Proverbs 20
Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
The Sluggard in Harvest

Proverbs 20:4

I. First, let us try to bring out the principles which are crystallized in this picturesque saying.

1. The first thought evidently is: present conduct determines future conditions. Life is a series of epochs, each of which has its destined work, and that being done, all is well; and that being left undone, all is ill. The mystic significance of the trivialities of life is that in them we largely make destiny, and in them we wholly make character.

2. The easy road is generally the wrong one. Never allow yourselves to be guided in your choice of a road by the consideration that the turf is smooth, and the flowers by the side of it sweet. Remember the sluggard would have been warmer, with a wholesome warmth, at the plough-tail than cowering in the chimney-corner. Fix it in your minds that nothing worth doing is done but at the cost of difficulty and toil.

3. The season let slip is gone for ever. Opportunity is bald behind, and must be grasped by the forelock. Life is full of tragic might-have-beens. The student who has spent the term in indolence, perhaps dissipation, has no time to get up his subject when he is in the examination room, with the paper before him. And life, and nature, and God's law, which is the Christian expression for the godless word nature, are stern taskmasters, and demand that the duty shall be done in its season or left undone for ever.

II. In the second place let me say a word—1. About the lowest sphere to which my text applies. This proverb is simply an inculcation of the duty of honest work, and of the necessity of being wide awake to opportunities in our daily work.

2. Let me apply the text in a somewhat higher direction. Carry these principles with you in the cultivation of that important part of yourself—your intellects. I should like all of you to make a conscience of making the best of your brains, as God has given them to you in trust. 'The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold.' The dawdler will read no books that tax his intellect, therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing.

3. Again I may apply these principles to a higher work still—that of the formation of character. Nothing will come to you noble, great, or elevating in that direction unless it is sought, and sought with toil. In the making of character we have to work as a painter in fresco does, with a swift brush on the plaster while it is wet It sets and hardens in an hour. And men drift into habits which become tyrannies and dominant, before they know where they are. Do not let yourselves be shaped by accident, by circumstance.

4. Let these principles be applied to religion, and teach us the wisdom and necessity of beginning the Christian life at the earliest moment

5. But there is a more solemn thought still. This life as a whole is to the future life as the ploughing time is to the harvest, and there are awful words in Scripture, which seem to point in the same direction in reference to the irrevocable and irreversible issue of neglected opportunities on earth, as this proverb does in regard to the ploughing and harvests of this life.

—A. Maclaren, The Wearied Christ, p. 137.

References.—XX. 4.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xlviii. No. 2766. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 409. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy ScriptureEsther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 226. XX. 5, 6.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 413. XX. 11.—S. Martin, Rain Upon the Mown Grass, p. 395. XX. 12.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 417. XX. 14.—W. Baird, Sermons, p. 13. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 126. XX. 17.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy ScriptureEsther, Job, Proverbs, etc., p. 236. XX. 18.—F. J. Jayne, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. 1899, p. 225. XX. 29.—D. Watson, ibid. vol. xlvi. 1894, p. 166. J. Vickery, Ideals of Life, p. 31. XXII. 1.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 431. XXII. 2.—Ibid. p. 434. J. M. Neale, Sermons for Some Feast Days in the Christian Year, p. 402. C. A. Salmond, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlviii. 1895, p. 100. R. R. Dolling, ibid. vol. lxi. 1902, p. 136. J. A. Alexander, The Gospel of Jesus Christ, p. 159. XXII. 3.—T. Barker, Plain Sermons, p. 40. W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 438. XXII. 6.—Ibid. p. 441. A. Murray, The Children for Christ, p. 170. E. W. Attwood, Sermons for Clergy and Laity, p. 388. XXII. 7.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth, p. 452.

The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.
It is an honour for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.
The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing.
Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.
Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find?
The just man walketh in his integrity: his children are blessed after him.
A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment scattereth away all evil with his eyes.
Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?
Divers weights, and divers measures, both of them are alike abomination to the LORD.
Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right.
The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD hath made even both of them.
Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty; open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread.
It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer: but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth.
There is gold, and a multitude of rubies: but the lips of knowledge are a precious jewel.
Take his garment that is surety for a stranger: and take a pledge of him for a strange woman.
Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
Every purpose is established by counsel: and with good advice make war.
He that goeth about as a talebearer revealeth secrets: therefore meddle not with him that flattereth with his lips.
Whoso curseth his father or his mother, his lamp shall be put out in obscure darkness.
An inheritance may be gotten hastily at the beginning; but the end thereof shall not be blessed.
Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.
Divers weights are an abomination unto the LORD; and a false balance is not good.
Man's goings are of the LORD; how can a man then understand his own way?
It is a snare to the man who devoureth that which is holy, and after vows to make inquiry.
A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them.
The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly.
Mercy and truth preserve the king: and his throne is upholden by mercy.
The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the gray head.
The blueness of a wound cleanseth away evil: so do stripes the inward parts of the belly.
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