The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD.
Whether it be from the condition in which man is placed in this world, closely surrounded on all sides by what is visible and tangible, or because our understandings have been darkened in consequence of the fall, it is certain that we experience the greatest difficulty in forming any notion of things spiritual. The finite intellect sinks exhausted by the vain endeavour to picture to itself the infinite. Who can "by searching find out God"?
I. Now the natural consequence of this aversion and incapacity of our nature for spiritual ideas is a strong tendency to materialism in religion. And as the spirituality of the Divine nature is the truth most difficult for us to conceive, so it is the one most liable to be lost sight of, or corrupted. We are always prone to form gross and material conceptions of God, to think of Him as "altogether such an one as ourselves." The practical results of this principle are always the same; a low and carnal morality always follows, like a dark shadow, a low and carnal creed.
II. There is a class of errors resulting from this principle, against which we have all need to be on our guard—I mean false views of the nature of God's law and of the principle upon which His sentence is awarded. The true answer to all such errors, and the only solution of the difficulty which has caused them, lies in the statement of the truth that the controversy between God and man is about spiritual things, and that our position respecting Him is to be decided by the aspect which our spirits may wear in His eyes, or, as our text expresses it, that "the Lord weigheth the spirits."
III. What is the sin of which a spirit can be guilty against God? Clearly, it cannot be any of these gross transgressions of the letter of the law, which are commonly called sins. To commit these it must be joined to a body. It must be a sin in that faculty which is exclusively spiritual; that is, in the will. The rebellion of the will, in any spirit, is strictly and properly sin; and the banishment from God's presence which is the necessary consequence is eternal death. The law of God denounces eternal death as the punishment for all sins, not because they are all alike in moral guilt, but because they are all alike indications of the same condition of the sinner—one of enmity to God. The very lightest transgression proves, as clearly as the very greatest, the innate lawlessness of the perverted and therefore sinful will.
IV. It is true that you have to pass a spiritual ordeal, searching and terrible as the consuming fire of a sevenfold-heated furnace. But you may pass through it unscathed if in the midst of it the Son of man be your companion.
Bishop Magee, Sermons at St. Saviour's, Bath, p. 183.
References: Proverbs 16:2.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 849, and My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 175. Proverbs 16:2-3, Proverbs 16:18, Proverbs 16:19.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 82; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 59. Proverbs 16:3.—J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 310. Proverbs 16:4.—H. Thompson, Concionalia: Outlines for Parochial Use, 1st series, vol. i., p. 493. Proverbs 16:5-18.—New Manual of Sunday School Addresses, p. 10.
Proverbs 16:6Value of almsgiving in the sight of God.
I. God knits together in the utmost closeness our own deeds, done by His grace, with His own deeds for us. When our Lord Himself says in plain words, "Give alms of such things as ye have; and, behold, all things are clean unto you," He does not unsay what He had said of faith and repentance, but He teaches the value of charity the more emphatically, in that He speaks of it alone. He so, loves the poor who endure patiently His own earthly lot of privation; He so loves the love which considers Himself in them, that He refuses no grace to their intercession which shall be needful to our salvation. He, in them, receives our gifts; He, for them, will receive ourselves.
II. What is that mercy which, if we have not, we "shall have judgment without mercy"? Those who have distinguished most carefully have laid down that what, in a large construction, we need, is alone ours, "our superfluities are the necessaries of the poor." God's commandment abides. He has not left almsgiving free to our choice, that we should plume ourselves upon our trifling charities, as though they were the free gifts of our liberality. The freedom of the Gospel is freedom from sin, not from duty; it is a free service that we may serve freely. He lays down no measure for us, that giving, as did the early Christians, "to their power, yea and beyond their power," we might imitate in some measure the measureless love of our God for us. But the law of mercy itself is as absolute a law as any of the commandments given on Mount Sinai. It is the soul of all the commandments of the second table. The more God has revealed of His love, the more awful are the penalties of unlove. He has fenced the law of love with the penalty of the everlasting loss of the sight of God, who is love. "Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."
III. Our modern refinement will not bear the sight of Lazarus, nor allow him to lie at the gate of the rich, to elicit the mercy of the merciful, or to receive the charity of our dogs. We proscribe mendicity, we cannot proscribe misery. The law can make it a crime to ask alms in the name of Jesus. It cannot do away with the presence of Jesus. The deepest misery is the most retiring. To suffer, like our Lord, overlooked, despised, neglected of men, but precious in His sight, is most like to the earthly lot of the Redeemer of us all.
E. B. Pusey, Sermons before the University of Oxford, p. 359.
I. Solomon was speaking in the spirit of the Old Testament; yet you perceive in his words no sense of a contradiction between the two qualities of mercy and truth, no endeavour to show how they may be adjusted to each other. He assumes that they must work together, that one cannot exist without the other. He says simply, "By mercy and truth iniquity is purged;" both are equally enemies of iniquity; both are equally interested in its extirpation; both are equally interested in the delivery of the creature who is tormented by it. Such a view as this was surely the only one which could satisfy the Jews who believed in the God of Abraham. They felt that only a perfectly righteous being could be perfectly merciful. To be unmerciful, hard-hearted, selfish, was a part—a chief part—of their own unrighteousness and falsehood. Why, but because they had departed from that blessed Image after which they were formed, that Image in which mercy and truth are necessarily and eternally united?
II. I have spoken of the old dispensation. Is all changed, as we are sometimes told, in the new? Jesus said, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Did any one see in Him that warfare of truth with mercy which we have so rashly dreamed of in the eternal mind? A warfare there was throughout His life upon earth—with foes seen and unseen, with Scribes and Pharisees, with the rulers of the darkness of this world, with spiritual wickedness in high places. But it was the warfare of truth and mercy against untruth and hardness of heart. He showed that mercy and truth were divided only by the evil that seeks to destroy both. He showed that it is by their perfect union that iniquity is purged.
