Matthew Henry Complete CommentaryProverbs 11
on the Whole Bible
1 A false balance is abomination to the LORD: but a just
weight is his delight.
As religion towards God is a branch of universal righteousness (he is
not an honest man that is not devout), so righteousness towards men is
a branch of true religion, for he is not a godly man that is not
honest, nor can he expect that his devotion should be accepted; for,
1. Nothing is more offensive to God than deceit in commerce. A
false balance is here put for all manner of unjust and fraudulent
practices in dealing with any person, which are all an abomination
to the Lord, and render those abominable to him that allow
themselves in the use of such accursed arts of thriving. It is an
affront to justice, which God is the patron of, as well as a wrong to
our neighbour, whom God is the protector of. Men make light of such
frauds, and think there is no sin in that which there is money to be
got by, and, while it passes undiscovered, they cannot blame themselves
for it; a blot is no blot till it is hit,
But they are not the less an abomination to God, who will be the
avenger of those that are defrauded by their brethren.
2. Nothing is more pleasing to God than fair and honest dealing, nor
more necessary to make us and our devotions acceptable to him: A
just weight is his delight. He himself goes by a just weight, and
holds the scale of judgment with an even hand, and therefore is pleased
with those that are herein followers of him. A balance cheats, under
pretence of doing right most exactly, and therefore is the greater
abomination to God.
2 When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly
1. How he that exalts himself is here abased, and contempt put upon
him. When pride comes then comes shame. Pride is a sin which men
have reason to be themselves ashamed of; it is a shame to a man who
springs out of the earth, who lives upon alms, depends upon God, and
has forfeited all he has, to be proud. It is a sin which others cry out
shame on and look upon with disdain; he that is haughty makes himself
contemptible; it is a sin for which God often brings men down, as he
did Nebuchadnezzar and Herod, whose ignominy immediately attended their
vain-glory; for God resists the proud, contradicts them, and
counterworks them, in the thing they are proud of,
2. How he that humbles himself is here exalted, and a high character is
given him. As with the proud there is folly, and will be shame, so
with the lowly there is wisdom, and will be honour, for a man's
wisdom gains him respect and makes his face to shine before men; or, if
any be so base as to trample upon the humble, God will give them grace
which will be their glory. Considering how safe, and quiet, and easy,
those are that are of a humble spirit, what communion they have with
God and comfort in themselves, we will say, With the lowly is
|Advantages of the Righteous.
3 The integrity of the upright shall guide them: but the
perverseness of transgressors shall destroy them.
It is not only promised that God will guide the upright, and threatened
that he will destroy the transgressors, but, that we may be the more
fully assured of both, it is here represented as if the nature of the
thing were such on both sides that it would do it itself.
1. The integrity of an honest man will itself be his guide in the way
of duty and the way of safety. His principles are fixed, his rule is
certain, and therefore his way is plain; his sincerity keeps him
steady, and he needs not tack about every time the wind turns, having
no other end to drive at than to keep a good conscience. Integrity
and uprightness will preserve men,
2. The iniquity of a bad man will itself be his ruin. As the plainness
of a good man will be his protection, though he is ever so much
exposed, so the perverseness of sinners will be their destruction,
though they think themselves eve so well fortified. They shall fall
into pits of their own digging,
4 Riches profit not in the day of wrath: but righteousness
delivereth from death.
1. The day of death will be a day of wrath. It is a
messenger of God's wrath; therefore when Moses had meditated on man's
mortality he takes occasion thence to admire the power of God's
It is a debt owing, not to nature, but to God's justice. After death
the judgment, and that is a day of wrath,
2. Riches will stand men in no stead that day. They will neither put
by the stroke nor ease the pain, much less take out the sting; what
profit will this world's birth-rights be of then? In the day of public
judgments riches often expose men rather than protect them,
3. It is righteousness only that will deliver from the evil of
death. A good conscience will make death easy, and take off the
terror of it; it is the privilege of the righteous only not to be hurt
of the second death, and so not much hurt by the first.
5 The righteousness of the perfect shall direct his way: but
the wicked shall fall by his own wickedness.
6 The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them: but
transgressors shall be taken in their own naughtiness.
