A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
Solomon was deeply impressed with a sense of the evil of immorality. Nor was he less fully convinced of that danger to which young men are exposed, from the temptations presented by those agents for Hell, who, lost to all sense of shame and interest, throw themselves headlong, and as many along with them as they can, into an everlasting Hell — and all for the momentary gratification of a base and brutal passion!
On this subject he had already said as much as might have served to guard any man against this danger, who was not under the influence of a very debased mind, and a very depraved heart. But he wishes to penetrate the heart of the most hardened, to rouse the most inconsiderate of men to serious thought. He thinks that too much cannot be said on a matter of such concernment to us.
We have in this chapter an affecting illustration of the danger of youthful lusts. The mode of instruction to which our teacher in the present instance has recourse, is the narration of a piece of history or parable, (for it matters not which), of the most instructive kind.
Will anyone dare to venture on temptations that lead to impurity, after Solomon has set before his eyes in so lively a manner, the danger of so much as going near the harlot's house? Then he is as inexcusable as the man who dances on the brink of a precipice, when he has just seen another, who ventured to display his courage in the same manner, fall headlong from his place, and dashed to pieces on the rocks below — the sad victim of his own rashness and folly!
The danger of wicked courses should mightily recommend to us the word of God, which is able to keep us from falling, and to which self-ruined sinners give testimony, when they must acknowledge too late, that their misery began with their disregard to that blessed book.
What would men not give for an antidote that could preserve them from every bodily disease? If any person, possessed of such a medicine, were to perish by some fatal distemper, in consequence of neglecting to have recourse to it — surely his fate would excite no commiseration!
Verse 1-5."My son, keep my words and store up my commands within you. Keep my commands and you will live; guard my teachings as the apple of your eye. Bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart. Say to wisdom, "You are my sister," and call understanding your kinsman; they will keep you from the adulteress, from the wayward wife with her seductive words."
When a man has got possession of some precious jewel, he will deposit it in some place secured from the predations of thieves. The words of God are infinitely more precious than diamonds, and ought to be laid up in our hearts, and kept with constant diligence and caution. They are to be kept as our life, for we are but dead men if we lose them, and they are the effectual instruments by which God is pleased to quicken men to newness of life, and to nourish, and strengthen, and preserve their souls. Without them, the life of the body is no better than a dream.
It is our advantage which God has in view, in furnishing us with a rule of conduct. "Be holy," is the sum of the whole law — and the law's excellency is, that it is as good as it is holy and just. Those, therefore, who neglect it — regard lying vanities, and despise their own mercy.
God expresses that regard which he has for his people, and that compassionate care which he exercises over them, by affirming that he who touches them, touches the apple of his eye. No less regard is certainly due on our part to that divine word of his, without which our souls must remain in darkness. The eye is a most precious member, and the apple of the eye is its most precious part. The Author of the body has guarded that part of it with a natural fence, and no less vigilance is exercised by us in its protection. We will not, if possible, permit the smallest mote to fall into it.
With equal care ought we to observe the law of God, and to avoid every temptation which might induce us in the smallest degree to transgress its commandments.
The law is to be fixed as a ring upon our fingers, that it may constantly present itself to our view, and deeply impress our hearts. These are the living tables, on which the statutes of the Lord are to be inscribed, that every inward power may be wrought into a suitableness unto them.
We take great pleasure in the society of amiable friends. Wisdom ought to be our most beloved friend, and our constant companion. With this best of friends, let us daily converse, and thus shall we be preserved from the danger of infectious company, and the allurements of seducers to vice.
Those who love understanding, and call wisdom their sister, are acknowledged by our Savior himself as his dearest relations. When we familiarize ourselves to wisdom, and treat her as a kinswoman — we shall find ourselves great gainers by it. She will preserve us from the immoral woman, and from her flatteries. The charms of wisdom will sink her beauty into deformity. The music of wisdom's voice will render us deaf to the most inviting eloquence of her who would tempt us to forget the covenant of our God. Her lips drop as a honey-comb — but wisdom assures us that her end is bitter as wormwood.
But those who reject wisdom, will find this tempter too cunning for them. Of this Solomon gives us a proof from his own observation. He was a wise observer of men and their ways, and the result of his observation, as well as the wisdom which he learned by experience, he has communicated for our caution and instruction.
Verse 6-10."At the window of my house I looked out through the lattice. I saw among the simple, I noticed among the young men — a youth who lacked judgment. He was going down the street near her corner, walking along in the direction of her house at twilight, as the day was fading, as the dark of night set in. Then out came a woman to meet him, dressed like a prostitute and with crafty intent!"
Though this story were to be considered as a parable, the instruction it contains is grounded on the observation of Solomon. He was, no doubt, acquainted with many who owed their ruin to the arts which are here described. People of every age, and gender, and condition, ought to watch against the temptations incident to their particular situations, for the great master of deceit knows how to suit his temptations to the different tempers and circumstances of men.
