Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be
2 For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of
1. The caution given is much the same with that which we had before
not to envy sinners, not to think them happy, nor to wish ourselves in
their condition, though they prosper ever so much in this world, and
are ever so marry and ever so secure. "Let not such a thought ever come
into thy mind, O that I could shake off the restraints of religion and
conscience, and take as great a liberty to indulge the sensual
appetite, as I see such and such do! No; desire not to be with
them, to do as they do and fare as they fare, and to cast in thy
lot among them."
2. Here is another reason given for this caution: "Be not envious
against them, not only because their end will be had, but because
their way is so,
Do not think with them, for their heart studies destruction to
others, but it will prove destruction to themselves. Do not speak like
them, for their lips talk of their mischief. All they say has an
ill tendency, to dishonour God, reproach religion, or wrong their
neighbour; but it will be mischief to themselves at last. It is
therefore thy wisdom to have nothing to do with them. Nor hast thou any
reason to look upon them with envy, but with pity rather, or a just
indignation at their wicked practices."
3 Through wisdom is an house builded; and by understanding it
4 And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all
precious and pleasant riches.
5 A wise man is strong; yea, a man of knowledge increaseth
6 For by wise counsel thou shalt make thy war: and in multitude
of counsellors there is safety.
We are tempted to envy those that grow rich, and raise their estates
and families, by such unjust courses as our consciences will by no
means suffer us to use. But, to set aside that temptation, Solomon here
shows that a man, with prudent management, may raise his estate and
family by lawful and honest means, with a good conscience, and a good
name, and the blessing of God upon his industry; and, if the other be
raised a little sooner, yet these will last a great deal longer.
1. That which is here recommended to us as having the best influence
upon our outward prosperity is wisdom, and understanding,
and knowledge; that is, both piety towards God (for that is true
wisdom) and prudence in the management of our outward affairs. We must
govern ourselves in every thing by the rules of religion first and then
of discretion. Some that are truly pious do not thrive in the world,
for want of prudence; and some that are prudent enough, yet do not
prosper, because they lean to their own understanding and do not
acknowledge God in their ways; therefore both must go together to
complete a wise man.
2. That which is here set before us as the advantage of true wisdom is
that it will make men's outward affairs prosperous and successful.
(1.) it will build a house and establish it,
Men may by unrighteous practices build their houses, but they cannot
establish them, for the foundation is rotten
whereas what is honestly got will wear like steel and be an inheritance
to children's children.
(2.) It will enrich a house and furnish it,
Those that manage their affairs with wisdom and equity, that are
diligent in the use of lawful means for increasing what they have that
spare from luxury and spend in charity, are in a fair way to have their
shops, their warehouses, their chambers, filled with all precious
and pleasant riches--precious because got by honest labour, and
the substance of a diligent man is precious--pleasant because
enjoyed with holy cheerfulness. Some think this is to be understood
chiefly of spiritual riches. By knowledge the chambers of the
soul are filled with the graces and comforts of the Spirit, those
precious and pleasant riches; for the Spirit, by enlightening
the understanding, performs all his other operations on the soul.
(3.) It will fortify a house and turn it into a castle: Wisdom is
better than weapons of war, offensive or defensive. A wise man
is in strength, is in a strong-hold, yea, a man of knowledge
strengthens might, that is, increases it,
As we grow in knowledge we grow in all grace,
2 Peter 3:18.
Those that increase in wisdom are strengthened with all
A wise man will compass that by his wisdom which a strong man cannot
effect by force of arms. The spirit is strengthened both for the
spiritual work and the spiritual warfare by true wisdom.
(4.) It will govern a house and a kingdom too, and the affairs of both,
Wisdom will erect a college, or council of state. Wisdom will be of
[1.] For the managing of the public quarrels, so as not to engage in
them but for an honest cause and with some probability of success, and,
when they are engaged in, to manage them well, and so as to make either
an advantageous peace or an honourable retreat: By wise counsel thou
shalt make war, which is a thing that may prove of ill consequence
if not done by wise counsel.
