Proverbs 8:36

Here is a very strong, "Now, therefore." The excellency of Divine wisdom has been so forcibly, so irresistibly urged that the speaker is entitled to drive his argument home and make a practical application. But the urgency of the case is summed up in the few following sentences. This is the reasoning: since -


1. It is self-robbery. "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul" (ver. 36). The man that shuts his ears when God speaks robs himself of all those precious things which might make his heart rich and his life noble - of spiritual peace, of sacred joy, of heavenly hope, of an elevating faith, of holy love, of Divine comfort, of the best forms of usefulness.

2. It is self-destruction. "All they that hate me love death" (ver. 36). To harden our heart against the invitations and warnings of Divine wisdom is to tread the path which leads straight to the gates of spiritual and eternal death.


1. It leads to "blessedness" (vers. 32, 34); it ensures that state of soul which the eternal God declares to be the only enviable one, to be that which should be the object of our earnest aspiration.

2. It secures his own Divine favour (ver. 35) - the "favour of the Lord," the sunshine of his smile, the benediction of his voice; he will "lay his hand upon us" in fatherly love; he will surround us with his "everlasting arms" of powerful protection.

3. It constitutes life in its very essence and substance. "Whoso findeth me findeth life" (ver. 35). To be wise with the wisdom which is from above, to "know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent," "to understand and know the Lord that exerciseth loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness," to have gained "the secret of the Lord," to have learnt by blessed experience "that the Lord is gracious," "to be filled with the knowledge of his will," - this is life, human life at its highest, its best, its noblest. Moreover, it is that which issues in the eternal life on the other side the river, in the land where life is enlarged and ennobled far beyond the reach of our present thought. Since these things are so, "now, therefore," we conclude that -

III. DILIGENT DISCIPLESHIP IS THE ONLY OPEN COURSE. "Hearken," "hear instruction," "refuse it not," etc. (vers. 32-34). This includes:

1. Earnest attention, hearkening, watching, waiting. Something much more than allowing ourselves by force of custom to be found where wisdom is discoursed, "putting in an appearance" at the sanctuary. It implies an earnest heedfulness of spirit; a diligent, intelligent, patient inquiry of the soul; a hungering of the heart for the saving truth of the living God.

2. Practical obedience - "keeping the ways" of wisdom (ver. 32). "If we know these things, happy are we if we do them" (John 13:17; see Matthew 7:21-27). As earnest disciples of Jesus Christ, the way to "keep his ways" is

(1) to accept himself as our Saviour and Lord, with our whole heart;

(2) to strive daily to embody his will in all the relations we sustain. That is to say, first enter into right relation to himself, making him the Saviour of our soul, the Friend of our heart, the Lord of our life; then strive to carry out his commandments in all the transactions and relationships of our human life. - C.

He that sinneth against Me wrongeth him own soul.

1. To take partial views of His glorious gospel.

2. When He would wreathe His gentle yoke about our necks, to kick at the restraint, and refuse it.

3. To coldly hear the offers of His grace, and grieve His Holy Spirit in not fully and spiritually accepting them.

II. HOW CAN WE BE SAID TO HATE THE ONLY BEING WHO CAN SAVE US? This expression seems wholly inconsistent with the natural dispositions of men. Yet as a fact, men may be seen all around us loving the ways of death.

1. We may be said to love death when we suffer and encourage our desires to go forth and loiter about the precincts of it. The thoughts and desires of a man tell us what he is.

2. We love the captivity of death when we make but few and faint efforts to break the chains of it.


1. He does it by choosing to be a beggar in the midst of riches.

2. He does it when he treats his soul as a fleeting mortal thing. We do it great wrong when we labour to fill it with too much of the creature, and with too little of Christ.

(F. G. Crossman.)

1. They snatch their souls away from wisdom.

2. They spoil (rob) their souls.

3. They infect their souls with the guilt of sin.

4. They corrupt them with the filth of sin.

5. They disgrace their souls.

6. They torment their souls with the pangs of conscience.

7. They betray their souls to sin.

8. They destroy them eternally.

(Francis Taylor, B. D.)

