by W.T.P. Wolston
Read Proverbs 7:24-27, 8:1-26, 9:1-18
You have the ways of the “strange woman” in Proverbs 7, the voice of “Wisdom” in chapter 8, and the voice of the “foolish woman” in chapter 9. The strange woman and the foolish woman simply mean the world.
Both the connections and the contrasts of Scripture are very interesting, and I do not think any person could read these chapters without at once seeing their striking connection, the continuity of the subject, and, withal, the intense contrast between the voice of Wisdom and the voice of the foolish woman.
All these three chapters, it is very striking to notice, end with death, and death is an awful thing. Of the house of the strange woman we read, “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death” (7:27). Thank God, you have not yet landed in hell, my unsaved reader. You are on the way to it though, that is the point. If you are not converted, you have never heard Wisdom’s voice, hence you have never been blessed, and never been brought to God. Whose house are you in? The house of the strange woman, the world. Do not forget, “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” Ah, thank God, you have not yet gone down, my friend, but remember that God is going to deal with those sins of yours. Your life is not for much longer, and death is ahead of you. Thank God, it has not yet gripped you.
There is one thing, sinner, after death, and what is that for you? ‘Hell!’ You may say: “I do not like that word. I do not believe in hell.” Very likely, you are not the first infidel that has said that. I should like to give you a bit of comfort. There is not a single infidel in hell. “Oh,” you say, “I thought, according to your doctrine, that all infidels went there.” You are mistaken. There is not a solitary infidel in hell. Do you know why? Because all the infidelity is knocked out of their souls as they enter the doorway. Ah, my friend, hell is a reality. I believe in it. God believes in it. The devil believes in it. The Spirit of God believes in it. It is only your enemy the devil—always a liar—that will tell you there is no hell.
I believe in the Word of God, every line of it I find it says, “Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death.” “That is not the gospel,” you will say. I know it is not. But it is a terrible reality from which the gospel will deliver you. Surely it is enough to be warned, is it not? Sinner, God bids you stop in your downward course. Hence He warns you of what is its end. Heed His warning.
My unsaved friend, God wants you. His heart is toward you; hence we read in chapter 8, “Doth not wisdom cry?” Who is Wisdom? Jesus. He is Wisdom. He is the Wisdom of God. It is the voice of the blessed Son of God that speaks. “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths” (vv. 1-2). It is beautiful to see the activity of Wisdom. I never read this scripture that I do not feel rebuked. How little am I like Wisdom. Oh, look at this divine activity. Are we in this spirit? Where does she stand! “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” (v. 3). Anywhere, everywhere, there is no place, so to speak, that you cannot find Wisdom or one of her maidens, according to these chapters. And what does she cry? “Unto you, O men, I call; and my voice is to the sons of men” (v. 4).
It is the voice of God to the unsaved children of men. It is the voice of the living God to the unsaved, unblest sinner. Dear friend, do you think it wise still to refuse? Do you think it wise to make light of God’s call? “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart” (v. 5). God calls us fools. Aye. A man pressing on to ruin when he might be going to glory is indeed a fool. A man that is going to eternal penalty instead of turning to God, and going to everlasting joy, what do you think of that man? I think you also would call him a fool.
Have you not heard of the man in the New Testament who thought of nothing but the things of this world, and who was going to build new barns to hold the golden grain that was to turn into golden sovereigns? He had only lived for the world, and he was just dropping asleep when, all of a sudden, he heard a voice saying, “Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee” (Luke 12:20). That man was a fool. He has many imitators. Friend, you listen to God. Hear His Word: “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart.” All that God wants you to do is to heed His voice. If He gets your ear, He will be sure to get your heart. Do you know why? Because it says, “Hear, and your soul shall live.” It says also, “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Oh, I believe in the mighty power of God’s Word, used by his spirit, to wake men up. I believe in the almightiness of that Word.
Wisdom says, “Hear; for I will speak of excellent things; and the opening of my lips shall be right things” (v. 6). Then Wisdom is described. Read Proverbs 8 carefully, and you will find it describes the person of the Lord Jesus, and unfolds the eternal glory of the Son of God. His blessed voice says: “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” (vv. 10-11). If you had your house filled with rubies, you would have to leave them behind. But if you have Wisdom you will not leave that behind, and when the Lord comes back for His people He will not leave you behind.
