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Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator
Proverbs 9

 

 

Verses 1-6

Proverbs 9:1-6

Wisdom hath builded her house.

Wisdom’s invitation

The Bible is fully of mystery, not merely in its doctrines, but also in the manner and in the language by which the truths of revelation are brought before us. In the personification of this passage, Wisdom is seen sympathising with man, caring for man, loving man, diffusing abroad amongst men the benefits of harmony, and of purity, and of eternal life.

I. The provision made by heavenly Wisdom for the spiritual wants of men. When Wisdom is here represented as having furnished her house, and built her dwelling, you have an idea, a correct conception of the Church of God. God is the builder of the Church, and the foundation is deep, broad, and wide, and altogether sufficient for the purposes of human salvation. Men are represented as living stones, quickened and animated, and hewn and fitted to occupy the position for which they are intended, cemented by Divine love, held in attraction to the foundation, and consequently held in relation to each other. In the passage the building is characterised by stability and durability. “Seven pillars.” Pillars, in Scripture, are emblems of strength, beauty, and durability. The number seven is indicative of perfection. Every pillar, every buttress, every support that Christianity needs the wisdom of God has provided. In the passages is the further idea of a gracious and adequate provision. “She hath killed her killings.” This is the idea of sacrifice. The idea of what is grateful and refreshing is likewise presented. “She hath mingled her wine.” Easterns mingled their wines in order, by the power of spices, to make them more attractive, and to strengthen their flavour. Then the “table is furnished.” Divine truth in its simplest and most complicated form--Divine truth that can guide, and purify, and train the spirit up for heaven--the truth that can make you free--the truth that can bless you with present happiness and eternal glory, is presented in the gospel. The provision of infinite love, then, is precisely adapted to your need.

II. The invitation presented to mankind to accept of this provision.

1. The parties employed to utter the invitation. When Wisdom, as the queen of heaven, spreads her table, she sends out her maidens. They are emblems of feebleness, purity, and attractiveness; and this is just the character of the messengers that were sent out by the Lord.

2. The persons to whom the invitation is directed. Here represented as being foolish, indiscreet, unwise, incompetent to guide their own affairs, incapable of obtaining that support and comfort which they need. Here is a correct idea of the ruined, the guilty, and the helpless condition of man. The gospel is preached to the ignorant, the guilty, and the wretched.

3. The scene of proclamation is described. It is made in the chief places of congress, at the opening of the gate, and the going in of the doors. This teaches us that the proclamation is to be made in the midst of large multitudes of people.

III. The consideration by which this invitation is enforced and pressed home upon attention. There is not the mere announcement of provision, not the mere proclamation of the fact, but an entreaty on the part of those who go out with the messages. “Forsake the foolish and live.” Life is valuable--all life is valuable. The life of religion, the life of God in the soul of man, is the highest form of life. There is an appeal in the text to the love of enjoyment. There is an appeal also to the love of wisdom. Have you obeyed the invitation? (Gearge Smith, D. D,)

The rival banquets

(with Proverbs 9:13-18):--

I. The resemblances between them are set forth in a very striking manner.

1. It is the same class of men that is invited. They are in both cases “the simple,” “the void of understanding.”

2. The invitations are similar in--

II. But the differences are no less marked.

1. In the banquets themselves. Wisdom has built her grand, substantial palace or temple (Proverbs 9:1), in virtue of her share in creation (Proverbs 8:30), and she has provided a satisfying, nourishing, and gladsome feast (Proverbs 9:2). Not so Folly. In consistency with her parasitic nature, it is not her own goods that she creates and prepares, but she invites to the abuse or illicit enjoyment of the goods God has already bestowed. Wisdom sits as a princess in her rightful home; Folly is hardly more than at the door of her house, which is not described.

2. In the inducements presented. These are not the feasts themselves, but additional commendations setting forth their relative advantages. In the one case satisfying and nourishing viands are offered, whose result is life; in the other, the thing presented is pleasure, and that which is to give it is only spoken of in a mysterious, allusive way. It is the illicit and secret enjoyment that is the charm. But if the Queen of Sheba declared that “the half had not been told her” of the true wisdom, how much of the truth is kept back in the promises and fair speeches of Folly! Those who are once within her house are to all intents and purposes dead men, and are as if they were already “in the depths of Sheol!” (St. J. A. Frere, M.A.)

Wisdom’s house

I. What person is alluded to by the designation of “Wisdom”? (Proverbs 8:22-31). Here we have the eternity of Christ plainly set forth; His absolute Sovereignty saying, “By Me kings reign and princes decree justice.” He also assures us of His love: “I love them that love Me, and those that seek Me early shall find Me.” He also speaks of His extensive resources: “Riches and honour are with Me, yea durable riches and righteousness.”

II. The house which Wisdom has built.

1. An indestructible house. He formed, in the counsels of eternity, by unerring wisdom, a plan which no finite mind could have ever suggested, and which can admit of no improvement. We are thankful for a good plan, when we reflect that the permanence of a building is often, in some measure at least, dependent upon it. This building rests on the securest foundation--the three persons in the ever-blessed Trinity, the perfections of God, and the all-sufficient righteousness of the incarnate One. It reposes, not on the yielding sand of human merit or mortal workmanship, but on the Rock of Ages, which time cannot crumble or change. Not only is the foundation quite safe and immovable, but the superstructure is equally strong. In fact, it is perfectly invincible. “She hath hewn her seven pillars.” Pillars are used as the supports and ornaments of buildings, and the number seven is the symbol of perfection. We take the seven pillars to denote perfect strength and beauty. We next observe that Wisdom’s house affords perfect security to its inhabitants. It is a fortress, a strong tower, a house of defence, a castle of safety, to those who enjoy the privilege of dwelling in it.

2. A house of instruction. It is emphatically the house of Wisdom. A school where the best lessons are taught, in the best possible mode of teaching, and by the best of all teachers.

3. A banqueting house (Proverbs 9:2). The Church of the living God is a banqueting-hall in which we have the gospel feast prepared and exhibited for all who have a spiritual appetite; and the invitation is freely and earnestly given to all, for there is plenty of room and an abundance of provisions. The entertainment is in reality a feast upon a sacrifice, and what is that sacrifice on which all who wish may feast but the sacrifice of Christ, “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”? (S. Waller.)


Verses 1-18

Verse 3-4

Proverbs 9:3-4

Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.

The choice of wisdom

Life is reduced to an alternative; there is clearly marked out for us all, at the beginning of our life, that all is one thing or the other, wisdom or folly. To these two voices, all the noise and tumult of life, and all the diverse voices in your own souls, may be reduced. They are all either the call of the wisdom of God, or they are the call of folly, sense, and sin. Let me counsel you, then--

I. To choose. The curse of men--and of young people especially--is that they drift into passions and habits before they know where they are. But it is a low and discreditable thing for men, old or young, that they should be the creatures and sport of the mere circumstances around them. All your life should have in it the deliberation and the resolve of a calm, settled choice. Here is the manliness of manhood, that a man has a reason for what he does, and has a will in doing it. Be the masters and lords of the circumstances in which you stand. There are two courses in life. There are but two. The two are utterly irreconcilable and discordant. You cannot have them both. Then be men, and choose.

II. Choose wisdom.

1. Look at these two personified claimants--Wisdom and Folly. Wisdom is closely connected with uprightness of heart. It is both an intellectual and a moral excellence. Wisdom has rectitude for an essential part of it, the fibre of its very being is righteousness and holiness. This wisdom is not only an attribute of the human soul. We rise to righteousness. If a man would be wise, it must be with a wisdom that was in God before it is in him. Our prayer should be, “In Thy wisdom make us wise.” A further step has to be taken. Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. There, in that living person, is the highest embodiment of all wisdom. All which is not of God is the “foolish woman.” All which does not inhere in Christ, and appeal to us through and from Him, is that clamorous and persistent voice which leads us all astray, if we listen to it. The world and sense--these are her grossest forms. But there are less offensive forms besetting us all.

III. Choose now. Wisdom appeals to conscience. Folly appeals only to the sense of pleasure and the desire for its gratification. Both ask for your decision now. There is a strange tendency to put off decision. But it is an awful risk for a man to run. Every day that you live makes it less likely that you will choose. Every day that you live makes it harder for you to choose aright. Every day that you live takes away some of the power of resolving, and takes away some motive to resolve. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)


Verse 5

Proverbs 9:5

Come, eat of My bread.

Wisdom’s invitation

I. The invitation. He who invites is the Son of God--in the Proverbs represented as “Wisdom.” Of His generous invitation we remark--

1. That its acceptance is open to every human being on the face of the earth. The God of the gospel is no respecter of persons.

2. This invitation is urged with affectionate earnestness. How are men to be “compelled”? Not by coercion or legal enactments--not by bribery or the civil power--but by the mercies of God, and the gentleness of Christ.

3. There is such a character in the invitations of the gospel as leaves those inexcusable who reject them. Some excuse themselves on the ground that a self-denial which is beyond them is required, others on the ground of previous engagements. Speculations, worldliness, even domestic relationships, are pleaded as excuses.

II. Inducements to the acceptance of the invitation. What would be inducements to accept an invitation to a feast?

1. Rank of the person inviting. Who, then, is it invites to the feast of the gospel?

2. The guests whom you were to meet. This company is select. It is composed of the wise and the good of every name: all are on a level at the feast of salvation.

3. The occasion of the entertainment. This is intended to supply you with immortal food, and to feed you with the meat that endureth unto everlasting life.

4. The consequences that may result from a refusal. Refusing this, you risk the favour of God. (J. R. Hibbard.)

The soul’s diet

The verse, most of it, metaphorical, setting out Wisdom’s instructions under the similitude of a feast, to which persons invited come and comfortably refresh themselves with meat and drink.

I. The soul’s diet is of Christ’s providing. This was prefigured in the manna, and foreshadowed in the rock, that miraculously gave water to the people.

1. The Word is from Him which feeds the soul.

2. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper, whereby we are fed, was of His institution, yea, of His own administration the first time.

3. He hath authority from heaven to find diet for souls.

4. None but He can provide wholesome diet.

II. Men must come where Christ’s spiritual provisions are to be had.

1. We are invited to come, and it is discourtesy to refuse a friendly invitation.

2. We are commanded to come, and it is disobedience not to come.

3. The feast is prepared for us.

4. The benefits gotten by it may allure you to come for it.

III. We must make use of wisdom’s provision as well as come. Coming to a feast doth no good if men be sullen, and will not eat or drink.

1. Our profitable use of God’s ordinances is required.

2. We are informed beforehand to what end we are invited.

3. The gift of this undeserved favour should make us ready to receive it.

4. No good will come to us by this spiritual food if we feed not on it. They who feed well get much good to their souls. (F. Taylor, B.D.)

Wisdom’s invitations

It seems to me as if this moment were throbbing with the invitations of an all-compassionate God. I have been told that the Cathedral of St. Mark’s stands in a square in the centre of the city of Venice, and that when the clock strikes twelve at noon all the birds from the city and the regions round about the city fly to the square and settle down. It came in this wise: A large-hearted woman passing one noonday across the square saw some birds shivering in the cold, and she scattered some crumbs of bread among them, and so on from year to year until the day of her death. In her will she bequeathed a certain amount to keep up the same practice, and now, at the first stroke of the bell at noon, the birds begin to come here, and when the clock has struck twelve the square is covered with them. How beautifully suggestive! Christ comes out to feed thy soul to-day. The more hungry you feel yourselves to be, the better it is. It is noon, and the gospel clock strikes twelve. Come in flocks! Come as doves to the window! All the air is filled with the liquid chime: Come! come! come! (T. De Witt Talmage.)


Verse 6

Proverbs 9:6

Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

The foolish way forsaken

True religion includes two particulars, called in Scripture ceasing to do evil, and learning to do well.

I. What are the two ways mentioned in our text--namely, the way of the foolish and the way of understanding?

1. And with regard to the character of the foolish--whom and whose ways we are to forsake--how different is the estimate of the Word of God from the current opinions of mankind! The world usually account that man foolish who does not make the things of this life, in one or other of its aspects, the great object of his desires. The covetous man thinks him foolish who neglects the pursuit of riches, or is not skilful in obtaining them; the man of pleasure, him who does not endeavour to secure ease and amusement; the ambitious man, him who does not attain worldly honours. But, in the estimate of Scripture, though we had the worldly wisdom of each or all these classes of persons, and had not something infinitely above it, we should be numbered among the foolish. The rich man spoken of by our Lord, whose ground brought forth plentifully, was accounted a fool And why? Because he was laying up treasures for himself upon earth, and was not rich towards God; because he disregarded the great end and object of his being; because he made no preparation for death. In short, sin of every kind--irreligion, disobedience to God, and carelessness respecting our immortal interests--is called in Scripture foolishness. And can any folly be greater than sporting, as it were, upon the brink of eternity; calling down upon us the anger of our Almighty Creator; rejecting the means which He has provided for our pardon and reconciliation, or perverting the gospel of His mercy to our own destruction?

2. Such being the way of the foolish, we may easily infer what is the way of understanding. “Behold,” said Job, “the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” “The knowledge of the Holy,” says Solomon, in the chapter from which our text is taken, “is understanding”; and “a good understanding,” says the psalmist, “have all they who do His commandments.”

II. The importance of forsaking the one and going in the other. “Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.”

1. And let us inquire why we must forsake the foolish, ungodly companions, ungodly practices, ungodly thoughts, ungodly books, everything that is ungodly. It might be sufficient to satisfy our reason to answer, that our Creator has commanded us to forsake them. But, in addition, He is pleased to appeal to our hopes and fears, by promises and threatenings. “Forsake the foolish, and live”; implying that the ways of the foolish are ways of death. Shall we not, then, forsake so dangerous a path, a path beset with thorns and snares.

2. But, in addition to the command to forsake the foolish, our text adds, “And go in the way of understanding.” These two duties are indeed inseparable; for the first step out of the path of destruction is a step in the path of life; yet it is important that each should be particularly noticed, because we are too apt to content ourselves with a few feeble advances, a few superficial attainments in religion, as if the victory were complete when we are but girding on our armour for the warfare. It is not enough that we have learned that the ways of sin are ways of bitterness and folly; we must, in addition, learn what is the way of understanding: we must walk in the paths of righteousness. And infinitely important is it that we should go in this way of understanding; for by no other path can we arrive at the kingdom of heaven. The language of the text shows us that religion involves active and zealous exertion. There is one path to be forsaken, and another to be discovered and pursued. To forsake means more than careless indifference, or partial reformation, or a temporary suspension of our evil habits. It is a fixed and determined resolution. (The Christian Observer.)


Verses 7-9

Proverbs 9:7-9

Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee.

