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14. Fourteenth admonitory discourse concerning Wisdom—her excellence, her origin, her gifts. She is contrasted with the strange woman of Proverbs 7:1-27; and the exceeding greatness of the blessings which she offers exhibits in the most marked manner the nothingness of the deceiver's gifts. One is reminded of the celebrated episode of the choice of Hercules, delineated by Xenophon, 'Memorab.,' 2.1. 21, etc. The chapter divides itself into four sections.
(1) Introductory (Proverbs 7:1-3); Wisdom calls on all to listen, and gives reasons for trusting to her (Proverbs 7:4-11).
(2) She displays her excellence (Proverbs 7:12-21).
(3) She discourses of her origin and action (Pro 7:22 -31).
(4) She again inculcates the duty of hearkening to her instructions (verses 32-36).
Doth not Wisdom cry? (see on Proverbs 1:20, and Introduction). The interrogative form, which expects an affirmative answer, is a mode of asserting a truth universally allowed. Wisdom is personified, though we are not so plainly confronted by an individual, as in the preceding case of the harlot. But it must be remembered that, whatever may have been the author's exact meaning, however worldly a view the original enunciation may have afforded, we, reading these chapters by the light cast upon them by later revelation, see m the description of Wisdom no mere ideal of practical prudence and good sense, no mere poetic personification of an abstract quality, but an adumbration of him who is the Wisdom of God, the coeternal Son of the Father. The open, bold, and public utterances of Wisdom are in happy contrast to the secret and stealthy enticements of Vice. So Christ, the true Wisdom, says, "I have spoken openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogues, and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and in secret spake I nothing" (John 18:20). The Septuagint changes the subject of this verse, and makes the pupil addressed: "Thou shalt proclaim (κηρύξεις) wisdom, that understanding (φρόνησις) may obey thee;" which seems to mean that, if you wish to acquire wisdom, so that it may serve you practically, you must act as a herald or preacher, and make your desire generally known. St. Gregory has some remarks about wilful ignorance of what is right. "It is one thing," he says, "to be ignorant; another to have refused to learn. For not to know is only ignorance; to refuse to learn is pride. And they are the less able to plead ignorance in excuse, the more that knowledge is set before them, even against their will. We might, perhaps, be able to pass along the way of this present life in ignorance of this Wisdom, if she herself had not steed in the corners of the way" ('Moral.,' 25.29).
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way. She takes her stand, not in thievish corners of the streets, like the harlot, but in the most open and elevated parts of the city, where she may be best seen and heard by all who pass by (see Proverbs 1:21, and note there). In the places of the paths; i.e. where many paths converge, and where people meet from different quarters.
The expressions in the text indicate the position which she takes and its capabilities. At the hand of the gates (1 Samuel 19:3). She posts herself at the side of the city gates, under the archway pierced in the wall, where she is sure of an audience. At the mouth of the city, inside the gate, where people pass on their way to the country. At the coming in at the doors, by which persons enter the town. Thus she catches all comers, those who are entering, as well as those who are leaving the city. Here standing, as in the Agora or Forum, she crieth; she calls aloud, saying what follows (Proverbs 8:4-36). It is a fine picture of the comprehensiveness of the gospel, which is meant for high and low, prince and peasant; which is proclaimed everywhere, in the courts of kings, in the lanes of the country, in the hovels of the city; which sets forth the infinite love of God, who is not willing that any should perish, but would have all men come to the knowledge of the truth (2 Peter 3:9). Septuagint, "By the gates of the mighty she sits, in the entrances she sings aloud (ὑμνεῖται)."
She summons various classes of persons to attend to her, showing how trustworthy she is, and how precious her instruction.
Unto you, O men, I call. "Men," ishim (אִישִׁים); equivalent to ἄνδρες, viri, men in the highest sense, who have some wisdom and experience, but need further enlightenment (Isaiah 53:3; Psalms 141:4). The sons of man; בְּנֵי אָדָם, "children of Adam;" equivalent to ἄνθρωποι, homines, the general kind of men, who are taken up with material interests. St. Gregory notes ('Moral ,' 27.6) that persons (heroines) of perfect life are in Scripture sometimes called "men" (viri). And again, "Scripture is wont to call those persons 'men' who follow the ways of the Lord with firm and steady steps. Whence Wisdom says in the Proverbs, 'Unto you, O men, I call.' As if she were saying openly, 'I do not speak to women, but to men; because they who are of an unstable mind cannot at all understand my words'" ('Moral.,' 28.12, Oxford transl.).
O ye simple, understand wisdom. "The simple," those not yet perverted, but easily influenced for good or evil. See on Proverbs 1:4, where also is explained the word ormah, used here for "wisdom;" equivalent to calliditas in a good sense, or πανουργία, as sometimes employed in the Septuagint; so here: νοήσατε ἄκακοι πανουργίαν, "subtlety." Ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. For "fools" (khesilim), the intellectually heavy and dull, see on Proverbs 1:22. The heart is considered the seat of the mind or understanding (comp. Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 17:16, etc.). Septuagint, "Ye that are untaught, take in heart (ἔνθεσθε καρδίαν)." The call thus addressed to various classes of parsons is like the section in 1 John 2:1-29, "I write unto you. little children," etc.
I will speak of excellent things; de rebus magnis, Vulgate; σεμνὰ γὰρ ἐρῶ, Septuagint. The Hebrew nagid is elsewhere used of persons; e.g. a prince, leader (1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Chronicles 26:24); so it may here be best translated "princely," "noble"—an epithet which the subject matter of Wisdom's discourse fully confirms (comp. Proverbs 22:20, though the word there is different). Hitzig and others, following the Syriac, prefer the meaning, "plain, evident truths" (comp. Proverbs 8:9); but the former interpretation is most suitable. The opening of my lips shall be right things. That which I announce when I open my mouth is just and right (Proverbs 23:16). Septuagint.
Another coordinate reason for attention. My mouth; chek, "palate" (Proverbs 5:3, where see note); the organ of speech. Shall speak truth; emeth (see on Proverbs 3:3). The verb הָגָה (hagah) properly means "to speak with one's self," "to meditate;" and so the versions translate here, meditabitur, μελετήσει; but this idea is not appropriate to the word joined with it, "the palate," and it must be taken to signify to utter, as in Psalms 35:28; Psalms 37:30, etc. Wickedness is an abomination to my lips. Resha, "wickedness," is the contrary of moral truth and right. Septuagint, "False lips are abominable in my sight."
In righteousness; i.e. joined with righteousness equivalent to "righteous." In Proverbs 3:16 the Septuagint has an addition which may perhaps be an echo of this passage: "Out of her mouth proceedeth righteousness, and she beareth upon her tongue law and mercy." But more probably it is derived partly from Isaiah 45:23, and partly from Proverbs 31:26. There is nothing froward or perverse in them. In the utterance of Wisdom there is nothing crooked, no distortion of the truth; all is straightforward and direct.
They are all plain to him that understandeth. The man who listens to and imbibes the teaching of Wisdom finds these words intelligible, and "to the point." Opening his heart to receive Divine instruction, he is rewarded by having his understanding enlightened; for while "the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God" (1 Corinthians 2:14), yet "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear him" (Psalms 25:14), and "mysteries are revealed unto the meek" (Ecclesiastes 3:19, Complutensian *). Right to them that find knowledge (Proverbs 8:10). They form an even path without stumbling blocks for those who have learned to discern right from wrong, and are seeking to direct their lives in accordance with high motives. Septuagint, "They are all present (ἐνώπια) to those that understand, and right (ὀρθὰ) to those that find knowledge."
Receive my instruction, and not silver; i.e. acquire wisdom rather than silver, if ever the choice is yours. And knowledge rather than choice gold (comp. Proverbs 8:19; Pro 3:1-35 :140. (For "knowledge," daath, see on Proverbs 2:10.) The comparison is implied rather than expressed in the first clause, while it is made clear in the second. Thus Hosea 6:6, "I desired mercy, and not sacrifice," the second matter mentioned being, not necessarily of no importance, but always in such cases of inferior importance to the other. We may quote Horace's complaint of the worldliness of his countrymen, a marked contrast to the inspired counsel of Proverbs ('Epist.,' Proverbs 1:1, 52)—
"Villus argentum est auro, virtutibus aurum.
O cives, cives! quaerenda pecunia primum est,
Virtus post nummos."
(See Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15, and notes.)
Wisdom tells of her own excellence.
I wisdom dwell with prudence; rather, as in the Revised Version, I have made subtilty (Proverbs 8:5) my dwelling. Wisdom inhabits prudence, animates and possesses that cleverness and tact which is needed for the practical purposes of life. So the Lord is said to "inhabit eternity" (Isaiah 57:15). Septuagint, "I wisdom dwelt (κατεσκήνωσα) in counsel and knowledge," which recalls, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt (ἐσκήνωσεν) among us" (John 1:14). In 1 Timothy 6:16 we find the expression, "Who alone hath (μόνος ἔχων) immortality," exchanged with the phrase, "Who dwelleth (οἰκῶν) in the unapproachable light." And find out knowledge of witty inventions. This rendering refers to the production and solution of dark sayings which Wisdom effects. But the expression is better rendered, "knowledge of deeds of discretion" (1 Timothy 1:4), or "of right counsels," and it signifies that Wisdom presides over all well considered designs, that they are not beyond her sphere, and that she has and uses the knowledge of them. Septuagint, "I (ἐγὼ) called upon understanding," i.e. it is I who inspire all good and righteous thought.
The fear of the Lord is to hate evil. Wisdom here enunciates the proposition which is the foundation of all her teaching, only here, as it were, on the reverse side, net as the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 9:10), but as the hatred of evil; she then proceeds to particularize the evil which the Lord hates. Taking the clause in this sense, we have no need to alter the persons and forms of the verbs to "I fear the Lord, I hate evil," as Dathe and others suggest; still less to suppress the whole paragraph as a late insertion. These violent measures are arbitrary and quite unnecessary, the present text allowing a natural and sufficient exposition. There can be no fellowship between light and darkness; he who serves the Lord must renounce the works of the devil. Pride and arrogancy, which are opposed to the sovereign virtue of humility, are the first sins which Wisdom names. These are among the things which the Lord is said to hate (Proverbs 6:17, etc.). "Initium omnis peccati est superbia" (Ecclesiastes 10:15, Vet. Lat.). The evil way; i.e. sins of conduct, "way" being, as commonly, equivalent to "manner of life." The froward mouth; literally, mouth of perverseness, sins of speech (see on Proverbs 2:12; and comp. Proverbs 10:31); Vulgate, os bilingue.
