Proverbs 9:11
Life is made up of circles. We are ever coming back to whence we started. As history repeats itself, so must morality and religion. The shining points of wisdom appear and reappear with the regularity of the heavenly bodies. The vault of heaven has its analogue in the star-besprinkled vault of the moral relations. Iteration and repetition of first principles are constantly necessary, ever wholesome, peculiarly characteristic of Semitic thought. Wherever life is bounded to a small circle of interests, the same truths must be insisted on "over and over again."

I. RELIGION A FIRST PRINCIPLE.

1. Religion characterized. The fear of Jehovah. In other words, reverence for the Eternal One. We may unfold the definition, but can we substitute a better for it? It is a relation to the eternal and unseen, to a supersensual order, as opposed to that which is visible and transient. It is deep-seated in feeling. Reverence is the ground tone in the scale of religious feeling; we descend from it to awe and terror, or rise to joy and ecstasy. It is a relation, not to ourselves, or a projection of ourselves in fancy, but to a personal and holy Being.

2. Its connection with intelligence firmly insisted on. It is the beginning, or root principle, of wisdom, and "acquaintance with the Holy is true insight" (ver. 10). The question, often discussed, whether religion is a matter of feeling, knowledge, or will, arises from a fallacy. We may distinguish these functions in thought; but in act they are one, because the consciousness is a unity, not a bundle of things, a collocation of organs. In feeling we know, in knowledge we feel, and from this interaction arise will, acts, conduct. Hence so far as a man is soundly religious, he is likewise soundly intelligent. In the truest conception religion and wisdom are identical.

II. WISDOM A FIRST PRINCIPLE. (Ver. 11.) Here we come down from the region of speculation to that of practical truth.

1. The "will to live" is the very spring of our activity.

2. Only second to it in original power is the wish to be well, i.e. to have fulness, energy of life, consciousness. The extensive form of this wish is naturally the earlier, the more childlike - to enjoy many years, to live to a green old age, etc. The intensive form is later, and belongs to the more reflective stage of the mind. "Non vivere, sed valere, est vita" (Martial). 'Tis "more life and fuller that we want" (Tennyson). "One hour of glorious life is worth an age without a name." This view comes more home to the modern mind than to that of the monotonous East, where the like fulness of interest was not possible. We say, "Better twenty years of Europe than a cycle of Cathay."

III. PERSONALITY A FIRST PRINCIPLE. (Ver. 12.)

1. We have a distinct individual consciousness. "I am I, and other than the things I touch." I know what my acts are as distinguished from my involuntary movements, my thoughts as distinct from the passive reflection of perceptions and phantasies unbegotten of my will.

2. Our wisdom or folly is our own affair, both in origin and consequences. We begot the habit, and must reap as we sow, bear the brunt of the conflict we may have provoked.

3. Neither our wisdom can enrich nor our folly impoverish God (Job 22:2, 3; Job 35:6-9; Romans 11:35; Revelation 22:11, 12).

(1) It is a solemn thought; the constitution of our being reveals the decree of God, and may be thus interpreted: "Let him alone!" We are not interfered with. We are suffered to develop in the air and sun. Woe to us if we pervert the kindly gifts of God, and turn his truth into a lie!

(2) "Take heed to thyself." The effects of our acts may extend to others, but we cannot make others answer for them in the end. - J.







For by Me thy days shall be multiplied.
No desire is so deeply implanted in our nature as that of preserving and prolonging our life. Life and health are the foundation of all other enjoyments. The principal point of wisdom in the conduct of human life is so to .use the enjoyments of this present world as that they may not themselves shorten that period wherein it is allowed us to enjoy them. Temperance and sobriety, the regular government of our appetites and passions, are the greatest instances of human wisdom. Religion adds strength to these things by annexing the promise of God's immediate blessing to the natural tendency and consequences of things. "The fear of the Lord" and "the knowledge of the Holy" are two synonymous expressions, signifying "the practice of virtue and true religion."

