James Nisbet Commentary - Proverbs 27:17 - 27:17

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James Nisbet Commentary - Proverbs 27:17 - 27:17

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‘Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.’


I. The character of true friendship.—It should be simple, manly, unreserved, not weak, or fond, or extravagant, nor yet exacting more than human nature can fairly give. It should be easy, too, and cheerful, careful of little things, having also a sort of dignity which is based on mutual respect. Perhaps the greatest element of friendship is faithfulness.

II. Like the other goods of life, friendship is commonly mixed and imperfect, and liable to be interrupted by changing circumstances or the tempers of men.—The memory of a friendship is, like the memory of the dead, not likely to be spoken of or aspersed.

III. Christian friendship is another aspect of the ideal, though in some respects different.—For the spirit of a man’s life may be more or less consciously Christian. That which others regard as the service of man he may recognise to be the service of God; that which others do out of compassion for their fellow-creatures he may also do from the love of Christ. And so of friendship; that also may be more immediately based on religious motives, and may flow out of a religious principle. ‘They walked together to the house of God’; that is, if I may venture a paraphrase of the words, they served God together in doing good to His creatures. Human friendships constantly require to be purified and raised from earth to heaven.

IV. Some among us have known what it is to lose a friend.—Death is a gracious teacher. The thought of a departed friend or child, instead of sinking us in sorrow, may be a guiding light to us, like the thought of Christ to His disciples, bringing many things to our remembrance of which we were ignorant; and if we have hope in God for ourselves, we have hope also for them. We believe that they rest in Him, and that no evil shall touch them.

Rev. Dr. B. Jowett.


‘Oh, the sweetness of a man’s friend! it is as ointment and perfume to the heart. Let us be careful not to forsake a friend, especially if he be an old friend of many years’ standing. At the same time, we shall probably keep our friends longest if we remember the warning of Pro_27:14. Mutual intercourse between friend and friend tends to the sharpening of each, and so we say: Choose your friends wisely, cling to them tenaciously, make much of them, be true to them, and through them learn the friendship of God.’