Verses 23–26

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 303c 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 Prov. 28:23. 4. They must always give judgment according to equity (Prov. 24:26); 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.