Proverbs 26:12
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.
Description and Danger of Religious Self-ConceitE. Cooper.Proverbs 26:12
The Folly of Self-ConceitC. W. Le Bas, M. A.Proverbs 26:12
Discussion of Folly and its TreatmentE. Johnson Proverbs 26:4-12

I. How we ANSWER THE FOOL. (Vers. 4, 5.)

1. Not according to his folly; i.e. so chiming in with his nonsense that yon become as he is. Do not descend into the arena with a fool. Preserve self-respect, and observe the conduct of the Saviour when to folly he "answered not again."

2. According to his folly; that is, with the sharp and cutting reply his folly invites and deserves. We have also examples of this in the conduct of our Lord; e.g. in reference to the inquiry of the Jews concerning the purging of the temple, which he answered by a reference to John's baptism (Matthew 21:25, etc.). The twofold treatment of the fool reminds that the spirit and motive must determine the act, and that opposite methods may be equally good at different times.


1. With messages and commissions. (Ver. 6.) He who does so is like one who amputates his own limbs, deprives himself of the means of gaining his object, or who voluntarily drinks of an evil brewage.

2. His words are not to be trusted. (Ver. 7.) Sayings in the mouth of the fool are purposeless and pointless, when they even do no harm. Fools will not be prudent, says Luther, and yet would ever play the part of wise men. "A wise saying doth as ill become a fool as dancing does a cripple." The wise and weighty saying becomes in his mouth a jest. He who would instruct others in Divine wisdom must first have embraced it himself. Solemnity may be a cover for a sot; and the greatest folly is to impose on one's self.

III. THE FOOL IS NOT TO BE HONOURED. (Ver. 8.) To lift him out of his place by compliments or honours is as inapt as to lay a jewel upon a common heap of stones. The sling makes the stone bound in it an implement of death; and to flatter the undeserving brings disgrace upon one's self. It is like putting sword or pistol into a madman's hand. But the other interpretation is better. Ver. 9 shows how mischievous are even good things in the lips and hands of those who only abuse them. Luther quaintly says, "If a drunkard sports with a briar, he scratches more with it than he allows to smell the roses on it; so does a fool often work more mischief with the Scripture than good." (The meaning of ver. 10 is so obscure, it must be left to exegetes; it appears to coincide with the foregoing - the fool is not to be trusted.)

IV. THE FOOL IS INCORRIGIBLE. (Vers. 11, 12; see 2 Peter 2:22.) He returns to his exploded nonsense, his often-repeated fallacies; and to his exposed errors of conduct (Matthew 12:45; John 5:14; Hebrews 6:4-8). Relapses into sin, as into sickness, are dangerous and deadly. "A raw sin is like a blow to a broken leg, a burden to a crushed arm." The cause of these relapses and this incorrigibility is pointed out - deep-rooted self-conceit. This is the fruitful mother of follies. Let none deem himself perfect, but let every one cultivate humility as his dearest possession. God giveth grace to the lowly, but resisteth the proud and them that are wise in their own conceits. - J.

Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him
The Scriptures are full of denunciations against the self-sufficiency of man. The writings of Solomon are conspicuous for expressions which stigmatise the absurdity and the guilt of a self-willed, self-sufficient spirit. Here he says that when a man is wise in his own conceit, there is so little hope of his reformation that even a fool would be a more promising subject for moral and intellectual discipline. Teachable and honest mediocrity is always attended with a fair hope of improvement. But that very quality which may preserve, even to dulness itself, the chance of amelioration, is necessarily wanting to him who is wise in his own conceit, namely, a tractable and docile temper. Whenever a feeling of self-sufficiency takes possession of a mind, even of more than ordinary strength, there is danger of its shutting out all prospect of effectual improvement. What exertions will be made by one who is content with his acquisitions? To him who knows better than the rest of mankind, instruction or advice must needs appear impertinent. This guilty and miserable habit locks up from the use of all who are under its dominion those riches without which the fairest intellect must ever remain poor indeed — the wisdom of other ages, and the resources and experiences of other minds. It is dismal to reflect on the number of characters which have been ruined by this unhappy delusion. When once this fatal sorcery has suspended in the mind all aspirations after higher attainments, from that moment the movement of the character becomes infallibly retrograde. By the known constitution of things it is impossible that the intellectual or moral powers can be for a moment stationary. There is, in man's faculties, a constant tendency towards relapse and decay, which must be encountered by perpetual exertion. It is a sadder condition when the two characters in the text happen to coincide; when imbecility and arrogance go together; when the fool is wise in his own conceit. The language of the text applies to cases of great excess. But all cases have a tendency towards excess, and caution is useful in the earliest stages. The predominance of self-conceit is in most instances the result of negligent or injudicious culture. Self-will enters largely into the composition of every human character. It shows itself with the earliest dawn of the faculties. There is no instinctive impulse which prompts a child to the salutary but painful exercise of exploring his own insufficiency. The feeling of self-sufficiency is strengthened by the habit of comparing ourselves with low and imperfect characters, and by fixing ourselves in the centre of a very contracted circle. The mind should be elevated by the contemplation of the noblest forms of excellence, both intellectual and moral. Christianity is irreconcilably at war with every vice or infirmity which belongs to the family of pride.

(C. W. Le Bas, M. A.)

Nothing renders a man so unmanageable, in the common concerns of life as self-conceit. But show the application of this passage in a spiritual sense.

I. EXPLAIN THE STATEMENT OF THE TEXT. Wisdom in this book is another name for religion. Foolishness is irreligion. Then the man who is "wise in his own conceit" is religious in his own conceits. All men are naturally subject to pride and vanity. A supposed superiority in religion will furnish ground for the exercise of this disposition as readily as any other fancied distinction. A man may be vain of his religion. Such persons very possibly have knowledge, and feeling, and what they call religious attainments. But they are destitute of self-knowledge: they have no real humiliation of heart, and they are greatly wanting in charity as to their judgment of the religious state and character of others. They have no notion of rendering to God a spiritual service. There is more hope of a fool, an irreligious person, than of such an one.

II. SHOW THE GROUNDS AND REASONS OF THE TEXT. Such persons as described totally mistake the nature of true religion. To be religious is to be spiritually-minded. To advance in religion is to grow in grace. They pervert the very design and end of religion. It is designed to make men humble; it makes these persons proud. They have closed up the door to their own improvement. Use this subject for self-examination. By it try our own religion, and see what is our own spiritual state.

(E. Cooper.)

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