some skilful artist to have framed a moving machine, consisting of various parts, and capable of performing many wonderful operations; it will perhaps puzzle divers spectators to explain, or even conceive the contexture of its parts, and the secret springs by which it moves; but will any man say the artist himself who made the machine is ignorant of the several parts of which it is composed, or that he knows not by what artful contrivance it is made to move? Is man, then, acquainted with the operations of his own hands, and can we suppose the Supreme Being to be ignorant of His?

2. Another argument to prove the omniscience of God may be drawn from the consideration of providence. If God presides over the whole universe, and governs all things both in heaven and earth, is it possible for Him to be ignorant of anything in the system of humanity? If He be the sovereign disposer of human creatures and their affairs, must He not perfectly understand their constitution and conduct?

3. Another argument to confirm the truth of God's omniscience may be taken from divers remarkable events that have happened in the world through the miraculous interposition of Providence. Who can reflect upon the various revolutions which happened to the ancient Israelites without feeling manifest traces of the Divine knowledge? For was it possible for the Almighty to have interposed in delivering that oppressed people from the cruel persecutions of Egypt if He had not previously known the condition they were in? Or how could He have framed a scheme of government so suitable to the genius of that untractable people if He had not thoroughly understood their natural tempers and most hidden inclinations?

4. To confirm this truth, besides the arguments already alleged there is another, which may be drawn from the idea of infinite perfection. For if God be a Being infinitely perfect, He must be infinitely knowing.

II. CONSIDER THIS ATTRIBUTE OF THE DEITY, AS IT IS A POWERFUL MOTIVE TO DESTROY US FROM SIN, AND ENGAGE US TO THE PRACTICE OF VIRTUE. It is the advice of Seneca to his friend Lucilius, that he should bear in his mind the idea of Socrates, or Cato, or some other excellent man, and imagine him to be a constant observer of his actions. This the philosopher proposes as a useful expedient to keep a man constantly virtuous in the whole conduct of his life. Let, therefore, the Searcher of all hearts, the Almighty, let Him be our Socrates, and our Cato; and if we judge it a matter of disgrace to do unworthy actions before a wife, friend, or philosopher, think what eternal shame we expose ourselves to when we sin before the all-seeing eyes of God.

(N. Ball.)

1. When we are alone this truth should be ever with us to keep us from the temptation of evil thoughts and purposes.

2. In our families this truth should make us watchful over our tempers, anxious to consult each other's wishes and feelings.

3. In society it should make us give great heed to our words, and be temperate in all things; it should make masters remember that they have a Master in heaven; and servants should be incited by it to perform their duties not with eye-service as men-pleasers, but in singleness of heart, fearing the Lord.

4. In sorrow it should lead us, as it did Job, to be patient and resigned, and to put our trust in God.

5. In sin, when we are so unhappy as to fall into sin, the presence of the Lord should lead us, as it did St. Peter, to repentance.

6. Lastly, and above all, the recollection of this truth should be with us in church. For if we are assured that "the eyes of the Lord are in every place," we are also assured that they are specially in this place.

(R. Ward, M.A.)

1. Scripture instances of God's beholding the various works of men. He beholds the evil. See cases of Cain and Abel, Achan, etc. He beholds the good. See eases of Noah, Jacob, etc. Each act, each thought, each hope and fear of a man, is open to the sight of his God.

2. The character of the all-seeing One. The all-seeing God is a person, not a mere abstract name for nature. The Lord is not only a person, but also one who always remembers. The all-seeing God is not indifferent to the acts of men, and their characters are before Him. He who sees the evil and the good is all-powerful to punish and reward.

(H. Constable, M.A.)

Homiletic Review.
"And we do fearfully live, as it were, out of God's atmosphere. We do not keep that continual consciousness of His reality which, I conceive, we ought to have, and which should make Him more manifest to our souls than the Shekinah was to the minds of the Israelites." Thus wrote Dr. Arnold, of Rugby; and I think no one of us can read the words and not feel they say a truth. "Dare to be alone with God," wrote the true-hearted preacher, F. W. Robertson, to a friend. "Dare to be alone with God." Why should not the child gladly seek the Father's presence? The Indians of South America told the missionaries, "You say the God of the Christians knows everything, that nothing is hidden from Him; that He is everywhere and sees all that is done. But we do not desire a God so sharp-sighted; we choose to live with freedom in our woods, without having a perpetual observer over our heads." And the savages but said forth a feeling in which men civilised naturally share; for from purity conscious impurity slinks. Men may quarrel with the doctrine of depravity as they choose, but this instinctive hiding themselves from the eyes of the Lord is steady proof of the doctrine of a universal moral lapse. Consider, men are always trying to put out the eyes of the Lord. By atheism — letting the bad, foolish heart tell the head there is no God. By semi-pantheism — denying personality to God, calling Him "a stream of tendency." Simply a vague, impersonal "power not ourselves" — by trying to think of God in the ancient epicurean fashion, making Him but a huge and listless carelessness, as Thomas Carlyle so finely stigmatizes the notion, "an absentee God, sitting on the outside of His universe, and seeing it go"; by identifying God with law, hiding the thought and truth of God away in the muffling folds of natural law, and so imagining that they are somehow getting themselves out of God's real jurisdiction; by a sensual carelessness of God, living as though there were no God, though all the time His being and presence are theoretically confessed. But yet the eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Therefore —

1. We, in our conscious sinfulness before their gaze, need atonement for our sin.

2. And the readjustment with God the Holy Spirit works in us by regeneration.

3. And the sweet consciousness of forgiveness.

4. And so the making possible the noble bravery of welcoming His vision into our hearts and lives, that we may shun the evil and seize the good; and thus the living the true life only to be lived in "God's atmosphere."

(Homiletic Review.)

A wholesome tongue is a tree of life.
When the tongue is guided by the Spirit of God and by the words of Holy Scripture it may impart truth and express and elicit thoughts which may be salutary to those who come under their influence. Then it is as if a man, in hearing the words spoken, did eat the fruit of the tree of life in God's primitive and undesolated garden.


1. It is no tree of life when it lies. God is a God of truth, and if the tongue speaks falsely it is an instrument of unrighteousness.

2. It is no tree of life when it defames and utters scandal, whether this proceed from the thought of your own mind or whether it be taken from a neighbour.

3. It is no tree of life when it blasphemes. There are irreverent speeches respecting God which are a shame and dishonour for a man to utter, and which are painful and injurious to the auditors.

4. It is no tree of life when it propagates error; when it teaches and preaches false doctrine.

5. It is no tree of life when the words are vicious or unholy. If conversation is false, defamatory, foolish, irreverent, you grieve the Holy Spirit of God. There are four great regions of truth in which the tongue may do its duty to man and glorify God; so that, according to the metaphor of the text, the tree may open its ample branches, presenting fruit so luscious and refreshing that all who pass by may eat and regale themselves.(1) It has liberty when it speaks of the works of God in creation.(2) The second great region is the providence of God, or the government of God, in His watchfulness over the affairs of men.(3) Then there is the Word of God. There is not a verse or sentence from the beginning to the end which may not be the subject of investigation and of discourse.(4) A tongue may be wholesome when we speak of things that are especially suitable to the circumstances of the people whom we are addressing, such as those who need comfort and those who are exposed to temptation. It may be added that the tongue is a tree of life when it speaks of the world before us and of the life to come.


1. In the sanctuary the tongue of a righteous minister is a tree of life.

2. Our tongue may be a tree of life in our families, at our morning and evening repast, and daily, as we meet at table.

3. When we teach the young.

4. In our ordinary intercourse with one another. Every sentiment we advance is a seed that will go elsewhere.

5. And at the bedside of the sick and dying. The tongue is a small member, but it boasteth great things. It may be the instrument of great evil or of amazing good. The tongue of man is the pivot on which the whole system of human society moves. Then ask for wisdom, that the tongue may utter knowledge. Ask for a renewed mind, that there may be sanctified speech.

(James Stratten.)

"A wholesome tongue" may be read, "the healing of the tongue," by which is meant, "words of healing." Salutary discourse or conversation is highly beneficial

I. THIS IS EXEMPLIFIED IN JESUS CHRIST. All His words were words of healing. It is true that He reproved, and sometimes with pointed severity; but it was as a skilful surgeon, who probes the festering wound in order to an effectual cure.


III. THIS IS EXEMPLIFIED IN PRIVATE CHRISTIANS. Of what nature is the discourse of such persons? It ought certainly to be beneficial, and in order to this it must be consistent with truth, with piety, with candour, and with benevolence. Improvement: If a "wholesome tongue is a tree of life," the opposite is an instrument of death.

(T. Kidd.)

A wholesome tongue is one whose speech is not corrupting nor irritating, but full of nourishment and helpfulness — sound and sweet and salutary. Such a tongue is a tree of life. Wise words proceed from it as naturally as the leaves grow upon the branches; beautiful and fitting words adorn it as the blossoms adorn the tree.

I. THE TAMED TONGUE IS TRAINED FOR SERVICE. All things that are tamed are tamed for the service of man, and the tongue follows this law. It is by speech that many of our best gains are made. A large part of the good which we receive comes to us in conversation. Opinions are formed in this way: knowledge is acquired, good impulses are received, we are stimulated and cheered by our conversation. The interchange of thought is most valuable to us. When our tongue is rightly trained it will be a most diligent purveyor of knowledge.

II. THE TONGUE WILL SERVE OUR OWN NEEDS IN QUITE ANOTHER WAY. The reaction upon our own minds of truth which we have expressed, of worthy purposes or sentiments which we have avowed, is most beneficent. We fix our thoughts by putting them into words and uttering them. The wise and temperate utterance of manly feeling reacts in the same way upon ourselves.

III. THE TONGUE IS ONE OF THE MOST EFFECTIVE AGENCIES IN COMMUNICATING TRUTH. The printed word now plays a great part in the education of mankind, but written instruction will never supersede oral instruction. The tongue will always have a function, and a large one, in the communication of truth. Shades of meaning can be conveyed by the lips which the types cannot suggest. We learn truth through conversation; we may teach it in the same way.

IV. THE MORAL INVIGORATION OF OTHERS MAY BE MOST EFFECTUALLY PROMOTED BY SANCTIFIED SPEECH. As a matter of fact, the greater part of the moral and religious influence that is exerted in the world passes from one soul to another in the form of familiar talk.

V. WE DO PEOPLE GOOD BY MAKING THEM HAPPY. And there lies in kind winning words a wonderful power of adding to the happiness of our fellow-men. There is no little pleasure in listening to beautiful words or graceful words — as those of artists in verse or prose. Oh, the power there is in kind words to soothe, to uplift, to cheer, to bless the souls of men!

VI. SANCTIFIED SPEECH HAS THE POWER TO CONQUER, TO QUELL, TO SUBDUE. The soft tongue breaketh the bone; the tamed tongue subdues the adversary.

