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Doth not Wisdom cry
The personification of Wisdom
Whatever may have been the satisfaction experienced by devout minds in reading this chapter, as if it contained the words of Christ and evidence of His pre-existent Divinity, I dare not withhold what I believe to be the true principle of interpretation.
The objections to its meaning Christ, or the Word, ere He became flesh, when “in the beginning He was with God, and was God,” are to my mind quite insuperable. For example--
1. It should be noticed that the passage is not so applied in any part of the New Testament. Had any New Testament writer expressly applied any part of the chapter to the Son of God, this would have been a key which we could not have been at liberty to refuse.
2. Wisdom here is a female personage. All along this is the case. Now under such a view the Scriptures nowhere else, in any of their figurative representations of “the Christ,” ever thus describe or introduce Him.
3. Wisdom does not appear intended as a personal designation, inasmuch as it is associated with various other terms, of synonymous, or at least of corresponding, import.
4. The whole is a bold and striking personification of the attribute of wisdom, as subsisting in Deity (see verse12: “I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions”).
5. Things which are true of a Divine attribute would naturally be susceptible of application to a Divine person. (R. Wardlaw.)
She standeth in the top of high places.
The purpose and range of Wisdom
She sets up her tower everywhere, and speaks to all mankind. That is the true wisdom. When we come to understand the purpose and range of true wisdom, our business will be to see how many people we can get in, not how many we can keep out. Sometimes we shall endeavour to enlarge the gate, if haply we may bring some one in who otherwise would be kept outside. Wisdom does not whisper; she cries: she puts forth her voice; she asks the assistance of elevation; where men are found in greatest number she is found in greatest activity. Universality is a proof of the gospel. Any gospel that comes down to play the trick of eclecticism ought to be branded, and dismissed, and never inquired for. We want ministers that will speak to the world, in all its populations, climes, languages, and differences of civilisation and culture. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
God revealed in the universe and in humanity
The truth, which can guide us to perfection and to happiness, is teaching us always and everywhere. God surrounds us constantly with His instruction. The universal presence of Truth is the subject before us. Wisdom is omnipresent. The greatest truths meet us at every turn. God is on every side, not only by His essential invisible presence, but by His manifestations of power and perfection. We fail to see Him, not from want of light, but from want of spiritual vision. In saying that the great truths of religion are shining all about and within us, I am not questioning the worth of the Christian revelation. The Christian religion concentrates the truth diffused through the universe, and pours it upon the mind with solar lustre. We cannot find language to express the worth of the illumination given through Jesus Christ. But He intends, not that we should hear His voice alone, but that we should open our ears to the countless voices of wisdom, virtue, and piety, which now in whispers, now in thunders, issue from the whole of nature and of life.
I. The voice of wisdom. That is of moral and religious truth speaks to us from the universe. Nature everywhere testifies to the infinity of its Author. It proclaims a perfection illimitable, unsearchable, transcending all thought and utterance. There is an impenetrable mystery in every action and force of the universe that envelops our daily existence with wonder, and makes sublime the familiar processes of the commonest arts. How astonishingly does nature differ in her modes of production from the works of human skill. In nature, vibrating with motion, where is the moving-energy? What and whence is that principle called life--life, that awful power, so endlessly various in the forms it assumes--life that fills earth, air, and sea with motion, growth, activity, and joy--life that enlivens us--what is it? An infinite universe is each moment opened to our view. And this universe is the sign and symbol of infinite power, intelligence, purity, bliss, and love. It is a pledge from the living God of boundless and endless communications of happiness, truth, and virtue. A spiritual voice pervades the universe, which is all the more eloquent because it is spiritual, because it is the voice in which the All-Wise speaks to all intelligences.
II. The voice of wisdom utters itself from the world of moral and intelligent beings, the humanity of which we each form a part. This topic is immense, for the book of human nature has no end. New pages are added to it every day through successive generations. Take one great lesson, which all history attests--that there is in human nature an element truly Divine, and worthy of all reverence; that the Infinite which is mirrored in the outward universe is yet more brightly imaged in the inward spiritual world or, in other words, that man has powers and principles, predicting a destiny to which no bounds can be prescribed, which are full of mystery, and even more incomprehensible than those revealed through the material creation.
1. They who disparage human nature do so from ignorance of one of the highest offices of wisdom. The chief work of Wisdom consists in the interpretation of signs. The great aim is to discern what the visible present signifies, what it foreshows, what is to spring from it, what is wrapped up in it as a germ. This actual world may be defined as a world of signs. What we see is but the sign of what is unseen. In life an event is the prophetic sign and forerunner of other coming events. Of human nature we hardly know anything but signs. It has merely begun its development.
2. In estimating human nature most men rest in a half-wisdom, which is worse than ignorance. They who speak most contemptuously of man tell the truth, but only half the truth. Amidst the passions and selfishness of men the wise see another element--a Divine element, a spiritual principle. Half-wisdom is the root of the most fatal prejudice. Man, with all his errors, is a wonderful being, endowed with incomprehensible grandeur, worthy of his own incessant vigilance and care, worthy to be visited with infinite love from heaven. The Infinite is imaged in him more visibly than in the outward universe. This truth is the central principle of Christianity. What is the testimony of human life to the Divine in man? Take the moral principle. What is so common as the idea of right? The whole of human life is a recognition in some way or other of moral distinctions. And no nation has existed, in any age, that has not caught a glimpse at least of the great principles of right and wrong. The right is higher altogether in its essential quality than the profitable, the agreeable, the graceful. It is that which must be done though all other things be left undone, that which must be gained though all else be lost. Every human being is capable of rectitude. The power of resisting evil exists in every man, whether he will exercise it or not. The principle of right in the human heart reveals duty to the individual. Here, then, we learn the greatness of human nature. This moral principle--the supreme law in man--is the law of the universe. Then man and the highest beings are essentially of one order. It is a joyful confirmation of faith thus to find in the human soul plain signatures of a Divine principle, to find faculties allied to the attributes of God, faculties beginning to unfold into God’s image, and presages of an immortal life. And such views of human nature will transform our modes of relationship, communication, and association with our fellow-beings. They will exalt us into a new social life. They will transform our fellowship with God. How little we know ourselves! How unjust are we to ourselves! We need a new revelation--not of heaven or hell--but of the Spirit within ourselves. (W. E. Channing, D. D.)
The voice of Divine Wisdom
I. It is a voice striving for the ear of all.
II. It is a voice worthy of the ear of all.
1. Her communications are perfect.
2. They are intelligible.
6. Original. What Divine Wisdom gives is undeniably uuborrowed. (Homilist.)
Christ calling to men
There are two suitors for the heart of man. The one suggests the pleasures of sense, the other the delights of religion. The earthly suitor is the world, the heavenly suitor is Christ.
I. The speaker.
II. The object he has in view. Our salvation: our temporal and eternal happiness.
III. The persons to whom he speaks. Not to fallen angels, but to the sons of men. He utters His voice in every possible variety of place, if so be that by any means He might save some. The self-destruction of the impenitent. (Charles Clayton, M. A.)
The matter of Wisdom’s speech
Her exhortation. Her commendation.
I. God’s especial care is for men.
1. Because there is no creature upon earth more to be wondered at than man.
2. Because God hath made him more capable of instruction than other creatures.
3. Because man is most capable of getting good by instruction.
4. Because God sent His Son into the world to become man for the good of man.
II. God looks that man should learn.
1. God takes great pains with him.
2. God is at great cost with him.
III. All sorts of men may be taught by wisdom’s voice.
1. There is a capacity left in mean men.
2. Common gifts of illumination are bestowed on mean men, as well as great ones.
It reproves great men if they are ignorant; and men of meaner rank cannot be excused if they are ignorant. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
Wisdom offered to the sons of men
Wisdom shows herself to be truly wise by recognising the different capacities and qualities of men: “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.” Children who are at school are accustomed to distinguish between viri and homines--between the strong and the weak. “Unto you, O men, I call”--strong, virile, massive--“and my voice is to the sons of man”--the lesser, the weaker, the more limited in capacity, but men still--and I will accommodate my speech to the capacity of every one, for I have come to bring the world to the temple of understanding. Then there is further discrimination; we read of the “simple” and of the “fools.” “Simple” is a word which, as we have often seen, has been abused. There ought to be few lovelier words than “simple”--without fold, or duplicity, or complexity, or involution: such ought to be the meaning of simple and simplicity. Wisdom comes to fools, and says she will work miracles. Could a man say, “I am too far gone for Wisdom to make anything of me,” he would by his very confession prove that he was still within the range of salvation. “To know one’s self diseased is half the cure”: to know one’s self to be ignorant is to have taken several steps on the way to the sanctuary of wisdom. This might be Christ speaking; yea, there are men who have not hesitated to say that by “Wisdom” in this chapter is meant the Wisdom of God in history, the Loges, the eternal Son of God. Certainly, the wisdom of this chapter seems to follow the very course which Jesus Christ Himself pursued: He will call all men to Himself--the simple, and the foolish, and the far away; He will make room for all. A wonderful house is God’s house in that way, so flexible, so expansive; there is always room for the man who is not yet in. So Wisdom will have men, and sons of man; simple men, foolish men. By this universality of the offer judge the Divinity of the origin. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The universal call of the gospel
I. The call of the text to spiritual duty is addressed to all men.
II. Calls and invitations serve the following important purposes.
1. They show us our duty and obligation.
2. They show the connection betwixt the state to which we are called and the enjoyment of the blessing promised.
3. They point out and hold before us what must be accomplished in us, if ever we be saved.
4. They are intended to shut us up to the faith now revealed.
5. They are designed to show us what we ought to pray for.
6. They are to shut us out of all so-called neutral ground in spiritual things. (John Bonar.)
Ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Are you a fool?
The word “fool” is derived from a Latin verb, signifying “to be inflated with air”; substantive, “a wind-bag.” So a fool is a witless, blundering creature, one whose conduct is not directed by ordinarily good sense or judgment. All who do not serve God are fools, according to the Bible way of looking at things. Many are Bible fools who are not fools according to the world’s idea.
I. He is a fool who buys the wealth of the world with the riches of heaven. Does not the soul far outvalue the
body? Is not eternity greater than time? Thousands choose the tinsel before the real gold, as did the wicked cardinal, who said, “I prefer a part in the honours of Paris to a part in the happiness of heaven.”
II. He is a fool who supposes he can freely indulge in sin, and still keep it under his control. Men say they will go so far in the direction of this or that sin, and then stop short. As well might a man allow his train of loaded waggons to run down a steep declivity, until half the descent was made, before he applied the brakes. Dr. Johnson says, “The diminutive chains of habit are generally too small to be felt till they are too strong to be broken.”
III. He is a fool who, having once received injury, recklessly exposes himself to it a second time. In other words, He is a fool who learns nothing from his own folly. The wise man is a wary man; and having received injury in any direction once, he keeps clear of that coast ever after. “Experience,” one has said, “is one of the most eloquent of preachers; but she never has a large congregation.”
IV. He is a fool who waits till to-morrow before he becomes religious. What has any one to do with to-morrow? Does he know that he will ever see it? Men may trifle with their religious opportunities until they are lost beyond recall. Until you enter fully and lovingly into the service of God you are living like fools, because unnecessarily imperilling your highest and most urgent interests--because you are living at enmity with Him in whose favour is everlasting life, and in whose displeasure is everlasting death. (A. F. Forrest.)
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things.
The excellency of wisdom
Wisdom is represented as making a public appearance in a rude, ignorant, and corrupt world, loudly proclaiming her doctrines and counsels, and calling upon all men to hearken to them. What consideration could be more powerful to engage their attention than this, that she speaketh of “excellent things”: the opening of her lips is of “right things,” and her mouth speaketh “truth.” I propose to show that this is the just character of the instructions and precepts of religious virtue.
I. The excellence of the doctrines and injunctions of wisdom, absolutely and in themselves. We must fix an idea of excellence, making it the standard whereby to try everything which pretendeth to that character. There must be some common and plain rule wherein all men are agreed, and which must have so deep a foundation in nature as the necessary invariable determination of our minds. If you suppose the character of excellent and right to be the result of arbitrary human constitutions, it would never be uniform. But our notions of excellent and right are before the consideration of all laws, appointments, orders, and instructions whatsoever; for we bring all these to the test in our own minds, and try them by a sense which we have prior to any of them. Nor does this sense depend on any positive declaration of God’s will. The original idea of excellence is essential to our nature. It is one of those perceptions to which we are necessarily determined when the object fitted to excite it is presented to us. There is a test, or power of discerning, in the mind. And this discerns the excellency of religious things. Set right and true against their opposites, in any case wherein you are competent judges, and you will see to which of them your own minds must necessarily give the preference. There is eternal truth in all God’s testimonies; they are founded on self-evident maxims.
II. Compare the doctrines and precepts of wisdom with other things which are most valued by man, and show their superior worth. That wisdom is better than rubies, pearls, or whatever else can be described in this world, is shown--
1. In that none of them come up to the character of excellence before insisted on, and which must be attributed to wisdom. They all have only a limited and relative worth.
2. The most precious treasures of this world are not valued but with some regard to virtue, but religious wisdom is necessarily esteemed excellent independently of them, and without any manner of regard to them.
3. The things of this world, which rival wisdom in our esteem, have many inconveniences attending the acquisition and use of them, which do not affect this invaluable possession. Application:
(1)We should hear the counsels of wisdom, make it our choice, and use our utmost endeavours to attain it.
(2) We should entertain our minds with the excellency of wisdom as a very agreeable contemplation.
(3) The excellence of wisdom should affect the characters of men in our esteem, and regulate our regards to them. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
For my mouth shall speak truth.
The doctrines of religion have their evidence in themselves
I. Confirm and illustrate this proposition.
1. Those things which religion requires of us are such as Reason herself, when she forms her judgment aright, cannot but approve, or, at most, cannot justly refuse her assent to them. This will appear with respect to the practical commands and duties of religion. The duties which seem to bear hardest upon human nature are repentance, mortification, contempt of this world, loving our enemies, suffering persecution for righteousness’ sake, and the like; which do all recommend themselves to our minds by their reasonableness. Though we have not the same clue of reason to conduct us through all the high mysteries of our faith, yet here also reason will justify us in yielding a firm and uncontroverted assent of mind to them, as having solid grounds of authority to rely upon, for the belief of them, which cannot possibly deceive us.
II. The concurrent judgment and approbation of all wise and good men both as to the evidence and reasonableness of these doctrines and laws. The judgment of such persons ought to be of great weight and moment, as being a judgment based on personal experience. These men not only know the truth, but feel such a sensible force and power of it upon their minds, as both enlightens their understanding to discern its real excellency, and gently bends their wills to receive and embrace it. Faith is no hasty and blind credulity, but a sober and rational assent of mind, built upon sure and solid principles.
III. Such persons as have no unjust prejudices against religion prevailing in their minds will sooner be brought to examine the several proofs and testimonies of its truth and divine authority. A fair examination of these proofs will not fail of giving them entire satisfaction. In dealing with the Jews, our Lord Jesus appealed to the consonancy of His doctrine with their own established law. He submitted His life and doctrine to their trial.
IV. they who fairly examine the truths of religion, and are disposed to embrace them upon sufficient evidence, shall have that internal illumination of God’s Holy Spirit which shall clearly discover the excellency and agreeableness of them to their minds. God will not give them a full and intuitive view into the great and sublime mysteries of religion. God will give such knowledge as our present faculties can receive.
1. Religion is very plain and intelligible to all those who are willing to understand it.
2. Prejudice gains an almost invincible power over the minds of men.
3. The more men improve in the knowledge and practice of religion, the greater will be their satisfaction in it. The best men will have the most important secrets of God’s will revealed to them. (John Cornwall, D. D.)
Receive my instruction, and not silver.
The commendation of wisdom
I. Knowledge must be received.
1. Do not refuse knowledge offered you in the Book of God.
2. Do not refuse instruction offered you by God’s ministers.
II. Knowledge must be received by way of instruction. Instruction is necessary, as it does not come by nature, and God does not teach it now by miracle.
