Sermon 3080. Two Ancient Proverbs
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 1908.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, MARCH 29, 1874.
"The fear of man brings a snare; but whoever puts his trust in the LORRD shall be safe." Proverbs 29:25.
WE have two ancient Proverbs here. Each of them is true as a separate Proverb, but they are equally true when linked together.The independent proposition, that the fear of man brings a snare, is a Truth of God which experience has taught to many. Theother proposition, that he that trusts in the Lord shall be safe, has been found most blessedly true by all those who havetested it. Then put the two propositions together-that the fear of man brings a snare, but trust in the Lord is the safe andcertain way to avoid that snare-and this also is true.
I. We shall, first of all, consider for a little while the first of the two ancient Proverbs-"The fear of man brings a snare."That is ONE OF THE GREAT EVILS THAT WE HAVE TO AVOID.
What a common evil the fear of man is-the fear of losing human approbation, the fear of incurring human wrath. There are thousandsof men who have no fear of God, who have great fear of man. They break the Laws of God without any fear of the consequencesthat must ensue, yet they are afraid to break the laws of man because they dread the punishment that might possibly follow.They are not afraid of Hell, yet they are afraid of an earthly prison! They dread not the arm of the Almighty, yet they areafraid of an arm of flesh.
The fear of man has been thought by some persons to be a very good and salutary thing. Instead of bringing a snare, they thinkthat it is the means of preventing much sin among mankind. Now I do not doubt that some are hindered by the fear of man fromcommitting great crimes and open acts of wrong, but the utmost that the fear of man can do is to confer a very doubtful benefit.Try it in your own house among your own children. If your children are kept from wrongdoing only by the fear of you-if theyonly do that which they are bid to do because they are afraid to do otherwise- you will have a very poor form of obedience.And you will have, at the same time, an abundant crop of deceit springing up, for when your child has done wrong, his fearof punishment will drive him to a lie and perhaps lead him from one lie to another. And lies may become so common with himthat, at last, it shall be as natural to him to tell a lie as to speak the truth! And I think every parent must know thatall the faults a child can commit, if put into the scale together, are not equal in criminality and in injury to his spiritualconstitution as a lie. The power to tell a lie is one of the most hideous powers to which man can attain-and some childrenare kept in such a state of terror that they naturally learn to do it. It is supposed, too, that servants cannot be managedwithout being kept in a state of fear. Yet you all know what an eye-server is. If there is no right principle in servants,they are worth nothing. Those who will only work because the eye of the master or mistress is upon them, are of very littlevalue. You only teach them habits of deceit if they live in constant fear of you. This experiment has been tried on a largescale. Laws have been made with severe penalties for their violation, yet men seemed as if they transgressed all the more.In prison, the sternest forms of discipline have been tried, yet the prisoner has come out determined to sin again! Therehas been no beneficial change produced in him by fear.
I will not deny that the fear of man has its uses, but I must assert again that it is always a very doubtful good which fearbrings to the human mind and heart. Love, my Brothers and Sisters, is the grand cure for the evil of human hearts, especiallythe love that comes from above! That pure and heavenly flame which is kindled only by the Holy Spirit burns up sin. But "fearhas torment"-it does little else but plague and vex the soul.
Having said this much about any possible good that may come of fear, I now remark that according to the text, "the fear ofman brings a snare." It has led many men into very great sins.
Look at Pilate. I mention him first because there was a peculiar atrocity about his sin. The pure and holy Jesus is broughtbefore him and, after examining Him, he declares, "I find no fault in this Man." He sends Him to Herod and the result is thathe says to Christ's accusers, "I have found no fault in this Man touching these things whereof you accuse Him: no, nor hasHerod: for I sent you to him." Pilate's wife warns him that she has suffered much in a dream because of Christ, and she says,"Have nothing to do with that just Man." Pilate's own interviews with Christ impressed his mind and, therefore, he wantedto set the Savior free if he could. But though he was a Roman governor and placed in a high position of power, he was a poorslave to the people! He was vacillating. He knew what was the right course and he wanted to take it, but he feared the consequences.The Jews might appeal to Caesar and say that he had spared the life of one who pretended to be a king-and then he might losehis post. So this poor, timid, contemptible creature takes water and washes his hands-and says that he is innocent of theblood of this just Person-and the next minute gives up the innocent Victim to be nailed on a cross! It was the fear of manthat caused Pilate's name to become infamous in the history of the world and of the Church of God-and it will be infamousto all eternity. The fear of man led him to slay the Savior! Take care that it does not lead you to do something of the samekind.
