Proverbs 3:14

I. WISDOM COMPARABLE WITH THE MOST PRECIOUS THINGS. Silver, gold, precious stones, everything eagerly coveted and warmly prized by the senses and the fancy, may illustrate the worth of the pious intelligence. Every object in the world of sense has its analogy in the world of spirit. The worth of the ruby is due to the aesthetic light in the mind of the observer. But wisdom is the light in the mind itself.

II. WISDOM INCOMPARABLE WITH ALL PRECIOUS THINGS. For by analogy only can we put wisdom and precious minerals side by side, on the principle that mind is reflected in matter. But on the opposite principle, that mind is diverse from matter, rests the incomparableness of wisdom. Mere matter can breed nothing; spiritual force only is generative. When we talk of "money breeding money," we use a figure of speech. It is the mind which is the active power.

III. WISDOM MAY BE VIEWED AS THE BEST LIFE INVESTMENT. All the objects which stimulate human activity to their pursuit are derivable from this capital. Life in health and ample and various enjoyment, riches and honour, pleasure and inward peace; blessings that neither money nor jewels can purchase, are the fruit, direct or indirect, of the cultivation of the spiritual field of enterprise, the whole-hearted venture on this Divine speculation, so to say. For religion's a speculation; faith is a speculation in the sense that everything cannot be made certain; some elements in the calculation must ever remain undefined. (For further, see the early part of the chapter; and on ver. 17, South's 'Sermons,' vol. 1, ser. 1) The summary expression, "a tree of life," seems to symbolize all that is beautiful, all that is desirable, all that gives joy and intensity to living (comp. Proverbs 13:12; Proverbs 15:4). - J.

For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
It is an unquestionable truth, that to walk in the paths which God has enjoined, is to secure to ourselves the most perfect felicity which our present state will admit; and that our misery and unhappiness arise in proportion to our deviation from that "peaceful and pleasant path." If you are wise enough to lay hold of and retain this excellent wisdom —

1. Honour shall be yours.

2. Profit shall be yours. Who can doubt of the advantages which will accompany our sincere profession of religion? Advantages in time and in eternity.

3. Pleasure shall be yours. Religion affords the mind the most complete and substantial satisfaction.

(W. Dodd, LL. D.)

Wisdom is compared and contrasted with other possessions. It is merchandise. There is a most pleasant excitement in the prosecution of mercantile enterprise. It gives full play to all the faculties. Those who prosecute have their wits more sharpened than other sections of the community. The plans are contrived, and the calculations made....What of the merchandise for a more distant country than that to which his goods are going — what of the traffic for eternity? Are there no careful calculations, no instructive longings, no vivid imaginings, as to its condition and progress? This merchandise is better and more gainful than any other. The world contains not any such promising field for speculation. It opens up a richer and surer market than any port of Time. It is a treasure that cannot be taken away.

(W. Arnot, D.D.)

Man is the only trading animal; commerce is his prerogative. The blazon of his trade, or exchange, is his patent of nobility. There is no distinction more honourable. There is no earthly title nobler than "a merchant"; and as such they are the controlling class in society — the chieftains and nobles of the later civilisation. Without them, there could be no division of labour, and consequently no accumulation of capital, and therefore no education, no literature, no science, no fine art, no true civilisation. The term "merchant" is altogether honourable and honoured, and therefore, and as such, is aptly metaphorical of a true Christian. Consider some points of resemblance.

I. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN OF STRONG FAITH. Indeed, in regard of temporal things, he above all other men may be said "to walk by faith." His barks are on the sea, and the sea is treacherous. His goods are consigned to men who may be plotting to defraud him. His ability to meet obligations depends on media of exchange, which some financial panic may paralyse in a moment. Yea, his "walk by faith" goes far beyond this. His business extends practically to the very ends of the earth, to lands he has never seen, and with races of men with whom he has never mingled. And thus in this walk by faith he is a fit emblem of a Christian.

II. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN OF GREAT EARNESTNESS AND ACTIVITY. His faith is not an indolent trust, but an energising principle.

III. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN PRACTICALLY AND PRE-EMINENTLY USEFUL. His wares are of real value — his labours sincere benefactions. Traced carefully back to their origin, to mercantile enterprise under God, must be ascribed all real human progress, from the hut and hunting spear of the earlier barbarism to the palaces and emporiums of the last civilisation. It is the merchant who has bridged the oceans and united continents; covered the seas with sails and the land with machinery.


1. He must be a man of strong faith. This is essentially and every way the foundation of his character. He must rely confidently for his salvation on another, and live ever in reference to the far-away and invisible.

2. A. Christian must be an active and earnest man. That indolent reliance on Christ, which some men call faith, is a fearful delusion of the great adversary. While we can do nothing to merit salvation, yet we must do very much "to work out our salvation." The high calling of God in Christ Jesus is not a lullaby over a cradle, but a great voice out of heaven saying, "Come up hither."

