For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.
The title of "fool" is the usual character of the sinner in the language of Wisdom, in opposition to prudence. Prosperity comprehends all things desired by worldly men — riches, honours, pleasures, health, strength, peace, plenty, all that is grateful to the carnal mind and appetites. Prosperity abused is fatal and destructive to foolish sinners.
I. PROSPERITY IS DESTRUCTIVE TO THE WICKED. There is no pestilence and contagion in the nature of things that are pleasing to our faculties. They are dangerous, not as made by God, but as managed by Satan. The primary design of God, in His most free and rich benefits, is to endear Himself to us and bind us to His service. When the wicked abuse God's blessings, defeat His kindness, and frustrate the excellent ends of it, He most righteously and severely continues their prosperity, that foments their lusts and renders them more wilful and incorrigible and the more guilty of their own damnation. Prosperity is a fatal ambush for their surprisal and ruin. Prosperity abused is destructive to sinners, both meritoriously, as it induces a deadly guilt and makes them obnoxious to the revenging wrath of God, and effectively, as it is opposite to the felicity and perfection of man.
1. Prosperity is the continual incentive of the vicious affections.
2. Prosperity occasionally incenses an irascible appetite.
3. Prosperity inclines sinners to an impious neglect of God.
4. Prosperity exposes dangerously to the tempting power of Satan.
5. Prosperity is destructive to many, in that it affords them advantages to corrupt others, and reciprocally exposes them to be corrupted by others.
6. Prosperity usually renders the means of grace ineffectual.
7. Prosperity renders men averse to suffering for the sake of Christ.
8. Prosperity makes men careless of evils that might happen.
9. Prosperity is the great temptation to delay repentance until the sinner's case is desperate.
II. THE FOLLY OF PROSPEROUS SINNERS. Folly is the cause of their abusing prosperity and the effect of their prosperity abused.
1. The perfection of man consists in the excellences of his spiritual and immortal part.
2. All the prosperity in the world cannot bring true satisfaction to him that enjoys it, for it is disproportionate to the spiritual and immortal nature of the soul. The folly of the sinner is a voluntarily chosen folly, a culpable and guilty folly; the most ignominious folly, the most woful folly.
III. THE JUSTICE, CERTAINTY, AND HEAVINESS OF THE JUDGMENT COMING ON SINNERS WHO ABUSE THEIR PROSPERITY. Justice, for their destruction is the fruit of their own choice. Certainty, for it is unchangeably established by the Divine ordination that the pleasures of sin shall end in the misery of obstinate sinners. The heaviness will be according to the aggravation of their sin. Temporal prosperity is, therefore, no special sign of God's favour.
(William Bates, D.D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them.