The Puritan Exegesis Project: William Fenner on Prov. 29:1 (part 2 of 2)

There are two possible meanings to Prov. 29:1. Fenner has explored the “reproving man” (e.g. minister, judge) as one who does not walk a strict course “will be destroyed (judged by God) and that without remedy.” While there are as many good reasons as there are proof-texts to support this reading Fenner takes the passive sense: “a man often reproved…”

Fenner explains, first, the passive and active sense of the Hebrew. His examples include Isa. 53:3, Dan. 9:23, Jer. 15:10, and 1 Kgs 2:26. In these examples the person is not the source of sorrow, desire, strife, or death, but is the one affected by them. Fenner’s exposition moves on, secondly, to prove that the passive sense does not gloat over the human condition or lord over absolute justice. Fenner instead weaves the problem of sin and the mercy of God together in a magnificent way that places all the weight and emphasis on God’s love and mercy:

He saith not, A man shall be destroyed without remedy; but a men when he hath sinned against God, when he hath sinned against God, when he had committed sinne, and not only so, but when he is reproved for his sin, and goeth on. The Lord doth not destroy a man nakedly, but upon consideration of sin (Lam. 3) …

I find Scripture is to be brought as an aggravation of sin, when they sinned against reproof, Hosea 5:1 … As if [God] should say, Though I have been so mercifull, as to shew them the danger of sin, to tell them what would become of their wretched courses; though I have called them to repentance, and have given them warning what would be the issue of these things; yet for all this, for all my mercy, they have gone on in their sinnes, though I have reproved them.

The reasons are, First, because when God reproves a man of sinne, the reproof primarily comes out of love; therefore when he reproved Laodicea, and told her she was luke-warm, he tells her … because I love, I reprove: As many as I love, I rebuke, Rev. 3:19. … Indeed a man should not be too sharp, but first tell his brother in private that he is in an error: for, reproof is a means of grace … it is an argument of love. (Fenner, 1657, 127 – 129)

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