I. THE PRACTISE OF RELIGION IS, IN GENERAL, MAN'S TRUEST WISDOM. The whole tenor of Scripture concurs in setting forth the wisdom of being virtuous and religious. Compare with the wisdom in understanding the arts and sciences. Wisdom of men in being able to overreach and defraud each other; wisdom of political skill; wisdom in words and artful representations of things; wisdom in searching out the secrets of nature. The only wisdom that all men are capable of, and that all men are indispensably obliged to attain, is the practical wisdom of being truly religious.

II. THE PRACTISE OF RELIGION TENDS TO PROLONG OUR LIFE AND LENGTHEN OUR DAYS. Promises of health and life are frequent in the Old Testament. See the fifth commandment with promise. There are threatenings of the wicked in the Old Testament, which declare their days shall be shortened. In the nature of things men destroy themselves and shorten their days by many kinds of wickedness. According to the same natural order and tendency of things, by peace and charity men are preserved from destruction; by temperance their bodies are maintained in health; by quiet of conscience and satisfaction of mind is a new life added to their spirits. In the positive appointment and constitution of Providence there was yet more assurance of the doctrine. The temporal promises of the Old Testament cannot now be applied with any certainty under the New, where eternal life is so much more clearly revealed.

III. HOW IS THIS BLESSING TO BE DESIRED BY CHRISTIANS UNDER THE GOSPEL STATE. The gospel gives a mean notion of the present life and glorious representation of the happiness of that to come, so that a devout man may wish to be delivered from the miseries of this sinful world. But the best men need prolonged lives on earth for their own amendment and improvement; and if not for their own, for the sake of others. It may also be reminded that duties are entrusted to us, and we must not shirk them. And the longest life here is but a moment in comparison of eternity. We ought to make it the main care of our lives to secure our eternal happiness hereafter; only then do length of days become a blessing.

(S. Clarke, D. D.)

The temporal interests of one man are so bound up with those of many others that you can scarcely find the individual of whom it may be said that he plans for himself alone, or acts for himself alone. If we stretch our thoughts from temporal things and fix them on spiritual, will the same thing hold? Hardly perhaps, for we can scarcely suppose that, through destroying his own soul, a man may also destroy the souls of many others. Unto every one amongst us there is vouchsafed a sufficiency of means, so that he who perishes does not perish through being involved in the ruin of another, but through having wrought his own individual destruction. Neither religion nor irreligion can be said to propagate themselves, as industry and idleness in temporal things. Religion, in the most emphatic sense, is a thing between each of us and God.

I. THE CRITERION OF WISDOM. If a man be wise at all, he is wise for himself. The prime object of every class of society is the advancing its own interests. Men are set down as wise chiefly in proportion as practical results shall prove them to have been wise for themselves. Nevertheless, unless the wisdom have a heavenly character it cannot in any degree render the possessor truly wise for himself. If I be wise for myself I must be wise by making provision for the vast expansion of my being, and not by limiting attention to that period which is nothing but its outset. He cannot be wise for himself who dishonours himself, who degrades himself, who destroys himself. Can a man be pronounced to have been wise for himself before whose tomb a nation may be burning its incense of gratitude for his discoveries, whilst his spirit is brooding in darkness, and silence, and anguish over the vast infatuation which caused God to be forgotten whilst science is pursued? A man may be wise in all that the world calls wisdom, and yet in no sense wise for himself. Unless a man has been wise for eternity he has not been wise for himself. Only that wisdom which is from above, the wisdom which consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, can make a man truly wise.

II. THE ADVANTAGE OF POSSESSING THIS WISDOM IS ALTOGETHER PERSONAL. So far as the present life is concerned the consequences of the possession or non-possession of wisdom are not confined to the individual himself. The words of Solomon had respect to the future rather than to the present. The future consequences are altogether personal. From this flows the final woe of the impenitent. A terrible punishment is solitary confinement. There may be solitariness in hell. "Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men."

(H. Melvill, B.D.)

I apply this text to the all-absorbing and vitally important matter — evangelical religion. It may be paraphrased thus: He that is truly wise, will find it to his own personal everlasting advantage; it is his interest as well as him duty to be made wise unto salvation: but he who scorns religion will find his scorning eventually infinitely to his disadvantage.