[2.] For the securing of the public peace: In the multitude of
counsellors there is safety, for one may foresee the danger, and
discern the advantages, which another cannot. In our spiritual
conflicts we need wisdom, for our enemy is subtle.
The Malicious and the Scornful.
7 Wisdom is too high for a fool: he openeth not his mouth in
8 He that deviseth to do evil shall be called a mischievous
9 The thought of foolishness is sin: and the scorner is an
abomination to men.
Here is the description,
1. Of a weak man: Wisdom is too high for him; he thinks it so,
and therefore, despairing to attain it, he will take no pains in the
pursuit of it, but sit down content without it. And really it is so; he
has not capacity for it, and therefore the advantages he has for
getting it are all in vain to him. It is no easy thing to get wisdom;
those that have natural parts good enough, yet if they be foolish, that
is, if they be slothful and will not take pains, if they be playful and
trifling, and given to their pleasures, if they be viciously inclined
and keep bad company, it is too high for them; they are not
likely to reach it. And, for want of it, they are unfit for the service
of their country: They open not their mouth in the gate; they
are not admitted into the council or magistracy, or, if they are, they
are dumb statues, and stand for cyphers; they say nothing, because they
have nothing to say, and they know that if they should offer any thing
it would not be heeded, nay, it would be hissed at. Let young men take
pains to get wisdom, that they may be qualified for public business,
and do it with reputation.
2. Of a wicked man, who is not only despised as a fool is, but
detested. Two sorts of wicked men are so:--
(1.) Such as are secretly malicious. Though they speak courteously and
conduct themselves plausibly, they devise to do evil, are
contriving to do an ill turn to those they bear a grudge to, or have an
envious eye at. He that does so shall be called a mischievous
person, or a master of mischief, which perhaps was then a
common name of reproach; he shall be branded as an inventor of evil
or if any mischief be done, he shall be suspected as the author of it,
or at least accessory to it. This devising evil is the thought of
It is made light of, and turned off with a jest, as only a foolish
thing, but really it is sin, it is exceedingly sinful; you
cannot call it by a worse name than to call it sin. It is bad to
do evil, but it is worse to devise it; for that has in it the subtlety
and poison of the old serpent. But it may be taken more generally. We
contract guilt, not only by the act of foolishness, but by the thought
of it, though it go no further; the first risings of sin in the heart
are sin, offensive to God, and must be repented of or we are undone.
Not only malicious, unclean, proud thoughts, but even foolish thoughts,
are sinful thoughts. If vain thoughts lodge in the heart, they
which is a reason why we should keep our hearts with all
diligence, and harbour no thoughts there which cannot give a good
account of themselves,
(2.) Such as are openly abusive: The scorner, who gives
ill-language to every body, takes a pleasure in affronting people and
reflecting upon them, is an abomination to men; none that have
any sense of honour and virtue will care to keep company with him.
The seat of the scornful is the pestilential chair (as
the LXX. calls it,
which no wise man will come near, for fear of taking the infection.
Those that strive to make others odious do but make themselves so.
10 If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is
1. In the day of adversity we are apt to faint, to droop
and be discouraged, to desist from our work, and to despair of relief.
Our spirits sink, and then our hands hang down and our knees grow
feeble, and we become unfit for anything. And often those that are most
cheerful when they are well droop most, and are most dejected, when any
thing ails them.
2. This is an evidence that our strength is small, and is a
means of weakening it more. "It is a sign that thou art not a man of
any resolution, any firmness of thought, any consideration, any faith
(for that is the strength of a soul), if thou canst not bear up under
an afflictive change of thy condition." Some are so feeble that they
can bear nothing; if a trouble does but touch them
nay, if it does but threaten them, they faint immediately and are ready
to give up all for gone; and by this means they render themselves unfit
to grapple with their trouble and unable to help themselves. Be of
good courage therefore, and God shall strengthen thy
Pleasure and Advantages of Wisdom.
11 If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death,
and those that are ready to be slain;
12 If thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not he that
pondereth the heart consider it? and he that keepeth thy soul,
doth not he know it? and shall not he render to every man
according to his works?
1. A great duty required of us, and that is to appear for the relief of
oppressed innocency. If we see the lives or livelihoods of any in
danger of being taken away unjustly, we ought to bestir ourselves all
we can to save them, by disproving the false accusations on which they
are condemned and seeking out proofs of their innocency. Though the
persons be not such as we are under any particular obligation to, we
must help them, out of a general zeal for justice. If any be set upon
by force and violence, and it be in our power to rescue them, we ought
to do it. Nay, if we see any through ignorance exposing themselves to
danger, or fallen in distress, as travellers upon the road, ships at
sea, or any the like, it is our duty, though it be with peril to
ourselves, to hasten with help to them and not forbear to deliver
them, not to be slack, or remiss, or indifferent, in such a case.
2. An answer to the excuse that is commonly make for the omission of
this duty. Thou wilt say, "Behold, we knew it not; we were not
aware of the imminency of the danger the person was in; we could not be
sure that he was innocent, nor did we know how to prove his innocence,
nor which way to do any thing in favour of him, else we would have
helped him." Now,
(1.) It is easy to make such an excuse as this, sufficient to avoid the
censures of men, for perhaps they cannot disprove us when we say, We
knew it not, or, We forgot; and the temptation to tell a lie
for the excusing of a fault is very strong when we know that it is
impossible to be disproved, the truth lying wholly in our own breast,
as when we say, We thought so and so, and really designed it,
which no one is conscious of but ourselves.
(2.) It is not so easy with such excuses to evade the judgment of God;
and to the discovery of that we lie open and by the determination of
that we must abide. Now,
[1.] God ponders the heart and keeps the soul; he keeps an eye
upon it, observes all the motions of it; its most secret thoughts and
intents are all naked and open before him. It is his prerogative to do
so, and that in which he glories.
I the Lord search the heart. He keeps the soul, holds it
in life. This is a good reason why we should be tender of the lives of
others, and do all we can to preserve them, because our lives have been
precious in the sight of God and he has graciously kept them.
[2.] He knows and considers whether the excuse we make be true or no,
whether it was because we did not know it or whether the true reason
was not because we did not love our neighbour as we ought, but were
selfish, and regardless both of God and man. Let this serve to silence
all our frivolous pleas, by which we think to stop the mouth of
conscience when it charges us with the omission of plain duty: Does
not he that ponders the heart consider it?
[3.] He will judge us accordingly. As his knowledge cannot be imposed
upon, so his justice cannot be biassed, but he will render to every
man according to his works, not only the commission of evil works,
but the omission of good works.
13 My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the
honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste:
14 So shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul: when
thou hast found it, then there shall be a reward, and thy
expectation shall not be cut off.
We are here quickened to the study of wisdom by the consideration both
of the pleasure and the profit of it.
1. It will be very pleasant. We eat honey because it is sweet to the
taste, and upon that account we call it good, especially
that which runs first from the honey-comb. Canaan was said to
flow with milk and honey, and honey was the common food of the country
even for children,
Thus should we feed upon wisdom, and relish the good instructions of
it. Those that have tasted honey need no further proof that it is
sweet, nor can they by any argument be convinced of the contrary; so
those that have experienced the power of truth and godliness are
abundantly satisfied of the pleasure of both; they have tasted the
sweetness of them, and all the atheists in the world with their
sophistry, and the profane with their banter, cannot alter their
2. It will be very profitable. Honey may be sweet to the taste
and yet not wholesome, but wisdom has a future recompence attending it,
as well as a present sweetness in it. "Thou art permitted to eat
honey, and the agreeableness of it to thy taste invites thee to it;
but thou hast much more reason to relish and digest the precepts of
wisdom, for when thou hast found that, there shall be a
reward; thou shalt be paid for thy pleasure, while the servants of
sin pay dearly for their pains. Wisdom does indeed set thee to work,
but there shall be a reward; it does indeed raise great
expectations in thee, but as thy labour, so thy hope, shall not be in
vain; thy expectation shall not be cut off
nay, it shall be infinitely outdone."