Long before Pilate's day, there had been a king of Israel who lost his crown through the fear of man. God had chosen Saulto be head over his people, but when he was commanded by God to smite the Amalekites and to destroy all that they had, hespared King Agag and the best of the sheep and oxen, and all that was good because he "feared the people, and obeyed theirvoice." He was head and shoulders taller than his subjects, a man who, at other times acted as a despot and had his own way.Yet at this particular time he feared the people and so did that which God had commanded him not to do and, therefore, hiskingdom was torn from him and given to one who was better than he.
"Yes," you say, "those two were bad men who fell into sin through fear of man." Yes, but I am sorry to say that I must alsomention good men who did the same. Look at Aaron, the priest of the Lord, and companion of his brother, Moses! Aaron, whohad spoken with God and was His representative to the people. Yet, when Moses was gone up into the mountain and the peoplecame to Aaron and said, "Up, make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man that brought us up outof the land of Egypt, we know not what is become of him." Aaron bade them break off their golden earrings and bring them tohim-and he, the priest of God, desecrated his sacred hands by making for the people a molten calf before which they mightbow in worship! Ah, Aaron! Had you had the courage of your brother, you would not have fallen into that shameful sin!
Turning to the New Testament again, to give an example from it, remember bold Peter and the words which he spoke so enthusiasticallyto his Lord, "I am ready to go with You, both into prison and to death. Though I should die with You, yet will I not denyYou." Yet see him a little later, warming himself in the high priest's palace and first one of the maidservants, and thenothers that stood by, said to him, "Surely you are one of them." And "he began to curse and to swear," to prove that he wasno disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ! Ah, Peter, where is your courage now? Truly, "the fear of man brings a snare," evento the best of men! God save us from it and make us so brave that we shall never fear any man so as to do a wrong action!
Again, the fear of man brings a snare in this respect, it keeps many persons from conversion. Perhaps there are some suchpersons now present. Let me see if I can pick them out. You scarcely dare to go to the place where the Gospel is preachedin a way in which God blesses it, because if you were to go there, and it were known, it would be a subject of jest in yourfamily and would provoke remarks that you would not like. There are many who dare not go to the house where God pours outthe blessing-they are such cowards that they dare not come to listen to those who preach Christ's Gospel with power. And otherswho do come and hear it, are afraid to receive the Truth to which they have listened again and again. The thought in sucha person's mind is, "What would Father and Mother say if I were converted? Oh, what a time I would have of it! What wouldmy fellow workmen say? I would have to run the gauntlet of the whole lot if they once knew that I had become a Christian."Another says, "I don't know how I would endure the persecution I would receive! My life would become intolerable if I wereto become a child of God." So they never come to Jesus because the fear of man, which brings a snare, keeps them as the hopelessslaves of sin. But, young man, do you mean to be damned just to please somebody else? Do you mean to fling away your immortalsoul in order to escape the laughter of fools? Remember that they may laugh you into Hell, but they cannot laugh you out again!Let not the fear of man be the ruin of your soul! If, for the sake of pleasing men, you choose to forfeit some small trifle,it does not much matter, but when it comes to the
forfeiting of Christ, the forfeiting of your soul, and the forfeiting of Heaven, I appeal to your own conscience to say ifit is worthwhile to be eternally ruined for the sake of pleasing men, whoever they may be! Is it not better that even father,and mother, and brother, and sister, and every friend you have in the world should be against you, and that God should beyours-than that you should have all these as your friends and yet remain at enmity against the Most High?