It would be repugnant to our moral sense to overlook the consequences of sin, and put on the same plane one whose life had been one of spotless purity and a grey-haired sinner who had at the eleventh hour found pardon. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap" is an inflexible law. Notice certain particulars in which the principle is seen.

1. Opportunities are lost. A man wrongs his own soul by the sinful neglect of God's commands in his early years. Those grand years freighted with golden chances of service for God and humanity, can never be recalled.

2. Moral growth is arrested. You may secure the resumption of arrested processes in a crystal or a plant, but as you ascend the scale of being difficulties increase. In one's moral nature the law we illustrate holds inexorable sway. He that sinneth against God dwarfs, deadens, and stultifies his better faculties. Take a single faculty, like the memory. There is retention as well as reception. The passing thought, the momentary impulse, the fugitive desire we entertain—all these are ours; yea, they are us. We are ever enriching or defacing our moral life through the faculty of memory.

3. Look at the true end of our life here, service for God and our fellow-men. If that service is unrendered, it remains undone for ever.

4. Look at the effects of our sin on others. True religion in a man is that which earnestly and habitually makes for righteousness and holy obedience. If it does not keep from sin, it is not a religion sufficient to save.

(H. A. Stimson, D. D.)

Of all created things the soul of man most resembles the Deity. It is like Himself in its nature. The soul is a being possessed of volition, with powers of imagining the loftiest themes, of conceiving and working out the most difficult inquiries. The Divine image is still traced upon the soul. It is therefore true that "he who sinneth against God sinneth against (wrongeth) his own soul."

I. THE SINNER WRONGS HIS OWN SOUL IN THIS WORLD, BY DEBASING IT. Indulgence in vice wrongs and destroys the moral nature. Even the intellectual faculty is hurt and wronged by sin. Sensuality debases the mind. He who is the slave of sin occupies a lower position in creation than the man who by virtue asserts the high prerogative of nature, who by his goodness and righteousness strives to assimilate his soul to God. He wrongs the soul who makes it subservient to the base requirements of the body. The intellectual faculty will censure sin, and so will the moral faculty. Therefore these properties should be cultivated. The conscience is seared by indulgence in sin, and the Holy Spirit is grieved.

II. SIN WRONGS THE SOUL BY SUBJECTING IT TO PUNISHMENT IN THE WORLD TO COME. That this is true is evident from the teaching of nature as well as religion. The mind has reasoned correctly when it wrought out for itself the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and proved an existence beyond the grave. The living being is not the outer frame. Consciousness is perceived to be a simple and indivisible power—an essential property of the mind. The destruction of matter cannot of necessity be considered the destruction of living agents. The destruction of the body and all its organs does not necessarily involve the destruction of the reflecting powers; they may not even be suspended in death. Upon the immortality of the soul philosophy speaks the precepts of religion. Behold, then, the excellency of the soul, and the guilt of him who wrongs it. How is it possible that he who wrongs the heavenly Essence can escape the just judgments of God? But the Christian can realise the dignity of the soul from other considerations. He has the evidence of his own heart. Christianity requires the submission of the whole heart; the acceptance of its mysteries; the noblest self-denial, the most exalted virtue, the highest holiness, the perfection of humanity. But who except the Christian can realise this? From the death-bed of the unbelieving may be learned the misery, here and hereafter, of those who wrong their own soul.

(David Ross, B. A.)


1. Sin is inhuman.

2. Sin is unnatural.

3. Sin is the degradation of human nature.

II. THE WRONG SIN DOES THE CAPACITIES OF THE SOUL. The soul of man is a great capacity for God. There is no punishment worse than the habit of sin, which comes from sinning. To do wrong is worse than to suffer any calamity. Pain is soon over, misfortune is for a moment, calamity is temporary. But sin is permanent. It does an irreparable injury to the soul. It keeps man out of his heritage. It defeats the end for which man was made. God made us in His image.


1. The conscience, which is that power of the soul by which we recognise the moral quality of actions.

2. Sin also wrongs the will. Sin enfeebles man at the most vital part of his nature. Sin wrongs the soul in every faculty and power. Conclusion:(1) Of all evils that man can know or suffer, sin is the worst.(2) The sinner makes his own hereafter. Remember that heaven is a holy soul in a holy place.(3) I cannot, I dare not, close without a word of hope for any troubled and penitent soul.

