A Practical Exposition of the Book of Proverbs
By George Lawson, 1821
The happiness of the followers of Christ is not entirely reserved to the eternal world. Even in this life, they are admitted to a feast of fat things.
Verse 1."Wisdom has built her house, she has hewn out her seven pillars." The church of Christ is a house, wherein he dwells and takes pleasure. It must be a glorious edifice, for wisdom is the builder of it. It is a strong and durable building, for it has many pillars, hewed out, not by, the wisest of kings — but by the wisdom of God. Here there is abundance of soul-nourishing provision; for,
Verse 2."She has prepared her meat and mixed her wine; she has also set her table." We shall surely be satisfied with the fatness of God's house, with that flesh which is given for the life of the world, and with that spiced wine which is the blood of the New Testament. Does Christ give us his own flesh and blood, to nourish and refresh our souls? Then what grace, what comfort, what privilege, will he withhold? He is most willing to communicate this provision to us.
Verse 3."She has sent forth her maidens; she cries upon the highest places of the city." The followers of the Lamb are called virgins, to denote their purity. Ministers also must be pure in their doctrine and behavior. The voice of these maidens, is the voice of that wisdom which sends them. It is she who gives the invitation by their mouth; and she does it in the most public and audible manner, crying with a voice like that of a herald from the highest places of the city.
But who are invited to this feast?
Verse 4, 5."Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed." The simple and unwise are welcomed to this feast. They are called not only by the servants — but by the master of the feast, to partake of these precious provisions. The poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind — those who have no money, and those who have spent all their substance for things that do not profit — are graciously invited to come, and eat and drink abundantly, by receiving Christ and his salvation, as they are freely offered in the gospel. But we cannot be partakers of the Lord's table — and the table of devils. When we come to Jesus by faith, and partake of his precious blessings, we must forsake the society and the course of the foolish.
Verse 6."Leave your foolish ways and you will live; walk in the way of understanding!" The companions of fools shall remain forever in the congregation of the dead. But in the way of understanding there is life, and no death. Do we abhor death, and love life? Then, if we believe the words of Christ, we will forsake the foolish, and go in the path of understanding.
But may we not associate with the foolish, in order to reclaim them. There are two sorts of foolish people. Some have naturally a pliable and modest disposition; though destitute of the grace of God; or though conversant in the ways of sin, they are not yet hardened in sin by long practice. There may be some hope of making good impressions on the minds of such people as these. But there are others who are stubborn and determined sinners. To them, in ordinary cases, there is no hope of doing any good.
Verse 7, 8."Whoever corrects a mocker invites insult; whoever rebukes a wicked man incurs abuse. Do not rebuke a mocker — or he will hate you." If we reprove the profligate sinners that mock at everything sacred, we are not likely to benefit them — but to procure hurt to ourselves. Such men, when we have irritated them by our admonitions, will pry into our characters with all the keenness of malice and revenge. Few characters can stand the scrutiny of a malicious eye. So that instead of serving them, we shall be in danger of losing much of our usefulness to others, by making them our enemies. Yet reproofs are like pearls when they are administered with the meekness of wisdom, and met with an obedient ear.
Verse 8, 9."Rebuke a wise man, and he will love you. Instruct a wise man and he will be wiser still; teach a righteous man and he will add to his learning." There is scarcely a man so wise and holy as not to need instruction and reproof. Wise men are not above reproofs — but they know their need of them, and are disposed to receive them with meekness, and to improve by them, and to love and thank their reprovers. The wise and the just man are the same in the view of Solomon, for this is a fundamental maxim in his writings —
Verse 10."The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; and the knowledge of the holy is understanding." Solomon knew how to appreciate that wisdom which directs men in the prudent management of their own concerns, and in the wise administration of public affairs. But he rightly judged that religion is the true wisdom, and that, compared with it, all other kinds are vanity and folly. He examined with the eye of the prince of philosophers the objects of nature; but the knowledge of the most holy God, was in his estimation true understanding. This kind of knowledge excels the other as much as the light of the sun the glimmer of a glow-worm. He who knows God in truth, is possessed of a never-ending life.
Verse 11."For by me your days shall be multiplied, and the years of your life shall be increased." It is not for God's benefit — but for ours, that he invites us to receive wisdom.
Verse 12."If you are wise — your wisdom will reward you; if you are a mocker — you alone will suffer." God can receive no additions of blessedness by our wisdom, though he delights in it. He cannot lose his glory by our contempt of his gospel and laws. The ministers of wisdom will rejoice in our compliance with their calls — but the profit or the loss of our behavior under a dispensation of the gospel, must be felt by ourselves. Life and death are set before us. May God grant us a disposition to pursue life.
Another offer is made us of entertainment — but alas of how different a kind! It is made by the harlot, against whom we need to be often warned.
Verse 13."The woman Folly is loud; she is undisciplined and without knowledge." She is foolish, ignorant, and stupid to the last degree, for she buys a moment of empty delight — at the expense of everlasting burnings. She is impudent and clamorous. The damned in Hell are afraid that their companions should come to their place of torments. But this shameless creature earnestly calls others to share with her in those pleasures which are followed by everlasting sorrows"
Verse 14, 15."She sits at the door of her house, on a seat at the highest point of the city, calling out to those who pass by, who go straight on their way." They are evil times, when tempters to sin are permitted to hunt so avowedly for prey. Let well-meaning people, in such a time, watch and pray against temptation. These are the people whom the foolish woman solicits, and too often with success.
Verse 16, 17."Let all who are simple come in here!" she says to those who lack judgment. "Stolen water is sweet; food eaten in secret is delicious!" They are surely stupid, who believe that there is any pleasure in those things that are forbidden by God, and afraid to appear in open day. Yet such is the corruption of the hearts of men, that they relish things so contrary to reason, as well as to Scripture. We are naturally prone to things forbidden, and until our souls are renewed by the grace of God — can taste an unaccountable sweetness in that which is poison to the soul" But when we are restored to a sound mind, those delights only will be relished, which consist with a pure conscience, and the dignity of a rational and immortal soul.
It is through blindness and inconsideration, that any man is entangled in the snares of the foolish woman!
Verse 18."But he does not know not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of Hell." We are naturally starving creatures, and cannot find happiness within ourselves. As every man must have food to satisfy the natural cravings of hunger, so every soul must have some gratification to its desires of happiness. Wisdom and folly each spread a feast for men. The question is: Whose guests shall we be? Did we possess any wisdom, or any true and well directed self-love, it might be easily decided.
The entertainments of wisdom, are soul-quickening provision. Those who hear her calls, shall eat that which is good, and their souls shall live forever. The guests of wisdom are in the heights of Heaven. They feast on the hidden manna, and on the fruits of the tree of life.
The provisions of the foolish woman are a deadly, though perhaps a slow poison. Her guests have their portion with the wicked giants, who brought on the world a universal deluge, and with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, who are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire.
Let us consider where Joseph now is, and what blessings are come upon the crown of the head of him who so bravely resisted temptations the most alluring, and the most threatening. Let us, on the other hand, remember Sodom and Gomorrah, and chose our portion with the one or the other.
Be astonished, O heavens! that men should be so cruel to their own souls, as to deliberate a moment in so clear a case. Today let us hear the voice of wisdom.