Proverbs 12
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. THE WISDOM OF SUBMISSION, THE FOLLY OF RESISTANCE, TO REPROOF. As self-knowledge is the most precious and indispensable, and as it comes to us by chastisement, i.e. by disappointment, humiliation, pain of various kinds, - to welcome correction, to be willing and anxious to know our faults, is the mark of true wisdom. To fret at reproof, to be angry with the counsellor, to hate the revealing light, is the worst folly and stupidity.

II. THE FAVOUR AND THE DISFAVOUR OF GOD ARE DISCRIMINATING. The good reap his good will; the crafty and malicious are exposed to his condemnation.

III. MORAL STABILITY AND INSTABILITY. Wickedness gives no firm foundation. The bad man is insecure, as a tottering wall or a leaning fence. The good man is like the oak, firmly and widely rooted, which may defy a thousand blasts and storms. - J.

Whether we are daily ascending or descending depends very much on whether we are ready or are refusing to learn The man of open mind is he who moves up, but the man whose soul is shut against the light is he who is going down.

I. THE DOWNWARD PATH. We strike one point in this path when we come to:

1. The forming of a false estimate of ourself. When "our way is right in our own eyes" (ver. 15), and that way is the wrong one, we are certainly in the road that dips downward. The wise who love us truly are grieved when they see us imagining ourselves to be humble when we are proud of heart, generous when we are selfish, spiritual when we are worldly minded, sons of God when we are children of darkness; they know well and sorrow much that we are in a bad way, in the downward road.

2. The consequent refusal to receive instruction. The man who thinks himself right is one who will oppose himself to all those who, and to all things which, approach him to instruct and to correct. He takes up a constant attitude of rejection. Whenever God speaks to him by any one of his many agents and influences, he is resolutely and persistently deaf.

3. The consequent sinking into a lower state; he becomes "brutish." A man who never admits correcting and purifying thoughts into his mind is sure to decline morally and spiritually. If our soul is not fed with truth, and is not cleansed with the purifying streams of Divine wisdom, it is certain to recede in worth; it will partake more and more of earthly elements. The finer, the nobler, the more elevating and enlarging elements of character will be absent or will grow weaker; the man will sink; he will become brutish.

II. THE UPWARD PATH. This is, naturally and necessarily, the reverse of the other. It is that wherein:

1. We form a true estimate of ourselves.

2. We open our minds to welcome wisdom from all quarters. We. hearken "unto counsel," i.e. to the words of those who are wiser than ourselves. And it may be that some who have much less learning, or experience, or intellectual capacity than we can claim are in a position to advise us concerning the way of life. It may be even "the little child" who will "lead" us into the circle of truth, into the kingdom of God. And not only unto "counsel" shall we hearken; we shall give heed, if we are wise, to the suggestions of nature, to the teaching of events, to the promptings of the Divine Spirit. We shall be always ready and even eager to learn and willing to apply.

3. We attain to a higher and deeper wisdom. "Whoso loveth instruction loveth knowledge." In the upward way which he of the humble heart and open mind is travelling there grow the rich fruits of heavenly wisdom. The higher we ascend, the more of these shall we see and gather. To love counsel is to love knowledge; it is to love truth; it is to become the friend and disciple and depository of wisdom. There is a knowledge which is very precious that may be had of all men; it is found on the plain where all feet can tread. There is also a knowledge which dwells upon the hills; only the traveller can reach this and partake of it; and the path which climbs this height is the path of humility and heedfulness; it is taken only by those who are conscious of their own defect, and who are eager to learn all the lessons which the Divine teacher is seeking to impart. - C.

Concerning the righteous man two things are here affirmed.

I. IN HIM IS STRENGTH. "The root of the righteous shall never be moved." The strong wind comes and blows down the tree which has not struck its roots far into the foil; it tears it up by the roots and stretches it prone upon the ground. It has no strength to stand because its root is easily moved. The righteous man is a tree of another kind; his root shall never be moved; he will stand against the storm. But he must be a man who deserves to be called and considered "righteous" because he is such in deed and in truth; for they are many who pass for such of whom no such affirmation as this can be made. The man of whom the text speaks:

1. Is well rooted. He is rooted

(1) in Divine truth, and not merely in human speculation;

(2) in deep conviction, and not merely in indolent acceptance of inherited belief, or in strong but evanescent emotion;

(3) in the fixed habit of the soul and of the life, and not merely in occasional, spasmodic outbursts.