This chapter describes where Wisdom was when God made the heavens and the earth. “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” (vv. 22-24). He is an Eternal Being. And He came into this world in blessed grace, the Word was made flesh that He might glorify God, and the shedding of His blood meets all the claims of God in respect of man’s sin. It is an Eternal Being, the Son of everlasting God, who, in grace, became a Man that He might win your heart and mine. He says, “Then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him” (v. 30). Here is the Son of God, here is the blessed One who was ever the joy of the Father’s heart, and we find that He says, “Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men” (v. 31). He had His eye upon us then in the purpose and counsel of His heart.
Let us listen attentively to His words. “Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways” (v. 32). How He seeks to win us. “Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me” (vv. 33-34). The same voice said, “The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live” (John 5:25). These were His own blessed words when here upon earth. This hour of gracious blessing began when He was on the earth, it goes on still. Although He has gone, as a Man, to the right hand of God, His blessed voice still speaks, and His heart is unchanged, His thoughts toward us are quite the same. “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” (vv. 34-35). The listeners to His voice are in His grace. “But he that sinneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (v. 36).
Now which of these verses, my reader, are you in, verse 35 or verse 36? You do not care for Jesus? No. Then you love death. You do not love the Lord? No. You love death. You are doing an irreparable injury to your own soul. I do not know anything more touching than this expostulation of the blessed Lord. Can anything be more touching or tender? Note well His words, as He says, “For whose findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord.” Everything turns on personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus.
Dear fellow-Christian, you have life. Possibly you may say, “I was brought to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ only last Sunday night.” Be it so. You found life then. Life is a sweet thing to get, and it often is gotten in a gospel meeting, or by reading a paper like this.
You may say, undecided one, “I do not believe in sudden conversions.” You will when you are converted. You may get saved where you are, and as you read this page, by simply trusting the Lord Jesus. Mark this, if you are not saved by the belief of the gospel, you will be eternally damned in your sins because you have not believed it. You say, “I cannot believe it.” Cannot believe God? Cannot believe the Word of God? That is a very serious acknowledgment. I think I know why you cannot. Another voice has hitherto commanded you.
You have heard about the “strange woman.” Her voice is heard in the ninth chapter. The world has a loud voice, and, alas, you can understand the voice of the foolish woman. Just look for a moment at her first. Only, I must say, she is an imitator. “A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing” (chap. 9:13). I am always struck with the variety with which Satan floods and caters for the world. There is usually a noise, and there must always be something new, something fresh. The world could not go on if you did not give it fresh novels, fresh plays, and fresh songs. This is all in keeping with the character of the foolish woman. “For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city” (v. 14). She has got the highest place, if I might say so. Do you know where Wisdom’s maidens are? She sends forth her maidens, and she stands in the high places of the city, but she has no seat. She moves on. But this woman has a seat, she is at home. It is the world, it expects to abide, and promises you what is abiding.
Hence, “She sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, to call passengers who go right on their ways.” And what does she say? “Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.”
She will promise you pleasure and amusement. They are but “the pleasures of sin for a season.” God alone can fill the heart with abiding peace and joy. “Pleasures for evermore” He furnishes. It is nearly forty-four years since I first tasted them, and they get better and better as time goes on. The foolish woman can never give you rest and peace. It is impossible. But she calls vigorously to passengers, “Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant” (vv. 16-17). A stolen thing is what belongs to somebody else. “Stolen waters are sweet.” What is the idea of stolen waters? Let nobody know. “And bread eaten in secret is pleasant.” There is the secrecy of sin.
Reader, forget not that all will come out. All will come out by-and-by, that is not blotted out now by the blood of Jesus. Remember, every secret of the heart will come out by-and-by. That is a serious thing. “Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant,” is the language of the careless world. “But he knoweth not that the dead are there.” It is a house of the dead. Oh, unsaved friend, dear unsaved soul, take heed to the voice of the Lord. He here details simply but most solemnly what is the end of the world, “Her guests are in the depths of hell.” Supposing you scorn His word, what will be the end of it? He says, “If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself.” I think that is beautiful. That is, the truth is always individual. If I am wise I get it myself. It is not that I cannot tell others. “If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it” (v. 12). I want you to see how intensely individual everything is in relation to the things of God. Are you still going to be the guest of this foolish woman? Better far be the guest of Wisdom.
