When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what is before thee:
I. This is the Hebrew way of telling us, in a casual word about feasting, that a man's inmost thinking is the true index to his character.
II. Christianity accepts and endorses this inward and broad basis of manhood, and employs its fact and revelation, impulse and inspiration, to secure a thorough regeneration of man's inmost life. Nothing is more absurd than to speak of Christianity as hostile to the most daring and intrepid thought. Hostile to thinking! It lives upon it, thrives by it, compels it, pushes itself into every section of our manifold experience by it, and revolutionises the world by breaking the dull continuity of man's mechanical movements with its spiritual goads to freshness and venture of thought. Its greatest men have been strong, capable, and heroic thinkers.
III. This is a thinking age. The manliest thinking is done with the heart; that is, with the whole of the inner forces of the life.
IV. Modern thinking, ignoring the Biblical rule, is smitten with the blight of cowardice, falls a victim to unreality, and lacks, notwithstanding its pride, Lutheran courage, holy daring, and self-devotion.
V. We expect too much to be done by mere thinking. Mere thought is analytical, surgical, cuts to pieces. We are analysts where we need a temper of friendly personal trust. Mere thinking never was the key to unlock another human heart. We get nothing from the man in whom we will not confide. The first need for many of us is not more thinking, but immediate obedience to what we know.
VI. No thinking is manly that fails to take adequate account of the force of intense moral enthusiasms. It is provable that only in the white heat of a glowing passion for an ethical goal have we the clearest vision of eternal fact.
VII. The thinking that is of the brain only, and not of the heart, is in serious danger of passing over the unseen order and treating it as though it did not exist.
VIII. Above all things, do not let us be alarmed at any of the mistakes and mischiefs that cause disobedience to the Christian law of manly thinking. We need have no misgiving about the future. Man is essentially a thinker and a unit; and he must think towards unity, and truth, and perfection. "God is his refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble;" therefore after every temporary eclipse the Sun of righteousness will break forth and reveal again the way to the Father.
J. Clifford, The Dawn of Manhood, p. 66.
References: Proverbs 23:7.—R. Tuck, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 285. Proverbs 23:12-23.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. iii., p. 83. Proverbs 23:15-35.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 256.
Proverbs 23:17I. Holy Scripture is full of warnings against this fatal form of envy, for indeed in this form came the first temptation to our mother Eve. Why did she look towards the fatal tree, and reach out her hand, and touch the fruit, and take it, and taste it but because the tempter had contrived to put it into her weak and foolish heart that by so doing she would become as a god; that is, as an angel, as the tempter himself? Holy Scripture could hardly say more against our envying sinners than that by it came the fall of man, and by it the captivity and ruin of the Jewish people.
II. God's Holy Spirit, thus proclaiming the mischief, in His love proclaims also the remedy. The way not to let one's "heart envy sinners" is to "be in the fear of the Lord all the day long;" to keep up a regular, habitual, serious sense that God is here, the great and good God; to turn towards Him instinctively in all temptations, as children in trouble run for shelter to their parents. One who in earnest has this in his mind cannot possibly envy sinners.
III. We are almost sure to begin to wish ourselves like the wicked if we willingly abide in their company. Therefore doth the wise man especially caution us that if we would not be "envious towards evil men," we must not "desire to be with them." Remember the end of these men; then you will leave off envying them, and you will begin to pity them and pray for them.
J. Keble, Sermons for the Christian Year: Sundays after Trinity, Part I., p. 53.
Proverbs 23:19In our course through life, our minds are liable to be placed in certain states of feeling strongly marked, and for the time strongly prevailing, and this by causes, by influences, and circumstances independent of our will. These states of feeling, thus involuntarily produced, should be carefully turned to a profitable account; we should avail ourselves of what there is in them specially adapted to afford improvement.
I. It would surely be a wise application of a pleasurable state of feeling to seek most seriously that some of it may be directed into the channel of gratitude to God. These bright and warm states of feeling should be regarded as cultivators regard the important weeks of the spring; as mariners regard the blowing of favourable winds; as merchants seize a transient and valuable opportunity for gain; as men overlaboured and almost overmatched in warfare regard a strong reinforcement of fresh combatants. The spring and energy of spirit felt in these pleasurable seasons of the heart should be applied to the use of a more spirited performance of the Christian duties in general, but especially to those which are the most congenial, such as the exercises and services most directly expressive of gratitude to God, the study and exertions for promoting the happiness of men.