Cautions against Envy.
15 Lay not wait, O wicked man, against the dwelling of the
righteous; spoil not his resting place:
16 For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again:
but the wicked shall fall into mischief.
This is spoken, not so much by way of counsel to wicked men (they will
not receive instruction,
but rather in defiance of them, for the encouragement of good people
that are threatened by them. See here,
1. The designs of the wicked against the righteous, and the success
they promise themselves in those designs. The plot is laid deeply: They
lay wait against the dwelling of the righteous, thinking to
charge some iniquity upon it, or compass dome design against it; they
lie in wait at the door, to catch him when he stirs out, as David's
title. The hope is raised high; they doubt not but to spoil
his dwelling-place because he is weak and cannot support it,
because his condition is low and distressed, and he is almost down
already. All this is a fruit of the old enmity in the seed of the
serpent against the seed of the woman. The blood-thirsty hate the
2. The folly and frustration of these designs
(1.) The righteous man, whose ruin was expected, recovers himself. He
falls seven times into trouble, but, by the blessing of God upon
his wisdom and integrity, he rises again, sees through his
troubles and sees better times after them. The just man falls,
sometimes falls seven times perhaps, into sin, sins of
infirmity, through the surprise of temptation; but he rises
again by repentance, finds mercy with God, and regains his peace.
(2.) The wicked man, who expected to see his ruin and to help it
forward, is undone. He falls into mischief; his sins and his
troubles are his utter destruction.
17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine
heart be glad when he stumbleth:
18 Lest the LORD see it, and it displease him, and he turn
away his wrath from him.
1. The pleasure we are apt to take in the troubles of an enemy is
forbidden us. If any have done us an ill turn, or if we bear them
ill-will only because they stand in our light or in our way, when any
damage comes to them (suppose they fall), or any danger (suppose they
stumble), our corrupt hearts are too apt to conceive a secret delight
and satisfaction in it--Aha! so would we have it; they are entangled;
the wilderness has shut them in--or, as Tyrus said concerning
I shall be replenished, now she is laid waste. "Men hope in the
ruin of their enemies or rivals to wreak their revenge or to find their
account; but be not thou so inhuman; rejoice not when the worst
enemy thou hast falls." There may be a holy joy in the
destruction of God's enemies, as it tends to the glory of God and the
welfare of the church
but in the ruin of our enemies, as such, we must by no means rejoice;
on the contrary, we must weep even with them when they weep (as David,
and that in sincerity, not so much as letting our hearts be secretly
glad at their calamities.
2. The provocation which that pleasure gives to God is assigned as the
reason of that prohibition: The Lord will see it, though
it be hidden in the heart only, and it will displease
him, as it will displease a prudent father to see one child triumph
in the correction of another, which he ought to tremble at, and take
warning by, not knowing how soon it may be his own case, he having so
often deserved it. Solomon adds an argument ad hominem--addressed to
the individual: "Thou canst not do a greater kindness to thy
enemy, when he has fallen, than to rejoice in it; for them, to
cross thee and vex thee, God will turn his wrath from him; for,
as the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God, so the
righteousness of God was never intended to gratify the wrath of man,
and humour his foolish passions; rather than seem to do that he will
adjourn the execution of his wrath: nay, it is implied that when he
turns his wrath from him he will turn it against thee and the
cup of trembling shall be put into thy hand."
19 Fret not thyself because of evil men, neither be thou
envious at the wicked;
20 For there shall be no reward to the evil man; the candle
of the wicked shall be put out.