Having said what she hates, Wisdom now says what she is, and what she can bestow on her followers. Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom. There is some doubt about the meaning of the word translated "sound wisdom" (tushiyyah). The Vulgate has aequitas; the Septuagint, ἀσφάλεια, "safety." The word occurs elsewhere in this book and in Job, but only in two other places of Scripture, viz. Isaiah 28:29 and Micah 6:9. It means properly "elevation" or "furtherance," or, as others say, "substance;" and then that which is essentially good end useful, which may be wisdom, aid, or security (see on Proverbs 2:7). Wisdom affirms that she possesses counsel and all that can help forward righteousness; see Job 12:13, Job 12:16, passages very similar to the present (comp. Wis. 8:9, etc.). I am understanding. Wisdom does not merely possess these attributes; they are her very nature, as it is said, "God is love" St. Jerome's mea est prudentia, and the LXX.'s ἐμὴ φρόνησις, lose this trait. I have strength. Wisdom directs the energies and powers of her pupils, which without her control would be spent wrongly or uselessly (comp. Ecclesiastes 7:19). Wisdom, understanding, and might are named among the seven gifts of the Spirit in Isaiah 11:2; and we may see in the passage generally an adumbration of him who is called "Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God" (Isaiah 9:6).
By me kings reign. By possession of wisdom kings are enabled to discharge their functions duly and righteously. So Solomon prayed for wisdom to enable him to rule his subjects properly (1 Kings 3:9; Wis. 9:4). Princes (rozenim, Proverbs 31:4); either those who are weighty, inflexible, or these who weigh causes; the latter explanation seems most suitable. Vulgate, legum conditores; Septuagint, οἱ δυνάσται, These are said to decree justice; literally, to engrave just decrees on tablets; γράφουσι δικαιοσύνην, Septuagint. Early expositors take these words as spoken by Christ, to whom they are very plainly applicable (comp. Isaiah 32:1).
Princes; here sarim, "leaders." All the judges of the earth. These words stand without a conjunction, in apposition to what has preceded, by what is called asyndeton summativum (Proverbs 1:21), and gather in one view kings, princes, and leaders. Thus the Book of Wisdom, which speaks of the duties of rulers, commences by addressing of κρίνοντες τὴν γῆν, "ye that are judges of the earth." In the East judgment of causes was an integral part of a monarch's duties. The reading of the Authorized Version is supported by the Septuagint, which gives κρατοῦσι γῆς. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Chaldee road, צדק, "justice," in place of ארץ, "earth;" but this seems to have been an alteration of the original text derived from some idea of the assertion there made being too comprehensive or universal. Nowack compares Psalms 2:10 and Psalms 148:11, "Kings of the earth, and all people; princes, and all judges of the earth." The Fathers have taken these verses as spoken by God, and as asserting his supremacy and the providential ordering of human government, according to St. Paul's saying, "There is no power but of God; and the powers that be are ordained of God".
I love them that love me. So Christ says (John 14:21), "He that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him" Love attracts love. "Magues amoris est amor." They who love virtue and wisdom are regarded with favour by God. whoso inspiration they have obeyed, obtaining grace for grace. So Ben Sira says, "Them that love her the Lord doth love "(Ecclesiasticus 4:14); so Wis. 7:28, "God loveth none but him that dwelleth with Wisdom." The Septuagint changes the verbs in this clause, though they are parts of the same word in the Hebrew: Ἐγὼ τοὺς ἐμὲ φιλοῦντας ἀγαπῶ. This reminds one of the passage in the last chapter of St. John (John 21:15-17). where a similar interchange is made. Those that seek me early shall find me (see the contrast in Proverbs 1:28). "Early" may mean from tender years; but more probably it is equivalent to "earnestly," "strenuously," as people deeply interested in any pursuit rise betimes to set about the necessary work (comp. Isaiah 26:9; Hosea 5:15). The Septuagint, "They who seek (ζητοῦντες) me shall find." So the Lord says (Matthew 7:7), "Seek (ζητεῖτε), and ye shall find;" Ecclesiastes 4:12, "He that loveth her loveth life; and they that seek to her early (οἱ ὀρθρίζοντες πρὸς αὐτὴν) shall be filled with joy" (comp. Luke 21:38).
Riches and honour are with me (see Proverbs 3:16). Wisdom has these things in her possession to bestow on whom she will, as God gave them to Solomon in reward of his petition for wisdom (1 Kings 3:13). Durable riches and righteousness. Things often regarded as incompatible. Durable, עָתֵק (athek), occurs only here (but see Isaiah 23:18), and means "old," "venerable," "long accumulated;" hence firm and lasting. Righteousness is the last reward that Wisdom bestows, without which, indeed, all material blessings would be nothing worth. Wealth obtained in a right way, and rightly used, is durable and stable. This was especially true under a temporal dispensation. We Christians, however, look not for reward in uncertain riches, but in God's favour here and happiness in another world. The Septuagint, "Possession of many things, and righteousness." What is denoted by "righteousness" is further explained in the following verses, 19-21.
My fruit is better than gold. We have had Wisdom called "a tree of life" (Proverbs 3:18), and the gain from possessing her compared to gold and silver (Proverbs 3:14). Fine gold (paz); Septuagint and Vulgate, "precious stone." The word signifies "purified gold"—gold from which all mixture or alloy has been separated. My revenue; Vulgate, genimina mea; Septuagint, γεννήματα; Hebrew, tebuah, "produce," "profits."
I lead in the way (better, I walk in the way) of righteousness. I act always according to the rules of justice. In the midst of the paths of judgment. I swerve not to one side or the other (Proverbs 4:27). So the psalmist prays, "Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end;" "Cause me to know the way wherein I should walk" (Psalms 119:33; Psalms 143:8). And the promise is given to the faithful in Isaiah 30:21, "Thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left." Virtue, as Aristotle has taught us, is the mean between two extremes.
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; יֵשׁ (yesh), ὕπαρξις, "real, valuable possessions." Those who love Wisdom will walk in her path, follow her leading, and therefore, doing God's will, will be blessed with success. Such will lay up treasure in heaven, will provide bags which wax not old, will be preparing for "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (Matthew 6:20; Luke 12:33; 1 Peter 1:4). The LXX. here inserts a paragraph as a kind of introduction to the important section which follows: "If I declare unto you the things which daily befall, I will remember to recount the things of eternity;" i.e. thus far I have spoken of the advantages derived from Wisdom in daily circumstances; now I proceed to narrate her origin and her doings from all eternity. But the addition appears awkward, and is probably not now in its original position.
Wisdom speaks of her origin, her active operations, the part which she bore in the creation of the universe, her relation to God (see on Proverbs 1:20 and Proverbs 3:19, and Introduction). It is impossible to decide what was the exact view of the writer with regard to the wisdom of which he speaks so eloquently; but there can be no doubt that he was guided in his diction so as to give expression to the idea of him whom St. John calls the Word of God. The language used is not applicable to an impersonal quality, an abstract faculty of God. It describes the nature and office of a Person; and who that Person is we learn from the later Scriptures, which speak of Christ as the "Wisdom of God" (Luke 11:49) and "the Power of God and the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). If we confine our inquiry to the question—What was in the mind of the author when he indited this wonderful section concerning Wisdom? we shall fail to apprehend its true significance, and shall be disowning the influence of the Holy Spirit, which inspires all Scripture, which prompted the holy men who spake to utter words of which they knew not the full spiritual significance, and which could only be understood by subsequent revelation. There is, then, nothing forced or incongruous in seeing in this episode a portraiture of the Second Person of the blessed Trinity, the essential Wisdom of God personified, the Logos of later books, and of the gospel. This interpretation obtained universally in the Church in the earliest times, and has commended itself to the most learned and reverent of modern commentators. That much which was contained in their own utterances was unknown to the prophets of old, that they did not fully perceive the mysteries which they darkly enunciated, we learn from St. Peter, who tells us that they who prophesied of the grace of Christ sought and searched diligently what the Spirit of God that was in them did point unto, and were shown that not unto themselves, but unto us, they ministered those things, secrets which angels themselves desire to look into (1 Peter 1:10, etc.). Wisdom as a human endowment, animating all intellectual and even physical powers; Wisdom as communicating to man moral excellence and piety; Wisdom as not only an attribute of God, but itself as the eternal thought of God;—under these aspects it is regarded in our book; hut under and through all it is more or less personified. Khochmah is contrasted in the next chapter, not with an abstraction, but with an actual woman of impure life—a real, not an imaginary, antagonist. The personality of the latter intimates that of the former (see Liddon, 'Bampt. Lects.,' 2.).
