Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. A FEATURE OF ANCIENT LIFE. The warnings against incurring this responsibility are very frequent in this book (Proverbs 11:15; Proverbs 17:18; Proverbs 20:16; Proverbs 22:26). For the bail was treated like the insolvent debtor (2 Kings 4:1; Matthew 18:25). He was subject to distraint or to be sold into slavery. Ben-Sira (29, 18, seq.) says, "Suretyship hath destroyed many that were doing well, and swallowed them up as a wave of the sea. It hath turned mighty men out of their homes, and they wandered among foreign peoples." The surety struck his band into that of the debtor, as a sign that he would answer for him. This would be accompanied by a verbal declaration, and hence the man had bound and confined himself - "snared himself by the words of his mouth." The rigidity of ancient custom in this particular told with terrible severity against thoughtless incurrers of responsibility, no matter how kind the motive. Hence -
II. THE URGENT NEED OF PRUDENCE. Ver. 3: "Since thou hast come into the hand [power] of thy neighbour, stamp with thy foot, and storm thy neighbour;" i.e. be urgent and insistent with the careless debtor for whom thou hast pledged thyself, press upon him the fulfilment of his responsibilities before it be too late. Exercise a sleepless vigilance (ver. 4, "Tear thyself free like a gazelle from its haunt, and like a bird from the hand of the fowler").
III. MODERN REFLECTIONS AND LESSORS.
1. Let us be thankful that the severity of the ancient laws and customs concerning debt and suretyship has been mitigated. The history of the changes of law is one of the best evidences of Christianity, and proof that prior conceptions of God advance side by side with gentler conceptions of social relations and duties.
2. Prudence is a constant necessity, and its cultivation a virtue, though not the highest. We must learn to adjust the claims of prudence and of neighbourly love.
3. Independence is not only a "glorious privilege," but the firm foundation for the best life enjoyment and life work. These are golden words from Ben-Sira, valid for all time: "Take heed to thyself, lest thou fail. The elements of life are water, bread, and a coat to one's back, and a dwelling to hide unseemliness. Better the poor man's life in his hut than faring luxuriously in others' houses... It is an ill life from house to house, and not to be able to open your mouth where you are sojourning." To do our own work or God's work well, we should aim at detachment, disembarrassment, freedom of spirit. - J.
I. THAT GOOD MEN ARE EXPOSED TO SERIOUS DANGER IN THE WAY OF SURETYSHIP. (Vers. 1-3.) Good men, as such. For it is they who are most likely to be in a position to grant the help which is desired, and who are most likely to be induced to do so. The danger is threefold.
1. The appeal is to kindness of heart. It is the young at starting, or it is the unfortunate, or it is those on whom the helpless are dependent, who supplicate our interposition; and it is difficult for the tender hearted to turn a deaf ear to their entreaty.
2. The peril is easily incurred. It was but the taking of the hand in the presence of two or three witnesses; it is but the signing of a name at the foot of a bond, and the thing is done.
3. The result is remote and uncertain. No evil may ever happen; if it should, it will fall some day in the distance.
II. THAT GODLY PRINCIPLE REQUIRES US TO PUT A STRONG CHECK ON INCLINATION.
1. However much our sympathetic feelings may be stirred, however great the pleasure of compliance, and however deep the pain of refusal, we must forbear, when we have not wherewith to meet the demand that may be made on us. To comply, under such conditions, is simple dishonesty; it is criminal; it is an essentially false action.
2. We should imperil the comfort of our own family. Our first duty is to the wife whom we have solemnly covenanted before God to cherish and care for, and to the children whom the Father has entrusted to our charge.
3. We should be encouraging a culpable spirit of unsound speculation.
4. We should be disregarding the general good. No minister can commend to a Christian community a brother whom he believes to be unfit for the post without sinning against Christ and his Church most seriously. No man can recommend an incompetent or unworthy neighbour or friend to a position of trust and influence without doing a wrong which, if it be not condemned in the Decalogue, will be heavily scored in the Divine account.
