My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee;
This is only one passage out of many in which wisdom is connected with religion, in which it is asserted that a religious fear of God is the first step in true wisdom, and that he who would know God aright must love wisdom, and humbly and vigorously seek after her.
I. Even taking the lowest view of things, that is only a selfish view, looking only to what is to be gained, making it only a matter of profit and loss, the religious man is the wise man. For it has been often argued, that even though a man who gives his mind to religion be wrong, yet he loses nothing in the end; he has had his own happiness here, and has trodden the weary vale of life buoyed up by the expectation of a glorious resurrection morning. But if we think of another life, which is the happier then? If the religious man be right, what becomes of the irreligious?
II. Religion is wisdom and ungodliness folly, because the religious man is concerned with far grander and more exalted things than any other man. The principal attribute of a wise discerning man is to be able to see things as they really are, to pierce through outside appearances, and get at the heart of things, and not be cheated by sham outsides; and, therefore, when a man is deceived by the show of the world, and believes its promises, and lays up his treasure here, and thinks his treasure real and safe, I think that the man is in reality weak in judgment and childish in his way of viewing things. I can see no wisdom in him, but quite the reverse.
III. Wisdom is spoken of as a thing that must be laboured for; it is not to be sought merely for amusement, but the search is to be the very business of man's life; there is no point more clearly laid down, none more insisted on, than the necessity of exertion in the pursuit of wisdom. There are lessons enough in the Book of God for every day of the longest life, and he who puts off learning them will find that they will press heavily upon him when he has the least power to learn. The wisdom we are to seek is the result of many actions; almost every act tells one way or another, tends either to wisdom or folly.
Bishop Harvey Goodwin, Parish Sermons, 1st series, p. 239.
References: Proverbs 2:1-9.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 52. Proverbs 2:1-15.—Outline Sermons to Children, p. 65.
Proverbs 2:2-5I. Solomon's meaning is, that we are to begin life by fearing God, without understanding it; as a child obeys his parents without understanding the meaning of their commands. If we do not always know the reason at first, we shall know it in due time, and get, so Solomon says, to understand the fear of the Lord. In due time we shall see from experience that we are in the path of life.
II. This is the secret of life—to believe that God is your Father, schooling and training you from your cradle to your grave; and then to please Him and obey Him in all things, lifting up daily your hands and thankful heart, entreating Him to purge the eyes of your soul, and give you the true wisdom, which is to see all things as they really are, and as God Himself sees them. If you do that, you may believe that God will teach you more and more how to do, in all the affairs of life, that which is right in His sight, and, therefore, good for you. He will reward you by making you more and more partakers of His Holy Spirit and of truth, by which, seeing everything as it really is, you will at last—if not in this life, still in the life to come—grow to see God Himself, who has made all things according to His own eternal mind, that they may be a pattern of His unspeakable glory; and beyond that, who needs to see? For to know God and to see God is eternal life itself.
C. Kingsley, The Good News of God, p. 204
References: Proverbs 2:4.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. i., p. 224. Proverbs 2:4, Proverbs 2:5.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 88.
Proverbs 2:6Religion may be properly considered in relation to the ends of study, and to the spirit in which these ends are to be pursued.
I. Education ought to discipline and to strengthen the powers of the mind. This is the real object of all study. Men are to be prepared for their work. The best student is the man who is most, not the man who has learned most. No good student will neglect any side of his being. He must have fulness of nature, wideness of capacity; all that God has given him must receive its due regard.
II. It is here that the subject of religion comes to be considered by the student. The nature which he possesses is distinctly religious—that is to say, he has capacities and powers which have relation to the Supreme Being, and which require training and discipline equally with all the others. Man is naturally formed for God, and if a man does not attend to that faculty whereby he regards God and can apprehend Him, he neglects that part of himself which is most important and most influential.
III. Consider the influences which religion exerts upon the student. (1) It renders him reverent. Nothing is so unsuitable to the man who desires a cultivated mind as arrogance and self-esteem. All wisdom is humble. Religion and its duties produce reverence. The religious man recognises the constant presence of God. The world to him becomes a temple, and every duty is a sacrifice. All objects of study with such a man ascend towards God, and shine in the light of the Divine throne. (2) Another element of the studious nature is the harmony which subsists between the different powers of the soul. Man cannot gain intellectual vigour when his whole being is torn asunder by conflicting forces. Outward physical quietness is the usually necessary condition of study. Inward spiritual peace is as needful. Religion will give this. Nothing in our nature so tends to preserve the balance and equipoise of the whole. And how is this religious life sustained, except by the knowledge of Him who is the express image of the Father, and the shining ray of the central light of God? To the student especially does Christ appeal. His religion is the religion of intelligence. He is the Word. We are to know Him, and through Him to know God.
L. D. Bevan, Sermons to Students, p. 9 (see also Christian World Pulpit, vol. vi., p. 337).
References: Proverbs 2:10, Proverbs 2:11.—Old Testament Outlines, p. 156. Proverbs 2:12-19.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 97.
Proverbs 2:10-11I. If we look at the teaching of Scripture upon the subject of Christian humility, we find that its two main characteristics are: (1) distrust of self and of purely human wisdom; (2) trust in, and gratitude to, God as the Giver of all good gifts. From these qualities, when carried into practice, spring modesty and forbearance, and consideration in our dealings with each other; a devotion to, and worship of, Him to whom we acknowledge that all we have is due. Christian humility then, in its widest acceptation, is the attribute alike of a good citizen and a good Christian. It summarises, so to speak, and gathers into one focus that duty to man and duty to God which our Lord Himself, the pattern standard of humility, declared to be the sum total of Christian practice. It is the crowning grace of every relation of human life: in young and old, in teacher and in learner, in master and in servant, in parent and in child, at the councils of statesmen, in busy scenes of merchandise and industry, or at little children's play.
II. We do not, of course, suppose that humility, unlike any other virtue, has not its limits. Obedience may be slavish and unreasoning; self-effacement may cover a shrinking from responsibility; self-sacrifice may even be quixotic and useless. Childlike humility is indeed a crown of human character, a necessary ingredient in human perfection; but it may not stand in the way of Christian zeal for high and noble objects; it may not bar the path of Christian duty by encouraging weakness and irresolution. Shrink not from self-assertion in the cause of good when once you have ascertained that it is the cause of good, and not the cause of self; let not humility stay your hand from the plough when there is hard, rough soil of evil lives and evil habits to be broken up, misery to be relieved, degradation to be raised, and the very germs of civilisation to be implanted; in that great field of labour, whether in heathen lands afar, or amid scarcely less heathen scenes at home, where the labourers are so few and the work so great, and where so much has to be done to prepare the soil before there can be even a distant hope of harvest.
T. L. Papillon, Oxford and Cambridge Undergraduates' Journal, Feb. 28th, 1884.
Reference: Proverbs 2:10-22,—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i.. p. 64.
Proverbs 2:17I. There is a season when youth becomes independent and intolerant of control, when gentle guidance is mistaken for love of interference and of power, when the youth and the maiden think scorn to follow the ways and maxims of the parent, the friend, the teacher, and take pride in forming a code and gathering maxims of their own; in speaking their own words and walking after the light of their own eyes. These are critical days in every man's life—days which determine whether he is to be a pilgrim to the light, or to drop down into the darkness—days when he is made or marred for ever. On which side am I? Which have I chosen for my lot? Is the guide of my youth still my guide?—that soft voice still my monitor? Is my father's God my God for ever and ever, and have I taken Him for my guide unto death?
II. Notice the reason of this woful departure and falling away: "She forgetteth the covenant of her God." The solemn fact that God's vows are upon her is suffered to pass from her into forgetfulness. She saith in her heart, "There is no God."
And if she, one of ancient Israel was bound to God, by a covenant, what shall we say in this matter? The covenant of our God began in our earliest days. Baptism and confirmation were to us seals of the covenant, most solemn and important. You bound yourselves to forsake God's enemies; you bound yourselves to cleave to Him and serve Him. (1) We are bound by that covenant to stand aloof from Satan. How are we situated with regard to the great enemy of our souls? He is ever busy around us; knowing our weak points, urging our evil tempers, suggesting, prompting, decoying us into sin. Are we his enemies, or are we in league with him? (2) We are to stand aloof from the world. Those who are bound by God's covenant should not run to the excess prevalent in the ungodly world, in adornment of person, in frivolity of amusement, in countenancing any of those employments or meetings where merely self-display is the object; that the person, and the household, and the furniture, and the equipage of the Christian should be modest, unobtrusive, showing the conscientious stewardship of one who has a neighbour to benefit and edify, and a God to glorify, and not the lavish expenditure of one who lives for himself, or for his family, or for the world.
H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. vii., p. 16.
References: Proverbs 3:1.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. xiii., p. 269; W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 106. Proverbs 3:1-4.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. vi., p. 83. Proverbs 3:1-10.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 75.
So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding;
Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding;
If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures;
Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.
For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: he is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of his saints.
Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity; yea, every good path.
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul;
Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee:
To deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things;
Who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness;
Who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked;
Whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths:
To deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words;
Which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God.
For her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead.
None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life.
That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous.
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it.
But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.