The Lord possessed me. Great controversy has arisen about the word rendered "possessed." The verb used is קָנָה (kanah), which means properly "to erect, set upright," also "to found, form" (Genesis 14:19, Genesis 14:22), then "to acquire" (Proverbs 1:5; Proverbs 4:5, Proverbs 4:7, etc.) or "to possess" (Proverbs 15:32; Proverbs 19:8). The Vulgate, Aquila, Theodotion, Symmachus, Venetian, give "possessed;" Septuagint, ἔκτισε, "made," and so Syriac. The Arians took the word in the sense of "created" (which, though supported by the LXX; it seems never to have had), and deduced therefrom the Son's inferiority to the Father—that he was made, not begotten from all eternity. Ben Sira more than once employs the verb κτίζω in speaking of Wisdom's origin; e.g. Ecclesiastes 1:4, Ecclesiastes 1:9; 24:8. Opposing the heresy of the Arians, the Fathers generally adopted the rendering ἐκτήσατο, possedit, "possessed;" and even those who received the translation ἔκτισε, explained it not of creating, but of appointing, thus: The Father set Wisdom over all created things, or made Wisdom to be the efficient cause of his creatures (Revelation 3:14). May we not say that the writer was guided to use a word which would express relation in a twofold sense? Wisdom is regarded either as the mind of God expressed in operation, or the Second Person of the Holy Trinity; and the verb thus signifies that God possesses in himself this essential Wisdom, and intimates likewise that Wisdom by eternal generation is a Divine Personality. St. John (John 1:1), before saying that the Word was God, affirms that "the Word was with God (ὁ Λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν Θεόν)." So we may assert that Solomon has arrived at the truth that Wisdom was πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, if he has left it for later revelation to declare that ἡ Σοφία or ὁ Λόγος Θεὸς ἦν. Whichever sense we assign to the verb on which the difficulty is supposed to hang, whether we take it as "possessed," "formed," or "acquired," we may safely assume that the idea conveyed to Christian minds is this—that Wisdom, existing eternally in the Godhead, was said to be "formed" or "brought forth" when it operated in creation, and when it assumed human nature. In the beginning of his way. So the Vulgate, in initio viarum suarum. But the preposition "in" does not occur in the original; and the words may be bettor translated, "as the beginning of his way"; i.e. as the earliest revelation of his working. Wisdom, eternal and uncreated, first puts forth its energy in creation, then becomes incarnate, and is now called, "the Firstborn of all creation (πρωτότοκος πάσης κτίσεως)" (Colossians 1:15). Thus in Psalms 2:7, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (Hebrews 1:5); and, "When he bringeth in the Firstborn into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him" (Hebrews 1:6). In the present clause, the ways of God are his works, as in Job 26:14 and Job 40:19, where behemoth is called "chief among the ways of God" (comp. Psalms 145:17, where "ways" stands as a parallel to "works"). Before his works of old. These words are better regarded (with Delitzsch) as a second parallel object, קֶדֶם (kedem), translated "before," being not a preposition, but denoting previous existence. Hence we translate, "The foremost of his works of old;" i.e. the earliest revelation of his energy. There is a curious passage in the 'Book of Enoch,' ch. 42; which speaks of the personality and pre-existence of Wisdom, of her desire to dwell among men, frustrated by man's wickedness: "Wisdom found no place where she could dwell; therefore was her dwelling in heaven. Wisdom came forth in order to dwell among the sons of men, and found no habitation; then she returned to her place, and took her seat among the angels." We may add Wis. 8:3, "In that she dwelleth with God (συμβίωσιν Θεοῦ ἔχουσα), she magnifieth her nobility."
I was set up from everlasting. The verb used here is remarkable. It is נָסַךְ(nasak), in niph.; and it is found in Psalms 2:6, "I have set my King upon my holy hill." Both here and there it has been translated "anointed," which would make a noteworthy reference to Christ. But there seems no proof that the word has this meaning. It signifies properly "to pour forth" (as of molten metal), then "to put down," "to appoint or establish." The versions recognize this. Thus the Septuagint, "he established (ἐθεμελίωσε) me;" Vulgate, ordinata sum; Aquila, κατεστάθην; Symmachus, προεχείρισμαι; Venetian, κέχυμαι (comp. Ecclesiastes 1:9). So what is here said is that Wisdom was from everlasting exalted as ruler and disposer of all things. To express eternal relation, three synonymous terms are used. From everlasting; πρὸ τοῦ αἰῶνος, Septuagint, as Delitzsch notes, points back to infinite distance. From the beginning; i.e. before the world was begun to be made; as St. John says (John 1:1), "In the beginning was the Word;" and Christ prays, "Glorify thou me with thine own self, with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (John 17:5). Or ever the earth was. This looks to the most remote time after the actual creation, while the earth was being formed and adapted.
The preexistence of Wisdom is still more expressly set forth. When there were no depths (Proverbs 8:27, Proverbs 8:28). The waste of waters which covered the face of the earth is meant—that great deep on which primeval darkness brooded (Genesis 1:2). Before even this, man's earliest conception of the beginning of the world, uncreated Wisdom was. Septuagint, "before he made the abysses" (see on Proverbs 3:20). I was brought forth; Vulgate, et ego jam concepta eram; Septuagint, at the end of Proverbs 8:25, γεννᾷ με, "he begetteth me." The verb here is חוּל (chul), which is used of the travailing of women, and is rightly translated, "brought forth by generation." It indicates in this place the energizing of Wisdom, her conception in the Divine mind, and her putting tbrth in operation. When there were no fountains abounding with water; i.e. springs in the interior of the earth (Genesis 7:11; comp. Job 22:1-30; Job 26:1-14; Job 38:1-41.). Septuagint,"Before the springs of the waters came forward (προελθεῖν)."
Before the mountains were settled (Job 38:6). It is questioned where the mountains were supposed to be fixed, and some have thought that they are represented as fixed in the depths of the earth. But, as we learn from Genesis 1:9, they are regarded as rising from the waters, their foundations are laid in the great deep. So the psalmist, speaking of the waters, says, "They went up by the mountains, they went down by the valleys, unto the place which thou hast founded for them" (Psalms 104:8; comp. Psalms 24:2). What is here affirmed of Wisdom is said of Jehovah in Psalms 90:2, "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting thou art God."
The earth, nor the fields. The distinction intended is land as cultivated and occupied by buildings, etc; and waste uncultivated land outside towns. Septuagint, "The Lord made countries and uninhabited places (ἀοικήτους);" Vulgate, Adhuc terram non fecerat, et flumina. Hebrew, chutsoth; things without, abroad, hence open country. The Vulgate rendering, and that of Aquila and Symmaehus, ἐξόδους, are plainly erroneous, as waters have already been mentioned (Proverbs 8:24). The highest part of the dust of the world; literally, the head of the dusts of the world. Some have interpreted this expression of "man," the chief of those creatures which are made of the dust of the ground (Genesis 3:19; Ecclesiastes 3:20). But the idea comes in awkwardly here; it is not natural to introduce man amid the inanimate works of nature, or to use such an enigmatical designation for him. St. Jerome has, cardines orbis terrarum, "the world's hinges;" Septuagint, "the inhabited summits of the earth beneath the heavens; according to St. Hilary ('De Trinit.,' 12), "cacumina quae habitantur sub coelo." Others take the term to signify the capes or promontories ot the world, the peaks and elevations; others, the clods of dry, amble land, in contrast to the untilled waste of waters; others, the chief elements, the matter of which the earth is composed. This last interpretation would lead us back to a period which has already been passed. Amid the many possible explanations, it is perhaps best (with Delitzsch, Nowack, etc.) to take rosh, "head" as equivalent to "sum," "mass," as in Psalms 139:17. "How great is the sum (rosh) of them!" Then the expression comprehensively means all the mass of earth's dust.
After asserting the pre-existence of Wisdom, the writer tells her part in the work of creation. When he prepared the heavens, I was there. When God made the firmament, and divided the waters above it and below (Genesis 1:7), Wisdom cooperated. When he set a compass upon the face of the depth. חוּג (chug), "circle," or "circuit" (as Job 22:14), means the vault of heaven, conceived of as resting on the ocean which surrounds the earth, in partial accordance with the notion in Homer, who speaks of the streams of ocean flowing back into itself (ἀψόῤῥοος), 'Iliad,' 18:399; 'Odyssey,' 10:508, etc. That the reference is not to the marking out a limit for the waters is plain from the consideration that this interpretation would make the verse identical with Proverbs 8:29. Thus in Isaiah 40:22 we have, "It is he that sitteth above the circle (chug) of the earth;" i.e. the vault of heaven that encircles the earth. Septuagint, "When he marked out (ἀφώριζε) his throne upon the winds." The translators have referred tchom, "depth," to the waters above.
When he established the clouds above. The reference is to the waters above the firmament (Genesis 1:7), which are suspended in the ether; and the idea is that God thus made this medium capable of sustaining them. Vulgate, Quando aethera firmabat sursum; Septuagint, "When he made strong the clouds above" (comp. Job 26:8). When he strengthened the fountains of the deep; rather, as in the Revised Version, when the fountains of the deep became strong; i.e. when the great deep (Genesis 7:11) burst forth with power (comp. Job 38:16). The Septuagint anticipates the following details by here rendering, "When he made secure the fountains of the earth beneath the heaven."
When he gave to the sea his decree (chok, as Job 28:26; Jeremiah 5:22); or, its bounds. The meaning is much the same in either case, being what is expressed in Job 38:8, etc,, "Who shut up the sea with doors …and prescribed for it my decree, and set bars and doors, and said, Hitherto shall thou come, and no further, and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?" The LXX. omits this hemistich. When he appointed the foundations of the earth. Job 38:4, "Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth?… Who determined the measures thereof? or who stretched the line upon it? Wherein were the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the cornerstone thereof?"
Then I was by him. Wis. 9:9, "Wisdom was with thee; which knoweth thy works, and was present when thou madest the world." So John 1:2, "The Word was with God." As one brought up with him; Vulgate, cuncta componens; Septuagint, Ημην παρ αὐτῷ ἁρμόζουσα, "I was with him arranging things in harmony." The Hebrew word is אָמוֹן (amon), "an artificer," "workman" (Jeremiah 52:15). Thus in Wis. 7:22 Wisdom is called ἡ πάντων τεχνῖτις, "the worker of all things." The Authorized Version takes the word in a passive state, as equivalent to alumnus, "foster child." and this interpretation is etymologically admissible, and may possibly, as Schultens suggests, be glanced at in St. John's expression (John 1:18), "the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father." But as the point here is the creative energy of Wisdom, it is best to take the term as denoting "artificer." It will then accord with the expression δημιουργὸς, applied by the Fathers to the Word of God, by whom all things were made (Ephesians 3:9, Textus Receptus, and Hebrews 1:2). And I was daily his delight; literally, I was delights day by day, which may mean either as in Authorized Version, or "I had delight continually," i.e. it may signify
(1) either that God took pleasure in the wisdom which displayed his workmanship, saw that it was very good (Genesis 1:4, etc.), looked with delight on the beloved Son in whom he was well pleased (Matthew 3:17, etc.); or
(2) it may mean that Wisdom herself rejoiced in her power and her work, rejoiced in giving effect to the Creator's idea, and so "founding the earth" (Proverbs 3:19). Vulgate, delectabar per singulos dies. The Septuagint adopts the former of these views, "I was that wherein he took delight." But the second interpretation seems most suitable, as the paragraph is stating rather what Wisdom is in herself than what she was in the eyes of Jehovah. What follows is a parallel. Rejoicing always before him; Vulgate, ludens coram eo omni tempore, as though the work of creation was a sport and pastime of a happy holiday. The expression is meant to denote the ease with which the operations were performed, and the pleasure which their execution yielded. David uses the same word, speaking of his dancing before the ark, when he says. "Therefore will I play before the Lord" (2 Samuel 6:21; comp. Proverbs 10:23).