III. And by the fear of this great and holy name do men depart from evil. The fear of One in whom dwells all mercy and truth; to be separated from whom is to be separated from mercy and truth; from whom comes restoration as well as life; who seeks to deliver us from the misery that is in us, that we may possess the treasures which are in Him,—this fear, when it is entertained in the heart, when it penetrates the whole man, will keep us from every evil way.
F. D. Maurice, Sermons, vol. iv., p. 215.
References: Proverbs 16:6.— W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 68. Proverbs 16:7.— J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 459. Proverbs 16:9.— New Manual of Sunday School Addresses, p. 19; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 74.
Proverbs 16:16I. Better than gold! But gold is good, very good, and he who would put forward with success the far higher worth of wisdom had better not begin his argument by putting too low an estimate on gold. Gold is full of service; has in it wondrous potencies for smoothing life-travel, lightening burdens, cheering the poor, helping the needy, and glorifying God. Yet before all its power and glitter and glory I stand up and say, "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold!"
II. Both Solomon and Paul call Christ the Saviour by the name of Wisdom. Solomon also calls the Scriptures wisdom, and they who make piety their chief concern he calls wise. To know Christ, then, in the heart as a Saviour, in the mind as a Teacher, in the life as a Pattern, and in all things as a King—this is wisdom. It is the fear of the Lord, the love of His law, faith in His Cross, the power of His Spirit, the hope in His Word. This is better than gold.
III. Gold can be but an external possession, a mere accessory of life. Wisdom is a well, a fountain, in the Christian's soul. It is fed by secret channels direct from the river of life, clear as crystal, which proceedeth from the throne of God and of the Lamb. The joy of the Lord is his strength, the strength of the Lord is his joy; and, filled from that perennial Fount of good, he lives, thrives, rejoices, utterly independent of the lack of gold.
J. Jackson Wray, Light from the Old Lamp, p. 16.
References: Proverbs 16:16.— W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 88. Proverbs 16:17.— Ibid., p. 93.
Proverbs 16:18There is a tendency in knowledge to produce humility: so that the more a man knows the more likely he is to think little of himself.
I. Pride proves deficiency of knowledge—first, in respect of our state by nature. Who could be proud of beauty, if fraught with the consciousness that all flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass? Who could be proud because of some little elevation above his fellow-men, who is deeply aware of his own position as an accountable creature, the subject and servant of an invisible King, in whose eyes all men are on a level? Who, once more, could be proud of his intellectual strength, of his wit, his wisdom, his elocution, who knew the height from which he had fallen; who saw in himself the fragments of what God designed and created him to be? It is ignorance, and ignorance alone, which allows of man's being proud:
II. Pride shows deficiency of knowledge in respect of our state by grace. Nothing could be clearer from Scripture than that we owe our deliverance exclusively to the free unmerited goodness of God; and if to this argument for humility, which is interwoven with the whole texture of the Gospel, you add the constant denunciation of that Gospel against pride, its solemn demand of holiness as essential to all who would "inherit the kingdom of heaven," you will see that the further a man goes in acquaintance with the Gospel, the more motive will he have for abasing himself before God, and shunning with all abhorrence a haughty and self-sufficient spirit.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 2421.
References: Proverbs 16:20.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 392; Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 126. Proverbs 16:22.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 99.
Proverbs 16:25Our difficulty in life is often with things that seem to be right.
I. Does not the way of self-protection seem to be right? To a certain extent it is right; pressed unduly it becomes practical atheism.
II. Does not the way of physical persecution for truth's sake seem to be right?
III. Does not the way of self-enjoyment seem right?
IV. Does not the way of judging by appearances seem right?
V. Does not the way of self-redemption seem right? This is the fatal error of mankind.
Application: (1) Lean not to thine own understanding. (2) Seek higher than human counsel. Put thy whole life into the keeping of God.
Parker, City Temple, vol. iii., p. 187.
References: Proverbs 16:31.—Preacher's Monthly, vol. ii., p. 156. Proverbs 16:32.—J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 1875, p. 71. Proverbs 16:33.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 354; F. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 141. Proverbs 17:1-7.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 121. Proverbs 17:8-15.—Ibid., p. 133. Proverbs 17:12.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 104. Proverbs 17:16.—H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xviii., p. 11.
All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the LORD weigheth the spirits.
Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.
The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.
Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.
By mercy and truth iniquity is purged: and by the fear of the LORD men depart from evil.
When a man's ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.
Better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without right.
A man's heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps.
A divine sentence is in the lips of the king: his mouth transgresseth not in judgment.
A just weight and balance are the LORD'S: all the weights of the bag are his work.
It is an abomination to kings to commit wickedness: for the throne is established by righteousness.
Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right.
The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.
In the light of the king's countenance is life; and his favour is as a cloud of the latter rain.
How much better is it to get wisdom than gold! and to get understanding rather to be chosen than silver!
The highway of the upright is to depart from evil: he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul.
Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to divide the spoil with the proud.
He that handleth a matter wisely shall find good: and whoso trusteth in the LORD, happy is he.
The wise in heart shall be called prudent: and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning.
Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him that hath it: but the instruction of fools is folly.
The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.
Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.
There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.
He that laboureth laboureth for himself; for his mouth craveth it of him.
An ungodly man diggeth up evil: and in his lips there is as a burning fire.
A froward man soweth strife: and a whisperer separateth chief friends.
A violent man enticeth his neighbour, and leadeth him into the way that is not good.
He shutteth his eyes to devise froward things: moving his lips he bringeth evil to pass.
The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.
He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD.