In this chapter we have,
I. A caution against rash suretiship,
II. A rebuke to slothfulness,
III. The character and fate of a malicious mischievous man,
IV. An account of seven things which God hates,
V. An exhortation to make the word of God familiar to us,
VI. A repeated warning of the pernicious consequences of the sin of
We are here dissuaded from sin very much by arguments borrowed from our
secular interests, for it is not only represented as damning in the
other world, but as impoverishing in this.
|Cautions against Suretiship.
1 My son, if thou be surety for thy friend, if thou hast
stricken thy hand with a stranger,
2 Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken
with the words of thy mouth.
3 Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come
into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure
4 Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.
5 Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and
as a bird from the hand of the fowler.
It is the excellency of the word of God that it teaches us not only
divine wisdom for another world, but human prudence for this world,
that we may order our affairs with discretion; and this is one good
rule, To avoid suretiship, because by it poverty and ruin are often
brought into families, which take away that comfort in relations which
he had recommended in the foregoing chapter.
1. We must look upon suretiship as a snare and decline it accordingly,
"It is dangerous enough for a man to be bound for his friend, though it
be one whose circumstances he is well acquainted with, and well assured
of his sufficiency, but much more to strike the hands with a
stranger, to become surety for one whom thou dost not know to be
either able or honest." Or the stranger here with whom the hand is
stricken is the creditor, "the usurer to whom thou art become bound,
and yet as to thee he is a stranger, that is, thou owest him nothing,
nor hast had any dealings with him. If thou hast rashly entered into
such engagements, either wheedled into them or in hopes to have the
same kindness done for thee another time, know that thou art snared
with the words of thy mouth; it was easily done, with a word's
speaking; it was but setting thy hand to a paper, a bond is soon sealed
and delivered, and a recognizance entered into. But it will not be so
easily got clear of; thou art in a snare more than thou art
aware of." See how little reason we have to make light of tongue-sins;
if by a word of our mouth we may become indebted to men, and lie open
to their actions, by the words of our mouth we may become obnoxious to
God's justice, and even so may be snared. It is false that words are
but wind: they are often snares.
2. If we have been drawn into this snare, it will be our wisdom by all
means, with all speed, to get out of it,
It sleeps for the present; we hear nothing of it. The debt is not
demanded; the principal says, "Never fear, we will take care of it."
But still the bond is in force, interest is running on, the creditor
may come upon thee when he will and perhaps may be hasty and severe,
the principal may prove either knavish or insolvent, and then thou must
rob thy wife and children, and ruin thy family, to pay that which thou
didst neither nor drink for. And therefore deliver thyself; rest
not till either the creditor give up the bond or the principal give
thee counter-security; when thou art come into the hand of thy
friend, and he has advantage against thee, it is no time to
threaten or give ill language (that will provoke and make ill worse),
but humble thyself, beg and pray to be discharged, go down on
thy knees to him, and give him all the fair words thou canst; engage
thy friends to speak for thee; leave no stone unturned till thou hast
agreed with thy adversary and compromised the matter, so that thy bond
may not come against thee or thine. This is a care which may well break
thy sleep, and let it do so till thou hast got through. "Give not
sleep to thy eyes till thou hast delivered thyself. Strive
and struggle to the utmost, and hasten with all speed, as a roe
or a bird delivers herself out of this snare of the
fowler or hunter. Delays are dangerous, and feeble efforts will not
serve." See what care God, in his word, has taken to make men good
husbands of their estates, and to teach them prudence in the management
of them. Godliness has precepts, as well as promises, relating
to the life that now is.
But how are we to understand this? We are not to think it is unlawful
in any case to become surety, or bail, for another; it may be a piece
of justice or charity; he that has friends may see cause in this
instance to show himself friendly, and it may be no piece of
imprudence. Paul became bound for Onesimus,
We may help a young man into business that we know to be honest and
diligent, and gain him credit by passing our word for him, and so do
him a great kindness without any detriment to ourselves. But,
1. It is every man's wisdom to keep out of debt as much as may be, for
it is an incumbrance upon him, entangles him in the world, puts him in
danger of doing wrong or suffering wrong. The borrower is servant to
the lender, and makes himself very much a slave to this world.