III. Knowledge must be more readily received than silver or gold. It can do that which gold and silver can never do. It is the best riches. More is gotten by labouring for knowledge than for money. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
For wisdom is better than rubies.
This jewel is called a sardius in two places in the Bible. The name comes from the Latin “Ruber,” which means red, and this name is given to the ruby because of its colour. It is sometimes called a carbuncle. We may regard the ruby as representing love or charity. What is there about the ruby on account of which love or charity may be compared to it? What did people in olden times think the ruby could do?
I. Cure sorrow. It was thought that a ruby had the power of driving away sadness from their hearts, or of curing their sorrows. That was not true, but this is true--if we have this ruby, a heart of love to Jesus, it will help to cure our own sorrows, and help us to cure other people.
II. Shine in the dark. Stories used to be told of rubies and other jewels being employed, instead of lamps, in dark caverns, to give light, just as if they had power in themselves to shine like so many suns. But this was a mistake. It is only true of the Bible ruby. Real love to anybody, and especially the love of Jesus, will shine in the dark. And when we speak of love shining in the dark, we mean that it will give us help and comfort in trouble. It will make us able to do and suffer things that we never could do without it.
III. Keep them from harm. People used to carry a ruby about them as a sort of charm. It is only the Bible ruby that can keep from danger. Loving and trusting God will be a true charm. The ruby heart will keep us from getting hurt. (R. Newton, D. D.)
The supreme worth of wisdom
What does Wisdom offer? She offers to surpass in value everything that men have yet honoured with their appreciation. She will put aside rubies, and things that are to be desired, and all gold, and she will stand alone, absolutely unique in worth. Gold may be lost, rubies may be stolen; desire may say, “I cannot pant and gasp any longer, I have been filled to satiety: let me die.” Nor are these things to be ignored as to their temporary value and uses. He is a foolish man who despises gold and rubies and pearls and choice silver: he is more foolish still who thinks they can buy him anything that he can take into eternity with him. In death all these things leave the possessor. That is a mournful reality. May not a man take the family jewels with him? No, not one. Must he go into the other world empty-handed. Yes, empty-handed: he brought nothing into this world, and it is certain he can carry nothing out. Then we have only a life-right in them? Is there anything that will go with a man clear through to the other spaces? Yes: character will go with him. The man’s character is the man himself. The wise man has the key of all the worlds. And the fool has the key of none of them. He who is without wisdom is without riches. He who has wisdom has all wealth. The wise man is never solitary. He has the thoughts of ages. He is a silent prophet; he will not write his prophecies but oh, how they make him glow, how they send a radiance into his vision, how they make him despise the charms, seductions, and blandishments of a lying world that rattles the bag of its emptiness to prove its treasure! (J. Parker, D. D.)
I, Wisdom, dwell with Prudence.
This has been brought into unmerited contempt by being associated with what is really its opposite. The abuse of the title has led to practical evils. Individuals have been known to despise prudence as the most beggarly of the virtues, from a mistaken apprehension of its qualities. Marking the errors of the niggardly--the muck-worms of society--some persons conclude at once against the utility of prudence, and read the text, “There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth,” in a perverted sense. Nothing will they save, or provide for; and so against imprudence in one extreme they set up imprudence in the other. There is no such short cut to happiness; the spendthrift is as far off from felicity as the save-all. The only security lies in a positive assertion and practical affirmation of the whole doctrine and discipline of prudence in its purity and truth. We must conceive the right idea of Prudence, properly define her characteristics, arrive at an honest appreciation of her gifts and graces, and devote ourselves to her, as her faithful ministrants, in all her relations, social, intellectual, and moral. Such a prudence is co-mate with the loftiest wisdom. The prudential course of conduct would commend itself as an illustration of the most elevated philosophy. It would be at one with the most benevolent and beneficent impulses of the human heart, and at the same time insure the true interests of every individual who acted in obedience to its precepts. (The Scottish Pulpit.)
Of religious prudence
According to the general design of these proverbial writings, wisdom stands before religion, and religion is expressed by the fear of God. Prudence is either universal or particular. Universal prudence is the same with the doctrine of morality, the application of the most proper means, viz., virtuous actions, towards the acquiring the chief end, the happiness of man. And particular prudence is distinguished by the different objects and ends about which it is conversant, and is the prosecution of any lawful design by such methods as shall appear to be best, upon a due consideration of circumstances. The text asserts that there is an inseparable connection between religion and prudence. Neither can be without the other.
I. There is no true political prudence, but what is founded upon religion, or the fear of God. God has delivered the government of the world to men, reserving to Himself a power over nature and a philosophy consisted in pretending to give an account of the world and its original, without an infinite understanding and first mover. And the main corruption of prudence consists in attempting the government of the world by human policy, without a due submission to the providence of God. Proud reasoners, and the sensual part of mankind, either wholly deny a providence or attribute very little to its superintendency and power. The universal history of the world, and the particular histories of nations and families, are full of the tragical end of those proud politicians who thought to govern without God, and to be prudent without religion. A natural sagacity is not sufficient for man, who is accountable for his actions, who must engage on no designs but what are rational, nor pursue them by any means but what are just and lawful. The wisdom that degenerates into craft is really mischievous folly. An uprightness of action, a constancy in virtue, and unmovable frame of mind and resolution of always pursuing what is just and beneficial to the public, by right and laudable ways, will make a man fortunate, valuable, and reverenced--fit for any trust.
II. The pious person in the main is the truly judicious. Wisdom is the knowledge of things great, admirable, and Divine, whereby the mind is raised and enlarged into delightful contemplations; and prudence is a right practical judgment, or the skill of judging what we are to do, and what not, and of distinguishing between good and evil, and the degrees of each. The ancient moralists never allowed a wicked man to be prudent. They declare that a wicked life corrupts the very principles of true prudence and right reason. Prudence is that virtue or power of the soul whereby the mind deliberates rightly, and finds out what is best to be done, when all things are considered; or it helps us to discover what are the best means for obtaining a good end. Now it is religion that qualifies the mind to consider practical matters in their true nature and consequences; that purifies the intention, corrects the inclination, moderates the affections, and make our deliberations calm and wise. It is the fear of God that sets bounds to prudence, that shows how far we are to act in any undertaking, and where we are to resign things up to a higher Conduct. It is temperance that gives us intellectual vigour, that makes us masters of our reason. These, and such-like virtues, being the prerequisites, or ingredients, of all true prudence, it is the pious man that in the main is the truly judicious person. But it is the truly pious man. It is a very imperfect notion of prudence to think that it consists in an exact knowledge of the world, or in getting a large share and possession of it.
III. That particular prudence which is required in the conduct of a religious life.
1. The first rule for the more prudent conduct of a religious life is, not to engage in things which are above our sphere.
2. Not presently to catch at perfection and the highest instances of piety. There is an order of duties, and a gradual advancement in religion. Enthusiasts make mad work with religion.
3. Not to engage too vehemently in things of an indifferent nature.
4. Not to spoil a good constitution of soul by any superstitious fancies or unnecessary scruples of conscience. Piety alone keeps men in the right, the safe, the pleasant path. (Bp. T. Mannyngham.)
Many men are prudent who are not wise--that is to say, they are superficially cautious, sagacious, calculating; but they are never wise. True wisdom is the metaphysic of prudence. It is the innermost life and reality, and it expresses itself in the large prudence which sees more points than can be seen by mere cleverness. He that seeketh his life shall lose it; he that will throw away his life for Christ’s sake shall find it, and shall thus prove himself in the long run to be the truly prudent man. Beware of the prudence that is as a skeleton. The true prudence is the living body, inhabited by a living soul--the soul is wisdom. Sometimes wisdom will drive a man to do apparently foolish things--at least, things that cannot be understood by those who live in rectangles, two inches by one and a half. But “Wisdom is justified of her children”; she calmly abides the issue of the third day, and raised again, she vindicates her origin and declares her destiny. (J. Carter, D. D.)
The fear of the Lord to to hate evil.
Hatred of evil
A formal definition of the fear of the Lord. To dread the punishment of sin seems to be the main feature in that religion which, under many forms, springs native in the human heart. This is the mainspring which sets and keeps all the machinery of superstition going. It was a maxim of heathen antiquity, that “Fear made God.” To fear retribution is not to hate sin. It is a solemn suggestion that ever the religion of dark, unrenewed men is, in its essence, a love of their own sins. Instead of hating sin themselves, their grand regret is that God hates it. If they could be convinced that the Judge would regard it as lightly as the culprit, the fear would collapse like steam under cold water, and all the religious machinery which it drove would stand still. All the false religions that have ever desolated the earth are sparks from the collision of these two hard opposites--God’s hate of sin, and man’s love for it. In Christ only may this sore derangement be healed. It is when sin is forgiven that a sinner can hate it. Instead of hating God for His holiness, the forgiven man instinctively loathes the evil of his own heart, and looks with longing for the day when all things in it shall be made new. Such is the blessed fruit of pardon when it comes to a sinner through the blood of Christ. (W. Arnot, D. D.)
A hidden token of the fear towards God
It is not merely in enlightenment of mind that the fear towards God has its result. “By the fear of the Lord men depart from evil.” This departing from evil is the practical manifestation of a principle; it is habitual practice founded on a strong conviction of duty. In this text, the fear of the Lord is connected with the inward feeling of dislike for evil. Hatred, like love, is of the heart.
I. This fear must not be misunderstood as to its nature. It may be twofold. The alarm that is awakened by the threat of violence, or of immediate privation, is one kind of fear. This is the fear of dread, or terror. The other kind of fear is of respect or reverence, and this can only dwell in the heart of a friend towards a friend, or of a faithful servant towards a master worthy of esteem, or of a dutiful child towards an honoured parent. This is the “fear of the Lord.” What other fear should God be desirous of receiving and acknowledging at their hands?
II. If there be this fear, there will also be the hatred of evil. The Holy One cannot be so indulgent as to put no difference between godly fear and the love of sin. God hates evil as abhorrent from His holy nature. To require that we hate evil is no more than what the holiness of His own character requires from Himself. This requirement shows that God would draw us nearer to Himself. As He hates evil, He would have us hate it. (J. Rhenius, M. A.)
I have understanding; I have strength.
The self-assertion of Christ
Here is more than a florid personification of wisdom. It is the Word who is from everlasting--“Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
I. The self-assertion of Christ. Exhibited in three ways.
1. Christ claims a boundless power of satisfying human wants.
2. Christ claims for Himself the most transcendent ideals.
3. Christ claims the possession of absolute truth, by the very form and mode, as well as by the substance, of His teaching.
II. The bearing of that self-assertion on certain difficulties of our day. Take the tone of much of the record in the Old Testament.
1. The Old Testament is a progressive system. Then much of it must be imperfect.
2. The Old Testament contains the pathology and diagnosis of sin. In meeting the difficulties of the Old Testament, the self-assertion of the “Amen” is our stay. He who spake the words given in Matthew 5:17-18, knew the Old Testament. We talk of the extermination of the Canaanites. Are we gentler than He? We are offended by the polygamy of the patriarchs. Can we survey marriage with a purer gaze than that of the virgin eye which is also the eye of God? We take the book as it is from the hand of Him who says, “I am understanding.”
3. Take the general sources of unbelief and their salient characteristics. The source of unbelief is not always genuine thought, it is often feebleness of character and moral enervation. The secret of strength is to believe in Him who says, “I have strength.” (Abp. W. Alexander.)
By Me kings reign.
I. The special cause that we have for increased thankfulness to God.
1. We ought to be thankful for any event which tends to secure the blessings of peace to our country.
2. A state of peace, as it is most conducive to the temporal interests of a nation, so too it is essential to the interests of true religion.
II. The duty of praying constantly and earnestly for those who are lawfully set over us. (H. W. Sulivan, M. A.)
Civil governments and their subjects
In this chapter is the figure of speech known as prosopoeia, or personification, in which any eminent quality or distinct attribute is invested with personal powers and properties, and is said to hear, to speak, to govern, to suffer, or to enjoy, and indeed, whatever else a person amongst us is capable of doing. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, is the personal and essential Wisdom of God. Here one of His prerogatives is alarmed--He has supreme control and authoritative influence over the great ones of the earth. The administration of all things in the natural and providential, as well as in the spiritual kingdom, is confided into His hands.
I. Civil government is of Divine institution; it is an ordinance of God. It is not the creature of chance; nor founded in the social compact; or by a sort of conventionality understood between the governed and the governors; but is based on the will of God.
1. Prove this by appeal to reason. God formed mankind with a view to happiness, and civil government is necessary to happiness. There can be no happiness without order, security, freedom. It never has been known that human beings, in any large numbers, have existed for any considerable time without the intervention of governments.
2. Prove this by appeal to Scripture (Romans 13:1-3; 1 Peter 2:13). God is not the author of any specific form or mode of government in His Holy Word. In the case of Israel God dictated the special system of political government known as the Theocracy. But in other cases the mode of government is left to the suggestions of human wisdom, the improvements of time, and the claims and requirements of experience and of circumstances.
II. The duties which subjects owe to their civil government.
1. Reverence and respect, for conscience’ sake, and for the Lord’s sake. The language of censure never becomes a subject towards his ruler but under the four following restrictions--
(1) That this censure be founded in truth.
(2) That we have a good motive in uttering it.
(3) That we have a right end.
(4) That we preserve due candour, moderation, and allowance.
2. Obedience to the laws. Disobedience to the laws is a sin against the public, and a virtual attack upon the social character of man.
3. Our proportion of contribution to the exigencies of the State.
4. We owe to our rulers to defend and support them in the lawful exercise of their authority.
5. And earnest prayer to God for His blessing upon them. This is the dictate of common benevolence, and is sanctioned and enjoined by a regard to the public welfare. It is the official character of the civil governor that is the ground upon which prayer is claimed for him. The direction of the faculties and talents and influence of the individual must materially interfere with the safety and happiness of the community. We may, therefore, wisely implore God to assist in their counsels those whom, in His providence, He has exalted. (G. Clayton, M. A.)
The connection of our Lord Christ with earthly sovereignty
I. The gifts which our Lord Christ has received for us.
1. The speaker. Wisdom personified. Wisdom in itself is perfect only in God. Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. He is called “the Word,” which is wisdom manifested in utterance, and issuing in streams of blessings.
2. The gifts. Counsel, or practical wisdom. Sound wisdom, or inward principles. Understanding, shown in refusing the evil and choosing the good. Strength, the gift necessary to complete the other gifts.
3. For whom has the Redeemer these gifts? Generally, for the human race. Specially for kings, and all that are in authority.
II. The connection of our Lord with the sovereignty of the earth. The true sovereignty of the whole earth belongs to our Lord Christ. All other power is simply derived from Him. (E. Bickersteth.)
Thanksgiving to Almighty God
The origin of kings may be traced as far back as authentic history extends. The kings engaged in the Persian wars appear to be among the first of whom any regular historical connection may be relied upon; indeed, we must have recourse to the sacred writings of the Jews for the earliest historical information. The Jewish historians frequently impute their national calamities to the vices of their monarchs. The words of this text imply--
1. A delegated authority, given by God Himself, in the appointment of kings and rulers.
2. That all earthly crowns must perish--that all earthly sovereigns are mortal. It is incumbent on all sincere Christians on special national occasions to acknowledge with gratitude the hand of Almighty God, and to adorn the Divine providence which superintends all worldly affairs; and let us rest assured that the exercise of almighty power and infinite goodness is combined with that mercy which is so strikingly exhibited throughout the vast range of creation, and which will be abundantly manifested in the realms of unfading glory. (N. Meeres, B. D.)
1. Magistrates cannot rule well without wisdom. They need wisdom in consultation and in execution.
2. Men cannot make good laws without wisdom. In regard of matter or manner.
3. Princes cannot rule well without just laws. Bless God that we live under laws, and are not left to the mere will of men. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
The wisdom behind civil government
If good laws against ill manners be, as sure they are, decrees of justice, these kings and princes, with inferior magistrates, will be the governing societies, here on earth, for public reformation. Civil rulers should be considered as subordinate to that ever-blessed society of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit above, the one God who, through the one Mediator between God and man, hath graciously vouchsafed to concern Himself for the reformation of a degenerate world, that iniquity might not be, at least so speedily or universally, its ruin.
