Every wise woman buildeth her house: but the foolish plucketh it down with her hands.
If you ask what God and the word of God mean by wisdom and folly, the answer will embrace three particulars: on the side of wisdom, these—forethought, earnestness, perseverance; on the side of folly, in like manner, these—improvidence, irresolution, unsteadiness. Corresponding to these three qualities of the builder are the three conditions of building: (1) To build you must have a plan; (2) building requires toil; (3) The proof of the building is growth. What now, is the house?
I. There is the house of the mind. It is the bounden duty of each one to build on some plan, and to begin early. If a plan is the first condition of building, toil, honest toil, is the second; and perseverance, brave and steadfast, is the third, and the most decisive.
II. The house of the life. Every one of us has a life—the most weighty word, the most mysterious possession, the most responsible charge. It is a matter almost of life and death to make choice, amongst many possibilities, of the work which is to fill our lifetime. Wisdom will forecast, even in these things, the plan of her future.
III. We should have missed the very point of the text if we did not see, in the house spoken of, the house of the everlasting hope. Have you so much as settled the plan of this house of the, hope? What is your idea of the thing to be built? Let us not trifle with the house of the great hope. Let us lay deep the foundation, than which no man can really lay any other. Let us seize earnestly, let us hold tenaciously, any fragment of Divine truth which conscience attests and the soul can echo; let us piece each to each, with a new realisation until the whole stands out at last in its breadth and in its satisfaction; at the end of all, God Himself shall consciously enter, and fill the house of our soul's hope with the glorious illumination of His presence.
C. J. Vaughan, Counsels to Young Students, p. 31.
References: Proverbs 14:1-6.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 368. Proverbs 14:6.--W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 367. Proverbs 14:7.—Ibid., p. 373. Proverbs 14:7-12.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 378.
Proverbs 14:9I. The various ways in which men make a mock at sin may be summed up under two heads: by their words, and by their actions. We show our scorn and contempt of a thing in our words, when we speak carelessly of it, or laugh at it, or turn it into ridicule. We show it in our actions, when we live in such a manner as proves that we have no value or regard for it. Even of the first kind of mockery, the mockery of words, few are wholly innocent; of the last kind of mockery, the mockery of deeds, all have been more or less guilty.
II. The guilt of such mockery is too plain; the folly is the folly of playing with death. It is the folly of provoking God to cut us off in the midst of our calculating wickedness. Above all is such conduct folly, because we are disabling our hearts and souls more and more for the work of repentance, without which we know and believe we can have no part in the promises of the Gospel. For nothing is more certain than that the longer a man persists in sin the harder it is to leave it off. His heart is deadened; his conscience is blunted; his soul closes itself by little and little against the impulses of the Holy Spirit.
III. If the end of the foolish mockers is so certain and terrible, let us seek wisdom,—that true wisdom which cometh from above, and which is first pure, then peaceable, full of mercy and gentleness, and of all good works. All who lack wisdom must ask it of God; no one had ever enough of it; no one has enough of it to learn its value without wishing for more.
A. W. Hare, The Alton Sermons, p. 215.
I. It is requisite that we learn of God what is the evil of sin— making His testimony in this, as in all other matters, the subject of faith. (1) The circumstance of our being an interested party incapacitates us for forming a correct judgment of the evil. (2) We are incapacitated for giving judgment in consequence of our moral sense being blunted by the continual presentation of sin before our eyes, in the conduct of others. (3) We are incompetent to form a sufficient judgment on the evil of sin, in consequence of our inability to see all its mischievous effects.
II. Consider the judgment of God on sin. (1) In His word He expresses moral disapprobation of it. (2) He threatens to avenge sin with death, spiritual and eternal. (3) He has avenged, and continues to avenge, the transgression of His law, as an earnest of His executing to the full its penalty in the world to come. (4) The death of Christ was necessary for the pardon of sin. (5) He visits with afflictions the sins even of those who have been judicially reconciled to His government and adopted into His family, through the mediation of His Son.
III. The magnitude of sin may be argued from a consideration of the dignity of Him against whom it is committed. Sin offers insult and injury to all the attributes and perfections of the Deity. (1) It denies and violates the rights of His sovereignty as the Creator. (2) It insults His goodness. (3) It insults His power. (4) It insults His wisdom, His truth, and His holiness.
W. Anderson, Discourses, p. 223.
There are different ways in which men make a mock at sin. They may mock at sin in others, or they may mock at sin in themselves.