Christians therefore, who are bought with a price, should not
thus, without need, make themselves the servants of men,
1 Corinthians 7:23.
2. It is great folly to entangle ourselves with necessitous people, and
to become bound for their debts, that are ever and anon taking up
money, and lading, as we say, out of one hole into another, for it is
ten to one but, some time or other, it will come upon us. A man ought
never to be bound as surety for more than he is both able and willing
to pay, and can afford to pay without wronging his family, in case the
principal fail, for he ought to look upon it as his own debt.
Ecclesiasticus viii. 13,
Be not surety above thy power, for, if thou be surety, thou must
take care to pay it.
3. It is a necessary piece of after-wit, if we have foolishly entangled
ourselves, to get out of the snare as fast as we can, to lose no time,
spare no pains, and stick at no submission to make ourselves safe and
easy, and get our affairs into a good posture. It is better to humble
ourselves for an accommodation than to ruin ourselves by our stiffness
and haughtiness. Make sure thy friend by getting clear from thy
engagements from him; for rash suretiship is as much the bane of
friendship as that which is prudent is sometimes the bond of it. Let us
take heed lest we any way make ourselves guilty of other men's sins
(1 Timothy 5:22),
for that is worse, and much more dangerous, than being bound for other
men's debts; and, if we must be in all this care to get our debts to
men forgiven, much more to get our peace made with God. "Humble
thyself to him; make sure of Christ thy friend, to
intercede for thee; pray earnestly that thy sins may be pardoned, and
thou mayest be delivered from going down to the pit, and it shall not
be in vain. Give not sleep to thy eyes nor slumber to thy eye
lids, till this be done."
6 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise:
7 Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler,
8 Provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in
9 How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise
out of thy sleep?
10 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of
the hands to sleep:
11 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy
want as an armed man.
Solomon, in these verses, addresses himself to the sluggard who loves
his ease, lives in idleness, minds no business, sticks to nothing,
brings nothing to pass, and in a particular manner is careless in the
business of religion. Slothfulness is as sure a way to poverty, though
not so short a way, as rash suretiship. He speaks here to the
I. By way of instruction,
He sends him to school, for sluggards must be schooled. He is to take
him to school himself, for, if the scholar will take no pains, the
master must take the more; the sluggard is not willing to come to
school to him (dreaming scholars will never love wakeful teachers) and
therefore he has found him out another school, as low as he can desire.
1. The master he is sent to school to: Go to the ant, to the
bee, so the LXX. Man is taught more than the beasts of the
earth, and made wiser that the fowls of heaven, and yet is so
degenerated that he may learn wisdom from the meanest in sects and be
shamed by them. When we observe the wonderful sagacities of the
inferior creatures we must not only give glory to the God of nature,
who has made them thus strangely, but receive instruction to ourselves;
by spiritualizing common things, we may make the things of God both
easy and ready to us, and converse with them daily.
2. The application of mind that is required in order to learn of this
master: Consider her ways. The sluggard is so because he does
not consider; nor shall we ever learn to any purpose, either by the
word or the works of God, unless we set ourselves to consider.
Particularly, if we would imitate others in that which is good, we must
consider their ways, diligently observe what they do, that we may do
3. The lesson that is to be learned. In general, learn wisdom,
consider, and be wise; that is the thing we are to aim at in all
our learning, not only to be knowing, but to be wise. In particular,
learn to provide meat in summer; that is,
(1.) We must prepare for hereafter, and not mind the present time only,
not eat up all, and lay up nothing, but in gathering time treasure up
for a spending time. Thus provident we must be in our worldly affairs,
not with an anxious care, but with a prudent foresight; lay in for
winter, for straits and wants that may happen, and for old age; much
more in the affairs of our souls. We must provide meat and food, that
which is substantial and will stand us in stead, and which we shall
most need. In the enjoyment of the means of grace provide for the want
of them, in life for death, in time for eternity; in the state of
probation and preparation we must provide for the state of retribution.
(2.) We must take pains, and labour in our business, yea, though we
labour under inconveniences. Even in summer, when the weather
is hot, the ant is busy in gathering food and laying it up, and
does not indulge her ease, nor take her pleasure, as the grasshopper,
that sings and sports in the summer and then perishes in the winter.
The ants help one another; if one have a grain of corn too big for her
to carry home, her neighbours will come in to her assistance.
(3.) We must improve opportunities, we must gather when it is to be
had, as the ant does in summer and harvest, in the proper time. It is
our wisdom to improve the season while that favours us, because that
may be done then which cannot be done at all, or not so well done, at
another time. Walk while you have the light.