Reproof

How to give it, and how to take it. Reproofs are like sharp knives, very needful and very useful; but they should not be in the hands of children. Those who handle them rashly will wound themselves and their neighbours. Sometimes reproofs are unskilfully administered, and sometimes unfaithfully withheld. The scorner is the principal figure in the scene of the text. He is in a state of nature. He has no spiritual life or light. He is a blusterer. He is hollow-sounding brass. He magnifies himself. He laughs at the good and at goodness. Accustomed to exaggerate everything, he exaggerates even his own wickedness. He glories in his shame. If you reprove such a scorner, you will probably get to yourself shame. You have trampled on a snake, and it is his nature to spurt forth his venom on you. Your stroke has stirred up every motive within the scorner to redouble his blasphemy. If you could find the scorner alone, his courage would not be so great. Whisper softly into his ear your solemn reproof. Find a soft spot about him, or make one by deeds of kindness. H you gain a brother thus, it is a bloodless victory. The joy is of the purest kind that lies within our reach on earth. The second half of the lesson is, “Rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.” There is a double blessing; one to him who gets reproof, and one to him who gives it. It is the mark of wise man that he loves the reprover who tells him his fault. (W. Arnot, D. D.)

Reproof

I. As injuriously administered. A scorner is a man distinguished by self-ignorance, audacity, callousness, vanity, and irreverence. His grand aim is, by little sallies of wit and ridicule to raise the laugh against his superiors. To reprove these is injurious. It does them no service, but it brings pain to yourself. There are men beyond the reach of elevating influences, and it is worse than waste of labour to endeavour improving them.

II. As usefully administered.

1. By rebuking a wise man you enlist his affection. Every true man will feel grateful for wise counsels.

2. By instructing a wise man you render him a benefit. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser. (David Thomas, D.D.)

Godly admonitions received by the wise

Iron, which is one of the baser metals, may be hammered, and subjected to the most intense heat of the furnace; but though you may soften it for the time, you can never make it ductile like the precious metals. But gold, which is the most excellent of all, is the most pliant and easily wrought on, being capable of being drawn out to a degree which exceeds belief. So the most excellent tempers are the most easily wrought on by spiritual counsel and godly admonitions, but the viler sort, like the iron, are stubborn, and cannot be made pliant. (H. G. Salter.)

The scorner left alone

The invitation of Wisdom is addressed only to the simple, not to the scorner. She lets the scorner pass by, because a word to him would recoil only in shame on herself, bringing a blush to her queenly face, and would add to the scorner’s wickedness by increasing his hatred of her. Her reproof would not benefit him, but it would bring a blot upon herself: it would exhibit her as ineffectual and helpless. The bitter words of a scorner can make wisdom appear foolish, and cover virtue with a confusion which should belong only to vice. “Speak not in the hearing of a fool; for he will despise the wisdom of thy words.” Indeed, there is no character so hopeless as that of the scorner; there proceeds from him, as it were, a fierce blast, which blows away all the reproaches which goodness makes to him. Reproof cannot come near him; he cannot find wisdom, though he seek it; and as a matter of fact, he never seeks it. If one attempts to punish him, it can only be with the hope that others may benefit by the example; it will have no effect upon him. To be rid of him must be the desire of every wise man, for he is an abomination to all, and with his departure contention disappears. They that scoff at things holy, and scorn the Divine Power, must be left to themselves until the beginnings of wisdom appear in them--the first sense of fear that there is a God who may not be mocked, the first recognition that there is a sanctity which they would do well at all events to reverence. (R. F. Horton, D.D.)


Verse 9

Proverbs 9:9

Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser.

The wise man rendered wiser by instruction

It is an infallible mark of true wisdom, to profit by instruction.

I. Take a more accurate view of the wise man; and inquire who it is that may be taken for such.

1. He who proposes to himself some end in what he does, and pursues that end in a rational and dexterous manner.

2. A truly wise man is the same as a good man.

3. He who to his resolution to make the attainment of moral goodness the great object of his existence adds a fixed and unalterable determination to pursue this according to Divine direction.

II. Instruction may be given even to the advantage of the wise.

1. No truly wise man will account it impossible to make accessions to his wisdom.

2. Every wise man, whatever be the nature of his wisdom, will wish it to be increased as much as possible.

3. Whenever instruction is given to him which is adapted to his character and circumstances he will account himself happy in having it, and will be the better for it.

III. When instruction is given to a wise man, he will yet be wiser.

1. He will endeavour to find out the motive of the person giving it.

2. He will consider the nature and tendency of the instruction or advise given.

3. He will pray that God may give him to see what is most valuable, and that He may influence his heart to profit by what is good. (Sketches of Four Hundred Sermons.)

The wise are willing to learn from any one

President Lincoln once said that he was willing to learn from any one who could teach him anything. Dore seems to have had a like spirit. Some years ago, a clever young Englishwoman--something more than an amateur artist--was brought one day by some friends to Dore’s studio. Unlike most Englishwomen, this was a very impulsive and irrepressible young person; and she offered the frankest criticism of all the works around. The picture on which Dore was then engaged occupied her attention particularly; and not content with recommending various improvements, she suddenly caught the brush from the artist’s hand, and saying coolly, “Don’t you think, Mr. Dore, that a touch of this kind would be an improvement there?” she actually altered the artist’s work with her own audacious fingers. Her friends were rather astonished, and one of them afterwards took occasion to apologise to him for her impulsiveness. Dore seemed only surprised to find that any apology or explanation should be considered necessary. He thought there was some justice in the suggestion thus practically made, and it seemed to him quite natural that one artist should help another. It did not seem to have occurred to him that there was anything presumptuous in the volunteer effort of the young beginner to lend a helping hand to one of the most celebrated and successful artists of the day.


Verse 10

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

A just conception of God

There are two things which sincere religion can never fail of attaining, one of which is the greatest ingredient--nay, the very foundation of all happiness in this world, and the other is the happiness and immortality which wait for us in the world to come. The latter we can only enjoy now through faith and hope; but the former is present with us, the certain consequence and necessary attendant upon a mind truly virtuous and religious. I mean, the ease and satisfaction of mind which flow from a due sense of God and religion, and the uprightness of our desires and intentions to serve Him.

I. A just conception of God, of his excellences and perfections, is the true foundation of religion. Fear is not a voluntary passion. We cannot be afraid or not afraid of things just as we please. We fear any being in proportion to the power and will which we conceive that being to have either to hurt or to protect us. The different kinds of fear are no otherwise distinguishable from one another than by considering the different conceptions or ideas of the things feared. The fear of a tyrant and the fear of a father are very different passions; but he that knows not the difference between a tyrant and a father will never be able to distinguish these passions. A right and due fear of God presupposes a right and due conception of God. If men misconceive concerning God, either as to His holiness and purity, or to His justice and mercy, their fear of Him will not produce wisdom. The proposition of the text is equivalent to this--a just notion and conception of God is the beginning of wisdom. We experience in ourselves different kinds and degrees of fear, which have very different effects and operations. The fear of the Lord is not an abject, slavish fear; since God is no tyrant. The properties of religious fear, as mentioned in Scripture, are various. It is clean. It is to hate evil. It is a fountain of life. In it is strong confidence. The fear of God signifies that frame and affection of soul which is the consequence of a just notion and conception of the Deity. It is called the fear of God because, as majesty and power are the principal parts of the idea of God, so fear and reverence are the main ingredients in the affection that arises from it. It follows that none should be void of the fear of God, but those who only want right notions of God.

