Proverbs 24:21


I. THE TEMPTATION TO ENVY THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED. It is very marked in the Old Testament. It is a common temptation. For we look at the outside of man's condition, and are deceived by illusions. A pirate's venal in the distance, a mansion built and inhabited by infamy, are beautiful objects of aesthetic contemplation. So it is that the show and bravery of success master our senses.

II. THE ANTIDOTE TO THESE FEELINGS. (Ver. 20.) "Consider the end" - darkness and the blackness of darkness. The wicked have no future. When this is once clearly seen, the charm on the surface fades away, and the edifice of proud but godless prosperity sinks almost into a smoking ruin.

III. RELIGION AND MORALITY THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF SECURITY AND BLESSEDNESS. (Vers. 21, 22.) The one comprehensive word for religion is the "fear of Jehovah," reverence for God, and for all that, being true, is of the very nature of God. And obedience to the king includes all those civil and social duties which we incur as members of an ordered commonwealth. Religion and loyalty go together; and the best way to make good subjects to the queen is to make men good servants of God. They will not make conscience of civil duties who make none of Divine. - J.









My son, fear thou the Lord and the king.
I. A DOUBLE DUTY LAID DOWN. Or rather, a single duty, one included and comprehended in the other. Fear here is a comprehensive notion to contain in it all those duties which we owe to God principally, and to the king subordinately.

1. To fear God is to have awful apprehensions of Him in our thoughts, and to walk carefully before Him in our actions. This fear is the bottom of all true spiritual wisdom; the security against all other fears; a preservative against all sin and wilful offence; and a good preparative for the peace and welfare of society, by restraining people's minds within the due limits of their subjection, that we may lead quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and honesty.

2. To fear the king we stand obliged both in conscience to God and out of interest to ourselves, seeing that he is the public guardian, upon whose well-doing the welfare of the whole community depends.

3. The sum of all religion is to be as pure in holiness, so peaceable in righteousness, when we order ourselves piously to God and obediently to the magistrate. The interests of religion and policy are so nearly twisted and woven together that they cannot be severed from one another without the utmost hazard to both. Rebellion and schism are wont to go hand in hand together.

II. THE CAUTION.

1. As an expedient for the duty. The way to keep in the fear of God and the king is to forbear the company of these restless folk, to keep at a distance from them, and have nothing to do with them.

2. As a consequent of this duty. He that hath any fear of God and the king will keep himself within compass. A pious soul, a loyal heart, will admit of nothing that may shake or call in question its fidelity.As to these changers —

1. Inquire who they are. Iterantes, men who go over things again and never have done. Variantes, who vary their course through all points of the compass. Detractors, that speak evil of dignities, both temporal and spiritual. Declinantes, stragglers, who go out of God's and the king's highway.

2. What is it not to meddle with them? It is to mark these men, and observe the dangerous mixture of their fine parts and foul designs. Consider well the tendency and drift of such principles as theirs.

3. The reasons why such men are not to be meddled with. There is no knowing how far they may lead you. Though you may be innocent, you may get wrapped up in others' guilt. If you escape now, you will suffer one day, in the peace of thy conscience. And thou dost endanger the eternal safety of thy soul. Since it is so, let us take heed to ourselves, and establish our spirits in the fear of the Lord and the king, and as we wish well to our own persons and to our posterity after us, let us have nothing to do with these changers.

(Adam Littleton, D.D.)

Civil government is the great comprehensive worldly blessing; for it is the foundation of peace and quiet, the spring and fountain of all those inestimable advantages which adorn and felicitate human societies.

I. THE DUTIES WHICH WE OWE TO GOD AND THE KING. The fear of God is oftentimes put for the whole sum of religion. We are also to fear the king, and though there is not an equal reason, yet there is a sufficient one for this fear. The king is God's vicegerent and representative. And there must be something to work upon men's fears as well as to convince their understandings, before they will learn or practise the duty of subjection. Religion and loyalty have a close dependence on each other, and a strict connection with each other. No man can be truly religious who is not a good subject. No man can be steadily and immovably loyal who is not truly and sincerely religious.

