Proverbs 17
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
Hence -

I. CONTENTMENT AS AN ELEMENT OF HAPPINESS. (Ver. 1.) The dry morsel, with rest and quiet in the spirit, is better, says the preacher, than the most luxurious meal; the allusion being to slaughtered sacrificial animals as the chief constituents of a rich repast (Proverbs 9:2; Genesis 43:16). It suggests the picture of "holy love, found in a cottage" (Matthew Henry). The secret of happiness lies rather in limiting our desires than in increasing our substance.

II. PRUDENCE AND THRIFT. (Ver. 2.) The prudent servant may rise, and probably not seldom did rise in ancient times, to superiority over the idle and dissipated son of the house. In this light Abraham looked upon Eliezer - that he might probably step into the place of a son in his house. How much more depends, in reference to power and influence in this world, upon sense and prudence than upon birth and every external advantage!

III. THE TRUE HEART. (Ver. 3.) The heart which has been tried in the scales of Jehovah, assayed by the tests of an infallible truth. We need to remind ourselves how little we know of the depths of human character. Our inquiries and our teachings are inadequate and deceptive. The search of the human heart is a royal privilege of God. Without the true, the divinely approved heart, there is no real root of good or bliss.

IV. A SINCERE TEMPER. (Ver. 4.) This is suggested, as often, by the hideous contrast of the wicked, inwardly corrupt heart, which willingly takes note of and inclines to lying words, to the tempter and his wishes. It takes pleasure in the "naughty words" it dares not, perhaps, utter itself; is glad to borrow words from another to fit its own evil thoughts. In contrast to this, the spirit of the candid and sincerely good man is that expressed by Bishop Hall, "If I cannot stop other men's mouths from speaking ill, I will either open my mouth to reprove it, or else I will stop my ears from hearing it, and let him see in my face that he hath no room in my heart."

V. COMPASSION, PITY, AND SYMPATHY. (Ver. 5.) Contempt of the poor is contempt of the majesty of God. The greater part of poverty is not wilful; it is in the course of the providence of God. "To pour contempt on the current coin with the king's image on it is treason against the sovereign." There is something worse than even this, viz. to rejoice in the calamities of others. It is a peculiarly inhuman view, and is certain to be punished in the remorse of the conscience, in the closing up of the way to God's heart in the time of one's own need.

VI. FAMILY JOYS. (Ver. 6.) To leave out these would be to leave out that which gives to life its chief fragrance and charm. As children are the pride and ornament of the parents, so the sons, on the other hand, so long as they themselves are not fathers, can only fall back upon the father. The family tree, the higher it rises and the more widely it extends, increases the honour of the race.

VII. NOBLENESS Of SPEECH. (Ver. 7.) The first element of this is, as so often insisted upon, truthfulness in the inward parts. The second is appropriateness, regard to what is becoming. Thus a high assuming tone ill befits the fool; much less falsity, affectation, hypocrisy, a noble mind. To recollect what is becoming in us is a great safeguard to morality and guide to conduct. In the common affairs of life we should not seek to rise above our station, nor should we fall below it. In religion there is also a just mean - the recollection of what it is to be a Christian; and the effort not to rise above the humility of that position, as not to fall below its grandeur and nobility. "If truth be banished from all the rest of the world," said Louis IX. of France, "it ought to be found in the breast of princes." Let us substitute the word "Christians."

VIII. THE VALUE OF GIFTS. (Ver. 8.) There seems to be no reason for taking this only in the bad sense with reference to bribery. Lawful gifts and presents have their charm as well as unlawful. The power of gold to corrupt; the saying of Philip of Macedon, that there was no fortress so strong but that it might be stormed if an ass laden with gold were driven to the gate; - all this is well known. But equally true is it that honest gifts of kindness, having no impure purpose in view, are like jewels. They sparkle with the lustre of human love when turned in any light, and win friends and good will for the giver wherever he goes. It is the generous freedom to give, not necessarily of silver and gold, but of "such things as we have," which is here commended and noted as one of the secrets of happiness. The deepest joy is, in all true gifts, to be expressing the one great gift of the heart to God.