1. He repeats the caution he had before given against envying the
pleasures and successes of wicked man in their wicked ways. This he
quotes from his father David,
We must not in any case fret ourselves, or make ourselves
uneasy, whatever God does in his providence how disagreeable soever it
is to our sentiments, interests, and expectations, we must acquiesce in
it. Even that which grieves us must not fret us; nor must our
eye be evil against any because God is good. Are we more wise or just
than he? If wicked people prosper, we must not therefore incline to do
as they do.
2. He gives a reason for this caution, taken from the end of that way
which wicked man walk in. Envy not their prosperity; for,
(1.) There is no true happiness in it: Thee shall be no reward to
the evil man; his prosperity only serves for his present
subsistence; these are all the good things he must ever expect: there
is none intended him in the world of retribution. He has his
He shall have none. Those are not to be envied that have their portion
in this life and must out-live it,
(2.) There is no continuance in it; their candle shines
brightly, but it shall presently be put out, and a final period
put to all their comforts,
Counsel to Magistrates.
21 My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not
with them that are given to change:
22 For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the
ruin of them both?
1. Religion and loyalty must go together. As men, it is our duty to
honour our Creator, to worship and reverence him, and to be always in
his fear; as members of a community, incorporated for mutual benefit,
it is our duty to be faithful and dutiful to the government God has set
Those that are truly religious will be loyal, in conscience towards
God; the godly in the land will be the quite in the land; and
those are not truly loyal, or will be so no longer than is for their
interest, that are not religious. How should he be true to his prince
that is false to his God? And, if they come in competition, it is an
adjudged case, we must obey God rather than men.
2. Innovations in both are to be dreaded. Have nothing to do, he does
not say, with those that change, for there may be cause to
change for the better, but those that are given to change, that
affect change for change-sake, out of a peevish discontent with that
which is and a fondness for novelty, or a desire to fish in troubled
waters: Meddle not with those that are given to change either in
religion or in a civil government; come not into their secret;
join not with them in their cabals, nor enter into the mystery of their
3. Those that are of restless, factious, turbulent spirits, commonly
pull mischief upon their own heads ere they are aware: Their
calamity shall rise suddenly. Though they carry on their designs
with the utmost secresy, they will be discovered, and brought to
condign punishment, when they little think of it. Who knows the
time and manner of the ruin which both God and the king will
bring on their contemners, both on them and those that meddle
23 These things also belong to the wise. It is not good
to have respect of persons in judgment.
24 He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him
shall the people curse, nations shall abhor him:
25 But to them that rebuke him shall be delight, and a good
blessing shall come upon them.
26 Every man shall kiss his lips that giveth a right
Here are lessons for wise men, that is, judges and princes. As
subjects must do their duty, and be obedient to magistrates, so
magistrates must do their duty in administering justice to their
subjects, both in pleas of the crown and causes between party and
party. These are lessons for them.
1. They must always weigh the merits of a cause, and not be swayed by
any regard, one way or other, to the parties concerned: It is not
good in itself, nor can it ever do well, to have respect of
persons in judgment; the consequences of it cannot but be the
perverting of justice and doing wrong under colour of law and equity. A
good judge will know the truth, not know faces, so as to countenance a
friend and help him out in a bad cause, or so much as omit any thing
that can be said or done in favour of a righteous cause, when it is the
cause of an enemy.
2. They must never connive at or encourage wicked people in their
wicked practices. Magistrates in their places, and ministers in
theirs, are to deal faithfully and the wicked man, though he be a great
man or a particular friend, to convict him of his wickedness, to show
him what will be in the end thereof, to discover him to others, that
they may avoid him. But if those whose office it is thus to show
people their transgressions palliate them and connive at them, if they
excuse the wicked man, much more if they prefer him and associate with
him (which is, in effect, to say, Thou art righteous), they
shall justly be looked upon as enemies to the public peace and welfare,
which they ought to advance, and the people shall curse them and
cry out shame on them; and even those of other nations shall abhor
them, as base betrayers of their trust.