II. A PROPER MEANS PRESCRIBED FOR SECURING AND PRESERVING US IN OUR DUTY. Beware of those who are given to changes, e.g., the atheist, the restless, the rebellious.

(William Stainforth.)

I. THE PERFECTIONS WHICH RENDER GOD THE OBJECT OF OUR FEAR.

II. THE FEAR OF GOD AND THE KING IS THE BEST PRESERVATIVE AGAINST THE DISTURBERS OF THE PEACE AND QUIET OF ALL GOVERNMENT. It is the foundation of all those virtues from which the peace and happiness of governments must arise, and the most effectual restraint upon the vicious appetites and passions of men. Those in whom this principle rules cannot help looking upon others as the servants of one Sovereign Master, and this consideration must dispose them to have the tenderest regard for their welfare, and tie them together by the strictest bands of fraternal love and friendship. And this principle must naturally contribute to the regulating and composing those disorderly affections and passions which are the great enemies and disturbers of the peace of mankind. Religion fixes that levity and weakness of mind which is so natural to man; it unites his actions and resolutions to one great end, and makes them consistent and regular; and is the best cure of that restlessness of mind which closely adheres to our very natures, and renders us dissatisfied with what we are, or what we at present possess or enjoy; and too often disposes us wantonly to desire changes for the very sake of changing.

(John Wilcox, D.D.)

The possession of power is one thing; guidance how to use it is another. The sacred writings contemplated your present as well as your future. The present, what is it but the future begun? The future, what is it but the present completed? He will most enjoy the glories of the future whose life of practical holiness best attests the work of grace within him now. The whole power of this verse consists in its unity. It is not, "My son, fear thou the Lord," and then, "My son, fear thou the king"; but, "My son, fear thou the Lord and the king."

I. THE REMARKABLE COMMAND. There is much force in that word, "fear thou." Be unmoved by any motives, or influences, or examples, which may press you to do otherwise than thus. If all around you are wrong, "fear thou." Multitudes do not prove a matter to be right. Act for yourself, and do not fear to stand alone. The command here is, fear both God and the king. You must do the latter if the former be regarded. The fear of God brings with it a principle of obedience, which will influence your conduct in all things. The two things are united morally, and so a true Christian must be a good subject.

II. THE DANGER OF FORGETTING THIS COMMAND. The antithesis is very striking. "Meddle not with them that are given to change." But change must not be confused with progress and improvement. Change means things that imperil primary principles of righteousness.

III. THE RESULTS OF NEGLECTING THIS COMMAND. "Their calamity shall come suddenly." Apply — To serve your generation by the will of God is one of the duties and privileges of your present state. You will do it if you fear "both God and the king."

(George Venables.)

I. THE ADVICE. The commendation "My son" stands first. This is such a counsel as a father would give a son. And that it is no evil one we may be sure. There is in this counsel a single act — "fear" — and a double object — "God and the king." The main drift of the advice is, a resentive against meddling with certain persons. It consists of two counter points. Do this and eschew that. Follow one, fly the other.

II. THE PENALTY. It is punishment enough for a man not to follow good counsel when it is given him. Yet God hath so ordered, as there goeth ever some further evil with the contempt of good counsel. The penalty is no less than destruction and ruin; a sudden destruction, an unknown ruin. Solomon sits here as a counsellor and as a judge — a counsellor to advise, a judge to pronounce. Hear his counsel, then; if not, hear your sentence. Choose which verse you will be in. In one of them we must be. In the verse of counsel, "Fear God and the king," or in the verse of penalty, "For their destruction," etc.

(Bp. Lancelot Andrewes.)

The word "fear" expresses the general idea of reverence, or of holding in awe. God is to be feared according to the nature and authority of His government, kings according to the nature and authority of theirs; God supremely, kings subordinately; God as the source of all power, kings as holding theirs of God, and responsible to Him for the use they make of it. God for His character; kings simply as the representatives of power. God with a fear ever associated with the love of complacency; kings with as much love as their personal character admits of.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Dr. Buchsel, speaking of the conventicles in Germany, early in the century, in which evangelical piety, which had no voice in the Churches, found refuge, says: "I noticed that all of this way of thinking, however much they suspected regularly ordained ministers and Church authorities, yet appeared to place heartfelt confidence in the king. They were universally persuaded that his majesty personally was well inclined towards them. The king was invariably prayed for with the utmost affection."