I have no doubt that this same fear of man keeps a large number ofpersons who are converted, from making a public avowal oftheir faith And so it brings a snare to them. Nicodemus "at the first came to Jesus by night." And Joseph of Arimathaea was"a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews." I hope you will not try to shelter behind those two good men, forremember that as soon as Christ was put to death, when His cause was at the very worst, they came out boldly and proved theirlove of Him! And we do not read that they ever crept back, like snails into their shells. Having acknowledged Christ as theirLord and Master, I have no doubt that they continued to follow Him whatever the consequences may have been. So far as youare concerned, just now is the time to acknowledge Christ-especially now because skepticism and superstition, the two monstrousevils which threaten to devour true religion, are so rampant- and it needs some moral courage to declare yourself upon theside of the simple Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now is the hour for a Christian to play the man for Christ, his Lord andMaster! Yet there are many who are keeping in the background because "the fear of man brings a snare" upon them. Where areyou, dear Friend? I cannot come round to all those pews, otherwise I would stop, here and there, before some of you whom Iknow and before others whom I suspect, and whom I joyfully suspect, of loving my Master! I think you do, by the way you lookwhen His name is extolled in your hearing. Yet you have not said so in the way He wishes. I charge you, by the love whichyou bear to Him, keep not back! Imagine that you see Him now before your eyes and that you hear Him say to you as He hangsupon the Cross, "I bore all this for you, and yet are you ashamed of Me? If you love Me, acknowledge Me in the midst of thiswicked and perverse generation. Take up your cross and follow Me, whatever suffering or reproach it may involve."
The fear of man has brought a snare to some of the greatest Believers who have ever lived. And any child of God, wheneverhe fears the face of man, loses some of the dignity which appertains to that relationship. What a grand man Abraham was! WheneverI read his life, I look up to him with astonishment and wish I had such faith as would make me resemble him in that respect.He marches across the pages of history with such quiet stately dignity that kings and princes are dwarfed beside his greatfigure! How nobly did he say to the King of Sodom, "I will not take from you a thread, even to a shoelace, lest you shouldsay, I have made Abram rich." But oh, how small did he look when he said to Abimelech, concerning his wife, "She is my sister."She was his sister, in a sense-there was some truth in what he said-but she was more than his sister-so he was uttering alie for which he was rightly rebuked by the heathen prince!
You have, in David, another instance of how the fear of man can bring the mighty down. How brave he is as he goes out to slayGoliath, and how grandly he behaves when, twice, he spares the life of his sleeping enemy! Yet see him there at Gath, whenthe servants of Achish frightened him so that he "feigned himself mad in their hands, and scribbled on the doors of the gate,and let his spittle fall down upon his beard." The fear of man had brought down Israel's future monarch to drivel like a madman!
Equally sad is the case of Elijah, that grandest of men, as I may truly call him. You see him in his grandeur as he cries,"Take the Prophets of Baal! Let not one of them escape." And as he brings them down to the brook Kishon and slays them there!And then as he goes to the top of Carmel and prays till the rain descends upon the parched land. Yet, after the excitementis over, he is afraid of the woman, Jezebel-and the great Elijah shrinks down into the frightened man who runs away, and cries,"It is enough! Now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am not better than my fathers." So you see that "the fear of man bringsa snare" even to the best of men-it drags them down from their high places and hurls them into the dust. Therefore may Godpreserve us from it!
The fear of man keeps some Believers in very dubious positions. I have known some Believers remain where they knew they werenot doing right and where, every day, they were dragging a heavy chain behind them because they had not the moral courageto come straight out for God. If any of you young people who love the Lord want to go the easiest way to Heaven-you know thatall ways there are rough, but if you want to go the easiest way-take that which looks the hardest! Namely, be an out-and-out,thorough-going Christian! "But that will cost me much," says one. It will at first, but it will be the more easy for you afterwards.Whereas, if you begin by giving way to the world a little-trimming a little-you will have to give way and trim more and more.A Christian should be like a steamer that goes straight away to the port it is intended to reach. But many professors arelike sailing vessels, the motive power that controls them is outside of them, so they have to tack a good deal-and thoughthey may ultimately get to their destination-there is a good deal of strange sailing to the right and to the left, and theirvoyage takes a very long while. I hope you, dear Friends, will go straight to your mark. "Trust in God, and do the right"and this will, after all, be the very smoothest path that you can follow!
