Verses 19–28

Here is good advice for parents to give to their children; words are put into their mouths, that they may train them up in the way they should go. Here we have,

I. An earnest call to young people to attend to the advice of their godly parents, not only to this that is here given, but to all other profitable instructions: “Here, my son, and be wise, Prov. 23:19. This will be an evidence that thou art wise and a means to make thee wiser.” Wisdom, as faith, comes by hearing. And again (Prov. 23:22): “Hearken unto thy father who begot thee, and who therefore has an authority over thee and an affection for thee, and, thou mayest be sure, can have no other design than thy own good.” We ought to give reverence to the fathers of our flesh, who begot us, and were the instruments of our being; much more ought we to obey and be in subjection to the Father of our spirits, who made us and is the author of our being. And since the mother also, from a sense of duty to God and from love to her child, gives him good instructions, let him not despise her, nor her advice, when she is old. When the mother was grown old we may suppose the children to be grown up; but let them not think themselves past being taught, even by her, but rather respect her the more for the multitude of her years and the wisdom which they teach. Scornful and insolent young men will make a jest, it may be, of the good advice of an aged mother, and think themselves not concerned to heed what an old woman says; but such will have a great deal to answer for another day, not only as having set at nought good counsel, but as having slighted and grieved a good mother, Prov. 30:17.

II. An argument to enforce this call, taken from the great comfort which this will be to their parents, Prov. 23:24, 25. Note, 1. It is the duty of children to study how they may gladden the hearts of their good parents, and do it yet more and more, so that they may greatly rejoice in them, even when the evil days come and the years of which they say they have no pleasure in them but this, to see their children do well, as Barzillai to see Chimham preferred. 2. Children will be a joy to their parents if they be righteous and wise. Righteousness is true wisdom; those who do good so well for themselves. Those are completely such as they should be who are not only wise (that is, knowing and learned), but righteous (that is, honest and good), and not only righteous (that is, conscientious and well-meaning), but wise (that is, prudent and discreet) in the management of themselves. If such the children be, especially all the children, the father and mother will be glad, and think nothing too much that they have done, or do, for them; they will please themselves in them, and give God thanks for them; particularly she that bore them with pain, and nursed them with pains, will rejoice in them, and reckon herself well requited, and the sorrow more than forgotten, because a wise and good man is the product of it, who is a blessing to the world he was born into.

III. Some general precepts of wisdom and virtue.

1. Guide thy heart in the way, Prov. 23:19. It is the heart that must be taken care of and directed aright; the motions and affections of the soul must be towards right objects and under a steady guidan 4e4a ce. If the heart be guided in the way, the steps will be guided and the conversation well ordered.

2. Buy the truth and sell it not, Prov. 23:23. Truth is that by which the heart must be guided and governed, for without truth there is no goodness; no regular practices without right principles. It is by the power of truth, known and believed, that we must be kept back from sin and constrained to duty. The understanding must be well-informed with wisdom and instruction, and therefore, (1.) We must buy it, that is, be willing to part with any thing for it. He does not say at what rate we must buy it, because we cannot buy it too dear, but must have it at any rate; whatever it costs us, we shall not repent the bargain. When we are at expense for the means of knowledge, and resolved not to starve so good a cause, then we buy the truth. Riches should be employed for the getting of knowledge, rather than knowledge for the getting of riches. When we are at pains in searching after truth, that we may come to the knowledge of it and may distinguish between it and error, then we buy it. Dii laboribus omnia vendunt—Heaven concedes every thing to the laborious. When we choose rather to suffer loss in our temporal interest than to deny or neglect the truth they we buy it; and it is a pearl of such great price that we must be willing to part with all to purchase it, must make shipwreck of estate, trade, preferment, rather than of faith and a good conscience. (2.) We must not sell it. Do not part with it for pleasures, honours, riches, any things in this world. Do not neglect the study of it, nor throw off the profession of it, nor revolt from under the dominion of it, for the getting or saving of any secular interest whatsoever. Hold fast the form of sound words, and never let it go upon any terms.