I. A man sees another doing what he knows to be wrong, and he makes a jest of it. He is finding amusement in that which might make angels weep, and which cost the Son of God His life. No one can thus make a mock at sin without thinking very lightly of the evil of sin. The heart grows hard and callous. And the next thing is to commit the sin which we have laughed at in others.
II. Another way of "mocking at sin" consists in making light of it in ourselves. It is very fearful to think how soon we come to this pass, notwithstanding all our better purposes, and all warnings to the contrary. How many men can look back upon a time when sins that they have since committed greedily seemed almost impossible to them. They forgot the guide of their youth, they kept not the covenant of their God. They shut their ears to God's word, and their eyes to His judgments; they walked greedily in the way of ungodliness, they were "fools who made a mock at sin."
III. Observe what a verdict Solomon pronounces on persons who make a mock at sin; he calls them "fools." None but fools could be guilty of such amazing stupidity. Consider: (1) what sin is in its nature. It is the will of the creature set against the will of the Creator. (2) Consider the consequences of sin. See what an abomination sin is in God's sight by the visible punishment which He has attached to it. (3) Look at the eternal consequences of sin. Shall we make a mock at that against which the wrath of Almighty God is so fearfully declared? (4) If we would truly see what sin is, we must see it in the light of redemption. Who can measure the guilt and the power of that sin from which we could only be redeemed by the sacrifice of the Son of God? See your folly in the light of your Redeemer's tears, your Redeemer's anguish, your Redeemer's Cross; and confess as you look on His marvellous sacrifice that "fools" only can "make a mock at sin."
J. J. S. Perowne, Sermons, p. 31.
References: Proverbs 14:9.—C. Wordsworth, Old Testament Outlines, p. 157. Proverbs 14:10.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 375.
Proverbs 14:12I. There are ways that lead to death. Each of us has come into contact with beings whom excesses have led to a premature end; others still occupy a place in the world, but their ruined health, their weakened faculties, show that, to use the words of St. Paul, "they are dead while living." The death in question here is the state of a soul condemned by Him who sees the most hidden recesses of our being, and whose judgment none can alter; it is the condition of a creature who has willingly separated itself from God.
II. Many a way that leads to perdition may seem to us to be right. Nothing is better calculated to disturb the superficial optimism in which so many of our fellow-men find a delusive security than the firm conviction of this fact. In their opinion, that a man may be saved, he must be sincere; in other words, the way he follows must seem to him to be right. (1) In the order of things temporal it is evident that sincerity in ignorance or error has never saved anyone from the often terrible consequences which such ignorance or error may entail. Societies are based upon this maxim: "No one is supposed to be ignorant of the law." Moreover, this axiom is graven in nature itself. Nature strikes those who violate its laws, and never takes into consideration their state of ignorance or good faith. (2) God is not an inexorable fatum. God takes into account the inward condition of each being, his ignorance, his involuntary errors. Therefore, if any should ask whether a man who is mistaken shall be saved or not if he is absolutely sincere, we shall answer that we are inclined to believe it; and that a way cannot lead to eternal death the man who has entered upon it believing it to be right and true. But this conclusion should reassure no one, for the point in question is precisely to discover if we are indeed absolutely sincere in the choice we make; now, the more I study men, the more I study myself, the more clearly do I perceive that nothing is more uncommon than this sincerity of which we speak so much, and of which so many people make a merit. None are entitled to say, "This way seems right to me, therefore I can enter upon it without fear." We must first of all examine whether we do not call right that which is simply pleasing to us, that which attracts us and flatters our secret instincts.
III. In every human life there are solemn hours when divergent paths open before us. On the choice we then make depends our entire future. When we find ourselves before an opening path, we must stop, measure it at a glance, and never enter it unless we may do so with the peace of a conscience that feels it is accomplishing the will of God.
E. Bersier, Sermons, 2nd series, p. 399.
Among the indications that we are not what we once were, there is, perhaps, none more decisive in its testimony than the depravation of the natural conscience. It is in consequence of this paralysis of the conscience that such an assertion as that in the text points to a phenomenon of constant occurrence among men.
I. The text does not say these apparently right ways are themselves the ways of death, but that they end in the ways of death.