II. The just conception of God is the right rule to form our judgments by, in all particular matters of religion. Wisdom here means true religion. There is religion which is folly and superstition, that better suits with any other name than that of wisdom. If the fear of God only in a general way shows us the necessity of religion, and leaves us to take our chance in the great variety of forms and institutions that are to be found in the world, it may be our hap to learn folly as well as wisdom, upon the instigation of this principle. But the fear of God further teaches us wherein true religion consists. In natural religion this is evidently the case, because in that state there is no pretence to any other rule that can come into competition with this. It is from the notion of a God that men come to have any sense of religion. When we consider God as lord and governor of the world, we soon perceive ourselves to be in subjection, and that we stand obliged, both in interest and duty, to pay obedience to the Supreme. Take from the notion of God any of the moral perfections that belong to it, and you will find such alteration must influence religion likewise, which will degenerate in the same proportion as the notion of God is corrupted. The superstitious man, viewing God through the false perspectives of fear and suspicion, loses sight of His goodness, and sees only a dreadful spectre made up of anger and revenge. Hence religion becomes his torment. That only is true religion which is agreeable to the nature of God. Natural religion is the foundation upon which revelation stands, and therefore revelation can never supersede natural religion without destroying itself. The difference between these two is this: in natural religion nothing can be admitted that may not be proved and deduced from our natural notions. Everything must be admitted for some reason. But revelation introduces a new reason, the will of God, which has, and ought to have, the authority of a law with us. As God has authority to make laws, He may add to our duty and obligations as He sees fit. It is not therefore necessary that all parts of a revelation should be proved by natural reason: it is sufficient that they do not contradict it; for the will of God is a sufficient reason for our submission. The essentials of religion, even under revelation, must be tried and judged by the same principle. No revelation can dispense with virtue and holiness. All such doctrines and all such rites and ceremonies as tend to subvert true goodness and holiness are not of God’s teaching or introducing. The way to keep ourselves stedfastly in the purity of the gospel is to keep our eye constantly on this rule. Could enthusiasm, or destructive zeal, ever have grown out of the gospel had men compared their practices with the natural sense they have of God? Could religion ever have degenerated into folly and superstition had the true notions of God been preserved, and all religious actions been examined in the light of them? Some, taking religion to be what it appears to be, reject all religion. Could men have judged thus perversely had they attended to the true rule, and formed their notions of religion from the nature and wisdom of God, and not from the follies and extravagances of men? How can the folly and perverseness of others affect your duty to God? How came you absolved from all religion, because others have corrupted theirs? Does the error or ignorance of others destroy the relation between you and God, and make it reasonable for you to throw off all obedience? The fear of God will teach you another sort of wisdom. (Thomas Sherlock, D. D.)

The fear of the Lord

I. This principle will prepare you for discharging in an acceptable manner the duties which you owe more immediately to your Maker. It is the fear of the Lord alone that can inspire and animate your devotions. The sense of His glorious presence will inspire a higher tone of adoration, will give a deeper humility to your confessions, and add a double fervour to your prayers.

II. This principle will have a most salutary influence on the whole tenor of your conduct. The dictates of reason and conscience, considered as the commands of God, acquire thereby the force of a law; the authority of the lawgiver is respected, and it becomes a powerful motive to obedience.

III. But will not this year of the Lord abridge the happiness of life? The impression that we act continually under the inspection of an Omniscient Judge--will it not impose a restraint on our conduct? Will it not check the gaiety of our hearts and diffuse a gloom over the whole of our existence? If, indeed, the Almighty were a capricious tyrant, who delighted in the miseries of His creatures, if the fear of the Lord were that servile principle which haunts the minds of the superstitious, then you might complain, with justice, that the yoke of religion was severe. But it is a service of a more liberal kind which the Ruler of the world requires. It is a restraint to which, independently of religion, prudence would admonish you to submit. It is not a restraint from any innocent enjoyment, but from misery and infamy and guilt. (W. Moodie, D. D.)

The beginning of wisdom

This text occurs several times in the Old Testament, showing its importance; and it really sums up the teaching of the Bible for all classes and ages, and is one strikingly adapted for urging upon us the early religious education of our children.

I. What is “the fear of the Lord”?

1. The right knowledge of Him in what He is--

2. And, consequent upon this--

Mark how a child, as it learns its duty to an earthly parent, is thus trained in its relation to its heavenly Father.

II. This is true wisdom, which means here the knowledge of Divine things, rightly used. When we fear the Lord we are wise, because--

1. The heart is then taught by the Holy Ghost.

2. We set a right value on things temporal and eternal.

3. We listen to the words of Jesus and of the Scriptures, and repent and believe the gospel (Luke 10:42; 2 Timothy 3:15).

4. We seek to know and carefully follow His holy will (Ephesians 5:17).

5. We walk in a sure path of peace and safety (chap. 3:17).

III. But our text states that this fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

1. It is at the root of all true wisdom; for we are never truly wise till we begin here, and only then do we know how to deal rightly with all things.

2. It is only reasonable then, and our solemn and bounden duty, to teach our children these blessed things early.

3. And God has confirmed the truth of the text by making this thoroughly practicable. Mark how the relations and circumstances of a child prepare it for learning: What God is as a Father. What Christ is as a Saviour. What the Holy Ghost is as a Teacher. Also what repentance, faith, obedience, etc., are, and the opposite of all these. Note the parables of Scripture.

4. And the Holy Ghost can reach a child’s heart; hence the parent’s encouragement to pray, and to use teaching in faith and perseverance. (C. J. Goodhart, M.A.)

True religion the evidence of a good understanding

We all naturally desire happiness. We all know that obtaining it greatly depends on a wise choice of our conduct in life; and yet very few examine, with any care, what conduct is likeliest to procure us the felicity that we seek. There is deeply rooted in the heart of man an inbred sense of right and wrong, which, however heedlessly overlooked or studiously suppressed by the gay or the busy part of the world, will from time to time make them both feel that it hath the justest authority to govern all that we do, as well as power to reward with the truest consolation and punish with the acutest remorse. Some see the absolute necessity of bringing virtue and duty into the account when they deliberate concerning the behaviour that leads to happiness; but they affect to set up virtue in opposition to piety, and think to serve the former by deprecating the latter. Perhaps only relatively few venture to deny the existence of a First Cause. If there exists a Sovereign of the universe, almighty and all-wise, it cannot be a matter that we are unconcerned in. He must have intended that we should pay Him those regards which are His due--a proper temperature of fear and love: two affections which ought never to be separated in thinking of God; whichever is expressed implies the other. This is the true wisdom of man. Consider its influence--

I. On the conduct. God has not planted in us passions, affections, and appetites, to grow up wild as accident directs, but to be diligently superintended, weeded, and pruned, and each confined to its proper bounds. It would both be unjust and unwise to reject the smallest inducement to any part of goodness; for we greatly need every one that we can have. But it is extremely requisite to observe where our chief security lies, and place our chief trust there. The reasonableness, the dignity, the beauty of virtue are doubtless natural, and ought to be strong recommendations of it. No motive, however, is at all times sufficient, excepting only the fear of God, taught as the truth is in Jesus. This is one unchangeable motive, level to the apprehension of every person, extending to the practice of every duty, including at once every moral disposition of heart and every prudent regard to our own good. The fear of God can pierce the inmost recesses of our minds and search the rightness of our most secret desires. Reverence of God’s authority will make us fear to injure the meanest of our fellow-creatures, and hope of sharing in His bounty will teach us to imitate it by the tenderest exercise of humanity and compassion.

II. What effect the fear of God must have on the enjoyment of our lives. It will make bad people uneasy. It restrains persons from dissolute pleasures. It gives a peculiar seriousness and awe to the minds of men. It moderates the liveliness of over-gay dispositions. As to the sufferings of life, religion prevents many and diminishes the rest. True religion being of such importance, there are some things which may justly be expected of mankind in its favour.