3. Give my thy heart, Prov. 23:26. God in this exhortation, speaks to us as unto children: “Son, Daughter, Give my thy heart.” The heart is that which the great God requires and calls for from every one of us; whatever we give, if we do not give him our hearts, it will not be accepted. We must set our love upon him. Our thoughts must converse much with him, and on him, as our highest end. The intents of our hearts must be fastened. We must make it our own act and deed to devote ourselves to the Lord, and we must be free and cheerful in it. We must not think to divide the heart between God and the world; he will have all or none. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart. To this call we must readily answer, “My father, take my heart, such as it is, and make it such as it should be; take possession of it, and set up thy throne in it.”

4. Let thy eyes observe my ways; have an eye to the rule of God’s word, the conduct of his providence, and the good examples of his people. Our eyes must observe these, as he that writes observes his copy, that we may keep in the right paths and may proceed and persevere in them.

IV. Some particular cautions against those sins which are, of all sins, the most destructive to the seeds of wisdom and grace in the soul, which impoverish and ruin it. 1. Gluttony and drunkenness, Prov. 23:20, 21. The world is full of examples of this sin and temptations to it, which all young people are concerned to stand upon their guard against and keep at a distance from Be not a wine-bibber; we are allowed to drink a little wine (1 Tim. 5:23), but not much, not to make a trade of it, never to drink to excess. Be not a riotous eater of flesh, as the Israelites were, who lusted exceedingly after it, saying, Who will give us flesh to eat? Whereas Paul, though he is free to eat flesh, yet resolves that he will eat no flesh while the world stands rather than make his brother to offend; so indifferent is he to it, 1 Cor. 8:13. Be not an excessive eater of flesh. Intemperance must be avoided in meat as well as drink. Be not a luxurious eater of flesh, not pleased with any thing but what is very nice and delicate, savoury dishes, and forced meat. Some take not only a pleasure, but a pride, in being curious about their diet, and, as they call it, eating well; as if that were the ornament of a gentleman, which is really the shame of a Christian, making a God of the belly. “Be not a wine bibber, and be not a riotous eater; and therefore, be not among wine-bibbers nor among riotous eaters; do not give them countenance, lest thou learn their ways and insensibly fall into those sins, or at least lose the dread and detestation of them. They covet to have thee among them; for those that are debauched themselves are very desirous to debauch others; therefore do not gratify them, lest thou endanger thyself.” He fetches an argument against this sin from the expensiveness of it and its tendency to impoverish men: and if men will not be deterred from it by the ruin it brings on their secular interests, which lie nearest their hearts, no marvel that they are not frightened from it by what they are told out of the word of God of the mischief it does them in their spiritual and eternal concerns. The drunkard and the glutton hate to be reformed, though they are told they shall come to poverty, nay, though they are told they shall come to hell. Drunkenness is the cause of drowsiness; it stupefies men, and makes them inattentive to business, and then all goes to wreck and ruin: thus men that have lived creditably come to be clothed with rags. 2. Whoredom. This is another sin which takes away the heart that should be given to God, Hos. 4:11. He shows the danger which attends that sin, Prov. 23:27, 28, (1.) It is a sin from which few recover themselves when once they are entangled in it. It is like a deep ditch and a narrow pit, which it is almost impossible to get out of; and therefore it is wisdom to keep far enough from the brink of it. Take heed of making any approaches towards this sin, because it is so hard to make a retreat from it, conscience, which should head the retreat, being debauched by it, and divine grace forfeited. (2.) It is a sin which bewitches men to their ruin: The adulteress lies in wait as a robber, pretending friendship, but designing the greatest mischief, to rob them of all they have that is valuable, to strip them both of their armour and of their ornaments. Even those who, being virtuously educated, endeavour to shun the adulteress, she will lie in wait for, that she may assault them when they are off their guard and she has them at an advantage. Let none therefore be at any time secure. (3.) It is a sin that contributes more than any other to the spreading of vice and immorality in a kingdom: It increases the transgressors among men. One adulteress may be the ruin of many a precious soul and may help to debauch a whole town. It increases the treacherous or perfidious ones; it not only occasions husbands to be false to their wives and servants to their masters, but many that have professed religion to throw off their profession and break their covenants with God. Houses of uncleanness are therefore such pest-houses as ought to be suppressed by those whose office it is to take care of the public welfare.