Part III – The Happiness of the Virtuous Woman
Matthew Henry’s Commentary† on Proverbs 31† (section 3)
III. The happiness of this virtuous woman.
- She has the comfort and satisfaction of her virtue in her own mind (v. 25): Strength and honour are her clothing, in which she wraps herself, that is, enjoys herself, and in which she appears to the world, and so recommends herself. She enjoys a firmness and constancy of mind, has spirit to bear up under the many crosses and disappointments which even the wise and virtuous must expect to meet with in this world; and this is her clothing, for defence as well as decency. She deals honourably with all, and she has the pleasure of doing so, and shall rejoice in time to come; she shall reflect upon it with comfort, when she comes to be old, that she was not idle or useless when she was young. In the day of death it will be a pleasure to her to think that she has lived to some good purpose. Nay, she shall rejoice in an eternity to come; she shall be recompensed for her goodness with fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
- She is a great blessing to her relations, v. 28. (1.) Her children grow up in her place, and they call her blessed. They give her their good word, they are themselves a commendation to her, and they are ready to give great commendations of her; they pray for her, and bless God that they had such a good mother. It is a debt which they owe her, a part of that honour which the fifth commandment requires to be paid to father and mother; and it is a double honour that is due to a good father and a good mother. (2.) Her husband thinks himself so happy in her that he takes all occasions to speak well of her, as one of the best of women. It is no indecency at all, but a laudable instance of conjugal love, for husbands and wives to give one another their due praises.
- She gets the good word of all her neighbours, as Ruth did, whom all the city of her people knew to be a virtuous woman, Ruth iii. 11. Virtue will have its praise, Phil. iv. 8. A woman that fears the Lord, shall have praise of God (Rom. ii. 29) and of men too. It is here shown, (1.) That she shall be highly praised (v. 29): Many have done virtuously. Virtuous women, it seems, are precious jewels, but not such rare jewels as was represented v. 10. There have been many, but such a one as this cannot be paralleled. Who can find her equal? She excels them all. Note, Those that are good should aim and covet to excel in virtue. Many daughters, in their fatherís house, and in the single state, have done virtuously, but a good wife, if she be virtuous, excels them all, and does more good in her place than they can do in theirs. Or, as some explain it, A man cannot have his house so well kept by good daughters, as by a good wife. (2.) That she shall be incontestably praised, without contradiction, v. 31. Some are praised above what is their due, but those that praise her do but give her of the fruit of her hands; they give her that which she has dearly earned and which is justly due to her; she is wronged if she have it not. Note, Those ought to be praised the fruit of whose hands is praise-worthy. The tree is known by its fruits, and therefore, if the fruit be good, the tree must have our good word. If her children be dutiful and respectful to her, and conduct themselves as they ought, they then give her the fruit of her hands; she reaps the benefit of all the care she has taken of them, and thinks herself well paid. Children must thus study to requite their parents, and this is showing piety at home, 1 Tim. v. 4. But, if men be unjust, the thing will speak itself, her own works will praise her in the gates, openly before all the people. [1.] She leaves it to her own works to praise her, and does not court the applause of men. Those are none of the truly virtuous women that love to hear themselves commended. [2.] Her own works will praise her; if her relations and neighbours altogether hold their peace, her good works will proclaim her praise. The widows gave the best encomium of Dorcas when they showed the coats and garments she had made for the poor, Acts ix. 39. [3.] The least that can be expected from her neighbours is that they should let her own works praise her, and do nothing to hinder them. Those that do that which is good, let them have praise of the same ( Rom. xiii. 3) and let us not enviously say, or do, any thing to the diminishing of it, but be provoked by it to a holy emulation. Let none have an ill report from us, that have a good report even of the truth itself. Thus is shut up this looking-glass for ladies, which they are desired to open and dress themselves by; and, if they do so, their adorning will be found to praise, and honour, and glory, at the appearing of Jesus Christ.