Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
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. (Vers. 2, 3.) On raised ground, in lonely paths (ver. 2), in the open air, in the field and forest; and. (ver. 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 (ver. 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 ver. 6), and so commends itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
4. It is disinterested, free from sophistry and compromise (ver. 7).
5. It is just - correct and accurate in knowledge of human nature and of Divine things (ver. 8). And thus it is:
6. Acceptable and irresistible by the "honest and good heart" (ver. 9). - J.
I. IT IS AUDIBLE TO EVERY ONE. "Doth not Wisdom cry," etc.? (ver. 1; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23).
II. IT IS URGENT AND IMPORTUNATE. (Vers. 2-4; see homily on Proverbs 1:20-23.)
III. IT MAKES ITS APPEAL TO UNIVERSAL MAN. (Vers. 4, 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 (vers. 6, 7).
2. To our love of that which is true (ver. 7).
V. IT IS AN APPRECIABLE THING. (Ver. 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 (ver. 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. (Ver. 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)
I. IT ENDOWS WITH THE WEALTH WHICH IS THE PRODUCT OF VIRTUE. (Vers. 20, 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. (Vers. 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. (Ver. 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. (Vers. 10, 11, 18, 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.
I. THE MANNER OF HIS TEACHING. (Vers. 1-3) He "spake openly to the world, ... taught in the synagogue, and in the temple," etc. (John 18:20; see Luke 4:15; John 7:14, 26, 28; Mark 6:34; Matthew 5:1, 2).
II. HIS APPEAL TO ALL CLASSES AND CONDITIONS OF MEN. (Vers. 4, 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. (Vers. 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. (Ver. 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, 32; Matthew 7:28, 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. (Ver. 17.) (See succeeding homily.)
VI. HIS INCOMPARABLE WORTH. (Vers. 10, 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. (Vers. 18-21.) The fruit of the service of Christ is honour, joy (including peace), righteousness (ver. 20), the "inheritance which is incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away" (ver. 21; 1 Peter 1:4). - C.
I. SHE APPEALS TO COMPARISON. (Vers, 10, 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, 15).
II. SHE APPEALS TO ASSOCIATION. (Ver. 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. (Vers. 18, 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. (Vers. 15, 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. (Ver. 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. (Vers. 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 (ver. 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.
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, 24).
4. It prepares for the enjoyment of the treasures which are in heaven (Matthew 6:19-21). - C.
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, 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,
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, 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.
I. SHE IS OF THE DIVINE BEGINNINGS OR ELEMENTS. (Ver. 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. (Ver. 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 (ver. 30), and was in delight day by day (ver. 30), "playing before him always; playing on the circle of the earth, and I had my delight in men" (ver. 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" (vers. 3-6).
III. WISDOM'S APPEAL AND PROMISES, (Vers. 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 (vers. 32, 34). Life in all senses, intensive and extensive (ver. 35). Favour with Jehovah (ver. 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, 22; Proverbs 7:27; comp. Ezekiel 18:21). - J.
I. THAT THE WISDOM EVERYWHERE ILLUSTRATED DWELT IN THE DIVINE ONE FROM ETERNITY. (Vers. 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" (vers. 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 Psalm 104:24).
III. THAT THE WISDOM OF HIS WORK WAS A CONSTANT SOURCE OF SATISFACTION TO THE MIND OF GOD. (Ver. 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 (Genesis 1:31; Psalm 155:31). 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. (Ver. 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, 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.
I. HIS ETERNITY. (Vers. 22-26.)
II. HIS SONSHIP. (Vers. 22, 30.)
V. HIS SUPREME INTEREST IN MAN. (Ver. 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.
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" (ver. 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" (ver. 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" (vers. 32, 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 (ver. 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" (ver. 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. (vers. 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 (ver. 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.