1. That they who have not yet carefully searched into the grounds of it should not take upon them to treat it with scorn or even disregard.

2. It may be expected also that they who profess to examine should do it fairly.

3. They who are so happy as to believe should secure and complete their happiness by what alone can do it--a suitable behaviour. On all accounts, therefore, it is our most important concern to cultivate and express the affections of piety, which are indeed the noblest movements of our souls towards the worthiest object, towards the attainment of the most blessed end. (Archbp. Secker.)


Verse 10

Proverbs 9:10

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

A just conception of God

There are two things which sincere religion can never fail of attaining, one of which is the greatest ingredient--nay, the very foundation of all happiness in this world, and the other is the happiness and immortality which wait for us in the world to come. The latter we can only enjoy now through faith and hope; but the former is present with us, the certain consequence and necessary attendant upon a mind truly virtuous and religious. I mean, the ease and satisfaction of mind which flow from a due sense of God and religion, and the uprightness of our desires and intentions to serve Him.

I. A just conception of God, of his excellences and perfections, is the true foundation of religion. Fear is not a voluntary passion. We cannot be afraid or not afraid of things just as we please. We fear any being in proportion to the power and will which we conceive that being to have either to hurt or to protect us. The different kinds of fear are no otherwise distinguishable from one another than by considering the different conceptions or ideas of the things feared. The fear of a tyrant and the fear of a father are very different passions; but he that knows not the difference between a tyrant and a father will never be able to distinguish these passions. A right and due fear of God presupposes a right and due conception of God. If men misconceive concerning God, either as to His holiness and purity, or to His justice and mercy, their fear of Him will not produce wisdom. The proposition of the text is equivalent to this--a just notion and conception of God is the beginning of wisdom. We experience in ourselves different kinds and degrees of fear, which have very different effects and operations. The fear of the Lord is not an abject, slavish fear; since God is no tyrant. The properties of religious fear, as mentioned in Scripture, are various. It is clean. It is to hate evil. It is a fountain of life. In it is strong confidence. The fear of God signifies that frame and affection of soul which is the consequence of a just notion and conception of the Deity. It is called the fear of God because, as majesty and power are the principal parts of the idea of God, so fear and reverence are the main ingredients in the affection that arises from it. It follows that none should be void of the fear of God, but those who only want right notions of God.

II. The just conception of God is the right rule to form our judgments by, in all particular matters of religion. Wisdom here means true religion. There is religion which is folly and superstition, that better suits with any other name than that of wisdom. If the fear of God only in a general way shows us the necessity of religion, and leaves us to take our chance in the great variety of forms and institutions that are to be found in the world, it may be our hap to learn folly as well as wisdom, upon the instigation of this principle. But the fear of God further teaches us wherein true religion consists. In natural religion this is evidently the case, because in that state there is no pretence to any other rule that can come into competition with this. It is from the notion of a God that men come to have any sense of religion. When we consider God as lord and governor of the world, we soon perceive ourselves to be in subjection, and that we stand obliged, both in interest and duty, to pay obedience to the Supreme. Take from the notion of God any of the moral perfections that belong to it, and you will find such alteration must influence religion likewise, which will degenerate in the same proportion as the notion of God is corrupted. The superstitious man, viewing God through the false perspectives of fear and suspicion, loses sight of His goodness, and sees only a dreadful spectre made up of anger and revenge. Hence religion becomes his torment. That only is true religion which is agreeable to the nature of God. Natural religion is the foundation upon which revelation stands, and therefore revelation can never supersede natural religion without destroying itself. The difference between these two is this: in natural religion nothing can be admitted that may not be proved and deduced from our natural notions. Everything must be admitted for some reason. But revelation introduces a new reason, the will of God, which has, and ought to have, the authority of a law with us. As God has authority to make laws, He may add to our duty and obligations as He sees fit. It is not therefore necessary that all parts of a revelation should be proved by natural reason: it is sufficient that they do not contradict it; for the will of God is a sufficient reason for our submission. The essentials of religion, even under revelation, must be tried and judged by the same principle. No revelation can dispense with virtue and holiness. All such doctrines and all such rites and ceremonies as tend to subvert true goodness and holiness are not of God’s teaching or introducing. The way to keep ourselves stedfastly in the purity of the gospel is to keep our eye constantly on this rule. Could enthusiasm, or destructive zeal, ever have grown out of the gospel had men compared their practices with the natural sense they have of God? Could religion ever have degenerated into folly and superstition had the true notions of God been preserved, and all religious actions been examined in the light of them? Some, taking religion to be what it appears to be, reject all religion. Could men have judged thus perversely had they attended to the true rule, and formed their notions of religion from the nature and wisdom of God, and not from the follies and extravagances of men? How can the folly and perverseness of others affect your duty to God? How came you absolved from all religion, because others have corrupted theirs? Does the error or ignorance of others destroy the relation between you and God, and make it reasonable for you to throw off all obedience? The fear of God will teach you another sort of wisdom. (Thomas Sherlock, D. D.)

The fear of the Lord

I. This principle will prepare you for discharging in an acceptable manner the duties which you owe more immediately to your Maker. It is the fear of the Lord alone that can inspire and animate your devotions. The sense of His glorious presence will inspire a higher tone of adoration, will give a deeper humility to your confessions, and add a double fervour to your prayers.

II. This principle will have a most salutary influence on the whole tenor of your conduct. The dictates of reason and conscience, considered as the commands of God, acquire thereby the force of a law; the authority of the lawgiver is respected, and it becomes a powerful motive to obedience.

III. But will not this year of the Lord abridge the happiness of life? The impression that we act continually under the inspection of an Omniscient Judge--will it not impose a restraint on our conduct? Will it not check the gaiety of our hearts and diffuse a gloom over the whole of our existence? If, indeed, the Almighty were a capricious tyrant, who delighted in the miseries of His creatures, if the fear of the Lord were that servile principle which haunts the minds of the superstitious, then you might complain, with justice, that the yoke of religion was severe. But it is a service of a more liberal kind which the Ruler of the world requires. It is a restraint to which, independently of religion, prudence would admonish you to submit. It is not a restraint from any innocent enjoyment, but from misery and infamy and guilt. (W. Moodie, D. D.)

The beginning of wisdom

This text occurs several times in the Old Testament, showing its importance; and it really sums up the teaching of the Bible for all classes and ages, and is one strikingly adapted for urging upon us the early religious education of our children.

I. What is “the fear of the Lord”?

1. The right knowledge of Him in what He is--

2. And, consequent upon this--

Mark how a child, as it learns its duty to an earthly parent, is thus trained in its relation to its heavenly Father.

II. This is true wisdom, which means here the knowledge of Divine things, rightly used. When we fear the Lord we are wise, because--

1. The heart is then taught by the Holy Ghost.

2. We set a right value on things temporal and eternal.

3. We listen to the words of Jesus and of the Scriptures, and repent and believe the gospel (Luke 10:42; 2 Timothy 3:15).

4. We seek to know and carefully follow His holy will (Ephesians 5:17).

5. We walk in a sure path of peace and safety (chap. 3:17).

III. But our text states that this fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

1. It is at the root of all true wisdom; for we are never truly wise till we begin here, and only then do we know how to deal rightly with all things.

2. It is only reasonable then, and our solemn and bounden duty, to teach our children these blessed things early.

3. And God has confirmed the truth of the text by making this thoroughly practicable. Mark how the relations and circumstances of a child prepare it for learning: What God is as a Father. What Christ is as a Saviour. What the Holy Ghost is as a Teacher. Also what repentance, faith, obedience, etc., are, and the opposite of all these. Note the parables of Scripture.