II. The "ways" are mainly of two kinds—errors in practice and errors in doctrine; the former by far the most abundant, but the latter by no means so rare as to bear passing over in considering the subject. (1) The first practical error is that of a life not led under the direct influence of religion. I speak of the man who, however many virtues he may possess, however upright he may be in the duties of life, however carefully he may attend to the outward duties of religion, does not receive it into his heart nor act on its considerations as a motive. This is a way of life which usually seems right unto a man. He wins esteem from without, and has no accusing conscience within. But he is not a religious man. He has not the fear of God before his eyes. This approved way must end in the way of death. Improbable as it may seem that the correct liver, the blameless and upright man, should perish at last, it is but a necessary consequence from his having put by and rejected the only remedy which God has provided for the universal taint of our nature, by which taint, if not purged out, he must, as well as the rest of the unrenewed and ungodly, be ruined in the end. (2) Take the case of those who, believing from the heart and living in the main as in God's sight, are yet notoriously and confessedly wanting in some important requisite of the Gospel. These ways seem right unto those who are following them. (3) Errors of doctrine. There is nothing in life for which we are so deeply and solemnly accountable, as the formation of our belief. It is the compass which guides our way, which if it vary ever so little from truth, is sure to cause a fatal divergence in the end. Whether we consider practice or belief, each man's deeming is not each man's law; every man's deeming may be wrong, and we can only find that which is right by each one of us believing and serving God, as He has revealed Himself to us in Christ.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 50.
I. There is a theory very much in fashion, that if a man acts according to his convictions, he cannot be brought into condemnation. The principle here involved is simply this, that a man's own ideas are his own standard, that he is a law unto himself, that if he does violence to his own views of truth and error, good and evil, he is reprehensible, but that if he be fully convinced in his own mind that is at once a bar to his condemnation. The text offers a strong protest against this theory, "There is a way that seemeth right unto a man;" but, notwithstanding his sincerity, notwithstanding his convictions, the end thereof are the ways of death.
II. If we shall be judged not only as to whether we have acted by the guidance of conscience, but also whether our conscience was a right conscience; there flows from this the doctrine that conscience itself is a thing we are bound to train, and cherish, and educate, in order that it may never mislead us; a man is, in short, responsible for his conscience. It is a mysterious law of our spiritual nature that we have to mould and train our own proper guide. God has given conscience for our direction, but it remains with ourselves to secure that we be directed by it aright.
Bishop Woodford, Sermons in Various Churches, p. 83.
References: Proverbs 14:12.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 378; J. Thain Davidson, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 369. Proverbs 14:13-24.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 387.
Proverbs 14:14I. The good man's satisfaction arises from the circumstance that he is regulated in his character and conduct by a fixed and stable thing, by principle. In contemplating anything to be done, in all his movements, in all moral questions, his object is to do what is right. In the midst of his activity, his satisfaction arises from himself, from the consciousness that he acts upon principle and in the sight of God; and therefore, if he should fail, looking back upon his failure, reflecting upon his error, he has still a satisfaction which the world can neither confer nor destroy.
II. The sentiment may be illustrated by the contrast which is often exhibited between the good man and the wicked, when the latter is called upon to eat the fruit of his own ways. The good man is not only preserved from pain and wretchedness, but is placed in such circumstances, the result of a wise and holy course of conduct, as to be able to help others; and thus he enjoys the highest satisfaction, not of being delivered, but of being a deliverer; enjoys something of the satisfaction of God Himself, who giveth to all and receiveth from none.
III. The satisfaction of the good man arises from his being preserved from the sting and reproach of an evil conscience. He has nothing that he ardently wishes to forget, or nothing that he dare not remember, because he believes that God has forgotten and blotted it out. The darkness and the light are both alike to him. "The good man is satisfied from himself."
IV. The last idea connected with this subject is that of the positive and increasing pleasure, the growing delight of the good man's soul. I refer to that joyous healthiness of soul which arises from a life of purity, devotion, and goodness; that calm yet irrepressible feeling of delight, which daily and hourly, continually and always, fills the heart. It is not positive reflection upon doing, it is not thinking about character or actions, but the perpetual rising up in the soul of an inexpressible satisfaction. This is the way in which a good man is "satisfied from himself."
T. Binney, Penny Pulpit, No. 1389.
Here, in a short text, are three paradoxes.
I. A good man. As the royal are related to royalty, and the noble to nobility, so are the good to the godly, and they are related to God. Goodness is, therefore, an internal quality; thus the good man is whole within, sound within; you may know a good man by several marks, but they all throw you back on the internalism of his character. Hence his satisfaction; all health is within.
II. Here is a man satisfied. Contentment is the science of thankfulness. It is Christ's fulness that gives the crown of contentment.
III. The source of the satisfaction—from himself. (1) He is satisfied with the object and foundation of his faith. (2) In the evidences of his religion, a good man shall be satisfied from himself. (3) In the ordinances of the sanctuary a good man shall be satisfied from himself. (4) In the law of life a good man is satisfied from himself. (5) In the apportionment and destiny of the world a good man is satisfied from himself.
E. Paxton Hood, Sermons, p. 400.
References: Proverbs 14:14.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxi., No. 1235; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st scries, p. 384; W. G. Horder, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvi., p. 100. Proverbs 14:15.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 388. Proverbs 14:16.—Ibid., p. 392.
Proverbs 14:23I. In the text Solomon gives us a lesson which holds good through all matters of life. That it is a short-sighted mistake to avoid taking trouble; for God has so ordered the world that industry will always repay itself. God has set thee thy work, then fulfil it. Fill it full. Throw thy whole heart and soul into it. Do it carefully, accurately, completely. It will be better for thee and for thy children after thee. All neglect, carelessness, slurring over work, is a sin—a sin against God, who has called us to our work; a sin against our country and our neighbours, who ought to profit by our work; and a sin against ourselves also, for we ought to be made wiser and better men by our work.
II. Work, hard work, is a blessing to the soul and character of the man who works. Being forced to work and forced to do your best will breed in you temperance and self-control, diligence and strength of will, cheerfulness and content, and a hundred virtues which the idle man will never know. If you wish to see how noble a calling work is, consider God Himself, who although He is perfect does not need, as we do, the training which comes by work, yet works for ever with and through His Son, Jesus Christ, who said, "My Father worketh hitherto, and I work." God. works, because, though He needs nothing, all things need Him. You are called to copy God, each in his station, and to be fellow-workers with God for the good of each other and yourselves; called to work because you are made in God's image, and redeemed to be the children of God.
C. Kingsley, Town and Country Sermons, p. 269.
References: Proverbs 14:24.—Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 252. Proverbs 14:25.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 396. Proverbs 14:25-31.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 1.
Proverbs 14:26I. Real godliness involves confidence towards God. The reason is that reconciliation with God is complete. In the case of those who really fear the Lord there springs up between them and God a filial friendship.
II. Real godliness produces confidence towards men.
III. The confidence which real godliness awakens is adapted to all circumstances. In danger it becomes boldness; in duty and work it is conscious power.
IV. It is a confidence which abides to the end.
S. Martin, Westminster Chapel Pulpit, 2nd series, No. 11.
References: Proverbs 14:26.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxii., No. 1290; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 44; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 401. Proverbs 14:30.—Ibid., p. 406.
Proverbs 14:31I. Notice some suggestions as to the practice of mercy to the poor. We must not confine our aim either to the sins of the soul on the one hand, or to the sufferings of the body on the other.
II. Every one must do his part in the great work of helping those who cannot help themselves.
III. Mercy to the poor must be a law operating from within, and not a system adopted from without.
IV. There must be regulating wisdom as well as motive power.
V. Whatever share you may be able to take in the wholesale benevolence of organised societies, you should also carry on a retail business by personal contact with the sufferers.
W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 410.
References: Proverbs 14:32.—J. Owen, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. vii., p. 49; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 417; Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 198; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 179. Proverbs 14:32-35.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 11. Proverbs 14:34.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 262; Bishop Temple, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 49.
He that walketh in his uprightness feareth the LORD: but he that is perverse in his ways despiseth him.
In the mouth of the foolish is a rod of pride: but the lips of the wise shall preserve them.
Where no oxen are, the crib is clean: but much increase is by the strength of the ox.
A faithful witness will not lie: but a false witness will utter lies.
A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not: but knowledge is easy unto him that understandeth.
Go from the presence of a foolish man, when thou perceivest not in him the lips of knowledge.
The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.
The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.
The house of the wicked shall be overthrown: but the tabernacle of the upright shall flourish.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
The backslider in heart shall be filled with his own ways: and a good man shall be satisfied from himself.
The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.
A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rageth, and is confident.
He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly: and a man of wicked devices is hated.
The simple inherit folly: but the prudent are crowned with knowledge.
The evil bow before the good; and the wicked at the gates of the righteous.
The poor is hated even of his own neighbour: but the rich hath many friends.
He that despiseth his neighbour sinneth: but he that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he.
Do they not err that devise evil? but mercy and truth shall be to them that devise good.
In all labour there is profit: but the talk of the lips tendeth only to penury.
The crown of the wise is their riches: but the foolishness of fools is folly.
A true witness delivereth souls: but a deceitful witness speaketh lies.
In the fear of the LORD is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.
The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death.
In the multitude of people is the king's honour: but in the want of people is the destruction of the prince.
He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly.
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
He that oppresseth the poor reproacheth his Maker: but he that honoureth him hath mercy on the poor.
The wicked is driven away in his wickedness: but the righteous hath hope in his death.
Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding: but that which is in the midst of fools is made known.
Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people.
The king's favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.