I. THE DECIDED SUBJECTION OF THE HEART TO GOD IS THE ONLY TRUE WISDOM. It is wisdom in the abstract. It is wisdom contrasted with every other acquisition. By religion is meant faith in Jesus Christ. Religion is a vague tern which may be applied to that which is true, that which is false, and that which is formal. I mean by it, that faith in Jesus Christ which is the entire submission of the heart to Him, and a practical devotedness of the life to His service. This is not only wisdom in the abstract, but wisdom of a peculiar, personal, individual importance.

II. HE WHO ACCOMPLISHES THIS IS AN INFINITE GAINER.

1. He gains the possession of the elements of present happiness. H the possession of a truly religious character does not in its own nature exempt an individual from the calamities of life, it does what is, on the whole, far more effectual and more elevating to his character — it enables him to bear them.

2. He gains the prospect of a saved eternity. The truly converted man is the only being on the face of the earth who has a rational hold upon the blessedness of heaven.

III. HE WHO SCORNS RELIGION IS AN INFINITE LOSER. To scorn is to despise religion; to scoff at, to ridicule, to reject, to neglect it. He who will not repent is a scorner. He who puts off the concerns of religion is a scorner. He who is self-righteous is a scorner. Whatever the scorner is to bear, he is to bear alone.

1. He is to bear his own sins. The Christian's sins have been borne by the Saviour in whom he trusts. The scorner has relinquished all claims upon the precious Saviour and His promises; he consents to bear the weight of his own sin.

2. He has to bear the weight of his own sorrows. The scorner throws by the precious balm of Gilead. He may take the miserable comfort of bending to the stroke of necessity, but it is a satisfaction filled with secret repinings and sorrows of the heart.

3. Look at this matter in relation to eternity. The scorner will bear the scorn of heaven and of hell.

4. The scorner will bear his own eternal self-reproaches. If there is any one thing on earth more difficult to endure than another, it is the accusation of a man's own conscience. The mental anguish of consciously-deserved distress is intolerable.

(G. T. Bedell, D.D.)

But if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it
I. THE BENEFIT WHICH ENSUES FROM HEARKENING TO GOOD COUNSEL.

1. The title or denomination of a tractable person. He is a "wise man." It is a part of wisdom for a man to suspect his own wisdom, and to think that it is possible for him to deceive himself. It is a part of wisdom to discern between good and evil — to know what is to be left and what is to be embraced. It is a part of wisdom to know one's best friends, and to give them all encouragement of being further friendly to us by hearkening to their counsel.

2. The benefit that accrues unto this wise man. He is wise unto himself. This wisdom redounds to a man's own furtherance and account. He is much better for it every way. Wise for thyself — in thy inward man; in thine outward man, thy body and estate; in thy relations: there is no better way of providing for those who belong to thee than by labouring to walk in good ways. No man serves God in vain. This is true for this life and for the life to come. God bestows graces and rewards them. God has involved our own good in His glory, so that while we endeavour to promote the one we advance the other. We are no further wise ourselves than we are wise for our own souls.

II. THE INCONVENIENCE OF THE NEGLECT OF GOOD COUNSEL. The simple inconvenience: "Bear his scorning." Scorners are such as have but mean thoughts of religion. Such as decline it for themselves. Such as deride and scoff at it. The grounds of scorning are unbelief, pride and self-conceitedness, thraldom and addiction to any particular lust. Scorning is surely followed by punishment, and in the expression "thou shalt bear it" is indicated the indefiniteness, the universality, and the unavoidableness of the punishment. Scorners persist in sin, and thus aggravate it so much the more to themselves. Scorners undervalue the kindness of reproof, and slight the motions of God's Spirit in them. Beware, then, of the sin of scorning!

(T. Horton D. D.)

She shows that she aims not at any emolument or profit of her own, but at the good of others, to whom she directs her precepts, and by keeping of them from miseries which otherwise they shall inevitably suffer.

I. OUR WISDOM PROFITS NOT JESUS CHRIST, NOR DOTH OUR SCORNING HURT HIM. Because no man can make God wiser, holier, or happier. He is above all scorns. He needs not our approbation. He can raise up others that shall honour Him more than we can dishonour Him.