These two verses are, in effect, the same, and both to the same purport
For the truths are here of such certainty and weight that they cannot
be too often inculcated. Let us govern ourselves by these
I. That the ways of religion are plain and safe, and in them we may
enjoy a holy security. A living principle of honesty and grace will be,
1. Our best direction in the right way, in every doubtful case to say
to us, This is the way, walk in it. He that acts without a guide
looks right on and sees his way before him.
2. Our best deliverance from every false way: The righteousness of
the upright shall be armour of proof to them, to deliver them from
the allurements of the devil and the world, and from their menaces.
The ways of wickedness are dangerous and destructive: The wicked
shall fail into misery and ruin by their own wickedness, and
be taken in their own naughtiness as in a snare. O Israel!
thou hast destroyed thyself. Their sin will be their punishment;
that very thing by which they contrived to shelter themselves will make
7 When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish: and
the hope of unjust men perisheth.
1. Even wicked men, while they live, may keep up a confident
expectation of a happiness when they die, or at least a happiness in
this world. The hypocrite has his hope, in which he wraps himself as
the spider in her web. The worldling expects great matters from his
wealth; he calls it goods laid up for many years, and hopes to
take his ease in it and to be merry; but in death their expectation
will be frustrated: the worldling must leave this world which he
expected to continue in and the hypocrite will come short of that world
which he expected to remove to,
2. It will be the great aggravation of the misery of wicked people that
their hopes will sink into despair just when they expect them to be
crowned with fruition. When a godly man dies his expectations are
out-done, and all his fears vanish; but when a wicked man dies his
expectations are dashed, dashed to pieces; in that very day his
thoughts perish with which he had pleased himself, his hopes
8 The righteous is delivered out of trouble, and the wicked
cometh in his stead.
As always in death, so sometimes in life, the righteous are remarkably
favoured and the wicked crossed.
1. Good people are helped out of the distresses which they thought
themselves lost in, and their feet are set in a large room,
God has found out a way to deliver his people even when they have
despaired and their enemies have triumphed, as if the wilderness had
shut them in.
2. The wicked have fallen into the distresses which they thought
themselves far from, nay, which they had been instrumental to bring the
righteous into, so that they seem to come in their stead, as a ransom
for the just. Mordecai is saved from the gallows, Daniel from the
lion's den, and Peter from the prison; and their persecutors come in
their stead. The Israelites are delivered out of the Red Sea and
the Egyptians drowned in it. So precious are the saints in God's eye
that he gives men for them,
9 An hypocrite with his mouth destroyeth his neighbour: but
through knowledge shall the just be delivered.
1. Hypocrisy designing ill. It is not only the murderer with his sword,
but the hypocrite with his mouth, that destroys his
neighbour, decoying him into sin, or into mischief, by the specious
pretences of kindness and good-will. Death and life are in the power
of the tongue, but no tongue more fatal than the flattering tongue.
2. Honesty defeating the design and escaping the snare: Through
knowledge of the devices of Satan shall the just be
delivered from the snares which the hypocrite has laid for him;
seducers shall not deceive the elect. By the knowledge of God, and the
scriptures, and their own hearts, shall the just be delivered from
those that lie in wait to deceive, and so to destroy,
10 When it goeth well with the righteous, the city rejoiceth:
and when the wicked perish, there is shouting.
11 By the blessing of the upright the city is exalted: but it
is overthrown by the mouth of the wicked.
It is here observed,
I. That good men are generally well-beloved by their neighbours, but
nobody cares for wicked people.
1. It is true there are some few that are enemies to the righteous,
that are prejudiced against God and godliness, and are therefore vexed
to see good men in power and prosperity; but all indifferent persons,
even those that have no great stock of religion themselves, have a good
word for a good man; and therefore when it goes well with the
righteous, when they are advanced and put into a capacity of doing
good according to their desire, it is so much the better for all about
them, and the city rejoices. For the honour and encouragement of
virtue, and as it is the accomplishment of the promise of God, we
should be glad to see virtuous men prosper in the world, and brought
2. Wicked people may perhaps have here and there a well-wisher among
those who are altogether such as themselves, but among the generality
of their neighbours they get ill-will; they may be feared, but they are
not loved, and therefore when they perish there is shouting;
every body takes a pleasure in seeing them disgraced and disarmed,
removed out of places of trust and power, chased out of the world, and
wishes no greater loss may come to the town, the rather because they
hope the righteous may come in their stead, as they into trouble
instead of the righteous,
Let a sense of honour therefore keep us in the paths of virtue, that we
may live desired and die lamented, and not be hissed off the stage,
II. That there is good reason for this, because those that are good do
good, but (as saith the proverb of the ancients) wickedness proceeds
from the wicked.
1. Good men are public blessings--Vir bonus est commune
bonum. By the blessing of the upright, the blessings with which
they are blessed, which enlarge their sphere of usefulness,--by the
blessings with which they bless their neighbours, their advice, their
example, their prayers, and all the instances of their serviceableness
to the public interest,--by the blessings with which God blesses others
for their sake,--by these the city is exalted and made more
comfortable to the inhabitants, and more considerable among its
2. Wicked men are public nuisances, not only the burdens, but the
plagues of their generation. The city is overthrown by the mouth of
the wicked, whose evil communications corrupt good manners, are
enough to debauch a town, to ruin virtue in it, and bring down the
judgments of God upon it.
12 He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man
of understanding holdeth his peace.
13 A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful
spirit concealeth the matter.
I. Silence is here recommended as an instance of true friendship, and a
preservative of it, and therefore an evidence,
1. Of wisdom: A man of understanding, that has rule over his own
spirit, if he be provoked, holds his peace, that he may neither
give vent to his passion nor kindle the passion of others by any
opprobrious language or peevish reflections.
2. Of sincerity: He that is of a faithful spirit, that is true,
not only to his own promise, but to the interest of his friend,
conceals every matter which, if divulged, may turn to the
prejudice of his neighbour.
II. This prudent friendly concealment is here opposed to two very bad
vices of the tongue:--
1. Speaking scornfully of a man to his face: He that is void of
wisdom discovers his folly by this; he despises his
neighbour, calls him Raca, and Thou fool, upon the
least provocation, and tramples upon him as not worthy to be set with
the dogs of his flock. He undervalues himself who thus undervalues one
that is made of the same mould.
2. Speaking spitefully of a man behind his back: A tale-bearer,
that carries all the stories he can pick up, true or false, from house
to house, to make mischief and sow discord, reveals secrets
which he has been entrusted with, and so breaks the laws, and forfeits
all the privileges, of friendship and conversation.
14 Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude
of counsellors there is safety.
1. The bad omen of a kingdom's ruin: Where no counsel is, no
consultation at all, but every thing done rashly, or no prudent
consultation for the common good, but only caballing for parties and
divided interests, the people fall, crumble into factions, fall
to pieces, fall together by the ears, and fall an easy prey to their
common enemies. Councils of war are necessary to the operations of war;
two eyes see more than one; and mutual advice is in order to mutual
2. The good presage of a kingdom's prosperity: In the multitude of
counsellors, that see their need one of another, and act in concert
and with concern for the public welfare, there is safety; for
what prudent methods one discerns not another may. In our private
affairs we shall often find it to our advantage to advise with many; if
they agree in their advice, our way will be the more clear; if they
differ, we shall hear what is to be said on all sides, and be the
better able to determine.
|The Rewards of Righteousness.
15 He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it: and
he that hateth suretiship is sure.
Here we are taught,
1. In general, that we may not use our estates as we will (he that gave
them to us has reserved to himself a power to direct us how we shall
use them, for they are not our own; we are but stewards), and further
that God in his law consults our interests and teaches us that charity
which begins at home, as well as that which must not end there. There
is a good husbandry which is good divinity, and a discretion in
ordering our affairs which is part of the character of a good man,
Every man must be just to his family, else he is not true to his
2. In particular, that we must not enter rashly into suretiship,
(1.) Because there is danger of bringing ourselves into trouble by it,
and our families too when we are gone: He that is surety for a
stranger, for any one that asks him and promises him to be bound
for him another time, for one whose person perhaps he knows, and thinks
he knows his circumstances, but is mistaken, he shall smart for it.
Contritione conteretur--he shall be certainly and sadly crushed and
broken by it, and perhaps become a bankrupt. Our Lord Jesus was
surety for us when we were strangers, nay, enemies, and he smarted for
it; it pleased the Lord to bruise him.
(2.) Because he that resolves against all such suretiship keeps upon
sure grounds, which a man may do if he take care not to launch out any
further into business than his own credit will carry him, so that he
needs not ask others to be bound for him.
16 A gracious woman retaineth honour: and strong men retain
1. It is allowed that strong men retain riches, that those who
bustle in the world, who are men of spirit and interest, and are able
to make their part good against all who stand in their way, are likely
to keep what they have and to get more, while those who are weak are
preyed upon by all about them.
2. It is taken for granted that a gracious woman is as
solicitous to preserve her reputation for wisdom and modesty, humility
and courtesy, and all those other graces that are the true ornaments of
her sex, as strong men are to secure their estates; and those women who
are truly gracious will, in like manner, effectually secure their
honour by their prudence and good conduct. A gracious woman is
as honourable as a valiant man and her honour is as sure.
17 The merciful man doeth good to his own soul: but he that
is cruel troubleth his own flesh.
It is a common principle, Every one for himself. Proximus egomet
mihi--None so near to me as myself. Now, if this be rightly
understood, it will be a reason for the cherishing of gracious
dispositions in ourselves and the crucifying of corrupt ones. We are
friends or enemies to ourselves, even in respect of present comfort,
according as we are or are not governed by religious principles.
1. A merciful, tender, good humoured man, does good to his
own soul, makes and keeps himself easy. He has the pleasure of
doing his duty, and contributing to the comfort of those that are to
him as his own soul; for we are members one of another.
He that waters others with his temporal good things shall find that God
will water him with his spiritual blessings, which will do the best
good to his own soul. See
&c. If thou hide not thy eyes from thy own flesh, but do good to
others, as to thyself, if thou do good with thy own soul and draw
that out to the hungry, thou wilt do good to thy own soul; for the
Lord shall satisfy thy soul and make fat thy bones. Some
make it part of the character of a merciful man, that he will
make much of himself; that disposition which inclines him to be
charitable to others will oblige him to allow himself also that which
is convenient and to enjoy the good of all his labour. We may by
the soul understand the inward man, as the apostle calls
it, and then it teaches us that the first and great act of mercy is to
provide well for our own souls the necessary supports of the spiritual
2. A cruel, froward, ill-natured man, troubles his own
flesh, and so his sin becomes his punishment; he starves and dies
for want of what he has, because he has not a heart to use it either
for the good of others of for his own. He is vexatious to his nearest
relations, that are, and should be, to him as his own flesh,
Envy, and malice, and greediness of the world, are the rottenness of
the bones and the consumption of the flesh.
18 The wicked worketh a deceitful work: but to him that soweth
righteousness shall be a sure reward.
1. Sinners put a most fatal cheat upon themselves: The wicked works
a deceitful work, builds himself a house upon the sand, which will
deceive him when the storm comes, promises himself that by his
sin which he will never gain; nay, it is cutting his throat when it
smiles upon him. Sin deceived me, and by it slew me.
2. Saints lay up the best securities for themselves: He that sows
righteousness, that is good, and makes it his business to do good,
with an eye to a future recompence, he shall have a sure reward;
it is made as sure to him as eternal truth can make it. If the seedness
fail not, the harvest shall not,
19 As righteousness tendeth to life: so he that pursueth evil
pursueth it to his own death.
It is here shown that righteousness, not only by the divine judgment,
will end in life, and wickedness in death, but that righteousness, in
its own nature, has a direct tendency to life and wickedness to death.
1. True holiness is true happiness; it is a preparative for it, a
pledge and earnest of it. Righteousness inclines, disposes, and
leads, the soul to life.
2. In like manner, those that indulge themselves in sin are fitting
themselves for destruction. The more violent a man is in sinful
pursuits the more eagerly bent he is upon his own destruction; he
awakens it when it seemed to slumber and hastens it when it seemed to
20 They that are of a froward heart are abomination to the
LORD: but such as are upright in their way are his delight.