4. The advantages which we have of learning this lesson above what the
ant has, which will aggravate our slothfulness and neglect if we idle
away our time. She has no guides, overseers, and rulers,
but does it of herself, following the instinct of nature; the more
shame for us who do not in like manner follow the dictates of our own
reason and conscience, though besides them we have parents, masters,
ministers, magistrates, to put us in mind of our duty, to check us for
the neglect of it, to quicken us to it, to direct us in it, and to call
us to an account about it. The greater helps we have for working out
our salvation the more inexcusable shall we be if we neglect it.
II. By way of reproof,
In these verses,
1. He expostulates with the sluggard, rebuking him and reasoning with
him, calling him to his work, as a master does his servant that has
over-slept himself: "How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? How
long wouldst thou sleep if one would let thee alone? When wilt
thou think it time to arise?" Sluggards should be roused
with a How long? This is applicable,
(1.) To those that are slothful in the way of work and duty, in the
duties of their particular calling as men or their general calling as
Christians. "How long wilt thou waste thy time, and when wilt
thou be a better husband of it? How long wilt thou love thy
ease, and when wilt thou learn to deny thyself, and to take
pains? How long wilt thou bury thy talents, and when wilt
thou begin to trade with them? How long wilt thou delay, and
put off, and trifle away thy opportunities, as one regardless of
hereafter; and when wilt thou stir up thyself to do what thou
hast to do, which, if it be not done, will leave thee for ever undone?"
(2.) To those that are secure in the way of sin and danger: "Hast thou
not slept enough? Is it not far in the day? Does not thy Master call?
Are not the Philistines upon thee? When then wilt thou arise?"
2. He exposes the frivolous excuses he makes for himself, and shows how
ridiculous he makes himself. When he is roused he stretched himself,
and begs, as for alms, for more sleep, more slumber; he
is well in his warm bed, and cannot endure to think of rising,
especially of rising to work. But, observe, he promises himself and his
master that he will desire but a little more sleep, a
little more slumber, and then he will get up and go to his
business. But herein he deceives himself; the more a slothful temper is
indulged the more it prevails; let him sleep awhile, and slumber
awhile, and still he is in the same tune; still he asks for a
little more sleep, yet a little more; he never thinks he has
enough, and yet, when he is called, pretends he will come presently.
Thus men's great work is left undone by being put off yet a little
longer, de die in diem--from day to day; and they are cheated of
all their time by being cheated of the present moments. A little more
sleep proves an everlasting sleep. Sleep on now, and take your
3. He gives him fair warning of the fatal consequences of his
(1.) Poverty and want will certainly come upon those that are
slothful in their business. If men neglect their affairs, they not only
will not go forward, but they will go backward. He that leaves his
concerns at sixes and sevens will soon see them go to wreck and ruin,
and bring his noble to nine-pence. Spiritual poverty comes upon those
that are slothful in the service of God; those will want oil, when they
should use it, that provide it not in their vessels.
(2.) "It will come silently and insensibly, will grow upon thee, and
come step by step, as one that travels, but will without fail
come at last." It will leave thee as naked as if thou wert stripped
by a highwayman; so bishop Patrick.
(3.) "It will come irresistibly, like an armed man, whom thou
canst not oppose nor make thy part good against."
12 A naughty person, a wicked man, walketh with a froward
13 He winketh with his eyes, he speaketh with his feet, he
teacheth with his fingers;
14 Frowardness is in his heart, he deviseth mischief
continually; he soweth discord.
15 Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall
he be broken without remedy.
16 These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an
abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be
swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth
discord among brethren.
Solomon here gives us,
I. The characters of one that is mischievous to man and dangerous to be
dealt with. If the slothful are to be condemned, that do nothing, much
more those that do ill, and contrive to do all the ill they can. It is
a naughty person that is here spoken of, Heb. A man of
Belial; I think it should have been so translated, because it is a
term often used in scripture, and this is the explication of it.
