Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?
Consider (1) the self-assertion of Christ; (2) the bearing of that self-assertion on certain difficulties of our day.
I. The self-assertion of Christ is exhibited in three ways: (1) Christ claims a boundless power of satisfying human wants. He knows sin and sorrow through and through. Yet He never doubts His capacity of giving pardon and peace. (2) Christ claims for Himself the most transcendent ideals. The sun is not too glorious for Him: "I am the Light of the world. The morning star seen by the seer over the Grecian hills is not too fresh and lovely: "I am the Bright and Morning Star." (3) Christ claims the possession of absolute truth by the very form and mode as well as by the substance of His teaching. He does not speak as a technical philosopher. He does not laboriously draw conclusions from syllogisms. He is at the centre of truth. Thus very much of His teaching is conveyed in an oracular form. It is divinely epigrammatic.
II. Consider the bearing of this on the difficulty which seems to be felt with distressing poignancy by many just at present. I mean the tone of much of the record in the Old Testament. (1) The Old Testament is a progressive system. When we are confronted with such objections, we should ask ourselves whether the things objected to form part of that progressive system, taken at a point short of its completion. (2) The Old Testament contains the pathology and diagnosis of sin. Its therapeutics are in the Gospel. Do the things excepted to form part of this pathology? If so, they are necessarily there and necessarily revolting. The Bible if divine, is yet "divine with the imperfections of our life." Its pages are blistered with tears, and dripped with blood. Nay, they are sometimes splashed with mud. For sin is vulgar as well as awful. If it towers at times until it covers us with majestic shadows from awful heights, there are seasons when it grovels upon the dust in its meanness. (3) After all, it is chiefly to the thought of the text that we turn for confirmation. The great self-assertion of the "Amen" is our stay. We take the book as it is from the hand of Him who says, "I am understanding."
Bishop Alexander, The Great Question, p. 45.
Reference: Proverbs 8:15.— J. Andrew, Dundee Pulpit, p. 169.
Proverbs 8:17I. "I love them that love Me." It might be inferred from such words as these, that man must love God as a preliminary to or condition of God's loving man. But the truth is that our love to God is nothing else but the reflection of God's love to us; in no way an earthly production, but is heavenly every way—birth, nurture, end, and aim. God must first love us, so as not merely to surround us with mercies, not merely to make arrangements which render possible our salvation; but so as to enter into our souls, and there re-impress His own image, producing what we naturally have not—a sense of His love by generating our love in return. As we breathe because God hath breathed into us the breath of life, we love because God hath kindled in us a flame of affection; so that there can be no genuine love except as the result of a renewal of nature. When we answer to God's love, becoming new creatures through obeying the motions of His Spirit, and therefore having affections purified and sanctified so that they may fasten themselves once more on the Infinite and Invisible; then, as though He had not loved us before, so entire is the relationship into which we are brought, He speaks in the language of our text, "I love them that love Me."
II. "Those that seek Me early shall find Me." We do not argue from this that, if God have not been sought early it is in vain to seek Him at all. But, nevertheless, the explicit promise is to them that seek God early; and we may not, therefore, doubt that there are advantages to those who begin in their youth, which will always widely remove their case from that of others who give their first years to the world. Consider the motives which should urge the young to seek God early. (1) There is the acknowledged though practically forgotten fact, that the life of the young is as uncertain as that of the old—that health and strength are no security against the speedy approach of death. (2) If the text does not exclude those from finding who only seek at the last, it distinctly implies that they will have much greater difficulty than had they sought early. (3) As men grow older they gradually lose a relish for those enjoyments which have fascinated them in youth; so that they outlive the pleasures for which they have been content to peril their immortality. Is it not to insult God to offer Him the miserable remnant of life which you have kept from Him so long as it was possible to devote it to His enemies? You must seek God early, while there is a sacrifice to be made, while there are passions that may be mortified, advantages which may be resigned, pleasures which may be abandoned.
H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1684.
I. "I love them that love Me." Consider what a blessed thing it must be to be loved by Jesus Christ,—by the Son of God Himself. (1) Jesus Christ is very great. (2) Jesus Christ is very rich. (3) Jesus Christ is very good. (4) He pardons the sins of those whom He loves. (5) He gives them power to become good. (6) He takes care that none whom He loves shall be lost. (7) He is getting ready a place in heaven for those whom He loves.
II. Let us see who are those that Jesus Christ loves. "I love them that love Me." (1) Those who love Jesus Christ believe whatever He says in the Bible. (2) Those who love Jesus Christ try to please Him.
III. How are we to seek Jesus Christ? (1) We must seek Him in His own Book. (2) We must seek Him in His own House. (3) We must seek Him on our knees in prayer.
IV. "They shall find Me." You will find the Lord's presence in your own hearts and minds.
V. "Early." (1) Seeking early is the safest way. (2) Seeking early is the happiest way. (3) Seeking early is the easiest way.
Bishop Ryle, Boys and Girls Playing, p. 19.
Consider the advantages of seeking early after God.
I. There is an incalculable advantage in beginning in season a work which we know to be long and difficult.
II. Another advantage of serving God in our youth is the defence which is thus set up against the encroachments of vice.
III. A third benefit is the promotion of happiness in the family circle, and the beneficent influence thus exerted upon companions and friends.
IV. Another blessing is the indescribable satisfaction which is afforded to parents and friends.
V. A fifth advantage of seeking God in youth is the ready access which it affords to a throne of grace.
VI. Another advantage is that we are thus prepared to meet with a smile the dark frowns of adversity.
VII. We are thus enabled to await, with calm and holy resignation, the coming of death.
J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 319.
References: Proverbs 8:17.—F. Tholuck, Hours of Devotion, p. 189. Proverbs 8:18-21.—W. Arnot, Laws from Heaven, 1st series, p. 202. Proverbs 8:22-31.—Ibid., p. 205. Proverbs 8:22-36.—R. Wardlaw, Lectures on Proverbs, vol. i., p. 195.
Proverbs 8:22-30This is a description of the original solitude of God by a witness, His only-begotten and well-beloved Son.
I. This solitude was serene and happy. Even among men solitude is not always desolation. To make solitude happy two elements are required: first, that the mind be at ease and satisfied with itself; secondly, that it be employed also in some object out of itself. The serenity of God was, so to speak, composed of three elements: perfect self-satisfaction, profound self-contemplation, and the prescience, and in a sense the presence, of all created history, for "known unto God were all His works, from the foundation of the world."
II. But there was society also with God. "I was by Him as one brought up by Him; I was daily His delight," says the Logos. This shows a certain mysterious fellowship subsisting between the various Persons in the Godhead. From the glimpse given in the text of this communion, we gather that it was (1) familiar; (2) had always existed; (3) was incessant; (4) was unspeakably delightful.
III. Let us marvel especially at one part of the Divine employment throughout eternity. That is revealed to have been thinking of, nay, rejoicing in, man. How it elevates our conception of man to think of him forming one of the principal subjects of thought to God in His own serene eternity! And yet, how it humbles us to remember that God then thought of us as fallen, miserable, guilty beings, whom He must redeem from the horrible pit and the miry clay!
IV. Let us remember that while there is a sense in which we are always, there is a sense in which we are never, alone. Every soul is a Juan Fernandez—a solitary island with only one inhabitant; but that inhabitant is God. We must all one day meet this sole and silent one. The "lonely soul must flee to the lonely God."
G. Gilfillan, Alpha and Omega, vol. i., p. 1.
Proverbs 8:23-25Wisdom meant more to the Jews than to us, who have lost the sense of man's unity by subdividing his faculties. It embraced to the Jew the mental and material range of the spiritual life: the ministers and magicians of Pharaoh are wise; so are Solomon and the angels; but also, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom," and the wise man is the ideally good man in Proverbs 16:21, Proverbs 16:23.
I. Wisdom is ever at work in the world. Civilisation is nature inspired by man's wisdom. The Book of Proverbs does little else than honour continuously the victorious mind of man.
II. We find that man is not final—original. A source of wisdom behind is suggested; our partial and fitful intellect points back. God is the fountain; we are the channels. God's wisdom touched the gross chaos with intention, and its epic is the first chapter of Genesis. The only beautiful thing in mechanical and other processes is the reflection of God's wisdom in ours. What a great hoard of humility we should have if this were recognised!
III. We need our beliefs for ordinary life; sorrow is inevitable, and the ghastly thing about it is, that we feel as if it were preordained when we are in it. It is like the mountain shadow, or the crouching lion awaiting the weary pilgrim on the plain. Wisdom has something to say: "I am older than sorrow." She bears testimony to God's plan, to His love, justice, and thoughtfulness. And so in temptation, when the world seems to be spinning a net round us, wisdom soothes us. She is before temptation. This Wisdom is Christ, the "Word" of St. John. What wonder, since "Word" is the utterance of Wisdom! In the Atonement Christ is peculiarly the Wisdom of the world; He conquers a lower obstacle; God's love, before confined, pours into the sinner over a broken barrier.
Phillips Brooks, Oxford Magazine, June 3rd, 1885.
Proverbs 8:29-30I. It is in the active service of life, in the work of the marketplace, in the interchange of thought and the collision of minds differently constituted, that wisdom speaks to us. She comes as with an evangel, which she proclaims to all, which shuts out none but those who shut it out, seeking in her infinite compassion the ignorant and the foolish.
II. Wisdom yearns, as it were, for human sympathy, and the wide spaces of the universe would seem dark and cold to her if man were not there. She "rejoices in the inhabited parts of the earth; "her" delights are with the sons of men."
III. Wisdom and the Eternal Word are one. Christ, who is made unto us sanctification and redemption, is also made unto us Wisdom. This truth suggests counsels, warnings, hopes, encouragements. (1) To many among us who make it their work to be observers of the facts and students of the laws of nature, the truth which is thus revealed gives a new ground for thankfulness and hope. The place whereon they stand is holy ground. All traces of design, order, development, the unfolding of the higher from the lower,—what are these but marks of the Eternal Wisdom manifesting Itself according to Its own determinate counsel and foreknowledge? (3) But it must not be forgotten that the Eternal Word reveals Himself as One whose delights are with the sons of men. It is an evil and hateful thing in His sight when truth is divorced from love; when the dreamer, or the theorist, or the observer, lives in his own lordly pleasure-house of knowledge or of beauty, and shuts out all sympathy with human suffering and human weakness. (3) The identity of the Wisdom of the Book of Proverbs with the Word made flesh tells us of yet another path to win that treasure which is far above rubies—via crucis, via lucis. The path that leads to light and truth and wisdom is no path of pleasantness and ease. "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord." Those who follow Him as witnesses to the truth may well be contented to bear His reproach.
E. H. Plumptre, Theology and Life, p. 161.
References: Proverbs 8:31.—J. Keble, Sermons from Christmas to Epiphany, p. 127. Proverbs 8:32.—J. Wells, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. xv., p. 41.
Proverbs 8:36Who is the "Me"? It is Wisdom. Who is the Wisdom? It is Christ; Christ is the Wisdom of God. What is the particular truth of the text? It is this, that sin is not only an offence to God, whom no man hath seen or can see, but it is a distinct and irreparable injury to the man, the sinner himself. It may be difficult to show men that they ought not to sin against a being whom they have never seen, or against spiritual, moral laws which they had no share in determining. Man may, under these circumstances, get up a kind of metaphysical defence against such obedience; but this unhappy possibility is met and overruled by the unalterable and appalling fact that not to obey is to suffer, to sin is to decline and perish, to go away from truth and purity and honour is to go into darkness and shame and intolerable torment. That is the tremendous hold which God has over you.
I. You have a strong emotional nature; you allow that. My question is, What are you going to make of it? Suppress it? Then you will wrong your own soul. Turn it towards low objects? Then you will debase one of the highest gifts of your nature. You must use it. Christ's great appeal is to our feeling, our emotion, our homage, our loyalty. "He that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul;" tears the stops out of the great organ of his being.
II. You have a great imaginative nature. What are you going to do with it? He that sinneth against that wrongeth his own soul. The whole material universe is a bird's small cage compared with the infinite resources of Him who fainteth not, neither is weary, and of whose understanding there is no searching. Whoso sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul, belittles himself, trivializes his own nature, wastes his powers, shuts himself up in a cell, when he might be enjoying the liberty of an ever-expanding firmament.
III. You have a profound moral nature. What are you going to make of it? The Lord brings us to practical judgments, to distinct personal consequences of our action, and we who would shrink from any merely metaphysical divinity, from any philosophical conception of right, are bound to feel in our own flesh and blood and bones that we have done wrong. What are you going to do? The good man makes the best of his powers; the Christian man gets the best out of himself; righteousness makes a man realise the grandest of his powers, the widest of his capacities, and imparts to him as he goes along such instalments of heaven as are harmonisable with a life on earth.
Parker, Fountain, Oct. 18th, 1877.
She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths.
She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of man.
O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.
Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things.
For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips.
All the words of my mouth are in righteousness; there is nothing froward or perverse in them.
They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
Receive my instruction, and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold.
For wisdom is better than rubies; and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to it.
I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.
The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate.
Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.
By me kings reign, and princes decree justice.
By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.
Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness.
My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.
I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment:
That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water.
Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth:
While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.
When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:
When he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:
When he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth:
Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him;
Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.
Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.
Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors.
For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD.
But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.