I. The tendency of civil government to public reformation, in which common safety and happiness is so manifestly concerned. The very decreeing of justice, or the justice in good and wholesome laws decreed, has a natural and evident tendency to public reformation, with all its implied and consequent advantages. Ill manners have given the occasion to many good laws, which, though they serve to direct and confirm the good, yet are principally designed to correct and reform the bad. It is wrong and weakness to attempt government by mere compulsion. All fit methods of dealing with men must take hold of some principles, allowed or presumed, if not confessed. The great business of good laws will be more effectually to repress the overt acts of those vicious inclinations which so often lead men, in particular cases, contrary to the general dictums of their own deliberate judgment and conscience. See the matter and measure of some of the principal decrees of justice; as--
1. To God; that He be not openly affronted by the denial of His being, neglect of evident duty, and daring commission of notorious sin.
2. To the community; that private interests give way to that of the public.
3. To the magistrate; that all needful defence be provided, with a power sufficient for the asserting of his just authority.
4. To subjects more generally considered. The saving and securing to them those rights and liberties which are due, whether by common reason or the particular reason and fundamental contract.
5. To the poor; that the disabled and destitute be maintained; that the able and willing want not work, nor the idle a spur to labour.
6. To offenders themselves; that the justly obnoxious go not unpunished, nor yet their punishment outweigh the offence.
7. To persons of merit. Honour and other rewards are surely a point of justice due to such. Surely such decrees of justice are a public testimony for virtuous actions, and against the contrary vices. Whilst the preceptive part of such decrees recommends virtuous actions to the understanding, their sanctions of reward and punishment most fitly serve to press them on the will, as powerfully moving those two great springs of human action--hope and fear. The execution of just decrees gives a standing and open confirmation to them, as being the abiding sense of our rulers. They have evidently been well weighed and wisely resolved.
II. The Son of God, the reforming, saving wisdom, on whom government depends. The term “son” is taken from amongst men, and though it cannot exactly agree to Him who is the Son of God, yet certainly intends to lead us to some such apprehensions about Him as may be allowed to our weakness, and will be sufficient for our purpose. The salvation of men is everywhere in Sacred Writ represented as the great design and business of this Wisdom, which well knows that pride, arrogancy, and the evil way will never comport with the peace and welfare of men either in their single or social capacity. The government of the Son as Mediator is to be founded in redemption, and exercised in a way of reformation. Religion in a degenerate world is but another name for reformation: especially the Christian religion, which was to correct not only the irreligion but also the superstitions of the world. It has been the care of our gracious Redeemer to recover the declining reformation under the happy influence of present governments.
III. The more immediate dependence of civil government on the Son of God. True it is that our Saviour’s kingdom is not of a secular but spiritual nature: but His subjects are embodied spirits, and have their temporal as well as eternal concernments. Civil government decrees justice--
1. By our Saviour’s purchase and procurement.
2. Providential disposal.
3. Counsel and aid.
4. Appointment and authority. (Joshua Oldfield.)
The Divine right of kings
I. The authority or right by which kings reign. Monarchs and their authority have an acknowledged cause, and that cause external to themselves. All is derived from some other person. The person who speaks in this passage could be no other than the eternal Son of God. When St. John beheld our Lord in the Apocalypse, he saw Him as the fount and origin of government, with many crowns upon His head. Meet it was that the kings of the several quarters of the world should have their being by Him who is King of all the world; that all crowns, both the crown of glory in heaven and the crown of highest glory on earth, should be held of Him. By Christ, the Wisdom of God, and the Son of God, monarchs hold their rule and kingdoms are governed. They reign not by His mere leave, but by His express commission. They reign in Him and by Him. He reigns in them and by them; He in them as His deputies, they in Him as their authoriser; He by their persons, they by His power.
II. The act of reigning. Consider it in three different ways. That they reign at all; that they reign long; that they reign well. Each of these is alike the gift of God. By Him, His co-eternal Word and Wisdom, as by a door, they enter on their reign. By Him, as by a line which He stretches over every government, be it longer or shorter, they hold its continuance. Finally, by Him, as by a rule, they reign; they walk before the Lord their God; consider whom they represent, whose ministers and vicegerents they are. It is duration that constitutes a reign. Now, without any question, this depends on God. When they have begun they may end quickly, if He who create do not also preserve. And so that right reigning, upon which only a continuance of reign is promised. Can we believe that the complicated machinery of government can be preserved if religion be neglected? But our business now is with subjects, not kings. What has been said imposes duty on them. And even as, if princes considered by whom they reign, they would reign better, so also, if subjects remembered the same truth, they would obey better. For it from Him comes the authority, to Him is the duty of allegiance; and we are bound to be subject, not for wrath only, but also for conscience sake. Remember who it is that speaks. He is Christ, and he is called Wisdom. If Christ speaks, disloyalty and disaffection are anti-Christian. If Wisdom speaks, they are folly. Folly in itself, and folly in its consequences. Let Wisdom, then, be still justified in her children. (G. S. Cornish, M. A.)
Per me reges regnant
How do men claim to be kings? how do they hold their sovereign authority? by whose grant? Of the four words of the motto, the two latter (reges and regnant) be two as great matters as any be in the world. One, the persons themselves, as they be kings. The other, the act of their reigning, or bearing rule over nations. These two latter words depend on the two former--per me. By and through Him kings were first settled in their reigns. By and through Him ever since upholden in their reigns. By and through Him vouchsafed many miraculous preservations in their reigns.
I. Kings and kingdoms have their “per.” They are no casualties. There is a cause of a king’s reigning. That cause is a person. “By Me”--that is, not man or angel, but God only; God manifest. By Him--
1. Because He was man.
2. Because He is wisdom.
3. Because on Him the Father hath conferred all the kingdoms of the earth.
III. Kings reign. Consider this reigning three ways.
1. As it hath a beginning.
2. As it hath continuance.
3. As it hath rectitude or obliquity incident to every act.
These three are duly set on every king’s head through all the story of the Bible. Such a king is said to have been so many years old when he began to reign. He reigned in Jerusalem, or Samaria, so many years. And he reigned well or ill. (Bp. Lancelot Andrewes.)
The authority of Divine Wisdom
Wisdom here speaks of herself as the queen of the world. Wisdom, in the exercise of her authority--
I. Determines the destiny of rulers.
1. It inspires all the good actions of kings.
2. It controls all the bad actions of kings.
II. Has a special regard for the good. Divine wisdom has heart as well as intellect; it glows with sympathies as well as radiates with counsels.
III. Has the distribution of the choicest blessings for mankind. (David Thomas, D. D.)
Verses 17. I love them that love Me.
Emotion and evidence
The mind must reach religion’s creed by help of the heart. Reason is not to be set aside, but, with the value of the rational faculty exalted to its highest honour, the affections of the heart must constantly aid the rational faculty if it is expected to accomplish much in the realm of moral truth. There must be an attuning of the two instruments, the objective truth and the subjective man, such that the music of the former may not be rejected as a discord or lost because inaudible. Wisdom has always distributed her truth to those who love her. Those special ideas called “religion” will become truths or doctrines only by help of the heart’s friendship. Unless men can reach some wish in their favour, some partiality for them, it is hardly to be supposed that mere logic will ever force them upon individual or public practices. The power of the mind to reject conclusions not welcome to the feelings is enormous. It is possible that the poverty of evidence, confessed in this world to exist as to vast moral propositions, comes from the fact that earth was made, not for a wicked but for a virtuous race. Sin may have destroyed evidence by destroying the sentiments that made it visible. The exact sciences proclaim their ideas to all, and ask no favour of any kind. The evidences of Christianity must be weighed by a mind not averse to virtue, not averse to the being and presence of a just God, but full of tender sympathy with man. By a soul capable of sadness and of hope. (David Swing.)
The characters whom Christ loves
The love which Christ entertains for His people is an affection the nature and extent of which can be learned only from a consideration of the causes which produce it.
I. The foundation of that love was laid in eternity.
II. Christ loves those who love Him because He has done and suffered so much for their salvation. He purchased them with His blood. From the birth to the death of His people He watches over them with unremitting attention. He forgives their sins, alleviates their sorrows, sympathises in their trials, heals their backslidings, wipes away their tears, listens to their prayers, intercedes for them with His Father, enables them to persevere, and accompanies them through the valley of the shadow of death. All this care and attention naturally tends to increase His love for them.
III. Christ loves those who love Him because they are united to Him by strong and indissoluble ties. The union between Christ and His people is presented under various figures--bride-groom and bride, vine and branches, head and members, soul and body. The bond of this union on our part is faith, but the union itself is formed by the appointment of God.
IV. Christ loves those who love Him because they possess His spirit and bear His image. Similarity of character always tends to produce affection, and hence every being in the universe loves his own image whenever he discovers it. Christ loves His own image in His creatures because it essentially consists in holiness, which is of all things most pleasing to His Father and Himself.
V. Christ loves those who love Him because they rejoice in and return His affection. It is the natural tendency of love to produce and increase love. Even those whom we have long loved on account either of their relation to us or of their amiable qualities become incomparably more dear to us when they begin to prize our love and return it. Improvement:
1. This subject may enable every one to answer the important question, Does Christ love me?
2. If Christ loves those who love Him, then He will love those most who are most ready to return His affection, to do all things, and to suffer all things for His sake.
3. How happy are they who love! What happiness, then, must they enjoy who love and are beloved by the infinite fountain of love, God’s eternal Son!
4. These truths afford most powerful motives to induce sinners to love Christ. (E. Payson, D. D.)
To whom will Wisdom give her good things
On them that love her she will bestow love again. On them that seek her aright she will bestow herself. There is great use of Wisdom, and she hath great store of wealth to bestow. How shall we obtain this Wisdom? Love her and get her. Love is the best Master of Arts, the surest teacher. As the good fruit of the study of Wisdom is very great, so the labour of them that respect her is not in vain. They shall enjoy both her love and herself.
I. Wisdom loves such as love her.
II. Wisdom must be sought for early and diligently.
III. Such as seek for wisdom diligently shall Find her. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
The love of wisdom necessary to the attaining of it
I. Explain the love of wisdom, and show the sentiments and dispositions that are imported in it. The affections and passions of the human nature are the moving springs which set our active powers at work. Various are the methods by which the objects of affection are introduced into the mind. Some wholly by the senses, some by reflection, inquiry, comparing things, and forming general notions of them. What is imported in the love of wisdom is--
1. A high esteem of its superior excellency as the result of mature consideration.
2. That we should desire it above all things. This Solomon proposeth as a qualification and means of attaining wisdom.
3. Love naturally showeth itself in the complacency which the mind taketh in the enjoyment of, or even in meditating upon, the beloved objects.
II. How it contributeth to our obtaining wisdom.
1. In ordinary human affairs we see that desire putteth men upon that labour and diligence which are the ordinary means of success.
2. The love of wisdom is a disposition highly pleasing to God, and to it He hath made gracious promises. We must conceive of the Supreme Being as a lover of virtue and goodness, of everything which is truly amiable on the account of moral excellence; and if it be so, He hath complacency in those of mankind whose affections are placed on the same thing which is His delight. We have, therefore, the greatest encouragements and advantages for attaining to wisdom, and we ought to use all diligence in humble and affectionate concurrence with Him who worketh in us. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
God loves those that love Him
I. What kind of love God exercises towards them that love Him. There is the love of benevolence and the love of complacency. These two kinds of love are of the same nature, but distinguished by the objects upon which they terminate. The love of benevolence terminates upon percipient being, and extends to all sensitive natures, whether rational or irrational, whether they have a good, or bad, or no moral character. God desires and regards the good of all His creatures, from the highest angel to the lowest insect. The love of complacency is wholly confined to moral beings who are possessed of moral excellence. Nothing but virtue, or goodness, or real holiness is the object of God’s complacence.
II. What is implied in men’s loving God?
1. Some true knowledge of His moral character.
2. True love to God implies esteem as well as knowledge. Esteem always arises from a conviction of moral excellence in the person or being esteemed. All men have a moral discernment of moral objects. Sinners cannot contemplate the infinite greatness and goodness of God without discerning His infinite worthiness to be loved.
3. Their loving God truly implies a supreme complacency in His moral character. In the exercise of true love to any object there is a pleasure taken in the object itself. When men truly love God they take pleasure in every part of His moral character.
III. Why does God only love such as first love Him? Before they first love Him they are not lovely. Their hearts are full of evil, and entirely opposed to all that is good. They are under the dominion of selfishness, which is total enmity to all holiness. But there is something in God which renders Him lovely and glorious before He loves sinners; and therefore they can love Him before He loves them. Improvement:
1. If God does not love sinners before they first love Him, then it is a point of more importance in preaching the gospel to make them sensible that He hates them than that He loves them.
2. Then the first exercise of love to Him must be before they know that He loves them.
3. Then they must love Him, while they know that He hates them, and is disposed to punish them for ever.
4. Then sinners are naturally as unwilling to embrace the gospel as to obey the law.
5. If God love those who first love Him, then He is willing to receive them into His favour upon the most gracious and condescending terms.
6. If God does not love sinners before they love Him, then they have no right to desire or pray that He would become reconciled to them while they continue to hate and oppose Him.
7. If God loves sinners as soon as they love Him, then, if they properly seek Him, they shall certainly find Him. (N. Emmons, D. D.)
These words do not set forth either--
1. That Christ’s love is produced by ours. Its source is Himself.
2. Or that Christ’s love is since ours. It is eternal.
3. Or that Christ’s love is dependent on ours. Unchangeable.
4. Or that Christ’s love is only for those who love Him. He gave the greatest proof of it while we were enemies.
I. Those who return Christ’s love have the evidence of His love to them.
II. Those who return Christ’s love receive special manifestations of grace from Him. Answered prayers, the Spirit’s comfort, success in labour, joys of communion.
III. Those who return Christ’s love have the position and title of His loved ones. Brethren, friends, sons of God.
IV. Those who return Christ’s love give Him special gladness. (R. A. Griffin.)
And those that seek Me early shall find Me.--
Diligence in seeking wisdom always successful
The enjoyments of life are dispensed by the indiscriminating hand of Providence, and often in as large a measure to the unthankful and evil as to the good and virtuous. But wisdom is of a peculiar nature, and it doth not prevent any qualifying dispositions and endeavours in those who obtain it. The foundation of it is laid in the faculties of the mind. Nothing can sufficiently prove the sincerity of our professed affection to wisdom but that seeking it early which is recommended in this text.
I. Explain seeking wisdom early. It means this, that it has the chief room in our cares and application. That which is highest in our esteem, most earnestly desired and delighted in, will naturally engage our first concern and endeavours, while matters of an inferior consideration are justly postponed.
1. If we would seek wisdom it must be by the constant use of the proper means in order to our obtaining it.
2. Diligence, or “seeking early,” importeth using the best means frequently, and with spirit and vigour.
II. Show the advantage of it. We have assurance of success. The text contains an express promise in the name of wisdom.
1. Diligence importeth such dispositions of mind as must please the Supreme Being.
2. Diligence in seeking wisdom or religion is really practising it. Commend the importance of seeking wisdom and religion in the beginning of every day, and in youth-time, which is the morning of life. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
Early seekers of Christ directed and encouraged
I. What it is to seek Christ early. The expression is sometimes used for the duty of prayer, sometimes for the whole of religion. To seek Christ is to seek the true knowledge of Christ, and a saving interest in Him. It is to seek that He may be all that to us, and that we may be all that to Him, for which He is made known and proposed in the gospel. To seek early signifies carefully, earnestly, diligently.
1. We are to seek early with respect to the time of life, or in the younger part of our days. The greatest and most important, concern of all others is not to be put off to the busy time of life, that is incumbered with the cares and hurries of this world; nor to old age, that is enfeebled by decays and loaded with infirmities. It is never too soon to seek after Christ, but it may be too late.
2. We are to seek Him early with respect to the day of grace, or to our opportunities of seeking Him. Whenever God calls us by His Word or providence, we should be early and speedy in attending to those calls.
3. It is to seek Him early with respect to all other things, or above and before all thing else. This relates to the earnestness and fervour with which He is to be sought in the younger part of our days. It is to seek Him with the whole heart.