(S. Z. Batten.)

The particular truth of the text is, that sin is not only an offence to God, whom no man hath seen or can see, but it is a distinct and irreparable injury to the man, the sinner himself. And that is the only way to get hold of man. Tell a man that by sinning he is hurting the unseen God, and what does he care? You can only get hold of a man in so far as any truth you teach or any requisite you demand impinges upon himself. Touch the little Self and you have put a hook in the nose of leviathan. God can make you possess in your bones the effects of your moral action.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

I. UNBELIEF, OR A SINNER'S NOT BELIEVING, ACCEPTING, CLOSING WITH, AND RESTING ON CHRIST FOR SALVATION, IS THE SIN AGAINST CHRIST BY WAY OF EMINENCY. What treatment of Christ is it that is this sinning against Him? There is a doctrinal and a practical treatment of Him. Living ignorant of Christ and the fundamental truths of the gospel. Living insensible of our absolute need of Christ. Not believing the doctrines of the gospel. Of this treatment of Christ there are two evidences: their not seeking Him with the utmost diligence; their seeking life and salvation some other way —the way of the covenant of works or the way of uncovenanted mercy.


1. Faith in Christ is honouring Him in a special manner; therefore unbelief must be a special dishonour.

2. Unbelief is the great Antichrist in the heart, sitting up there in downright opposition to the Son of God.

3. This sin engrosses the whole soul to itself against Christ.

4. It is the sin that ruins the hearers of the gospel, with whom Christ has to do.

5. It is equal to the grossest sins against the light of nature.

6. It is above these sins in heinousness.

7. It has none that goes beyond it but the sin against the Holy Ghost.

8. It is a sin directly striking against the glorious office wherewith Christ is invested, and while He is in the actual exercise of that office.


1. It is a despising Him as the Father's choice.

2. It is a trampling of His love in taking the mediatory office.

3. It is a treating of Him as if He were an impostor.

4. It is a contempt poured upon His precious blood.

5. It is a frustrating of the ends of the death of Christ, as far as lies in the unbeliever's power.

6. It is a declining of His government most reproachfully. From this doctrine learn lessons for saints, for sinners, for all.


1. Wrongs his own soul really. He does in very deed do hurt and bring damage to himself, body and soul. He keeps his soul in a state of alienation from God. He keeps his soul under the guilt of all his sins. In a state of inability to do what is good or acceptable in the sight of God. It fixes the soul in a state of condemnation.

2. Wrongs his own soul only; not Christ whom he sins against. All sin is against the mind and honour of Christ, but no sin is against His happiness.

(T. Boston, D. D.)

There are various definitions of sins, each one of which is true according to our standpoint. If we regard sin as a violation of man's true destiny, which destiny we read not only in God's loving command, but also in the very law of man's own being, then sin is the transgressing of the law. If we regard sin as variation from the right, the good, the true, then sin is unrighteousness. If we regard sin as the negation of man's true nature as a spiritual being, and the identifying of him with the things of sense, then sin is materialism. If we regard sin as the fixing of the affections — affections that were intended for glories beyond the stars — upon the perishing thing of this world, then sin is worldliness. And, finally, if we regard sin as the failure or refusal of the soul to apprehend and confide in the unseen, then sin is unbelief. But it is always the one and self-same thing, the same grim and ghastly thing—in the godless man of the world, and the ruffian who outrages law, and the smooth libertine and vulgar thief; in the respectable atheist who says there is no God, and the brave outlaw who lives his creed and acts upon his belief. For, while sins differ, sin — the evil root out of which all sins proceed — is the same. Sins are but symptoms; the disease called sin lies deeper in the soul. And oh! it is an awful thought, well calculated to humble us all into the very dust, that no matter what our sins may be — no matter how decent, how respectable, how secret — they each and all proceed out of the same fell disorder as the sins of the veriest wretch who outrages man's laws and exhausts man's patience by his wickedness! And now that sin has been traced to its last analysis, let us consider its results on the soul. It was Wisdom that of old spoke the words of my text, and her voice is still uplifted among the sons of men, "He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul." It is true that he wrongs the souls of others also. But it is not of this that I now speak. The worst wrong, the deepest indignity, is done to the soul that commits the sin.

