Verse 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned; but he honoureth them that fear the Lord. We must be as honest in paying respect as in paying our bills. Honour to whom honour is due. To all good men we owe a debt of honour, and we have no right to hand over what is their due to vile persons who happen to be in high places. When base men are in office, it is our duty to respect the office; but we cannot so violate our consciences as to do otherwise than contemn the men; and on the other hand, when true saints are in poverty and distress, we must sympathize with their afflictions and honour the men none the less. We may honour the roughest cabinet for the sake of the jewels, but we must not prize false gems because of their setting. A sinner in a gold chain and silken robes is no more to be compared with a saint in rags than a rush light in a silver candlestick with the sun behind a cloud. The proverb says, that "ugly women, finely dressed, are the uglier for it," and so mean men in high estate are the more mean because of it.
He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not. Scriptural saints under the New Testament rule "swear not at all," but their word is as good as an oath: those men of God who think it right to swear, are careful and prayerful lest they should even seem to overshoot the mark. When engagements have been entered into which turn out to be unprofitable, "the saints are men of honour still." Our blessed Surety swore to his own hurt, but how gloriously he stood to his suretyship! what a comfort to us that he changeth not, and what an example to us to be scrupulously and precisely exact in fulfilling our covenants with others! The most far seeing trader may enter into engagements which turn out to be serious losses, but whatsoever else he loses, if he keeps his honour, his losses will be bearable; if that be lost all is lost.
EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS
Verse 3-5. See Psalms on "Psalms 15:3" for further information.
Verse 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned, etc. When wicked Jehoram, king of Israel, came to Eliseus, the prophet, to ask counsel of the Lord, and to entreat for waters, having in company Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, being virtuous; the prophet showeth his contempt to the one, being wicked, and his reverence to the other, being godly, faithful and virtuous, said, "As the Lord of hosts liveth, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, I would not look toward thee, nor see thee." 2 Kings 3:14 . Thus was the wicked vile in his sight; thus did he not flatter the ungodly. In like manner godly Mordecai, the Jew, having Haman the ambitious and proud Agagite in contempt, would in no wise bow the knee unto him in sign of honour, as the rest of the people did; for which cause he was extremely hated, menaced, and molested of proud and wicked Haman. To wink at their wickedness, to uphold them in their iniquity, to fawn upon them and flatter them, to praise them when they deserve just reproof, is, as it were, an honouring of them; to which, as to a most grievous sin, the prophet denounces a most bitter curse: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" Isaiah 5:20 . Richard Turnbull.
Verse 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned. To contemn the wicked and honour the godly, are opposite the one to the other. But the former may seem not to be sufficiently beseeming to a godly man. For why should he contemn or despise others, who is commanded by all means to care for the credit of others, as we heard even now? Nay, a godly man, letting others go, ought to search into himself, and to accuse himself, but not to judge of others. But this saying of the prophet is to be understood rather of the faults than of the person. As every man therefore is to be loved, so are the faults of every man to ne hated of the godly. For so is God himself, whom we desire to be like unto, that we might dwell with him, affected and disposed. For why? he hateth no man, nay, he hateth nothing at all in this whole universal world, but only sin. For he is the author and preserver of all things that be; and therefore doth good and wisheth well to all; only of sin he is not the author, but the free and unconstrained will of man and Satan. Notwithstanding God doth so greatly hate sin, that by reason thereof he doth sometimes neglect and forsake men, yea, and have them in contempt. So then a godly man, nor contemneth any; but yet notwithstanding he dislikes sin in sinful men, and that he sticketh not to let them perceive either by reproving them, or shunning their company, or by doing of some other thing, whereby they may know they are misliked of good men for their enormities, and see themselves to be contemned of others for their wicked and ungodly life. A good man therefore must not flatter the ungodly in their ungracious attempts, but must freely declare that he disallows their course and conversation. Peter Baro.
Verse 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned. Augustine, as Posidonius writeth, showing what hatred he had to tale bearers and false reporters of others, had two verses written over his table; by translation these:
"He that doth love with bitter speech the absent to defame, Must surely know that at this board no place is for the same."
Verse 4. In whose eyes a vile person is contemned. The burgess of the New Jerusalem, reprobos reprobat, et probos probat; he cannot flatter any man, nor fancy such as in whom he findeth not aliquid Christi, something of the image of God. A golden Colosse, stuffed with rubbish, he cannot stoop to, But he honoureth them that fear the Lord, as the only earthly angels, though never so mean and despicable in the world's eye. Mr. Fox, being asked whether he remembered not such a poor servant of God who had received succour from him in time of trouble? answered, "I remember him well; I tell you, I forget the lords and ladies, to remember such." John Trapp.
Verse 4. He honoureth them that fear the Lord. Though the godly some way or other be injurious unto us, we ought nevertheless to honour and not to despise them. So Joseph did Mary, though he supposed her to have dealt injuriously with him; and she had done so, indeed, if it had been with her as he imagined. Calvin's resolution concerning Luther was very admirable in this respect. They differed much about the presence of Christ in the sacrament; and Luther being of a vehement spirit, wrote bitterly against those who did hold otherwise in that point than himself did. This enforced some, who were more nearly concerned in the business, to prepare to answer Luther; which Calvin understanding, and fearing lest they being provoked by Luther's tartness, should deal with him in the like kind, he wrote unto Bullinger, a prime man among them, persuading and exhorting him to carry the business so as to show all due respect unto Luther, considering what worth and excellency there was in him, however he had demeaned himself in that particular. And he adds, that he often used to say, that although Luther should call him devil, yet he would do him that honour, to acknowledge him a choice servant of God. Christopher Cartwright.
Verse 4. He honoureth them that fear the Lord. I have read of one that said, If he should meet a preacher and an angel together, he would first salute the preacher and then the angel. Charles Bradbury's "Cabinet of Jewels," 1785.
Verse 4. He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.
"His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles; His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate;
His tears pure messengers, sent from his heart; His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth."
HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS
Verse 4. The duty of practically honouring those who fear the Lord. Commendation, deference, assistance, imitation, etc.
Verse 4. The sin of estimating persons other than by their practical characters.
Verse 4. (last clause). The Lord Jesus as our unchanging Surety, his oath and his hurt.