3. They must discountenance and give check to all fraud, violence,
injustice, and immorality; and, though thereby they may disoblige a
particular person, yet they will recommend themselves to the favour of
God and man. Let magistrates and ministers, and private persons too
that are capable of doing it, rebuke the wicked, that they may
bring them to repentance or put them to shame, and they shall have the
comfort of it in their own bosoms: To them shall be delight,
when their consciences witness for them that they have been witnesses
for God; and a good blessing shall come upon them, the blessing
of God and good men; they shall be deemed religion's patrons and their
country's patriots. See
4. They must always give judgment according to equity
they must give a right answer, that is, give their opinion and
pass sentence according to law and them true merits of the cause; and
every one shall kiss his lips that does so, that is, shall love
and honour him, and be subject to his orders, for there is a kiss of
allegiance as well as of affection. He that in common conversation
likewise speaks pertinently and with sincerity recommends himself to
his company and is beloved and respected by all.
27 Prepare thy work without, and make it fit for thyself in the
field; and afterwards build thine house.
This is a rule of prudence in the management of household affairs; for
all good men should be good husbands, and manage with discretion, which
would prevent a great deal of sin, and trouble, and disgrace to their
1. We must prefer necessaries before conveniences, and not lay that out
for show which should be expended for the support of the family. We
must be contented with a mean cottage for a habitation, rather than
want, or go in debt for, food convenient.
2. We must not think of building till we can afford it: "First apply
thyself to thy work without in the field; let thy ground be put
into good order; look after thy husbandry, for it is that by which thou
must get; and, when thou hast got well by that, then, and not till
then, thou mayest think of rebuilding and beautifying thy house,
for that is it upon which, and in which, thou wilt have occasion to
spend." Many have ruined their estates and families by laying out money
on that which brings nothing in, beginning to build when they
were not able to finish. Some understand it as advice to young
men not to marry (for by that the house is built) till they have set up
in the world, and not wherewith to maintain a wife and children
3. When we have any great design on foot it is wisdom to take it before
us, and make the necessary preparations, before we fall to work, that,
when it is begun, it may not stand still for want of materials. Solomon
observed this rule himself in building the house of God; all was made
ready before it was brought to the ground,
1 Kings 6:7.
28 Be not a witness against thy neighbour without cause; and
deceive not with thy lips.
29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will
render to the man according to his work.
We are here forbidden to be in any thing injurious to our neighbour,
particularly in and by the forms of law, either,
1. As a witness: "Never bear a testimony against any man
without cause, unless what thou sayest thou knowest to be
punctually true and thou hast a clear call to testify it. Never bear a
false testimony against any one;" for it follows, "Deceive not with
thy lips; deceive not the judge and jury, deceive not those whom
thou conversest with, into an ill opinion of thy neighbour. When thou
speakest of thy neighbour do not only speak that which is true, but
take heed lest, in the manner of thy speaking, thou insinuate any thing
that is otherwise and so shouldst deceive by innuendos or hyperboles."
2. As a plaintiff or prosecutor. If there be occasion to bring an
action or information against thy neighbour, let it not be from a
spirit of revenge. "Say not, I am resolved I will be even with
him: I will do so to him as he had done to me." Even a righteous
cause becomes unrighteous when it is thus prosecuted with malice.
Say not, I will render to the man according to his work, and
make him pay dearly for it; for it is God's prerogative to do so, and
we must leave it to him, and not step into his throne, or take his work
out of his hands. If we will needs be our own carvers, and judges in
our own cause, we forfeit the benefit of an appeal to God's tribunal;
therefore we must not avenge ourselves, because he has said,
Vengeance is mine.
The Vineyard of the Slothful.
30 I went by the field of the slothful, and by the vineyard of
the man void of understanding;
31 And, lo, it was all grown over with thorns, and nettles
had covered the face thereof, and the stone wall thereof was
32 Then I saw, and considered it well: I looked upon it,
and received instruction.
33 Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of
the hands to sleep:
34 So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; and thy
want as an armed man.
1. The view which Solomon took of the field and vineyard of the
slothful man. He did not go on purpose to see it, but, as he passed
by, observing the fruitfulness of the ground, as it is very proper for
travellers to do, and his subjects' management of their land, as it is
very proper for magistrates to do, he cast his eye upon a field
and a vineyard unlike all the rest; for, though the soil was
good, yet there was nothing growing in them but thorns and
nettles, not here and there one, but they were all overrun with
weeds; and, if there had been any fruit, it would have been eaten up by
the beasts, for there was no fence: The stone-wall was broken
down See the effects of that curse upon the ground
"Thorns and thistles shall it bring forth unto thee, and nothing
else unless thou take pains with it." See what a blessing to the world
the husbandman's calling is, and what a wilderness this earth, even
Canaan itself, would be without it. The king himself is served of
the field, but he would be ill served if God did not teach the
husbandman discretion and diligence to clear the ground, plant it, sow
it, and fence it. See what a great difference there is between some and
others in the management even of their worldly affairs, and how little
some consult their reputation, not caring though they proclaim their
slothfulness, in the manifest effects of it, to all that pass by,
shamed by their neighbour's diligence.
2. The reflections which he made upon it. He paused a little and
considered it, looked again upon it, and received
instruction. He did not break out into any passionate censures of
the owner, did not call him any ill names, but he endeavoured himself
to get good by the observation and to be quickened by it to diligence.
Note, Those that are to give instruction to others must receive
instruction themselves, and instruction may be received, not only from
what we read and hear, but from what we see, not only from what we see
of the works of God, but from what we see of the manners of man, not
only from men's good manners, but from their evil manners. Plutarch
relates a saying of Cato Major, "That wise men profit more by fools
than fools by wise men; for wise men will avoid the faults of fools,
but fools will not imitate the virtues of wise men." Solomon reckoned
that he received instruction by this sight, though it did not
suggest to him any new notion or lesson, but only put him in mind of an
observation he himself had formerly made, both of the ridiculous folly
of the sluggard (who, when he has needful work to do, lies dozing in
bed and cries, Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, and still
it will be a little more, till he has slept his eyes out, and, instead
of being fitted by sleep for business, as wise men are, he is dulled,
and stupefied, and made good for nothing) and of certain misery that
attends him: his poverty comes as one that travels; it is
constantly coming nearer and nearer to him, and will be upon him
speedily, and want seizes him as irresistibly as an armed man, a
highwayman that will strip him of all he has. Now this is applicable,
not only to our worldly business, to show what a scandalous thing
slothfulness in that is, and how injurious to the family, but to the
affairs of our souls. Note,
(1.) Our souls are our fields and vineyards, which we are every one of
us to take care of, to dress, and to keep. They are capable of being
improved with good husbandry; that may be got out of them which will be
fruit abounding to our account. We are charged with them, to occupy
them till our Lord come; and a great deal of care and pains it is
requisite that we should take about them.
(2.) These fields and vineyards are often in a very bad state, not only
no fruit brought forth, but all overgrown with thorns and
nettles (scratching, stinging, inordinate lusts and passions,
pride, covetousness, sensuality, malice, those are the thorns and
nettles, the wild grapes, which the unsanctified heart produces), no
guard kept against the enemy, but the stone-wall broken down,
and all lies in common, all exposed.
(3.) Where it is thus it is owing to the sinner's own slothfulness and
folly. He is a sluggard, loves sleep, hates labour; and he is void of
understanding, understands neither his business nor his interest; he is
(4.) The issue of it will certainly be the ruin of the soul and all its
welfare. It is everlasting want that thus comes upon it as an armed
man. We know the place assigned to the wicked and slothful servant.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for 'Proverbs' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".