Young people, whose passions are warm and whose experience is little — are easily seduced into those sins which gratify the lusts of the flesh. The man whom Solomon observed going towards the house of the immoral woman, was a young man. He was void of understanding, for he had not supplied the lack of experience on his own part, by the instructions of the aged, or of the word of God.
If young men would be prevailed on to read and study the Book of Proverbs, they would not deserve to be classed among the simple ones — for it gives wisdom to the simple, and to the young man knowledge and discretion.
This young man had no intention to pollute his body with acts of wickedness, (verse 21.) — but in the evening he wished to have a little amusement; and, forgetful of the danger of going near the dwellings of the wicked — he went in the way that leads to the harlot's house!
We ought daily to pray that we may be preserved from running into temptation; for if we invite our enemies to spread their snares for us — then how can we expect to escape? The time of work was over; and for the purpose of recruiting our strength and minds, a little evening's relaxation is allowable. Those amusements, however, that lead us into the company of the wicked, are exceedingly dangerous.
In our evening walks, let us avoid the places where we are likely to meet with devils, possessed indeed of human shapes — but not of human hearts!
Isaac goes out at the evening-tide, to converse with himself and his God, and God sends him a virtuous wife.
This poor simpleton goes out to walk in the purlieus of vice, and, behold, he meets with a common harlot, dressed out with that gaudiness of attire which befitted her wicked dispositions — for sometimes the dress of the female is like the sign-post hung out before the house, telling what is within. Her heart was subtle, for she possessed the art as well as the venom of the old serpent! Her temperament accorded with her dress and her heart.
Verse 11, 12."She is loud and defiant, her feet never stay at home; now in the street, now in the squares, at every corner she lurks." Her vociferous tongue is the token of her imperious and stubborn spirit. She loves to reign, and cannot brook subjection to the guide of her youth; thus exemplifying a spirit completely opposite to those godly women who call their husbands lord. But clamorous and stubborn as she is at home, (where indeed she is seldom to be found), she has the art, when she comes abroad, to fashion her speech to her designs.
With soothing words and insinuating flattery, she seduces the unhappy victim of her wiles. She is fierce, like a tiger — but when a purpose is to be gained, can assume all the meekness of a lamb. She hates her own house, because she abhors useful labor, and holds her husband in detestation; but she is still roaming about those places where she may meet unwary travelers. Like a wild beast of the desert, she constantly prowls about those places where a prey may be expected.
Let women that desire to be thought virtuous, be keepers at home! Let them beware of eating the bread of idleness, which, though not always, is oftentimes the companion of profligacy, and never the attendant of virtue.
Thus was the unwary youth caught by one but too well versed in the arts of seduction.
Verse 13-20."She took hold of him and kissed him and with a brazen face she said: I have fellowship offerings at home; today I fulfilled my vows. So I came out to meet you; I looked for you and have found you! I have covered my bed with colored linens from Egypt. I have perfumed my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. Come, let's drink deep of love till morning; let's enjoy ourselves with love! My husband is not at home; he has gone on a long journey. He took his purse filled with money and will not be home till full moon."
Modesty is the lovely ornament of the female gender — and nothing can be more hateful than a woman that has renounced it. When this fence of virtue is demolished, profligacy is the natural and unavoidable consequence. The words and the behavior of this abandoned creature are alike shameless. Yet, with marvelous inconsistency, she pretends to be religious. The feast which she intends for her lover, is that part of the peace-offerings which, according to the law, she had reserved for herself and her friends, after paying her vows to the Lord.
It is strange to tell — and yet certainly true, that there are people who endeavor to join together the service of God and Belial. They must have their passions gratified, and in all other things they will be obedient to the dictates of conscience. But those who think that they may sometimes eat a little poison, provided they take wholesome food at other times — and yet live and enjoy tolerable health, are not more foolish.
God is glorious in showing mercy to sinners — but he will show none to sin. She pretends a special and tender regard for this miserable youth, whom she wishes to draw into her snares, and has the address to avail herself of an accidental meeting for the proof of it.
Words are very cheap, and the warmest professions of kindness are for the most part the most insincere. The old serpent made use of this artifice to deceive our common mother, Eve. There is nothing that renders the young a more easy prey to deceivers, than their inexperience of the emptiness of the professions of many.
This abandoned woman artfully entangles the heart of the simple youth, by promising him everything that can afford delight to any of his senses. She will entertain him with the delicate provision of which feasts were made, after performing the ceremonies of religion. His eyes shall be entertained with the sight of furniture, equally valuable for its materials and workmanship. The bed is decked with the finest linen, and the whole house perfumed with fragrances, emitted by the most fragrant flowers. All these pleasures, she informs him, may be enjoyed in the most perfect security, for her husband is gone far from home; and it is certain that he will not return until the time appointed, for he has a great deal of business to transact, and has carried a great deal of money with him, to bear his expenses, and to employ in trade.