III. THAT IF WE FIND WE HAVE ERRED, WE MUST DO EVERY POSSIBLE THING TO GAIN DELIVERANCE. (Vers. 3-7.) There should be:
1. The utmost promptitude (ver. 4). When the blow may not fall for some time to come, there is special temptation to procrastinate until it is too late. Seek safety at once; let not the sun go down before the first step is taken.
2. Energy in action (ver. 5). We should seek to extricate ourselves and those who are dear to us with the vigour with which the roe escapes from the hunter, the bird from the fowler.
3. If necessary, with self-humiliation (ver. 3). We hate to "humble ourselves," but we ought to be ready to do this rather than allow trouble and ruin to hang over our home.
IV. THAT IF THIS URGENCY BE DUE TO TEMPORAL DANGERS, HOW MUCH MORE IMPERATIVE IS OUR DUTY TO GAIN DELIVERANCE FROM SPIRITUAL PERILS! We may well give "no sleep to our eyes, nor slumber to our eyelids," until the peril is passed of being called by the Divine Creditor to meet a debt when we "have nothing to pay." - C.
I. THE PICTURE OF INSECT INDUSTRY. The ant was viewed as the very picture of laboriousness in ancient as in modern times. It is interesting that the German word for "industrious" (emsig) seems derivable from amessi, "emmet, ant." The like may probably be traceable in some English dialects,
1. The industry of the ant has all the appearance of a virtue. For it seems unforced; there is no judge, superintendent, or onlooker, or taskmaster, to superintend its work. Contrast with the representations on various monuments of the taskmasters with whips superintending gangs of labourers.
2. It is provident industry. It lays up against the rainy day. The closer study of ant life by modern observers opens a world of marvel, and suggests other lines of thought. It is sufficient for didactic purposes to note the general principle; the external appearances of nature reveal moral analogies.
II. THE CONTRAST OF HUMAN SLOTH. (Vers. 9-11.)
1. The lazy man seems as if he would sleep forever (ver. 9).
2. He knows not when he has reposed enough (ver. 10). An ironical imitation of his langour, his lazy attitude. The arms ever crossed, instead of being opened and ready for toil. "When I begin to turn about," said the Duke of Wellington, "I turn out."
3. The result of sloth (ver. 11). Poverty surprises him like a robber, and want like an armed man. A striking picture of the seeming suddenness with which men may sink into destitution. But it is only seeming; it has been long really preparing.
III. MORAL ANALOGY AND APPLICATION. Sloth in all its forms is ruinous to body and soul. Mental inertness and vacuity is a common form, The mind must be aroused, interested, filled. Here is one of the great sources of drunkenness, because of depression. If you have no occupation, invent one. Goad your temper by hopes and fears, if it will not wake up without them. In religion "be not slothful." Work at the practical or theoretical side of it, whichever suits your capacity best. Work out your own salvation. Take it all for granted, and you will presently find that all has slipped away, and naught remains but an impoverished intellect, a stagnant will. - J.
I. THAT SOME MEN FIND THEMSELVES UNDER SPECIAL TEMPTATION TO SLOTH. This may be a matter of
(1) bodily infirmity, the misfortune of an exceptional physical constitution;
(2) mental disposition, inherited from others, and to a large extent deserving of pity rather than censure;
(3) moral character, the impress of a bad habit - a spiritual result which has to be blamed as much as to be deplored.
II. THAT IT IS TO BE REGARDED AS UNWORTHY OF CHRISTIAN MANHOOD.
1. It is rebuked by the humbler creation (vers. 6-8). That which the ant does instinctively, and without any intelligent guide or instructor, we ought to do, who are endowed with reason, and who have so many human teachers and friends to direct, admonish, and. prompt us; who have, moreover, the admonitions of a Divine Teacher and Friend to enlighten and quicken us.
