A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.
I. It is a very hard thing to live through a month without being unkind or angry. Calm and sweet tempers are rare; and perhaps we may say, without disparaging their value or their beauty, that it is not to these to which we naturally look for the most conspicuous services in the cause of God. Their province is to heal, to calm, to sweeten life; but perhaps it is from more fiery—yes, and more turbulent natures, that we must expect the initiative in works of good.
II. "A soft answer turneth away wrath." Some provocation is presupposed; some one has, or fancies he has, a grievance. Such grievances must arise in our common life. In this sense, "it must be that offences come." What an opening there is here for our putting in practice Solomon's wise and truly Christian proverb: "A soft answer turneth away wrath"!
III. If there be such happiness in a soft answer, how is it that it is so hard to give it? There is one great obstacle to which all others may be reduced—the obstacle of pride. When harsh words are addressed to us which we feel to be unmerited, we cannot bring ourselves to forego the delight of a successful retort, still less can we bear to admit that any part of the wrong is of our doing. Pride disguises itself very cunningly, so that even a high-minded Christian is misled by its craft.
IV. Remember the blessing pronounced on the peacemakers. No man ever repented the endeavour to rekindle "quietness, peace, and love" among friends who ought never to have been parted.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, 2nd series, p. 163.
References: Proverbs 15:1.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 424. Proverbs 15:1-6.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 20. Pr 15:3. 11.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 9. Proverbs 15:4.—W. Gladden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxvii., p. 132. Proverbs 15:6.—T. Wallace, Ibid., vol. xi., p. 174; H. J. Wilmot Buxton, Literary Churchman Sermons, p. 153. Proverbs 15:7-12.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 29. Proverbs 15:11.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iv., No. 177. Proverbs 15:13.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 30. Proverbs 15:13-20.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 40. Proverbs 15:14, Proverbs 15:31.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 37. Proverbs 15:16, Proverbs 15:17.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xi., p. 152. Proverbs 15:19.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Note19 Genesis to Proverbs, p. 172.
Proverbs 15:20I. Consider in what this wisdom consists. Wisdom in the Proverbs does not mean simply intellectual greatness, or intellectual acquirements; a man may be very learned and clever, yet be quite destitute of that excellent wisdom of which Solomon speaks. Wisdom means goodness; it means striving to discover what is God's will as regards the conduct of our lives, and acting upon it when discovered. It means keeping God's commandments and loving and fearing Him, and doing unto all men as we would they should do unto us.
II. Consider how a wise son will treat his parents. (1) A wise son honours and respects his parents no less in their absence than in their presence. For him their wish is law, whether they know at the time, whether they will ever know, that he is fulfilling it or not. (2) The honour and respect which we owe our parents will be shown, not only in our acts, but in our words, when we speak or write to them, and our very looks when we are with them. He that refuses a proper reverence to age, though he may fancy he is asserting his superiority, is only proving in reality his own littleness. (3) A wise son is not content with honouring his parents, he also loves them very dearly, and does his best in absence to keep up that warmth of affection which was realised when he was with them.
III. These things are an allegory. Our earthly relations are but a figure of our heavenly relations. The tenderness, the loving care, the joyful self-sacrifice of our earthly parents, are meant to assure us of, and to aid us in believing in, the exceeding great love of our heavenly Father towards us.
E. H. Bradby, Sermons at Haileybury, p. 265.
Proverbs 15:23I. It is of importance to take notice of that habit which is opposed to the duty for which the text contends; I mean the habit of reserve. It would be a grievous mistake to suppose that this habit is wholly a bad one. But the important point to notice is, that the reaction against the counterfeit of devotion is likely to rob us of what was intended by God to be a true aid to devotion. How often have we seen persons of the greatest ability, and the purest hearts, who yet dared not produce what was in them, because they saw other persons to be insincerely and offensively doing the same. This reserve is incomparably superior to a frivolous superficial interchange of religious experiences; but it is far inferior to Christian simplicity. It does not represent the spirit of Paul or John, or of great reformers, or of the most heroic characters. It certainly does not represent the mind of Christ.
II. "A word spoken in due season, how good is it!" (1) There is the word of warning; (2) the word of encouragement; (3) the word of sympathy; (4) the word of congratulation; (5) the word of explanation and apology. To be in any sense "a son of consolation," to be able to make life a little sweeter for others, good a little easier, evil a little more hated and despised, this would be a high privilege for the oldest as well as the youngest among us. Words can do much in this Christian work. Think of the blessing involved in these words of Isaiah, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary." If God has not given to each of us the tongue of the learned, He has given to each, if we will but use it, the tongue of truth, of kindness, of purity, of sympathy. There are many, who are "weary" of other sounds, who would gladly listen to sounds like these.
H. M. Butler, Harrow Sermons, p. 217.
References: Proverbs 15:23.—H. J. Wilmot Buxton, The Children's Bread, pp. 49, 56. Proverbs 15:33.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 10; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 45; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 96. Proverbs 16:1-3.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 65.
The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness.
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good.
A wholesome tongue is a tree of life: but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.
A fool despiseth his father's instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent.
In the house of the righteous is much treasure: but in the revenues of the wicked is trouble.
The lips of the wise disperse knowledge: but the heart of the foolish doeth not so.
The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the LORD: but the prayer of the upright is his delight.
The way of the wicked is an abomination unto the LORD: but he loveth him that followeth after righteousness.
Correction is grievous unto him that forsaketh the way: and he that hateth reproof shall die.
Hell and destruction are before the LORD: how much more then the hearts of the children of men?
A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him: neither will he go unto the wise.
A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance: but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.
The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth of fools feedeth on foolishness.
All the days of the afflicted are evil: but he that is of a merry heart hath a continual feast.
Better is little with the fear of the LORD than great treasure and trouble therewith.
Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.
A wrathful man stirreth up strife: but he that is slow to anger appeaseth strife.
The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain.
A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish man despiseth his mother.
Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom: but a man of understanding walketh uprightly.
Without counsel purposes are disappointed: but in the multitude of counsellers they are established.
A man hath joy by the answer of his mouth: and a word spoken in due season, how good is it!
The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath.
The LORD will destroy the house of the proud: but he will establish the border of the widow.
The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the LORD: but the words of the pure are pleasant words.
He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house; but he that hateth gifts shall live.
The heart of the righteous studieth to answer: but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things.
The LORD is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.
The light of the eyes rejoiceth the heart: and a good report maketh the bones fat.
The ear that heareth the reproof of life abideth among the wise.
He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul: but he that heareth reproof getteth understanding.
The fear of the LORD is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.