Proverbs 3:16

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.

Length of days is in her right hand.
So far from being true that good men, women, and children die sooner than others, the reverse is actually the case. As wickedness acts as a shortener of life, so does a regard for God's wholesome laws help to lengthen it. It is an unnatural thing for one to desire to die before he has finished his work on earth. It cannot be wrong in us to love life, when God promises it to His children as a special blessing. It is easy to discover why religion is conducive to length of days. Obedient children will be most likely to avoid the vices and crimes which shorten life. The love of life is not peculiar to man as a fallen being. Why do we desire that "length of days" should be our portion?

I. BECAUSE LIFE IS PLEASANT, AND THE WORLD, IN SPITE OF SEASONS OF CLOUDS AND STORMS, IS A BEAUTIFUL ONE. Illustrate by the summer landscape. We love life for its many comforts and enjoyments. Who can estimate the pleasures of the family circle, the genial intercourse of friends, the cultivation of refinement and taste, the peculiar satisfaction which attends literary labours, the accumulation of property as a provision against the season of old age, and that we bear our part in works of beneficence and charity?


III. BECAUSE THROUGH LENGTH OF DAYS ON EARTH, WE MAY BE THE BETTER PREPARED TO MEET GOD. Eternity alone is the real life-time of the soul. A life without a purpose is utterly unworthy of him on whom God has bestowed mental gifts and the gift of immortality.

(John N. Norton.)

There is a great difference between the Old Testament and the New, with respect to the motives by which religious virtue is severally enforced in them. In the old covenant there was an established connection between obedience and outward prosperity. The New Testament differeth from this very widely, both in its general declarations and the instances of fact which its history containeth. Our Lord assured His disciples that they must expect tribulation. Length of days, riches, and honours, instead of being promised as the rewards of Christianity, in some cases, must be renounced by all the servants and disciples of Jesus Christ. It may be that we are reminded of two expressions which seem to promise material prosperity (Matthew 6:33; 1 Timothy 4:8). But in the first our Lord's design is to show the folly of an inordinate carefulness, not about abundance of worldly things, outward splendour, and great wealth, but the necessaries of life, what we shall eat and drink, and wherewithal we shall be clothed. The promise therefore must be understood to extend no farther than to answer the intention of superseding our thoughtfulness about these needful things. As to the other text, it seemeth to mean that in the practice of true religion we may hope that, ordinarily, God's gracious care will be employed for our support and preservation. If we observe the ordinary methods of Divine providence, and the general course and state of things, with their connection and dependence in this world, we shall find that, for the most part, the practice of the Christian virtues hath a tendency even to our outward advantage, and to promote our present interest, rather than the contrary. The observation holdeth more universally with respect to communities, some of which have risen from very small beginnings to great and powerful nations, by industry, frugality, the exact distribution of justice, fidelity, and other virtues; on the other hand, the history of all ages showeth that the most opulent and flourishing kingdoms have been precipitated into ruin by avarice, oppression, luxury, and injustice.

I. WISDOM'S GIFT IS LENGTH OF DAYS. Life importeth the capacity for enjoyments, and is the foundation of them all. Length of days has the preference of riches and honour, but not of an approving conscience. That a religious or virtuous course of life tendeth to prolong our days we may be convinced by experience. Temperance, meekness, and patience contribute to long life. Benevolence and the social virtues tend to secure life against that foreign violence to which the unjust, the cruel, and the inhumane are obnoxious.

II. WISDOM'S GIFT IS RICHES. There are abuses of wealth. But it may lawfully be sought after as the means of living easy, and enjoying the comforts of this world with moderation. Nature teacheth, and religion doth not forbid it, that we should endeavour to render our condition in this world tolerable. And wealth should also be valued as the means and ability of doing good in a religious and moral sense. Men ordinarily acquire riches by their parsimony, their industry and their credit, and to all these the moral virtues comprehended in wisdom are eminently serviceable. The natural effect of temperance, chastity, humility is to retrench a great many exorbitancies. And diligence is specially commended in religion. Mutual confidence is of great advantage for the getting of riches, and religious character is the sure ground of confidence.