4. And the Holy Ghost can reach a child’s heart; hence the parent’s encouragement to pray, and to use teaching in faith and perseverance. (C. J. Goodhart, M.A.)

True religion the evidence of a good understanding

We all naturally desire happiness. We all know that obtaining it greatly depends on a wise choice of our conduct in life; and yet very few examine, with any care, what conduct is likeliest to procure us the felicity that we seek. There is deeply rooted in the heart of man an inbred sense of right and wrong, which, however heedlessly overlooked or studiously suppressed by the gay or the busy part of the world, will from time to time make them both feel that it hath the justest authority to govern all that we do, as well as power to reward with the truest consolation and punish with the acutest remorse. Some see the absolute necessity of bringing virtue and duty into the account when they deliberate concerning the behaviour that leads to happiness; but they affect to set up virtue in opposition to piety, and think to serve the former by deprecating the latter. Perhaps only relatively few venture to deny the existence of a First Cause. If there exists a Sovereign of the universe, almighty and all-wise, it cannot be a matter that we are unconcerned in. He must have intended that we should pay Him those regards which are His due--a proper temperature of fear and love: two affections which ought never to be separated in thinking of God; whichever is expressed implies the other. This is the true wisdom of man. Consider its influence--

I. On the conduct. God has not planted in us passions, affections, and appetites, to grow up wild as accident directs, but to be diligently superintended, weeded, and pruned, and each confined to its proper bounds. It would both be unjust and unwise to reject the smallest inducement to any part of goodness; for we greatly need every one that we can have. But it is extremely requisite to observe where our chief security lies, and place our chief trust there. The reasonableness, the dignity, the beauty of virtue are doubtless natural, and ought to be strong recommendations of it. No motive, however, is at all times sufficient, excepting only the fear of God, taught as the truth is in Jesus. This is one unchangeable motive, level to the apprehension of every person, extending to the practice of every duty, including at once every moral disposition of heart and every prudent regard to our own good. The fear of God can pierce the inmost recesses of our minds and search the rightness of our most secret desires. Reverence of God’s authority will make us fear to injure the meanest of our fellow-creatures, and hope of sharing in His bounty will teach us to imitate it by the tenderest exercise of humanity and compassion.

II. What effect the fear of God must have on the enjoyment of our lives. It will make bad people uneasy. It restrains persons from dissolute pleasures. It gives a peculiar seriousness and awe to the minds of men. It moderates the liveliness of over-gay dispositions. As to the sufferings of life, religion prevents many and diminishes the rest. True religion being of such importance, there are some things which may justly be expected of mankind in its favour.

1. That they who have not yet carefully searched into the grounds of it should not take upon them to treat it with scorn or even disregard.

2. It may be expected also that they who profess to examine should do it fairly.

3. They who are so happy as to believe should secure and complete their happiness by what alone can do it--a suitable behaviour. On all accounts, therefore, it is our most important concern to cultivate and express the affections of piety, which are indeed the noblest movements of our souls towards the worthiest object, towards the attainment of the most blessed end. (Archbp. Secker.)


Verse 11

Proverbs 9:11

For by Me thy days shall be multiplied.

Of the wisdom of being religious

No desire is so deeply implanted in our nature as that of preserving and prolonging our life. Life and health are the foundation of all other enjoyments. The principal point of wisdom in the conduct of human life is so to use the enjoyments of this present world as that they may not themselves shorten that period wherein it is allowed us to enjoy them. Temperance and sobriety, the regular government of our appetites and passions, are the greatest instances of human wisdom. Religion adds strength to these things by annexing the promise of God’s immediate blessing to the natural tendency and consequences of things. “The fear of the Lord” and “the knowledge of the Holy” are two synonymous expressions, signifying “the practice of virtue and true religion.”

I. The practise of religion is, in general, man’s truest wisdom. The whole tenor of Scripture concurs in setting forth the wisdom of being virtuous and religious. Compare with the wisdom in understanding the arts and sciences. Wisdom of men in being able to overreach and defraud each other; wisdom of political skill; wisdom in words and artful representations of things; wisdom in searching out the secrets of nature. The only wisdom that all men are capable of, and that all men are indispensably obliged to attain, is the practical wisdom of being truly religious.

II. The practise of religion tends to prolong our life and lengthen our days. Promises of health and life are frequent in the Old Testament. See the fifth commandment with promise. There are threatenings of the wicked in the Old Testament, which declare their days shall be shortened. In the nature of things men destroy themselves and shorten their days by many kinds of wickedness. According to the same natural order and tendency of things, by peace and charity men are preserved from destruction; by temperance their bodies are maintained in health; by quiet of conscience and satisfaction of mind is a new life added to their spirits. In the positive appointment and constitution of Providence there was yet more assurance of the doctrine. The temporal promises of the Old Testament cannot now be applied with any certainty under the New, where eternal life is so much more clearly revealed.

III. How is this blessing to be desired by Christians under the gospel state. The gospel gives a mean notion of the present life and glorious representation of the happiness of that to come, so that a devout man may wish to be delivered from the miseries of this sinful world. But the best men need prolonged lives on earth for their own amendment and improvement; and if not for their own, for the sake of others. It may also be reminded that duties are entrusted to us, and we must not shirk them. And the longest life here is but a moment in comparison of eternity. We ought to make it the main care of our lives to secure our eternal happiness hereafter; only then do length of days become a blessing. (S. Clarke, D. D.)

The criterion of true wisdom

The temporal interests of one man are so bound up with those of many others that you can scarcely find the individual of whom it may be said that he plans for himself alone, or acts for himself alone. If we stretch our thoughts from temporal things and fix them on spiritual, will the same thing hold? Hardly perhaps, for we can scarcely suppose that, through destroying his own soul, a man may also destroy the souls of many others. Unto every one amongst us there is vouchsafed a sufficiency of means, so that he who perishes does not perish through being involved in the ruin of another, but through having wrought his own individual destruction. Neither religion nor irreligion can be said to propagate themselves, as industry and idleness in temporal things. Religion, in the most emphatic sense, is a thing between each of us and God.

I. The criterion of wisdom. If a man be wise at all, he is wise for himself. The prime object of every class of society is the advancing its own interests. Men are set down as wise chiefly in proportion as practical results shall prove them to have been wise for themselves. Nevertheless, unless the wisdom have a heavenly character it cannot in any degree render the possessor truly wise for himself. If I be wise for myself I must be wise by making provision for the vast expansion of my being, and not by limiting attention to that period which is nothing but its outset. He cannot be wise for himself who dishonours himself, who degrades himself, who destroys himself. Can a man be pronounced to have been wise for himself before whose tomb a nation may be burning its incense of gratitude for his discoveries, whilst his spirit is brooding in darkness, and silence, and anguish over the vast infatuation which caused God to be forgotten whilst science is pursued? A man may be wise in all that the world calls wisdom, and yet in no sense wise for himself. Unless a man has been wise for eternity he has not been wise for himself. Only that wisdom which is from above, the wisdom which consists in knowing God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, can make a man truly wise.

II. The advantage of possessing this wisdom is altogether personal. So far as the present life is concerned the consequences of the possession or non-possession of wisdom are not confined to the individual himself. The words of Solomon had respect to the future rather than to the present. The future consequences are altogether personal. From this flows the final woe of the impenitent. A terrible punishment is solitary confinement. There may be solitariness in hell. “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men.” (H. Melvill, B.D.)

The gain of the wise

I apply this text to the all-absorbing and vitally important matter--evangelical religion. It may be paraphrased thus: He that is truly wise, will find it to his own personal everlasting advantage; it is his interest as well as him duty to be made wise unto salvation: but he who scorns religion will find his scorning eventually infinitely to his disadvantage.

I. The decided subjection of the heart to God is the only true wisdom. It is wisdom in the abstract. It is wisdom contrasted with every other acquisition. By religion is meant faith in Jesus Christ. Religion is a vague tern which may be applied to that which is true, that which is false, and that which is formal. I mean by it, that faith in Jesus Christ which is the entire submission of the heart to Him, and a practical devotedness of the life to His service. This is not only wisdom in the abstract, but wisdom of a peculiar, personal, individual importance.

II. He who accomplishes this is an infinite gainer.

1. He gains the possession of the elements of present happiness. H the possession of a truly religious character does not in its own nature exempt an individual from the calamities of life, it does what is, on the whole, far more effectual and more elevating to his character--it enables him to bear them.

2. He gains the prospect of a saved eternity. The truly converted man is the only being on the face of the earth who has a rational hold upon the blessedness of heaven.

III. He who scorns religion is an infinite loser. To scorn is to despise religion; to scoff at, to ridicule, to reject, to neglect it. He who will not repent is a scorner. He who puts off the concerns of religion is a scorner. He who is self-righteous is a scorner. Whatever the scorner is to bear, he is to bear alone.

1. He is to bear his own sins. The Christian’s sins have been borne by the Saviour in whom he trusts. The scorner has relinquished all claims upon the precious Saviour and His promises; he consents to bear the weight of his own sin.

2. He has to bear the weight of his own sorrows. The scorner throws by the precious balm of Gilead. He may take the miserable comfort of bending to the stroke of necessity, but it is a satisfaction filled with secret repinings and sorrows of the heart.

3. Look at this matter in relation to eternity. The scorner will bear the scorn of heaven and of hell.

4. The scorner will bear his own eternal self-reproaches. If there is any one thing on earth more difficult to endure than another, it is the accusation of a man’s own conscience. The mental anguish of consciously-deserved distress is intolerable. (G. T. Bedell, D.D.)

But if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.

The advantages, of a tractable person

I. The benefit which ensues from hearkening to good counsel.

1. The title or denomination of a tractable person. He is a “wise man.” It is a part of wisdom for a man to suspect his own wisdom, and to think that it is possible for him to deceive himself. It is a part of wisdom to discern between good and evil--to know what is to be left and what is to be embraced. It is a part of wisdom to know one’s best friends, and to give them all encouragement of being further friendly to us by hearkening to their counsel.

2. The benefit that accrues unto this wise man. He is wise unto himself. This wisdom redounds to a man’s own furtherance and account. He is much better for it every way. Wise for thyself--in thy inward man; in thine outward man, thy body and estate; in thy relations: there is no better way of providing for those who belong to thee than by labouring to walk in good ways. No man serves God in vain. This is true for this life and for the life to come. God bestows graces and rewards them. God has involved our own good in His glory, so that while we endeavour to promote the one we advance the other. We are no further wise ourselves than we are wise for our own souls.

II. The inconvenience of the neglect of good counsel. The simple inconvenience: “Bear his scorning.” Scorners are such as have but mean thoughts of religion. Such as decline it for themselves. Such as deride and scoff at it. The grounds of scorning are unbelief, pride and self-conceitedness, thraldom and addiction to any particular lust. Scorning is surely followed by punishment, and in the expression “thou shalt bear it” is indicated the indefiniteness, the universality, and the unavoidableness of the punishment. Scorners persist in sin, and thus aggravate it so much the more to themselves. Scorners undervalue the kindness of reproof, and slight the motions of God’s Spirit in them. Beware, then, of the sin of scorning! (T. Horton D. D.)

The profit of Wisdom

She shows that she aims not at any emolument or profit of her own, but at the good of others, to whom she directs her precepts, and by keeping of them from miseries which otherwise they shall inevitably suffer.

I. Our wisdom profits not Jesus Christ, nor doth our scorning hurt Him. Because no man can make God wiser, holier, or happier. He is above all scorns. He needs not our approbation. He can raise up others that shall honour Him more than we can dishonour Him.

II. Our wisdom may profit ourselves. It may make men happy.

1. It brings profit to us in regard of our credit. All states reverence and prefer wise men.

2. In regard of means. Wise men ordinarily thrive in all trades.

3. It is profitable to the body and preserveth life.

4. It is profitable to the soul. It preserveth it from destruction.

III. Our scorning hurts ourselves.

1. Because it frustrates the means of our salvation. Who will regard that word which he scorns?

2. It gives God just cause of our condemnation. No man will endure his word should be scorned, much less will God. (F. Taylor, B.D.)

The superiority of religion over infidelity

In the language of Solomon, to be wise is to be religious, and this language is at once correct and comprehensive. That alone deserves the name of wisdom which embraces all the important interests of man, and which reaches, in its effects, through the whole extent of his rational existence. True philosophy consists in a practical acquaintance with our duties and destination as rational and immortal beings, and in rendering this acquaintance subservient to the regulation of our affections and habits, so as to promote every virtuous disposition, and thus to prepare the soul for a state of purer and more dignified enjoyment. This is not only to be truly wise, but to be wise for ourselves. That is not properly a man’s own for the possession of which he has no permanent security. It is the peculiar excellence of religion that whilst it detracts nothing from the virtuous satisfactions which arise from honourable labour in any sphere of life, it superadds the consciousness of Divine favour. Much has been said and written of the tendency of mere moral virtue, independently of religious hopes, to make men happy. Whatever promotes self-government and temperance, and thus restrains those excesses which are inimical to health and peace, is wise; but this is not being wise for ourselves upon the best plan. It leaves out the animating considerations which religion alone can furnish. Here lies the superiority of religious wisdom. Besides all the sources of pleasure which are common to the Christian with the man of the world, it opens others of its own by furnishing objects of research to the understanding and interest to the heart infinitely more excellent and durable than any to which mere worldly wisdom can pretend. Can he, then, be wise for himself who prefers the plan of worldly wisdom to that wisdom which is from above? What is there of life or of joy in this wretched philosophy that should gain it so many proselytes? What should we gain by following their example? We might be flattered by empty praise as being unusually wise. If you care for such honour, it is of easy acquisition. You have only to deny your God and renounce your expectations from futurity, and it is done. But if you inquire what you will get in return, there are none to answer you. Let the advocates of unbelief estimate the advantages of their system as high as they please above ours, yet will that advantage dwindle into insignificance in the eye of true wisdom when the remotest probability of future account becomes a part of the computation. And where are such advantages to be found? And what must you lose in order to gain them? But they say, “Truth is wisdom; and truth must be supported, be the consequences what they may.” But is their so-called truth more than opinion? And every probability is on the side of the being of God and dependence of humanity on Him. Can there be wisdom, for ourselves or for others, in renouncing the cheering views of Christianity for the dreary systems of infidelity? (Jas. Lindsay,D.D.)

The danger of not complying with the gospel-call

This verse is the epilogue or conclusion of the gospel-treaty with sinners. The entertainment the gospel meets with is twofold, and there are two sorts of gospel-hearers: compilers with the gospel-call; these are called the wise: refusers; these are styled scorners.