It concerns us to know what God hates and what he loves, that we may
govern ourselves accordingly, may avoid his displeasure and recommend
ourselves to his favour. Now here we are told,
1. That nothing is more offensive to God than hypocrisy and
double-dealing, for these are signified by the word which we translate
frowardness, pretending justice, but intending wrong, walking in
crooked ways, to avoid discovery. Those are of a froward heart
who act in contradiction to that which is good, under a profession of
that which is good, and such are, more than any sinners, an
abomination to the Lord,
2. That nothing is more pleasing to God than sincerity and
plain-dealing: Such as are upright in their way, such as aim and
act with integrity, such as have their conversation in the world in
simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, these God
delights in, these he even boasts of (Hast thou considered my
servant Job?) and will have us to admire. Behold an Israelite
21 Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be
unpunished: but the seed of the righteous shall be delivered.
1. That confederacies in sin shall certainly be broken, and shall not
avail to protect the sinners: Though hand join in hand, though
there are many that concur by their practice to keep wickedness in
countenance, and engage to stand by one another in defending it against
all the attacks of virtue and justice,--though they are in league for
the support and propagation of it,--though wicked children tread in the
steps of their wicked parents, and resolve to keep up the trade, in
defiance of religion,--yet all this will not protect them from the
justice of God; they shall not be held guiltless; it will not excuse
them to say that they did as the most did and as their company did;
they shall not be unpunished; witness the flood that was brought
upon a whole world of ungodly men. Their number, and strength, and
unanimity in sin will stand them in no stead when the day of vengeance
2. That entails of religion shall certainly be blessed: The seed of
the righteous, that follow the steps of their righteousness, though
they may fall into trouble, shall, in due time, be delivered.
Though justice may come slowly to punish the wicked, and mercy may come
slowly to save the righteous, yet both will come surely. Sometimes
the seed of the righteous, though they are not themselves
righteous, are delivered for the sake of their godly ancestors, as
Israel often, and the seed of David.
22 As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair
woman which is without discretion.
By discretion here we must understand religion and
grace, a true taste and relish (so the word signifies) of the
honours and pleasures that attend an unspotted virtue; so that a
woman without discretion is a woman of a loose and dissolute
conversation; and then observe,
1. It is taken for granted here that beauty or comeliness of body is
as a jewel of gold, a thing very valuable, and, where there is
wisdom and grace to guard against the temptations of it, it is a great
ornament, (Gratior est pulchro veniens de corpore virtus--Virtue
appears peculiarly graceful when associated with beauty); but a
foolish wanton woman, of a light carriage, is fitly compared to a
swine, though she be ever so handsome, wallowing in the mire of filthy
lusts, with which the mind and conscience are defiled, and, though
washed, returning to them.
2. It is lamented that beauty should be so abused as it is by those
that have not modesty with it. It seems ill-bestowed upon them; it is
quite misplaced, as a jewel in a swine's snout, with which he
roots in the dunghill. If beauty be not guarded by virtue, the virtue
is exposed by the beauty. It may be applied to all other bodily
endowments and accomplishments; it is a pity that those should have
them who have not discretion to use them well.
23 The desire of the righteous is only good: but the
expectation of the wicked is wrath.
This tells us what the desire and expectation of the
righteous and of the wicked are and how they will prove,
what they would have and what they shall have.
1. The righteous would have good, only good; all they
desire is that it may go well with all about them; they wish no hurt to
any, but happiness to all; as to themselves, their desire is not to
gratify any evil lust, but to obtain the favour of a good God and to
preserve the peace of a good conscience; and good they shall have, that
good which they desire,
2. The wicked would have wrath; they desire the woeful
day, that God's judgments may gratify their passion and revenge, may
remove those that stand in their way, and that they may make an
advantage to themselves by fishing in troubled waters; and wrath they
shall have, so shall their doom be. They expect and desire mischief to
others, but it shall return upon themselves; as they loved cursing,
they shall have enough of it.
|The Praise of Liberality.
24 There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is
that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty.
1. It is possible a man may grow rich by prudently spending what he
has, may scatter in works of piety, charity, and generosity, and yet
may increase; nay, by that means may increase, as the corn is increased
by being sown. By cheerfully using what we have our spirits are
exhilarated, and so fitted for the business we have to do, by minding
which closely what we have is increased; it gains a reputation which
contributes to the increase. But it is especially to be ascribed to
God; he blesses the giving hand, and so makes it a getting hand,
2 Corinthians 9:20.
Give, and it shall be given you.
2. It is possible a man may grow poor by meanly sparing what he has,
withholding more than is meet, not paying just debts, not
relieving the poor, not providing what is convenient for the family,
not allowing necessary expenses for the preservation of the goods; this
tends to poverty; it cramps men's ingenuity and industry,
weakens their interest, destroys their credit, and forfeits the
blessing of God: and, let men be ever so saving of what they have, if
God blast it and blow upon it, it comes to nothing. A fire not
blown shall consume it,
25 The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth
shall be watered also himself.
So backward we are to works of charity, and so ready to think that
giving undoes us, that we need to have it very much pressed upon us how
much it is for our own advantage to do good to others, as before,
1. We shall have the comfort of it in our own bosoms: The liberal
soul, the soul of blessing, that prays for the afflicted and
provides for them, that scatters blessings with gracious lips and
generous hands, that soul shall be made fat with true pleasure
and enriched with more grace.
2. We shall have the recompence of it both from God and man: He that
waters others with the streams of his bounty shall be also
watered himself; God will certainly return it in the dews, in the
plentiful showers, of his blessing, which he will pour out, till
there be not room enough to receive it,
Men that have any sense of gratitude will return it if there be
occasion; the merciful shall find mercy and the kind be kindly
3. We shall be enabled still to do yet more good: He that waters,
even he shall be as rain (so some read it); he shall be recruited
as the clouds are which return after the rain, and shall be further
useful and acceptable, as the rain to the new-mown grass. he that
teaches shall learn (so the Chaldee reads it); he that uses his
knowledge in teaching others shall himself be taught of God; to him
that has, and uses what he has, more shall be given.
26 He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him: but
blessing shall be upon the head of him that selleth it.
1. What use we are to make of the gifts of God's bounty; we must not
hoard them up merely for our own advantage, that we may be enriched by
them, but we must bring them forth for the benefit of others, that they
may be supported and maintained by them. It is a sin, when corn is dear
and scarce, to withhold it, in hopes that it will still grow dearer, so
to keep up and advance the market, when it is already so high that the
poor suffer by it; and at such a time it is the duty of those that have
stocks of corn by them to consider the poor, and to be willing to sell
at the market-price, to be content with moderate profit, and not aim to
make a gain of God's judgments. It is a noble and extensive piece of
charity for those that have stores wherewithal to do it to help to keep
the markets low when the price of our commodities grows excessive.
2. What regard we are to have to the voice of the people. We are not
to think it an indifferent thing, and not worth heeding, whether we
have the ill will and word, or the good will and word, of our
neighbours, their prayers or their curses; for here we are taught to
dread their curses, and forego our own profit rather than incur them;
and to court their blessings, and be at some expense to purchase them.
Sometimes, vox populi est vox Dei--the voice of the people is
the voice of God.
|The Folly and Misery of Sinners.
27 He that diligently seeketh good procureth favour: but he
that seeketh mischief, it shall come unto him.
1. Those that are industrious to do good in the world get themselves
beloved both with God and man: He that rises early to that which is
good (so the word is), that seeks opportunities of serving his
friends and relieving the poor, and lays out himself therein,
procures favour. All about him love him, and speak well of him,
and will be ready to do him a kindness; and, which is better than that,
better than life, he has God's lovingkindness.
2. Those that are industrious to do mischief are preparing ruin for
themselves: It shall come unto them; some time or other they
will be paid in their own coin. And, observe, seeking mischief
is here set in opposition to seeking good; for those that are
not doing good are doing hurt.
28 He that trusteth in his riches shall fall: but the righteous
shall flourish as a branch.
1. Our riches will fail us when we are in the greatest need: He that
trusts in them, as if they would secure him the favour of God and
be his protection and portion, shall fall, as a man who lays his
weight on a broken reed, which will not only disappoint him, but run
into his hand and pierce him.