And now let us see in chapter 9 what Wisdom has done. Wisdom has a house, and oh, it is a wonderful house. “Wisdom hath builded her house” (v. 1). Ah, it is a wonderful house is Wisdom’s house. It is the house of God. It is where God is known. It is where His character is known. And look—“She hath hewn out her seven pillars” (v. 1). It gives the idea of that which was a sort of canopy. And how many pillars? Seven. I know a good many of the pillars. The canopy over my head is glory. What supports this structure is the pillars. I would fain describe this house to you. You can get in through any of the pillars. I think that the first pillar is the Purpose of God. God had a purpose in His mind, it is a house where God is known, Christ is enjoyed, and every heart is profoundly and eternally happy. What is the second pillar? I see how the truth has all come out, in Christ, and I label my next pillar, Love. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son.”
And what is the next pillar? You know God cannot put up with sin, and cannot make light of sin. His holiness forbids that. There is no sin there, it is all outside. There are plenty of guests, all perfectly happy, but there is no sin in there. The third pillar is Holiness. But there is more. There is the pillar of Righteousness. God’s claims have all been met by the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, by His atoning blood. I have the purpose of God, the love of God, the holiness of God, and the righteousness of God. But there is more than that. We have in Christ the revelation and unfolding of the Truth of God. There is another wonderful pillar, Mercy. Oh, the mercy of God! Of this house, I say, one of its pillars is mercy. There is yet another pillar, Grace. And are those the seven pillars of the house? Well, they are seven very solid pillars, and they are very sound pillars, and, thank God, the house they sustain can never be moved. Everybody in that house is divinely happy. Have you got in yet? If not, you come just now into God’s house.
After Wisdom builds her house, she furnishes it right royally, and invites her guests. We read, “She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table” (v. 2). What is the idea? “Come, for all things are now ready.” Yes, the feast is spread. And what is the feast? The revelation of all that God has made known in the gospel. And what have you to do? Come in and eat. You have nothing to bring. Come in, poor sinner. Do I hear you reply, “I am such a sinner, I am a dreadful sinner”? Never mind. You may come in, if you so please, by the Grace pillar, or the Love pillar, or the Truth pillar, but you can come in.
And to Whom do you come? To God, revealed in His blessed Son. How do I know this? When everything was furnished, what was Wisdom’s next action “She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.” Where? Into scenes of joy and satisfaction. Oh, turn into this scene where joy is deep and abiding. It is like the feast of Luke 14, and the feast in the Father’s house of Luke 15. What a welcome you will get. Oh, come. “As for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled” (v. 5). That is beautiful.
Now, beloved reader, will you not hear Wisdom’s voice, because although it is her maidens that come out and address you, still it is Wisdom’s voice. It is all her work. It is all Christ. It is the activity of the love of Christ going through the various channels.
How blessed would you be if you respond to the call—“Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.” You would be saved and satisfied. Observe, it is not stolen bread. It is not that which the voice of the clamorous woman urges you to eat of. Wisdom’s bread is eaten in public. There are no secrets in God’s gospel. It is all abroad in the world now, God has loved the world, and His Son has died for it. “This thing was not done in a corner,” Paul says. No, Jesus died in view of the whole world. What for? To save a sinner like you, or me, from the depths of hell.
Wisdom’s call closes with great emphasis. “Forsake the foolish, and live.” There will have to be decision on your part, and then instruction for the pathway follows: “And go in the way of understanding” (v. 6). Friend, come in and feed. If you never took the gospel before, take it just now. If hitherto you never got hold of the fact that Christ has died for you, believe it now. Christ wants to save you. What do you say? Fain would I hear you reply, “I will take Him at His word.” That would mean present pardon of your sins, and eternal joy to your heart.
The Gospel Messenger 1904, p. 212