2. It is contemptible in the sight of man, our brother. There is something more than a tone of strong remonstrance, there is a perceptible admixture of contempt in the address, "Thou sluggard" (ver. 6), and also in the raillery of the ninth and tenth verses, "How long wilt thou sleep!... Yet a little sleep," etc. The industrious man cannot look at the slothfulness of the sluggard, at the supineness of the careless, at the dilatoriness of the half-hearted, without irrepressible feelings of aversion and contempt; he is compelled to scorn them in his heart.
III. THAT IT MUST BE OVERCOME IN OUR OWN TEMPORAL INTERESTS. (Ver. 11.) Sloth soon ends in ruin. Bankruptcy waits on negligence. Temporal ruin comes:
1. Unexpectedly. "Poverty comes as one that travelleth." It has started a long time, it has traversed many a road, crossed many a valley, surmounted many a hill; but, though travelling long, it is only in sight during the last ten minutes of its journey. So ruin begins its course as soon as a man neglects his duties; it travels far and long, its form is hidden behind the hills, it is only just toward the last that its countenance is seen and recognized; then, before he expected it, Poverty stares him in the face, and grasps his hand with cruel clutch.
2. Irresistibly. "Want as an armed man." At last no measures can be taken. Friends are alienated, relatives are wearied, all good habits are gone, the courage which might have risen to the occasion is broken by continued sluggishness of spirit; the man is disarmed of every weapon, and is at the mercy of well armed Want. Indolence not only brings about ruinous circumstances, but it robs us of the spirit by which adversity might be met and mastered; it places us helpless at the feet of the strong. Let us, then, be up and doing; for while sloth is rebuked on every side, and leads down to inevitable ruin, on the other hand, diligence
(2) commands a genuine prosperity (see ch. 22:29);
(3) braces the character and imparts spiritual strength;
(4) places us in a position to show kindness to the unfortunate (Ephesians 4:28);
I. THE SPITEFUL MAN DEFINED GENERALLY. (Ver. 12.) He is "naughty," the old English word being expressive; otherwise "a thing of naught," a "slight man" (Shakespeare); in German heilloss, "unsound," "unworthy," and so worthless. Gather up the sense and force of these adjectives, and we get the idea comprehensively of badness, the sensuous counterpart of which is rottenness, corruption.
II. HIS CHARACTERISTICS. (Vers. 13, 14)
1. In mien and gesture and language. His mouth is twisted to a false expression, and utters false things. There is an obliquity and uncertainty in his glance (comp. Proverbs 10:10). He is full of shy tricks and hints - the thrust of the foot, nudges and signs with his fingers. "The shrug, the 'hum!' the 'ha!' those petty brands that calumny doth use" (Shakespeare).
2. In spirit perverse. It is a nature awry, inwardly deformed. Busily inventive, scheming mischief, breeding quarrels (comp. on Proverbs 3:29). It is a mind naturally active and curious, which, disabled from good, swings inevitably to the other extreme.
III. HIS DESTINY. An overthrow, sudden, utter, irremediable.
1. This is described constantly as the common doom of all kinds of wickedness.
2. The Bible makes sharp distinctions, and opposes characters in an absolute manner. Fine distinctions would run into the infinite. But we must make them in every particular case.
3. The doom ever stands in the relation of correspondence to the guilt. - J.
I. THAT IN SPEECH HE IS UTTERLY UNPRINCIPLED. "He walks with a froward mouth." He continually and remorselessly uses the language of falsehood, of profanity, of lewdness, of slander. From his mouth there constantly issues that which God hates to hear, and which is offensive and shameful in the estimation of the good and pure.
II. THAT IN PRACTICE HE HABITUALLY RESORTS TO LOW CUNNING. (Ver. 13.) He has ways of communicating with others only known to the initiated. He cannot afford to be frank and outspoken; he must have recourse to subtlety, to low tricks, to devices which will cover his thoughts from the eye of the upright. This is
(1) degrading to himself, and
(2) disgusting to others.