II. What peculiar encouragements there are to such as seek
1. Early seeking is most pleasing to Him.
2. It is the ordinary course of Divine grace to be found of early seekers.
3. Such have fewer obstructions in seeking.
4. There are peculiar promises to such. (J. Guyse, D. D.)
The holy quest
The legend of the “Holy Grail” tells us that Joseph of Arimathea came into possession of the dish from which the Saviour ate, or, according to another version, the cup from which He drank, when He celebrated the last Passover in the upper room with His apostles. When Joseph stood at the Cross, some of the blood which came from the wounds of Christ fell into this vessel, and Joseph ever afterwards carried about this relic with him in all his wanderings, until at length he came to England. The very presence of this sacred vessel had a mystic influence: miraculous cures were effected by it. But at length, in consequence of the wickedness of the land, this sacred vessel was no longer permitted to remain visible amongst men. What could be a worthier task of Christian knighthood than to go in search of it? Man is, by the very constitution of his nature, a seeker. For wise and good reasons God has made us creatures of desire. It is of the utmost importance that this seeking instinct of our nature should be wisely directed. This Book of Proverbs speaks to you of a treasure which is worthy of your pursuit, and which is the most valuable of all treasures.
I. This wisdom is a hidden treasure. Never be led astray by that lie of the devil, that those things which can be seen are the most real and substantial. It is a delusion which is the parent of all ignoble life. The existence of God is the greatest reality of all, and yet your eye cannot see God. You cannot see your mother’s love.
II. This wisdom is a sacred treasure. The grail was called the holy grail because it had sacred associations. God’s own wisdom is that which we are invited to share. By wisdom is not meant mere knowledge, but that heavenly yet practical wisdom which has to do with the most sacred region of our being--the conscience, the affections, the will--and which enables a man to walk through life in a right and wise direction, and in a spirit sympathetic with the mind of God. No man can be said to live wisely who is living out of harmony with God’s own purpose concerning him. True wisdom enables us to make a wise use of all earthly knowledge, but it is itself a heavenly and sacred treasure.
III. This wisdom is a priceless treasure. Wisdom may sometimes put a man in the way of obtaining wealth; but no amount of wealth can ever buy wisdom. The true wisdom will lead you into the paths of duty, honour, and integrity. No amount of wealth can by any possibility be a compensation for the lack of the priceless treasure.
IV. This wisdom is a life-giving treasure.
1. It is a healing influence.
2. A nourishing influence.
3. A life-renewing influence.
V. This wisdom is a treasure which may be found by every earnest seeker. In the way of--
I have said that man is born a seeker. It is also true that the elements of heroism lie embedded in the very constitution of our nature. There is plenty of room for Christian knighthood yet--for true chivalry of heart and life. Christ is the Divine Wisdom incarnate--the Word of God in human nature. Then seek Christ. (T. Campbell Finlayson.)
Advantages of seeking God early
The favour of the Almighty has always been bestowed upon such as remember Him in the days of their youth. See the cases of Joseph, Samuel, Solomon, Josiah, Hannah, Ruth, Timothy, etc.
1. There is an incalculable advantage in beginning in season a work which we know to be long and difficult.
2. Another advantage is the defence which is thus set up against the encroachments of vice. Youth is the season of warm and generous affections: the time when inexperience entices into a thousand snares; the season for active exertion. In youth, we say, the future hinges on the present. If the thoughts and feelings are pure, the soul will be bright with happiness.
3. Another advantage is the promotion of happiness in the family circle, and the beneficent influence thus exerted upon companions and friends.
4. Another advantage is the indescribable satisfaction which is afforded to parents and friends.
5. Another advantage is the ready access which it affords to the throne of grace.
6. Another is that we are thus prepared to meet with a smile the dark frowns of adversity.
7. There is every encouragement for seeking early after God, because we are thus enabled to await, with calm and holy resignation, the coming of death. (John N. Norton.)
Seeking God early
The Hebrew word used denotes seeking at the dawn or beginning of a day. From the words “I love them that love Me” it might be inferred that man must love God as a preliminary or condition to God’s loving man. The truth, however, is, that God’s love of man must in every case precede man’s love to God, and be its chief producing cause. “We love Him because He first loved us.” There is no natural power in men of loving God. No one of us will love God because everything around proves that God loves him. Our love to God is nothing else but the reflection of God’s love to us. What produces love to God? You cannot make yourselves love God. It is God alone who can make you love God. When we answer to His love, becoming new creatures through the motions of His Spirit, then, as though He had not loved us before, so endearing is the relationship into which we are brought, that He says “I love them that love Me.” If we cannot make our selves love God, we may think over the proofs of His love, we may look at His picture, read over His letters, and so put ourselves in the way of receiving those influences which can alone change the heart. From the words “Those that seek Me early shall find Me” we need not argue that if He has not been sought early it is in vain to seek Him late. What are the motives which should conspire to urge the young to an immediate attention to the things which belong unto their peace?
1. The life of the young is as uncertain as that of the old. Health and strength are no security against the speedy approaches of death. Now is the only moment of which you are sure.
2. They will have much greater difficulty in their seeking who fail to seek early. Many suppose that one time will be as fitting as another, late as early, for seeking the Lord. They think that, if they live, repentance will be as much within their power twenty or thirty years hence as it is now. But this is a supposition for which there is no warrant. An old writer says, “God has, indeed, promised that He will at all times give pardon to the penitent, but I do not find that He has promised that He will, at all times, give penitence to the sinful.” By continuing in sin habits are formed which will strengthen into taskmasters, and which, when men grow old, will be well-nigh irresistible. Very small is the likelihood of producing any moral impression on those who have grown old in forgetfulness of God. We know no so unpromising a subject of moral attack as an aged sinner, always supposing him to have heard the gospel in his youth. Then give God the prime of your strength, the flower of your days, the vigour of your intellect, the ardency of your affections. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
On the advantage of early piety
That the religion of Christ is, beyond all others, calculated to produce private and public felicity no man who is acquainted with that religion can doubt.
1. Those who enjoy the singular benefit of a pious education have the greatest probability of success and perseverance in their course. Of two travellers who have the same journey to go, he is much more likely to accomplish it who, rising betimes in the morning, sets out in all the liveliness and vigour of his strength than he who drowsily sleeps till noon and in the heat and toil of the day can scarce drag his feeble feet along. Good principles and habits, early imbibed and formed, are of such power that they will scarcely permit a wide deviation from right.
2. As no good either is or can be perfected in the human mind without almighty grace, so we have the most solid assurance of that Divine assistance when, in our early days, we carefully cherish the influences of God’s Holy Spirit. Our text is not only a promise, it is the most condescending call from the Lord of wisdom, inviting us to His love. Love begets love. Our love to Him shall be repaid by His love to us.
3. Hence arise many striking advantages. The first tincture is thus given to the mind, the first bias to the affections; thereby right habits and right principles get the first possession and preserve the inclination and practice from those warping and destructive customs and opinions which it is difficult to bend again and reduce to their original and necessary straightness. We all know how strong are the prepossessions and prejudices of education--ill prepossessions and unhappy prejudices--and we may be perfectly satisfied that good prepossessions and prejudices are equally prevalent and powerful. “The cask long retains the smell of the liquor with which it was first seasoned” (Horace). How difficult it is to gain the superiority over habits and customs, even in the most trifling matters, no man is ignorant; but to subdue habits which have long lived with us, and gained our approbation--habits of vice, to which sensual affections have annexed pleasure in the gratification; totally to alter our conduct, to pluck out the right eye of a darling lust, to cut off the right hand of a profitable sin--oh, how arduous, how painful! Here, then, we discern the unspeakable advantage of early good habits and principles, which, preserving us in the road of duty, secure us from this most difficult, if not, in some cases, impossible task, of correcting vicious habits, and amending corrupted customs and notions, which, through long possession, become intimate to men almost as themselves. And the early dedication of ourselves to God will be found not less comfortable than advantageous. It will teach you content in every station, will enable you to sail through life with as much ease and serenity as the unavoidable difficulties of this transitory state will permit; will give to your mind the purest pleasures and most satisfactory enjoyments; will make you a comfort to yourself, a blessing to your friends, and an ornament to society. (W. Dodd, LL. D.)
1. Men have souls and minds capable of being very good or very bad, of enjoying much and suffering much. It is important that a right direction be given early in life to man’s whole nature. This can be secured in no way but by living, hearty piety.
2. Early piety will have a good effect in directing us to aright calling in life, and to a choice of suitable companions and associates.
3. Early piety alone can surely protect us from dashing on those rocks where so many have made shipwreck, both for this world and the next.
4. If we do not become pious in youth it is very uncertain whether we ever shall become so at all. When men grow old their hearts become harder, their wills more stubborn, and their sound conversion less probable. And a large number of the human race die before the period of youth has passed.
5. Should you live through youth, how can you bear the heavy burdens of middle life without the grace of God? If one comes to old age, with all its infirmities, and has not the grace of God in him, how sad his condition, how cheerless his prospects!
1. Are you young? Be not wise in your own conceit. Live by faith on the Son of God.
2. Are you middle-aged? Is the burden of cares heavy? Cast it upon the Lord. Trust in the Lord and do good. Glorify Christ in your body and spirit, which are His.
3. Are you aged? Give yourself much to devotion. Set an example of sweet submission to the will of God. The nearer you draw to heaven, the more let its light and peace shine in your face, cheer your heart, and make your life a blessing to others. (W. S. Plumer, D. D.)
Seeking Christ early
I. Consider what it is to seek Christ early. To seek Christ is to seek the true knowledge of Him, and a saving interest in Him. As it relates to the act of seeking Him, it is to attend upon all the means of grace with seriousness, faith, hope, love, and delight. We are to seek early. With respect to all other things, or before and above all things else. This relates to the earnestness and fervour with which He is to be sought. We are to seek Him with the whole heart.
II. Consider what secular encouragements there are to such as seek Christ early that they shall find Him.
1. Early seeking is most pleasing to Him.
2. It is the ordinary course of Divine grace to be found of early seekers.
3. Early seekers have fewer obstructions to their seeking and finding Christ than others have.
4. There are peculiar promises made to early seekers. (T. Hannam.)
Seeking the Lord
In seeking the Lord--
I. Keep two things perpetually in view--His truth and the influences of His Holy Spirit. Without His truth we can have no rule, and without the influences of His Holy Spirit we can have no disposition to prize the right rule: both are absolutely necessary.
II. Under the influence of the Divine Spirit we shall invariably seek God as a God of mercy.
III. As a God of peace.
IV. As a king.
V. As a guide.
VI. As a portion. Now let me apply my subject.
1. There are some of you who do not seek the Lord--you can live without Him perfectly well.
2. There are others who seek the Lord, and perhaps you wonder why you do not find Him. Now, examine yourselves; is there not a great deal of hypocrisy, of deceit, in you?
3. There are others who seek Him, and seek Him honestly, and who think they do not find Him, when in reality they do find Him. They do not find Him in the consolation which they seem to need; but they find Him in principle--they find Him in driving guilt from the conscience, they find Him in enabling them to triumph over the tyranny of sin.
4. There are others who rejoice in the God of their salvation, who can say, “I know that I have sought and found the Lord; my Saviour is in me the hope of glory. I cannot but rejoice in Him at the present moment.” Rejoice with trembling. Remember, you have many and mighty enemies within and without. (W. Howels.)
Early seeking of Christ encouraged
I. What is implied in seeking the Lord Jesus?
1. A decided conviction of the utter insufficiency of every other object for our happiness and salvation.
2. A decided persuasion that in Christ Jesus every blessing that the soul requires is to be found.
3. A strong desire to obtain an interest in Christ.
4. Persevering efforts in the use of all appointed means to obtain this object.
II. What it is to find Christ, and the happiness that results from it.
1. The expression, finding Christ--
(1) Is figurative, and may be considered as intimating their obtaining a saving discovery of His character.
(2) May intimate also their forming a saving connection with Christ.
(3) Suggests their obtaining all the blessings of salvation.
2. The happiness that finding Christ yields.
(1) They that find Christ obtain deliverance from the worst evils--horror of conscience, burden of guilt, dread of Jehovah’s wrath, tyranny of evil passions, thraldom of Satan.
(2) They obtain the most valuable advantages. They obtain an interest in the favour of that God who has every blessing at His disposal; the graces which beautify the character, and give peace and joy to the soul in their exercise; an illumination which solves their doubts, scatters their fears, and opens before them scenes glowing with the splendour of eternal day. The heart now finds an object which can gratify its amplest wishes, and may rejoice that these advantages perish not in the using, and lie secure beyond the reach of accident.
(3) They cherish the most blessed hopes with regard to the future.
III. Those that seek Christ early have the strongest reason to expect success.
1. The Redeemer takes peculiar delight in the movements of early piety. These, in an especial manner, honour His supreme excellence.
2. The young are likely to seek Him with undivided hearts, and from affectionate choice.
3. The young have peculiar reason to expect the aids of the Spirit in seeking Christ.
4. The language of the text suggests that those who do not seek the Lord Jesus in their youth have much reason to fear that they shall never find Him.
1. Let me beseech the young to seek the Lord while He may be found.
2. I exhort those who have sought the Saviour early to maintain their earnestness in religion.
3. Let those who are in advanced life consider their ways and be wise. (H. Belfrage.)
Seekers who do not seek in vain
All the people in the world are seekers, only some people spend their time in seeking for silly and useless things. A king that I have heard of, instead of ruling his people properly, neglected his duties, and spent his time in going from kingdom to kingdom seeking for a mouse with pink eyes. What a waste of time for such a man! Those who are really learned have gathered their wisdom by being ready to learn.
I. Those who begin to seek God early have longer time in which to learn about Him. People who study music after they have grown up seldom become good players or singers; nor do I believe that any one ever really masters grammar who does not begin to study it thoroughly at an early age. Begin therefore at once to learn, for you have lost already more time than you can well spare.
II. Begin early, because you will have less to unlearn. Socrates, a wise man, charged one of his disciples double fees because, he said, he not only had to teach him how to speak, but also how to hold his tongue. A blacksmith could never become a painter, at least not very readily, for he would have to unlearn so much. If you fill your mind with foolish ideas, a vast amount of time will be required to get rid of these follies before you can be instructed in wisdom.
III. I think, too, that you will be more ardent and eager in the pursuit of wisdom if you begin young, and you will find that history confirms the truth of my opinion. You will not be so readily discouraged, and will more easily master your difficulties than older people can. Little children-students, we are here assured, shall not seek in vain, but they will be required to take pains. Columbus somehow got the idea that America existed, and he went to find the great unknown land. Day after day he sailed on without seeing it, but he one day spied some seaweed of a kind different to that known in Europe. This encouraged him to continue his search. So you, too, will sometimes feel inclined to give up in despair, but keep on; it is worth all the trouble you can ever expend upon it to become wise. And what joy it will impart to you when at length you see what you desire! (N. Wiseman.)
Seek Jesus early
Our business is to seek Jesus early in life. Happy are the young whose morning is spent with Jesus! It is never too soon to seek the Lord Jesus. Early seekers make certain finders. We should seek Him early by diligence. Thriving tradesmen are early risers, and thriving saints seek Jesus eagerly. Those who find Jesus to their enrichment give their hearts to seeking Him. We must seek Him first, and thus earliest. Above all things Jesus. Jesus first, and nothing else even as a bad second. The blessing is, that He will be found. He reveals Himself more and more clearly to our search. He gives Himself up more fully to our fellowship. (C. H. Spurgeon.)
