William Nicholson, 1862
"Those who seek me early shall find me." Proverbs 8:17
The importance of early piety is frequently represented in the Scriptures. The mind of Solomon in his declining life was deeply impressed with the subject. He then doubtless thought of the follies of his youthful days, and the degeneracy of his manhood, which occasioned bitter repentance.
What advantages resulting from early piety had he lost!
What sins had he committed!
What punishment had he incurred!
No wonder that he should speak with so much pathos to his son Rehoboam: "My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart!" Proverbs 3:1. "My son, pay attention to my wisdom, listen well to my words of insight!" Proverbs 5:1
He well knew that it was easier to seek the Lord in early life, than in the time of old age, and that there was a greater possibility of finding him in the days of youth.
It is generally supposed that, by Wisdom, in this chapter, Christ, the personal Wisdom of God, is to be understood — who is called the Word, the Word of God, and the Wisdom of God.
I. What is Implied in Seeking the Lord?
1. A deep conviction of the need of Christ. Man has lost the Divine favor — by reason of his apostasy, he is excluded from it. He is in a lost condition. The Scripture representations of man's salvation imply man's apostasy, ruin, and exposure to death and damnation.
Salvation implies a state of danger.
Redemption implies a state of captivity.
Reconciliation implies a state of enmity.
Christ's bearing the curse implies that man was under that curse.
This is the state of all, whether old or young, etc. Such need pardon, regeneration, and acceptance with God.
2. A knowledge of the Divine method of seeking Divine acceptance. This is prescribed in the Scriptures alone. There Jesus is exhibited as the way, the truth, and the life — and as the Redeemer — the Savior of sinners. The nature of his sacrifice must be understood — that he offered himself to God for guilty man; and that no other method can be valid.
Blessed truth! There is a full and free salvation in Christ for the most guilty sinners! You young people, beware of seducers!
Superstition, from her temple, prescribes gloomy and toilsome ceremonies and penances as the price of salvation.
Pleasure, looking from her window, laughs in the inquirer's face, and says, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die!" Isaiah 22:13
False teachers, sitting down in the chair of Moses, cry, "Reform your habits, and God will be at peace with you."
The only safe and infallible directions are, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved!"
3. The actual use of the appointed method of salvation. That plan is approved, admired, loved. He who seeks the Divine favor comes to Christ, believes in him, and has no confidence in the flesh.
4. A conviction that Christ alone can yield substantial happiness. His favor is life, and his loving-kindness is better than life. The pleasures of sense, the amusements of the world, earthly possessions, honor, pomp, and power — can yield no real and lasting satisfaction. It is only to be found in Christ, "the chief among ten thousand," etc., of whom true Christians can say, "Whom have I in Heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever!" Psalm 73:25-26
Let the young remember that if they could rush to the enjoyment of all the pleasures which the world can give, the only result would be a conviction like that expressed by Solomon, "Meaningless! Meaningless! Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless." Ecclesiastes 1:2
5. Ardent desire and firm resolution to obtain a saving interest in Christ. It is a business respecting the welfare of my immortal spirit, therefore I must seek Christ earnestly. I can never be happy without him, without his pardon, his Spirit, etc., therefore I will seek him. Without him . . .
my life will be but a dungeon,
my deathbed will be a scene of horrors, and
my future state will be the blackness of darkness forever.
I will therefore seek the Lord, while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near.
II. Those Who Seek the Lord Shall Find Him.
1. This is certain. "He never said to the house of Jacob, seek you me in vain." It is his glory to save — it was the design of his incarnation, sufferings, and death. His power and his willingness to save, are proclaimed in all the promises and invitations of the Gospel.
2. Those who find him, obtain all spiritual blessings. Deliverance from guilt and condemnation, and from the terrors of the wrath to come. They enjoy peace with God, and receive grace to help in every time of need. They are adopted into God's family, and have communion with the King of Heaven. They enjoy all the ordinances and privileges of the Church.
3. Those who find Christ are honorably and usefully employed by him. As soldiers to fight his battles; as laborers, servants, etc.
4. Those who find Christ, are possessed of the certain hope of living and reigning with him forever. "You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones!" Luke 22:28-30
III. The Importance and Advantages of Seeking Christ Early.
1. Christ takes peculiar pleasure in the consecration of the young to his service. "I love those who love me." The great Shepherd of the sheep gathers the lambs with his arm, Isaiah 40:11. In the days of his flesh he loved the young, Mark 10:14, 16. He patronized the children's hosannahs, Matthew 21:15, 16. The love of God to the young, is expressed by the love which the father had to his prodigal son, Luke 15:17-20. Hence the favor of God to Josiah, 2 Kings 22:19, 20.
2. Youth is the most favorable season for seeking the Lord. The cares of business, which occupy so much of the time and the thoughts of men in after life, and so often limit and mar their devotions, have not yet entangled the young. The world cannot oppose them in such a variety of ways, and to such a degree as it will afterwards. Light are their hearts, compared with those which are overcharged with the cares of this life. The sooner, young friends, you seek him — the less stupid and hardened you will be in sin; the less unyielding to the impressions of his grace; the less confirmed in the habits of sin; the less liable to the temptations of Satan, etc.
3. The young are more adapted for usefulness in the kingdom of Christ than those who repent at a later period of life. When an old man is converted, the best of his days, the strength of his mind, the fervency of his desires, are in a great measure expended. He has nothing but the blind and the lame to present for sacrifice. But it is quite otherwise with the young. What knowledge and experience, may they accumulate in the morning of their days! If they should live to threescore years and ten — what effective service may they give to Christ!
4. The longer a person lives without Christ, the greater the probability that he will never be converted at all. Sin is of a hardening character. How few are converted in middle life — how fewer still in the time of old age! When the flower of youth is gone, there is but little hope of a person's conversion and salvation. The far greater part of God's people have sought the Lord in early life, before they have plunged deep into the cares of the world, and it seldom happens that anyone is converted at a later period.
5. Now is the only time of which you can be certain. "Boast not yourself of tomorrow," etc. You are here today — tomorrow you may become a corpse! Many who have been as healthy, as strong, and as mirthful as you are — have been taken away with a stroke. Now therefore is the accepted time, now is the day of salvation! "Today, if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts." Death generally comes at a time least expected.
1. Despise not the voice of Wisdom, as given through Solomon. "Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see — but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment!" Ecclesiastes 11:9
2. How pleasing must be the reflections of those who sought the Lord early, and have continued to seek him! "He will not cast you of at the time of old age, nor forsake you when your strength is gone." Psalm 71:9. He will be with you to old age. "Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you!" Isaiah 46:4
3. Let the aged begin to seek the Lord, and not despair.