Further, the fear of man hampers the usefulness of a great many. There are Brothers who ought to be preaching, but who arenot because they are afraid of men. And some who ought to go and visit the poor, but they say that they cannot-the reasonis that they are afraid of men! Why, I have known some who were even afraid to give away a tract- they were as much alarmedas though they had to put their hand into a tiger's mouth! I have known some who were afraid to speak to their own childrenabout their souls. Is it not strange that they can speak to other people's children about their souls better than they canto their own? It should not be so! In fact, there is nobody living who any one of us, if he is a Christian, has any rightto be afraid of. We shall never do good to people if we are afraid of them. What would have become of the Church of God ifthe Apostles had been such timid, gentle Christians as some whom I know? They would not have gone out to preach in the streets-andas there were no chapels and churches, then-they would not have preached at all! As soon as Caesar promulgated an edict thatthey were not to meet on the first day of the week, they would have said, "Perhaps we had better not meet." When they heardthat the crowds shouted in the amphitheatre, "Christians to the lions!" they would have said, "We must not expose ourselvesto such a risk-we must think of our wives and families." And so they would have been cowards, and soon there would have beenno Christianity left in the world! Just imagine what would have happened if the Reformers had acted thus. Suppose Martin Lutherhad said, "I shall do as that old monk advised me when I consulted him. He said, 'Martin, go back to your cell and live therenear to your God, and leave the Church and the world alone.'" If Luther had followed that advice, where would the blessedReformation have been, and what preaching of the Gospel would there have been at this present moment?
I must not continue much longer upon this part of my subject, but I must say that to a minister of Christ the fear of manis one of the worst of snares. Jonah tried to escape from going to Nineveh because he was afraid of man. The Galatians couldnot bear the full light of the Gospel and, therefore, certain teachers among them tried to shut off some of its beams. Andif a minister of Christ once begins to be afraid of his hearers, his tendency will be to withhold some Doctrine through fearof a wealthy subscriber, or to keep back some rebuke for fear that it should bear too hardly upon an influential person inhis congregation. There is one sin which I believe I have never committed-I think that I have never been afraid of any ofyou and I hope, by the Grace of God, that I never shall be! If I dare not speak the Truth of God upon all points and darenot rebuke sin, what is the good of me to you? Yet I have heard sermons which seemed to me to have been made to the orderof the congregation. But honest hearers want honest preaching and if they find that the preachers message comes home to them,they thank God that it is so. They say, "Is it not right that it should be so? If we err, should not the Word of God, whichis quick and powerful, search us, try us and find our errors?" And the preacher, if he really preaches the Truth as it isin Jesus, must often deal out rebuke as well as encouragement. May God deliver all His ministers from the fear of man everywhere-andthe whole Church of Christ too!
At one time, the fear of man took this form-the geologists had discovered that Moses was mistaken and that God did not knowhow He had made the world! Many seemed to think that something dreadful had happened and they wondered how those objectorswere to be answered. Soon after that, somebody discovered that God was mistaken about having made Adam and Eve, for they graduallydeveloped from oysters or some smaller creatures still! Then again there was a great outcry, "Who is to answer these eminentphilosophers?" O, Church of God, is every fool to have any answer at all? Stand fast by the Inspired Word and be not ensnaredby the fear of man! We have seen scores of systems of philosophy come and go, and we shall probably see as many more beforewe die. Our business is to stand fast to the Truth of Revelation and let philosophies die as the frogs of Egypt died in thedays of Moses-for die they will, and when fresh hordes come, they also will die, but the eternal Truth of the ever-blessedGod will never die-it will live on in its own glorious immortality!
II. Now, in the second place, I want to show you that THE GREAT CURE FOR THIS EVIL IS TRUST IN GOD. "The fear of man bringsa snare: but whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe."
I should have thought that Solomon would have said, "The fear of man brings a snare: but whoever fears the Lord shall be safe."That would have read very well and it would have been quite true. But it would not have expressed the special Truth of Godthat Solomon then had in mind. It is not fear, but faith, that is the cure for cowardice. Trust in the Lord and you can thencry, "Whom shall I fear?" for you will feel that you have the strength of the Almighty at your back. Trusting in God, we feelthat we are one with God and so we are made strong. That strength breeds courage and enables us boldly to ask, "If God isfor us, who can be against us?" That courage leads us to count the cost of doing right and, after counting it, we feel thatin God's strength we can endure that and a thousand times as much if necessary. And therefore we say, "Come what may, we willserve the Lord." And with the Holy Spirit resting upon us, we march boldly on to victory in His might. So that trust in God,by giving us God's strength and consequently courage and decision, lifts us up above the fear of man!
But the point of the text may be found in another direction, namely, that trusting in God, we become safe, not merely fromfear, but from the consequences of defying fear. " 'Whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." By trusting in theLord and doing that which is right, he may be a great sufferer, but he shall be safe. He will not be so great a sufferer ashe would be if he followed the opposite course. Suppose that his enemies carry their persecution to extremes? They can onlykill the body and after that they have no more that they can do. But suppose he were to forfeit his faith? Then his body andsoul would be cast into Hell which would be an infinitely greater and eternal loss! Never imagine that you can be a loserby trusting in God. Whatever risk there is in doing so, the risk of not trusting in Him is far greater- and every sensibleman will prefer the smaller risk. Besides, how often it happens that if a man trusts in God and acts according to his conscience,he is not a loser at all. Many have been gainers thereby, though that ought not to be an inducement. Many have said, "If wedo what we feel is right, we shall lose everything" and yet, when they have dared to run that risk, they have lost nothingat all, for God has helped them in the emergency! But if they shouldlose by doing the right thing, let this assurance comfortthem, "Whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." It is much better to be safe than to be wealthy-and infinitely betterto be safe for time and for eternity than to have all the comforts of life about you, but to put your soul in jeopardy!
A Christian need never be afraid of anybody. If you are doing right, you have no cause to fear the greatest man who is servingthe devil. Look at Bernard Palissy, the Huguenot potter who produced such wonderful works of art. One day the king of Francesaid to him, "Bernard I am afraid I shall be compelled to give you up to the inquisitors to be burned if you will not changeyour religion." Bernard's reply was, "I pity your majesty." Only think of that-the potter pitied the king! So his majestyasked, "Why do you pity me, Bernard?" "Because," he answered, "you have said what your majesty and fifty thousand princescannot make me say, I fear I shall be compelled!'" Why, Sirs, Palissy was the king and the king was not worthy to be the potter!A truly royal dignity dwelt in that potter's soul. Are any of you young men going to allow anybody to make you say, "I fearI shall be compelled to cease worshipping with the Dissenters?" Or, "I fear I shall be compelled to abstain from attendingthat little country Baptist Chapel?" Or, "I am afraid it might not be considered proper for me to make an open professionof religion in the town where I live?" If you talk like that, I can only say, "May the Lord have mercy on your miserable littlesoul and give you enough manhood and common honesty to confess what Christ has done for you!" If you really have been boughtwith the precious blood of Jesus Christ and have had your sins forgiven, have been made an heir of Heaven and are on yourway to a glorious immortality, surely you cannot act the part of a sneak like that! What? Are you who are to dwell among theangels, you for whom there is a mansion in the skies and a robe of righteousness and a crown of Glory-are you going to playthe coward like that? Why, if you act thus, you ought to be drummed out of the regiment of the Church militant, so how canyou expect to be in the Church triumphant with such a miserable spirit as that? May the Lord help you to put your trust inHim, that you may be saved from all fear of man!
Now to close. The last sentence of the text is true as an independent proposition. "Whoever puts his trust in the Lord shallbe safe." I have not time to speak about this sentence, but I give it to you to put under your tongue as a sweet morsel asyou go your way to your homes. It is not, "He that trusts in himself." It is not, "He that trusts in a priest." It is not,"He that performs good works and trusts in them," but, "whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." The man who istrusting in the blood and righteousness of Jesus may not always be happy, but he is safe! He may not always be singing,
but he is safe! He may not always have the joy of full assurance, but he is safe! He may sometimes be distressed, but he isalways safe! He may sometimes question his interest in Christ, but he is always safe!
I was astonished, the other day, to meet with an expression used by Cardinal Bellarmine, who was one of the greatest Jesuitcontroversialists. He closes a long argument about being saved by works with the following very remarkable sentences, whichI will quote as accurately as I can-"Nevertheless, although the way of acceptance with God is by our own works, there is adanger that men may so trust in their own works as to grow proud, which would quite spoil their works and, therefore, uponthe whole, it is safest for them to rely upon the blood and merits of Jesus Christ alone." Well done, Cardinal Bellarmine!"Upon the whole. "I mean to do that as long as I live and oh that everyone who has ever been deluded by the doctrines of theChurch of Rome, would listen to the Cardinal's confession that, upon the whole it is safest to rest upon what Christ has done!Upon the whole i t is better to trust in the Savior than to trust in ourselves! Upon the whole it is better to be washed inHis blood than to think that we can make ourselves clean! The cardinal did not say all the truth, but I thank him for whathe did say, though the truth is better put by Solomon in my text, "Whoever puts his trust in the Lord shall be safe." He shallbe safe if he is sick, if he is rich, if he is poor! He shall be safe when he dies, safe when he rises again, safe at theDay of Judgment, and safe throughout eternity! Oh, then, come all of you and trust in the Lord, for "whoever puts his trustin the Lord shall be safe" forever! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PROVERBS27.
Verse 1. Boast not yourself of tomorrow; for you know not what a day may bring forth. Let us never boast of future days andyears, or what we mean to do when we come to any age, or what shall be our position when we grow gray. Let us never boastof anything in the future, for we cannot tell what even a day may bring forth.
2. Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; a stranger, and not your own lips. For he who praises himself writeshimself down a fool in capital letters!
3. A stone is heavy, and the sand weighty; but a fool's wrath is heavier than them both. One might endure almost any sortof labor sooner than have to live with one who is perpetually and foolishly angry.
4. Wrath is cruel, and anger is outrageous; but who is able to stand before envy?'Envy is a snake in the grass! Christians,beware of envy. You will, perhaps, be tempted to have it in your heart when you see another Christian more useful than youare, or when some Christian Brother seems to have more honor than you have. Ah, then cry to God against it! Never let thisvenomous reptile be spared for a single moment! The best of men will find envy creeping over them at times-it may be envyof the wicked who are rich. We must seek to overcome that at once. And even envy of the best of men, what is it but covetousnessand hatred and a breach of two Commandments? God save us from it!
5. Open rebuke is better than secret love. That I should love my fellow man is a good thing, but to have love enough to beable openly to rebuke his faults, is a very high proof of affection-and far better than secret love that is silent when itought to speak. And yet, how many persons there are who are very angry with you if you give them an open rebuke? And how manythere are who are foolish enough to prefer secret love to open rebuke, though they have Solomon's wisdom to teach them better?Our Lord Jesus Christ has a secret love to His people, yet He never spares them the open rebuke when He knows that it willbe good for them.
6. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Beware of the flattering world, Believer!Beware of the flattering devil and of the deceitfulness of the flesh. When things go smoothly with you, there may be the greatestdanger. Whatever you do in times of storm, keep a good lookout when the sea is calm and the sky is clear.
7. The full soul loathes a honeycomb; but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet. "The full soul loathes" (even thatluscious thing) "a honeycomb." No true preaching will go down with him who is full of himself, full of his own importance.Unless there shall be many of the flowers of rhetoric in the discourse, he will not listen to sound Doctrine. "But to thehungry soul every bitter thing is sweet." Happy hunger is it when the soul hungers and thirsts after righteousness. Then thereare no hyper-critical observations about the minister's delivery and no carping at words and
phrases. It is spiritual food that the soul seeks-and if it can get that, though it may not be to its taste in every respect-there will be a sweetness in it that will make it like a honeycomb.
8, 9. As a bird that wanders from her nest, so is a man that wanders from his place. Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart:so does the sweetness of a man's friend by hearty counsel The Orientals were known to smear their faces and especially theirhair, with ointment and perfume-and those who came near them were pleased with the scent. When you can get a little conversation,especially upon points that help towards godliness, with those of a like frame of mind with you-when you can have sweet communionand fellowship with the people of God-then it is that your hearts are rejoiced as with ointments and perfumes!
10. Your own friend, and your father's friend, forsake not Have but few friends, but stick closely to them. Above all, cleaveclosely to that "Friend that sticks closer than a brother." If He is your Friend, and your father's Friend, never forsakeHIM. Forsake all the world for Him, but let not all the world induce you to forsake Him.
10. Neither go into your brother's house in the day of your calamity: for better is a neighbor that is near than a brotherfar off It is very sad that it should be so, but sometimes our nearest relatives are the farthest off, and those who oughtto help us the most help us least. Many a man has had kindness shown to him by his neighbor who was but a stranger, when hehas had little or no kindness from his own relatives. But there is one Brother into whose house we may always go. So nearof kin He is to us, and so loving of heart, that He never thinks a hard thought of us but the more we ask of Him, the moredelighted He is with us and is only grieved with us because we stint ourselves in our prayers.
11. My son, be wise, and make my heart glad, that I may answer him that reproaches me. A good son is his father's honor. Ifany say of such-and-such a man that he is a bad man, yet if his children walk orderly, he can answer the slander without speakinga word. Would a bad man have brought up his children in that way? Would they be walking in the fear of God if he had not walkedin that way himself? So the sons of God ought to seek, by their consistency, to keep the name of their Father clear of reproach.The consistency of our conduct should be the best answer to the accusations of the infidel.
12, 13. A prudent man foresees the evil, and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished. Take his garment thatis surety for a stranger. He that takes surety is sure, but he that goes surety for another, and especially for a stranger,will smart for it, perhaps to the day of his death.
13, 14. And take a pledge of him for a strange woman. He that blesses his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning,it shall be counted a curse to him.There are some men who always use such sweet words-they are so fond of you that they areup early in the morning to give you their praise-and they continue all day pouring out their flattering unction. Such blessingsas these are a curse! And the wise man will loathe these parasitical people who will see no faults, or pretend that they donot see any, but will always be extolling mere trifles as though they were the most sublime virtues. A sensible man is notto be overcome by this flattery!
15. A continual dropping in a very rainy day and a contentious woman are alike. When there is a little leak in the roof andthe rain keeps dropping through, it is very uncomfortable. But it is ten times more comfortable than it is to have to dwellwith a contentious woman!
16. Whoever hides her hides the wind, and the ointment of his right hand, which betrays itself That is to say, if a man putssweet ointment on his hand, the smell of it would soon be perceived. So, if a woman is of a contentious, angry, quarrelsomedisposition, her contentiousness will be discovered-there is no hiding it.
17. Iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance ofhis friend. Hence the usefulness of Christian association andhence, also, the evil of sinful company, for one sinner sharpens another to do mischief, just as one saint encourages anotherto righteousness.
18. 19. Whoever keeps the fig tree shall eat the fruit thereof: so he that waits on his master shall be honored. As in water,face answers to face, so the heart of man to man. If I look into water, I see the reflection of my own face, not another man's.And if I look into society, I shall probably see men like-minded with myself. How is it that a drunken man always finds otherdrunken men? How is it that lascivious men always have a bad opinion of the morality of other people? How is it that hypocritesalways think other people hypocrites? Why, because they can see the reflection of their own faces! When a man tells me thatthere is no love in the Church of God, I know it is because he sees his own face and
knows that there is no love in it. You will generally find that men measure other people's corn with their own bushels. Theyare sure to mete out to others according to their own measure-and they thus unconsciously betray themselves.
20, 21. Hell and destruction are never full; so the eyes of man are never satisfied. As the refining pot for silver, and thefurnace for gold; so is a man to his praise. Many a man who can bear adversity, cannot bear prosperity. The world's censuresseldom do a Christian any harm, but it is the breath of applause that often gives us the scarlet fever of pride.
22. Though you should crush a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him. Notroubles, no afflictions can, of themselves, make a fool into a wise man. The sinner remains a sinner, after all Providentialchastisements, unless Sovereign Grace interposes.
23. Be you diligent to know the state ofyour flocks, and look well to your herds. Be not slothful in business and, above all,let the Christian be diligent to know the state of his own heart.
24-27. For riches are not forever: and does the crown endure to every generation? The hay appears, and the tender grass showsitself, and herbs of the mountains are gathered. The lambs are for your clothing, and the goats are the price of the field.And you shall have goat's milk enough for your food, for the food ofyour household, and for the maintenance for your maidens.Those who are diligent, generally prosper, and they who are diligent in spiritual things shall have all that their souls need.They shall be clothed with the robe of righteousness, they shall be well fed and shall be satisfied. May the wisdom of theseProverbs be given to us in daily life, that we may be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But above all, may heavenlywisdom be given to us in all spiritual things, to the praise of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!