III. WISDOM'S GIFT IS HONOUR — that esteem, with the outward tokens and expressions of it, which men have in the world. This is a certain effect of wisdom or religious virtue, because virtue itself maketh the very character which is honourable, or the subject of esteem. Men cannot help having in their heart a veneration for the man who, by the whole course of his behaviour, appears to be pious, sober, just, and charitable, let his condition be what it will.

(J. Abernethy, M. A.)

Well-being in externals, though not the most important part of our happiness, is yet always a part of it, and consequently a care for its conservation and advancement cannot be absolutely wrong.

1. See that all your efforts to promote your outward welfare are innocent. Employ none other than fair and honest means to that end.

2. Never let your efforts so engross and occupy your mind as to allow you neither inclination nor leisure, time nor ability, to care and labour for that which more proximately and directly promotes the perfection of your spirit.

3. Do not assume that your efforts for your outward welfare must necessarily succeed, or that they are absolutely lost if they fail of success.

4. Dignify your efforts by forming just conceptions of the ultimate end of all earthly goods and outward distinctions.

5. Enjoy the fruits of your labour, in proportion as you reap them, and postpone not the legitimate, discreet use and enjoyment of them, till you shall have acquired and accumulated such or such a store of them. Enjoy all the pleasures, the comforts, the conveniencies of life, with a cheerful temper and without anxious care for the future. Enjoy them as men, not as children; enjoy them as Christians.

(G. J. Zollikofer.)

Sir Henry Mitchell, a distinguished Methodist layman, made an interesting speech at Bradford, in which he referred to the late Sir Isaac Holden, who was a life-long Methodist. He died respected by every one who knew him, and more than a millionaire. Sir Henry went to see Sir Isaac a little while before his death, and said to him, "You owe most to your religion and to Methodism." To which Sir Isaac replied, "Everything." Sir Isaac added that his study of Methodist doctrine and experience had exercised a most wholesome discipline upon his mind, and had contributed very largely — perhaps more than any other influence that had been brought to bear upon his character — to his success in life.

"Honour" can only be attained by religion and virtue.


1. Used to denote worthy and creditable parentage.

2. Or it signifies titles of place and dignity. Veneration is due to some callings and relations of men, though the persons themselves should not be virtuous.

3. The term is sometimes used for the esteem and reputation which a man hath in the world, especially amongst virtuous persons. Such honour is "power," enabling a man to do things great and worthy; and it is "safety," as it gives a man an interest in the esteem and affection of others.


1. By testimony; from Scripture, from the concurrent opinion of wise men in all ages.

2. By reason. There may be a twofold cause of things — moral and natural. A moral cause is that which doth dispose a man to such a condition, upon the account of fitness or desert, and in this sense honour is the reward of virtue. The natural cause of a thing, by its own immediate efficacy, produces the effect; and in this sense likewise virtue is the cause of honour.

3. By experience; that practical knowing which every man may attain by his own observation. Two objections may be urged against what is thus proved —(1) Good men have met with dishonour, as Christ and His disciples did.(2) Vicious men have sometimes been had in honour. External honour may be due to them; internal honour is only given by those who do not know them.

(Bp. John Wilkins.)