II. The infelicitous season of the soul—shall it not be turned, by wisely "guiding the heart," to lasting advantage? Now that light thoughts, and brisk spirits, and worldly pleasures and hopes are aloof for a while, take the opportunity for serious consideration.
III. We will apply the admonition to one more state of feeling which not seldom visits an observer of mankind; namely, an indignant excitement of mind against human conduct. This may enforce on you the necessity of a most carefully disciplined judgment. It may surely contribute to aggravate your permanent impression of the extreme evil of sin, and therefore to justify the Almighty in that part of His economy which is directed in hostility against it, to impress upon you that what is so much to be hated is no less to be dreaded.
J. Foster, Lectures, 1st series, p. 28.
Reference: Proverbs 23:19-23.—H. W. Beecher, Sermons, 4th series, p. 368.
Proverbs 23:23The text declares two great truths: first, that truth is a matter of purchase; and, secondly, that there is a possibility of selling it and an inclination to do so.
I. Truth is, of course, in itself, one, perfect, and eternal; but to us it is a growing and increasing treasure. The discovery of truth rolls onward, widening as it rolls. While along its banks far back gathered the eager crowd of inquirers who came to dip their vessels into the passing stream, to each company it appeared broader; it swelled in a more magnificent current; it washed the banks of a deeper channel. We cannot see where the river rushes to the sea; it may be far, it may be near: but we see the shore where we are standing, and we know the truth that we have bought.
II. How shall we who have got truth devote ourselves in any way to its enlargement or retention? (1) One way in which we all of us can continue to purchase truth is by having the eye ever open to its still developing lessons. (2) A more direct means of the acquisition of truth will be reading, meditation, and conversation. (3) The reproof of the wise and good or of those in authority over us will be a third means by which we can purchase truth for ourselves. (4) Prayer to God becomes a constant mode of purchasing truth.
III. There is great danger lest we sell what has been gained by the sufferings of centuries, and cut ourselves off from the blessings which generations of our ancestors have striven to give us. Among other shrines at which we are tempted to sell the truth at this day, there are none more common than those that are raised by the principles of Erastianism, commercialism, and scepticism. We are the executors of a great will, the testament of the Cross and the day of Pentecost. We are responsible for our administration of it. But more than that, we are the heirs of the property and the inheritance which that will distributes. We all of us stand in two relationships. If we forfeit our claim of having performed the one faithfully, we forfeit the other. If we betray our trust, we forfeit our inheritance, and cancel for ourselves at least the testament of Calvary and the covenants of the bride of Christ.
E. Monro, Practical Sermons, vol. iii., p. 65.
The teaching of one who had a right to speak, from the largest experience, perhaps, that any man had, is that truth is hard to get and difficult to retain: "Buy the truth, and sell it not." The force of the metaphor lies in this, that we cannot obtain truth without cost, and that when we have it we shall be bribed to part with it. "Buy it"—then there must be a price; "sell it not"—then there must be a temptation to let it go.
I. What is the cost of truth? (1) You must follow truth wherever it leads you. (2) You must get out of the littlenesses and narrownesses of party feeling. (3) You must feel and act as an infant in intellect, being conscious of weakness and ignorance even in your strongest point. (4) You must fling away the selfishness of an indolent, luxurious, and pleasure-seeking life. (5) You must begin with God, else your brightest truth will be full of shadows, and your best wisdom shall turn out folly.
II. Truth is a precious treasure. But where there is a treasure, there the robbers will come. And they will come very deceptively, not by force, but by artifice. And they will pretend to buy. But the bargain is ruinous, ruinous to the seller. It often takes as much to keep truth as it does to get it. A little worldliness, a little frittering of pleasures, will enervate the very fibre of truth. And if you trifle with truth in one thing, you will loosen it in another thing, till you can scarcely keep it in anything. Christ and the Holy Ghost alone can make truth; and where they live, there is the image of God. And every seeker of truth, whether consciously or not, is striving after a thing no less than the image of God.
J. Vaughan, Sermons, 12th series, p. 85.
References: Proverbs 23:23.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 181; J. Vaughan, Children's Sermons, 5th series, p. 160; R. Newton, Bible Warnings, p. 60.
Proverbs 23:26I. The wise man here uses the word "heart" in the fullest sense. It includes the whole mind, the spirit, and the soul. These are what the Lord claims, and what the wise man here claims in the name of the Lord. Bear in mind that, although this claim is put affectionately and appealingly, it is a claim, and admits of no compromise. God will not be put off with any minor or inferior concession. He says to every child of man, "My son, give Me thine heart."
II. It is a very comprehensive claim, this demand of the heart. The best way to comply with it is to identify God with everything which will bear contact with Him. If you would give God your heart, just think over to yourself the list of all those pursuits in business, study, or pleasure for which you feel you have the strongest taste, and in which you find the most congenial enjoyment. The evil thing which is wrong in itself must be struck out of the list, and your heart given to God. A life thus controlled and regulated would, be indeed a blessed and a model life.
III. God demands your heart that He may enlighten, convince, pardon, sanctify, keep, dignify, and save you. We might press the demand on the ground: (1) of right; (2) of reason; (3) of gratitude; (4) of self-interest. Yield your heart to Him humbly, believingly, unreservedly, cheerfully, irrevocably.
A. Mursell, Calls to the Cross, 123.
I. Consider the relationship to God which is conveyed in the text: "My son." Can any closer, any more endearing, tie be suggested? Consider what is involved in the term "Father." (1) God is the Author of our being. (2) God not only bestows upon us life, but the means of enjoying it. He provides us with all that we want. (3) In one particular, God's love is shown to us in a way that no analogy can reach. Our earthly parents can only provide the means of our education, our instruction, our start in life. What if these are neglected, misused,. and misapplied? Why, henceforth there is little help for us; "the voyage of our life is lost in shallows and in miseries." Our parents try remedies, but it is often too late; they are often in vain, ineffectual to do away with the mischief once wrought. God has provided a better remedy for His children.
II. Consider what God asks us to give: "My son, give Me thine heart? This implies that we have a power over our affections. There can be no doubt that the heart influences the will, and in a less degree the understanding. We are called upon to give our hearts to God.
III. Consider what this means. The loyal affection which a son feels towards his earthly parents throws some light upon the concentrated love with which we are called upon to regard Him "in whom we live, and move, and have our being." We may in our lighter moments, and for purposes of amusement, prefer the society of younger persons; but still there is a fund of deep, undisturbed love for our parents, with which the most enthusiastic friendship will not bear comparison—a love which sometimes slumbers, but never dies; a love the reality of which we cannot endure to be questioned. Such, in its calm repose, in its loyal attachment, and in its undying constancy, is the Christian's love to God.
G. Butler, Sermons in the Chapel of Cheltenham College, p. 327.
References: Proverbs 23:26.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Genesis to Proverbs, p. 184; J. Budgen, Parochial Sermons, vol. ii., p. 127; Clergyman's Magazine, vol. viii., p. 87; H. Wonnacott, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 289. Proverbs 23:29.—J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 50. Proverbs 23:29-35.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. ii., p. 303. Proverbs 24:1-12.—Ibid., vol. iii., p. 98. Proverbs 24:1, Proverbs 24:19, Proverbs 24:20.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 2nd series, p. 268.
And put a knife to thy throat, if thou be a man given to appetite.
Be not desirous of his dainties: for they are deceitful meat.
Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom.
Wilt thou set thine eyes upon that which is not? for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven.
Eat thou not the bread of him that hath an evil eye, neither desire thou his dainty meats:
For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.
The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, and lose thy sweet words.
Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.
Remove not the old landmark; and enter not into the fields of the fatherless:
For their redeemer is mighty; he shall plead their cause with thee.
Apply thine heart unto instruction, and thine ears to the words of knowledge.
Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die.
Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.
My son, if thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine.
Yea, my reins shall rejoice, when thy lips speak right things.
Let not thine heart envy sinners: but be thou in the fear of the LORD all the day long.
For surely there is an end; and thine expectation shall not be cut off.
Hear thou, my son, and be wise, and guide thine heart in the way.
Be not among winebibbers; among riotous eaters of flesh:
For the drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty: and drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags.
Hearken unto thy father that begat thee, and despise not thy mother when she is old.
Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice: and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him.
Thy father and thy mother shall be glad, and she that bare thee shall rejoice.
My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.
For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit.
She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes?
They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine.
Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright.
At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder.
Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things.
Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast.
They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.