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth. Wisdom declares wherein she chiefly delighted, viz. in the world as the habitation of rational creatures. "And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good" (Genesis 1:31); comp. Psalms 104:31, and see the eloquent account of Wisdom in the book so named (Wis. 7:22-8:1). My delights were with the sons of men. Man, made in the image of God. is the principal object of creative Wisdom's pleasure; and her joy is fulfilled only in the Incarnation. When the Word became flesh, then was the end and design of creation exhibited, and the infinite love of God towards man made, as it were, visible and palpable. Septuagint, "Because he rejoiced when he completed the world (τὴν οἰκουμένην), and rejoiced in the children of men."
Wisdom renews the exhortation before given
. The Vatican text of the Septuagint omits this verse; it is added in the Alexandrian and Sin.
Watching daily at my gates. The idea suggested has been variously taken; e.g. as that of eager students waiting at the school door for their teacher's appearance; clients besieging a great man's portals; Levites guarding the doors of the temple; a lover at his mistress's gate. This last notion is supported by Wis. 8:2, "I loved her, and sought her out from my youth; I desired to make her my spouse, and I was a lover of her beauty." Waiting at the posts of my doors; keeping close to the entrance, so as to be quite sure of not missing her whom he longs to see.
For whoso findeth me findeth life. Here is the reason why the man is blessed who attends to the instruction of Wisdom. A similar promise is made at Proverbs 3:16, Proverbs 3:18, Proverbs 3:22. The truth here enunciated is also spoken or the Word of God, the everlasting Son of the Father. John 1:4, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men;" John 3:36, "He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life;" John 17:3, "This is life eternal, that they should know thee the only true God, and him whom thou didst send, even Jesus Christ" (comp. Joh 8:51; 1 John 5:12; Ecclesiastes 4:12). Shall obtain favour of the Lord; Vulgate, hauriet salutem, which happily renders the Hebrew verb (Proverbs 12:2). The grace of God bringeth salvation (Titus 2:11). Septuagint, "For my outgoings (ἔξοδοι) are the outgoings of life, and the will is prepared by the Lord (καὶ ἐτοιμάζεται θέλησις παρὰ Κυρίου)." This latter clause was used by the Fathers, especially in the Pelagian controversy, to prove the necessity of prevenient grace.
He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul. So Septuagint and Vulgate. And the truth stated is obvious—he who refuses to obey Wisdom, and transgresses her wholesome rules, will smart for it. Every sin involves punishment, injures the spiritual life, and demands satisfaction. But Delitzsch and others take חֹטְאִי, "my sinning one," "my sinner," in the older sense of "missing," as Job 5:24, the derived meaning of "sinning" springing naturally from the idea of deviating from the right way or failing to hit the mark. So here the translation will be "he who misseth me," which is a good contrast to "whoso findeth me," of verse 35. He who takes a path which does not lead to wisdom is guilty of moral suicide. All that hate me love death (Proverbs 7:27). "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him" (John 3:36). They who will not hearken to Wisdom, and who scorn her counsels, do virtually love death, because they love the things and the practices which lead to death, temporal and spiritual Job 12:10, "They that sin are enemies to their own life" (comp. Wis. 1:12).
Wisdom for the simple
We may divide the simple into three classes.
1. There are those who think themselves wise while they are but fools: there is no hope for such.
2. There are people who make no pretence to wisdom, but who have chosen folly, and are quite indifferent to the claims and charms of wisdom.
3. There are anxious seekers after wisdom, who feel their present ignorance and incompetence with acute distress, and long to be among the wise, but despair of reaching the privileged circle. The first class will refuse to believe that the call of wisdom is for them, but to the other two it may come with effect.
I. THE SIMPLE NEED WISDOM. This reflection should concern the second class—those who as yet have despised and rejected wisdom.
1. Wisdom is a joy. Even pleasure is rejected in the renunciation of truth, knowledge, thought, the vision of God, and the revelation of his will. The narrow mind is a dark mind, and when the light of God breaks in it will be seen that many new delights of knowledge and joys of Divine truth, which have long been missed, can now be happily received.
2. Wisdom is a safeguard. Men stumble in the dark. Snares are set for the unwary. In this great, mysterious world we may easily go astray and be lost, perhaps be entrapped in fearful soul perils. It is much to know the way, to know ourselves, to know our dangers, to know the will of God and how to have his guiding and saving help.
3. Wisdom is life. The foolish soul is but half alive, and it is on the road to destruction. Mere knowledge itself is a free intellectual life, and the exercise of thought in the practical application of the truth which we have assimilated, i.e. wisdom, is a living activity. It is moil;. unfortunate that many young men in the present day seem to despise all intellectual pursuits, and confine the attention of their leisure moments to idle amusements or at best to athletics. They fail to see the mental death that they are courting. But infinitely worse are they who turn from the moral side of wisdom—the fear of the Lord—and pursue the folly of godlessness, for this is soul death.
II. THE SIMPLE MAY HAVE WINDOW. Here is the encouragement for the third class of the simple. It is for children, for weak minds, and for uneducated people.
1. Mental improvement is attainable. Where there is a will to rise, the young man under most disadvantageous circumstances will find the means to cultivate self-education.
2. The highest wisdom is spiritual. This wisdom is not like Greek philosophy—only open to intellectual culture. It is the truth of God that may be rewaled to "babes and sucklings" (Matthew 21:16), and yet it is the highest truth. To be spiritually wise we need. not be mentally clever. What is wanted is a sincere love of truth, a pure heart, and a childlike teachableness.
3. The gospel brings wisdom to the simple. That gospel was scoffed at for its apparent simplicity. Yet it was indeed the wisdom as well as the power of God (1 Corinthians 1:24). Christ comes to us as the eternal Wisdom incarnate. The simple may know him, and when such receive Christ they receive the Light of the world and a loftier wisdom than was ever reached by the sages of antiquity or can ever be attained in the cold light of science.
The words of wisdom are here described as "plain words." This expression has been so often abused that it is almost as important to see what it does not mean as to consider what it does mean.
I. WHAT THE EXPRESSION DOES NOT MEAN.
1. Lack of grace. A mistake arising from the confusion of two meanings of the term "plain" has been pointed out by Archbishop Whately, and yet it is often repeated. "Plain" means smooth, simple, easy, intelligible; "plain" also means bare, unadorned, unbeautiful. The two meanings are quite distinct. But some have thought that a plain sermon must be a sermon wanting in all grace of style and beauty of illustration. This is an inappropriate use of the word "plain." The words of Christ were plain, i.e. clear and simple; yet they were very beautiful and full of living illustrations. The duty to be plain is no excuse for slovenliness of speech.
2. Intellectual feebleness. Some people insist on having a "simple gospel" in a way that leads one to think they would condemn all vigour of thought. They forget that the teaching of St. Paul, which they admire so much, teemed with the highest intellectuality, and that he regarded the truth of the crucified Christ as the wisdom of God, and only as falsely mistaken for foolishness by the Greeks. It is the charm of the highest thinking that it can simplify difficulties. We sometimes fail to detect the great intellectual power of a writer just because this has been so perfect as to disguise all effort and make the result of processes of thought clear; while the laboured attempts of weaker minds induce us to mistake obscurity for profundity. Any subject looks simple in the hands of a master.
3. Rudeness and offensiveness. Disagreeable people make a virtue of being plain spoken when they are really harsh and inconsiderate. There is no unkindness about the plain words of the Bible. The Christian teacher should remember the admonitions, "Be pitiful, be courteous."
II. WHAT THE EXPRESSION DOES MEAN.
1. It signifies that the words of wisdom are intelligible. The first object of revelation, of course, is to reveal. The first object of speech is to declare thoughts. It is the neglect of this simple point that has given an excuse for the sarcasm that "words were invented to conceal thoughts." The first duty of the speaker is to be plain. Afterwards he may be ornate if he will. But when the decorations of speech encumber its free movement and prevent it from accomplishing its practical ends, they are altogether encumbrances. And when intellectual power is wasted on a mere display of its own exercise, or confined to inventing difficulties and making obscure what was originally clear and simple, this also is misdirected. The Divine wisdom of the Bible claims to be intelligible. It is true that many people find. great difficulties in its pages, and all of us must confess that they are not to be fully measured and sounded. But
(1) they who approach them in a right way, having spiritual mind, so necessary for the discernment of spiritual things, will be able to understand the main, most important truths of Christianity; and
(2) whatever disputes may be raised about the meaning of the more abstract doctrines, the directions of duty and the indications of the things we are to do for our soul's welfare are plain; indeed, the obscurity of religious subjects varies proportionately with their abstractness, with their separation from our life and duty.
2. It signifies that the words of wisdom indicate a plain sad simple course of action. They are "right," or rather "straight to those that find knowledge." We are not called to any complicated course of action. The intricacies of casuistry are not to be found in the Book of Proverbs nor anywhere else in the Bible. The way of duty is simple and straightforward.
Hatred of evil
I. RELIGION INCLUDES MORALS. This is the broad lesson of the text. It should be accepted as a self-evident truism. Yet it has been often obscured by dangerous sophisms. Thus some have regarded religion as consisting in correctness of creed or in assiduity of devotion—things treated by God as worthless unless accompanied by righteousness of conduct (Isaiah 1:10-17). There is a common impression that religious merits may be pleaded as a set off against moral deficiencies. No assumption can be more false, nor can any be more degrading or more injurious. The reverse is true. Religiousness increases the guilt of unrighteousness of life by raising the standard up to which one is supposed to live, and also adds the sin of hypocrisy. True religion is impossible without a proportionate devotion to righteousness. because it consists in the fear of God. But God is holy; to reverence him must involve the adoration of his character—the love of goodness and the corresponding detestation of its opposite.