2. Is immovable. There may come against him the strong winds of bodily indulgence, or of pure affection, or of intellectual struggle and perplexity, or of worldly pressure; but they do not avail; he is immovable; his roots only strike deeper and spread further in the ground. He "stands fast in the Lord;" he is a conqueror through Christ who loves him. For:

3. He is upheld by Divine power. While his own spiritual condition and his moral habits have much to do with his steadfastness, he will be the first to say that God is "upholding him in his integrity, and setting him before his face."

II. IN HIM IS FRUITLESSNESS. "The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit" (ver. 12). The ungodly man cannot be said to bear fruit, for the product of his soul and of his life does not deserve that fair name.

1. The forms of godly fruitfulness are these:

(1) all excellency of spirit;

(2) all beauty and worthiness of life, the presence of that which is pleasing in the sight of God and admirable in the sight of man;

(3) all earnest endeavour to do good, the patient, persevering effort to instil the thoughts of Christ into the minds of men, to awaken their slumbering consciences, to lift up their lives, to ennoble their character, to enlarge their destiny.

2. The source and the security of such fruitfulness are:

(1) Union with the living Vine.

(2) Abiding in him (John 15:1-8).

(3) The wise and kind discipline of the Divine Husbandman (John 15:2; Hebrews 12:10, 11). - C.


1. The virtuous wife. (Ver. 4.) The word is literally "a woman of power," and the idea of force lies in the word and the idea of virtue. Her moral force and influence makes itself felt in all the life of the household (Proverbs 31:10; Ruth 3:11). She is her husband's "crown of rejoicing" (comp. 1 Thessalonians 2:19), his glory and pride.

"A thousand decencies do daily flow From all her thoughts and actions."

2. Noble thoughts and words. (Ver. 5.) This expression includes, of course, noble words and deeds, and implies all that we speak of as high principles. And these are the very foundations and columns of the home. But expressly also the straightforward speech of the good man is named. (Ver. 6.) There is "deliverance" in the mouth of the righteous; men may build upon his word, which is as good as his bond.

3. Hence, stability belongs to the house of the good man. (Ver. 7.) If we trace the rise of great families who have become famous in the annals of their country, the lesson is on the whole brought home to us that it is integrity, the true qualities of manhood, which formed the foundation of their greatness. On a smaller scale, the history of village households may bring to light the same truth. There are names in every neighbourhood known as synonyms of integrity from father to son through generations.

4. Prudence is an indispensable element in character and reputation. But let us give the proper extension to the idea of prudence which it has in this book. It is the wide view of life - the mind "looking before and after," the contemplation of all things in their long issues, their bearings upon God, destiny, and eternity. The prudence which often passes by that name may be no prudence in this higher souse.

5. Self-help. (Ver. 9.) To be "king of two hands," and bear one's part in every useful toil and art, to be a true "working man," is the only honourable and true way of living. "Trust in thyself;" every heart vibrates to that iron string. "Heaven helps those who help themselves." Proverbs unite with experience to bid us lean upon the energies God has placed in brain and hand and tongue. He is never helpless who knows the secret of that self-reliance which is one with trust in God.

6. Mercifulness. (Ver. 10.) The good man "knows the soul of his beast;" enters into their feeling pains, and needs, and feeds them well. The Law of Moses is noted for its kindness to animals. And in the East generally there is a deep sense that animals are not only the slaves of man, but the creatures of God. A person's behaviour to dumb creatures is, like behaviour to women end children, a significant part of character.

7. Industry and diligence. (Ver. 11.) The picture of the hard-working farmer or peasant rises to the mind's eye. Enough bread, competence, is ever conditioned by industry. Times may go hard with the farmer, but the evil that is foreseen and fought against by extra diligence is no evil when it comes; and how seldom are the truly industrious known to want, even in the most unfavourable seasons! This is a bright picture of domestic soundness, happiness, and prosperity. Let us contrast it with -


1. The vicious wife. Like a canker in her husband's bones. The slothful, or drunken, or extravagant, or frivolous wife is the centre of all evil in the house; she is like a stagnant pool in a weed grown garden. One may tell in many cases by the mere aspect of the house whether there be a good wife and mother dwelling there or not.

2. Unprincipled habits. (Ver. 5.) Where the speech is impure, where there is mutual reserve and concealment, conspiracy and counter-conspiracy going on, neither truth nor love, how can a home be otherwise than cursed?

3. Fierce spite. (Ver. 6.) All spite is murderous, and if it does not issue in the last extreme of violence, at least it lacerates the heart, burns, and is self-consuming. When taunts, recriminations, answering again, fill the air of a house, the very idea of the family and its peace must vanish.

4. Dissolution and break up. There are homes that go to pieces, names that sink into obscurity, families that die out; and a moral lesson may here too be often inferred.

5. Moral perversity is at the root of these evils (ver. 8). There is a twist in the affections, a guilty misdirection of the will. Contempt in others' minds reflects the moral basis, and prophesies its miserable end.

6. Idle vanity and pride, again, contrasted with that habit of honest self-help which is free from false shame, is another of the tokens that things are not going well. To be above one's situation, to shun humble employment, to stand upon one's dignity, - these are sure enough marks of want of moral power, and so of true stability.

7. Cruelty, again, to inferiors or to dumb creatures marks the corrupt heart. Even the comparative tenderness of the bad man is a spurious thing, for there is no real kindness from a heart without love.

8. The frivolous pursuit of pleasure, again, the "chase after vanity," opposed to steady industry, is one of the unfailing accompaniments of folly and conducements to failure, poverty, and misery.


1. The indications of a sound state of things in the household, or the reverse, are numerous and manifold, but all connected together. Partial symptoms may point to widespread and deeply seated evil.

2. At bottom the one condition of happiness is the fear of God and the love of one's neighbour; and the cause of misery is a void of both. - J.

The thoughts of the righteous are right, or are "just" (Revised Version). There is something more than a truism in these words. We may see first -

I. THE PLACE OF THOUGHT IN MAN. This is one of the greatest importance, for it is the deepest of all; it is at the very foundation.

1. Conduct rests on character. It is often said that conduct is the greater part of life; it is certainly that part which is most conspicuous, and therefore most influential. But it is superficial; it rests on character; it depends on the principles which are within the soul. It is these which determine a man's position in the kingdom of God.

2. Character is determined by our prevalent and established feeling; by what we have learned to love, by what we have come to hate. As a man thinketh in his heart, as he feels in his soul, so is he; it is our final and fixed attachments and repulsions that decide our character.

3. Feeling springs from thought. As we think, we feel. By the thoughts admitted to our minds and entertained there are determined our loves and our hatreds. Life, therefore, is ultimately built on thought. What are we thinking? - this is the vital question. Now, the thoughts of the righteous, the upright, the good, the true man, are right, or just.

II. THE JUST THOUGHTS OF THE GOOD. A good man's thoughts are such as are:

1. Just to himself. He owes it to himself to thick only those thoughts which are pure and true. If he harbours those which are impure and untrue, he is doing himself deadly injury, he is inflicting on his spirit, on himself, a fatal wound. This he has no right to do; he is bound, in justice to himself, to guard the gate of his mind against these - to admit only those which are true and pure.

2. Just to his neighbours. He owes it to them to think thoughts that are honest and charitable. We wrong our brethren, in truth and fact if not in appearance, when we think of them that which is not fair toward them. Every really righteous man will therefore banish thoughts which are not thoroughly honest, and also those which are uncharitable; for to be uncharitable is to be essentially and most materially unjust.

3. Just to God. We owe to our Divine Creator and Redeemer all thoughts which are

(1) reverent, leading us to piety and devotion;

(2) grateful, leading us to thankful praise;

(3) submissive, leading us to the one decisive, all-inclusive act of self-surrender, and to daily and hourly obedience to his holy will;

(4) trustful, leading us to a calm assurance that all is well with us, and that the darkness or the twilight will pass into the perfect day. - C.

It is worth remarking that we might obtain a very wholesome truth from the text, if we take the exact reverse of the proverb as worded in our version; for then we reach the wise conclusion -

I. THAT SELF-RESPECT, HOWEVER INDIGENT, is better than "being ministered unto" at the cost of reputation. It is better to lack bread, or even life itself, really honoring ourself, than it is to receive any amount of service from others, if we have forfeited the regard of the good, and are deservedly "despised." But taking the words as they are, and reaching the sense intended by the writer, we gather -

II. THAT DOMESTIC COMFORT AND SUFFICIENCY ARE MUCH TO BE PREFERRED TO THE GRATIFICATION OF PERSONAL VANITY. One man, in order that he may have consideration and deference from his neighbours, expends his resources on those outward appearances which will command that gratification; to do this he has to deny himself the attendance which he would like to have, and even the nourishment he needs. Another man disregards altogether the slights he may suffer from his meddlesome and intrusive neighbours, in order to supply his home with the food and the comforts which will benefit his family. It is the latter who is the wise man. For:

1. The gratification of vanity is a very paltry satisfaction; there is nothing honourable, but rather ignoble about it; it lowers rather than raises a man in the sight of wisdom.

2. The gratification thus gained is likely to prove very ephemeral, and to diminish constantly in its value; moreover, it is personal and, in that sense, selfish.

3. Domestic comfort is a daily advantage, lasting the whole year round, the whole life long.

4. Domestic comfort not only benefits the head of the household, but all the members of it, and he who makes a happy home is contributing to the good of his country and his kind. Using now the words of the text as suggestive of truths which they do not actually hold, we learn -

III. THAT THERE IS A VALUABLE SERVICE WHICH ALL MAY SECURE. "He that hath a servant." Men are divisible into those that are servants and those that have them. Some are the slaves of their evil habits; these are to be profoundly pitied, however many menservants or maidservants they may have at their call. But we may and should belong to those who hold their habits, whether of the mind or of the life, under their control and at their command. If that be so with us, then, though we should have no dependents at all in our employ, or though we ourselves should be dependents, living in honourable and useful service, we shall have the most valuable servants always at hand to minister to us, building up our character, strengthening our mind, enlarging our life.

IV. THAT WE SHOULD SECURE NOURISHMENT AT ALL COSTS WHATEVER. We must never he "the man that lacketh bread." To attain to any honour, to receive any adulation, to indulge any tancy, and to "lack bread," is a great mistake. For nourishment is strength and fulness of life; it is so in

(1) the physical,

(2) the intellectual,

(3) the moral and spiritual realm.

With the regularity and earnestness with which we ask for "daily bread," we should labour and strive to secure it, for our whole nature. - C.


1. Envious greed. (Ver. 12.) The wicked desires the "takings" of the evil. It is a general description of greedy strife and competition, one man trying to forestall another in the bargain, or to profit at the expense of his loss; a mutually destructive process, a grinding of egoistic passions against one another, so that there can be no mutual confidence nor peace (Isaiah 48:22; Isaiah 57:21). The hard selfishness of business life, which may be worse than war, which elicits generosity and self-denial.

2. Tricks eye speech. (Ver. 13.) How much of this there is, in subtler forms than those of ancient life, in our day! Exaggerations of value, suppression of faults in articles of commerce, lying advertisements, coloured descriptions, etc., - all these are snares, distinct breaches of the moral law; and were they not compensated by truth and honesty in other directions, society must crumble.

3. Conceit of shrewdness (ver. 14) is a common mark of dishonest men. This may seem right in their own eyes, no matter what a correct moral judgment may have to say about it. There may lurk a profound immorality beneath the constant phrase, "It pays!" Want of principle never does pay, in God's sense. The seeming success on which such men pride themselves is not real. They laugh at the preacher, but expose themselves to a more profound derision.

4. Passion and impetuosity. (Ver. 16.) The temper unfits for social intercourse and business. Flaming out at the first provocation, it shows an absence of reflection and self-control. How many unhappy wounds have been inflicted, either in word or deed; how many opportunities lost, friendships broken, through mere temper!