Seeking Christ in the dawn of life
The word “early” is not in the original. The passage therefore might be read thus--“And those that seek Me Shall find Me.” Yet we cannot altogether throw out the word “early”; it seems to complete the rhythm. The word “seek” as originally employed is a word which involves the meaning of seeking in the dawn--just as the east is whitening a little, just as the day is being born. Thus we have some claim to the word early. There are men who do not wait until midday in order to resume their journey after they have been benighted; they have, indeed, succumbed to circumstances, saying, “The darkness has overtaken us, and here we must lie”; but the moment there is a streak in the east up they start, the staff is resumed, and the journey is prosecuted with renewed energy. This is the image of the text: “they that seek Me in the dawn shall find Me; they that seek Me at daybreak; they that come after Me ere the dew be risen shall find Me, and we shall have a long morning talk together: when the soul is young, when the life is free, when the heart is unsophisticated, they that seek Me in the dawn shall find Me, for I have been waiting for them, yea, standing by them whilst they were sleeping, and half-hoping that the moment they open their eyes they would see Me, and exclaim, “Blessed Spirit, take charge of my poor, young, little, frail life all the day, and tell me what I ought to do.” Fool is he who begins the day prayerlessly, who takes his own life into his own hand: verily in doing so he puts his money into bags with holes in them, and at night he shall have nothing. (J. Parker, D. D.)
Riches and honour are with Me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
On gaining and using riches
Whatever is true and substantial happiness even in this life has a necessary dependence upon morality and religion. Wealth and riches are but heavy encumbrances and unprofitable lumber if they are not made use of to reward the good, to excite the diligent, and to relieve the oppressed. But that religion should be the path that leads to wealth and substance, and that to be good is the way to become rich, seems to be a paradox contrary to the sentiments of mankind. Piety may indeed comfort us in our wants, and support us in our affictions; but that it should be the best factor to gain them and store them up is an assertion so opposite to the persuasion of men that it seems like the wild affirmation of one who would defend a novelty.
I. Piety is the most effectual means to obtain riches.
1. Riches are the gift of God, not the goods of fortune. If there is a wise and provident Governor of the world, the success of all human enterprises depends upon His disposition of things. If the men of virtue and piety are the favourites of the Almighty, they may expect bounties as the signs of His love; if they be His faithful servants, as rewards of their fidelity.
2. See what piety is, examine it in itself and in its consequences, and we shall find it to be naturally productive of riches and plenty. Piety is the habitual practice of moral and Divine virtues, each one of which has a tendency to enrich its followers, e.g., industry, temperance, humility, brotherly love, liberality, and charity.
3. Credit and reputation in the world have a very great dependence upon honesty and an upright life, and they are things absolutely necessary for the promotion of our health and worldly interest. The only solid foundation of a good name is piety and virtue.
4. Piety and virtue direct to the use of those methods which are honest and lawful. The most honest means are always the sweetest.
II. The securing of riches or making them durable. This may be considered in a double respect--
1. In relation to ourselves.
2. In relation to posterity. Whatever is got by means that are repugnant to piety is not to be kept, but must be parted with. All vices have a natural tendency to impoverish mankind. It is well to note that the efficacy of piety is not bounded here; it reaches beyond the grave, and entails its blessings on future generations. The generation of the faithful shall be blessed. (William Hayley, M. A.)
I lead in the way of righteousnses.
Substance the inheritance of the saints
I. Jesus leads in the way of righteousness--
1. By leading them into His holy, strict, and condemning law.
2. By implanting sincerity and uprightness.
II. Jesus leads in the midst of the paths of judgment. These paths of judgment are when He, with His holy eye, scrutinises the heart and brings to light its secret workings. He leads by setting up a court of judicature in the heart, arraigning the soul at its bar; not with vengeance, as punishing a criminal, but as a parent, after the child has been playing truant all day.
III. Jesus causes the soul to inherit substance. Something solid, weighty, powerful, real, and eternal. Power and life and feeling, and the blessed kingdom of God set up with authority in the soul. A substantial religion--something that is dropped into the soul from His own blessed self, something that comes out of Himself, and out of the fulness of His own loving heart, to make them rejoice and be glad. (J. C. Philpot.)
In the midst of the paths of Judgment.
The golden mean
In this country, if you walk in the middle of the street in the town, or in the middle of the road in the country, you are exposed to danger from horses and vehicles, for which that part of the road was reserved, and therefore side-paths and pavements have been provided, where you can take refuge from the traffic. It is different in the East. There the roads are so badly made, and so little frequented, that you are always safest in the middle. There is a rock, perhaps, on this side, and a precipice or a ditch on that, and the edges of the road are always so rugged and uneven that only the well-worn track in the middle is available for easy travelling. And from this condition of Eastern roads has arisen the moral lesson that the middle of the path of conduct is the safest and the best. The sentiment may be exemplified in everything moral and religious. The Greeks of old always spoke of the golden mean between two extremes, and were fond of proving that truth and safety always lay in the middle. The wise man speaks of the paths of judgment. These paths are oft either side of the way of righteousness, which is the middle; and they are called paths of judgment because, if you stray into them off the strait and narrow way of righteousness, you will meet with dangers and evils that will assuredly punish you. The virtues that yield the blessings of life are in the middle, between the vices that wreck and blight your life. A little too much on the one side or the other makes all the difference in the world; and so close to each other do the evils you have to avoid come, that narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. The side-path may, therefore, be smooth and pleasant, but it leads to danger. The middle of the road may be rough and difficult, but it is safe--the way of righteousness, between the paths of judgment. (H. Macmillan,D. D.)
That I may cause them that love Me to inherit substance.
Man’s enrichment by God
I. Love--the love of God as the source of every blessing.
II. The love of created being is excited by some good, real or imaginary, in the object beloved.
III. Man’s individual sins, wants, and necessities.
IV. Observe the way in which man is to become rich. God gives Himself--involving every good.
V. God himself is to be the wealth of His family for evermore. (W. Howels.)
Real substance in spiritual things
This is among the golden sayings of the book. In the text is an encouragement to religion drawn from the incomparable benefit of it. “They that love Me shall not be losers by Me.” The Hebrew word for substance means that which is: that which hath a firm and solid consistency.
1. By substance may be meant Christ. He must needs be substance who gives being and substance to everything.
2. By substance is meant the grace of the Spirit. That must needs be substance which partakes of the fulness of God.
3. By substance is meant salvation, expressly called substance (Hebrews 10:34).
I. The qualification of the persons. “Those that love Me.”
1. The affection: Love. Love doth mellow and perfume holy duties. Love is that which the Lord is most delighted with.
2. The object of love: Christ. Did men know Christ, it were impossible to keep them off from loving Him.
II. The specification of the privilege. Why is grace called substance?
1. For its preciousness.
2. For its suitableness.
3. For its needfulness.
4. For its satisfyingness.
5. For its certainty.
6. For its durableness.
Substance signifies something that runs parallel with eternity. That spiritual things must needs have a real being and substance in them appears by two convincing arguments.
(1) Because God, who is the original pattern of truth, hath asserted it.
(2) This is most consistent with the rational nature.
1. The incomparable excellence of grace.
2. See the difference between the things of God and the things of the world.
3. See the egregious folly of those who mind things of less moment, but do not look after substance (Isaiah 4:2).
Why do not men labour more after spiritual substance? Answer:
If we have this spiritual substance, we can remember a time when we wanted it. We know how we came by it. We highly prize it. (T. Watson.)
The Lord possessed us in the beginning of His way.
Wisdom the first creation of God
Here is the noble idea which overturns at a touch all mythological speculations about the origin of things--an idea which is in deep harmony with all the best knowledge of our time--that there is nothing fortuitous in the creation of the world; the Creator is not a blind Force, but an intelligent Being whose first creation is wisdom. He is the origin of a law by which He means to bind Himself; arbitrariness finds no place in His counsels; accident has no part in His works; in wisdom hath He formed them all. Here is a clear recognition of the principle that God’s law is a law also to Himself, and that His law is wisdom. He creates the world as an outcome of His own wise and holy design, so that “nothing walks with aimless feet.” It is on this theological conception that the possibility of science depends. (R. F. Horton, D. D.)
The autobiography of Wisdom
I. As having existed before all time.
II. As having been present at the creation.
III. As having been in external association with the creator.
IV. As having felt before all worlds a deep interest in man. (D. Thomas, D. D.)
I was set up from everlasting.
Christ set up from everlasting
Doctrine: That as Christ is the everlasting God, so, from all eternity, He was foreordained and set up for the great service of man’s redemption.
I. To prove That Christ is the everlasting God.
1. That He existed before the incarnation is evident from the appearance He made to our first parents in paradise.
2. We find His existence and agency in the production of all created beings.
3. Run up to the endless ages before the creation of the world, and we find Him existing or ever the earth was.
II. What is imported in His being set up from everlasting.
1. It supposes the council of peace, or an eternal transaction between the Father and the Son concerning the redemption of lost sinners.
2. It implies the infinite complacency that the Father and Son had in each other from all eternity.
3. It implies a Divine ordination and decree, whereby He was from eternity elected into the great service of man’s redemption.
4. It implies that, in consequence of the decree, He was called of God to undertake the work of redemption.
5. It implies His own voluntary consent to, and complacence with, His Father’s call. He was actually set up in time.
(1) His first appearance was in the promise made to our first parents.
(2) Set up typically under the Old Testament.
(3) Set up prophetically.
(4) Personally and actually, in His incarnation, obedience, and death.
(5) In His resurrection and ascension.
(6) Sacramentally, in baptism and the last supper.
(7) In conversion.
(8) Will be set up at His second coming.
III. For what ends and purposes Christ was thus set up.
1. As a sun, to give light to this lower world.
2. As a second Adam, the head of a new covenant of grace and promise.
3. As a repairer of breaches between God and man.
IV. The grounds and reasons way Christ was set up.
1. Because it was the Father’s will and pleasure.
2. Because of the good-will He did bear to man upon earth.
3. Because of His ability for the undertaking.
4. Because He voluntarily offered Himself for the work and service.
5. Because from everlasting God foresaw what a revenue of glory would accrue to the crown of heaven through His mediation.
V. Application of the doctrine. See the antiquity and activity of the love of God; the stability and perpetuity of the covenant of grace and of the Church; the reason why all hands should be at work to exalt Him. (E. Erskine.)
And I was daily His delight.
The happiness of Christ antecedent to His incarnation
The delights between the Father and the Son, before His assumption of our nature, were twofold.
1. They delighted in one another without communicating their joys to any other; for no creature did then exist save in the mind of God.
2. They delighted in the salvation of men; in the prospect of that work, though not yet extant. The condition and state of Jesus Christ before His incarnation was a state of the most unspeakable delight in the enjoyment of His Father. Consider this--
1. He was not abased to the low estate of a creature.
2. He was not under the law in this estate.
3. He was not liable to any of those sorrowful consequents and attendants of that frail state of humanity which afterwards He assumed with that nature. Unacquainted with griefs. Never pinched with poverty and want. Never underwent reproach and shame. Was never offended with any impure suggestions. Never sensible of tortures and pains. There were no hidings or withdrawings of His Father. No experience of death.
1. A state of matchless happiness.
2. A state of intimacy, dearness, and oneness with His Father.
3. A state of pure, unmixed, and ravishing delight.
1. Compare it with the delight that some creatures take in each other, and you will soon find that they fall infinitely short of this.
2. Compare it with the delight that God takes in some of His creatures; you will find it to come short of the delight that God takes in Christ.
3. Compare it with the delight that the best of creatures take in God and Christ; how infinitely short it comes of the delight that God takes in Christ!
1. What an astonishing love was this for the Father to give the darling of His soul for poor sinners!
2. Adore the love of Jesus to sinners, that ever He should consent to leave such a bosom.
3. An interest in Jesus Christ is the true way to all spiritual preferment in heaven.
4. Jesus Christ is worthy of all love and delight.
5. It is a grievous thing to see God’s dear Son despised, slighted, and rejected by sinners.
6. Let us be ready to forsake and leave all for Christ. (John Flavel.)
Christ’s eternal felicity
I. Christ was with the Father at the beginning. This censures the Arians.
II. God the Father, as He delighted in Christ at the beginning, so He doth always.
1. Because He is His Son.
2. Because He never offended Him.
3. Because He is always ready to please His Father.
III. Christ rejoiced in God the Father from the beginning, and does so always. Some read, “I rejoice, or sport, always before Him.” (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
Rejoicing always before Him.
Eternal Wisdom rejoicing in the events to be revealed
If we contemplate the character of Divine Wisdom as directed to earth, dwelling amongst men, anticipating the concerns and circumstances and history of this human world, we shall--
1. Be led to perceive an importance attaching to all the ramifications of that history, to all its epochs and all its events.
2. In addition to this we shall be led to depend, with a degree of delight and joy, on all the arrangements and developments of this Wisdom in relation to our circumstances.
3. And we shall perceive the impropriety of our murmuring; and that there is the greatest measure of folly, as well as of danger, in allowing ourselves to dispute any part of the Divine proceedings.
4. Such a view will induce us to look with intelligent and instructed minds upon all the things around us, and to observe in the various circumstances which transpire before our view the actual working out of a plan arranged before eternity.
5. We shall regard the great Supreme with deep solicitude, in order that we ourselves may be brought to see the truth and results of all that is around us.
6. We shall anticipate the glory of that scene in its fulness which we now perceive in fragments. Christ looked forward to the production of the world for the sake of the men who would dwell on it. What is more wonderful than the intellectual, physical, moral, and spiritual being, man? Consider the proofs of this anticipation and delight, and the reason whence arises all this delight. (R. S. McAll, LL. D.)
Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth.
The rejoicing of Wisdom
I. Where did the Son of God by anticipation rejoice? “Habitable part of His earth.” “Sons of men.”
1. The simple fact in itself. Of all creation this insignificant globe of earth is singled out. And of this globe its habitable part. It is with souls He would have to do. It was the empire of mind upon the earth that He in time expected to assume. This puts an honour and dignity upon our poor human nature which it is impossible fully to estimate.
2. Certain circumstances connected with this fact. What claims had earth’s inhabitants upon His regard? We can think of none. Man is an insignificant being and a sinner.
II. Why did the eternal joy of the Son of God centre in this earth? This joy could not have arisen from contemplation of our misery, and far less of our guilt. When He cast a glance down to this earth, what did His mind’s eye discover in its habitable parts? He saw men ruined, and purposed to save them. His atonement was the chief ground of joy to Himself, because the great occasion of glory to His Father and of good to His people. Lessons--
1. Of reproof to careless and Christless sinners.
2. Of consolation to believers. (N. Morren, M. A.)
Christ’s joy in the Church before His incarnation
Wisdom here is a real, not an allegorical person. It is the Eternal Word. Our Saviour informs us that, as soon as the world was made, the habitable parts of it became the scene and subject of His rejoicing. His delights were with men rather than angels. Yet He knew that the world would be wet with His tears and stained with His blood. Why, then, did He rejoice in the human inhabitants of the earth? It could not be on account of man’s intellectual or moral excellency. It must be because in the world the plan of redemption was to be executed, and because men were the objects of it. Our Redeemer rejoiced in the world because--
I. It was destined to be the place in which He should perform the most wonderful of His works. There He would obtain His greatest victory, make the most glorious display of His moral perfections, and in the most signal manner glorify the Father.
II. Because the habitable parts of the earth were the destined residence of His then future Church. They are all destined to be filled with His disciples. Everywhere Churches are to be established.
III. Our Redeemer’s chief delights and pleasures were with men.
1. Because He intended Himself to become a man.
2. To many the Divine Redeemer was to become still more nearly related. As His Church.
3. His delights partly lay in its being more blessed to give than to receive. How ungrateful and inexcusable does the treatment which Christ has received from men appear when viewed in the light of this subject! (E. Payson, D. D.)
The voice of God’s eternal Wisdom
I. From the beginning the welfare of man engaged the complacent regard of God our Saviour.
1. He represents Himself here as deriving delight from the spectacle even of the material creation, because it was subservient to man. He looked on material objects as visible realisations of eternal types. On comparing them with the originals in His own infinite mind He beheld the perfect resemblance, and was satisfied. He beheld them in their prospective application, serving as indexes or intimations of His infinite greatness to myriads of minds which He purposed to create. He looked on these objects as the first in an endless series yet to come. In His first acts of creation the Great Architect was laying the foundation of an all-comprehending and eternal temple. And it was all present in His mind, and He rejoiced in the glorious prospect.
2. There was the happiness of prospectively beholding the activity, enlargement, and progress of the whole system of creation and providence. The prospect of this development of His great plan afforded Him profound satisfaction. This is evident because He has sought at times to throw His Church into an ecstasy of delight by affording them glimpses of its onward course; for the disclosures of prophecy are such glimpses.
3. There was the happiness of prospectively beholding the effects arising from His gratuitous interposition for human salvation.
4. Then there was the happiness derivable from knowing that, important as the recovery of man is, in attaining it He should be attaining an end greater still--attaining the greatest of all ends--the manifestation of the Divine glory.
II. All the Mediator’s communications and intercourse with us are made to harmonise with our welfare also. Tell us the distinguishing wants of human nature, and we will tell you the distinguishing excellences of Divine revelation.
1. From their eager inquiries and their signs of reflection you infer that they are intelligent beings, and from other signs you infer that the subjects which most deeply interest them are those which refer to their origin, their character, and their relation to the invisible and the future. Man’s solution of these problems is puerile, contradictory, and absurd. What is the Divine explanation of the mystery?
2. Man is manifestly a sufferer. Sorrow has but two places of refuge--the sanctuary and the grave.
3. Man is a personally sinful being. The Mediator has made special provision for the necessities thus arising. The vicarious sacrifice of Christ, while providing a complete satisfaction for human guilt, provides that which we equally require--means for the renovation of our sinful nature and motives to a constant progress in holiness. So wonderfully adapted to the susceptibilities, so exquisitely adjusted to all the springs of our nature is the Cross of Christ, that in the hand of the Spirit it relieves our apprehensions, while it quickens our sensibility--gives peace to the conscience while it increases its activity and power--inspires hope while it produces humility, by the very magnitude and splendour of the objects which inspire it--demands perfection, by presenting the affections with an object calculated to produce it.
4. But man is not only a rational, suffering, sinful being. He is groaning and travailing together in pain, casting anxious looks on the future, gazing on the distant darkness, invoking the dead. The burden of his great anxiety is this, “If a man die, shall he live again?” Answering that, Jesus is “the Resurrection and the Life.” Such are parts of that great system of saving truth by which the Saviour seeks to realise those purposes of mercy toward us, the bare contemplation of which filled Him with delight.
III. The Saviour rejoices in such parts of the earth as are set apart for the diffusion of His truth and the promotion of His designs. Man was to have moved over the face of the earth as amidst the types and symbolic services of a temple, where everything was adapted to remind Him of God. Sin has disturbed this adjustment and thrown it in confusion. If this is to be remedied, some counter-force must be employed.
IV. What does Christ expect from a place thus distinguished?
1. He expects you to sympathise with Him in His regard for human happiness.
2. He expects you to aim at results and to look for them.
3. Not only expect the results, but anticipate the consequences of those results. (J. Harris, D. D.)
And My delights were with the sons of men.
Christ’s delight in the sons of men
1. “Rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth.”
(1) “The habitable parts of His earth” are such places where the gospel comes, bringing the good tidings of Jesus Christ and His salvation for lost sinners.
(2) “The habitable part of His earth” is especially intended of such as are, through grace, become “the habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:22; Ephesians 3:17; John 4:13). The Lord Jesus Christ rejoiced in this habitable part of this earth from everlasting, before there was an earth to be inhabited.
2. The delights of Jesus Christ, from all eternity, were “with the sons of men.”
(1) He knew that by standing as a Surety for His people, and bearing their guilt and punishment, He should also bear away their sins.
(2) He knew that in saving His people, through His obedience in life and death, all the Divine perfections would be more remarkably displayed and glorified than in all the other works of God.
(3) His delight proceeded from the pleasing prospect that He had of men being united to Himself by faith.
(4) He delighted in the prospect of conveying the riches of grace to their souls.
(5) He delighted in the prospect of their sincere services done in faith and love.
(6) He delighted in the prospect of His acting towards them, as the Prophet of His Church, to teach them the mind and will of God for their salvation.
(7) He delighted in the prospect that He had from everlasting, of His people being all brought home to glory, to be for ever with Him. The greatest honour that Jesus Christ can do to men upon earth is to delight in them. “Such honour have all His saints” (Isaiah 62:4). This implies--
1. His interest in them.
2. His continual remembrance of them.
3. His readiness to bestow His best favours upon them. Did Jesus Christ delight in His people from everlasting; then all the disciples of Christ should delight in Him (1 Peter 2:7; Song of Solomon 5:10). (W. Notcutt.)
Wisdom resident in the world
Wisdom rejoices in the habitable parts of the earth, not in the monastic retreats of a dreary desert or wilderness. Wisdom’s delights are among the sons of men, not in the midst of books. The inestimable advantages gained in those places, only become wisdom as they are used among men, just as the wheat, growing on some distant prairie, where few eyes ever rest upon its beauties, becomes food only as it reaches the crowded city, where men are longing for it and would die without it. Wisdom is in the world where men are; she delights to be there; we need not leave the world to find her if we will only hear the voice of God just where we are. The sins and failings of men can speak warnings to us; the needs of men can stir our activities; the kindness and goodness of men can point to God’s greater love. Everywhere hands point up to God and our true relations to Him, if only we will let Him be as real, as truly personal, as the rest of the world is to us . . . Wisdom delights in the habitable parts of the earth, and rejoices to be among the sons of men. Can it always be so? How often we tire of the very noise of our fellow-men, and wish to flee afar off and be at rest! Wisdom cannot feel that exhaustion. But how often the most habitable parts of the earth are the very homes of the foolishness of sin! We see their wickedness and foolishness: must not Wisdom itself see it much more? Are the social regulations of our life to-day likely to please the heart of Wisdom and make her long to be among them? How much true wisdom do they cultivate among those who are devoted to them? Wisdom may be in our streets, but it must be as a very sorrowful resident, as she sees soul after soul that she loves lost in the desire of gain, associating with its fellow-man only for selfish purposes. The souls might delight her and make her stay, but would the lives which she saw those souls leading do so? What can we do to make society and life generally worthy of this great presence which is ever in it? No laws, no customs, no institutions that we can establish for business or the State, no prescriptions that we may make for social life, will do the work; for those are impersonal, and what we have seen to be valuable to the world is the personal presence of Wisdom. And that must find its expression in our personal lives. All that makes society attractive or city life prosperous to-day came from God, and in that fact has its power for us. For that reason it cannot be ignored or put out of sight. But why, then, is it so dangerous to us? Because it destroys our sense of personal responsibility, which is the great thing by which we are to show forth the true character of God’s wisdom. Be followers of Christ, personal friends of Jesus. Recognise the fact that Christ is in all that is good, and that by being true to Him you cannot possibly get out of the stream of the world’s true life. You will have to leave some things that are false, you will have to condemn them by leaving them; but all which truly belongs to men must ultimately be the possession of those who have the Wisdom whose delights are among the sons of men. (Arthur Brooks.)
I. The joy of god in this material world. The Divine Wisdom approved the result of the Divine power and skill.
II. His delights were with the sons of men. Humanity has always held a foremost place in the thoughts of God.
1. Man as a creature of God. The noblest work that God has placed upon the earth; he is the crown and glory of this terrestrial creation.
2. Man has sinned. The prescient eye of God from eternity looked upon man, not only as a creature endowed with high capabilities, and as an offender against law and a sufferer because of sin, but He looked upon him as a transgressor redeemed. He looked on men not only in their connection with the first Adam, but also in their connection with the second Adam. He foresaw the success which should crown the mission and sacrifice of His well-beloved Son. (T. Stephens.)
On the benevolence of Christ to the human race
I. Our blessed Lord rejoiced in the habitable part of the earth because He foresaw that the perfections of God would be manifested and glorified. The human race appears to have been created for a twofold purpose.
1. To glorify God upon the earth.
2. That our Lord might defeat the infernal purposes of the malicious spirits, destroy the works of the devil.
II. His delights were with the sons of men, that He might minister to the comfort and happiness of their bodies. What an amazing constellation of virtues did He exhibit, and how boundless must have been that love which led Him day after day, amidst hunger, and thirst, and fatigue, and suffering, and sorrow, to relieve the wants of the needy and restore to the soundness of health and activity the miserable and forlorn sufferers of calamity and woe!
III. His delights were with the sons of men, that He might enlighten their minds by His Word and Spirit. Many theories have been propounded to solve the mystery of the introduction of moral evil into the world, but no hypothesis is so credible or intelligible as that of the Scripture account of the fall of man. Our blessed Lord interposed on our behalf, and generously undertook to redeem us from the curse of the law and regain that immortal life which we had forfeited by our disobedience. How can we account for such a display of unparalleled benevolence but from His ardent desire to promote the best interests of men?
IV. His delights were with the sons of men, that He might sanctify their souls and prepare them for the enjoyments of heaven. We ought to be extremely solicitous for the salvation of our souls, and never dare to imagine that, because Christ has died for our sins, we shall be saved without that holiness of heart and life which are the fruits of the Spirit in all them that believe. (D. Davidson.)
Wisdom’s delights with the sons of men
In these words are revealed things concerning the personal, substantial, and self-existent Wisdom.
I. “My delights were with the sons of men.” Wisdom, then, has her delights; and where does she find them? The prime of these delights is that which He finds in Himself. He has complacential delight in Himself, for He only is perfection, independent, and eternal. The communications of His glorious attributes are also His delight. These rest on the sinful sons of men. The words include the idea of dwelling with the sons of men. What led the Saviour to such condescension? It was purely of His tender love towards mankind. Whence originates this love? In His own bosom, and we can say no more and see no farther.
II. Rejoicing in the habitable parts of God’s earth. The Hebrew is forcible and poetical--“playing or disporting on the orb of God’s earth.” God formed the earth and the world with wisdom, but also with love, and not only for the benefit, but also for the happiness of His creatures, and with a special view to the pleasure of the sons of men. In Christ, the Wisdom of God, the same wonderful condescension continues still. He adapts Himself to our human conceptions; brings His mysteries near to us in a most gracious manner; and the same graciousness is seen in God’s everyday communion with His beloved children. The word “rejoicing” reminds of sweet music, and all the music on earth is made by Christ or for Him. (F. W. Krummacher, D. D.)
Blessed are they that keep My ways.
The claims of Divine Wisdom
I. These are very simple.
1. Diligently study its counsels.
2. Constantly obey its precepts. The teachings of Divine Wisdom arc not speculative, but regulative. They are maxims to rule the life.
II. Very important.
1. Obedience to them is happiness.
2. To neglect them is ruin. (David Thomas, D. D.)
Hear instruction, and be wise.
Motives for hearing sermons
Contempt of God’s Sabbaths and disregard of ministerial instruction are melancholy characteristics of the age in which we live.
I. The tendency of preaching and meaning the word to promote our best interest. This tendency is sufficient to enforce the duty recommended in my text. The sacred oracles are profitable. The doctrines revealed in them are not doubtful speculations, or light and trivial matters, but truths of infallible certainty, of the most sublime and excellent nature, and, to us men, of infinite importance. The learned as well as illiterate need to go to church on their own account. None, in this imperfect state, arrive at such extent and exactness of Christian knowledge as to need no further assistance for knowing more. For wise reasons the Bible was not written in a systematic form. In searching the Scriptures we need to use the fittest and most effectual means in our power. What can be better suited to assist us in the attainment of religious knowledge than the discourses of those who have not only made it their chief business to study the sacred oracles, but who, by cultivating their rational powers, have acquired a facility of forming distinct conceptions of things, and of expressing those conceptions with plainness and propriety? And knowledge, however extensive, if it hath no suitable influence on men’s hearts and lives, will profit them nothing. Therefore men need a faithful monitor, to awaken in us a practical sense of danger and of duty. So sensible was Julian the apostate how wise an institution preaching was for promoting the knowledge and practice of religion, that he appointed men to preach moral philosophy, and to harangue, publicly, in defence of heathenism.
II. Hearing the Word of God is enjoined by express Divine authority. In the Old Testament dispensation (Deuteronomy 24:8; Ecclesiastes 12:9-11; Nehemiah 8:7-11; Haggai 2:11; Malachi 2:7) synagogue worship had to be regularly attended. New Testament injunctions are Ephesians 4:11-13; 1Ti 4:16; 2 Timothy 2:15; 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 1:9; Titus 2:1; Titus 2:7-8.
III. The dreadful threatenings denounced and executed against those who refuse to hear God’s Word. Such as Proverbs 1:24-31; Proverbs 21:16; Proverbs 28:9; Matthew 10:14; Hebrews 2:2-3; Hebrews 10:28-29; Hebrews 12:25. On the other hand, God hath promised His special presence and blessing to the faithful preaching, and conscientious hearing of His Word. To support and strengthen our hopes let us review former accomplishments of these exceeding great and precious promises. In how miraculous a manner hath the Word of God often triumphed over the greatest opposition. (J. Erskine, D. D.)
Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors.
Attending public instruction recommended
I. The reasonableness of attending all the instituted means of our instruction. If God had never vouchsafed to men a positive revelation, we should have been obliged to feel after virtue if haply we might find it. And it is surprising to what lengths some have arrived without the help of that “grace which bringeth salvation.” But when it hath pleased God to erect a kingdom in the world, it is great ingratitude, a heinous contempt of God’s authority, an affront to His love, and so must be inexcusable folly so to neglect our own true interest.
II. What is imported in hearing. Scripture represents this as the sum of that duty and respect which God demandeth for Christ who is His Wisdom, and the great revealer of His will to mankind. Whatever is meant by hearing Christ, the Wisdom of the Father, it is enjoined and enforced with all the authority and obligatory power with which any Divine precept can be enforced. Hearing importeth a serious and attentive consideration, and a diligent application of the mind, to understand the important contents of the Divine message. We are to understand by hearing--
1. An attentive regard to instruction. The Wisdom of God hath the first right to be heard, and what He prescribeth, to be attended to.
2. Hearing signifies a submissive disposition. To hear is to turn at the reproofs of Wisdom, to tremble at the threatenings of God, to hope in His promises, and practise what He enjoineth.
3. Hearing Wisdom importeth an absolute unreserved obedience.
III. The proper dispositions of mind, and the manner of hearing and using all means.
1. It importeth a sense of our constant need of instruction, that we may be still making further progress in knowledge and in grace. If this be the temper of our minds, it will incline us to a daily attendance at the gates of Wisdom; that is, a daily use of the appointed means for our increase in knowledge and virtue.
2. A constant care and solicitude that the benefit of them may not be lost; and particularly a strict vigilance over our own spirits and our whole behaviour.
3. Patience, which is signified by waiting, is also needed. Our progress to religious knowledge and virtue is gradual. Patience is the character of a continuance in well-doing, as well as of enduring afflictions. Always endeavour with alacrity and vigour to use the means of our religious instruction and improvement. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
I. The way to happiness is to hearken diligently to wisdom’s words.
1. We cannot of ourselves find out the way to true happiness.
2. No man can show it to us.
II. We must not only hear, but watch for wisdom. Omit no occasion of learning, and make the best possible use of every occasion.
III. We must not only watch for a while, we must wait long, if we would get wisdom. Give no place to idleness and slothfulness, lest ye become unteachable, and incapable of wisdom. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
Waiting upon God
Profession without principle is worthless. He who is not an every-day Christian is no Christian at all.
I. The characteristics of an every-day Christian. They are--
1. Hearers. Many hear, and do not hear. Hearing implies profitable hearing. Many do not profit. They come to hear, but not to learn, or to practise. Some come fresh from the cares of the world. Others come with unclean hearts. If you would receive good by attending at the house of God, there must be a desire to profit; and with a lively faith.
2. They are watchers. This implies frequency, perseverance, self-denial, self-abasement, and a certain degree of anxiety.
3. They “wait at the posts of His doors.” That is, attend those places, and frequently attend them, where Christ is expected.
II. Such a man will never lose his reward.
1. He finds life. St. John says, “He that hath the Son hath life.” Finding Christ is finding life. Finding Iris implies pardon. With pardon we have peace.
2. The reward consists in the favour of God. This favour is enduring. It supports the sinner in the time of his trouble.
1. Though you may be a hearer, a watcher, a waiter upon Christ, you must expect your trials. Do not be surprised either at the number or the degree of your trials.
2. See that you come in the spirit of prayer and of faith. (H. Montagu Villiers, M. A.)
Waiting at Wisdom’s gates
The Bible seldom speaks, and certainly never its deepest, sweetest words, to those who always read it in a hurry. Nature can only tell her secrets to such as will sit still in her sacred temple, till their eyes lose the glare of earthly glory, and their ears are attuned to her voice. And shall revelation do what nature cannot? Never. The man who shall win the blessedness of hearing her must watch daily at her gates, and wait at the posts of her doors. (F. B. Meyer.)
Whoso findeth Me findeth life.
The Christian life delineated: Christ to be found in the ordinances, with the import and happy effects of finding Him
I. The ordinances are the place where Christ is to be found of poor sinners
1. What are the ordinances? The Divine ordinance of meditation. Christian conference about spiritual matters. Singing of the Lord’s praises. Prayer. The Word. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
2. Confirm this doctrine. The ordinances are by Christ’s own appointment the trysting-places wherein He has promised to be found of those that seek Him. Trysting-places for sinners, where they may be convinced, converted, and regenerated. Trysting-places for saints, where they may receive life more abundantly. They are the places wherein His people seek Him, who know best where He is to be found. They are what the Lord has allowed His people to supply the want of heaven, until they come there.
3. Apply this doctrine. It reproves those who slight attendance on ordinances; those who come to meet some they have worldly business with; who come, but not to find Christ there; who stand in the way of others attending on ordinances. It urges to seek Christ in ordinances. He is well worth the seeking.
II. People may come to ordinances and not find Christ.
1. Reasons on the sinner’s side. Some have no design of finding Christ in ordinances at all. Many are indifferent whether they find Christ or not. Some desire not to see Him at all. Some cannot wait patiently at the gates.
2. Improve this point. Seek Him sincerely and uprightly with all your heart. Seek Him honestly and generously for Himself. Seek Him fervently, humbly, diligently, mournfully. Seek Him till you find.
III. Then do people find christ when, upon a saving discovery of Christ made to their souls, they close with Him by faith.
1. Things in general touching the finding of Christ. There is a twofold finding of Him, initial and progressive. The immediate effect of the former is union, of the other actual communion with Christ. Some things to be observed. Sinners in their natural state have lost God. Man is a seeking creature. There is no satisfying of the soul till it come to God. God is in Christ, and is to be found in Him only.
2. More particularly explain the soul’s finding Christ. The soul savingly discovers and discerns Jesus Christ by a new light let into it. There is a twofold discovery of Him in the gospel, objective and subjective. There are six things the soul sees in Christ: A transcendent excellency. A fulness for the supply of all wants. A suitableness to meet his case and to glorify God. The Wisdom of God in Him. An ability to save. Willingness to save. Upon this discovery of Christ made unto and by the soul, the soul closes with Christ by faith. Such a discovery is not made to the soul till it be hunger-bitten. The nature of the object discovered speaks for itself. And the discovery is always attended with a heart-conquering power.
IV. Sinners finding Christ find life.
1. Unfold that life which sinners find. It is a life of grace, in regeneration. A life of favour with God. A life of new obedience. A life of comfort. And eternal life.
2. What are the qualities of this life? It is a Divine life. A life of the whole man. A pleasant life. A persevering life. A growing life.
3. Confirm this doctrine. The sinner finding Christ finds all things necessary to make him happy. Look to the whole of Christ’s purchase, what He bought for poor sinners with His blood; and the soul finding Christ finds it all, and may say, “It is all mine.” (T. Boston, D. D.)
Some man might say, “Why should we watch so much for Wisdom? What shall we get by so much labour? Lest any should refuse and despise Wisdom, as terrified with the mention of so much pains in getting, Wisdom promises large rewards of life and favour from God. Heavy things grow light, when great rewards are propounded. And if any man be inquisitive to know what is that blessedness promised to such as take pains to get Wisdom, she tells them that their diligence in seeking her shall be recompensed in a most copious reward. As if she had said, “They that find Me shall not obtain some vulgar matter of little weight, but an incomparable treasure of all good things--to wit, life, which all men naturally desire, and eternal life, which only God can give, and all that a man can justly desire; and so shall he be fully happy in God’s favour.” (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
The life that is found in Christ, who is our life--the life which, if diligently sought, shall be assuredly found, and which, when found, fills the soul with joy and peace.
I. The advantage of seeking Christ. We seek not only Him personally, but all that is in Him. We seek Him in whom all fulness dwells, and in seeking Him all the fulness that dwells in Him becomes ours. In finding Christ we find happiness, holiness, and heaven; pardon, peace, a quiet conscience, relief from the weary load of sin.
II. What do we find in Christ? Life is the great aim of all sentient beings; to obtain life, and having obtained it, to preserve it. Inquire, by way of contrast, what is gained by that life which is found elsewhere than in Christ? Sometimes life is sought in pleasure, in the world, in the love of things of the world, and in sin. Mistaking the great object of living, and pursuing a career of sin, men find that sin bringeth forth death--death of body and of soul, death for time, and death throughout eternity. There is a more excellent way, a way which has the promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. The true life commences here. This life of ours is a pilgrimage. “He that findeth life” finds a life that is clothed with immortality, that revels in eternal day, that climbs unwearied the everlasting hills, that wears the crown of everlasting victory. (Robert Maguire, M. A.)
And shall obtain favour of the Lord.
Sinners interested in Christ obtaining favour of the Lord
I. Show some things supposed in this truth tending to clear the meaning of it.
1. There is a treasure of favour for poor sinners with the Lord. A treasure speaks preciousness, variety, and abundance.
2. This treasure is locked on sinners out of Christ, they have no access to it.
3. The sinner once interested in Christ has free access to the treasure, to bring forth from thence whatever he needs.
4. The sinner, when interested in Christ, will still be needing, while he is in this world.
5. It is the privilege and duty of believers to bring forth and fetch supply for all their wants out of that treasure.
II. Show wherein the soul once interested in Christ shall obtain favour of the Lord.
1. In prosperity. They shall have balancing grace, to make them carry evenly and usefully. Balancing providences; some such mixture of bitterness in their cup as keeps them from miskenning themselves.
2. In personal outward athletics. But they shall be bettered by it; supported under it, and have deliverance in due time.
3. In desertion. They shall never be totally or finally forsaken.
4. In temptation. They shall either be made to keep their ground against the temptation, or at least temptation shall not be allowed to gain a complete victory over them.
5. Even when fallen into sin, the Lord will not leave them, nor cast them off.
6. In time of public calamity. They shall either be hid, or gracious favour shall be mixed with the trouble, or the sting shall be taken out of it.
7. Death. They shall then be freed from sin and freed from trouble.
III. Confirm this doctrine.
1. Sinners have a right to the whole treasure of favour in Christ, in whom they are interested.
2. Jesus Christ is the dispenser of the treasure, the high Steward of the house of heaven.
3. The enjoyment is secured by the covenant of promises.
4. They have each of them a private key to the treasure, and that is faith. Improve this doctrine--
(1) In a way of information;
(2) in a way of encouragement. (T. Boston, D. D.)
What found with wisdom
I. Wisdom may be found. Else these promises were annexed in vain.
II. If wisdom be found, life is found withal.
3. Eternal life.
III. Not only life, but God’s favour is gotten also by getting wisdom.
1. He shall find favour from God in receiving Him.
2. He shall find favour from God in rewarding him here.
3. He shall find favour from God in preserving him from many dangers.
4. He shall receive favour from God in preferring, or crowning him with eternal glory in heaven.
1. To confute the doctrine of merits.
2. Seek wisdom earnestly and truly; not faintly and hypocritically, seeing ye look not only for life, but also for God’s favour from thence, which is the very cause of life, and the very life of life itself. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
The favour of God obtained by wisdom
The intention of this text is to represent a very great blessedness to good men, whether in the present or a future state, annexed to wisdom, or religious virtue, in consequence of their obtaining God’s favour.
I. How great, how substantial and comprehensive a felicity this is. It will be easily allowed, if we consider our most obvious notions of the Deity, as a Being infinitely perfect and all-sufficient, the fountain of life and happiness. We judge of the importance of any person’s favour, and of the security and advantage which may arise to ourselves from it, by his power and capacity. It is impossible that God’s favourites should be unhappy, because He neither wanteth power to effect what His good-will inclineth to, nor wisdom to contrive the best method for their safety and advantage. Though there are objects suitable to the inclinations God hath planted in our nature, yet even supposing them sought after, and enjoyed without sin, they come short of being our true felicity, both in the perfection of degree and in the duration of them. They cannot yield solid contentment and satisfaction to the mind of man, because they are too low in their kind for its high capacity; and they are of a perishing nature; pleasure is but for a season, honour only an empty shadow; nothing can be more variable and uncertain than it is. But the favour of God is a substantial good, and never-failing foundation of hope and spring of comfort; it extendeth to all possible cases, and is a support in the most distressed situation of affairs.
II. Upon what grounds may we expect that, if we find wisdom, we shall obtain favour of the Lord? How can men do anything that is good out of a regard to the Deity, unless they first believe Him to be good, and a lover of virtue? The greatest corruptions of religion and morality have taken their rise from wrong notions of God. But how doth it appear that the wise and virtuous obtain favour of the Lord, since His providence doth not distinguish them by marks of favour, but, by the confession of the sacred writers themselves, they are in as bad a condition with respect to the affairs of this life as the wicked? This objection hath been advanced against the equity and wisdom of Providence, and as seeming to prove that the affairs of this world are under no intelligent direction, but left to blind chance or necessity; but this is not conclusive against the doctrine of the text for the following reasons:
1. The present state is appointed in the wisdom of God to be a state of discipline and improvement.
2. The sufferings of good men in the present state may be considered as trials, and it is consistent with the favour of God to His servants that He should try them in order to their growth in virtue, and so becoming still more the objects of His favour.
3. We must keep in mind those things promised in the gospel. Two practical reflections.
(1) See what is the noblest end of life, the worthiest of our affections, our choice, and of our most diligent and constant endeavours, that we may attain it.
(2) The way to obtain this end is plainly marked out to us in Scripture, and it is very inexcusable folly and thoughtlessness if we mistake it. (J. Abernethy, M. A.)
He that sinneth against Me wrongeth him own soul.
The sinner wrongeth his own soul
I. What are we to understand by a man sinning against Christ?
1. To take partial views of His glorious gospel.
2. When He would wreathe His gentle yoke about our necks, to kick at the restraint, and refuse it.
3. To coldly hear the offers of His grace, and grieve His Holy Spirit in not fully and spiritually accepting them.
II. How can we be said to hate the only being who can save us? This expression seems wholly inconsistent with the natural dispositions of men. Yet as a fact, men may be seen all around us loving the ways of death.
1. We may be said to love death when we suffer and encourage our desires to go forth and loiter about the precincts of it. The thoughts and desires of a man tell us what he is.
2. We love the captivity of death when we make but few and faint efforts to break the chains of it.
III. How does a sinner who loves death wrong his own soul?
1. He does it by choosing to be a beggar in the midst of riches.
2. He does it when he treats his soul as a fleeting mortal thing. We do it great wrong when we labour to fill it with too much of the creature, and with too little of Christ. (F. G. Crossman.)
Sinners wrong themselves
1. They snatch their souls away from wisdom.
2. They spoil (rob) their souls.
3. They infect their souls with the guilt of sin.
4. They corrupt them with the filth of sin.
5. They disgrace their souls.
6. They torment their souls with the pangs of conscience.
7. They betray their souls to sin.
8. They destroy them eternally. (Francis Taylor, B. D.)
Wronging one’s self
It would be repugnant to our moral sense to overlook the consequences of sin, and put on the same plane one whose life had been one of spotless purity and a grey-haired sinner who had at the eleventh hour found pardon. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap” is an inflexible law. Notice certain particulars in which the principle is seen.
1. Opportunities are lost. A man wrongs his own soul by the sinful neglect of God’s commands in his early years. Those grand years freighted with golden chances of service for God and humanity, can never be recalled.
2. Moral growth is arrested. You may secure the resumption of arrested processes in a crystal or a plant, but as you ascend the scale of being difficulties increase. In one’s moral nature the law we illustrate holds inexorable sway. He that sinneth against God dwarfs, deadens, and stultifies his better faculties. Take a single faculty, like the memory. There is retention as well as reception. The passing thought, the momentary impulse, the fugitive desire we entertain--all these are ours; yea, they are us. We are ever enriching or defacing our moral life through the faculty of memory.
3. Look at the true end of our life here, service for God and our fellow-men. If that service is unrendered, it remains undone for ever.
4. Look at the effects of our sin on others. True religion in a man is that which earnestly and habitually makes for righteousness and holy obedience. If it does not keep from sin, it is not a religion sufficient to save. (H. A. Stimson, D. D.)
Wronging the soul
Of all created things the soul of man most resembles the Deity. It is like Himself in its nature. The soul is a being possessed of volition, with powers of imagining the loftiest themes, of conceiving and working out the most difficult inquiries. The Divine image is still traced upon the soul. It is therefore true that “he who sinneth against God sinneth against (wrongeth) his own soul.”
I. The Sinner wrongs his own soul in this world, by debasing it. Indulgence in vice wrongs and destroys the moral nature. Even the intellectual faculty is hurt and wronged by sin. Sensuality debases the mind. He who is the slave of sin occupies a lower position in creation than the man who by virtue asserts the high prerogative of nature, who by his goodness and righteousness strives to assimilate his soul to God. He wrongs the soul who makes it subservient to the base requirements of the body. The intellectual faculty will censure sin, and so will the moral faculty. Therefore these properties should be cultivated. The conscience is seared by indulgence in sin, and the Holy Spirit is grieved.
II. Sin wrongs the soul by subjecting it to punishment in the world to come. That this is true is evident from the teaching of nature as well as religion. The mind has reasoned correctly when it wrought out for itself the doctrine of the immortality of the soul, and proved an existence beyond the grave. The living being is not the outer frame. Consciousness is perceived to be a simple and indivisible power--an essential property of the mind. The destruction of matter cannot of necessity be considered the destruction of living agents. The destruction of the body and all its organs does not necessarily involve the destruction of the reflecting powers; they may not even be suspended in death. Upon the immortality of the soul philosophy speaks the precepts of religion. Behold, then, the excellency of the soul, and the guilt of him who wrongs it. How is it possible that he who wrongs the heavenly Essence can escape the just judgments of God? But the Christian can realise the dignity of the soul from other considerations. He has the evidence of his own heart. Christianity requires the submission of the whole heart; the acceptance of its mysteries; the noblest self-denial, the most exalted virtue, the highest holiness, the perfection of humanity. But who except the Christian can realise this? From the death-bed of the unbelieving may be learned the misery, here and hereafter, of those who wrong their own soul. (David Ross, B. A.)
The wronged soul
I. The wrong sin does the nature of the soul.
1. Sin is inhuman.
2. Sin is unnatural.
3. Sin is the degradation of human nature.
II. The wrong sin does the capacities of the soul. The soul of man is a great capacity for God. There is no punishment worse than the habit of sin, which comes from sinning. To do wrong is worse than to suffer any calamity. Pain is soon over, misfortune is for a moment, calamity is temporary. But sin is permanent. It does an irreparable injury to the soul. It keeps man out of his heritage. It defeats the end for which man was made. God made us in His image.
III. The wrong sin does the power of the soul.
1. The conscience, which is that power of the soul by which we recognise the moral quality of actions.
2. Sin also wrongs the will. Sin enfeebles man at the most vital part of his nature. Sin wrongs the soul in every faculty and power. Conclusion:
(1) Of all evils that man can know or suffer, sin is the worst.
(2) The sinner makes his own hereafter. Remember that heaven is a holy soul in a holy place.
(3) I cannot, I dare not, close without a word of hope for any troubled and penitent soul. (S. Z. Batten.)
The particular truth of the text is, that sin is not only an offence to God, whom no man hath seen or can see, but it is a distinct and irreparable injury to the man, the sinner himself. And that is the only way to get hold of man. Tell a man that by sinning he is hurting the unseen God, and what does he care? You can only get hold of a man in so far as any truth you teach or any requisite you demand impinges upon himself. Touch the little Self and you have put a hook in the nose of leviathan. God can make you possess in your bones the effects of your moral action. (J. Parker, D. D.)