III. THAT IN HIS HEART HE IS POSITIVELY MALIGN. (Ver. 14.) He takes a demoniacal pleasure in doing evil. It is not only that he will consent to sacrifice the claims or injure the character of others if he cannot enrich himself without so doing; it is that he finds a horrible and malignant satisfaction in compassing their ruin; he "devises mischief continually; he sows discord." To the pure it is incomprehensible that men can positively delight in impurity; to the kind it seems impossible that men can enjoy cruelty, etc. But it is the last result of a sinful course that the "froward heart" scatters mischief on every hand for the sake of the evil thing itself; to him vice and misery are themselves his reward.
IV. THAT GOD WILL BRING DOWN ON HIS HEAD IRREMEDIABLE DISASTER. (Ver. 15.) The man thinks he can defy his Maker, but he is deceiving himself. God is not mocked; he that sows to the flesh shall reap corruption (Galatians 6:8). He has broken away from all Divine restraints; he has thrown off him the arresting hand of a merciful Redeemer, he has silenced the voice of a pleading spirit; but God is not altogether such as we are (Psalm 50:21). He will rebuke, and he will set our sins before our souls again. The hour will come, quite unexpectedly, when judgment will overtake him. It may be
(1) public indignation, and the stern rebuke of human society; or
(2) ruin in his temporal affairs, - his schemes break down and involve him in their fall, or some one of his victims turns against him; or
(3) sudden sickness and pain lay him prostrate on a bed from which he may never rise, and on which his iniquities may confront him; or
(4) death and eternity present themselves, and demand that he shall look them full in the face (see Proverbs 29:1). - C.
I. WHAT IS AN ABOMINATION? The word (as a verb) is of Roman or pagan origin, and denoted the feeling of abhorrence for what was ill-omened. In the moral sphere all evil conduct is like a bad omen, exciting dread and aversion, because boding calamity. In the direct language of the Bible, referring all things immediately to God, abominations are defined as "things that Jehovah hates, and that are an aversion to his soul" (ver. 16).
II. AS ENUMERATION OF THESE DIVINE AVERSIONS. The particular number is explained by the parallelism of Oriental poetry generally. It has no direct religious significance.
1. Proud eyes. Literally, lofty eyes. The grande supercilium, or haughty brow, of the Romans. The sensuous expression contains and implies in every case the inner mood. This Divine aversion for pride is deeply marked in the Bible and in ancient thought generally. Pride is an excess - the excess of a virtue of due self-valuation. Therefore it is a disturbing element in the moral world, or God's order. It tends to disjoint the social system.
2. A lying tongue. The liar is thus a solvent of society. It must break up were lying to become universal, and must decay so far as the vice of individuals becomes the custom of the multitude.
3. Hands of violence and injustice. The tyrant is a usurper of God's authority. He "plays such tricks... as angels weep at." The judicial murderer sets at naught the justice both of heaven and earth, the rights of God and of men.
4. The malicious, scheming heart. (See on ver. 14.) That quick "forge and working shop of thought" (Shakespeare) that we call the imagination may become a very devil's smithy, a manufactory of the newest implements of mischief, from the patterns of hell.
5. Feet that speed to mischief. All couriers of ill news, eager retailers of slander, all who cannot bear to be forestalled in the hurtful word, who are ambitious of the first deadly blow.
6. The "breather of lies. (Ver. 19.) The false witness, the lying informer; all who trade in falsehood, and breathe it as their atmosphere.
7. The mischief maker. The instigator of quarrels between brethren (see on ver. 14). All who partake of the leavened bread of malice, rather than of the pure, unfermented, and incorruptible bread of sincerity and truth.
1. Our aversions should be God's aversions.
2. The reasoning antipathy is the counterpart of improper sympathy.
3. Our love and our hate are liable to aberration if not governed by reason and religion.
4. Instinctive antipathy means only that we have found in another something that is opposed to our personal sense of well being; conscientious antipathy, that we have found that which is opposed to the order of God's world. - J.