Honor, Honour, Length, Riches, Wealth
1. various exhortations
13. The gain of wisdom
27. Exhortation to goodness
33. the different state of the wicked and upright

Dictionary of Bible Themes
Proverbs 3:16

     4016   life, human

Proverbs 3:13-16

     5413   money, attitudes

Proverbs 3:13-17

     6703   peace, divine OT

Proverbs 3:13-18

     4526   tree of life
     5481   proverb

March 6. "Lean not unto Thine Own Understanding" (Prov. Iii. 5).
"Lean not unto thine own understanding" (Prov. iii. 5). Faith is hindered by reliance upon human wisdom, whether our own or the wisdom of others. The devil's first bait to Eve was an offer of wisdom, and for this she sold her faith. "Ye shall be as gods," he said, "knowing good and evil," and from the hour she began to know she ceased to trust. It was the spies that lost the Land of Promise to Israel of old. It was their foolish proposition to search out the land, and find out by investigation whether
Rev. A. B. Simpson—Days of Heaven Upon Earth

The Secret of Well-Being
'My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments. 2. For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee. 3. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart: 4. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man. 5. Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. 6. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths. 7. Be not wise
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Gifts of Heavenly Wisdom
'My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of His correction: 12. For whom the Lord loveth He correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth. 13. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. 14. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. 15. She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. 16. Length of days is in
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

October the Twenty-Eighth Pleasantness and Peace
"Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace." --PROVERBS iii. 13-26. In the ways of the Lord I shall have feasts of "pleasantness." But not always at the beginning of the ways. Sometimes my faith is called upon to take a very unattractive road, and nothing welcomes me of fascination and delight. But here is a law of the spiritual life. The exercised faith intensifies my spiritual senses, and hidden things become manifest to my soul--hidden beauties, hidden sounds, hidden scents!
John Henry Jowett—My Daily Meditation for the Circling Year

Question Lxxxi of the virtue of Religion
I. Does the Virtue of Religion Direct a Man To God Alone? S. Augustine, sermon, cccxxxiv. 3 " on Psalm lxxvi. 32 sermon, cccxi. 14-15 II. Is Religion a Virtue? III. Is Religion One Virtue? IV. Is Religion a Special Virtue Distinct From Others? V. Is Religion One of the Theological Virtues? VI. Is Religion To Be Preferred To the Other Moral Virtues? VII. Has Religion, Or Latria, Any External Acts? S. Augustine, of Care for the Dead, V. VIII. Is Religion the Same As Sanctity? Cardinal Cajetan,
St. Thomas Aquinas—On Prayer and The Contemplative Life

A Sermon on the Boat Race.
In finding illustrations for our teaching at the river-side, we shall be in good company, for that manly preacher, Paul, had seen wrestlers and race-runners. It is true that then, athletics had not been disgraced by betting; and it is only of very late years that the struggle on the Thames has been polluted by gamblers. There are not a few who read our paper, who will be on the lookout to know as soon as possible, whether DARK OR LIGHT BLUE has won. For ourselves we care not, but we are anxious
Thomas Champness—Broken Bread

Let Then the Saints Hear from Holy Scripture the Precepts of Patience...
11. Let then the Saints hear from holy Scripture the precepts of patience: "My son, when thou comest to the service of God, stand thou in righteousness and fear, and prepare thy soul for temptation: bring thine heart low, and bear up; that in the last end thy life may increase. All that shall come upon thee receive thou, and in pain bear up, and in thy humility have patience. For in the fire gold and silver is proved, but acceptable men in the furnace [2647] of humiliation." [2648] And in another
St. Augustine—On Patience

Christ Teaching Liberality
If we should attempt to mention all the parables which Jesus spoke, and the miracles which he performed, and the many other lessons which he taught, it would make a long list. As we have done before we can only take one or two specimens of these general lessons which Jesus taught. We have one of these in the title to our present chapter, which is--Christ Teaching Liberality. This was a very important lesson for Jesus to teach. One of the sad effects of sin upon our nature is to make it selfish,
Richard Newton—The Life of Jesus Christ for the Young

Of Self-Surrender
Of Self-Surrender We should now begin to abandon and give up our whole existence unto God, from the strong and positive conviction, that the occurrence of every moment is agreeable to His immediate will and permission, and just such as our state requires. This conviction will make us resigned in all things; and accept of all that happens, not as from the creature, but as from God Himself. But I conjure you, my dearly beloved, who sincerely wish to give up yourselves to God, that after you have made
Madame Guyon—A Short and Easy Method of Prayer

