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ductive, 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 +. And at the last day, when evil-speakers are cast into a fiery furnace 1, 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 becometh 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.
* Psal. xxxiv, 11, 12.
. Psal. cxli. Rev, xxi. 8. * Mat. v. 22. xii. 36, 37.
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 findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour 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. vant 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
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 inci
dent 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.
rate into a slavish meanness of spirit, disposing them to sell their consciences for bread; and let the rich remember, that they are infinitely more dependent on the great Patron of the poor and needy, than the poor on them. Those that give nothing but good words to the poor in their distress, are declared to be destitute of charity. In what class, then, must they be placed, who cannot afford even this poor favour?
The poor and the rich are alike poor before God, and without his rich bounty must be eternally wretched. If poor men supplicate the rich for their favours, with what words shall we express our meanness and absolute dependence, before Him who regardeth not the rich more than the poor! But he never gives a rough answer to his suppliants. Let us therefore come boldly to his throne of grace, that we may obtain
every needful supply *.
Ver. 24. A man that hath friends must sher himself friendly; and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
A man that hath found a wife must shew himself affectionate and tender; a father must discover kindness; every person must endeavour to fill up the offices of the various relations in which he stands. A neighbour must shew himself a social man; and he that has a bosom friend, must discover in his behaviour all that union of souls that is the very essence of friendship. Religion requires us to perform all those kind services to one another, which, if they were duly discharged and returned, would still make our world in some measure a picture of paradise.
We must not suffer unreasonable disgusts to alienate our affections from our friends, but cleave to them
• Job xxiij. 3.-7.
while we live; we must often gładden their hearts by our company, and share in all their joys and sorrows. We must not renounce their friendship for their imper. fections, nor even for those temporary coldnesses which they may discover in the day of our distress, unless their behaviour is such as to shew that their professions of regard were not sincere. Above all, we must shew our tender sympathy in the time of their calamity, otherwise our alienation will greatly embitter their distress *.
To excite us to this duty, we are told that friends sometimes stick closer than the nearest relations. The greatest acts of generous heroism have perhaps been performed by those who were not connected by the bonds of relation or affinity. None of David's brothers ever gave him such proofs of their attachment as Jonathan ; and even his wife Michal, though she loved him, did not love him so well as that gallant friend did. She lied to his prejudice, to screen herself from the resentment of her father ; but Jonathan bravely incurred the resentments of his father, and cheerfully gave up his prospects of a crown, for David. When our Lord was crucified, his disciples forsook him and fled, and James and Jude, who had the honour of being our Lord's brethren, among the rest ; but the beloved dis
ciple looked on his sorrows with the eye of a friend, "" and received his charge about his mother with thankfulness and obedience.
If this is a reason for our friendly behaviour to our friends, what regard ought we to shew to our Lord Jesus Christ, who sticks to us infinitely closer than any friend ! Having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end. Neither death,
* Job vi, 14.-19.