(J. F. B. Tinling, B.A.)

And meddle not with them that are given to change
Harmony and order preserve societies, when all men that are in a subordinate state do readily yield to him who is the supreme according to God's law. Maximus Tyrius, the Platonist, speaks of three sorts of government — monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy. One end of religion is to be serviceable even to the political and civil interests of mankind; and because there can be no temporal felicity without peace, nor peace without loyal and dutiful submission, the text calls on all such as would be truly happy to "fear God and the king."

I. AN AFFIRMATIVE COMMAND. That we express that humble and universal fear which is due to God's majesty, and that becoming reverence which is due to the king's majesty for God's sake. (This subject not now treated fully.)

II. A NEGATIVE PRECEPT. That we have nothing to do with those who, when things are well, under pretence of mending would fain mar all, and alter everything, whether it be religion, or laws, or government, that lieth in their way. Some render the verse thus, "Meddle not with them that act their iniquities over again; them that are disobedient and disloyal afresh; them that repeat their old sins against the king and his regalities; them that are for a change, but not of their own principles and courses." Solomon's own experience led him to warn his son against intractable and ungrateful men. Other expositors do not so restrain the sense of the text, but interpret it generally of all that are given to change, though some of them for a considerable time may have kept touch with the government: "Meddle not with them that change their good principles; with them that warp their obedience; with them that are unsteady and inconsistent with themselves, and observe the pulse of the times." Men should be quiet and dutiful, and contented with their lot when things are well and in their right channel, and not abet the practices of those who cannot be at ease until the mire be stirred, and the wheel be turned upside down. Reasons for this advice of the text:

1. A retinue of the most mischievous concomitants and effects, as war, bloodshed, confusion, rapine, the subversion of laws, and ruin of families, follow upon these restless changes, these evils of innovation.

2. Change of government is rarely attempted but under some cleanly disguise and popular pretence. Popular states have been erected by the popular tricks of men.Recommend three practical things —

1. The fear of the Lord. No confidence can be placed but in men who act upon the right principles of religion and honesty.

2. The fear of the king is coercive of obedience.

3. Avoid the company of restless spirits; have no fellowship with them.

(Edward Pelling.)

Man's power of adapting himself to new spheres and work is placed within such strict limitations, that the fewer changes he makes in life the better. There is a law of limitation for animals and men. And the facts respecting the limited range enjoyed by some animals are not more noteworthy than are those respecting the limited range of some men. There are some persons who do well enough in the dull dreary region of a cold official life, whose existence is unendurable in the midst of the associations of wit and romance. The red-tape species die if brought away from the frigid regions of officialism and formality; and there are many poor men who live honest, useful lives in the scenes of indigence who, when fortune unexpectedly transports them into the luxuriant scenes of opulence and gaiety, die from some one or other of the results of the change for which they were not constituted. Many attempts have been made to remove very good men from one position to another, and the result has been a termination of their usefulness, and often of their life. The notion that men can adapt themselves to anything is an error arising from want of observation. There is a sphere for every man; and, as a rule, the removal of him when he is fairly acclimatised either renders him useless altogether, or makes it necessary that he should be sustained by artificial inventions, and in that case he cannot lead that natural life which is necessary in the full development of his powers. It will also be found that these difficulties in adapting men to great changes of position increase with their age.

(R. J. Graves, F.R.S.)

To oppose all changes is to set up a plea of perfection. Every improvement (and where is there not need for improvement?) is a change. But public evils are not to be mended by railing. To be "given to change"; to alter for the sake of altering; to be weary of the old and captivated with the new, however untried; to make experiments upon modes of government, is a fearful hazard. It is losing the substance of real good in the dream of imaginary improvements; as if we must undo everything rather than be idle.

(G. Bridges, M.A.)

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