1. How a man of Belial is here described. He is a wicked man,
that makes a trade of doing evil, especially with his tongue, for he
walks and works his designs with a froward mouth
by lying and perverseness, and a direct opposition to God and man. He
says and does every thing,
(1.) Very artfully and with design. He has the subtlety of the serpent,
and carries on his projects with a great deal of craft and management
with his eyes, with his feet, with his fingers. He expresses his
malice when he dares not speak out (so some), or, rather, thus
he carries on his plot; those about him, whom he makes use of as the
tools of his wickedness, understand the ill meaning of a wink of his
eye, a stamp of his feet, the least motion of his fingers. He gives
orders for evil-doing, and yet would not be thought to do so, but has
ways of concealing what he does, so that he may not be suspected. He is
a close man, and upon the reserve; those only shall be let into the
secret that would do any thing he would have them to do. He is a
cunning man, and upon the trick; he has a language by himself, which an
honest man is not acquainted with, nor desires to be.
(2.) Very spitefully and with ill design. It is not so much ambition or
covetousness that is in his heart, as downright
frowardness, malice, and ill nature. He aims not so much to
enrich and advance himself as to do an ill turn to those about him. He
is continually devising one mischief or other, purely for
mischief-sake--a man of Belial indeed, of the devil, resembling him not
only in subtlety, but in malice.
2. What his doom is
His calamity shall come and he shall be broken; he that
devised mischief shall fall into mischief. His ruin shall come,
(1.) Without warning. It shall come suddenly: Suddenly shall he be
broken, to punish him for all the wicked arts he had to surprise
people into his snares.
(2.) Without relief. He shall be irreparably broken, and never able to
piece again: He shall be broken without remedy. What relief can
he expect that has disobliged all mankind? He shall come to his end
and none shall help him,
II. A catalogue of those things which are in a special manner odious to
God, all which are generally to be found in those men of Belial whom he
had described in the foregoing verses; and the last of them (which,
being the seventh, seems especially to be intended, because he says
they are six, yea, seven) is part of his character, that he sows
discord. God hates sin; he hates every sin; he can never be
reconciled to it; he hates nothing but sin. But there are some sins
which he does in a special manner hate; and all those here mentioned
are such as are injurious to our neighbour. It is an evidence of the
good-will God bears to mankind that those sins are in a special manner
provoking to him which are prejudicial to the comfort of human life and
society. Therefore the men of Belial must expect their ruin to
come suddenly, and without remedy, because their
practices are such as the Lord hates and are an abomination to
Those things which God hates it is no thanks to us to hate in others,
but we must hate them in ourselves.
1. Haughtiness, conceitedness of ourselves, and contempt of
others--a proud look. There are seven things that God hates, and
pride is the first, because it is at the bottom of much sin and gives
rise to it. God sees the pride in the heart and hates it there; but,
when it prevails to that degree that the show of men's countenance
witnesses against them that they overvalue themselves and undervalue
all about them, this is in a special manner hateful to him, for then
pride is proud of itself and sets shame at defiance.
2. Falsehood, and fraud, and dissimulation. Next to a proud
look nothing is more an abomination to God than a lying
tongue; nothing more sacred than truth, nor more necessary to
conversation than speaking truth. God and all good men hate and abhor
3. Cruelty and blood-thirstiness. The devil was, from the beginning, a
liar and a murderer
and therefore, as a lying tongue, so hands that shed innocent
blood are hateful to God, because they have in them the devil's
image and do him service.
4. Subtlety in the contrivance of sin, wisdom to do evil, a heart
that designs and a head that devises wicked imaginations,
that is acquainted with the depths of Satan and knows how to carry on a
covetous, envious, revengeful plot, most effectually. The more there
is of craft and management in sin the more it is an abomination to God.
5. Vigour and diligence in the prosecution of sin--feet that are
swift in running to mischief, as if they were afraid of losing time
or were impatient of delay in a thing they are so greedy of. The policy
and vigilance, the eagerness and industry, of sinners, in their sinful
pursuits, may shame us who go about that which is good so awkwardly and
6. False-witness bearing, which is one of the greatest mischiefs that
the wicked imagination can devise, and against which there is least
fence. There cannot be a greater affront to God (to whom in an oath
appeal is made) nor a greater injury to our neighbour (all whose
interests in this world, even the dearest, lie open to an attack of
this kind) than knowingly to give in a false testimony. There are seven
things which God hates, and lying involves two of them; he hates it,
and doubly hates it.
7. Making mischief between relations and neighbours, and using all
wicked means possible, not only to alienate their affections one from
another, but to irritate their passions one against another. The God of
love and peace hates him that sows discord among brethren, for
he delights in concord. Those that by tale-bearing and slandering, by
carrying ill-natured stories, aggravating every thing that is said and
done, and suggesting jealousies and evil surmises, blow the coals of
contention, are but preparing for themselves a fire of the same
|Parental Cautions; Cautions against Impurity.
