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head, which descended to the skirts of his garments. Their animosities are like dangerous wounds in the head, which are felt to the sole of the foot.
Why may not the lot determine their quarrels? They are too great to refer their causes to an earthly judge, but the whole disposing of the lot is of the Lord.
It is a mercy to men that God has provided a method so safe and easy for determining controversies, that must otherwise be decided by the sword; but it is the sin of men, that they will rather have matters settled their own way, whatever it may cost, than by means of an ordinance of God.
As the whole disposing of the lot is of the Lord those who agree to have their businesses determined by it, must reverence the providence of God in it, and rest cheerfully satisfied with the determination, and thus it will make contentions to cease.
Let us never prostitute to trifling uses, an ordinance designed for such great and merciful ends.
Ver. 19. A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city; and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.
That law which binds us to love our relations, obliges us, if we have unhappily differed with them, to be easily pacified, and even to seek peace with them, although we have been the wronged party. Abraham would not live in a state of contention with Lot, because they were brethren; and to put an end to the strife of their servants, he yielded to him, though only his nephew, the power of chusing what part of the land he would take to himself.
But such is the perverseness of human nature, that contentions between brethren are generally more irremediable than any others. When we meet with provocation where we thought we had all the reason in the
world to expect a contrary behaviour, we can scarcely find in our hearts to bestow forgiveness; and thus it is easier to win a strong city, or to break in pieces the bars of a castle, than to heal breaches in families and amongst near friends.
It is therefore our duty to guard against those mischiefs which are so much easier prevented than removed; and with this view, we must not wantonly provoke our friends, nor be ready to take offence at their conduct. But if we are involved in contention with them, the authority of God should constrain us to mortify that unforgiving disposition which would prevent a cordial reconciliation. The love of Christ has broken in pieces for us the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the iron bars of our infernal prison ; and why should not our most stubborn enmities be dissolved by the apprehensions of it?
Jacob used all possible means to obtain the good graces of his brother Esau after their unhappy difference, and yet it is a question whether their reconciliation was cordial and lasting. Their posterity kept up the strife, and Edom did tear perpetually, and kept his wrath for ever, as Obadiah tells us. This example teaches us what means we should use for healing such breaches, but at the same time admonishes us to prevent, if possible, the need of using them.
Ver. 20. A man's belly shall be satisfied with the fruit of his mouth; and with the increase of his lips shall he be filled.
Bad men are never satisfied with their vain or wicked discourse, and a good man never thinks he has served God or his generation sufficiently by the good use of his tongue, which is his glory. But both good and bad men shall be filled with the product of their tongues, in happiness or misery.
If a man were possessed of a field exceedingly productive, either of good fruits, or of noisome and poisonous herbs, according to the cultivation bestowed on it, 'what pains would he use to clear it of every weed, and to have it sown with good grain ! and yet when the harvest is come, he may take his choice whether he will eat of the product or not. Such a field is the tongue of man, with this difference, that a man is obliged to eat the fruit of it, although it should be worse than hemlock. What care, then, should we use to pluck from our hearts every root of bitterness, and to have them furnished with knowledge and prudence, that our discourse may be good, to the use of edifying!
The fruits of the tongue are either very bitter, or very pleasant.
Ver. 21. Death and life are in the power of the tongue; and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.
Our tongues, as we have been frequently told in this book, are often the instruments of life or death to others. But it is the fruit of our own tongues with which we must chiefly be filled. A fool's mouth is his destruction *, and a wise man's mouth is oftentimes his safety. He that would live a long and a happy life, let him take care how he uses his tongue t. And at the last day, when evil-speakers are cast into a fiery furnace J, the fruits of the sanctified tongue will be produced as evidences of a man's title to everlasting life.
It is not the use of the tongue on some particular occasion that will determine a man's happiness or misery, but the love of a good or bad tongue. Saints may, through the influence of provocation and passion, speak unadvisedly with their lips; and sinners may speak many good words, when their hearts are not right with God. But he that loves to speak as be
• Ver. 7. f Psal. wxiv, 11, 13. $ Psal. «Ii. Rev. xxi. 8. cometh a saint, shall eat good by the fruit of his mouth; and he that takes pleasure in vain or ungodly discourse, shall meet with a just and dreadful recompence.
If, after all that the wise man has said, we bridle not our tongue, with what eyes will we look to Solomon at the last day! or rather, how shall we look our Judge in the face, who speaks to us in this book, and who taught the same lessons by his own blessed mouth in the days of his flesh *!
Ver. 22. Whoso Jindeth a wife Jindeth a good thing, and obtaine.thjavour of the Lord.
It was not good for man in the days of innocence to be alone, and an help meet for us is still more needful, amidst those calamities that embitter the life of fallen men; for two are better than one, because when one of them meets with a misfortune, the other is ready to afford some relief.
A wife that is rottenness in her husband's bones, is no doubt a bad thing, for sin and folly will turn the choicest blessings of life into oppressive burdens. Such a woman deserves not this endearing title.
A good wife is an excellent thing, and is to be sought from the Lord. When Abraham wanted to have a wife for his son, he prayed to God. His servant prayed, and Isaac went out into the fields to meditate, and probably to pray likewise.
The man that has found a wife, has obtained favour from the Lord, and ought to acknowledge him with thanksgiving. It is God who made the woman for the man, and has preserved an equality between the sexes by his providence, and appointed marriage, and directs every man to his own wife, and disposes her heart to this tender union. If we are to thank God for the pleasures of friendship, what thanks are due to
» Mat. v. 22. xiu 36, 37.
him for the pleasures of the most delightful union, whereby of twain are made one flesh!
Ver. 23. The poor useth entreaties; but the rich answereth roughly.
It cannot be denied that the rich have many particular advantages; but the poor have no reason to repine, for poverty has also its gains, one of which is, that it teaches us one of the best lessons,—that of humility. The poor have a daily experience of their dependent condition, which instructs them in the language of submission and lowliness; and when the Spirit of God sanctifies this condition of life to a man, it leads him to great improvements in that grace on which Christ pronounces the first of his blessings—poverty of spirit. A little of this holy and humble temper is worth all the gold and silver in the world.
Some, indeed, are poor and proud, and they are the most inexcusable of all the proud persons that can be found on the earth, for they not only sin without a temptation, but in opposition to a providential remedy. However, their poverty still preserves them from many bad fruits of pride that are to be found with the rich.
The rich answer roughly, for their riches produce self-confidence, and that makes them insolent towards God himself *. And it need not surprise poor men, that those who can say, Who is the Lord? can give rough and uncivil words to them.
We should all consider the advantages of our different situations, that we may be thankful, and make a good use of them, and the temptations that are incident to our respective situations, that we may be on our guard. Let poor men take heed that the necessity they lie under of using intreaties, may not degene
• Prov. xxx. 9.