5. Lying and deceit. (Ver. 17.) The teaching of the book harps upon this string again and again. For does not all evil reduce itself to a lie in its essence? And is not deceit or treachery in some form the real canker in a decaying society, the last cause of all calamity? "We are betrayed!" was the constant exclamation of the French soldiers during the last war, upon the occurrence of a defeat. But it is self-betrayal that is the most dangerous.

6. Foulness or violence of speech. (Ver. 18.) The speech of the fool is compared to the thrusts of a sword. Not only all abusive and violent language, but all that is wanting in tact, imagination of others' situation, is condemned.

7. Designing craft. (Ver. 20.) The wicked heart is a constant forge of mischief. And yet, after this catalogue of social ills, these moral diseases that prey upon the body of society and the state, let us be comforted in the recollection

(1) that all evil is transient (ver. 19); and

(2) that its just and appropriate punishment is inevitable.

The first and last of frauds with the wicked is that he has cheated himself and laid a train of malicious devices which will take effect upon his own soul certainly, whoever else may escape.


1. They are the condition of security to the practiser of them. The root of the righteous is firmly fixed (ver. 12). In time of distress he finds resources and means of escape (ver. 13).

2. They yield him a revenue of blessing. He reaps the good fruit of his wise counsels and pure speech. They come back to him in echoes - the words of truth he has spoken to others (Proverbs 13:2; Proverbs 18:20). And so too with his good actions. They come back with blessing to him who sent them forth with a prayer (ver. 14). Spiritual investments bring certain if slow returns.

3. Some characteristics of virtue and wisdom enumerated.

(1) It is the part of wisdom to listen to all proffered advice, from any quarter, to discriminate and select that which is good, and then follow it (ver. 15). In critical times we ought, indeed, to find ourselves our own best counsellors, in the privacy of prayer, in communion with the Divine Spirit. But it is ever well to consult friends. Conversation with such wonderfully helps us to clear our own perceptions, resolve our own doubts, confirm our own right decisions.

(2) It is the part of prudence to ignore affronts (ver. 16), instead of hastily resenting them like the fool. A good illustration may be taken from Saul, as showing the contrast in the same person of wisdom and folly in this matter (1 Samuel 10:27 and 1 Samuel 20:30-33). In the heathen world, Socrates was a noble example of patience under injuries. He taught his disciples that the man who offered an unjust affront really more injured himself than him who received it; and that if the insulted person resented it, he did but place himself on a level with the aggressor. Either you have deserved the affront or you have not. If you have, submit to it as a chastisement; if you have not, content yourself with the testimony of your conscience. But above all, the example of our Saviour is the example for us, "who when he was reviled, reviled not again, but submitted himself to him that judgeth righteously." His whole behaviour at his trial should make a deeper impression upon us than a thousand arguments.

4. Truthful speech is one of the most eminent signs of virtue and godliness How constantly is this emphasized!

(1) Truthful and right speech can only proceed from the truthful mind. "He who breathes truth," says ver. 17, "utters right." We must make truth the atmosphere of our being, our very life itself, as in ancient thought the breath is identified with the life.

(2) Truthful and wise speech is also known by its effects (ver. 18). It heals, it brings salvation - correction to error, comfort to the wounded heart. Compare the picture of our Lord in the synagogue at Nazareth, and the words he quotes from Isaiah as expressive of the purport of his ministry (Luke 4:16, etc.).

(3) It is valid, abiding, permanent in value (ver. 19). Much in our knowledge is subject to the laws of change and growth. We grow out of the old and into the new. But the simple sentiments of piety and duty common to all good men are capable of no change, no decay. Of them all the good man will ever say, "So was it when I was a boy; so is it now I am a man; so let it be when I grow old!"

5. Joy, peace, and eternal safety are the portion of the wise and just (vers. 20, 21). Joy in the heart, peace in the home and amongst neighbours, safety here and hereafter. Translated into the language of the gospel, "Glory, honour, immortality, and eternal life!" (Romans 2:7). For in one word, he enjoys the favour of his God, and this contains all things (ver. 22). - J.



III. ANXIETY TO MAKE KNOWN OUR OPINIONS MAY BE BUT ANXIETY TO EXALT OURSELVES. Great talkers are great nuisances. The ambitious aim to shine cannot be hidden. The fool talks as if he were ambitious to be known for a fool.

IV. SILENCE IS ALWAYS SEASONABLE IN REFERENCE TO SUBJECTS WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND. Were this rule observed, conversation would be generally more entertaining and more profitable. At the same time, a great many pulpits would be emptied, and publishers and printers would have a sorry time of it (comp. 1 Timothy 1:6, 7). Let us confess that there is a great deal of the fool in every one of us. - J.

I. THE DILIGENT RISE IN LIFE. This is too obvious to need insisting upon. But often, when wonder is expressed at the rise of ordinary men, this solution may be recurred to. As a rule, it is not the greatest wits who fill the high places of the realm, but the greatest workers.

II. HE ONLY IS FIT TO GOVERN WHO HAS BEEN WILLING TO SERVE. For in truth the spirit of the true servant and that of the true ruler are alike in principle; it is respect for law, for right beyond and above self-will and self-interest, which animates both. If this has been proved in the trials of an inferior situation, its genuineness has been discovered, and it becomes a title to promotion. Abraham's servant (Genesis 24:2, 10) and Joseph (Genesis 39:4, 22) are illustrations from patriarchal life.

III. THE SLOTHFUL DECAY. This too is obvious. But perhaps we often fail to fix the stigma of sloth in the right place. Many busy, energetic, fussy people miscarry because their activity is ill-placed. To neglect one's proper vocation anal work is idleness, no matter what may be the uncalled for activity in other directions. - J.


II. TROUBLE AFFECTS THE HEART. When we use the word "discouragement" we point to a state that is both bodily and psychical. The action of the heart is lowered, and there is less energy to act and to endure.

III. THE IMMEDIATE EFFECT OF SYMPATHY. The kindly word, and all that it expresses of love and fellow feeling on the part of our friend, quickens the pulse, and restores, as by magic, the tone of the mind. - J.

The true translation seems to be, "The righteous directs his friend aright: but the way of the wicked leads them astray."

I. WE ARE ALL SUSCEPTIBLE TO THE INFLUENCES OF THOSE ABOUT US. This is true even of the strongest minds; how much more of the feebler!

II. WE ARE ALWAYS SAFE IN THE COMPANY OF MEN OF RECTITUDE. The character of the man, not his mere opinions, is the force that goes forth from him to enlighten and guide.

III. WE ARE NEVER SAFE IN THE COMPANY OF UNPRINCIPLED PERSONS; no matter how correct their conversation or unexceptionable their expressed opinions. - J.

The goal which a man will reach must depend on the tendency of the habits he has formed, or the way in which his life inclines, whether upward or downward. Are his habits such that we can properly speak of them as growing toward perfection, or such as may be more properly thought of as conducting or seducing to wrong and ruin?

I. THE GROWTH OF GOODNESS. "The righteous is more abundant than his neighbour" (marginal reading). He is more abundant because:

1. The blessing of God rests upon him, and his reward is in fruitfulness in some direction.

2. Righteousness means or includes virtue, temperance, industry, thrift, culture; and these mean prosperity and success.

3. God's great prevailing law that "to him that hath [uses, or puts out, what powers he has] is given, and he shall have abundance," is constantly operating here and now, in all realms of human action; consequently, the good man is reaping the beneficial result.

(1) In the physical world, bodily, muscular exercise "is profiting," and ends in abounding health and strength and capacity of endurance.

(2) In the mental world, study and patient observation result in abounding knowledge and intellectual grasp.

(3) In the spiritual world, devotion and the daily learning of Christ (Matthew 11:28) end in abounding virtue, in the "more abundant life" which the Saviour offers to confer. Thus the life of the righteous man is one of continual growth in all good directions, and he is "more abundant than his neighbour."

II. THE SEDUCTIVENESS OF SIN. "The way of the wicked seduceth them." We read (Hebrews 3:18) of "the deceitfulness of sin." And we know only too well by experience and observation how seductive and deceitful are its ways.

1. It begins with a pleasureableness which promises to continue, but which fails, which indeed turns to misery and ruin (see Proverbs 7:6-27). At first it. is a soft green slope, but the end is a steep and rocky precipice over which the victim falls.

2. It promises an easy escape from its hold, but it coils its cords around its subjects with quiet hand, until it holds them in a fast captivity.

3. It persuades its adherents that its ways are right when they are utterly wrong, and thus sings to sleep the conscience which should be aroused and active.

4. It pleads the crowded character of its path, and assures of safety; although the presence of a multitude is no guard or guarantee whatever against the condemnation and the retribution of the Almighty. But let youth understand that all these are "refuges of lies." For the truth is that

(1) the way of transgressors is all too soon found to be "hard" indeed.

(2) After a very little way is trodden, it is most difficult, and further on all but impossible to return.

(3) The paths of sin are all grievously wrong in the sight of Divine purity.

(4) "The wages of sin is death." - C.

I. LAXITY GOES EMPTY HANDED. The proverb seems to call up the image of a hunter who is too lazy to pursue the game.

II. INDUSTRY IS ITSELF A CAPITAL. Toil is as good as treasure; such seems to the force of the proverb. And we may be reminded of the parable of the farmer who indicated to his sons the treasure in the field; their persevering toil in digging led to their enrichment. - J.

I. RECTITUDE MAY BE COMPARED TO A STRAIGHT ROAD. It has a definite beginning, a clearly marked course, a happy termination.

II. ALL IMMORALITY AND IRRELIGION MAY BE COMPARED TO BYPATHS. See Bunyan's Bypath Meadow in 'Pilgrim's Progress.'

III. LIFE AND DEATH ARE THE TWO GREAT TERMINI. All the more impressive because we know not what they contain of blissful or of dread meaning: "Behold, I set before you life and death!" is the constant cry of wisdom, of every true teacher, of the unchanging gospel. - J.

All that a man hath will he give for his life; but of what worth is life to many men? What does it mean to them but work and sleep and indulgence? Of how many is it true that they "are dead while they live"! But "in the way of righteousness there is life, and in the pathway thereof is no death."

I. THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS THE ONE PATH OF LIFE. It is the one and only path; for the paths of sin are those of spiritual death. In them the human traveller is separated from God, from all excellency of character, from all true and lasting joy: and what is this but death in everything except the name? It is not the true, the real life of man. But righteousness in the full, broad sense in which the word is here employed, includes:

1. Devotion; the spirit of reverence, the act of prayer, the approach of our human spirit to God, and our habitual walking with him and worship of him.

2. Virtue; the practice of truthfulness, temperance, purity, integrity; the exercise of self-restraint, the discharge of the duties which we owe to our fellow men, respecting ourselves and honouring them.

3. Service; the endeavour, in a spirit of loving kindness, to raise, to succour, to guide, to bless, all whom we can reach and influence.

4. Joy; i.e. not mere excitement or gratification, which may expire at any moment, and may leave a sting or a stain behind, but rather that honourable and pure elation of spirit which springs from conscious rectitude, which is the consequence of our being in harmony with all that is around us, and with him who is above us, which lasts through the changes of circumstances, which "through all time abides" which "satisfies and sanctifies the soul." This is life; this is life indeed; this is worth callling life; and this is in the way of righteousness.

II. ITS IMMUNITY FROM DEATH. "In the pathway," etc.

1. No death during mortal life; so long as we walk in the light of Divine truth there is no fear of our stumbling into error and falling into the condition of spiritual death; our life in God and with him will be steadily maintained.

2. No real death at the end of that life; for though we must pass through "the portal we call death," yet "it is not death to die," when the termination of mortal existence is the starting-point of the celestial life; when the being unclothed of the earthly tenement means the "being clothed upon with our house which is from heaven," when "absence from the body" means "presence with the Lord."

3. Fulness and enlargement of life forever; for our hope and confident expectation is that, along whatever paths our God may lead us in the heavenly spheres, the way we shall take will be one that will be ever disclosing greater grandeurs, ever opening new sources of joy, ever unfolding new secrets, and making life mean more and more to our rejoicing spirits as the years and ages pass. - C.

The Pulpit Commentary, Electronic Database.
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