VII. AND SANCTIFIED SPEECH FURNISHES AN OUTLET FOR THE THANKFULNESS OF THE HEART. To the praise of God all that is highest and noblest in man continually summons him. Reasons for thankfulness are not wanting now to any of us. If we are silent it is not because there is no call for praise.

(Washington Gladden, D. D.)


1. It is a healing speech. The wholesome tongue, or, literally, as in the margin, a healing tongue, is a tree of life. There are wounded souls in society; souls wounded by insults, slanders, bereavements, disappointments, losses, moral conviction. There is a speech that is healing to those wounds, and that speech is used by the wise. There are societies, too, that are wounded by divisions, animosities. There is a speech which heals social divisions, and the wise employ it.

2. It is a living speech. "It is a tree of life." It is at once the product and producer of life. The speech of the wise is not the vehicle of sapless platitudes, it is the offspring of living conviction. It is a germ falling from the ever-growing tree of living thought, and it produces life too. "Cast forth," says Carlyle, "thy act, thy word, into the everlasting, overgrowing universe: it is a seed-grain that cannot die unnoticed today; it will be found flourishing as a banyan grove — perhaps." But the word of the wise is not as a hemlock seed; it is a seed that falls from that tree of life which is to be for the healing of the nations.

3. It is an enlightening speech. "The lips of the wise disperse knowledge," The words of the wise are beams reflected from the great Sun of Truth, and they break upon the darkness with which error has clouded the world.


1. The speech of the foolish is a wounding speech. "Perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit."

2. The speech of the foolish is an empty speech. The heart is here the antithesis to the lips. The foolish man does not disperse knowledge, but the wise does. The fool has no knowledge to disperse.


1. Not a silent tongue: mere abstinence from evil is not good. The beasts that perish speak no guile; what do ye more than they? The tongue of man is a talent.

2. Not a smooth tongue: it may be soft on the surface, while the poison of asps lies cherished underneath. "The mouth of a strange women is smoother than oil." A serpent licks his victim all over before he swallows it. Smoothness is not an equivalent for truth.

3. Not a voluble tongue: that active member may labour much to little purpose. It may revolve with the rapidity and steadiness of manufacturing machinery, throwing off from morning till night a continuous web of wordage, and yet not add one grain to the stock of human wisdom by the imposing bulk of its weightless product.

4. Not a sharp tongue: some instruments are made keen-edged for the purpose of wounding (Proverbs 12:18).

5. Not even a true tongue: truth is the foundation of all good in speech, but it is the foundation only. Truth is necessary, but not enough. The true tongue must also be wholesome. Before anything can be wholesome in its effects on others it must be whole in itself. The tongue must be itself in health before it can diffuse a healthful influence. But our tongue, as an instrument of moral agency, is diseased. It is in the human constitution the chief outgate from the heart, and the heart of the fallen is not in health.

(W. Arnot, D.D.)

In the house of the righteous is much treasure.






(T. Wallace.)

One smile of God is better than all the treasures of the world. If the sun be wanting, it will be night for all the stars; and if the light of God's countenance be wanting, if He frown upon us, a man may sit in the shadow of death for all the glisten of worldly contentments.

(J. Stoughton, D.D.)

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord.
The opposition here implied is twofold, relating, first to the character, and then to the consequence, of two varieties or extremes of prayer. "The sacrifice of the wicked" will be one of two things; it will either be what we may designate the sacrifice of falsehood, or what Holy Scripture has denounced as "the sacrifice of fools." The latter are outlined in one brief, but most emphatic phrase — "they consider not that they do evil." The evil lies in their not considering. The term applies to all heedless and unreflecting worship; that which neither occupies the understanding, nor affects the heart. And the absence of consideration within the house of God is itself equivalent to rebellion. Directly opposed to the "sacrifice of the wicked," we have "the prayer of the upright." This implies sincerity; then solemn, serious, and devout consideration. "Upright" here does not denote a perfection of moral integrity; which is rarely, if ever, found in men. A sacrifice of falsehood is the act of the outward; the sacrifice of truth is the act of the inward man. The "prayer of the upright" is based upon consideration, and reflection. It is first the offspring, and then the companion, of thought.

(Thomas Dale, M. A.)

But the prayer of the upright is His delight
Prayer is one of the surest tests both of Christian conviction and Christian character. The clear consciousness and firm conviction of God compel frequency and gladness in prayer. The character of a Christian can be almost unmistakably told by the character of his prayers. Prayer is a crucial touchstone of the spiritual life. What is this prayer? Words are generally, not always, necessary to prayer. It is only the insincerity of repetitions that makes them vain. There are occasions when prayer in words is impossible. Thinking over our prayers, without actually saying them, is generally nothing better than a kind of spiritual indolence. But not until words are the true expression of the wishes of the heart, the audible movement of the inmost soul, are they clothed with the character of prayer. Prayer is often hard and exhausting work. It is often difficult, because our hearts are idle and errant; and because prayer is essentially submission. Of all hard things none is more hard than the surrender of the will. There is peace and strength in prayer, but there is also toil and unspeakable sacrifice. God protects us, in our prayers, against ourselves. He will not suffer our ignorance to be our ruin, and only grants such prayers as are for our own good. Unanswered prayers may be an evidence of the love of God and the ignorance of man. Prayers prompted by the Holy Spirit are never unanswered prayers.

(Canon Diggle.)