2. Our righteousness will stand us in stead when our riches fail us:
The righteous shall then flourish as a branch, the branch
of righteousness, like a tree whose leaf shall not wither,
Even in death, when riches fail men, the bones of the righteous
shall flourish as a herb,
When those that take root in the world wither those that are grafted
into Christ and partake of his root and fatness shall be fruitful and
29 He that troubleth his own house shall inherit the wind: and
the fool shall be servant to the wise of heart.
Two extremes in the management of family-affairs are here condemned and
the ill consequences of them foretold:--
1. Carefulness and carnal policy, on the one hand. There are those that
by their extreme earnestness in pursuit of the world, their anxiety
about their business and fretfulness about their losses, their
strictness with their servants and their niggardliness towards their
families, trouble their own houses and give continual vexation
to all about them; while others think, by supporting factions and feuds
in their families, which are really a trouble to their houses, to serve
some turn for themselves, and either to get or to save by it. But they
will both be disappointed; they will inherit the wind. All they
will get by these arts will not only be empty and worthless as the
wind, but noisy and troublesome, vanity and vexation.
2. Carelessness and want of common prudence, on the other. He that is a
fool in his business, that either minds it not or goes awkwardly about
it, that has no contrivance and consideration, no only loses his
reputation and interest, but becomes a servant to the wise in
heart. He is impoverished, and forced to work for his living; while
those that manage wisely raise themselves, and come to have dominion
over him, and others like him. It is rational, and very fit, that
the fool should be servant to the wise in heart, and upon
that account, among others, we are bound to submit our wills to the
will of God, and to be subject to him, because we are fools and he is
30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that
winneth souls is wise.
This shows what great blessings good men are, especially those that are
eminently wise, to the places where they live, and therefore how much
to be valued.
1. The righteous are as trees of life; the fruits of their piety
and charity, their instructions, reproofs, examples, and prayers, their
interest in heaven, and their influence upon earth, are like the fruits
of that tree, precious and useful, contributing to the support and
nourishment of the spiritual life in many; they are the ornaments of
paradise, God's church on earth, for whose sake it stands.
2. The wise are something more; they are as trees of knowledge, not
forbidden, but commanded knowledge. He that is wise, by
communicating his wisdom, wins souls, wins upon them to bring
them in love with God and holiness, and so wins them over into the
interests of God's kingdom among men. The wise are said to turn many
to righteousness, and that is the same with winning souls here,
Abraham's proselytes are called the souls that he had gotten,
Those that would win souls have need of wisdom to know how to deal with
them; and those that do win souls show that they are wise.
31 Behold, the righteous shall be recompensed in the earth:
much more the wicked and the sinner.
This, I think, is the only one of Solomon's proverbs that has that note
of attention prefixed to it, Behold! which intimates that it
contains not only an evident truth, which may be beheld, but an eminent
truth, which must be considered.
1. Some understand both parts of a recompence in displeasure: The
righteous, if they do amiss, shall be punished for their offences
in this world; much more shall wicked people be punished for theirs,
which are committed, not through infirmity, but with a high hand. If
judgment begin at the house of God, what will become of the ungodly?
1 Peter 4:17,18,Lu+23:31.
2. I rather understand it of a recompence of reward to the righteous
and punishment to sinners. Let us behold providential retributions.
There are some recompences in the earth, in this world, and in
the things of this world, which prove that verily there is a God
that judges in the earth
but they are not universal; many sins go unpunished in the earth, and
services unrewarded, which indicates that there is a judgment to come,
and that there will be more exact and full retributions in the future
state. Many times the righteous are recompensed for their
righteousness here in the earth, though that is not the
principal, much less the only reward either intended for them or
intended by them; but whatever the word of God has promised them, or
the wisdom of God sees good for them, they shall have in the earth.
The wicked also, and the sinner, are sometimes remarkably
punished in this life, nations, families, particular persons. And if
the righteous, who do not deserve the least reward, yet have part of
their recompence here on earth, much more shall the wicked, who deserve
the greatest punishment, have part of their punishment on earth, as an
earnest of worse to come. Therefore stand in awe and sin not. If
those have two heavens that merit none, much more shall those have two
hells that merit both.