I. If thou be no complier with the gospel call thou art a scorner of it: there is no middle course. Thou art not a complier with the gospel-call as long as--

1. Thou entertainest any prejudice against religion and wilt not come to Christ.

2. Thou art in a doubt whether to come or not, or delayest and putteth off.

3. If thou dost come, but dost not turn from thy sins unto God in Christ sincerely, thoroughly, and universally, thou dost not comply. By not complying with the gospel-call thou abusest the mercy, goodness, and patience of God. Thou lookest on the gospel-call as a trifling, inconsiderable thing. Thou exposest it to shame and dishonour. Thou failest of thy fair promises. Thou makest thyself merry with thy disobedience to this call. Is not that scorning?

II. If thou comply with the gospel-call thou shalt therein act wisely for thyself. The profit descends to themselves; it does not ascend to God. To confirm this, consider--

1. God is infinite in perfections, self-sufficient, and therefore the creatures can add nothing to Him.

2. All the goodness and profitableness of men or angels, or any creatures, can add nothing to Him. But by complying thou shalt advance thine own interest. (T. Boston.)


Verses 13-15

Proverbs 9:13-15

A foolish woman is clamorous.

The foolish woman

This might be understood, in all truth, of the “strange woman” with her enticements; but I am strongly inclined to interpret the passage of Folly as an allegorical personage set in contrast with Wisdom--Folly under all the forms and phases which it assumes in the world; all being included under this personification that entices from the gates of that house where Wisdom receives and entertains her guests. The characteristics of this second personage are the reverse of those of Wisdom. They are ignorance and thoughtless emptiness: what is wanting in solid and substantial ideas is made up by loud clamour and noisy importunity. She, too, hath builded her house. She, too, hath provided her entertainment. She, too, invites her guests. The houses are over against each other--on opposite sides of the way. Wisdom’s is on the right hand; Folly’s on the left. They are thus in the vicinity of each other; it being the very purpose of Folly to prevent, by her allurements, those who pass by from entering the doors of Wisdom. Each addresses her invitations, and uses--but from very different motives--every art of persuasion. Folly presents all her captivating allurements to the lusts and passions of corrupt nature; and she shows her skill in seduction by holding out, in promise, the secret enjoyment of forbidden sweets. There are pleasures in sin. It is from these that its temptations arise. Alas! Folly has the heart of man wholly on her side. (R. Wardlaw.)


Verse 14

Proverbs 9:14

For she sitteth at the door of her house.

The ministry of temptation

I. As conducted by depraved woman. A foolish woman is here the emblem of wickedness in the world.

1. She is ignorant. Blind to spiritual realities and claims. She is in the kingdom of darkness.

2. She is clamorous. Full of noise and excitement; bearing down all objections to her entreaties.

3. She is audacious. Modesty, which is the glory of a woman’s nature, has left her.

4. She is persuasive. She admits that her pleasures are wrong, and on that account more delectable.

II. As directed to the inexperienced in life. To whom does she especially direct her entreaties? Not to the mature saint stalwart in virtue. She calls “passengers,” the “simple ones.”

III. As tending to a most miserable destination. The ministry of temptation is very successful as conducted by depraved woman.

1. This woman obtained guests.

2. Her guests were ruined.

3. Her guests were ruined contrary to their intention. (Homilist.)

The pleasures of sin

One of the foul spirits that assail and possess men is singled out and delineated, and this one represents a legion in the background. This is no fancy picture. It is drawn from life. The plague is as rampant in our streets as it is represented to be in the Proverbs. Mankind have sat for the picture: there is no mistake in the outline, there is no exaggeration in the colouring. Let no youth ever once, or for a moment, go where he would be ashamed to be found by his father and his mother. This woman is the figure of all evil--the devil, the world, the flesh, whatever form they may assume and whatever weapons they may employ. The one evil spirit, dragged forth from the legion and exposed, is intended not to conceal, but to open up the generic character of the company. In this life every human being is placed between two rival invitations, and every human being in this life yields to the one or to the other. The power of sin lies in its pleasure. If stolen waters were not sweet, none would steal the waters. This is part of the mystery in which our being is involved by the fall. Our appetite is diseased. In man fallen there is a diseased relish for that which destroys. There is an appetite in our nature which finds sweetness in sin. And the appetite grows by what it feeds on. It is only in the mouth that the stolen water is sweet; afterwards it is bitter. One part of the youth’s danger lies in his ignorance: “He knoweth not that the dead are there.” (W. Arnot, D. D.)


Verse 15

Proverbs 9:15

To call passengers who go right on their ways.

The tempted ones

Who are the tempted? Young people who have been well-educated; these she will triumph most in being the ruin of.

I. What their real character is. “Passengers that go right on their ways”; that have been trained up in the paths of religion and virtue, and set out very hopefully and well; that seemed determined and designed for good, and are not (as that young man in Proverbs 7:8) “going the way to her house.” Such as these she has a design upon, and lays snares for, and uses all her arts, all her charms, to pervert them; if they go right on, and will not look toward her, she will call after them, so urgent are these temptations.

II. How the foolish woman represents them. She calls them “simple” and “wanting understanding,” and therefore courts them to her school, that they may be cured of the restraints and formalities of their religion. This is the method of the stage, where the sober young man that has been virtuously educated is the fool in the play, and the plot is to make him seven times more a child of hell than his profane companions, under colour of polishing and refining him, and setting him up for a wit and a beau. What is justly charged upon sin and impiety (Proverbs 9:4) that it is folly, is here very unjustly retorted upon the ways of virtue; but the day will declare who are the fools. (Matthew Henry.)


Verse 17-18

Proverbs 9:17-18

But he knoweth not that the dead are there.

The fatal banquet

Here two texts. Preach concerning a couple of preachers; one by usurpation, the other by assignation: the world’s chaplain, and the Lord’s prophet. First, the delightfulness of sin; second, converted Solomon. The text of the one is from hell’s scriotum est. The text of the other is the word of eternal truth. We are here presented with a banquet. The inviter is a degenerate woman, representing sin--such as ambition, pride, engrossing, bribery, faction, riot, oppression. The cheer is presented in several dishes--waters, stolen, secret; bread, eaten in secret, pleasant. Sins may be in some sense likened to waters.

1. Water is an enemy to digestion.

2. Water dulls the brain.

3. Grace is compared to fire, gracelessness to water.

4. Water is a baser element, as it were, sophisticate with transfusion.

5. Physicians say that water is a binder.

On the other hand--

1. Their weakness: they are soon in.

2. The place: hell.

3. The unrecoverableness of it: the depth of hell.

By hell is meant the deep bondage of wicked souls, Satan having by sin a full dominion over their consciences. (T. Adams.)


Verse 18

Proverbs 9:18

Her guests are in the depths of hell.

Whose guests shall we be?

It is through blindness and inconsideration that any man is entangled in the snares of the foolish woman. We are naturally starving creatures, and cannot find happiness within ourselves. As every man must have food to satisfy the natural cravings of hunger, so every soul must have some gratification to the desires of happiness. Wisdom and Folly do each spread a leash for men. The question is, Whose guests shall we be? And did we possess any wisdom, or any true and well-directed self-love, it might be easily decided. The entertainments of Wisdom are soul-quickening provision. They that hear her calls shall eat that which is good, and their souls shall live for ever. The guests of Wisdom are in the heights of heaven. They feast on the hidden manna, and on the fruits of the tree of life. The provisions of the foolish woman are a deadly, though perhaps a slow, poison. Her guests have their portion with the wicked giants who brought on the world a universal deluge, and with the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah, who are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. Let us consider where Joseph now is, and what blessings are come upon the crown of the head of him who so bravely resisted temptations the most alluring and the most threatening. Let us, on the other hand, remember Sodom and Gomorrah. (G. Lawson.)
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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Proverbs 9:4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/proverbs-9.html. 1905-1909. New York.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 12th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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