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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Anne Pratt :: The Excellent Woman of Proverbs 31

Anne Pratt :: Proverbs 31 Verse 30

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That worldly favour is vain indeed, we scarcely need the Scriptures to tell us: experience of the world attests it; and the philosopher, and, still more frequently, the poet, have again and again lamented the worthlessness of the favour of this world. For a little while, the man who rises in general favour is loved and honoured, his presence welcomed, his opinion valued; but soon some new favourite takes his place, and general adulation is directed to the rising sun. How many have sickened, as they told how in hours of prosperity the smile of the rich and the praise of the young and gay were given for a season; and then, as some new mood came over the public mind, they were left to die in poverty: while they who once sought their society, looked at them now with cold indifference, and passed by them as strangers.

But the instability of worldly favour is not confined to public praise; for, in the more private circles of fashionable life it is equally deceitful. Favour is given to a woman because she is rich, or beautiful, or elegant. She is praised and admired, and learns to take such admiration as her right; and she finds it a true proverb, that "Men will praise thee when thou doest well to thyself" (Psa 49:18). But poverty comes suddenly, even as an armed man; sickness overtakes her, and all her beauty fades like that of the flower of the field; and the graces, which gave life and spirit to the gay assembly, are gone for ever. Then she can add hers to the sad testimony of the poet:

"The friends who in our sunshine live,
When winter comes are flown;
And she who hath but tears to give,
Must weep those tears alone."

How frequently does the young and trusting heart swell with emotion on the discovery of the deceitful nature of worldly favour! "The greetings where no kindness is," are taken by the truthful as truth itself; and when they change to coldness or contempt, the ardent spirit shrinks beneath them, as the lily withers when the sunshine of heaven changes to the chill north wind. And the young, having no hope of God's favour, or of happiness in the world to come, exchange for a misanthropic and ungentle spirit the trusting affection of an ingenuous mind, and become like the cold and worldly beings whose deceitful favour once misled them.

Perhaps there is scarcely a woman who has not listened to the voice of flattery; and though the coarse praise of a flattering tongue would disgust the pious, and displease too the cultivated and refined, yet most have been sometimes beguiled by its more delicate and skilful application. There is a self‐love in every human heart to which such praise can appeal; and even the woman who knows the commendation to be undeserved, will sometimes be pleased, as she believes that such at least is the opinion of those who utter it. But time comes, and truth comes with him, and with rude hand tears away the veil from falsehood, and the deceived spirit learns at length the lesson that favour is deceitful.

And is Christian intercourse altogether free from this deceitfulness? Are there not prevalent, in Christian society, words and practices which express far more than the heart can respond to? To the courtesies of life no Christian should be indifferent. If the worldly woman learns, from the politeness of the world, to prefer the comfort of others to her own-if she must make sacrifices of feeling, that in society she may appear kind and polite, how much more should Christian women practise a gentle courtesy of manner, from the consideration that even Christ pleased not himself! "Be ye kind, be ye courteous" (Eph 4:32) is the injunction of a holy apostle; and all rudeness and incivility should be shunned by every woman professing to have been taught of God.

On the other hand, is not the favour of that woman deceitful, who stretches out the hand of kindness to her acquaintance, who welcomes her to her house, and listens with apparent sympathy to the expression of her feelings; and who will, on her absence, recount her faults or ridicule her follies? Oh that all Christian Women were wholly free from this portion of worldly false‐heartedness, this conformity to worldly favour; and were ever sincere and candid in their expressions of friendship! On them, at least, let the trusting heart lean, in full assurance that the love which is uttered is the love which is felt.

But while we must admit that, even in Christian intercourse, much imperfection exists, and the spirit of the world sometimes darkens the brighter lustre of the Christian character, yet it has ever been the lot of the sorrowful and desolate to find compassion and sincerity no where so fully developed as in the circle of those who are the real followers of Christ. The woman who sincerely fears the Lord, who lives nearest to him, will be, too, the truest and best of earthly friends; and when David said, "I am a companion of all them that fear thee" (Psa 119:63), he could number among those servants of God the faithful friends of his hours of adversity; and he could think of the pleasant Jonathan, and the liberal Barzillai, and the faithful Nathan-men who never forsook him when sorrow came, whose favour was never deceitful; but who loved him best when most he needed their friendship, because their love was strengthened by their fear and love of God.

And are not the favour and love of God unchanging? He has said, "Call upon me in the day of trouble;" he has bid us, when earthly favour has proved deceitful, to bring the worn and weary spirit to him for refuge. And no one ever sought him in vain, or had reason to regret that he had cast all his care on the loving‐kindness of an unchanging God.

We have not need to look far to see the passing nature-the vanity of personal beauty;

"For not a year but pilfers as it goes
Some youthful grace that age would gladly keep:"

and time brings assuredly his wrinkles to furrow the fairest countenance. Sudden or prolonged sickness changes the rose on the cheek to paleness, and dims the eye whose brightness told a tale of health and gladness; for when God with rebukes doth chasten for iniquity, he maketh beauty to pass away like a moth; so that all, even in their best states, are altogether vanity. But the frailty of beauty is most apparent when we look on death, on that change which all must encounter. "It is," says Jeremy Taylor, "a mighty change that is made by the death of every person, and it is visible to us who are alive. Reckon but from the sprightfulness of youth, and the fair cheeks and the full eyes of childhood; from the vigorousness and strong flexure of the joints of five‐and‐twenty; to the hollowness and dead paleness, to the loathsomeness and horror of a three days' burial; and he shall perceive the distance to be very great and very strange."

"Oh, what is beauty's power?
It perishes and dies.
Shall the cold earth its silence break,
To tell how soft and smooth a cheek
Beneath its surface lies?
Mute, mute is all
O'er beauty's fall;
Her praise resounds no more when mantled in her pall."

"But a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised." Such a woman would have praise of God. The ornament of a meek and quiet spirit is of great price, and to the true believer in Christ God will say at the great day, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Mat 25:21). And oh! what praise can equal this? Men may praise those whom God disapproves. They may hold that to be good which God abhors; and even when they have the right standard of holiness, yet they may so little know the hearts of others as to mistake in their estimate of good and evil. On whom is the praise of men bestowed? On those who conquer kingdoms, who perform great exploits in discovery and science, who make high attainments in knowledge, or who clothe in lofty verse thoughts of beauty and genius. And who will deny his meed of praise to the philosopher or the poet? We owe them so much, that we could not pluck a leaf from the laurel or the bay without ingratitude. Yet, in all their thoughts of sublimity or tenderness, there may be no fear of God; he may not be pleased. "To that man will I look," saith Jehovah, "who is of an humble and contrite heart, and who trembleth at my word." The humble and lowly Christian, performing the simplest and commonest duties of domestic life in his fear; seeking his counsel, and earnestly striving to keep his commands; praying for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and confidently trusting for the pardon of her sin in Him who died on the cross to redeem her-this is the woman on whom shall be bestowed that best, that only praise which is truly valuable; for of her the Lord himself shall say, She "hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (Luk 10:42).

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The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.


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