II. OUR WISDOM MAY PROFIT OURSELVES. It may make men happy.

1. It brings profit to us in regard of our credit. All states reverence and prefer wise men.

2. In regard of means. Wise men ordinarily thrive in all trades.

3. It is profitable to the body and preserveth life.

4. It is profitable to the soul. It preserveth it from destruction.

III. OUR SCORNING HURTS OURSELVES.

1. Because it frustrates the means of our salvation. Who will regard that word which he scorns?

2. It gives God just cause of our condemnation. No man will endure his word should be scorned, much less will God.

(F. Taylor, B.D.)

In the language of Solomon, to be wise is to be religious, and this language is at once correct and comprehensive. That alone deserves the name of wisdom which embraces all the important interests of man, and which reaches, in its effects, through the whole extent of his rational existence. True philosophy consists in a practical acquaintance with our duties and destination as rational and immortal beings, and in rendering this acquaintance subservient to the regulation of our affections and habits, so as to promote every virtuous disposition, and thus to prepare the soul for a state of purer and more dignified enjoyment. This is not only to be truly wise, but to be wise for ourselves. That is not properly a man's own for the possession of which he has no permanent security. It is the peculiar excellence of religion that whilst it detracts nothing from the virtuous satisfactions which arise from honourable labour in any sphere of life, it superadds the consciousness of Divine favour. Much has been said and written of the tendency of mere moral virtue, independently of religious hopes, to make men happy. Whatever promotes self-government and temperance, and thus restrains those excesses which are inimical to health and peace, is wise; but this is not being wise for ourselves upon the best plan. It leaves out the animating considerations which religion alone can furnish. Here lies the superiority of religious wisdom. Besides all the sources of pleasure which are common to the Christian with the man of the world, it opens others of its own by furnishing objects of research to the understanding and interest to the heart infinitely more excellent and durable than any to which mere worldly wisdom can pretend. Can he, then, be wise for himself who prefers the plan of worldly wisdom to that wisdom which is from above? What is there of life or of joy in this wretched philosophy that should gain it so many proselytes? What should we gain by following their example? We might be flattered by empty praise as being unusually wise. If you care for such honour, it is of easy acquisition. You have only to deny your God and renounce your expectations from futurity, and it is done. But if you inquire what you will get in return, there are none to answer you. Let the advocates of unbelief estimate the advantages of their system as high as they please above ours, yet will that advantage dwindle into insignificance in the eye of true wisdom when the remotest probability of future account becomes a part of the computation. And where are such advantages to be found? And what must you lose in order to gain them? But they say, "Truth is wisdom; and truth must be supported, be the consequences what they may." But is their so-called truth more than opinion? And every probability is on the side of the being of God and dependence of humanity on Him. Can there be wisdom, for ourselves or for others, in renouncing the cheering views of Christianity for the dreary systems of infidelity?

(Jas. Lindsay,D.D.)

This verse is the epilogue or conclusion of the gospel-treaty with sinners. The entertainment the gospel meets with is twofold, and there are two sorts of gospel-hearers: compilers with the gospel-call; these are called the wise: refusers; these are styled scorners.

I. IF THOU BE NO COMPLIER WITH THE GOSPEL CALL THOU ART A SCORNER OF IT: there is no middle course. Thou art not a complier with the gospel-call as long as —

1. Thou entertainest any prejudice against religion and wilt not come to Christ.

2. Thou art in a doubt whether to come or not, or delayest and putteth off.

3. If thou dost come, but dost not turn from thy sins unto God in Christ sincerely, thoroughly, and universally, thou dost not comply. By not complying with the gospel-call thou abusest the mercy, goodness, and patience of God. Thou lookest on the gospel-call as a trifling, inconsiderable thing. Thou exposest it to shame and dishonour. Thou failest of thy fair promises. Thou makest thyself merry with thy disobedience to this call. Is not that scorning?

II. IF THOU COMPLY WITH THE GOSPEL-CALL THOU SHALT THEREIN ACT WISELY FOR THYSELF. The profit descends to themselves; it does not ascend to God. To confirm this, consider —

1. God is infinite in perfections, self-sufficient, and therefore the creatures can add nothing to Him.

2. All the goodness and profitableness of men or angels, or any creatures, can add nothing to Him. But by complying thou shalt advance thine own interest.

(T. Boston.)

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