1. He wrongs his soul by the degradation he inflicts upon it, the evil that he scatters through it. The soul comes as a new creation from God. It is enshrined in a body that inherits evil — evil propensities, insurgent affections; and it has a hard struggle at best, and cannot win the victory but by the help of God. But the man who sins makes a voluntary surrender of the nobler to the baser part, and so appropriates the frailty of the baser nature, and makes it a part of his soul's being. Each sin by a certain reflex action spreads disorder through man's whole nature. In this way the very bodily appetite may become the appetite also of the soul. Oh, grim and ghastly are the evils which sin inflicts upon the body! It dulls the eye, and palsies the hand, and banishes manly grace from the brow, and coarsens and brutalises the human face Divine. But something far more dreadful than this befalls the sinner. The soul takes on the vice of the body. The worst symptom of drunkenness, for instance, is not the craving of the body, but the craving of the soul. The soul of the inebriate begins to crave the false excitement of drink, and an obliquity corresponding to that of the body begins to set up in the soul. The eye of the drunkard sees false or sees double: the mind's eye begins to see false also. And so it comes to pass that the soul of the drunkard becomes untruthful. This is the reason that men cannot trust the word of a drunkard. So also the deadly sin of impurity. The very mind and conscience become defiled. The mind panders to the body. Oh, horrible degradation! And so we find that there is a correspondence and correlation between different kinds of sin. The sensual man is always a cruel man. The drunkard is a liar. The thief is simply covetous and selfish, just like the worldling and the miser. In all these things man's whole nature is shamed and dishonoured. In all his being he is degraded and coarsened by his sin.

2. And this becomes all the more evident when we examine the wrong which sin does to man's characteristic powers. And first, his intellectual faculties, his reason, his power to know. It is a great and awful truth, little heeded, little understood, that all the powers of man's intellect are blunted and weakened by sin. Who has not seen the splendour of some lordly intellect first dimmed, then obscured, by excess or folly, until its fitful light would blaze at intervals, and then go out in piteous darkness, or fade into still more pitiable imbecility? But even more pitiable, if possible, is it to see the royal intellect of man forced into the base service of the world, and compelled to drudge like a very slave in the interest of sordid vice, or avarice, or other selfishness. Who does not know how such intellect declines into trickery or beastly cunning, and it watches like a fox for a chance to deceive, or like a predatory beast to seize its prey? To such a man high thoughts and noble purposes become simply impossible. Not less disastrous and dishonouring is the influence of sin on man's moral nature — on his power to discriminate and choose between right and wrong. Of the debilitating effect of sin upon the will of man I need not speak at length. All observation and all experience prove that this is its immediate, unvarying, inevitable effect. He who once yields to do wrong will find it harder the next time to do right, until he speedily becomes powerless to choose God and resist evil. But of the darkening, paralysing effect of sin upon a moral sense not so much is commonly thought, though such effect is not less immediate and inevitable. The moral sense, which at first is quick to discriminate, begins, under the pressure of sin, to lose the keenness of perception. The high sense of honour and of truthfulness is dulled. The good seems to be less good, and the evil does not seem to be so very evil, until at last that soul calls evil good and good evil. Woe to the soul that is in such a case! He has abdicated his throne, and lost his regal state, and broken his sceptre, and flung away his crown. Finally, even more debasing is the effect of sin upon the affections. This would seem to be the worst degradation of all — that man should not only sin his intellect and will and conscience away, but that he should love his shame, that his soul should be enamoured of its degradation. And yet, who does not know that even this is the effect of sin? Through it men learn to love the base things of this world and lose the power to love the nobler things. What is life to such a soul but shame? What shall death be but the beginning of an eternal bereavement? One word in conclusion. All the effects of sin may be summed up in one dreadful word — death. The dying of the soul, the decay of its faculties, the languishing of its strength — the progressive unending dying of an immortal soul, with all its unending anguish of unsatisfied tonging, unfulfilled desire, baffled hope, pitiless remorse, remediless desire — this is the dread reality at which men ought to tremble. It is no chimera of imagination; it is no spectre of the future — it is a present reality. It is doing its ghastly work even now in every soul where sin reigns. For the soul that sins is dying. The wages of sin is death.