Abandonment to God --Its Fruit and Its Irrevocability --In what it Consists --God Exhorts us to It.
It is here that true abandonment and consecration to God should commence, by our being deeply convinced that all which happens to us moment by moment is the will of God, and therefore all that is necessary to us. This conviction will render us contented with everything, and will make us see the commonest events in God, and not in the creature. I beg of you, whoever you may be, who are desirous of giving yourselves to God, not to take yourselves back when once you are given to Him, and to remember
Jeanne Marie Bouvières—A Short Method Of Prayer And Spiritual Torrents

Letter xxxi (A. D. 1132) to the Abbot of a Certain Monastery at York, from which the Prior had Departed, Taking Several Religious with Him.
To the Abbot of a Certain Monastery at York, from Which the Prior Had Departed, Taking Several Religious with Him. [50] 1. You write to me from beyond the sea to ask of me advice which I should have preferred that you had sought from some other. I am held between two difficulties, for if I do not reply to you, you may take my silence for a sign of contempt; but if I do reply I cannot avoid danger, since whatever I reply I must of necessity either give scandal to some one or give to some other a security
Saint Bernard of Clairvaux—Some Letters of Saint Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux

Epistle Cvi. To Syagrius, Ætherius, virgilius, and Desiderius, Bishops .
To Syagrius, Ætherius, Virgilius, and Desiderius, Bishops [65] . Gregory to Syagrius of Augustodunum (Autun), Etherius of Lugdunum (Lyons), Virgilius of Aretale (Arles), and Desiderius of Vienna (Vienne), bishops of Gaul. A paribus. Our Head, which is Christ, has to this end willed us to be His members, that through the bond of charity and faith He might make us one body in Himself. And to Him it befits us so to adhere in heart, that, since without Him we can be nothing, through Him we may
Saint Gregory the Great—the Epistles of Saint Gregory the Great

The Tenth Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his man-servant, nor his maid-servant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.' Exod 20: 17. THIS commandment forbids covetousness in general, Thou shalt not covet;' and in particular, Thy neighbour's house, thy neighbour's wife, &c. I. It forbids covetousness in general. Thou shalt not covet.' It is lawful to use the world, yea, and to desire so much of it as may keep us from the temptation
Thomas Watson—The Ten Commandments

The Child Jesus Brought from Egypt to Nazareth.
(Egypt and Nazareth, b.c. 4.) ^A Matt. II. 19-23; ^C Luke II. 39. ^a 19 But when Herod was dead [He died in the thirty-seventh year of his reign and the seventieth of his life. A frightful inward burning consumed him, and the stench of his sickness was such that his attendants could not stay near him. So horrible was his condition that he even endeavored to end it by suicide], behold, an angel of the Lord [word did not come by the infant Jesus; he was "made like unto his brethren" (Heb. ii. 17),
J. W. McGarvey—The Four-Fold Gospel

In Death and after Death
A sadder picture could scarcely be drawn than that of the dying Rabbi Jochanan ben Saccai, that "light of Israel" immediately before and after the destruction of the Temple, and for two years the president of the Sanhedrim. We read in the Talmud (Ber. 28 b) that, when his disciples came to see him on his death-bed, he burst into tears. To their astonished inquiry why he, "the light of Israel, the right pillar of the Temple, and its mighty hammer," betrayed such signs of fear, he replied: "If I were
Alfred Edersheim—Sketches of Jewish Social Life

An Appendix to the Beatitudes
His commandments are not grievous 1 John 5:3 You have seen what Christ calls for poverty of spirit, pureness of heart, meekness, mercifulness, cheerfulness in suffering persecution, etc. Now that none may hesitate or be troubled at these commands of Christ, I thought good (as a closure to the former discourse) to take off the surmises and prejudices in men's spirits by this sweet, mollifying Scripture, His commandments are not grievous.' The censuring world objects against religion that it is difficult
Thomas Watson—The Beatitudes: An Exposition of Matthew 5:1-12

How those are to be Admonished with whom Everything Succeeds According to their Wish, and those with whom Nothing Does.
(Admonition 27.) Differently to be admonished are those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters, and those who covet indeed the things that are of this world, but yet are wearied with the labour of adversity. For those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters are to be admonished, when all things answer to their wishes, lest, through fixing their heart on what is given, they neglect to seek the giver; lest they love their pilgrimage instead of their country; lest they turn
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

How to be Admonished are those who Give Away what is their Own, and those who Seize what Belongs to Others.
(Admonition 21.) Differently to be admonished are those who already give compassionately of their own, and those who still would fain seize even what belongs to others. For those who already give compassionately of their own are to be admonished not to lift themselves up in swelling thought above those to whom they impart earthly things; not to esteem themselves better than others because they see others to be supported by them. For the Lord of an earthly household, in distributing the ranks and
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

"Thou Shall Keep Him in Perfect Peace, Whose Mind is Stayed on Thee, Because He Trusteth in Thee. "
Isaiah xxvi. 3.--"Thou shall keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." Christ hath left us his peace, as the great and comprehensive legacy, "My peace I leave you," John xiv. 27. And this was not peace in the world that he enjoyed; you know what his life was, a continual warfare; but a peace above the world, that passeth understanding. "In the world you shall have trouble, but in me you shall have peace," saith Christ,--a peace that shall make trouble
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

"Thou Shall Keep Him in Perfect Peace, Whose Mind is Stayed on Thee, Because He Trusteth in Thee. "
Isaiah xxvi. 3.--"Thou shall keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee." All men love to have privileges above others. Every one is upon the design and search after some well-being, since Adam lost that which was true happiness. We all agree upon the general notion of it, but presently men divide in the following of particulars. Here all men are united in seeking after some good; something to satisfy their souls, and satiate their desires. Nay, but they
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

How the Whole and the Sick are to be Admonished.
(Admonition 13.) Differently to be admonished are the whole and the sick. For the whole are to be admonished that they employ the health of the body to the health of the soul: lest, if they turn the grace of granted soundness to the use of iniquity, they be made worse by the gift, and afterwards merit the severer punishments, in that they fear not now to use amiss the more bountiful gifts of God. The whole are to be admonished that they despise not the opportunity of winning health for ever.
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

How to Make Use of Christ for Steadfastness, in a Time when Truth is Oppressed and Borne Down.
When enemies are prevailing, and the way of truth is evil spoken of, many faint, and many turn aside, and do not plead for truth, nor stand up for the interest of Christ, in their hour and power of darkness: many are overcome with base fear, and either side with the workers of iniquity, or are not valiant for the truth, but being faint-hearted, turn back. Now the thoughts of this may put some who desire to stand fast, and to own him and his cause in a day of trial, to enquire how they shall make
John Brown (of Wamphray)—Christ The Way, The Truth, and The Life

"But Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God," &C.
Matt. vi. 33.--"But seek ye first the kingdom of God," &c. O "seekest thou great things for thyself," says God to Baruch, (Jer. xlv. 5) "seek them not." How then doth he command us in the text to seek a kingdom? Is not this a great thing? Certainly it is greater than those great things he would not have Baruch to seek after, and yet he charges us to seek after it. In every kind of creatures there is some difference, some greater, some lesser, some higher, some lower; so there are some men far above
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

"But it is Good for Me to Draw Near to God: I have Put My Trust in the Lord God, that I May Declare all Thy
Psal. lxxiii. 28.--"But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works." After man's first transgression, he was shut out from the tree of life, and cast out of the garden, by which was signified his seclusion and sequestration from the presence of God, and communion with him: and this was in a manner the extermination of all mankind in one, when Adam was driven out of paradise. Now, this had been an eternal separation for any thing that
Hugh Binning—The Works of the Rev. Hugh Binning

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