3. A Christian must be a useful man. The law of his life is that of his Master, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

4. But we are not to forget that while thus beneficent to other men, a Christian, like a merchant, is above all, and ineffably, benefiting himself. This, indeed, is the main truth set forth in the emblem. Mark the language, "The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver." It is implied here that this trading of the merchant in earthly products is good because profitable. But the Christian's exchanging of temporal for eternal things is affirmed to be obviously better, because ineffably more profitable.(1) Because of the security of the transaction. All material commerce is manifestly with a hazard. But not so the spiritual. The Christian's trust is in nothing finite, but in the living God. His bark cannot founder, for Christ sails with him. Thieves cannot steal his treasure, for it is laid up in heaven.(2) Because the treasure it secures is infinitely more valuable. This, indeed, is the great truth of the whole passage. We have here a most beautiful climax of all earth's rarest and richest things. Silver, gold, rubies, all in their rarest purity and richest abundance, are declared to be of inferior value. Yea, the inspired penman affirms that "all things the human heart can desire are not to be compared with his." And if you will remember that this is the testimony, not of some poor, unsuccessful man, but of Solomon — of Solomon, too, at a period of his experience when he had tested, as no other man ever did, the worth of all earthly things — not the utterance of one who, disappointed in his struggle for riches, pleasure, honour, turns in melancholy misanthropy away, to rail at the world and call it hard names, and scold from a hermit's cell, or a priest's pulpit; but of a crowned king in a palace, on a throne, around whom the world delighted to gather all the prizes of life's mightiest triumphs, then you will take his testimony as demonstrated, that the treasure secured by Christian life is letter than all the results of an earthly commerce.

(C. Wadsworth, D.D.)

This Book of Proverbs is a manual of conduct. It is not intended to make its readers learned men, but to make them wise men. We begin to be wise when we fear God, and to fear Him is always the chief part of wisdom. Some parts of the book are specially intended for the young. Its authors saw clearly that character is largely formed in childhood and youth. Hence strong emphasis is placed on the importance of the firm and wise discipline of children and young people; and there are grave and repeated warnings against the sins to which the young are specially tempted. If we are to achieve any great and enduring reformation in the condition of this country, and of the world, there must be an intelligent, a serious, a persistent endeavour to give to children and young people true conceptions of the possible dignity of human life, the gracious sternness of duty, the freedom and blessedness which are to be found in the service of God. Children are the salvation of the race. There is a new world created every thirty or forty years. There lies our hope. What ought we to teach the children?

I. WISDOM. What they need to know for the conduct of life: how to live. Our first duty is to make God known to them. And the Christian method of doing that is to bring home to them constantly the great truth that having seen Christ we have seen the Father. All that Christ was, all that He said, must be accepted as containing disclosures of the life of the Father. The Christian conception of life is founded on the Christian gospel. Wisdom consists in a clear and just estimate of what are the true ends of life, and in the power to determine how life should be ordered so as to secure those ends, but for this we must know what God's relations to us are. The great Christian truths have a direct relation to life; they determine the laws of life; they are the forces which enable us to fulfil those laws.

II. UNDERSTANDING. This denotes the power of accurate discrimination between things which may seem to be alike; in this sense, understanding is one of the aids and instruments by which wisdom is able to direct conduct. In most men the perception of duty is often dim and uncertain. Men who mean to do right do wrong because they cannot clearly see the line by which right and wrong are separated. Therefore the plain duties of human life and relationship should be taught to children. The duties of industry, truthfulness, equal justice, temperance, patience, fortitude, good temper, courtesy, and modesty. Much more in the way of direct moral instruction, for securing a proper "understanding" of life and relations, could be done both in the school and in the family.

(R. W. Dale, LL.D.)

Even in the sense of mere mental cultivation this is true. A well-informed, well-stored mind is an acquirement greatly superior in real excellence to aught that is merely external — to wealth, or to all the outward distinction that wealth can procure. It is a source of more rational and richer enjoyment to the person's self, and a far worthier ground of respectability and honour. There are few objects really more pitiable than an ignorant, senseless rich man — a man whose mind, in its unfurnished poverty and emptiness, presents a perpetual contrast with his outward pomp and plenitude.

(R. Wardlaw, D.D.)

Why is the merchandise of wisdom better than the merchandise of silver?

1. Because it is a business you can begin sooner than you can any other.

2. Because it is easier to trade in. It requires less money and less labour to carry it on.

3. Because you can have better partners here than in any other pursuits.

4. Because it yields more profit than any other.

5. Because there is more room for engaging in it than in any other. We are all fitted for it, and invited to engage in it.

(R. Newton, D.D.)

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