The wrong done to the soul by unbelief
I. Unbelief, or a sinner’s not believing, accepting, closing with, and resting on Christ for salvation, is the sin against Christ by way of eminency. What treatment of Christ is it that is this sinning against Him? There is a doctrinal and a practical treatment of Him. Living ignorant of Christ and the fundamental truths of the gospel. Living insensible of our absolute need of Christ. Not believing the doctrines of the gospel. Of this treatment of Christ there are two evidences: their not seeking Him with the utmost diligence; their seeking life and salvation some other way--the way of the covenant of works or the way of uncovenanted mercy.
II. Confirm this doctrine.
1. Faith in Christ is honouring Him in a special manner; therefore unbelief must be a special dishonour.
2. Unbelief is the great Antichrist in the heart, sitting up there in downright opposition to the Son of God.
3. This sin engrosses the whole soul to itself against Christ.
4. It is the sin that ruins the hearers of the gospel, with whom Christ has to do.
5. It is equal to the grossest sins against the light of nature.
6. It is above these sins in heinousness.
7. It has none that goes beyond it but the sin against the Holy Ghost.
8. It is a sin directly striking against the glorious office wherewith Christ is invested, and while He is in the actual exercise of that office.
III. Unbelief is sin against christ by way of eminency, and this appears from a view of some particular pieces of malignity wrapped up therein.
1. It is a despising Him as the Father’s choice.
2. It is a trampling of His love in taking the mediatory office.
3. It is a treating of Him as if He were an impostor.
4. It is a contempt poured upon His precious blood.
5. It is a frustrating of the ends of the death of Christ, as far as lies in the unbeliever’s power.
6. It is a declining of His government most reproachfully. From this doctrine learn lessons for saints, for sinners, for all.
IV. The sinner Against Christ by unbelief wrongs his own soul.
1. Wrongs his own soul really. He does in very deed do hurt and bring damage to himself, body and soul. He keeps his soul in a state of alienation from God. He keeps his soul under the guilt of all his sins. In a state of inability to do what is good or acceptable in the sight of God. It fixes the soul in a state of condemnation.
2. Wrongs his own soul only; not Christ whom he sins against. All sin is against the mind and honour of Christ, but no sin is against His happiness. (T. Boston, D. D.)
The indignity of sin
There are various definitions of sins, each one of which is true according to our standpoint. If we regard sin as a violation of man’s true destiny, which destiny we read not only in God’s loving command, but also in the very law of man’s own being, then sin is the transgressing of the law. If we regard sin as variation from the right, the good, the true, then sin is unrighteousness. If we regard sin as the negation of man’s true nature as a spiritual being, and the identifying of him with the things of sense, then sin is materialism. If we regard sin as the fixing of the affections--affections that were intended for glories beyond the stars--upon the perishing thing of this world, then sin is worldliness. And, finally, if we regard sin as the failure or refusal of the soul to apprehend and confide in the unseen, then sin is unbelief. But it is always the one and self-same thing, the same grim and ghastly thing--in the godless man of the world, and the ruffian who outrages law, and the smooth libertine and vulgar thief; in the respectable atheist who says there is no God, and the brave outlaw who lives his creed and acts upon his belief. For, while sins differ, sin--the evil root out of which all sins proceed--is the same. Sins are but symptoms; the disease called sin lies deeper in the soul. And oh! it is an awful thought, well calculated to humble us all into the very dust, that no matter what our sins may be--no matter how decent, how respectable, how secret--they each and all proceed out of the same fell disorder as the sins of the veriest wretch who outrages man’s laws and exhausts man’s patience by his wickedness! And now that sin has been traced to its last analysis, let us consider its results on the soul. It was Wisdom that of old spoke the words of my text, and her voice is still uplifted among the sons of men, “He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul.” It is true that he wrongs the souls of others also. But it is not of this that I now speak. The worst wrong, the deepest indignity, is done to the soul that commits the sin.
1. He wrongs his soul by the degradation he inflicts upon it, the evil that he scatters through it. The soul comes as a new creation from God. It is enshrined in a body that inherits evil--evil propensities, insurgent affections; and it has a hard struggle at best, and cannot win the victory but by the help of God. But the man who sins makes a voluntary surrender of the nobler to the baser part, and so appropriates the frailty of the baser nature, and makes it a part of his soul’s being. Each sin by a certain reflex action spreads disorder through man’s whole nature. In this way the very bodily appetite may become the appetite also of the soul. Oh, grim and ghastly are the evils which sin inflicts upon the body! It dulls the eye, and palsies the hand, and banishes manly grace from the brow, and coarsens and brutalises the human face Divine. But something far more dreadful than this befalls the sinner. The soul takes on the vice of the body. The worst symptom of drunkenness, for instance, is not the craving of the body, but the craving of the soul. The soul of the inebriate begins to crave the false excitement of drink, and an obliquity corresponding to that of the body begins to set up in the soul. The eye of the drunkard sees false or sees double: the mind’s eye begins to see false also. And so it comes to pass that the soul of the drunkard becomes untruthful. This is the reason that men cannot trust the word of a drunkard. So also the deadly sin of impurity. The very mind and conscience become defiled. The mind panders to the body. Oh, horrible degradation! And so we find that there is a correspondence and correlation between different kinds of sin. The sensual man is always a cruel man. The drunkard is a liar. The thief is simply covetous and selfish, just like the worldling and the miser. In all these things man’s whole nature is shamed and dishonoured. In all his being he is degraded and coarsened by his sin.
2. And this becomes all the more evident when we examine the wrong which sin does to man’s characteristic powers. And first, his intellectual faculties, his reason, his power to know. It is a great and awful truth, little heeded, little understood, that all the powers of man’s intellect are blunted and weakened by sin. Who has not seen the splendour of some lordly intellect first dimmed, then obscured, by excess or folly, until its fitful light would blaze at intervals, and then go out in piteous darkness, or fade into still more pitiable imbecility? But even more pitiable, if possible, is it to see the royal intellect of man forced into the base service of the world, and compelled to drudge like a very slave in the interest of sordid vice, or avarice, or other selfishness. Who does not know how such intellect declines into trickery or beastly cunning, and it watches like a fox for a chance to deceive, or like a predatory beast to seize its prey? To such a man high thoughts and noble purposes become simply impossible. Not less disastrous and dishonouring is the influence of sin on man’s moral nature--on his power to discriminate and choose between right and wrong. Of the debilitating effect of sin upon the will of man I need not speak at length. All observation and all experience prove that this is its immediate, unvarying, inevitable effect. He who once yields to do wrong will find it harder the next time to do right, until he speedily becomes powerless to choose God and resist evil. But of the darkening, paralysing effect of sin upon a moral sense not so much is commonly thought, though such effect is not less immediate and inevitable. The moral sense, which at first is quick to discriminate, begins, under the pressure of sin, to lose the keenness of perception. The high sense of honour and of truthfulness is dulled. The good seems to be less good, and the evil does not seem to be so very evil, until at last that soul calls evil good and good evil. Woe to the soul that is in such a case! He has abdicated his throne, and lost his regal state, and broken his sceptre, and flung away his crown. Finally, even more debasing is the effect of sin upon the affections. This would seem to be the worst degradation of all--that man should not only sin his intellect and will and conscience away, but that he should love his shame, that his soul should be enamoured of its degradation. And yet, who does not know that even this is the effect of sin? Through it men learn to love the base things of this world and lose the power to love the nobler things. What is life to such a soul but shame? What shall death be but the beginning of an eternal bereavement? One word in conclusion. All the effects of sin may be summed up in one dreadful word--death. The dying of the soul, the decay of its faculties, the languishing of its strength--the progressive unending dying of an immortal soul, with all its unending anguish of unsatisfied tonging, unfulfilled desire, baffled hope, pitiless remorse, remediless desire--this is the dread reality at which men ought to tremble. It is no chimera of imagination; it is no spectre of the future--it is a present reality. It is doing its ghastly work even now in every soul where sin reigns. For the soul that sins is dying. The wages of sin is death. (Bp. S. S. Harris.)
The self-hurt of sin
Wisdom, as used here, is the law of God concerning human life and conduct, and sin is the transgression of that law. The text, not in a spirit of haughty denunciation, but with sad and kindly warning, declares that he who transgresses that law wrongs his own soul, is the author of his own sorrow and suffering and loss. God’s laws, under His immediate direction, work out the penalty of their own violation; in part here, fully hereafter. All God’s purposes in us are accomplished by the operation of beneficent law. To break the law is to thwart His purposes, and bring the ruin which naturally follows such a course. The law of the piano is, that its strings shall be tuned in harmony, and that under the skilful touch of the key light-cushioned hammers shall strike them so that they give out genuine music. But if you fail to tune them in harmony, and then, lifting the lid, strike them with iron hammers, you get discord and destruction. You have transgressed the law of the piano. The law of the watch is to submit to balance-wheel and regulator; take off the one and misplace the other, and your watch reports falsely all the time. You have transgressed its law. The law of the circulation of the blood is from heart to artery, capillary, and back again by the veins; and as it goes it repairs waste, carries off useless matter, and gives health and strength. But if you open an artery and send the blood outside its course, you die. You have transgressed the law. How sinful and self-destructive, then, is the violation of law, and how fatally does he who thus sins wrong his own soul!
I. Sin against spiritual law.
1. The law of nutrition. Hunger, flavour, and the delight of the palate are God’s arrangements for insuring the taking of proper food to repair the waste and supply the growth of the body. Break the law, and eat for the sake of pleasing the palate or increasing sociability, then indigestion, dulness, sleeplessness at night and sluggishness by day follow. Who shall estimate the sin against the temple of the soul?
2. The nervous system. Its motor power is intended to carry messages from the mind to the muscles, ordering work done and motion performed. Properly governed and temperately used, what usefulness, health, and abundance of valuable labour accomplished may result! Abuse it, and exhaustion, prostration, paralysis follow.
II. The spiritual hurt.
1. To the truth-perceiving faculties. The judgment and reason, acting under the restraint of a pure conscience, leads to the truth in a thousand ways: in business, society, pleasure, habits, indulgences--in all necessary things--and the life is guided in righteousness and wisdom. But let unholy ambition, improper desire for gain, any form of wicked selfishness, get control of these faculties, and how they become warped, blinded, and misguided!
2. To the power of self-control. This is the battle of growing evil habits against the will--growing more and more impatient of restraint, more and more defiant of conscience and will, till appetite, strengthened into habit, leads manhood captive and blots out every hope and joy.
3. To the religious nature. Properly acted upon by the Holy Spirit, it becomes God’s audience-chamber in the soul; the natal chamber of the holiest purposes; the place where the strength comes which gives martyr-power. Sinned against, the demons of superstition, distrust, hatred of good, vile affections, scepticism, and cold, dark atheism come in to torment the soul. To the joys of memory and hope. Every life gathers up all its past and holds it in its present possession for evermore by faithful memory; and if that past be one of holy purpose and noble endeavour, every record it holds will be a joy for ever; its pains will turn to pleasure, its hardships to victories, its struggles to triumphs. But if its records be of deceit and dishonesty, of lust and recklessness, then remorse pours her bitterness into every recollection.
III. He that sins against wisdom interferes with God’s purposes for his future. God has great ambitions for us.
1. He would build in us a noble character. Sin defeats His wish, and makes us in character ignoble.
2. He would make us useful; sin makes us hurtful to others.
3. He would make us happy; sin makes us wretched, utterly and for ever.
4. He would have us grow in spiritual beauty, symmetry, and power; sin deforms, enfeebles, and mars our being. (C. N. Sims, D. D.)
The wrong which sin does to human nature
The sinner does a wrong, indeed, to others. Sin is, to all the dearest interests of society, a desolating power. It brings misery into the daily lot of millions. But all the injury, great and terrible as it is, which the sinner does or can inflict upon others, is not equal to the injury that he inflicts upon himself. Does any one say he is glad that it is himself that he injures most? What a feeling of disinterested justice is that! Because he has not only wronged others, but ruined himself, is his course any the less guilty, or unhappy, or unnatural? I say unnatural; and this is a point on which I wish to insist, in the consideration of that wrong which the moral offender does to himself. The world, alas! is not only in the awful condition of being filled with sin, and filled with misery in consequence, but of thinking that this is the natural order of things. Sin is a thing of course; it is taken for granted that it must exist very much in the way that it does; and men are everywhere easy about it, as if they were acting out the principles of their moral constitution, and almost as if they were fulfilling the will of God.
1. Sin does a wrong to reason. There are instances in which sin, in various forms of vice and vanity, absolutely destroys reason. There are other and more numerous cases in which it employs the faculty, but employs it in a toil most degrading to its nature. There is reasoning, indeed, in the mind of a miser; the solemn arithmetic of profit and loss. There is reasoning in the schemes of unscrupulous ambition; the absorbing and agitating intrigue for office or honour. There is reasoning upon the modes of sensual pleasure; and the whole power of a very acute mind is sometimes employed and absorbed in plans, and projects, and imaginations of evil indulgence. But what an unnatural desecration is it, for reason--sovereign, majestic, all-comprehending reason--to contract its boundless range to the measure of what the hand can grasp; to be sunk so low as to idolise outward or sensitive good; to make its god not indeed of wood or stone, but of a sense or a nerve!
2. Sin is a kind of insanity. So far as it goes, it makes man an irrational creature; it makes him a fool. The consummation of sin is ever, and in every form, the extreme of folly. And it is that most pitiable folly which is puffed up with arrogance and self-sufficiency. The infatuation of the inebriate man, who is elated and gay just when he ought to be most depressed and sad, we very well understand. But it is just as true of every man that is intoxicated by any of his senses or passions, by wealth, or honour, or pleasure, that he is infatuated--that he has abjured reason. What clearer dictate of reason is there than to prefer the greater good to the lesser good? But every offender, every sensualist, every avaricious man, sacrifices the greater good--the happiness of virtue and piety--for the lesser good, which he finds in his senses or in the perishing world. Nor is this the strongest view of the case. He sacrifices the greater for the less, without any necessity for it. He might have both. A pure mind can derive more enjoyment from this world and from the senses than an impure mind. What bad man ever desired that his child should be like himself? And what a testimony is this, what a clear and disinterested testimony, to the unhappiness of a sinful course! How truly, and with what striking emphasis, did the venerable Cranmer reply, when told that a certain man had cheated him: “No he has cheated himself.”
3. Sin does a wrong to conscience. There is a conscience in every man, which is as truly a part of his nature as reason or memory. The offender against this, therefore, violates no unknown law nor impracticable rule. From the very teaching of his nature he knows what is right, and he knows that he can do it; and his very nature, therefore, instead of furnishing him with apologies for wilful wrong, holds him inexcusable. He will have the desired gratification; and to obtain it he sets his foot upon that conscience, and crushes it down to dishonour and agony worse than death.
4. Sin does a wrong to the affections. How does it mar even that image of the affections, that mysterious shrine from which their revealings flash forth, “the human face Divine”; bereaving the world of more than half its beauty! Can you ever behold sullenness clouding the clear, fair brow of childhood--or the flushed cheek of anger, or the averted and writhen features of envy, or the dim and sunken eye and haggard aspect of vice, or the red signals of bloated excess hung out on every feature, proclaiming the fire that is consuming within--without feeling that sin is the despoiler of all that the affections make most hallowed and beautiful? But these are only indications of the wrong that is done and the ruin that is wrought in the heart. Nature has made our affections to be full of tenderness; to be sensitive and alive to every touch; to cling to their cherished objects with a grasp from which nothing but cruel violence can sever them. But sin enters into this world of the affections, and spreads around the death-like coldness of distrust; the word of anger falls like a blow upon the heart, or avarice hardens the heart against every finer feeling; or the insane merriment, or the sullen stupor of the inebriate man falls like a thunderbolt amidst the circle of kindred and children. Oh! the hearts where sin is to do its work should be harder than the nether millstone; yet it enters in among affections, all warm, all sensitive, all gushing forth in tenderness; and, deaf to all their pleadings, it does its work as if it were some demon of wrath that knew no pity, and heard no groans, and felt no relenting! (O. Dewey, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 8". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 22 / Ordinary 27