20 My son, keep thy father's commandment, and forsake not the
law of thy mother:
21 Bind them continually upon thine heart, and tie them about
22 When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it
shall keep thee; and when thou awakest, it shall talk with
23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and
reproofs of instruction are the way of life:
24 To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the
tongue of a strange woman.
25 Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her
take thee with her eyelids.
26 For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a
piece of bread: and the adulteress will hunt for the precious
27 Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be
28 Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
29 So he that goeth in to his neighbour's wife; whosoever
toucheth her shall not be innocent.
30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his
soul when he is hungry;
31 But if he be found, he shall restore sevenfold; he shall
give all the substance of his house.
32 But whoso committeth adultery with a woman lacketh
understanding: he that doeth it destroyeth his own soul.
33 A wound and dishonour shall he get; and his reproach shall
not be wiped away.
34 For jealousy is the rage of a man: therefore he will not
spare in the day of vengeance.
35 He will not regard any ransom; neither will he rest content,
though thou givest many gifts.
Here is, I. A general exhortation faithfully to adhere to the word of
God and to take it for our guide in all our actions.
1. We must look upon the word of God both as a light
and as a law,
(1.) By its arguments it is a light, which our understandings must
subscribe to; it is a lamp to our eyes for discovery, and so to
our feet for direction. The word of God reveals to us truths of eternal
certainty, and is built upon the highest reason. Scripture-light is
the sure light.
(2.) By its authority it is a law, which our wills must submit to. As
never such a light shone out of the schools of the philosophers, so
never such a law issued from the throne of any prince, so well framed,
and so binding. It is such a law as is a lamp and a light, for it
carries with it the evidence of its own goodness.
2. We must receive it as our father's commandment and the law
of our mother,
It is God's commandment and his law. But,
(1.) Our parents directed us to it, put it into our hands, trained us
up in the knowledge and observance of it, its original and obligation
being most sacred. We believe indeed, not for their saying, for we have
tried it ourselves and find it to be of God; but we were beholden to
them for recommending it to us, and see all the reason in the world to
continue in the things we have learned, knowing of whom we have
(2.) The cautions, counsels, and commands which our parents gave us
agree with the word of God, and therefore we must hold them fast.
Children, when they are grown up, must remember the law of a
good mother, as well as the commandment of a good
Ecclesiasticus iii. 2.
The Lord has given the father honour over the children and has
confirmed the authority of the mother over the sons.
3. We must retain the word of God and the good instructions which our
parents gave us out of it.
(1.) We must never cast them off, never think it a mighty achievement
(as some do) to get clear of the restraints of a good education:
"Keep thy father's commandment, keep it still, and never forsake
(2.) We must never lay them by, no, not for a time
Bind them continually, not only upon thy hand (as Moses
but upon thy heart. Phylacteries upon the hand were of no value
at all, any further than they occasioned pious thoughts and affections
in the heart. There the word must be written, there it must be hid, and
laid close to the conscience. Tie them about thy neck, as an
ornament, a bracelet, or gold chain,--about thy throat (so the
word is); let them be a guard upon that pass; tie them about thy
throat, that no forbidden fruit may be suffered to go in nor any evil
word suffered to go out through the throat; and thus a great deal of
sin would be prevented. Let the word of God be always ready to us, and
let us feel the impressions of it, as of that which is bound upon our
hearts and about our necks.
4. We must make use of the word of God and of the benefit that is
designed us by it. If we bind it continually upon our hearts,
(1.) It will be our guide, and we must follow its direction. "When
thou goest, it shall lead thee
it shall lead thee into, and lead thee in, the good and right way,
shall lead thee from, and lead thee out of, every sinful dangerous
path. It will say unto thee, when thou art ready to turn aside, This
is the way; walk in it. It will be that to thee that the pillar of
cloud and fire was to Israel in the wilderness. Be led by that, let it
be thy rule, and then thou shalt be led by the Spirit; he will be thy
monitor and support."
(2.) It will be our guard, and we must put ourselves under the
protection of it: "When thou sleepest, and liest exposed to the
malignant powers of darkness, it shall keep thee; thou shalt be
safe, and shalt think thyself so." If we govern ourselves by the
precepts of the word all day, and make conscience of the duty God has
commanded to us, we may shelter ourselves under the promises of the
word at night, and take the comfort of the deliverances God does and
will command for us.