I. ITS SEAT IS IN THE SOUL. The wise man speaks of the "proud look" or the "haughty eyes," but he specifies this as it is a most common manifestation of the evil which lies within. Its seat is in the soul, in the lurking thought, in the secret sentiment, in the nursed and nourished convictions, in the false idea. It is in the habit of the heart; it is embedded in the character.
II. IT IS MANIFOLD IN ITS MANIFESTATION. It is most often shown, as intimated, in the proud look, but it may make itself felt in
(1) the disdainful tone;
(2) the contemptuous silence or non-observance;
(3) the cutting sentence;
(4) the exclusive action.
III. IT SPRINGS FROM MANY SOURCES. It may arise from:
1. A consciousness of physical superiority - elegance of figure, beauty of face, muscular strength, etc.
2. Consciousness of mental acquisitions - intellectual force, knowledge, eloquence, etc.
3. Social prominence - rank, office, distinction.
4. Recollection of great services rendered.
IV. IT IS HATEFUL IN THE SIGHT OF GOD. This thing "doth the Lord hate." He hates it, for doubtless he sees in it a heinousness and enormity we do not perceive. But he may hate it because:
1. It is an essentially false thing. We give ourselves credit for that which is not due. "What have we that we have not received'?" The pedestal on which we stand is a false imagining.
2. It is an utterly unbecoming thing. Who are we, the sinful children of men, the body of whom is deserving of condemnation, that we should look down superciliously on others? In any human soul pride is unbecoming, unlovely.
3. It is a cruel thing. It wounds, and it wounds the most sensitive spirits worst. We place, by itself, as demanding particular reference, one evil in pride for which God condemns it, viz. -
V. IT SHUTS US OUT OF THE KINGDOM OF HIS GRACE. How can we possibly go in humility and faith to the redeeming Lord, our Saviour, while pride occupies the throne? The man in whom the proud spirit dwells stands afar from the salvation of God. "The Lord resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." - C.
Proverbs 12:22.) God hates "a lying tongue;" "Lying lips are abomination to the Lord." We must consider -
I. WHAT IS THE DECEITFULNESS WHICH GOD DETESTS. It is evident that the "lying tongue" and the "lying lips" are mentioned as the principal instrument of the soul in the sin which is rebuked. It is the sin itself which is the object of the Divine displeasure. That sin is deceitfulness; conveying false impressions to the mind of our neighbour, the wilful blinding of his eyes by untrue words or by false actions. This may be done by:
1. Downright falsehood - the most shameless and shocking of all ways.
2. Covert insinuation or innuendo - the most cowardly and despicable of all ways.
3. Prevarication, the utterance of a half-truth which is also half a lie - the most mischievous, because the most plausible and last detected, of all ways.
4. Acted untruth - one of the most common forms of falsehood, and perhaps as hurtful to the sinner as any, because it avoids apparent guilt, while it really is as culpable as most, if not as any, of these manifestations of deceit.
II. WHY IT IS SO ODIOUS TO THE RIGHTEOUS FATHER. What makes it "hateful," "abominable in his sight"?
1. It is inherently heinous. The soul has to make a very decided departure from rectitude to commit this sin. We may say of it, "Oh, 'tis foul! 'tis unnatural!" It is a "strange" thing in the view of the Holy One and the True. It is something which comes into direct and sharp collision with his Divine principles; which, in its own nature, is a painful, oppressive spectacle to his pure spirit. He loves and lives and desires truth - "truth in the inward parts;" and with the same intensity with which be loves truth, he must hate, with immeasurable abomination, every shape and form of falsehood.
2. It is ruinous to the soul that practises it. Nothing so surely leads down to spiritual destruction as this sin. It breaks down the walls and breaks up the very foundation of all character. For those who habitually decline from the truth, in word or deed, are constantly teaching themselves to consider that there is nothing sacred in truth at all; they are sliding down the incline at the foot of which is the sceptic's question, "What is truth?" A man who is false in language or in action is poisoning his soul by degrees; he is a spiritual suicide.
3. It is mischievous to society. "Putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour; for we are members one of another. Human society depends on truthful-Hess in its members for its prosperity, comfort, and almost for its very life. What if we constantly doubted one another's word? The men of truth and trustworthiness are the salt of society. The men of lying tongue are its pest and its peril. Our neighbours have a right to claim of us that we shall put away lying lips and shall speak the truth in love." God, who cares for the well being of this human world, hates to see his children weakening, wounding, endangering that world of man by falsehood and deceit.
III. WHAT GOD WILL DO WITH THOSE WHO ARE GUILTY. He will surely punish them. He does so
(1) by making them bear their penalty in the shape of spiritual demoralization;
(2) by bringing down upon them first the distrust and then the reprobation of their fellows;
(3) by excluding them firmly and finally from his own fellowship. He that does not "speak the truth in his heart" may not abide in his tabernacle here (Psalm 15:1); he that deserves to be denominated a liar will be banished from his presence hereafter (Revelation 22:15). - C.
I. MEN OF A PROUD HEART. (See above.)
II. MEN OF A FALSE SPIRIT. (See above.) III MEN THAT ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR OTHERS' DEATH. (Ver. 17.) Those whose "hands shed innocent blood" are strongly condemned of him. These include, not only
(1) men guilty of murder and manslaughter in the literal sense, but also
(2) those who are responsible for the death of the innocent through culpable carelessness (e.g. an indifferent and negligent judge or reckless captain), and also
(3) those who, by their heartlessness in family or social life, crush the spirit and shorten the life.
IV. MEN THAT PLOT MISCHIEF. "A heart that deviseth wicked imaginations" (ver. 18). These are they who use their inventive faculties, not for the good of their race, nor for the maintenance of their families, but for the base and shameful purpose of bringing some of their fellows into distress, if not into ruin; they contrive their overthrow only to enjoy their discomfiture.
V. CRUEL EXECUTIONERS or WRATH. "Those whose feet are swift in running to mischief" (ver. 18); these are they who take a savage delight in being the instruments of punishment - the gaoler, the soldier, the executioner, who gloat over their work of severity or blood.
VI. FALSE WITNESSES. (Ver. 19.) One of the most solemn and responsible positions a man can occupy is the witness box; he stands there, invoking the dread Name of the Eternal himself to cause justice to be done. If then he perjures himself, and "speaketh lies" when actually under oath, he defies his Maker, perverts justice, wrongs the innocent or releases the guilty, is disloyal to his country, outrages his own conscience. Well may he be among those whom God especially condemns.
VII. MEN THAT DISTURB HARMONY. "He that soweth discord among brethren" (ver. 19). "Blessed are the peacemakers," said the Master. "Cursed are the mischiefmakers," says the text. If we do not actively promote peace and good will, surely we need not be the abettors of strife. There are two degrees of guilt here: there is the mischief making which is due to culpable thoughtlessness, repeating words which should have been allowed to fall to the ground, unintentional but decided misrepresentation, etc.; and there is the darker wrong, to which a heavier penalty is due, deliberate and wanton disturbance of previous harmony. This is
(1) bad in the social circle,
(2) worse in the home,
(3) worst in the Church of Christ.
Let it be remembered that:
1. God hates these things; they are utterly abhorrent to him. He cannot regard them without Divine repugnance.
2. God is "much displeased" with those who do them; his holy and awful wrath must extend to those who "do such things."
3. God will surely punish those who impenitently persist in them (Romans 2:2-9). - C.
II. EXHORTATION TO MINDFULNESS OF EARLY LESSONS. (Ver. 21; see on Proverbs 2:3.) It is in oblivious moments that we sin. We may forget much that we have learned, having outgrown its need. We can never outgrow the simple, early lessons of piety. The chain that links our days each to each in moral progress is the memory of those lessons.
III. VITAL VIRTUE IN THOSE REMEMBERED LESSONS. They have a true vis vitalis. They guide in action, protect in passive hours (see on Proverbs 3:23, 24). In wakeful hours of the night they seem to talk to the heart, as it "holds communion with the past." "Spirits from high hover o'er us, and comfort sure they bring." The truth becomes as a guardian angel. There is a junction of light and life in religion (ver. 23). What is seen in the intelligence as true translates itself into health in the habits.
IV. THEY ARE SPECIALLY PRESERVATIVE AGAINST THE WICKED WOMAN AND HER WILES. (Ver. 24; see on Proverbs 2:16; Proverbs 5:20.) Nothing is said directly of the reflex effect of vice upon the mind. It is always the danger externally considered that is pointed out. But this is due to the objective presentative form of the biblical thought and speech. We must learn to render the objective into the subjective form, to note how every outward drama has its reflex in the spirit itself; and thus we draw a double benefit from Bible lore. The pictures must be taken first in their proper meaning, then be converted into figures of the inner life. - J.
I. THAT MAN LIES OPEN TO STRONG AND SAD TEMPTATIONS. The reference of the text is to the sin of sensuality; the wise man is warning against the wiles of "the evil woman," "the strange woman" (ver. 24). This sin of sensuality may consist in irregularities, or in things decidedly forbidden, or in gross and shameful violations of law and decency; it may be secret and hidden from every eye, or it may be unblushing and may flaunt itself before high heaven. The words of the text may, in part, apply to other sins; e.g. to intemperance, and also to gambling. To all of these the strong passions of youth often urge the soul; it finds itself drawn or driven by a powerful impulse which it is difficult to overcome. But the truth must be faced -
II. THAT VICE LEADS DOWN BY A SURE AND SHORT ROAD TO THE WORST INFLICTIONS. It leads to:
1. Self-reproach. The sinner "shall not be innocent" (ver. 29), and will carry the miserable consciousness of guilt with him into every place.
2. Corruption of character - such a one "lacketh heart" (marginal reading), "destroyeth his own soul" (ver. 32); losing all self-respect, his character is as a substance that is smitten, cracked through, ready to fall to pieces, worthless; "a wound" (ver. 33), a deep wound, it has gotten.
3. Shame. Men do not despise a thief who steals to allay the gnawing pangs of hunger; they may compel him to restore sevenfold, but they pity him as much as they despise him (vers. 30, 31). But the adulterer, or the confirmed drunkard, or the man who is impoverishing his family to gratify his lust for gambling, him men do despise in their hearts; they dishonour him in their soul, they cry "shame" upon him (ver. 33).
4. Impoverishment. Loss of money, of occupation, beggary, the humiliation of borrowing, pledging, etc. (ver. 26).
5. Penalty from those who have been wronged (vers. 34, 35). Those who outrage the honour of their feller's may expect the bitterest revenge. To steal the love of a wife from her husband, or of a husband from his wife, is to make one enemy whose wrath nothing will appease. It is an evil thing, even if it be not a dangerous thing, to go through life bearing the malice, exposed to the intense and inextinguishable hatred of a human soul.
III. THAT THERE IS ONE PATH OF SAFETY. It is that which is suggested in vers. 27, 28, "Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?" etc. The way to escape the evil is not to touch it, to steer clear of it altogether, to keep well out of harm's way - to avoid the house and company of the flippant woman, to leave the sparkling cup untasted, to refuse to stake a farthing in any kind, of lottery whatever. This is the only secure ground to take. Once begin to talk with the seductive woman, or to taste the pleasure of exhilaration from intoxicants, or to enjoy the sweets of appropriating money gained by nothing but a guess, and who shall say what the end. will be? Do not touch the fire, and you will not be burnt.
IV. THAT THE YOUNG SHOULD BEAR THE GUIDING LAMP OF TRUTH ABOUT THEM ALONG THE WHOLE PATH OF LIFE. (Vers. 20-23.) In order to sustain the resolution to keep away from the destroying fires, consult the Word of God.
1. Have it in continual remembrance (ver. 21).
2. Illustrate it in every way open (ver. 20).
3. Find it a steady light, accompanying the steps everywhere (vers. 22, 23). - C.
I. IN ACTION, OUR GUIDE. "When thou goest, it shall lead thee." We go "front home," "into business," "to sea," "abroad," etc. In all these goings forth we want that which will lead us in the fight and the wise way - the way of truth, purity, righteousness, happiness. The Word of the heavenly Father will supply this.
II. IN DANGER, OUR DEFENCE. "When thou sleepest, it shall keep thee." Not. only when we are "asleep" on our couch are we in danger from those who might wish to injure us, but when we are unconscious of the spiritual dangers by which we are surrounded; when in a state of "innocence," of being uninitiated into the secrets of sin; when we are not alive to duty and opportunity as we should be; - then the Word of God will be a fence, a security. Following it, coming to it to learn God's will, we shall know which way to take, what courses to avoid, how to revive and to be reanimated with holy energy and zeal.
III. IN LONELINESS, OUR COMPANION. "When we awake," when we find ourselves with our faculties all in force, and no one to hold fellowship with us, then the Word of God will "talk with us." It will speak to us of God our Father, of the supreme value of our spiritual nature, of the path of life, of the kingdom of Christ and the salvation in him, of the heavenly home. "Lamp of our feet, whereby we trace," etc. (ver. 23). - C.
odium of the sin is clearly discernible, and the motives against it are the highest that can be known.
I. SIN SPRINGS FROM THE ROOT OF DESIRE. (Ver. 25.) This is the general law (James 1:14, 15). Hence the last command of the Decalogue (Exodus 20:17; Matthew 5:28). The objects of desire may be good in themselves, but not lawful for our possession, as e.g. anything that belongs to our neighbour. Or the object may only seem to be good in itself, and its possession may be both unlawful and pernicious. This is the case with the adulteress. Her beauty is a deceitful show. It is a symbol with no moral worth behind it. The beauty, the "twinkling eye," are only sensuous charms. We must not speak of desire abstractly as if it were wrong, but of the indiscriminating desire, which confounds the lawful with the unlawful, the real with the unreal.
II. ADULTEROUS DESIRE BOTH UNLAWFUL AND PERNICIOUS,
1. The extravagance and avarice of the adulteress. (Ver. 26.) This is a commonplace of observation. Excess in one passion affects the whole moral equilibrium, and she who will lavish away her honour will be reckless of other waste.
2. She is a spendthrift of her lover's life. The Hebrew designates the soul or life as dear, or costly. After making havoc of his possessions, she preys upon his life, more precious than all.
3. The deadly certainty of those results of such liaisons. (Vers. 27-29.) By two impassioned questions the teacher conveys the most emphatic denial of what they suggest.
4. The further certainty of penal consequences on detection. Conveyed by means of an analogy (vers. 30, 31). The act of the thief who steals to quiet his starving stomach is not overlooked. If apprehended, he is made to restore sevenfold. The Mosaic Law says four or fivefold (Exodus 21:36; Exodus 22:1, sqq.; cf. Luke 19:8). The "sevenfold" merely expresses a round sum generally; the thief might have to buy off his exemption from legal prosecution with all he had. Much less, then, can the graver crime of adultery escape punishment, if detected. And hence the senselessness and suicidal conduct of the lover (ver. 32).
5. Other risks of detection. Castigation and ignominy at the hands of the outraged husband (ver. 33). Exposure to all the fury of excited jealousy, which is unsparing, fiercely vindictive, insatiable, unappeasable (vers. 34, 35).
1. The lower motive - fear of consequences - is the most powerful deterrent from crime.
2. But the higher motives, derived from the sense of what crime is in itself and in relation to the doer, are needed when the other is not acting.
3. It is not being found out that makes the evil evil, - that is an accident; the essence of the clime is in the wrong done to the soul. - J.