IX. CONCEALING AND FORGIVING LOVE. (Ver. 9.) Let us remind ourselves that in the Law the word for forgiving or atoning is "cover." And frequently we read of God covering the sins of the penitent. This relation is for the imitation of Christians, "followers of God as dear children." "Love covers a multitude of sins." Like the healing hand of Nature, which we see everywhere busy concealing unsightliness, veiling the old ruin with the beautiful ivy and other creeping plants. On the contrary, the talebearer has an eye forevery crack and seam in the structure of society; tears open and causes to bleed the wounds that might have been healed. Be true, be gentle, be generous, be God-like and Christ-like, - such are the main lessons of this section. - J.

Heat, like water, is a very bad master but a very excellent servant. It proves whether our acquisition has or has not any value, whether it should be carefully preserved or be "trodden underfoot;" and it refines that which has any worth at all, separating the dross and securing for us the pure metal which we want for use or ornament. What we do with our materials God does with ourselves; but the fires through which he sends us are of a very different kind from those we kindle.

I. THE FIRES THROUGH WHICH GOD PASSES US. These are the disciplinary experiences through which, in his holy providence and in his fatherly love, he causes us to pass. And of them we may say that their name is legion, for "they are many." They vary as do the histories of human life. It may be

(1) a change for the worse, sudden or gradual, permanent or transient, in our temporal conditions, affluence sinking into competence, or competence into pecuniary embarrassment, or into hard toil and scant enjoyment; or

(2) bereavement and consequent loneliness of spirit, the loss of some near companion whose fellowship was sweet beyond expression, or whose guidance was incalculably helpful; or

(3) disappointment, the going out of some bright hope in the light of which our path had been trodden and the extinction of which throws the future into thick darkness; or

(4) the loss of health and strength, when we are taken away from activities which were congenial or apparently necessary to us, and are shut in to an enforced idleness, from which we long to be delivered; or

(5) the endurance of pain; or

(6) our failure to accomplish some good work on which we had set our heart and put our hand.

II. HIS TRIAL OF OUR SPIRIT. God thus proves us. Theme troubles are trials; they show to our Creator and to ourselves what manner of men we are, what is "the spirit we are of." They prove to him and to us whether we care more about our circumstances than we do about ourselves and our character; they prove whether we have a deep spirit of submission and of trustfulness, or whether our subjection to the will of God is very shallow and departs as soon as it is tested; they prove whether in the hour of need we look above us for strength and succour, or whether we have recourse only to those persons and things which are around us, or whether we descend to props and stays that are positively beneath us. They prove the quality of our Christian character; they sometimes demonstrate its actual unreality.

III. GOD'S REFINING GOODNESS AND WISDOM. God tries our hearts, not merely that he or we may see what is in them, but that they may be purified (see Isaiah 48:10). Many purifying, practical lessons we learn in affliction which we are very slow to receive, and which, but for its discipline, we might never gain at all. They are these, among others.

1. The unsatisfying character of all that is earthly and human.

2. The transitoriness of the present, and the wisdom of laying up treasures in heaven.

3. The secondariness of all claims to those that are Divine, and our consequent obligation to give the first place to the will and the cause of our Redeemer.

4. Our deep need of Christ as the Lord whom we are to be faithfully serving and the Friend in whose fellowship we are to spend our days. With these great spiritual truths burnt into our souls by the refining fires, we shall have our worldliness and our selfishness expelled, and be vessels of pure gold, meet for the Master's use. - C.

Certainly, some of our very greatest mercies are those that come to us in our domestic relationships.