(3.) It will be our companion, and we must converse with it: "When
thou awakest in the night, and knowest not how to pass away thy
waking minutes, if thou pleasest, it shall talk with thee, and
entertain thee with pleasant meditations in the night-watch; when
thou awakest in the morning, and art contriving the work of the
day, it shall talk with thee about it, and help thee to contrive
for the best,"
The word of God has something to say to us upon all occasions, if we
would but enter into discourse with it, would ask it what it has to
say, and give it the hearing. And it would contribute to our close and
comfortable walking with God all day if we would begin with him in the
morning and let his word be the subject of our first thoughts. When
I awake I am still with thee; we are so if the word be still with
(4.) It will be our life; for, as the law is a lamp and a
light for the present, so the reproofs of instruction are the
way of life. Those reproofs of the word which not only show us our
faults, but instruct us how to do better, are the way that leads to
life, eternal life. Let not faithful reproofs therefore, which have
such a direct tendency to make us happy, ever make us uneasy.
II. Here is a particular caution against the sin of uncleanness.
1. When we consider how much this iniquity abounds, how heinous it is
in its own nature, of what pernicious consequence it is, and how
certainly destructive to all the seeds of the spiritual life in the
soul, we shall not wonder that the cautions against it are so often
repeated and so largely inculcated.
(1.) One great kindness God designed men, in giving them his law, was
to preserve them from this sin,
"The reproofs of instruction are therefore the way of life to
thee, because they are designed to keep thee from the evil
woman, who will be certain death to thee, from being enticed by
the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman, who pretends to
love thee, but intends to ruin thee." Those that will be wrought upon
by flattery make themselves a very easy prey to the tempter; and those
who would avoid that snare must take well-instructed reproofs as great
kindnesses and be thankful to those that will deal faithfully with
(2.) The greatest kindness we can do ourselves is to keep at a distance
from this sin, and to look upon it with the utmost dread and
"Lust not after her beauty, no, not in thy heart, for, if
thou dost, thou hast there already committed adultery with
her. Talk not of the charms in her face, neither be thou smitten
with her amorous glances; they are all snares and nets; let her
not take thee with her eye-lids. Her looks are arrows and fiery
darts; they wound, they kill, in another sense than what lovers mean;
they call it a pleasing captivity, but it is a destroying one, it is
worse than Egyptian slavery."
2. Divers arguments Solomon here urges to enforce this caution against
the sin of whoredom.
(1.) It is a sin that impoverishes men, wastes their estates, and
reduces them to beggary
By means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of
bread; many a man has been so, who has purchased the ruin of his
body and soul at the expense of his wealth. The prodigal son spent his
living on harlots, so that he brought himself to be fellow-commoner
with the swine. And that poverty must needs lie heavily which men bring
themselves into by their own folly,
(2.) It threatens death; it kills men: The adulteress will hunt for
the precious life, perhaps designedly, as Delilah for Samson's, at
least, eventually, the sin strikes at the life. Adultery was punished
by the law of Moses as a capital crime. The adulterer and the
adulteress shall surely be put to death. Every one knew this. Those
therefore who, for the gratifying of a base lust, would lay themselves
open to the law, could be reckoned no better than self-murderers.
(3.) It brings guilt upon the conscience and debauches that. He that
touches his neighbour's wife, with an immodest touch, cannot
[1.] He is in imminent danger of adultery, as he that takes fire in
his bosom, or goes upon hot coals, is in danger of being
burnt. The way of this sin is down-hill, and those that venture
upon the temptations to it hardly escape the sin itself. The fly fools
away her life by playing the wanton with the flames. It is a deep pit,
which it is madness to venture upon the brink of. He that keeps company
with those of ill fame, that goes in with them, and touches them,
cannot long preserve his innocency; he thrusts himself into temptation
and so throws himself out of God's protection.
[2.] He that commits adultery is in the high road to destruction. The
bold presumptuous sinner says, "I may venture upon the sin and yet
escape the punishment; I shall have peace though I go on." He might as
well say, I will take fire into my bosom and not burn my
clothes, or I will go upon hot coals and not burn my feet. He
that goes into his neighbour's wife, however he holds himself, God
will not hold him guiltless. The fire of lust kindles the fire of
(4.) It ruins the reputation and entails perpetual infamy upon that. It
is a much more scandalous sin than stealing is,
Perhaps it is not so in the account of men, at least not in our day. A
thief is sent to the stocks, to the gaol, to Bridewell, to the gallows,
while the vile adulterer goes unpunished, nay, with many, unblemished;
he dares boast of his villanies, and they are made but a jest of. But,
in the account of God and his law, adultery was much the more enormous
crime; and, if God is the fountain of honour, his word must be the
standard of it.