(Bp. S. S. Harris.)

Wisdom, as used here, is the law of God concerning human life and conduct, and sin is the transgression of that law. The text, not in a spirit of haughty denunciation, but with sad and kindly warning, declares that he who transgresses that law wrongs his own soul, is the author of his own sorrow and suffering and loss. God's laws, under His immediate direction, work out the penalty of their own violation; in part here, fully hereafter. All God's purposes in us are accomplished by the operation of beneficent law. To break the law is to thwart His purposes, and bring the ruin which naturally follows such a course. The law of the piano is, that its strings shall be tuned in harmony, and that under the skilful touch of the key light-cushioned hammers shall strike them so that they give out genuine music. But if you fail to tune them in harmony, and then, lifting the lid, strike them with iron hammers, you get discord and destruction. You have transgressed the law of the piano. The law of the watch is to submit to balance-wheel and regulator; take off the one and misplace the other, and your watch reports falsely all the time. You have transgressed its law. The law of the circulation of the blood is from heart to artery, capillary, and back again by the veins; and as it goes it repairs waste, carries off useless matter, and gives health and strength. But if you open an artery and send the blood outside its course, you die. You have transgressed the law. How sinful and self-destructive, then, is the violation of law, and how fatally does he who thus sins wrong his own soul!


1. The law of nutrition. Hunger, flavour, and the delight of the palate are God's arrangements for insuring the taking of proper food to repair the waste and supply the growth of the body. Break the law, and eat for the sake of pleasing the palate or increasing sociability, then indigestion, dulness, sleeplessness at night and sluggishness by day follow. Who shall estimate the sin against the temple of the soul?

2. The nervous system. Its motor power is intended to carry messages from the mind to the muscles, ordering work done and motion performed. Properly governed and temperately used, what usefulness, health, and abundance of valuable labour accomplished may result! Abuse it, and exhaustion, prostration, paralysis follow.


1. To the truth-perceiving faculties. The judgment and reason, acting under the restraint of a pure conscience, leads to the truth in a thousand ways: in business, society, pleasure, habits, indulgences — in all necessary things — and the life is guided in righteousness and wisdom. But let unholy ambition, improper desire for gain, any form of wicked selfishness, get control of these faculties, and how they become warped, blinded, and misguided!

2. To the power of self-control. This is the battle of growing evil habits against the will — growing more and more impatient of restraint, more and more defiant of conscience and will, till appetite, strengthened into habit, leads manhood captive and blots out every hope and joy.

3. To the religious nature. Properly acted upon by the Holy Spirit, it becomes God's audience-chamber in the soul; the natal chamber of the holiest purposes; the place where the strength comes which gives martyr-power. Sinned against, the demons of superstition, distrust, hatred of good, vile affections, scepticism, and cold, dark atheism come in to torment the soul. To the joys of memory and hope. Every life gathers up all its past and holds it in its present possession for evermore by faithful memory; and if that past be one of holy purpose and noble endeavour, every record it holds will be a joy for ever; its pains will turn to pleasure, its hardships to victories, its struggles to triumphs. But if its records be of deceit and dishonesty, of lust and recklessness, then remorse pours her bitterness into every recollection.


1. He would build in us a noble character. Sin defeats His wish, and makes us in character ignoble.

2. He would make us useful; sin makes us hurtful to others.

3. He would make us happy; sin makes us wretched, utterly and for ever.

4. He would have us grow in spiritual beauty, symmetry, and power; sin deforms, enfeebles, and mars our being.

(C. N. Sims, D. D.)

The sinner does a wrong, indeed, to others. Sin is, to all the dearest interests of society, a desolating power. It brings misery into the daily lot of millions. But all the injury, great and terrible as it is, which the sinner does or can inflict upon others, is not equal to the injury that he inflicts upon himself. Does any one say he is glad that it is himself that he injures most? What a feeling of disinterested justice is that! Because he has not only wronged others, but ruined himself, is his course any the less guilty, or unhappy, or unnatural? I say unnatural; and this is a point on which I wish to insist, in the consideration of that wrong which the moral offender does to himself. The world, alas! is not only in the awful condition of being filled with sin, and filled with misery in consequence, but of thinking that this is the natural order of things. Sin is a thing of course; it is taken for granted that it must exist very much in the way that it does; and men are everywhere easy about it, as if they were acting out the principles of their moral constitution, and almost as if they were fulfilling the will of God.

1. Sin does a wrong to reason. There are instances in which sin, in various forms of vice and vanity, absolutely destroys reason. There are other and more numerous cases in which it employs the faculty, but employs it in a toil most degrading to its nature. There is reasoning, indeed, in the mind of a miser; the solemn arithmetic of profit and loss. There is reasoning in the schemes of unscrupulous ambition; the absorbing and agitating intrigue for office or honour. There is reasoning upon the modes of sensual pleasure; and the whole power of a very acute mind is sometimes employed and absorbed in plans, and projects, and imaginations of evil indulgence. But what an unnatural desecration is it, for reason — sovereign, majestic, all-comprehending reason — to contract its boundless range to the measure of what the hand can grasp; to be sunk so low as to idolise outward or sensitive good; to make its god not indeed of wood or stone, but of a sense or a nerve!

2. Sin is a kind of insanity. So far as it goes, it makes man an irrational creature; it makes him a fool. The consummation of sin is ever, and in every form, the extreme of folly. And it is that most pitiable folly which is puffed up with arrogance and self-sufficiency. The infatuation of the inebriate man, who is elated and gay just when he ought to be most depressed and sad, we very well understand. But it is just as true of every man that is intoxicated by any of his senses or passions, by wealth, or honour, or pleasure, that he is infatuated — that he has abjured reason. What clearer dictate of reason is there than to prefer the greater good to the lesser good? But every offender, every sensualist, every avaricious man, sacrifices the greater good — the happiness of virtue and piety — for the lesser good, which he finds in his senses or in the perishing world. Nor is this the strongest view of the case. He sacrifices the greater for the less, without any necessity for it. He might have both. A pure mind can derive more enjoyment from this world and from the senses than an impure mind. What bad man ever desired that his child should be like himself? And what a testimony is this, what a clear and disinterested testimony, to the unhappiness of a sinful course! How truly, and with what striking emphasis, did the venerable Cranmer reply, when told that a certain man had cheated him: "No he has cheated himself."

3. Sin does a wrong to conscience. There is a conscience in every man, which is as truly a part of his nature as reason or memory. The offender against this, therefore, violates no unknown law nor impracticable rule. From the very teaching of his nature he knows what is right, and he knows that he can do it; and his very nature, therefore, instead of furnishing him with apologies for wilful wrong, holds him inexcusable. He will have the desired gratification; and to obtain it he sets his foot upon that conscience, and crushes it down to dishonour and agony worse than death.

4. Sin does a wrong to the affections. How does it mar even that image of the affections, that mysterious shrine from which their revealings flash forth, "the human face Divine"; bereaving the world of more than half its beauty! Can you ever behold sullenness clouding the clear, fair brow of childhood — or the flushed cheek of anger, or the averted and writhen features of envy, or the dim and sunken eye and haggard aspect of vice, or the red signals of bloated excess hung out on every feature, proclaiming the fire that is consuming within — without feeling that sin is the despoiler of all that the affections make most hallowed and beautiful? But these are only indications of the wrong that is done and the ruin that is wrought in the heart. Nature has made our affections to be full of tenderness; to be sensitive and alive to every touch; to cling to their cherished objects with a grasp from which nothing but cruel violence can sever them. But sin enters into this world of the affections, and spreads around the death-like coldness of distrust; the word of anger falls like a blow upon the heart, or avarice hardens the heart against every finer feeling; or the insane merriment, or the sullen stupor of the inebriate man falls like a thunderbolt amidst the circle of kindred and children. Oh! the hearts where sin is to do its work should be harder than the nether millstone; yet it enters in among affections, all warm, all sensitive, all gushing forth in tenderness; and, deaf to all their pleadings, it does its work as if it were some demon of wrath that knew no pity, and heard no groans, and felt no relenting!

(O. Dewey, D. D.).

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