I. THE JOY AND CROWN OF FATHERHOOD AND OF GRANDFATHERHOOD. Our Lord speaks of the mother forgetting her anguish "for joy that a man is born into the world" (John 16:21). The joy of parentage is keen, and it is common; it may, indeed, be said to be universal. And it is pure and good; it elevates and enlarges the soul, taking thought and care away from self to another, and by so doing it distinctly benefits and blesses the nature. And, like all pure joys, it is lasting; it does not evaporate with time; on the other hand, it grows and deepens as the child of its affection develops and matures. Moreover, in the kind providence of God, it is renewable in another generation; for the grandfather has almost as much delight in his grandson as the father in his child (text; Genesis 50:23; Psalm 128:6). Fatherhood (motherhood) is:

1. A natural desire of the human heart.

2. Often the reward which God gives to patient industry and virtue in earlier days; for the setting up of a home is, in many if not in most cases, the attainment of a hope for which the young have striven and waited.

3. Sometimes a source of grievous disappointment and saddest sorrow (vers. 21, 25). There is no one in the world who can pierce our souls with such bitter anguish as can our own child when he or she goes astray from wisdom and righteousness.

4. Always an entail of the most serious responsibility; for what we are in spirit and in character it is most likely that our children will become.

5. Therefore a noble opportunity; for it is in our power, by wisdom and virtue, by kindness and piety, to lead our sons into the gates of privilege and up to the gates of the kingdom of Christ.

6. And therefore usually a source of profoundest gratitude and gladness, and the means by which we can hand down our principles and our influence, through our own direct endeavours, to the second and the third generation.

II. THE GLORY OF CHILDHOOD. "The glory of children are their fathers."

1. It is the greatest of all earthly heritages to have parents that can be esteemed and loved. Happy is the son who, as his judgment matures, can honour his father with an undiminishing or even a growing regard and deepening joy.

2. It is a very real delight to be able to look back, through all the later years of life, and recall the memories of the beloved and revered parents who have "passed into the skies"

3. It is the duty of childhood to make the very best response it can make for the love, care, pains, patience, prayerful solicitude, its parents have expended upon it.

4. It will remain a lasting, source of thankfulness and joy that every possible filial attention was paid that could be paid; lighting and smoothing the path of the parents to the very door of heaven. - C.

We may learn -

I. THE GOODLINESS OF FRIENDSHIP. "Very friends," or "chief friends," points to intimate friendship. This is one of the very fairest and worthiest things under the sun. The man to whom God gives a lifelong faithful friendship is rich in a treasure which wealth cannot buy and the excellency of which it does not equal. It should be:

1. Founded on common attachment to the same great principles, and on mutual esteem.

2. Independent of the changes that occur in circumstances and conditions.

3. Strengthened by adversity.

4. Elevated by piety.

5. Lasting as life. Then it is something which, for intrinsic beauty and substantial worth, cannot be surpassed.

II. THE SILENCE THAT MAY SAVE IT. There is a speech that saves it. Often the interposition of a few words of explanation, removing an offence which would have grown into seriousness, will save a rupture. Sometimes a kindly word of counsel or remonstrance to the imprudent or to the mistaken may have the same happy effect. But, at other times, silence will save it. We are often tempted, even strongly tempted, to say that which would come between two human hearts. To say what we know would only be to speak the truth; it would gratify the curiosity of those present; it would be a pleasant exercise of power or the use of an advantage we happen to possess. The words rise to our very lips. But no; it is not always our duty to say all that we know; it is often our duty to be silent. There are times when to "cover transgression" is an act of wisdom, of kindness, of generosity, of Christ-likeness (see John 8:1-11). Let the fact remain untold; let the hearts that have been united remain bound together; seek and secure the permanence of "love."

III. THE SPEECH THAT WILL SEPARATE IT. A whisperer, one that repeats a matter, does separate friends.

1. There is always some occasion for silence in every man's life. No man is so correct in thought and speech that he could afford to have every utterance repeated to any one and every one. We all want the kindly curtain of silence to be drawn over some sentences that pass our lips.

2. There are always some thoughtless speakers - men and women who will carry injurious reports from house to house, from heart to heart; there are some who are cruelly careless what things they promulgate; there are some who consciously and guiltily enlarge and misrepresent, who form the dangerous and deadly habit of exaggeration, of false colouring, and who end in systematic falsehood. Those who idly and foolishly report what is true are, indeed, less guilty than they who enlarge and pervert. But they are far from guiltless. We are bound to speak with sufficient caution to save ourselves from the charge of circulating evil and spreading sorrow. We are responsible to God not only for the carefully prepared speech, but also for the casual interjection; that is the meaning of our Lord in his familiar words (Matthew 12:36). It behoves us to remember that our brother's reputation, usefulness, happiness, is in our charge, and one slight whisper may destroy it all. One breath of unkindness may start a long train of sad consequences which we have no power at all to stop. A very few unconsidered and unhappily uttered words may sever hearts that have been beating long in loving unison, may disunite lives that have been linked long in the bonds of happy love. - C.

We may take ver. 10 as an introduction to what follows. Exhortations are to be given, and the preacher would prepare us to receive them. On the sensitive mind the censure of the good makes a deeper impression than a hundred blows on the back of the fool. Sincerity, love of truth and tender sympathy, become the exhorter, and humble docility the object of his warnings or rebukes. "Let the righteous smite me, and it shall be a kindness" (Psalm 141:5).


1. His temper. He seeks rebellion. In private life he may be the man who revolts from the established usages of society, delights in singularity for its own sake, in defying opinion, showing disrespect to names of authority. In public life he may become the heartless demagogue and pest of the commonwealth.

2. His doom. A cruel angel shall be sent against him by God; that is, generally, his offence will be visited upon him severely. The curse upon the contentious spirit is the counterpart of the great evangelical blessing on the peacemakers, who shall be called "the children of God."

3. His dangerous qualities. (Ver. 12.) Rage is the principle of his action, the motive of his life. To irritate him, to thwart him, is like bringing on one's self the fierce attack of the bear robbed of her whelps. Rage united with intelligence is the most fearful combination of deadly force known in the world. From so dread a picture we turn with the prayer, "From hatred and malice, good Lord, deliver us!" "Oh, may we live the peaceful life!"


1. His conduct. He requites good with evil. As there is no virtue so natural, so spontaneous, so pleasurable, as gratitude, so there is no mere negative vice so odious as ingratitude. But the positive reversal of gratitude in returning evil for good - for this there is no one word in our (nor probably in any) language. It is a wickedness indeed unutterable.

2. His doom is punishment from God. And the severity of the punishment teaches by contrast how dear is gratitude to God. As evil shall ever haunt the house of the dark rebel against light and love, so shall joy and peace attend the steps of the peaceful child of God.

III. THE CONSEQUENCES OF MISCHIEF INCALCULABLE. (Ver. 14.) A homely figure impresses the truth in a way not to be forgotten. Similarly, James compares the progress of mischief to the sparks which may be easily fanned into a great conflagration (James 3:5). How great the service that may be rendered by those who, in the interests of peace, at once trample out the sparks or seal up the avenues of the flood. These rules are good for the avoidance of strife. Consider:

1. Whether the dispute is not about. words rather than things.

2. Whether we really understand, the subject.

3. Whether it is worth disputing about.

IV. MORAL INDIFFERENCE. (Ver. 15.) To speak the bad man fair, to justify or excuse his evil, and to censure or criticize or condemn the good, from prudence or other motive, - this shows a blindness to moral distinctions, a wilful insensibility which is incompatible with religion, and incurs the deep disapproval and judgment of Jehovah. We have examples in Ezra 4:1-16; Acts 24:1-9. Religion teaches us to distinguish between things that differ; if we have not learnt that lesson, we have learned nothing. If, having learned it, we disregard it, our profession of religion becomes converted into an hypocrisy and an abomination. - J.

Experience shows us that -

I. STRIFE IS A GROWTH. It is as when one letteth out water; first it is the trickling of a few drops, then a tiny rill, then a stream, etc. So with strife; first it is a disturbing thought; then it becomes a warm or a hot feeling; then it utters itself in a strong, provoking word which leads to an energetic resentment and response; then it swells into a decided, antagonistic action; then it grows into a course of opposition, and becomes a feud, a contention, a war.


1. It is the source of untold and incalculable misery to many hearts.

2. It betrays several souls into feelings and into actions which are distinctly wrong and sinful.

3. It presents a moral spectacle which is grievous in the sight of Christ, the Lord of love.

4. It rends in twain that which should be united in one strong and happy circle - the home, the family connection, the Church, the society, the nation.

5. It arrests the progress which would otherwise be made in wisdom and in worth; for it causes numbers of men to expend on bitter controversy and contention the energy and ingenuity they would otherwise expend on rendering service and doing good.

III. OUR DUTY, OUR WISDOM, IS TO ARREST IT AT ITS BEGINNING. You cannot extinguish the conflagration, but you can stamp out the spark; you cannot stop the flow of the river, but you can dam the rill with the palm of your hand. You cannot heal a great schism, but you can appease a personal dispute; or, what is better, you can recall the offensive word you have yourself spoken; or, what is better still, you can repress the rising thought, you can call in to your aid other thoughts which calm and soothe the soul; you can remember him who "bore such contradiction of sinners against himself," who "as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth," and you can maintain a magnanimous silence. When this is no longer possible, because the first inciting word has been uttered and resented, then let there be an earnest and determined effort to quell all heat in your own heart, and to pacify the one whose anger has been aroused. "Blessed are the peacemakers," etc. (see also Matthew 5:25; Romans 12:18). - C.

I. MONEY USELESS WITHOUT SENSE. (Ver. 16.) The true view of money is that of means to ends. But if the ends are not seen, or, being seen, are not earnestly desired, of what avail the means? If our heart be set upon the right objects of life, opportunities will always present themselves. If blind to life's meaning, no advantages wilt seem to be advantages.


1. In general. It is constant; it is unvarying; it is adapted to all the various states and vicissitudes of life.

2. In particular. It takes new life out of sorrow. In distress, the friend is developed into the "brother," and is taken close to the heart. True friendship gladdens at the opportunity of self-devotion for the beloved one's good. It is the distress of our sin which makes us acquainted with him "that sticketh closer than a brother." But thank God for all those who are newborn to us in the freshly revealed grace and goodness of their hearts amidst the scenes of suffering.

III. THE STRICT DUTY OF CAUTION IN REFERENCE TO RESPONSIBILITY. (Ver. 18.) The consequences of becoming bail for a defaulter were in ancient life very terrible. Nowadays there are prudent men who will never set their hand to an acceptance. Although all moral duties are not equally amiable in their aspect, it must be remembered that the ability to do good to others rests upon strict prudence with reference to one's self. We may be maimed or destroyed by imprudence.

IV. RESISTANCE TO THE BEGINNINGS OF EVIL. (Ver. 19.) Contention or tempers and passion in general leads on to graver sin. Open the way to one sin, and others will immediately troop forward in its rear. Again, contentiousness and pride are in close connection; the latter is generally the spring of the former. And both are ruinous in their tendency. High towers invite the lightning; but he that does not soar too loftily will suffer the less by a fall. A modest way of life, within our means, is the only truly Christian life.

V. THE TRUE HEART AND THE GUILELESS TONGUE. (Ver. 20.) There is no health, no salvation for self or others, in the false heart and the tongue that flickers and wavers between opposing impulses. Old Homer has the sentiment that he who speaks one thing and thinks another in his heart is hateful as the gates of hell.

1. There is no true light in the head without love in the heart.

2. There is no dualism in our moral character.

3. There is a correspondence between our outward lot and our inward choice. - J.

There is everything in use, we say. And certainly a man's position at any time depends far less upon his bestowments and advantages than upon the use he has made of them. The wise man, in these verses, laments the fact that the price of wisdom should so often be in the hand of a man who fails to turn it to account (ver. 16), and that the foolish man wastes his capacities by directing them to things at a distance instead of giving his attention to that which is within his reach. The facts of human life abundantly justify the lament.

I. THE PRESENCE OF OPPORTUNITY. The price of wisdom, and also of worth and of usefulness, is "in our hand." It is not afar off, that we should ask - Who will ascend to the height or travel across the sea to find and fetch it? Opportunity is amongst and even "within us." We find it in:

1. Our natural capacities; here represented by the eyes of a man (ver. 24). We have the power of vision, not only bodily, but mental and spiritual. God has given us the faculty of perception, of observation, of intuition; we can see what is before us - our interest, our duty, our possibilities.

2. Our various advantages; the education we receive, the friends and kindred who surround us, the literature which is at our command, the resources we inherit, the openings and facilities that are offered us as we move on into life. These are "the price" wherewith we may "buy wisdom" and happiness, usefulness and power. "The gift of God" is a valuable opportunity (see John 4:10).

II. OUR FOOLISH AND GUILTY NEGLECT OF IT. Those who have the very fairest chance of attaining to wisdom and usefulness sometimes wantonly throw it away. The foolish boy, at the best school in the land, will refuse to learn, and comes out a dunce. The foolish apprentice, with the best sources of technical or professional knowledge at his command, wastes his hours in frivolity, and when his time is up is utterly unfit for the occupation of his life. Information of what is happening all over the world may now be had for a penny a day, and, what is far more precious, the knowledge of the will of God as revealed in the life and by the lips of Jesus Christ may be had for twopence; but, with "the price of wisdom" at these figures, there are those who know nothing of the hopes or struggles of mankind, and nothing of the way to eternal life. Duty, secular and sacred, is immediately before the eyes of the foolish, but their gaze is fixed upon anything and everything else; they are dreaming, by day and by night, of impossible or of hopelessly improbable fortune, and while they might be patiently and successfully building up a good estate, the chances of life are slipping through their hands. Such neglect of God-given opportunity is:

1. A most serious sin. It is the act of hiding our talent in the earth which calls forth the strong condemnation, "Thou wicked and slothful servant" (Matthew 25:24-26).

2. The greatest possible folly. It is a practical renunciation of the fair heritage of life which our heavenly Father offers us; it is the act of flinging the price of wisdom "into the waste."

III. OUR WISE USE OF IT. The wise man is he who makes the most and the best he can make of that which is within his reach, that which is "before his face." He does not spend time in looking and longing for that which is "at the ends of the earth;" he sets himself to cultivate the patch of ground, however small and poor, that is just outside his door. He puts out his talents, however mean they may be. He works his capital, however small it may be. He reads well his books, however limited his library may be. He tries to serve others, however narrow his sphere may be. So doing, he is in the way of constant growth and of a large reward (Matthew 25:20-24). - C.

However we read this passage (see Exposition), we have before us the subject of true and lasting friendship. As is stated in a previous homily (see on ver. 9), this is founded on a common attachment to the same great principles, moral and religious; and also on a mutual esteem, each heart holding the other in a real regard. When such intelligent esteem ripens into strong affection, we have a result that deserves to bear the beautiful and honourable name of friendship. The true friend is one that "loves at all times," and he is a "brother born for adversity." A false or a weak friendship will not bear the strain which the changeful and hard experiences of life will put upon it; it will break and perish. But a true friendship, well founded and well nourished upon Christian truth, will bear all strains, even those of -


II. CHANGE OF VIEW AND OF OCCUPATION. Friendship usually beans in youth or in the earlier years of manhood; then will come, with maturity of mind and enlargement of knowledge and change of occupation, difference of view on things personal, political, literary, social. But true friendship will endure that strain.

III. REDUCTION. The loss of health; of property or income, and the consequent reduction in style and in resources; mental vigour with the lapse of time or from the burden of oppressive care and overwork. But faithfulness will triumph over this.

IV. PROSPERITY. One may ascend in circumstances, in social position; may be attended and even courted by the wealthy and the powerful; may have his time much occupied by pressing duties; and the friendship begun years ago, in a much lower position, may be threatened; but it should not be sacrificed.

V. DISHONOUR. It does occasionally happen to men that they fall into undeserved reproach. They are misunderstood or they are falsely accused; and the good name is tainted with some serious charge. Neighbours, casual acquaintances, those associated by the slighter social bonds, fall away; they "pass by on the other side." Then is the time tot the true friend to make his faithfulness felt; then he is to show himself the man who "loves at all times," the "brother born for adversity." Then he will not only remember where his friend is living, but he will identify himself with him in every open way, will stand by him and walk with him, and honour him, not reluctantly and feebly, but eagerly and energetically.

VI. DECLENSION. It may happen that one to whom we have given our heart in tender and loyal affection, between whom and ourselves there has existed a long and intimate friendship, will yield to temptation in one or other of its seductive and powerful forms. It may be that he will gradually decline; it may be that he will fall with some sad suddenness into serious wrong doing. Then will come to him compunction, humiliation, desertion, loneliness. All his ordinary companions will fall from him. It will be the extreme of adversity, the lowest deep of misery. Then let true friendship show its hand, offer its strong arm, open its door of refuge and of hope; then let the friend prove himself a "brother born for adversity."

1. Be worthy to love the best, that you may form a true friendship.

2. Ennoble your life and yourself by unwavering fidelity in the testing hour, when your friend is most in need of your loyalty.

3. Secure the abiding love of that Friend who is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." - C.

We may divide them into the sorrowful, the joyous, and the mixed experiences.

I. SAD EXPERIENCES. The sorrow of thankless children. (Vers. 21, 25.) To name it is enough for thereto who have known it. It has its analogue in Divine places. How pathetically does the Bible speak of the grief of God over the rebellious children he has nourished and brought up! and of Christ's lamentation as of a mother over Jerusalem! Let us remember that our innocent earthly sorrows are reflected in the bosom of our God.

II. JOYOUS EXPERIENCES. (Ver. 22.) The blessing of a cheerful heart, who can overprize it in relation to personal health, to social charm and helpfulness? Contrasted with the troubled spirit, like a parching fever in the bones, it is the perpetual sap of life and source of all its greenness and its fruit. A simple faith is the best known source of cheerfulness. It was a fine remark of a good friend of Dr. Johnson's, that "he had tried to be a philosopher, but somehow always found cheerfulness creeping in."


1. The briber. (Ver. 23.) How strongly marked is this sin in the denunciations of the Bible! and yet how little the practice seems affected in a land which boasts above others of its love for the Bible! The stealth and so the shame, the evil motive, the perverse result, all are branded here. "He that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, he shall dwell on high" (Isaiah 33:15).

2. The quick perception of wisdom and the warning glance of folly. The one sees before him what is to be known or done at once; the other is lost in cloudy musings. The more a man gapes after vanity, the more foolish the heart becomes. In religion we see this temper in the restless roving to and fro, the constant query, "Who will show us any good?" "He is full of business at church; a stranger at home; a sceptic abroad; an observer in the street; everywhere a fool.

3. Harshness in judges. (Ver. 26.) Fining and flogging are mentioned. The writer had observed some such scene with the horror of a just man. Inequity or inhumanity in the judge seems an insult against the eternal throne of Jehovah.

4. The wisdom of a calm temper and economy of words. (Vers. 27, 28.) An anxiety to talk is the mark of a shallow mind. The knowledge of the season of silence and reserve may be compared to the wisdom of the general who knows when to keep his forces back and when to launch them at the foe. The composed spirit comes from the knowledge that truth will prevail in one way or another, and the time for our utterance will arrive. Lastly, the wisdom of silence, so often preached by great men. Even the fool may gain some credit for wisdom which he does not possess by holding his tongue; and this is an index of the reality. Our great example here is the silence of Jesus, continued for thirty years; out of that silence a voice at length proceeded that will ever vibrate through the world. - J.

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