[1.] As for the sin of stealing, if a man were brought to it by extreme
necessity, if he stole meat for the satisfying of his soul when he
was hungry, though that will not excuse him from guilt, yet it is
such an extenuation of his crime that men do not despise him, do
not expose him to ignominy, but pity him. Hunger will break through
stone-walls, and blame will be laid upon those that brought him to
poverty, or that did not relieve him. Nay, though he have not that to
say in his excuse, if he be found stealing, and the evidence be
ever so plain upon him, yet he shall only make restitution
seven-fold. The law of Moses appointed that he who stole a sheep
should restore four-fold, and an ox five-fold
accordingly David adjudged,
2 Samuel 12:6.
But we may suppose in those cases concerning which the law had not made
provision the judges afterwards settled the penalties in proportion to
the crimes, according to the equity of the law. Now, if he that stole
an ox out of a man's field must restore five-fold, it was reasonable
that he that stole a man's goods out of his house should restore
seven-fold; for there was no law to put him to death, as with us,
for burglary and robbery on the highway, and of this worst kind of
theft Solomon here speaks; the greatest punishment was that a man might
be forced to give all the substance of his house to satisfy the
law and his blood was not attainted. But,
[2.] Committing adultery is a more heinous crime; Job calls it so, and
an iniquity to be punished by the judge,
When Nathan would convict David of the evil of his adultery he did it
by a parable concerning the most aggravated theft, which, in David's
judgment, deserved to be punished with death
(2 Samuel 12:5),
and then showed him that his sin was more exceedingly sinful
than that. First, It is a greater reproach to a man's reason,
for he cannot excuse it, as a thief may, by saying that it was to
satisfy his hunger, but must own that it was to gratify a brutish lust
which would break the hedge of God's law, not for want, but for
wantonness. Therefore whoso commits adultery with a woman lacks
understanding, and deserves to be stigmatized as an arrant fool.
Secondly, It is more severely punished by the law of God. A
thief suffered only a pecuniary mulct, but the adulterer suffered
death. The thief steals to satisfy his soul, but the adulterer
destroys his own soul, and falls an unpitied sacrifice to the
justice both of God and man. "Sinner, thou hast destroyed thyself."
This may be applied to the spiritual and eternal death which is the
consequence of sin; he that does it wounds his conscience,
corrupts his rational power, extinguishes all the sparks of the
spiritual life, and exposes himself to the wrath of God for ever, and
thus destroys his own soul. Thirdly, The infamy of it is
It will be a wound to his good name, a dishonour to his
family, and, though the guilt of it may be done away by repentance, the
reproach of it never will, but will stick to his memory when he
is gone. David's sin in the matter of Uriah was not only a perpetual
blemish upon his own character, but gave occasion to the enemies of the
Lord to blaspheme his name too.
(5.) It exposes the adulterer to the rage of the jealous husband, whose
honour he puts such an affront upon,
He that touches his neighbour's wife, and is familiar with her, gives
him occasion for jealousy, much more he that debauches her, which, if
kept ever so secret, might then be discovered by the waters of
"When discovered, thou hadst better meet a bear robbed of her whelps
than the injured husband, who, in the case of adultery, will be as
severe an avenger of his own honour as, in the case of manslaughter, of
his brother's blood. If thou art not afraid of the wrath of God, yet be
afraid of the rage of a man. Such jealousy is; it is strong
as death and cruel as the grave. In the day of
vengeance, when the adulterer comes to be tried for his life, the
prosecutor will not spare any pains or cost in the prosecution, will
not relent towards thee, as he would perhaps towards one that had
robbed him. He will not accept of any commutation, any composition;
he will not regard any ransom. Though thou offer to bribe him,
and give him many gifts to pacify him, he will not rest
content with any thing less than the execution of the law. Thou
must be stoned to death. If a man would give all the
substance of his house, it would atone for a theft
but not for adultery; in that case it would utterly be contemned.
Stand in awe therefore, and sin not; expose not thyself to all
this misery for a moment's sordid pleasure, which will be bitterness in