Beware of those sins that are represented to you as pleasant sins. They are more dangerous than others, because they most easily gain the heart, and most powerfully guard it against repentance. Eve found that the pleasure of forbidden fruit was only an introduction to horror and remorse! Our hearts must be guarded against the admission of sin, by stronger motives than the fear of detection and disgrace; for artful solicitors to evil will easily baffle such restraints as these.
Joseph might have expected his master's disfavor by complying with the desires of his mistress — but the motive that induced him to decline her company was irresistible, "How can I do this great wickedness — and sin against God?"
But the unhappy subject of the wise man's story was not a Joseph.
Verse 21."With persuasive words she led him astray — she seduced him with her smooth talk!" There is a force in words, which it is often almost impossible to resist.
Good words have a wonderful virtue in them to work upon the mind, and a great part of the good which we are called to do in the world, is to be accomplished by means of that little member — the tongue.
But corrupt minds are often found to have greater influence in persuading men to sin, because human nature is depraved, and needs only a temptation to draw men to the practice of the worst of evils! No words have greater force in them to persuade men to sin, than the flatteries of the immoral woman. Therefore the apostle Paul, who directs us to strive against sin, calls loudly to us to flee youthful lusts. Such lusts can scarcely be conquered but by flight, because the temptations to them, when they meet with a simple mind and an impure heart — are like sparks of fire lighting upon fully dry stubble!
The force that is in the tongue of the immoral woman, will not excuse the deluded youth; for his yielding to her is to be attributed to the depravity of his own heart, which inclines him to prefer the advice of a wicked woman, to the counsels of the Supreme and Eternal Wisdom.
When a thief is arraigned before a magistrate, he is not allowed to escape punishment, because it appears that he had such a propensity to steal, that he could not find in his heart to resist the influence of a temptation.
Verse 22, 23."All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter, like a deer stepping into a noose — till an arrow pierces his liver, like a bird darting into a snare, little knowing it will cost him his life!"
Poor deluded creature! The cursed enchantress persuaded him that she would conduct him to a paradise; but he soon finds his feet entangled in the stocks, and bound with fetters of iron! He is more brutish than the ox, which will not without reluctance go to the place of slaughter — but must be forced and goaded onward by its driver. He is sillier than a bird, which will not sit to be shot — but flies from the appearance of danger. Whereas he willfully sets himself up as a mark for the arrows of divine justice!
A bird may indeed fly into the snare, for it has not the gift of reason — but for men to hasten into a snare, there is no excuse. God has made them wiser than the birds of Heaven.
It was a good maxim, said to be delivered by an eastern sage, "Do nothing until you have well considered the end of it." The judgment to come will be soon present, and by the exercise of reason and faith, we should make it now present to us. The pleasures of sin will then be seen in a very different light. They will appear to be remorse and anguish, varnished over with a little transient pang of delight that never reaches the heart, or at least plays only on the surface of it.
Were a man to live as long as Methuselah, and spend all his days in the highest delights of sin — one hour of the anguish of Hell which must follow, will far outweigh them.
What must we do in order to avoid that infatuation which is so common, and which is attended with consequences so awful?
Verse 24, 25."Now then, my sons, listen to me; pay attention to what I say. Do not let your heart turn to her ways or stray into her paths!" Let us give the most earnest heed to these warnings, that are addressed to us with such urgent and repeated importunity — and let us guard our hearts and ways with all diligence. Indulgence given to any impure imagination, is an indication of a sensual heart, and an introduction to a licentious behavior — which will in all probability lead to a miserable end!
Verse 26, 27."Many are the victims she has brought down; her slain are a mighty throng. Her house is a highway to Hell, leading down to the chambers of death!" When but one of the disciples was to betray Christ — all of them were anxious lest they should fall into such a horrid sin. When not a small number — but multitudes, have fallen by the force of temptation into immorality, and when the same depraved disposition continues in men, and the same temptations expose them to danger — shall we not fear, and depart from the evil?
Men have been wounded and slain by the arts of the immoral woman, who seemed to possess resolution and strength to support themselves against the most dangerous assaults. David was sorely wounded — and Sampson was slain. When cedars are shaken and fall — it is time for the fir trees to be afraid. It is a dangerous piece of self-confidence in us to imagine, that we are possessed of more strength than Sampson, or endowed with more steady virtue than David.
Immorality is not the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit — but it is ordinarily a sin unto death. He who has entered on a course of it, is on a staircase that leads down to death and Hell! The descent makes the brain so giddy, that power is seldom left to make a timely retreat. They are gross self-flatterers, who imagine that they may go on for a time in sensuality, and stop short, and repent when they please. Who but God can say to the waves of sin, "Hitherto shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud swellings be stayed!"
David repented, and was pardoned, and so we hope was Sampson.
The three children were cast alive into a burning fiery furnace, and came out unsinged — but we will not cast ourselves into the fire, in hope that the same miracle will be wrought for our deliverance. May the Lord keep us from temptation, and pluck out hardened sensualists as brands out of the fire!