Proverbs 4:1
Listen, my sons, to the instruction of a father; pay attention and gain understanding.
Sermons
A Religious HomeDavid Thomas, D.D.Proverbs 4:1
Knowing UnderstandingFrancis Taylor, B.D.Proverbs 4:1
Paternal ExhortationJ. Parker, D. D.Proverbs 4:1
The InvitationProverbs 4:1
The Solicitude of the Wise Father: a Sermon to Parents and ChildrenW. Clarkson Proverbs 4:1-13
The Tradition of PietyE. Johnson Proverbs 4:1-13


The writer, here and in Proverbs 5:7 and Proverbs 7:24, addresses his audience as children, thinking of himself as a son, who had been the object of fatherly counsels and warnings in his youth. He would hand on the torch of wisdom, the tradition of piety, to the next generation.

I. PIETY SHOULD BE A FAMILY TRADITION. (Vers. 1-3.) Handed down from father to son and grandson, or from mother to daughter and grandchild, from Lois to Eunice, till it dwells in Timothy also (2 Timothy 1:5). Tradition in every form is, perhaps, the strongest governing power over the minds of men in every department of life.

II. EARLY INSTRUCTION WILL BE RETAINED, RECALLED, AND REPRODUCED. As the twig is bent, so is the tree inclined; or, as Horace says so beautifully, "The cask will long preserve the odour with which when fresh it was imbued" ('Ep.,' 1:2. 69). Every higher effort of the intellect rests on memory. Our later life is for the most part the reproduction in other forms of the deep impressions of childhood.

III. THE CONTENTS OF THIS TRADITION ARE SIMPLE, YET PROFOUND. (Vers. 4-9.) They are summed up in "the one thing needful." In opposition to the cynical maxim, "Get money, honestly if you can, but by all means get money," or the refrain of "Property, property" (Tennyson's 'Northern Farmer'), the teacher rings the exhortation out, like an old chime, "Get wisdom, get understanding."

IV. THE STYLE OR FORM OF THE TRADITION.

1. It is iterative. It may even seem to modern ears monotonous. But this form is peculiarly part of the habit of the stationary East. Thought is not so much expansive, travelling from a centre to a wide periphery; it swings, like a pendulum, between two extremes. Generally, for all, the best life wisdom must be these iterations, "Line upon line, precept upon precept" or stare super antiquas vias - a recurrence to well worn paths.

2. It has variety of expression with unbroken unity of thought.

(1) In reference to the object of pursuit. "Wisdom" is the leading word; but this is exchanged for "training" and "insight" (ver. 1); "doctrine" and "law" (ver. 2); "words" and "commandments" (ver. 4); the same word often recurs.

(2) In reference to the active effort of the mind itself. This is presented as "hearing" and "attending" (ver. 1); "not forsaking" (ver. 2); "holding fast in the heart," and "guarding" (ver. 4); "getting" and "not turning from" (ver. 5); "not forsaking" and "loving" (ver. 6); "holding her high" and "embracing her" (ver. 8); "receiving words" and "adhering to instruction" (vers. 10, 13).

(3) In reference to the accompanying promise. "Thou shalt live" (ver. 4); "She shall guard thee;" "protect thee" (ver. 6); "exalt thee; bring thee to honour" (ver. 8); "give to thy head a chaplet of delight;" "hold out to thee a splendid crown" (ver. 9); "many years of life" (ver. 10); "Thy steps shall not be hindered" (ver. 12); "Thou shalt not stumble" (ver. 12); "She is thy life" (ver. 13).

V. THE ADVANTAGES OF THIS METHOD OF TEACHING.

1. It is simple, intelligible to all.

2. Of universal adaptation. Easily remembered by the young, impossible to forget in age.

3. It admits of infinite illustration from experience. It is a sketch or outline, given to the pupil; he fills it in and colours it as life progresses. - J.







The instruction of a father.
I. THE LOVE OF A RELIGIOUS HOME. Two kinds of love for the offspring.

1. The natural love.

2. The spiritual love, which has respect to the spiritual being, relations, and interests of the children.

II. THE TRAINING OF A RELIGIOUS HOME.

1. The parent's teaching is worth retaining.

2. The parent's teaching is practical.

3. The parent's teaching is quickening to all the powers, intellectual and moral.

III. THE INFLUENCE OF A RELIGIOUS HOME.

1. The susceptibility of childhood.

2. The force of parental affection. Religious homes are the great want of the race.

(David Thomas, D.D.)

Doctrine and law form the staple of this appeal. By "law" understand "direction," for life is an ever-bisecting course, and full of points that must bewilder inexperienced travellers. Do not venture upon great sea voyages without proper instruments and without being taught how to use them. So in life. Be enriched with doctrine or wisdom, and cultivate that tender filial spirit which gratefully yields itself to direction. It is at once wise and lovely for youth to consult the aged, and to avail themselves of accumulated experience. Any other spirit is vain, self-conceited, frivolous, and unworthy. Why should the father be anxious to instruct and direct the son? Because he has seen more of life, more of its mystery, its peril, its tragedy; therefore his heart yearns to preserve the young from danger. The father's position is one of moral dignity and supreme benevolence. Having suffered himself, he would save his children from pain.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

Attend to know understanding
I. YOUNG MEN HAVE NEED OFTEN TO BE CALLED UPON TO GET TRUE KNOWLEDGE.

1. Because of their own backwardness to the work.

2. The impediments and diversions from attaining true wisdom.

3. There are many things to be believed, beyond the power of corrupted reason to find out.

4. There are many practical things to be learned, else they can never be done.

5. There are many faculties of the soul to be reformed.

6. There are many senses and members of the body to be directed to many particular actions, and each to its own.Uses:

1. To blame young men that think their parents and teachers over-diligent.

2. To urge children to attend to their parents instructing them in piety.

3. To persuade parents and teachers not only to instruct, but also to incite to attention.

II. EVERY YOUNG MAN HAS NEED TO BE CALLED ON TO LOOK AFTER TRUE KNOWLEDGE.

1. Because there is no disposition to this wisdom in the best by nature.

2. There is much averseness, because the principles of faith are above nature, and of practice against nature.

(Francis Taylor, B.D.)

I. LET OUR OWN CHILDREN RECEIVE INSTRUCTIONS. This charity must begin at home.

II. LET ALL YOUNG PEOPLE TAKE PAINS TO GET KNOWLEDGE AND GRACE. They are in the learning stage.

III. LET ALL WHO WOULD RECEIVE INSTRUCTION COME WITH THE DISPOSITION OF CHILDREN. Let prejudices be laid aside. Let them be dutiful, tractable, and self-diffident.

( Matthew Henry.)

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