The People's Bible by Joseph Parker
My son, keep my words, and lay up my commandments with thee.A Pitiful Picture
The father gathers himself together as for a final effort to rescue his son from the temptations and perils of life. The appeal really begins with the twenty-fourth verse of the preceding chapter. By a description the most vivid and graphic ever drawn by human genius, the young man is warned of a vital danger. The only security of the "son" is to keep the commandment of the father, and to make his law as the apple of the eye. The father exhorts the son to bind the paternal commandments upon his fingers. It appears that the thong of the phylactery for the left arm was wound seven times round it and as many times round the middle finger. This represents the idea of trusting to other than merely human power, and being well prepared against the day of danger. It was not enough in the judgment of the father that the young man should be warned against evil, the wise father proceeds to fill up the very mind and soul of his child with wise words and useful occupations. "Say unto wisdom, Thou art my sister; and call understanding thy kinswoman." Thus the negative and the positive are happily combined in the school of Scriptural teaching. The greatest danger of all is a vacant mind, and a heart that has no supreme affection and law is exposed to the seductions of sense. Our only security is in high and useful employment. We ought to be able to say with Nehemiah to every tempter and to every enemy, "I am doing a great work, and cannot come down." The enemy is always on the alert, and, as represented by the figure of the text, night is as day, and day is as night; every form of blandishment and eloquence is pressed into the unholy service, and the demon-possessed heart is resolute upon the accomplishment of one object. The process which is described vividly represents the reality of life. First, we are accustomed to the sight of evil; secondly, we become enamoured of it; thirdly, we are prepared to listen to its voice; fourthly, we are entitled to look upon its charms, and then suddenly, if after such a process there can be any sudden action, we lose our foothold and destroy our own soul. No man can take fire in his bosom without his clothes being burned, nor can a man walk upon hot coals without his feet being scorched. The pain immediately follows the pleasure. The drop from earth to hell is instantaneous. Awful, indeed, is the position of tempted lives. That which is revolting is hidden, and only that which is beautiful and fascinating is allowed to be seen. The bed decked with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt, may be spoken of with artistic appreciation, and taste itself may delight in the perfume of myrrh, aloes, and cinnamon; but gates of pearl may open upon perdition, and at the end of the flowery way may be found the very gulf of hell. Pitiful is the picture of the man who is allured by mighty temptations. "He goeth as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; till a dart strike through his liver, as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life." It is a blind irrational ism which attempts to ignore all the machinery of hell which is working on the very surface of the earth. We may draw down the blind, and exclude the light, but the mighty engine is working to the destruction of all that is noble in youth, beautiful in manners, and hopeful in progress. The wiser piety will go out and confront the evil, exposing its subtle policy and its cruel design, and speaking about it with the holy audacity which can utter even corrupt words without being corrupted by their pollution.
"Hearken unto me now therefore, O ye children, and attend to the words of my mouth. Let not thine heart decline to her ways, go not astray in her paths. For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death" (Proverbs 7:24-27).
In the twenty-seventh verse there is an energetic expression full of mournful suggestion, "Her house is the way to hell." Observe, it is not the place itself but the way to it! In this case what is the difference between the way and the destination? Verily, the one is as the other, so much so, that he that has entered the way may reckon upon it as a fatal certainty that he will accomplish the journey and be plunged into "the chamber of death." No man means to go the whole length. A man's will is not destroyed in an instant; it is taken from him, as it were, little by little, and almost imperceptibly; he imagines that he is as strong as ever, and says that he will go out and shake himself as at other times, not knowing that the spirit of might has gone from him. Is there any object on earth more pathetic than that of a man who has lost his power of resistance to evil, and is dragged on an unresisting victim whithersoever the spirit of perdition may desire to take him? Like the young man in the parable, he is taken to the fire and to the water, and the infernal spirit does what he pleases with the victim. It is true that the young man can plead the power of fascination: all that music, and colour, and blandishment, and flattery can do has been done; the cloven foot has been most successfully concealed; the speech has been all garden and paradise and sweetness and joy; the word hell or perdition has not been so much as mentioned. The young man might have been on the way to heaven, so flowery was the path and so many birds sang blithely in the blue air as he passed along as upon wings rather than upon feet. How could such a path lead to aught less than a home beautiful as summer and blessed as heaven! This is what is meant by seduction; leading a man out of himself and from himself, onward and onward by carefully graded processes until fascination has accomplished its work and bound the consenting soul in eternal bondage. Sometimes indeed men have awakened to the reality of their condition, and with heartrending cries have appealed for help. Then it has been found to be too late. Are there any words in the speech of man so solemn and so awful as the words "too late" when addressed to the soul that feels the extremity of pain? Whilst we have no right to dilate upon this possible aspect of human experience merely for the sake of mocking human agony and despair, we are entitled to dwell upon it in the hope that the tempted and imperilled souls of the young may be alarmed and excited to consideration. That there is a hell no man of experience can deny,—a hell here; a hell of remorse, self-reproach, appalling memory, hopelessness—a despair compared with which all darkness is as midday. How difficult to forewarn men with any success! The exhorter himself has been overwhelmed, the teacher victimised, the saintliest soul is conscious of a ministry not divine. Still on every hand the word of exhortation and persuasion must be spoken, and the prayer of entreaty must be breathed with eagerness and passion if haply one soul may be rescued from the way to hell and the chambers of death.
"I have decked my bed with coverings of tapestry, with carved works, with fine linen of Egypt" (Proverbs 7:16).—Baron du Tott gives a remarkable account of such a bed as is indicated in this passage. "The time for taking our repose was now come, and we were conducted into another large room, in the middle of which was a kind of bed, without bedstead or curtains. Though the coverlet and pillows exceeded in magnificence the richness of the sofa, which likewise ornamented the apartment, I foresaw that I could expect but little rest on this bed, and had the curiosity to examine its make in a more particular manner. Fifteen mattresses of quilted cotton, about three inches thick, placed one upon another, formed the groundwork, and were covered by a sheet of Indian linen, sewed on the last mattress. A coverlet of green satin, adorned with gold embroidered in embossed work, was in like manner fastened to the sheets, the ends of which, turned in, were sewed down alternately. Two large pillows of crimson satin, covered with the like embroidery, in which there was no want of gold or spangles, rested on two cushions of the sofa, brought near to serve for a back, and intended to support our heads. The taking of the pillows entirely away would have been a good resource if we had had any bolster; and the expedient of turning the other side upwards having only served to show that they were embroidered in the same manner on the bottom, we at last determined to lay our handkerchiefs over them, which, however, did not prevent our being very sensible of the embossed ornaments underneath."