God takes great pleasure in the prayers of upright men; He even calls them His delight. Our first concern is to be upright. Neither bending this way nor that, continue upright; not crooked with policy, nor prostrate by yielding to evil, be ye upright in strict integrity and straightforwardness. If we begin to shuffle and shift, we shall be left to shift for ourselves. If we try crooked ways, we shall find that we cannot pray, and if we pretend to do so, we shall find our prayers shut out of heaven. Are we acting in a straight line, and thus following out the Lord's revealed will? Then let us pray much, and pray in faith. If our prayer is God's delight, let us not stint Him in that which gives Him pleasure. He does not consider the grammar of it, nor the metaphysics of it, nor the rhetoric of it; in all these men might despise it. He, as a Father, takes pleasure in the lispings of His own babes, the stammerings of His newborn sons and daughters. Should we not delight in prayer since the Lord delights in it? Let us make errands to the throne. The Lord finds us enough reasons for prayer, and we ought to thank Him that it is so.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

I have heard it said that God has no pleasure in the prayer of sinners. I believe that that statement is altogether apart from the truth as it is in Jesus. It would be an ill day for us indeed if it were even partially true, that God has no ready heart for the cry of the penitent. Provided there be a desire to have the sin put away, we can come with our defilement fresh and hideous upon us, for the fountain is opened for sin and for uncleanness. What, then, is the meaning of these strong terms? It is the knell of those who make pretence of prayer, who come with blood-stained hands, and offer sacrifice with hearts that are neither cleansed nor wish for cleansing. It is the sacrifice of Cain that God abhors, a matter of self-glorifying, rather than of supplication. It is the offering of Korah lie rejects, for it is not according to His command. It is the sacrifice that Saul presents that is a stench to His nostrils, for it is not in accordance with His instructions. Is not this perfectly understandable? Who is willing to accept feigned praise, or presents from his enemies?

I. GOD DELIGHTS TO HEAR THE UPRIGHT PRAY. I think the prayer of the upright is here put in contradistinction to the sacrifice of the wicked. The wicked man may go to great pains to provide something more than a prayer. It may have even cost him something considerable. But he has not attended to the main matter; his heart goes not with the sacrifice. On the other hand, here is an upright man, who, perhaps, has no opportunity for offering special gifts. He comes with a sigh, and ere it reaches heaven it is transformed into a song. Now, why does the Lord take such pleasure in the mere prayer of the upright?

1. Because it is a sign of life. It may be a feeble token, but it is an indication that there is life to some extent in that poor, distressed one. The prayer of the upright is God's delight, for He says within Himself, "My child still lives; his spiritual pulse is beating, his lungs are working, for his prayer ascends into My holy temple."

2. Moreover, the prayer of the upright is an indication of health. It does not content us, that we merely live: we want to be lively as well as living; may I say we want to be all alive? Therefore is the prayer of the upright God's delight. He Sees that His little ones are buoyant, hearty, and healthful. This is to Him as the sparkling eye and the rosy cheek of health, and He is glad within Himself when He sees His offspring rejoicing in fulness of vigour.

3. Moreover, prayer is a proof of confidence. We all like to be trusted.

4. Again, prayer is a token of gratitude. I think I hear Him saying, "Yonder needy suppliant is glad of the blessing that I gave him yesterday, for he is at My feet again. He appreciates My delivering power m the past, for he is calling for mercy still. I will multiply to bless him." God is glad thus to treat all believing hearts.

5. I think God delights in our prayer because He sees how beneficial it is to us to pray. Apart from the joy it gives His own heart, He is well aware that it brings joy to our hearts.

6. Moreover, I must not have you suppose that I do not believe that prayer moves the arm of God. I am persuaded that it touches His heart, stirs Him to action, and causes Him to stretch forth His saving hand. If I add to the fact that prayer is a relief to my own mind the equally certain fact that it gives God pleasure to hear me pray, I am by no means positive that that would keep me praying if I had no other assurance. "The prayer of the upright is His delight," and that should be another stimulus to constant intercession.

II. DO YOU NOT THINK THAT GOD DELIGHTS IN THE PRAYER ITSELF? "The prayer of the upright is His delight." There is something about the prayer of the upright that-particularly rejoices His heart.

1. The prayer of the upright is a humble prayer. It is as the snowdrops of the spring-time, or as the violet of the early summer. There is something about it so pleasing that God looks on it with great delight. It does not hold up its head like the glaring poppy of the cornfield, or as the sunflower that seems to invite attention. It is like the prayer of the Publican rather than that of the self-admiring Pharisee.

2. The prayer of the upright is earnest. It is pointed; it does not deal with generalities, but with details. It is marked "Urgent."

3. Especially is it the faith of the prayer that pleases God. Faith brings the promises as so many cheques for God to cash. The prayer of faith seems to say, by its very tone, "Lord, do as Thou hast said; remember Thy word to Thy servant, upon which Thou hast caused him to hope."

4. The prayers that God delights in are full of the spirit of resignation. Faith and submission should go hand in hand.

5. And He is particularly glad when He sees the name of Jesus upon the prayer. How gladly does He recognise the aroma of Christ's merit and the fragrance of His death! Prayers presented by you in Jesus' name and then presented by Jesus Christ Himself in your name must give our God great joy.

III. THE LORD DELIGHTS TO ANSWER PRAYER. Even with Him it is more blessed to give than it is to receive. He delights in your prayer even when He keeps you waiting, for He will send the answer just when you most require it. It would not be well to have it earlier.

(Thomas Spurgeon.)

Hell and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?

1. The word translated "hell" might just as well be translated "death," or the state of departed spirits. Death, with all its solemn consequences, is visible before the Lord. God understands all the secrets of death. God knows the burial-places of all His people. He is cognisant of the history of all their bodies after sepulture, or after death. And as the body, so the soul when separated from the body is before the Lord.

2. The word "destruction" signifies "hell," the place of the damned. That also is open before the Lord. That land of terror is to us a land unknown.


1. Why is it so clear that if "hell and destruction are before the Lord," the hearts of men must be very plainly viewed by Him? We answer, because the hearts of men are not so extensive as the realms of death and torment. They are far less aged too. God may easily understand the history of a man, when He knows the history of the monarchies of death and hell.

2. How does God know the heart? To what degree and extent does He understand and know that which is in man? God searches it; tries it; ponders, or weighs it.

3. What is it that God sees in man's heart? Its evils, imaginations, devices, resolves.

4. When does God see us? Always, and everywhere.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him.
I. HE REQUIRES REPROOF. He should be reproved —

1. For his self-ignorance. He who arrogates to himself a superiority to Divine teaching, is utterly unacquainted with his own limited faculties, moral relations, and spiritual needs. Of all ignorance, self-ignorance is the most inexcusable, criminal, and ruinous. He should be reproved —

2. For his impious presumption. The scorner sets his mouth against the heavens.

II. HE SHUNS REPROOF. "He will not go unto the wise." Why? Because the wise would reprove him.

1. He will not read books that will deal seriously and honestly with his character.

2. He will not attend a ministry that will expose his character in the broad light of eternal law.

3. He will not join the society that will deal truthfully with its members.

III. HE HATES REPROOF. "The scorner loveth not one that reproveth him."

(D. Thomas, D.D.)

A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance.
The emotions that thrill in the heart mark themselves in legible lines on the countenance. This is a feature in the constitution of man, and a useful feature it is. The wisdom of our Maker may be seen in the degree of its development. Joy in the heart can do more than make the aspect winsome. Besides enlivening a dull countenance, it heals a diseased nature. There is nothing equal to cheerful and even mirthful conversation for restoring the tone of mind and body when both have been overdone. Mirth, after exhaustive toil, is one of nature's instinctive efforts to heal the part which has been racked and bruised. Even a dull observer may see wisdom and goodness in the habitual cheerfulness of the young. To maintain a patient's cheerfulness often hastens the patient's cure. A bright hope within will sometimes do more to restore the wasted strength than all the prescriptions of the physician. If Christians could get living hope lighted within, and let it beam like sunlight all the day through an open countenance, their lives would be more legible as epistles of Christ, and more effectual to win souls.

(W. Arnot, D.D.)

The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge.
The desire of knowledge is in some sense natural to us all; and it is the duty of us all to cherish that desire; to direct it to proper objects; and to keep it within due bounds. Knowledge is necessary. Conscience may dictate to us that things are right or wrong, but she may be mistaken in her decisions, unless she call in reason to her assistance; for a clear knowledge of morality cannot be obtained without serious consideration and the exercise of our intellectual faculties; nor can the revealed will of God be understood without application of mind. We at first receive the knowledge of things by perception, and then improve it by reflection. The general desire of knowledge is manifested very soon; but it varies in strength. It is meet that there should be men of smaller as well as of larger capacities, that they may be fitted for different ways of life; and this also makes it expedient that there should be various degrees of this propensity toward knowledge. The pleasure of any creature consists in having objects suitable to his faculties. In Scripture, ignorance is styled darkness, which is disagreeable; and truth is called light, which it is pleasant to behold. The enlargement of knowledge will be no small part of the satisfaction which the good will enjoy in a future and better state. Our natural desire of knowledge may be misused, as well as the other inclinations and passions of the human mind. It may be too little; it may be too great; it may be applied to wrong objects. Some persons do not desire knowledge as much as they ought. Some persons mind things less considerable more than those of greater moment. In the Scriptures themselves, all things are not of the same importance. Some things there are which we ought not to know; and a vain curiosity after them constitutes another abuse of our natural desire of knowledge. Sin should only be known as the rocks at sea, that it may be avoided. They also are inexcusable who in speculative points of religion rashly and proudly dogmatise about things which they cannot comprehend. Our understanding is confined within small bounds, and reason and Scripture tell us that no man by searching can find out the Almighty to perfection. Another abuse of our love of knowledge is an impetuous desire of extending it to too many objects; which is the case of some persons who have had a liberal education. Most errors arise from laziness, or rash judgments, or prejudice, or worldly interest, or some favourite passion. Intemperate desire of knowledge, and sometimes of applause or of profit, puts persons upon studies for which they have no genius or capacity.

(J. Jortin, D.D.)

Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
It is hard to form a true estimate of any man's happiness; because happiness depends most upon those things which lie most out of sight. Our good or ill breeding is chiefly seen abroad; our good or ill nature at home.

I. THE REASONABLENESS AND ADVANTAGES OF DOMESTIC UNION. Quietness under one's own roof, and quietness in our own conscience, are two substantial blessings. Abroad, we must more or less find tribulation; yet as long as our home is a secure and peaceful retreat from all the disappointments and cares of the world, we may still be tolerably happy. There cannot be a greater curse than to have those of one's own household one's greatest foes; when we neither can live happily with them, nor must think of living apart from them. Love is a tender plant; it must be kept alive by great delicacy, it must be fenced from all inclement blasts, or it will soon drop its head and die. To see a well-regulated family acting as if they were one body informed by one soul is a beautiful scene, and amiable even in the sight of that Being who maketh men to be of one mind in a house. The greatest advantage of a friendly behaviour to domestics (i.e., home people), is, that thereby we contract and cultivate that habit of benevolence which is a necessary qualification for everlasting happiness. The habitual sweetness of our temper, or the habitual badness of it, is not so much contracted by the great and considerable accidents of life, as by our behaviour in little things which befall us every day. Men of a generous education have a more refined humanity, passions more softened and civilised, than those in very low life, where rudeness, ill-manners, and brutality too often prevail. By studying to promote the happiness of those in our home circles, we mould ourselves into those habits which are productive of our own happiness, both here and hereafter.


1. Do not delude yourselves with any visionary notions of perfection. Consider men, as they really are, with all their numerous imperfections, and not as you could fondly wish them to be. There are not many who can stand the test of a close inspection. Their virtues shine upon us at a distance. It is upon nearer approach that we descry their failings. Familiarity, though it does not beget contempt, where there is real worth, yet always takes off admiration.

2. Learn to make proper allowance, and to represent failings with all the softenings of humanity. Other men's passions are always insupportable to those that are entirely devoted to their own. The fuller of imperfections any man is, the less able is he to bear with the imperfections of his fellow-creatures.

3. There is a particular tenderness due to persons under any recent affliction, because men are more susceptible of resentment, in proportion to the greatness of their distress.

4. Be sure to observe and practise the rules of good manners. By good manners I mean an assemblage of moral virtues expressed in our outward demeanour, a combination of discretion, circumspection, and civility, submission to our superiors, condescension to our inferiors, affability to all, and a strict regard to decency in all our actions. If you have any talent for saying keen and satirical things, be superior to the talent you possess, by showing how little stress you lay upon it, when it comes into competition with your good-nature.

5. Never make any reply to a person till his passion abates, and the ferment subsides.

6. Avoid what fools call spirit, and men of sense call haughtiness. Persons of sense and virtue will seldom differ about things that are plainly essential to the happiness of the family. Be not ashamed to confess that you have been in the wrong. It is but owning that you now have more sense than you had before.

7. Religion is absolutely necessary to preserve domestic union. Be, then, seriously and solidly good yourselves. Reverence yourself, if you would have your inferiors do so.

(J. Seed, M. A.)

The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns.

1. A slothful man is the opposite of a righteous man. A sluggard misses a main part of righteousness. He does not render to God according to the strength lent to him, nor to man according to the work assigned him. He is too idle to be importunate, too slothful to be earnest. He cannot be a righteous man, for slothfulness leads to the neglect of duty in many ways. Every good thing withers in the drought of idleness. All kinds of vices are comprehended in the one vice of sloth.

2. If we avoid sloth we have not done enough, we must also be righteous; we must do that which is right, and kind, and holy.

3. A slothful man's way is like a hedge of thorns. The idler's way is not a desirable way. It is difficult. It is painful. Continue in it, and your way will be blocked up altogether. On the other hand, a righteous man's way becomes plain. When a man walks in integrity, his way is soon made plain to him. In the long run, if a man keeps straight, and walks in strict integrity and faith, the Lord will make darkness light before him, and crooked things straight.

II. THE SPIRITUAL TEACHING OF THE TEXT. The spiritual sluggard's way is the way of unbelief, because the opposite of his way is the way of the righteous, which is the way of faith. The way of unbelief is full of thorns. It is a very hard way. It is full of perplexities. It is full of miseries. One of these days the slothful man will come to the end of his way, and he will see that hedge of thorns blocking him out of heaven — blocking him out from God. The way of the righteous is the way of faith, and his way "shall be made plain." Childlike confidence in God shall march on as upon a raised causeway, and always find for itself a road. God is with those who trust in Him; and what or whom shall we fear when God is with us? Sometimes the way of the righteous is mysterious and perplexing. When you do not know your way, ask your Guide. Stand still, and pray. An excellent translation runs thus, "The way of the righteous is a highway." It is the open road, where none may challenge the traveller. He that is in the King's highway is under the King's protection. He that is on the King's highway will come to a good end, for the King has completed that way so that it does not fall short, but leads to a city of habitations, whose builder and maker is God.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Folly is Joy to him that is destitute of wisdom.

1. I may advert to the absurd opinions set forth by extravagant theorists, who have exulted in them as solving difficulties in political and moral science which have perplexed the wise for ages, and as leading to the most valuable improvements in the condition and character of man.

2. Under this head, romantic imaginations may be specified, or all those gay expectations of prosperity and happiness which are suggested by a vain conceit of a man's own powers, by the dictates of a sanguine temper, and by false ideas of the world.

3. The reveries of enthusiasm may also be classed among these follies of fancy.

4. I shall only mention further the delusions of the self-righteous man, who cherishes the presumptuous conceit of his own merit, and disregards the righteousness of Christ. This delusion deserves a worse name than folly, for it rejects the noblest gift of heaven, and pours contempt on the precious blood of Jesus.

II. I proceed now to call your attention to those FOLLIES IN CONVERSATION which you ought to avoid.

1. It is not my intention to speak of the grosset offences in conversation, since for these folly is too gentle a name. Nor do I mean to comprehend under this epithet all those sallies of humour which enliven social intercourse by their pleasantry. I wish to repress only what the apostle calls "foolish talkings and jestings which are not convenient."

2. How much idle talking is there about amusements and fashions, and the family concerns of others.

3. I add that they are chargeable with folly in conversation whose lips are filled with vain boasting. Such persons are always heard with disgust.

III. I proceed now to specify some of those FOLLIES IN CONDUCT against which you ought to guard.

1. The first that I mention is imprudent connections. Much of our comfort and success in life depends on the alliances which we form.

2. Improper habits should be carefully avoided. Indolence. Profusion. Procrastination. Rashness. Changeableness.

3. Pernicious amusements.


1. Meditate frequently on the laws of God which forbid them (Psalm 85:8; Proverbs 9:6; Ephesians 5:15, 16).

2. Meditate frequently on the punishment which God threatens to inflict on those who indulge in folly (Proverbs 1:32; Proverbs 19:29; Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 10:21).

3. Cherish a taste for wisdom.

4. Implore the influences of Divine grace to keep you from folly, and to guide you in the ways of true wisdom (James 1:5, 6).

5. Often reflect on the shortness and uncertainty of life. Have we time for folly? What if death should find us forming senseless projects, instead of preparing for eternity?

(H. Belfrage.)

Without counsel purposes are disappointed.
1. Disappointments are the common lot of man. Prince and peasant, prophet and people, wise and unwise, rich and poor, young and old — all have suffered disappointment. Eve was disappointed in the good promised her if she ate of the tree of knowledge. The builders of Babel were disappointed. Solomon sought to find happiness in all human inventions, but had to write on them all, "Vanity!" So we might pass through the whole range of human history, from Alexander to Napoleon, and find disappointment the common lot of all.

2. The number of disappointments are incalculable.

3. The variety of disappointments which men suffer is very great. Men are disappointed in carrying out schemes of ambition, in securing preferment, in amassing and holding wealth; yes, even in carrying out plans of good, benevolence and charity.

4. The bitterness and melancholy results of these disappointments are worthy of note. Many a bright and happy life has been for ever clouded and depressed by early disappointment. Many a life has been shortened, and many another tragically ended, because of some overpowering disappointment.

5. The sources of disappointments are many. In general terms we may say they belong to a sinful world, where all is confusion, uncertain, and deranged. Disappointments arise from man's shortsightedness, mistakes, failures, and weakness. The connection of our text reads: "Without counsel purposes are disappointed." We cannot control events, or foresee contingencies that may intervene or insure the capacity, integrity, and fidelity of others. We are constantly taken by surprise at things springing up that we never dreamed of, and made no provision for.

6. The use to be made of disappointments.(1) They teach us the uncertainty of all human expectations and our absolute dependence upon God (James 4:13-15).(2) Our own impotence.(3) We are to expect disappointments.(4) When they come accept them resignedly, not stoically but look at them rationally.(5) Disappointment may sometimes be better than success.(6) There is one thing that can make all disappointments blessings. It is said that Croesus had some magic power about him by which he turned everything he touched to gold. There is more than a magic power which the believer wields over the trying dispensations of life; there is a Divine power. "All things" — disappointments included — "work together for good to them that love God."

(G. Hutchinson Smyth.)

A word spoken in season, how good it is!
I. USEFUL SPEECH IS A JOY-GIVING SPEECH. "A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth." Three things guarantee him joy in such speaking.

1. The testimony of his own conscience. Having spoken what he believed to be the true, the generous, and the fitting, his conscience cheers him with its smiles.

2. The manifestation of the benefit. When he sees that the men to whom he speaks are evidently being improved in knowledge, in energy, and in true nobility, he has an unspeakable joy.

3. The gratitude of his hearers.

II. USEFUL SPEECH IS A SEASONABLY-UTTERED SPEECH. "A word spoken in due season, how good is it!"

1. It should be in season as far as the speaker's own soul is concerned. Our souls have their seasons, and words that would be suitable in one season to our souls would not be so in another. There are words suited to soul moods.

2. It should be in season as far as the heater's soul is concerned.


The way of life is above to the wise
I. RELIGION IS ELEVATED IN PRINCIPLE. The motive or ground of action with the sincere but truly pious is far more elevated than that which prompts the conduct of the irreligious and the merely nominal Christian.

1. It is elevated above the maxims of worldly prudence. Such prudence is really nothing more than a selfish and time-serving policy.

2. It is elevated above the standard of worldly morality. The defect of that scheme of morality which is current in the world is its utter disregard of the character of motives.

II. THE WISE ARE ELEVATED IN TASTE. There is, in Scriptural religion, everything to purify and chasten, to elevate and refine the faculties of the mind. It gives a quickness to discern and a sensibility to feel the beauties and deformities of objects, especially those of a moral character. The dim glitter of earthly splendour has no attraction for them. They are elevated above the craving desire of human applause.

III. THE WISE ARE ELEVATED IN THEIR PURSUITS. The worldly occupation of good men is much the same as that of other men. The way of life is above to the wise, with respect to religion itself. He seeks more after holiness than happiness. The pursuit of heaven is not any actual dereliction of the best good which this world has to afford. Its richest blessings are poured upon those who keep the world beneath their feet. Learn —

1. That pure religion is vastly more elevated and holy than is generally supposed.

2. The religion of Scripture is above the conception of worldly minds. Its sublime principles are too lofty for their comprehension.

(Charles Jenkins.)

I. CERTAIN CHARACTERS HERE SPOKEN OF. "The wise." God's Word sets two characters before us — the godly and the ungodly. But there are various grades of both. The godly, or wise, are not so by natural intellect. They are the wise whom God esteems to be wise, and whom God makes wise. Though wise, they have much foolishness at times still in them; but they know the plague of their own heart. They know Christ. And they know something of the world's emptiness.

II. THE COURSE THAT THEY TAKE. "Depart from hell beneath." God's Word says hell is a place, just as heaven is a place. Then they are wise who fear that dreadful place, and seek to depart from it, and avoid all peril of it. But the wise also take the "way of life." By this we understand the place to which they go, the way by which they go to it, and their mode of walking in it.

III. A DESCRIPTIVE CHARACTER GIVEN OF THAT COURSE. "Above." This is applicable as well to the end of the way, which is life; and the way to it, which is Christ; and their mode of walking in it, which is by faith.

(J. H. Evans, M.A.)

He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul.
In this text the writer gives such an account of those whom he found he could do no good to as makes their folly manifest before all men.

I. THEY REFUSE INSTRUCTION. He that neglects instruction, puts it far from him, and sets himself at a distance from it; not only because he hates it, but because he fears it. Or that strips himself of instruction; shaking off his education, as a garment he will not be hampered with. The original word has a further signification, he that will be revenged on instruction; that takes it for an affront, and studies revenge, if he be told of his faults. Per instruction the margin reads "correction." In our fallen state, that which instructs us must correct us. The corrections of Providence are intended for instruction. Many refuse discipline. They will not hear instruction, heed it, or comply with it.

II. THEY DESPISE THEIR OWN SOULS. They evidence that they have very low and mean thoughts of their souls. But the soul is the man. He who despises his soul despises himself. There is a despising of ourselves which is commendable, and our duty — a gracious self-contempt. There is a despising of ourselves which is culpable, and of pernicious consequence. The honour of the soul is, that it is rational and immortal. They who refuse Divine instruction despise their own souls under both these considerations. Take the subject more generally, and show that it is the original error of wilful sinners, that they undervalue their own souls.

1. Who they are that despise their own souls. Some do so in opinion; who advance notions of the human soul that derogate from the honour of it; or deny their immortality. Those despise their own souls who abuse them; hazard them; neglect them; prefer their bodies before them.


1. Consider the nature of the soul, which is too noble, too excellent, to be despised.

2. Consider the nearness of the soul. It is his own soul that the sinner despises.

3. Consider the purchase of the soul, and the price that was paid for its redemption.

4. Consider the projects that are laid about souls, and what striving there is for them, and for their love and service.

5. Consider the perpetual duration of souls, and the preparations that are made in the other world to receive them. Apply the subject:(1) Let us see and bewail our folly in having had such low thoughts of our own souls, and that we have forgotten their dignity, and put dishonour upon them.(2) Learn to put a due value upon our own souls; but to take care not to magnify ourselves above our brethren.(3) Let us make it appear that we do indeed value our own souls.(4) Let us value other things as they have relation to our souls, and fix our estimate of them by the value of our souls, and stand affected to them accordingly. Let us value our Lord Jesus Christ, as the best friend our souls ever had, who died to redeem and save them.

( Matthew Henry.)

The fear of the Lord is the instruction of Wisdom.
"Instructed" comes from the Latin instruo, to build up, just as a house is built up. Here Wisdom is spoken of as a person, and in the New Testament it is said, "Christ Jesus is made of God unto us Wisdom." So it is Christ the Son of God who speaks to us in the text. He teaches the fear of the Lord. In the times of the Roman empire, there were various philosophers who had schools, but they were for grown-up people, not for the young. But these schools have long since been closed; the school of Jesus Christ, the Great Teacher, is open to-day, and you may attend it. The fear of the text is not slavish, shrinking fear, like that which the poor in South America feel when the cruel overseer comes to lash them to their work. That is the way that devils fear God. To fear God means to have a solemn awe of Him, and of His holy law. But it means also, having love to Him reigning in our heart, whereby we fear to offend our heavenly Father. Slavish fear is a hindering thing, just as a strong cold wind hinders one from walking quickly and agreeably along the street; but loving fear is like the summer breezes mingling with summer sunbeams, causing all sorts of tender and beautiful things to spring up easily, and give forth their delightful fragrance. There are two ways of receiving instruction. You may get it from a fellow-creature, and yet be none the better, because stopping or resting in that; or you may get it from Jesus Christ, who is Wisdom, and then you may become wise unto salvation.

1. He will show you that sin is no trifle.

2. He will strengthen you to hate and avoid sin. You will surely find that the loving fear of the Lord is a rich, or enriching, thing; and it is also a comforting thing.

(J. Stirling Muir.)

I. GODLY FEAR. This is godly fear, a fear of wounding the dearest object of the heart. Concerning this fear, it is here said that it "is the instruction of Wisdom."

1. It is the great subject of Wisdom's instruction. Everywhere in nature, in the events of life, and in the holy book of God, does heavenly Wisdom inculcate this godly fear.

2. It is the great end of Wisdom's instruction. Heavenly Wisdom, in all its communications, deals with our souls not merely to enlighten the intellect and refine the tastes, but to fill us with loving fear toward God.

II. GENUINE HUMILITY. "The fear of the Lord is the instruction of Wisdom; and before honour is humility." This is a maxim of very wide application.

1. It is sometimes applicable to secular exaltation. As a rule, the man who rises to affluence and power in the world has had to humble himself. He has stooped to conquer. He has condescended to drudgeries and concessions most wounding to his pride.

2. This always applies to intellectual exaltation. A most humbling sense of one's ignorance is the first step to intellectual eminence, and almost the last.

3. This invariably applies to moral exaltation. "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."


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