II. RELIGION INSPIRES MORALS WITH STRONG EMOTION. Morality is to obey the law. Religion goes further, and hates evil. It is not a matter of outward conduct only. It goes down to the secret springs of action. It rouses the deepest passions of the soul. We cannot accept Mr. M. Arnold's definition of religion as "morality touched with emotion," because it ignores the foundation of religion in "the fear of the Lord," in devotion to a personal God; but the phrase may serve as an apt description of an essential characteristic of religion. The difficulty we all feel is that, while we know the better way we are often so weak as to choose the worse. A cold, bare exposition of morality will be of little use with this difficulty. What we want is a powerful impulse, and that impulse it is the function of religion to supply. It makes goodness not only visible but beautiful and attractive, and it inspires a hunger and thirst after righteousness, a passion for a God-like life in the love of God, a yearning after the likeness of Christ in devotion of heart to him. It also makes evil appear hideous, detestable, by its horrible opposition to these affections.
III. AMONG RELIGIOUS EMOTIONS IS THE PASSION OF HATRED. Religion is not based upon hatred. It begins with" the fear of the Lord," with reverence for God rising up to love. No strong thing can rest on a mere negation. Neither morality nor religion starts from an attitude in regard to evil. But they lead on to this, and they are not perfect without it. The passion of hatred is natural; it has a useful, though a low, place in the array of spiritual forces. It is abused when it is spent upon persons, but it is rightly indulged against evil principles and practices. We are morally defective unless we can feel "the hate of hate, and scorn of scorn." One of the means by which we are helped to resist sin is found in this hatred of it. It is not enough that we disapprove of it. We must loathe and abhor it from the very bottom of our hearts.
IV. RELIGIOUS HATRED IS DETESTATION OF EVIL ITSELF, NOT THE MERE DISLIKE OF ITS CONSEQUENCES. When Paley, in his 'Moral Philosophy,' described the function of religion in aiding morality as the addition of the prospect of future rewards and promises, he expressed a common sense truth, but a very low truth detached from more spiritual ideas and a very partial representation of the case. Religious morality is not simply nor chiefly the fear of God as a Judge who will punish us if we do wrong. It is reverence for a holy Father leading to hatred of all that is displeasing to him. We have no religion till we go beyond the instinctive dislike for pain that follows sin to hatred of sin itself. This is the test of true religion—that we love goodness and hate evil for their own sakes. It is interesting to observe that the sin selected for special abhorrence on the part of those who are inspired by "the fear of the Lord" is pride. This is spiritual wickedness of the most fatal character, In its feeling of personal merit and self-sufficiency it excludes both repentance and faith—the two fundamental conditions of spiritual religion. Therefore the spirit of the Pharisee and all pride must be hated above all things, and will be hated by those who have true reverence for the great and holy God, and true love for the lowly Christ who promised the kingdom of heaven to the "poor in spirit" (Matthew 5:3).
The blessedness of loving and seeking Christ
Wisdom is here personified. This is only the beginning of a process that is to grow through subsequent ages, manifesting itself in the Books of Wisdom and Ecclesiasticus, and finally developing into the doctrine of the "Logos" and the great revelation of Christ as the incarnate Word of God. We must not pretend to see the perfected thought in its earliest germ. The first personification of wisdom is little more than a figure of speech, an instance of the rich imaginative habits of Oriental thinking. Nevertheless, we know Christ to be the full, living embodiment of God's wisdom. What is true of that wisdom is true of him. And, therefore, though the writer of the words before us had no thought of Jesus Christ the Son of God and Son of man, his teaching concerning Divine wisdom may be most useful when we connect it with the one perfect revelation of wisdom in our Saviour.
I. LOVE FOR LOVE.
1. Love to Christ must precede a deep knowledge of Christ. We love before we seek and find. Of course, we must know something of him to arouse our love; but when this initial knowledge is attained, Love must have her perfect work before knowledge can ripen.
2. Love to Christ must be based on what is lovable in him. Wisdom is beautiful and attractive, and can excite love. How much more, then, should the incarnation of Wisdom in our brother man do this! The contemplation of the beautiful life of Christ and the study of his perfect character urge us to love him; but surely what he has done for us, his sacrifice of himself, his death on our behalf, must be our chief grounds for loving him.
3. This love to Christ will be met by his love in return. It is true that his love precedes ours, nay, that it is the great source of our love. But
(1) it is not felt and enjoyed till it is returned, so that then it seems to come afresh as an answer to our love; and
(2) there must be a stronger, more tender, more intimate love to those who appreciate it than can be given to others. Christ loved all men, hut not as he loved St. John. Christians loving Christ enjoy his peculiar love.
4. To be loved by Christ is the best reward of loving him. True love is satisfied with nothing less than a return of love, but it is satisfied with this. If we have nothing else we have a pearl of great price in the love of Christ. Then we can afford to lose all earthly good things, can count them but dung, that we may win Christ.
II. FINDING FOR SEEKING.
1. We must seek Christ if we would possess him. He offers himself to all as a Saviour and a Master. But he must be followed and found. Our love to him will be the great attraction ever drawing us nearer to him.
2. The search for Christ must be earnest if it is to be successful. He will not answer a halfhearted call. Till we seek him with determination, reality, persistence, we shall meet no response. We must seek him before all things, must make Christ the chief end of life.
3. This earnest seeking will be rewarded by the receiving of Christ. Wisdom comes to him who seeks laboriously and patiently; much more will Wisdom incarnate, Wisdom with a heart to sympathize. Such a response will be the best reward of seeking. Better than anything that Christ could send us will be his own coming to dwell in our hearts. This will be the satisfaction of anxious inquiry in a full response, the blessing of love with love and close communion.
The primeval glory of Divine wisdom
I. THE HIGHEST WISDOM IS CREATED BY GOD. "The Lord created me as the first of his way." This idea was suggested to the Greeks in the myth of Athene, who sprang from the head of Zeus. It is the poetic form of the great truth that God is the Creator of thoughts as well as of things; and it suggests that he not only called individual intelligences into being, but originated the primary laws and conditions of all intelligence, just as he ordained the laws of nature and the conditions of physical existence as well as the rocks and plants and animals subsequently created.
II. DIVINE WISDOM WAS ANTECEDENT TO MATERIAL CREATION. "'Twas wrought from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was." Thought precedes action, Design anticipates execution. The architect comes before the builder. Archetypal ideas precede creative work. In the awful depths of primeval antiquity the great Thinker wrought out the plans of the universe which as the great Worker he has been since evolving in visible existences.
III. WISDOM ACCOMPANIED AND DIRECTED PHYSICAL CREATION. "I was by him as a master worker." Wisdom did not cease when force appeared. The two wrought together. The result of their joint operation is the energetic cosmos—force and thought triumphing over death and chaos. When we endeavour to discover the secrets of nature, we are searching out the wisdom of God. When we learn the laws and processes of nature, we are able to think the thoughts of God. The naturalist should walk reverently, for he is treading in the footsteps of the mind of God. It should be our aim in studying nature to find God in his wisdom.
IV. THE DIVINE WISDOM IN CREATION LEADS ON TO THE TRIUMPH OF LIFE AND ORDER. First there is the confusion of the elements. Gradually these elements are marshalled into order till Wisdom is able to "rejoice in his earthly world." The onward movement of all things here indicated and illustrated very fully by recent science reveals the wisdom of God with increasing clearness. Instead of thinking of that wisdom as chiefly manifested in primitive creation, we should see that it is most active and most glorious in the latest and richest development of the life of the universe.
V. THIS WISDOM IS ONE OF THE MOST GLORIOUS OF THE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. God has glory of thought as well as glory of character. There must be all phases of perfection in the perfect Mind. God is not only to be regarded on the side of moral law and religious worship. He is the great Mathematician, Architect, Philosopher, Poet. Our thoughts of God are too "Churchy." God is not only in the church. He is much in the fields. He has his workshops as well as his temples; nay, they are his best temples. Let us try to find him in "secular" thought and work, and worship him the more for the wisdom seen in his "earthly world."
The decree of the sea
We live under the reign of law. This fact is taken to be the late revelation of modern science. But it is embedded in Old Testament teaching. There we see that the laws of nature, which are but the ways of God on earth, are recognized as fixed and stable. But the Bible helps us in two ways in examining those laws. First, it traces them back to their origin in a personal will. These are not merely channels of a blind force. They are decrees of an authority. Secondly, it teaches us to believe that they are good, wisely directed and tending to righteousness. They come from a wise, holy, just, and benevolent source. The decree of the sea has a special significance.
I. IT HAS A VAST DOMAIN. The sea covers three parts of the surface of the globe. Leagues upon leagues of spreading ocean roll round the earth with every tide. The sea is deep, and hides in its many waters myriads of living creatures. The fearful storms that sweep its surface tell sad tales of its more than giant strength. Here we are face to face with a frightful nature power. Yet that power is under law. God's decree encircles it, and his hand reins it in with irresistible might. The sea is great, but God is greater; strong, but God is stronger. As we look at the fearful might and majesty of the ocean, we are called to bow before the infinitely greater Power who holds its waters in the hollow of his hand. If we tremble before its terror, we may remember that it is but the inanimate slave of our Father in heaven.
II. IT IS ENSHRINED IN MYSTERY. Men have discovered some of the laws of tides, currents, storms, etc. Yet the ocean is still, in many respects, a great mystery. What caverns are hidden beneath its dark waters? What monsters of the deep may still elude the grasp, of man's observation? What secret terrors may burst upon his astounded gaze? Here is indeed a mystery. Yet this is all known to God, governed by God, subject to his law, humbly obedient to his decree. God rules over all the mysteries of the universe.
III. IT GOVERNS CHANGE. The sea is the symbol of fickleness and deception—today smooth as a mirror, "green calm below, blue quietness above" (Whittier); tomorrow a black and storm-tossed chaos. Its restless waves never cease to crawl to and fro on the quietest day; its tides are ever ebbing and flowing. Yet it obeys law. There are laws of change, as in night and day, the seasons, etc. God rules over all the vicissitudes of life. Change does not mean chance.
IV. IT OVERRULES CONFUSION. God's decree does not prevent the tempest, but the tempest itself obeys the law of God. The wild and wintry waste of waters, flecked with foam, and scoured with angry billows, is all under law and order. It is so in life. God does not prevent trouble; but he overrules it and limits its extent.
This decree of the sea is typical of the Divine government of what looks most tumultuous and lawless in life. Apply it throughout with the four points—vastness, mystery, change, and confusion—
(1) to earthly circumstances;
(2) to the ocean of human life;
(3) to the soul, that sea of many storms.
The pre-eminent glory of Christ
This is affirmed of wisdom, and wisdom in the Proverbs is always an abstraction, an attribute of God, or a grace conferred upon man. Thus we have the highly imaginative picture of a certain quality of thought described like a personal favourite in the heavenly presence. But surely it is not necessary for us to rest with this idea. The New Testament cannot be out of our minds when we read the Old. It was not long before Jews learnt to personify wisdom, and when Christ appeared he realized in his own Person what had previously been ascribed to an abstract quality. Christ is "the Truth" (John 14:6) and "the Wisdom of God" (1 Corinthians 1:24). His pre-existence is affirmed by himself (John 8:58) and repeatedly asserted by his apostles (e.g. Colossians 1:16). We may, then, think of Christ embodying this wisdom of God in the awful ages of the past, and see how truly what is here predicated of wisdom applies to him in whom that wisdom dwelt.
I. WISDOM IN CHRIST WAS WITH GOD. "I was by him."
1. Wisdom was always with God, always at his right hand. There was never a time when God acted blindly, imperfectly, without full consciousness. We have no ground for thinking of a lawless chaos previous to the exercise of Divine wisdom and power in creation. Even when the world was" without form and void" (Genesis 1:2), God's wise thought presided over it. God's mind did not grow like ours, from infantile simplicity. He was ever fully God.
2. Christ was similarly eternal with God. "The Word was with God" (John 1:1). When he came to our earth he came forth from God. His condescension was seen in this, that he left his place by the right hand of his Father and came down to dwelt with men.
II. WISDOM IN CHRIST WAS CONCERNED IN CREATION.
1. God made the universe in wisdom. It bears the impress of thought. Deep purposes have impregnated it. Creation is a parable of infinite ideas.
2. God created all things through Christ. "By whom he made the worlds" (Hebrews 1:2). Of course, the humanity of Jesus was not then existing. But the Divine side of our Lord was not only eternal; it was even directly active. Therefore there is a Christ-spirit in nature.
III. WISDOM IS CHRIST WAS GOD'S DAILY DELIGHT.
1. God rejoices over his work, as an artist over the thing of beauty that his hand has fashioned according to the dream of his heart. "God saw that it was good" (Genesis 1:10). The thought that is in God's work is his especial delight. He cares not for mere exhibitions of brute force. He loves wisdom.
2. God rejoices over Christ. So Christ is God's "beloved Son" (Matthew 3:17). There are times when we grieve our Father, though at other seasons he may smile upon us. But Christ always dwelt under the smile of his Father, a daily delight—rejoiced in for his wisdom and the holy and gracious use he made of it.
IV. CHRIST, BY HIS WISDOM, WAS REJOICING ALWAYS BEFORE GOD. Wisdom is a source of joy. Wisdom devoted to God is doubly joyous. Christ had an ancient joy (John 15:11). He left a happy home to come to us. The word for this joy is "sporting." Is there humour in nature? May there be in heaven those lighter, innocent joys which make up so much of the mirth of children on earth? Why should Christ have been always solemn?
Proverbs 8:35, Proverbs 8:36
Life and favour with God
It is common to see this and similar passages applied directly to the soul's possession of God, or to the special Christian faith in Jesus Christ. Now, it is quite true that we have here in germ what will lead up to those experiences. But apart from the mistake of ignoring the distinction between the elementary truth and its full development, there is a practical consideration that is too often overlooked. It is thought to be good policy to "Christianize" these passages of the Old Testament; i.e. it is thought they are thus most profitably used. On this low ground even an answer can be given—it may be shown that the policy is bad. The more Christian idea is true in itself. But it is expressed clearly enough in the New Testament. We gain no new light, therefore, if we contrive to see it here. We simply repeat a lesson that we have learnt elsewhere. But if we take the more literal meaning of the words, then, though the thought given to us may not be so exalted nor so valuable as the perfected Christian thought, it may have a distinct worth and use of its own, and therefore may add somewhat to our knowledge of Divine things—an addition which we should not have if we read the words as a mere repetition of what we had already learnt elsewhere, however much more important that other lesson might be. The New Testament teaches us that we have life in Christ. We who have that later and fuller revelation gain little or nothing by reading the same truth in the Book of Proverbs. That life is to be found in the Divine wisdom may be a has valuable thought. But it is a distinct thought, and therefore some addition to our knowledge; and as such it should be spiritually helpful to us. For this reason, though it may be perfectly legitimate for us to show how the words of our text foreshadow the great truths of Christianity, it may be more profitable for us to keep to their simple meaning, and see how life and Divine favour are received through the finding of Divine wisdom.
I. WHAT IS MEANT BY FINDING DIVINE WISDOM.
1. It is not the mere knowledge of religious doctrine. Many have this, and yet miss the life eternal. We may know the Bible without knowing God.
2. It is not the results of some rare intuition, nor the achievements of elaborate intellectual effort; it is neither the vision of the mystic nor the secret of the Gnostic. For this wisdom is repeatedly offered to the simple with a most general invitation (e.g. verses 4, 5).
3. To find Divine wisdom is to come to the knowledge of God as far as this affects our own conduct, to know his disposition towards us, his will regarding our conduct, the way of life to which he calls us; it is further to know so much of God's ways and thoughts as to be able to set them before us as a pattern, and thus to imbibe some of the great primeval wisdom described in the preceding verses; lastly, it is to set these thoughts in relation to practice and to make the knowledge of Divine things the rule of life.
II. HOW LIFE AND THE FAVOUR OF GOD RESULT FROM THE FINDING OF WISDOM.
(1) In this wisdom we see the way to life—that life which is to Christians here on earth as well as hereafter the life eternal.
(2) The only life worth living is that lived with thoughts of God and aims directed by the knowledge of God. Eternal life consists in this knowledge of God.
2. The favour of God. God is pleased with us in so far as we walk in his ways. Divine wisdom only can direct us aright, so that we may please God. But the very habit of mind that consists in the thinking of Divine thoughts and the desiring and attempting to accomplish the purposes of Divine wisdom must be pleasing to God.
"Base-minded they that want intelligence;
For God himself for wisdom most is prais'd,
And men to God thereby are nighest rais'd."
III. HOW SELF-INJURY AND DEATH RESULT FROM THE LOSS OF THIS WISDOM. "He that misseth me," etc.
1. The common evils of life will lead to our ruin unless we are saved by higher means. The traveller who rejects the guide may parish in the perils of his path; the patient who disobeys the physician may die of his disease. We shall ruin ourselves in sin "if we neglect so great salvation."
2. The rejection of Divine wisdom is itself a fatal sin. It is our duty to hearken to its voice. If we refuse to do this, we shall suffer as a penalty for our wilful disobedience to the message from Heaven.
HOMILIES BY E. JOHNSON
Again it is a poetical personification of truth, of God's Word, of religion, morality, sense, prudence; for all these are included in the comprehensive conception of wisdom that is placed before us.
I. THE PROCLAMATION OF TRUTH HAS NEVER FAILED IN THE WORLD. The cry is coeval with the world, with the conscience of man. The preacher has an institution second to none in antiquity and in honour.
II. THE PREACHER MUST RE CONSPICUOUS TO AND AUDIBLE BY ALL. (Proverbs 8:2, Proverbs 8:3.) On raised ground, in lonely paths (Proverbs 8:2), in the open air, in the field and forest; and. (Proverbs 8:3) in the towns and cities, at the places of public resort and traffic, at the gates in the Orient, in the centre of Western cities, the preacher's voice has been beard. All eminent teachers in books are truly agents of Wisdom, and heralds of the kingdom of God.
III. THE SUBSTANCE OF TRUE PREACHING MUST BE THE SAME IN EVERY AGE.
1. It is human (Proverbs 8:3), and therefore intelligible, rational, practical.
2. It is especially addressed to inexperience—to the foolish and the thoughtless (see on Proverbs 1:4).
3. It deals with clear and manifest truth (see Hitzig's reading of Proverbs 8:6), and so commends itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
4. It is disinterested, free from sophistry and compromise (Proverbs 8:7).
5. It is just—correct and accurate in knowledge of human nature and of Divine things (Proverbs 8:8). And thus it is:
6. Acceptable and irresistible by the "honest and good heart" (Proverbs 8:9).—J.
She has nothing novel to say concerning her nature, value, and blessings. Preaching must in the main be repetition; the iteration of the old, not with dry and sterile monotony, but with that freshness which comparison with everyday facts and illustrations gives. New combinations of facts are ever arising in which to frame the old precepts and set them forth. Besides, love gives novelty to old truth, as the old song is enjoyed from the lips of the latest sweet singer.
I. SHE APPEALS TO COMPARISON. (Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11.) By comparison we increase and strengthen our perceptions. In the knowledge of man, books, art, life, comparison is everything. We are to compare Wisdom with material objects of sense, such as gold and silver, that we may see her to be incomparable; and so each for ourselves repeat the choice of Solomon (comp. on Proverbs 3:14, Proverbs 3:15).
II. SHE APPEALS TO ASSOCIATION. (Proverbs 8:12.) Wisdom dwells with prudence. In modern language, the general implies the particular. Wisdom is intelligence in general; prudence, the appreciation of it in particular cases. In the poetical mode of representation we should say that Piety and Prudence are sisters, and go hand-in-hand, daughters of the voice of God, as Wordsworth said of duty. So, too, Wisdom has insight into enigmas, dark sayings, and generally deep things of God (see on Proverbs 1:4).
III. SHE UNFOLDS TEE CONTENTS OF HER MIND. (Proverbs 8:18, Proverbs 8:14.) One of her many aliases is the fear of Jehovah. And this is religion, which includes all wholesome aversions, viz. wickedness in general, and in particular assumption, arrogance, evil habits, perverted speech. In other words, her sympathies are all with lowliness, purity, love, and truth. Insight or sharp and deep perception is another of her attributes, and force (comp. on Proverbs 2:7).
V. SHE CLAIMS SUPREME AUTHORITY. (Proverbs 8:15, Proverbs 8:16.) Kings, rulers, princes, potentates, judges,—all received those places and fulfil those functions through her and her alone. Authority in polities rests on consent or on force, or both. And these are traceable ultimately to reason, and reason is the "inspiration of the Almighty." Exceptions form no part of this representation. In modern language, we say that government, as a principle or institute, rests on an ultimate Divine basis. The text says tic less than this, nor does it say mort.
V. SHE IS IN RECIPROCAL RELATION TO HER SUBJECTS. (Proverbs 8:17.) Her love is conditioned by love; the winning of her by the wooing. The notion that we can be passive, whether in knowledge or goodness, is an entire illusion. Such an illusion once prevailed as the doctrine of "innate ideas" now exploded in philosophy. All that becomes the portion of head or heart implies, necessitates a previous spiritual activity in us. We are ignorant because we will not learn, unhappy because we will not love.
VI. SHE COMMANDS WEALTH AND HONOUR AND THE AVENUES TO THEM. (Proverbs 8:18-21.) Riches, honour, self-increasing goods, and righteous" (comp. on Proverbs 3:16). The righteous here is elucidated by the next two verses; she shows the right way to all earthly good. She is a tree of life, and yields incomparable fruit both for value and abundance (Proverbs 8:19). She guarantees possessions to her votaries. The connection between righteous and worldly wealth is insisted on. Not that it is always obvious. Nor again are we to expect notice of exceptions in teaching that is from first to last absolute in form. The stringency of the connection is what we have to recognize; the knowledge of its complete application to all cases opens the relations of eternity and demands the omniscience of God.—J.
Wisdom in eternity and in time
This sublime view lifts us at once above the seeming contradictions of time, and suggests the solution of all its problems in God.
I. SHE IS OF THE DIVINE BEGINNINGS OR ELEMENTS. (Proverbs 8:22.) An element in chemistry is the last simple substance we can reach in analysis. An element in thought is the last simple notion yielded by the dialectic of the understanding. Wisdom is thus before the visible creation—the earth, the sea, the mountains. The verses do but repeat and iterate this one simple and sublime thought. We may in like manner vary it in any form of thought and expression familiar to us. She is the Divine a priori; the logic of nature and spirit; the last and first, the ground of all existence; the eternal reason, the transcendent cause, the alpha and omega of the cosmic alphabet. We are trying to express the inexpressible, utter the unutterable, define the undefinable, find out God to perfection, if we press beyond these poor forms of speech and ignore the limit which separates the known from the unknowable, and reason from faith.
II. THE CREATION PROCEEDING FROM THE DIVINE WISDOM FULFILS ITS COURSE BY WISDOM. (Proverbs 8:27.) What we term in science the discovery of law is for religion the revelation of the mind of God in the world and in us. The cosmos is here conceived under the forms of the poetic imagination—the heavens and their outstretched circle or vault; the clouds as massive bags or skins; the springs on earth as set in motion by direct Divine activity; the sea as bounded by a positive fiat; the earth as fixed on firm pillars, by one act as it were of the Divine Architect. And then was Wisdom at his side as mistress of the work (Proverbs 8:30), and was in delight day by day (Proverbs 8:30), "playing before him always; playing on the circle of the earth, and I had my delight in men" (Proverbs 8:31). One of the best illustrations of the poetical force and sense of this passage is in the Wisdom of Sirach 24: "I went forth from the mouth of the Highest, and as a mist I covered the earth. I pitched my tent in the heights, and my throne was as a pillar of cloud. The gyre of heaven I encircled alone, and in the depths of abysses I walked about. In the billows of the sea, and in all the earth, and among every people and nation, I was busy" (verses 3-6).
III. WISDOM'S APPEAL AND PROMISES, (Verses 32-36.)
1. The appeal. "Listen to me, listen to instruction!" Drink out of this spring of eternity, whose currents flow through all the tracts of nature and of man. "Resist not!" for to resist is to oppose the law of things and to invite destruction. Let them be so eager to listen and to know that they shall daily apply, daily stand as suppliants or visitors at her door!
2. The promises. Happiness is repeatedly foretold (verses 32, 34). Life in all senses, intensive and extensive (verse 35). Favour with Jehovah (verse 35). And it follows, as the night the day, that he who sins against Wisdom, whether by neglect or direct disobedience, is guilty of a moral suicide, and shows a contempt for life and happiness, a perverse preference for death (see on Proverbs 4:13, Proverbs 4:22; Proverbs 7:27; comp. Ezekiel 18:21).—J.
HOMILIES BY W. CLARKSON
The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 1
In these verses we have portrayed to us the surpassing excellency of the wisdom of God.
I. IT IS AUDIBLE TO EVERY ONE. "Doth not Wisdom cry," etc.? (Proverbs 8:1; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23).
II. IT IS URGENT AND IMPORTUNATE. (Proverbs 8:2-4; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23.)
III. IT MAKES ITS APPEAL TO UNIVERSAL MAN. (Proverbs 8:4, Proverbs 8:5.) "Unto you, O men, I call," etc. There is nothing exclusive or partial in its address. Its sympathies are wide as the human soul. It draws no lines of latitude or longitude in any kingdom, beyond which it does not pass. It appeals to man—Jew and Gentile, male and female, bond and free, learned and ignorant, wise and foolish (simple), moral and immoral (fools).
IV. IT IS IN FULL HARMONY WITH ALL THAT IS BEST WITHIN US. Some voices that address us make their appeal to that which is lower or even lowest in our nature. Divine wisdom appeals to that which is highest and best.
1. To our sense of what is right and good (Proverbs 8:6, Proverbs 8:7).
2. To our love of that which is true (Proverbs 8:7).
V. IT IS AN APPRECIABLE THING. (Proverbs 8:9.) Through it takes high ground, not rooting itself in anything base, but making its appeal to that which is purest and noblest in our nature, it is still appreciable by all who can estimate anything at its true worth. To "him that understandeth," to the man who is capable of any discernment, the words of heavenly wisdom will be plain—they will "receive them gladly;" while to those who have reached any height in attainment, the teaching of wisdom will be recognized as the excellent thing it is. The students of law will find in it the illustration of all true order; the disciples of ethics will perceive in it all that is morally sound and satisfying to the conscience; those who admire "the beautiful" will recognize that which is exquisite, admirable, sublime. The teaching of Divine wisdom is "right to them that find knowledge."
VI. IT IS INTIMATELY ASSOCIATED WITH INTELLIGENT OBSERVATION. It consequently results in useful contrivances (Proverbs 8:12). So far from heavenly wisdom being confined, in its principles and its results, to the realm of the abstract and unseen, it is most closely allied with, and is constantly found in the company of, simple, homely discretion, the careful, intelligent observation of all surrounding objects and passing incidents. It issues, therefore, in "witty inventions."
VII. IT ISSUES IN, AND IS ILLUSTRATED BY, MORAL AND SPIRITUAL WORTH. (Proverbs 8:13.) "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and the fear of the Lord is so intimately and essentially bound up with the hatred of evil, that they may be practically identified; we may say that "the fear of the Lord is to hate evil"—evil in all its forms, "pride, arrogancy," etc.—C.
Proverbs 8:1-21 (continued)
The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 2
We have also these features of the wisdom of God—
I. IT ENDOWS WITH THE WEALTH WHICH IS THE PRODUCT OF VIRTUE. (Proverbs 8:20, Proverbs 8:21.) It leads in that "way of righteousness" and those "paths of judgment" which result in "inheriting substance," and being "filled with treasures." It places in the hand of its followers all that measure of earthly good which they can regard with holy satisfaction and enjoy with a good conscience.
II. IT IS A SOURCE OF STRENGTH AND INFLUENCE IN HUMAN SOCIETY. (Proverbs 8:14-16,) It is attended with that breadth of understanding, that knowledge of affairs, that insight into "men and things," which gives sagacity to statesmen and stability to thrones.
III. IT RECIPROCATES AN ATTACHMENT. (Proverbs 8:17.) The more we know, the more attractive does knowledge become to our admiring spirit. The further we advance into its domain, the firmer becomes our footing and the brighter becomes the light. Moreover, the highest peaks attainable by man are only reached by those who begin to climb in the days of their youth (vide homily infra).
IV. IT IS OF INCOMPARABLE VALUE TO THE HUMAN SOUL. (Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11, Proverbs 8:18, Proverbs 8:19.) If the choice should lie between wealth and wisdom, it is better far to choose the latter; for:
1. While wealth will not buy wisdom, wisdom will lead to wealth, later if not sooner, of one kind if not of another.
2. Wisdom itself is wealth; it is the possession of the mind, it is the inheritance of the soul, it is "durable riches and righteousness."
The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 3 (see below).—C.
Christ the Wisdom of God: No. 1
Though it is not to be supposed that Jesus Christ was in the mind of the writer of this passage, yet as he does personify wisdom, and as wisdom was incarnated in that Son of man who was the Son of God, we should expect to find that the words of the wise man in the text would apply, in large measure, to the Lord Jesus Christ. They do so, and suggest to us—
I. THE MANNER OF HIS TEACHING. (Proverbs 8:1-3) He "spake openly to the world, … taught in the synagogue, and in the temple," etc..
II. HIS APPEAL TO ALL CLASSES AND CONDITIONS OF MEN. (Proverbs 8:4, Proverbs 8:5.) He came unto the world at large, to "draw all men unto him." None were, none are, so poor. or so rich, so ignorant or so learned, so simple or so subtle, so degraded or so refined, so spiritually destitute or so privileged, as to be out of range of his heavenly voice. All need his message; all are welcome to his kingdom.
III. HIS MANIFESTATION OF THE TRUTH. (Proverbs 8:6-8.) He came "to bear witness unto the truth" (John 18:37). He came to be the living Truth himself (John 14:6), so that the more we know of him and grow up into him, the more of Divine truth do we receive into our souls.
IV. THE APPRECIABLENESS OF HIS MESSAGE. (Proverbs 8:9.) When he spake with his own lips, men received his words, wondering at his wisdom and his grace (see Luke 2:47; Luke 4:22, Luke 4:32; Matthew 7:28, Matthew 7:29). "Never man spake like this Man," said the officers to the chief priests (John 7:46). "The common people heard him gladly" (Mark 12:37). And now that he speaks to mankind from heaven, his message of truth and love is comprehensible to all who care to know his mind. To those who earnestly seek, the way becomes plain; to those who have "spiritual discernment," the deeper things of God are intelligible; to those who "know him," his dealings are seen to be right and true.
V. HIS RESPONSIVENESS. (Proverbs 8:17.) (See succeeding homily.)
VI. HIS INCOMPARABLE WORTH. (Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11.) Jewels, compared with him, are empty toys; gold, compared with him, is sordid dust. So great is his worth to the hungering heart, to the suffering spirit, to living, dying man, that all forms of earthly good are not to be named or counted in comparison.
VII. HIS SERVICE ISSUES IN THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE RECOMPENSE. (Proverbs 8:18-21.) The fruit of the service of Christ is honour, joy (including peace), righteousness (Proverbs 8:20), the "inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (Proverbs 8:21; 1 Peter 1:4).—C.
Proverbs 8:10, Proverbs 8:11
Wisdom and wealth
The immeasurable preference of heavenly wisdom to earthly wealth may be seen if we consider—
I. THE FAILURE OF WEALTH. Wealth is continually found to fail; for:
1. It cannot even buy happiness. It may purchase a certain amount of excitement and jollity, but it will not secure contentment, even for one brief year.
2. Much less can it buy blessedness. That happy state of which our Lord so often spoke as blessedness—the deep and true gladness of heart which God plants within the soul, and which all may well wish to possess—this wealth is utterly unable to impart.
3. It will equally fail to buy wisdom. Indeed, it may be truly said that:
4. It often stands positively in the way of its acquisition (Mark 10:23-25).
II. THE CAPACITY OF WISDOM.
1. It tends to provide men with competency, if not with abundance. Honesty, purity, sobriety, diligence, frugality, those virtues which go with the "fear of the Lord," tend to supply a man's home with all that is needful and desirable.
2. It secures peace and joy of heart.
3. It, itself, is man's chief treasure. Better the knowledge of God, the love of Christ, a holy, manly, loving spirit, than any external advantages whatsoever (see Jeremiah 9:23, Jeremiah 9:24).
4. It prepares for the enjoyment of the treasures which are in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21).—C.
The responsiveness of Christ
Adapting these words to him who became, and forever will be, the Wisdom of God, they may speak to us of—
I. CHRIST'S INITIATIVE LOVE. It is quite true that "we love him because he first loved us." We should first consider "the great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins" (Ephesians 2:4, Ephesians 2:5). All our love to Christ springs from, has its source in, his spontaneous love toward us, unexcited by our affection, flowing from his own exceeding grace.
II. HIS RESPONSIVE LOVE. This involves much,
1. His special interest in those who are inquiring at his feet. "Jesus beholding him, loved him, and said into him, One thing thou lackest" (Mark 10:21). Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-48.).
2. His Divine favour accorded to those who have accepted him as their Lord. "I love them that love me" (see John 11:5). These are his friends and his guests (John 14:23; John 15:14, John 15:15; Revelation 3:20).
3. Spiritual blessings which he will impart. He will dwell with us by his Spirit, and the fruits of the Spirit will abound in us. If, then, our interest in Christ, and the yielding of our hearts to him, result in his close friendship and in those highest impartations which flow therefrom, how wise must be—
III. EARLY DISCIPLESHIP TO HIM! For if we would make sure of finding him and possessing his friendship, we should seek him without delay. Delay is always dangerous. There may intervene between ourselves and him:
1. Other objects which may fascinate our souls and lead us away from him.
2. The growth of the deadly spirit of procrastination.
3. A sudden close of our present life. But early discipleship, the coming in faith to his feet, to his cross, to his kingdom, to his vineyard, means the certainty of holiness and usefulness below and the assurance of blessedness above.—C.
The excellency of Divine wisdom: No. 3
We have here additional features of the wisdom of God, viz.—
I. THAT THE WISDOM EVERYWHERE ILLUSTRATED DWELT IN THE DIVINE ONE FROM ETERNITY. (Proverbs 8:22-26.) Before anything visible was created, in the "far backward and abysm of time," even to eternity, wisdom was an attribute of the infinite God.
II. THAT CREATION AND PROVIDENCE ARE THE DELIBERATE OUTWORKING OF THE DIVINE IDEA. "When he prepared the heavens …then I was by him" (Proverbs 8:27-30). All things were constructed after the model in the Divine mind. Perfect intelligence, seeing through and foreseeing everything, directed everything according to absolute wisdom; thus the kindest end was gained by the surest means; thus beauty and serviceableness, grandeur and loveliness, are bound together in the visible world because they existed together in the mind of the great Architect (see Psalms 104:24).
III. THAT THE WISDOM OF HIS WORK WAS A CONSTANT SOURCE OF SATISFACTION TO THE MIND OF GOD. (Proverbs 8:30.) "I was daily his delight." We find a pure and God-given satisfaction in the execution of any work on which we have slant our utmost energy. We might have hesitated to refer this to the Supreme Intelligence, but the Word of God warrants us in doing this. We may, therefore, believe that the glories and beauties of creation are not only the source of joy to our minds (and the deeper and fuller in proportion to our purity and piety), but that they are also a source of satisfaction to him who made them what they are.
IV. THAT MAN IS THE SPECIAL OBJECT OF THE WISE ONE'S CARE. (Proverbs 8:31.) "My delights were with the sons of men."
1. When God made man upright he "blessed him" (Genesis 1:28), and rejoiced in him as in his noblest work on earth.
2. When man fell God was grieved; the heavenly Father's heart was saddened at his children's disobedience and wrong doing.
3. When man returns to righteousness God is well pleased (Luke 15:23, Luke 15:24). There is no such wisdom shown in creation or in providence as in redemption. To arrange the laws of a material universe, to direct the affairs of an illimitable kingdom,—there is wondrous wisdom in these Divine doings; but there is deeper wisdom still in redeeming a lost world, reconciling an alienated world, cleansing a guilty world, sanctifying an unholy world and fitting it for the society of the sinless in heaven.—C.
Christ the wisdom of God: No. 2
Again regarding the Lord Jesus Christ as the Wisdom of God incarnate, we may let these words suggest to us—
I. HIS ETERNITY. (Proverbs 8:22-26.)
II. HIS SONSHIP. (Proverbs 8:22, Proverbs 8:30.)
III. HIS AGENCY IN CREATION. (Verses 37-29; see also John 1:3, John 1:10; Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2, Hebrews 1:3, Hebrews 1:10; 1 Corinthians 8:6.)
IV. HIS PRIMAL BLESSEDNESS. (Proverbs 8:30; and see John 17:5; Philippians 2:6.)
V. HIS SUPREME INTEREST IN MAN. (Proverbs 8:31.) "His delights were with the sons of men." The interest taken by our Lord in ourselves was that of a
(2) Divine Ruler,
(3) Redeemer; it is now that of a
(4) sovereign Saviour.—C.
The convincing argument
Here is a very strong, "Now, therefore." The excellency of Divine wisdom has been so forcibly, so irresistibly urged that the speaker is entitled to drive his argument home and make a practical application. But the urgency of the case is summed up in the few following sentences. This is the reasoning: since—
I. INATTENTION TO THE VOICE OF WISDOM IS THE DEPTH OF FOLLY. For:
1. It is self-robbery. "He that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul" (Proverbs 8:36). The man that shuts his ears when God speaks robs himself of all those precious things which might make his heart rich and his life noble—of spiritual peace, of sacred joy, of heavenly hope, of an elevating faith, of holy love, of Divine comfort, of the best forms of usefulness.
2. It is self-destruction. "All they that hate me love death" (Proverbs 8:36). To harden our heart against the invitations and warnings of Divine wisdom is to tread the path which leads straight to the gates of spiritual and eternal death.
II. ATTENTION TO THE VOICE OF WISDOM IS OUR HIGHEST INTEREST.
1. It leads to "blessedness" (Proverbs 8:32, Proverbs 8:34); it ensures that state of soul which the eternal God declares to be the only enviable one, to be that which should be the object of our earnest aspiration.
2. It secures his own Divine favour (Proverbs 8:35)—the "favour of the Lord," the sunshine of his smile, the benediction of his voice; he will "lay his hand upon us" in fatherly love; he will surround us with his "everlasting arms" of powerful protection.
3. It constitutes life in its very essence and substance. "Whoso findeth me findeth life" (Proverbs 8:35). To be wise with the wisdom which is from above, to "know God and Jesus Christ whom he has sent," "to understand and know the Lord that exerciseth loving kindness, judgment, and righteousness," to have gained "the secret of the Lord," to have learnt by blessed experience "that the Lord is gracious," "to be filled with the knowledge of his will,"—this is life, human life at its highest, its best, its noblest. Moreover, it is that which issues in the eternal life on the other side the river, in the land where life is enlarged and ennobled far beyond the reach of our present thought. Since these things are so, "now, therefore," we conclude that—
III. DILIGENT DISCIPLESHIP IS THE ONLY OPEN COURSE. "Hearken," "hear instruction," "refuse it not," etc. (Proverbs 8:32-34). This includes:
1. Earnest attention, hearkening, watching, waiting. Something much more than allowing ourselves by force of custom to be found where wisdom is discoursed, "putting in an appearance" at the sanctuary. It implies an earnest heedfulness of spirit; a diligent, intelligent, patient inquiry of the soul; a hungering of the heart for the saving truth of the living God.
2. Practical obedience—"keeping the ways" of wisdom (Proverbs 8:32). "If we know these things, happy are we if we do them" (John 13:17; see Matthew 7:21-27). As earnest disciples of Jesus Christ, the way to "keep his ways" is
(1) to accept himself as our Saviour and Lord, with our whole heart;
(2) to strive daily to embody his will in all the relations we sustain. That is to say, first enter into right relation to himself, making him the Saviour of our soul, the Friend of our heart, the Lord of our life; then strive to carry out his commandments in all the transactions and relationships of our human life.—C.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Proverbs 8". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent