Christ, As Illustrated in the Book of Proverbs.
by William Luff
CHRIST’S FRIENDSHIP AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
ONE who felt lonely in the world signed a letter, "Yours in want of a friend." The receiver invited the writer of that letter to a meeting the following day, where the first hymn sung was—
"I’ve found a Friend, oh, such a Friend!
He loved me ere I knew Him;
He drew me with the cords of love,
And thus He bound me to Him."
This was supplemented by a text in the reading for the day: "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" (Prov. xviii. 24).
From this we were led to look up Christ’s friendship as illustrated in The Book of Proverbs. Let us follow the thought:----
"A friend loveth at all times" (Prov. xvii. 17). Without love there cannot be real friendship; but here is a Friend who "loveth at all times." Glad times and sad times; times of heaven’s smiles and times of earth’s trials. Never more, never less. Love always in His heart, in His words, in His actions. Loveth me now, at this time, whether I feel it or not, whether I love or not. "Loveth"----always in the present tense; not "will love when I improve; not, did love when I loved more; but "loveth" at this tick of time. Always did love me, always does love me, and always will love me; for it is unchanging and everlasting love.
"There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother " (Prov. xviii. 24). Sticketh close—as the vine is friend to the branch; as the foundation is friend to all the smaller stones that rest upon it. I am glad it does not say, we stick close to Him. No, He sticketh close; and Paul was right when he said, "I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. viii. 38, 39). No separation! How love, when true, holds to its own through suffering, slander, sickness, death! "A whisperer separateth chief friends" (Prov. xvi. 28). But no whisperer shall turn Christ against His friends. In poverty, a man’s friends go far from him" (Prov. xix. 7. But not this Friend. "All forsook Him and fled" (Mark xiv. 50); but He "forsaketh not" (Ps. xxxvii. 28).
"He loves His people, great and small,
And grasping hard embraceth all,
Nor with a soul will part.
No tribulation which they feel,
Nor foes of earth, or fiends of hell,
Shall tear them from His heart."
"Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (Prov. xix. 6). This is why we are friends with Christ. Selfishness brought us to Him, and He did not refuse to give His gifts. We give nothing, and get everything. "Giveth gifts"----indeed He does! Grace, guidance, and glory; life to all that is good, and death to all that is ill. Eyes to see, and light to see with. Pardon, peace, power, purity, paradise. Gifts increase in value for the sake of the friend who gives them; here the gifts are good, and the Giver is God, so there is double value.
"He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the king shall be his friend" (Prov. xxii. 11). Here we have the character of Christ’s friends—their hearts are pure, and their lips are sweet. They love purity, even if they have not hearts as pure as they desire. No good man will be an admirer of dirty faces; nor is Christ a friend to filth----except to cleanse it. When a friend calls to see me, I expect him to wipe his shoes; in Christ’s presence we must put off our shoes. Here is----
A Royal Friend, with Pardoning Prerogatives.
A Rich Friend, with Priceless Possessions.
A Ruling Friend, with Presiding Power.
"Faithful are the wounds of a friend" (Prov. xxvii. 6). The old apple-tree had ceased to bear fruit, so the keeper of the orchard lopped off the branches until it stood divested of every limb, bleeding and mutilated, wounded indeed; then the friendly hand inserted new grafts, and by and by, the old tree seemed to have a new life and bore better fruit than ever; and it was heard to say, as the wind shook it playfully, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend." Flatterers stroke where a friend will strike. "Wounds," mark you, not one, but many, and hard, or they would not be wounds. They are the wounds of a Friend.
A wound of worldly loss by Him who lost all.
A wound of bereavement by the Friend who wept.
A wound of sickness by the Friend who healeth.
A wound of death by Death’s Conqueror.
"A man that hath friends must show himself friendly" (Prov. xviii. 24). Hath not Christ shown His friendship? Listen to the quaint words of John Berridge:----
"A method strange this Friend hath shown
Of making love divinely known
To rebels doomed to die.
Unasked, He takes our humbler form,
And condescends to be a worm,
To lift us up on high."
"The law demanded blood for blood;
And out He lets His vital flood
To pay the mortal debt!
He toils through life, and pants through death,
And cries, with His expiring breath,
‘Tis finished and complete!"
Truly He hath shown Himself friendly.
"He that blesseth his friend with a loud voice, rising early in the morning, it shall be counted a curse to him" (Prov. xxvii. 14). Loud profession is often false profession. He who has the strongest voice for "Hosanna," will frequently have as strong a voice for "Crucify Him." An empty drum makes much noise, and so does an empty profession. Still waters run deep, if of the true river of life. The stream makes most demonstration in its fall; where there is much noise in spiritual profession, there will probably be a "fall" near.
"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart; so doth the sweetness of a man’s friend by hearty counsel" (Prov. xxvii. 9). Here we have communion with our Friend, and it is said to be sweet----
"Sweet the moments, rich in blessing,
Which before the Cross I spend!
Life and health and peace possessing
From the sinner’s dying Friend,"
"Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpenteth the countenance of his friend" (Prov. xxvii. 17). These two verses give us the double blessing of fellowship with our Friend. It is as "ointment" to the heart, healing its wounds and sweetening all ill odours; it is also a brightener of the "countenance." When the diamond has communion with the sun it is sure to shine."
"Thine own Friend and thy father's Friend forsake not" (Prov. xxvii. 10). "Thine own Friend." Can you say, "This is my Beloved, and this is my Friend" (Cant. v. 16)? "Thine own Friend." Blessed title! "And thy father’s Friend." Christ is the Friend of the heavenly Father—thy Father’s Friend. Beautiful thought! My Friend is my Father’s Friend. I am one with God, when I look upon Christ with love. This Friend, forsakes not. Shall the cedar forsake Lebanon? Shall the fish forsake the water? Shall the earth forsake the sun? This Friend is and has all, so there is no need to forsake Him.
Lord, Thou lovest Thy friends, Thou stickest close unto Thy friends; help us to cleave unto Thee. Let Thy friendship hold us, Thy friends.
CHRlST’S SURETYSHIP, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
CHRIST is said to be "a Surety" (Heb. vii. 22). "What is a surety? Let us take two illustrations, outside the Book of Proverbs, that may enlighten us upon this word. Reuben became surety to his father for Benjamin, saying, "Slay my two sons if I bring him not to thee" (Gen. xlii. 37). He thus became responsible for his brother, and used his relationship as a plea with Joseph: "Thy servant became surety for the lad unto my father, saying, If I bring him not unto thee, then I shall bear the blame to my father forever" (Gen. xliv. 32). May we not apply the very words of Reuben to the Lord Christ, Who says to His Father of every believing sinner, "I will be Surety for him; of My hand shalt Thou require him, if I bring him not unto Thee, and set him before Thee, then let Me bear the blame forever" (Gen. xliii. 9).
The second illustration is in the New Testament, when Paul became surety for Onesimus, the runaway slave he was sending back to his master Philemon, with this message: "If he hath wronged thee, or oweth thee ought, put that on mine account; I Paul have written it with mine own hand, I will repay it" (Philemon 18 & 19). This may also be applied to reveal the suretyship of Christ. We have wronged and robbed our Master; but the good Saviour saith, "Put that on Mine account; I will repay it."
From these two instances, we gather a fair idea of suretyship, and are prepared to look at the subject in the light of Solomon’s wisdom. The wise man seems to have had a wholesome dread of this thing, and to have realized its terrible consequences.
"Be not thou one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts" (Prov. xxii. 26). "He that hateth suretyship is sure" (Prov. xi. 15). Certainly, judged in the light of cold wisdom and prudence, this is good advice; but love, real love, does not so judge. Our Jesus knew perfectly well the seriousness of His undertaking, and that if He would save Himself, He had better not enter into any such relationship; but love conquered. Himself, He could not save.
"This was compassion like a God,
That when the Saviour knew
The price of pardon was His blood,
His pity ne’er withdrew."
Solomon’s advice to all who have been led into suretyship for those of whom they know little, is that they escape from the danger at once: "Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler" (Prov. vi. 1-5). Christ thought not so. He had a baptism to be baptized with, and said, "How am I straitened till it be accomplished" (Luke xii. 50). Draw back! Deliver His soul! No. That He knew the sorrows awaiting Him is evident from Matt. xvi. 21, xvii. 22, xx. 18, xxvi. 2; yet "He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem" (Luke ix. 51).
Solomon seems specially to warn those with little of this world’s goods against becoming sureties: "If thou hast nothing to pay, why should he take away thy bed from under thee?" (Prov. xxii. 27). Our Surety had the means to meet all demands; but it took all, and reduced Him, as man, to abject poverty. "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be rich" (2 Cor. viii. 9). So poor that He had "nothing to pay" tribute with, until a fish ministered unto His need; while the very bed seemed taken from under Him, as He said, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head" (Matt. viii. 20). He gave His glory; but the demand said, "More!" He gave His life of manly toil and blessing; but more was required to pay our debts. He gave His back to the smiters; but still the cry was, "More!" The blood flowed from His scourged shoulders and thorn-crowned brow; but justice was not satisfied. At last He "poured out His soul unto death" (Isa. liii. 12), and the law that had said, "The soul that sinneth, it shall die" (Ezek. xviii. 4), accepted the soul of the Surety in the stead of the soul of the guilty, and exclaimed, "It is enough!"
"To this dear Surety’s hand
Will I commit my cause;
He answers and fulfils
His Father’s broken laws;
Behold my soul at freedom set!
My Surety paid the dreadful debt."----Watts.
"He that is surety for a stranger shall smart for it" (Prov. xi. 15). Are not we the strangers?----"strangers from the covenants of promise" (Eph. ii. 12). Christ as our Surety had to "smart" indeed. Take the words that suggest suffering in Ps. xxii., and we shall get a glimpse of how Christ smarted: "Forsaken," "reproached," "despised," "troubled," "compassed," "pierced." Think of such expressions as these in the same psalm: "Thou hearest not," "I am a worm," "A reproach of men," "Trouble is near," "There is none to help," "Bulls have beset Me round," "I am poured out like water," "All My bones are out of joint," "My heart is like wax," "My strength is dried up," "My tongue cleaveth to My jaws," "Thou hast brought Me into the dust of death." Our Surety was thus smarting under the desertion of friends, smarting under the spite of enemies, smarting under the curse of sin, and smarting under the wrath of God. All this for me, a stranger, for whom He had become Surety! Truly He smarted for His lovingkindness.
The marginal reading of this verse is perhaps even more emphatic: "He that is surety for a stranger, shall be sore broken." Hence we find Christ saying, "I am feeble and sore broken" (Ps. xxxviii. 8). A fair vessel, but shattered into fragments (Ps. xxxi. 12). "Reproach hath broken My heart" (Ps. lxix. 20). His "body broken for our sake" meant suffering; but physicians tell us our Lord died of a broken heart. "A broken spirit drieth the bones" (Prov. xvii. 22). Such was the breaking of our Surety.
From the Revised Version, let us quote one other verse: "Take his garment that is surety for a stranger; and hold him in pledge that is surety for strangers" (Prov. xx. 16). "Hold Him in pledge," said the Jewish priests and Roman guards, and to secure their prize, they sealed the stone of His sepulchre. "Hold Him in pledge," cried Death, and he walked night and day unseen in the garden where Christ lay. "Hold Him in pledge," roared Satan, as he gathered his forces about the tomb. But ere the resurrection dawn wakened the sleeping world, an earthquake shook the prison. The debt was paid! the Surety free! and forth He stepped into life and liberty.
Christ as my Surety undertook all my payments and repayments; as my Surety, He was held in pledge while payment was presented; then as my Surety, He burst the prison gates----nay, that might have looked like an unlawful escape—an angel was sent to roll away the stone, a liberating officer from the High Court of Justice (Matt. xxviii. 2).
John Berridge has a thought upon the first clause of this verse which is worth repeating; his quaint lines shall serve as a finish to this interesting subject—
"Through native pride I could not see
My soul was banished, Lord, from Thee,
And in a dungeon pent;
Born like my neighbours vain and blind,
I could not view my frightful mind,
And so remained content.
"But now through Jesus’ help I view
My helpless state, and feel it too,
And own my nakedness;
To screen my back, and warm my side,
No raiment can my hands provide,
No real righteous dress.
"Yet some fond hope ariseth still,
That Jesus Christ in mercy will
Relieve my ragged case;
He bids me take a Surety‘s coat
Who for a stranger gives His note,
And stands in debter's place.
"A friendly word the Lord has spake,
And sure I will Thy garment take,
For Surety is Thy name;
Thy garment will exactly suit,
And clothe me well from head to foot,
And cover all my shame.
"So clad, I shall outstrip the moon,
And shine in splendour as the sun,
And may to Court repair;
No robe like this in heaven is seen,
No angel’s coat is half so clean,
Nor may with it compare."
CHRIST’S KINGSHIP AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
I.----SOLOMON, who wrote the Proverbs, was undoubtedly a type of Christ. This was particularly true in his kingship. "There is another King, one Jesus" (Acts xvii. 7)—one "greater than Solomon" (Matt. xii. 42)----one of whom it is said, "The government shall be upon His shoulder" (Isa. ix. 6)—a King anointed (Ps. lxxxix. 20), crowned (Ps. xxi. 3), enthroned (Ps. ii. 6), girded (Ps. xlv. 3), proclaimed (John xii. 15).
He is "King of peace" (Heb. vii. 2), King over all the earth (Zech. xiv. 9), King of glory (Ps. xxiv. 10). He is King over creation. The sun is His crown, the snowy-peak His ivory throne, the lightning flash the waving of His sceptre, the earthquake, the stamping of His foot, awing the world into silence. He is King in providence.
"He overrules all mortal things,
And manages our mean affairs;
On worms of earth the King of kings
Bestows His counsels and His cares."
But He is pre-eminently King over all principalities and powers angelic, Satanic, and human----for or against (Phil. ii. 10). Thus He rules over some things without their wlll, over others against their will and over others with their will.
William Dyer, writing about 1666, has the following:—"Christ is, first, His enemies’ King; secondly, His saints’ King; thirdly, His Father's King. The first, He rules over; the second, He rules in; the third, He rules for."
Let us approach this grand subject with lowly hearts; from the depths of humility, we shall best see this bright star.
"Put not forth thyself in the presence of the King" (Prov. xxv. 6). A spider may take hold with her hands, and dwell in the king's palace; but let her not build her nest in his crown (Prov. xxx. 28). Men, sinful men, put themselves forth in the presence of Christ the sinless Man? Never! Self must retire. "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John iii. 30). "What are all the mighty men, the great, the honourable men, of the earth to Jesus Christ? They are but like a little bubble in the water; for if all the nations in comparison to God be but as the drop of the bucket, or the dust of the balance, as the prophet speaks in lsa. xl. 15, "O how little, then, must be the kings of the earth!" Shall we who are not even kings, set forth ourselves before the King of kings? Yet, as Miss Havergal sweetly wrote, "He has graciously accepted the poor little fleeting breath and speck of dust which was all we had to offer."
"Mercy and truth preserve the King; and His throne is upholden in mercy" (Prov. xx. 28). Therefore His throne is "forever and ever" (Heb. i. 8). A similar passage occurs in Rev. xv. 3: "Just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints." And in Zech. ix. 9: "Behold, thy King cometh unto thee; He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass." Few kings unite these qualities—mercy and truth, justice and lowliness. He sits upon a spotless white throne of justice; but the sprinkled blood has made it a "throne of grace" (Heb. iv. 16). Thus in His righteousness, He can say, "I will be merciful to their unrighteousness" (Heb. viii. 12). Many thrones are upholden by cruelty and craft. Not so His throne. Here is cause for joy; for "when the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice" (Prov. xxix. 2).
"In the multitude of people, is the King’s honour" (Prov. xiv. 28). "When Queen Victoria opened the Indian and Colonial Exhibition, it was stated in the papers that not far short of three hundred millions of people were there represented, all owning the sovereignty of Her Majesty; but what is this vast multitude to those who have acknowledged, do, and shall acknowledge Christ as King? "The kingdom is the Lord’s; He is Governor among the nations" (Ps. xxii. 28). "There was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve Him" (Dan. vii. 14). That day will come when it shall be said, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He shall reign forever and ever" (Rev. xi. 15). Multitudes followed Jesus of old (Matt. ix. 36). Multitudes follow Him to-day; but it shall by and by be "a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues" (Rev. vii. 9). "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand" (John iii. 35); thus fulfilling the Words of Ps. lxxxix. 27: "I will make Him My firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth."
"The King’s favour is toward a wise servant; but his wrath is against him that causeth shame" (Prov. xiv. 35). "Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant?" (Matt. xxiv. 45). He is a watcher, watching against thieves and for his Master. He is also a worker (Luke xii. 40), doing according to his Lord’s will (verse 47); not enjoying himself, but attending to the household, "to give them their portion of meat in due season." He is also a winner of souls (Prov. xi. 30), carrying on his Master's great business.
The wise servant is known by his EAR, which "seeketh knowledge" (Prov. xviii. 15), and "hearkeneth unto counsel" (xii. 15); also by his LIPS, which "disperse knowledge" (xv. 7). The King’s favour is toward such an one. What that favour is, Solomon tells us in the following words:----
"In the light of the King's countenance is life; and His favour is as a cloud of the latter rain" (Prov. xvi. 1. Here we have sunshine and shower. Favour in the heart gives light in the countenance, and a smile is a sunbeam of life. A butterfly had been hidden away through the long winter in a dark thatch, but one spring day, the warm beams of the sun shone in; it was the light of the King’s face, and brought life, wooing the insect forth revived and glad. The King’s countenance—the light of the King’s countenance. Quoting F. R. Havergal, we may say, "God’s love is not a cold, beautiful, far-off star, but a sunshine that comes and enfolds us, making us warm, and glad, and strong, and bright, and beautiful." Add to this "the latter rain," and the refreshing is complete. Oh, what showers of blessing come in His favour, arching us in a bow of promise! We have both in some old lines—
"The sick, with frequent sighs,
Pass many a tedious night;
But when the morning beams arise,
How cheering is the light!
"So when sad sinners pass
A legal night of fears,
And see the Sun of Righteousness,
How sweet His light appears!
"It bids their guilt depart,
A heaven in view it brings;
The peace of God revives the heart,
And life eternal springs."
"The seed in sorrow sown,
Springs up and thrives apace;
New verdure on the field is grown,
And wears a smiling face.
"Yet grain, of kindly birth,
Will sigh for help again,
Nor can be fostered by the earth
Without a latter rain.
"The Gospel fields must call
Upon the Gospel King;
And when He bids His showers fall,
Oh, how they laugh and sing!"
"Righteous lips are the delight of kings; and they love him that speaketh right " (Prov. xvi. 13). If this be true of ordinary kings, how much more is it true of Him who is called "King of righteousness" (Heb. vii. 2), Who "shall reign in righteousness" (Isa. xxxii. 1), with a "sceptre of righteousness" (Heb. i. 8). How blessed to be the object of such a King’s delight and love! "Behold, the King hath delight in thee, and all His servants love thee" (l Sam. xviii. 22). But who has righteous lips? Righteous lips betoken a righteous heart, for "out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh" (Matt. xii. 34). "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Rom. iii. 10). "Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged" (Isa. vi. 7). Here is the secret! Touched lips "drop as the honeycomb" (Cant. iv. 11), and are the King’s delight. Such lips are righteous lips, and win the King’s kiss (Cant. i. 1).
II.----HAVING seen the brightness of the king’s favour, let us look a moment upon the dark storm-cloud of his anger.
"The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion; whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul" (Prov. xx. 2). What terror is produced in the forest by the roar of the king of beasts! An awful hint at the fearfulness of Christ’s anger. Kiss Him, lest ye perish from the way (Ps. ii. 12). He who does not, is in danger from two lions—the devil (1 Pet. v. 8, 9), and the wrath of the King. "Whoso provoketh Him to anger." Will any do this? Oh, if the Lion-King were not marvellously meek, He would never bear our provocations. But the end will come. "The powers that be are ordained of God; whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Rom. xiii. 1, 2).
"The king’s wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass" (Prov. xix. 12). What a contrast! The fierce noisy lion, and the soft, gentle dew. The one is destruction, the other, life. How can we escape the curse and win the blessing?
"The wrath of a king is as messengers of death, but a wise man will pacify it " (Prov. xvi. 14). Let rebels beware! The King is making out their death warrant, and the "messengers of death" are already mounted. How can we pacify Him? Send an embassage and desire conditions of peace (Luke xiv. 32). "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord; say unto Him, "Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously" (Hos. xiv. 2). The answer will be, "I will love them freely, for Mine anger is turned away from him" (verse 4). Then shall we have the dew of favour (verse 5). Submit! for "yielding pacifieth great offences" (Eccl. x. 4). Sweet words, "I will be quiet, and will be no more angry" (Ezek. xvi. 42). "As I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee" (Isa. liv. 9). Blessed experience! "Though Thou wast angry with me, Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me" (Isa. xii. 1).
"A divine sentence is in the lips of the king; his mouth transgresseth not in judgment" (Prov. xvi. 10). Christ is "the King" by Divine right; therefore, His sentence is a Divine sentence. A sentence of forgiveness----"Thy sins be forgiven thee" (Matt. ix. 2). A sentence of liberty----"Christ hath made us free" (Gal. v. 1).
"His mouth transgresseth not in judgment," so that we may safely rest upon the sentence He has pronounced. "It is God that justifieth" (Rom. viii. 33).
The marginal reading is, "Divination is in the lips of kings." Undoubtedly this is true of our King. Wot ye not that such a King as He can divine (Gen. xliv. 15)? The future may be dark to us, that we cannot divine (Mic. iii. 6): but the Lord knoweth. This leads up to another passage: "The honour of kings is to search out a matter" (Prov. xxv. 2). It is the glory of God to cover sin; but it is the glory of a king to search it out, to fathom all mysteries, plots, rebellions, cases of oppression and wrong. "There is nothing hid which shall not be manifested" (Mark iv. 22). "All things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with Whom we have to do" (Heb. iv. 13). He knows all His subjects’ hearts and smarts, wants and ways, fears and tears.
Yes, Jesus knows, just what you cannot tell---
He understands so well!
The silence of the heart is heard,
He does not need a single word,
He thinks of you,
He watcheth and He careth too:
He pitieth! He loveth! All this flows
In one sweet word: He knows!"----F.R.Havergal
"The heart of kings is unsearchable" (Prov. xxv. 3). Christ can search me; but I cannot search Him. There always must be a mystery here. The King does not explain Himself to His subjects. Thank God, if the King’s heart is unsearchable, it is full of love. It is an unsearchable store of wealth (Eph. iii. 8). The Spanish ambassador heard of the treasure of St. Mark, at Venice: thrusting his hand in, he felt for the bottom, saying, "My great master’s treasury differs from yours in this: his hath no bottom as yours hath," alluding to the mines of the Indies. So with the heart of our King. One has said, "Christ is a mine of gold, which we must dig till we find heaven."
"Take away the wicked from before the king, and his throne shall be established in righteousness" (Prov. xxv. 5). How this is illustrated (Matt. xxii. 13); the feast was spread: the guests were gathered: all was light, joy, and praise; but when the King came in, "He saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment; "and the word was given, "Take him away." Solomon’s idea was that of wicked courtiers; happily none such can abide in the presence of our King, to influence His mind; indeed, one glance of His eye is enough.
"A king that sitteth in the throne of judgment, scattereth away all evil with his eyes" (Prov. xx. 8). "A wise king scattereth the wicked, and bringeth the wheel over them" (ver. 26). Our "King is Judge, and appoints no deputy—"a king that sitteth in the throne"----while the wicked are as chaff, which the wind driveth away. He scattereth, or winnoweth them, and bringeth the threshing-wheel over them (Isa. xxviii. 27). A wicked man and a righteous king cannot be long together: "Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment" (Ps. i. 5). According to the book of Proverbs, a good king pleaded for the poor.
"Open thy mouth, for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction. Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy" (Prov. xxxi. 8, 9). The day of Christ's humiliation is over, and He is exalted (Phil. ii. 8): but does He forget those appointed to death? Let an extract from William Gurnal answer. "Suppose a king’s son should get out of a besieged city, where he had left his wife and children, and these are all ready to die by sword or famine if supply come not soon; could this prince, when arrived at his father’s house, please himself with the delights of the court, and forget the distress of his family? Or rather would he not come post (haste) to his father, (having their cries and groans always in his ears) and before he ate or drank, do his errand to his father, and entreat him, if ever he loved him, that he would send all the force of his kingdom to raise the siege, rather than any of his dear relations should perish." Forget his loved ones? Why, He sent the Spirit, "as soon almost as He was warm in His seat at His Father’s right hand." Hark! I hear the old familiar voice saying, "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne" (Rev. iii. 21). Said one, "There are many kings that undo their subjects, but Christ makes His subjects; many kings make their subjects beggars, but Christ makes His subjects kings; many kings put their subjects to death, but Christ died that His subjects might live; they give their subjects titles, but Christ gives all His subjects grace and glory." Forget? "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory" (John xvii. 24; Isa. xxxv. 2).
Such a king is "a king against whom there is no rising up" (Prov. xxx. 31). He rules the heart, the will, the conscience, "Other lords beside Thee have had dominion over us" (Isa. xxvi. 13). Revolt would be useless. The kings of the earth set themselves to try the business; but it was a failure (Ps. ii.; Matt. ii. 16, xxvi. 59; Acts, iv. 27). Who would rise up against One Who could say, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. xxviii. 18), to which is added, "authority to execute judgment also" (John, v. 27). Another reading of this verse speaks of the stately march of a king "when his army is with him," a united host, led by their royal lord. A grand sight. Do we not get a glimpse of it in Rev. xix. 11-16: "Behold, a white horse, and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness, He doth judge and make war . . . And the armies which were in heaven, followed Him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean." He is "King of Kings," and will have the throne. In the meantime let us rest upon the Word, "He must reign" (1 Cor. xv. 25). He does reign. Not only when things go as we wish, but when they disappoint us and we have to learn that at least we do not reign. Our plans may fail, our programme fall through, our desires be withheld, but---HE MUST REIGN!
THE RICHES OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
KINGSHIP implies riches. "Solomon exceeded all the kings of the earth for riches" (1 Kings x. 23). In this, he was again a type of Him "in Whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. ii. 3). Solomon’s estimate of riches was not very great if restricted to gold; for though he "made silver to be in Jerusalem as stones" (1 Kings x. 27), yet he said, "Riches are not forever" (Prov. xxvii. 24). Let us not covet unduly the gold of earth. We should hardly envy a man, the metal weights that sink him into the depths----the fewer the better, if his life depends upon swimming. We must not, however, forget that gold is good, though not God. The stamp of heaven is upon every coin, for the King of kings claims both silver and gold (Hag. ii. 8). Take what thou gettest as from His hand, given as a talent----His talent----to be used wisely as part of the riches of Christ.
"There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches" (Prov. xiii. 7). Was not this true of Jesus? "Ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes, He became poor" (2 Cor. viii. 9). "We often think of our enrichment through Christ’s poverty; but may we not look at Solomon’s thought, and learn "the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints" (Eph. i. 18). He "hath great riches." Why? Because He made Himself poor to purchase His jewels. If one soul is worth a world, of what value are the myriads, bought, not with corruptible things, as silver and gold, but "with the precious blood of Christ" (1 Pet. i. 18-19)? The Church is His treasure, for which He sold all that He had (Matt. xiii. 44). Christ’s riches—His gems locked up in the earth until the coronation (Mal. iii. 17).
"The hand of the diligent maketh rich" (Prov. x. 4). "He that gathereth by labour shall increase" (xiii. 11). Christ won His wealth by labour. His position, His possession, His praise, were won by honest work, and thus He sees of the travail of His soul, and is satisfied (Isa. liii. 11). He could say, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" (John xvii. 4), and so could claim the reward. "And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me" (verse 5). Hence, He can proclaim, "Riches and honour are with Me; yea, durable riches and righteousness" (Prov. viii. 18). What riches?
Riches of His Goodness (Rom. ii. 4).
Riches of His Grace (Eph. ii. 7).
Riches of His Glory (Rom. ix. 23; Eph. iii. 16).
Paul gloried in "the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. iii. 8). These riches are "durable." Everlasting Life (John. iii. 16). Everlasting Love (Jer. xxxi. 3). Everlasting Salvation (Isa. xlv. 17). Everlasting Strength (Isa. xxvi. 4). Everlasting Joy (Isa. li. 11). Everlasting Kindness (Isa. liv. 8). Everlasting Consolation (2 Thess. ii. 16). Having riches, Christ used them—used them for our ransom.
"The ransom of a man's life are his riches" (Prov. xiii. 8). We were debtors, and in danger of the debtor's pit and prison; but He said, "Deliver him from going down to the pit; I have found a ransom" (Job xxxiii. 24). "Who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Tim. ii. 6). This required great riches. "A debt of a thousand pounds is not discharged by two or three brass farthings. Creatures are finite; their acts of obedience are already due to God, and their sufferings, even if they had been allowed, would have been of limited value." But the Son of Man came "to give His life a ransom for many" (Matt. xx. 28); and, as the same writer continues, "though Christ paid the same debt as that which is due from lost souls, yet, through the excellency of His person, it was done in a shorter time. A payment in gold is the same sum as a payment in silver or brass; but through the excellency of the metal, it taketh up less room."—Dr. Manton. Thank God for a golden Christ!
But not only did Christ use His riches in the past; He distributes to-day. "I will fill their treasures" (Prov. viii. 21). "My God shall supply (fill up) all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus" (Phil. iv. 19). The writer just quoted says: "That which fills an ocean will fill a bucket." All Christ wants is "empty vessels, not a few" (2 Kings iv. 3). As Mrs. Anna Shipton sings—
"Grace hath found me, grace upholds me,
Grace will grant me all I need.
Grace secures me, Christ and glory;
This is grace for me indeed."
Truly of the poorest saint, we may say, "The King will enrich him with great riches" (1 Sam. xvii. 25). The rich King will care for His poor bride. "She shall be brought unto the King in raiment of needle-work" (Ps. xlv. 14). Certainly, her wealthy Lord will provide her with pocket money. Has He not promised? "The Lord will sooner make windows in heaven than disappoint expectations raised by His promises rightly understood."—Newton. All is the outcome of Christ’s riches; not merited, but given. Said Baxter, "Let 'Deserved’ be written on the door of hell; but on the door of heaven and life—‘The free gift.’ "
"The good I have is from His stores supplied;
The ill is only what He deems the best:
He for my Friend, I'm rich with nought beside,
And poor without Him, though of all possess’d."
"There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth" (Prov. xi. 24). Christ is no miser. "He giveth," is the motto of heaven.
"Sure they of many blessings should scatter blessings round,
As laden boughs in Autumn fling their ripe fruit to the ground."
And as this tree beareth fruit every month, it "scattereth, and yet increaseth." The often-used expression is true of Jesus, "Giving doth not impoverish Thee."
"He that giveth to the rich, shall surely come to want" (Prov. xxii. 16). To give to the rich is foolish; yet some try to give to Christ, Who owns all things. Is not such an action an insult? What hast thou to give? Yet, rich as He is, He asks one gift—your heart! Unworthy? Yes, but He asks it; and instead of such a gift bringing us to poverty, it will entitle us to wealth. "Is it a wicked heart, and a wandering heart, an unbelieving heart, a deceitful heart? Is it the heart of Manasseh in compact with Satan? Is it the heart of Mary Magdalene, out of which were cast seven devils? Is it the worst heart in all the world, and the worst heart that ever was in the world? A hard heart, a stony heart, a heart full of hell, and a heart like the Devil? It is even the heart He is seeking and courting this day."—Ralph Erskine. Give it, and the rich Christ will give full measure in return (Luke vi. 38).
If Christ is rich, do not use unhallowed means to get riches.
If Christ is rich, believe for a crown, and believe for a crust.
If Christ is rich, remember you are a joint-heir.
If Christ is rich, don't fret if fortunes fail.
If Christ is rich, plead His riches in prayer.
"Thou art coming to a King,
Large petitions with thee bring;
For His grace and power are such
None can ever ask too much."
THE SERVICE OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
"ACCORDING to Solomon, "the earth is disquieted . . . for a servant when he reigneth" (Prov. xxx. 21, 22). As we have already seen, the throne is not our place; it is not seemly "for a servant to have rule over princes" (Prov. xix. 10). The flesh must "not throw the Lord out of the saddle, but rather walk and carry the Lord" (Luther).
Yet, "a wise servant shall have rule" (Prov. xvii. 2). Christ is such a Servant, and has rule. He is both Servant and Master. A Servant Who knows what service is----a good Servant, and therefore a good Master. A Scotch-woman, when spoken to of her service for Christ, replied, "Na, na; I’m naething pit a puir sinner. It’s nine-and-forty years syne He pegan tae serve me. Dae ye no ken that? In the Hoose o' Christ, the Maister serves a’ the guests. Did He no Himsel’ say, I'm amang ye as ane that serveth?" (Luke xxii. 27).
One hardly knows which side of the subject is best—Christ as Servant, or Christ as Master. Let us unite them; for as a Master, He commands, and as a Servant, He helps us to obey. To quote Luther again, "The law says, ‘Do this,’ and yet it never will be done; but Grace says, ‘Believe in Him,’ and, behold, it is already done." Why?
Because He Who commands, enables us to fulfil; or, as John Berridge quaintly puts it—
"‘Run, John, and work,’ the Law commands;
Yet finds me neither feet nor hands;
But sweeter news the Gospel brings:
It bids me fly, and finds me wings."
"He that is despised, and hath a servant, is better than he that honoureth himself, and lacketh bread" (Prov. xii. 9). We are often despised, but in Christ, we have a Servant tried and true; an Attendant Who says, "Lo, I am with you alway" (Matt. xxviii. 20). But let us apply the words to Christ, who is "despised" (Isa. liii. 3), and Who yet has many servants who call Him "Master" (John xiii. 13). "He that waiteth on his master shall be honoured" (Prov. xxvii. 18). Here we have service that is---Personal---"Waiteth on his master." Private---Confidential service for trustworthy servants. Such "shall be honoured"—honoured by being dishonoured of men (John v. 41, 44); honoured by God Himself (Deut. xxviii. 13; 1 Sam. ii. 30; xci. 15, cxii. 9). "If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour" (John xii. 26).
1. A servant provides his master’s food (Cant. vii. 13; Isa. xliii. 24).
2. Washes his master’s feet. This we can only do by washing the feet of one another (John xiii. 14).
3. Carries his master’s burdens; as a negress said, "It’s my glory here dat I can take hold o’ one end o’ de Cross, and help Him up de hill wid de load o’ poor bruised and wounded sick sinners He’s got on His hands and His heart to get up to glory."
Christ is our Master, as---Shepherd.---He the "Chief Shepherd," says, "Know the state of thy flocks" (Prov. xxvii. 23; 1 Pet. v. 4). Vinedresser.—Beware of thorns, nettles, and broken walls (Prov. xxiv. 31). Tiller of land.—Plough, sow, reap (Prov. xxviii. 19). Messenger.—Refreshing the soul of our master (Prov. xxv. 13). In all these occupations, let us not think we are our own masters; it is His flock, His land, His vineyard, His message.
"O give me a word, blest Master,
That I may repeat for Thee!
A message to one who needs it,
Entrust it, dear Lord, to me;
And teach me, that I may say
What Thou shalt desire to-day."—Charlotte Murray
Solomon, as a master, was particularly stern upon slothful servants (chapters xii. 24 and 27, xv. 19, xviii. 9, xix. 24, xxi. 25, xxii. 13, xxiv. 30, &c.). Thomas Fuller, writing of such, said, "The lion, out of state, will not run whilst any one looks upon him; but some servants, out of slothfulness, will not run except some do look upon them." Christ is a Master Who is always looking and always at home.
Solomon gives us two beautiful thoughts upon service:— "Prepare thy work" (xxiv. 27); collect materials; lay a plan, under Divine guidance. This is to be previous to the deed itself; then, after labour, "Commit thy works unto the Lord " (xvi. 3) for inspection, correction, and perfection. A child, having done her needle-work, gives it into the parent's hand to be "set to rights," as she says. Our work needs like oversight.
Solomon warns against our labours being "in the house of a stranger" (Prov. v. 10). "Thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother" (Deut. xvii. 15). "One is your Master, even Christ" (Matt. xxiii. 8). "Thou shalt abide for Me . . . thou shalt not be for another man" (Hos. iii. 3). Better serve a frowning Christ than a fawning world. Two preachers were wishing each other a Sabbath blessing. Said one, "I hope the Good Master will give you His face to-morrow." Replied the other, "If He does not, I will speak well of Him behind His back." With such a Master, why labour for a stranger? The father of Matthew Henry said, "I have been drawing in the Gospel yoke for thirty years, and I like the choice so well I do not want to change it." (Philip Henry) Nor did his son. "Accuse not a servant unto his master" (xxx. 10). "Speak evil of no man" (Titus iii. 2), much less "one of another" (James iv. 11). This is Satan’s business, "the accuser of our brethren" (Rev. xii. 10); be not an apprentice to such dirty work. Do not accuse thy fellow-servant, even to his companions, certainly not to his Master. I fear this is sometimes done, even in our prayers. "Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up" (Rom. xiv. 4).
Christ, as Master, will say, "Shall not He render to every man according to his works?" (xxiv. 12). Wages are only for Christ’s workmen, not the ungodly. "There shall be no reward to the evil man" (xxiv. 20); but "Verily, there is a reward for the righteous" (Ps. lviii. 11). "The Son of Man shall come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and then He shall reward every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi. 27). The best works of those who are not in Christ’s service can merit nothing at His hands. He does not employ them, so will not pay them. No service can win salvation; it is according to Christ’s works, not ours.
"Your fairest pretensions must wholly be waived,
Your best resolutions be crossed;
Nor can you expect to be perfectly saved
Till you find yourself utterly lost."
Then, knowing Christ as the Saviour of the lost, you will also know Him as the rewarder of the saved.
"In all labour, there is profit" (xiv. 23). But this labour "is profitable unto all things" (1 Tim. iv. 8). Rutherford used to say, "When my Master sends me on His errands, He often gives me a bawbee (a coin of low value) for myself."
"He that delicately bringeth up his servant from a child, shall have him. become his son at the length"(xxix. 21). Does this mean his master's kindness will make him assume too much and become refractory—like Jeshurun, who waxed fat and kicked (Deut. xxxii. 15)? Surely it means the good master will make the servant so one of the family that he "Shall have part of the inheritance among the brethren" (Prov. xvii. 2). Good masters make good servants; as a writer says, "Inferiors are like a flock of cranes, which way their superior, the foremost, flieth, all the rest follow." (George Swinnock) Here is a bright outlook for old servants! In the kitchen to-day, but in the parlour by and by. "How many throw away those dry bones out of which themselves have sucked the marrow?."---Thos. Fuller. Not so our Master. Now, we are like the son in the field---weary, mire-stained, and sometimes troubled about the harvest; but our Father and the brothers and sisters already gathered home are preparing for our coming. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (1 John iii, 2). The servant shall become a "son at the length."
THE WISDOM OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
I.----SOLOMON, in his wisdom, was a type of Christ, and there is a higher wisdom than Solomon’s referred to in the Book of Proverbs---wisdom which is focused in Christ—the Gospel of Christ crucified being "the wisdom of God" (1 Cor. i. 24). "Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us wisdom" (1 Cor. i. 30).
"Wisdom crieth without" (Prov. i. 20). "In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink" (John vii. 37). On the mountain, by the sea, ever an open-air preacher, crying "without."
"She crieth in the chief place of concourse" (verse 21). "They come to Jerusalem, and Jesus went into the Temple . . . and He taught" (Mark xi. 15-17). A lesson to us to go where the people are. Our wisdom is to preach to the crowd—in the temple, if they will come; in the streets, if there they assemble.
"How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?" (verse 22). Again we have a parallel: "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?" (Matt. xvii. 17).
"Turn you at my reproof " (verse 23). Was not this the intention of the Gospel? "That they should repent and turn to God" (Acts xxvi. 20).
"Behold, I will pour out My Spirit unto you" (verse 23). Christ spake "of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive" (John vii. 39). "I will make known My Words unto you" (verse 23). The fulfilment we have in John xv. 15: "All things that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you."
"I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded" (verse 24). This lament, Jesus echoed over Jerusalem: "How often would I . . . and ye would not!" (Matt. xxiii. 37).
"Ye have set at nought all My counsel" (verse 25). "Herod with his men of war, set Him at nought" (Luke xxiii. 11). "And would (have) none of my reproof." "The Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves" (Luke vii. 30).
"Incline thine ear unto wisdom" (ii. 2). "Incline your ear, and come unto Me," is the invitation of Christ (Isa. lv. 3). If we do this, the promise will be ours, "Whoso hearkeneth unto Me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil" (Prov. i. 33). If not, we shall have fear enough, and God will mock when our fear cometh as desolation (i. 27); because we "did not choose the fear of the Lord" (verse 29), which is the beginning of wisdom (ix. 10).
In these verses, we see wisdom as a teacher; but we need more than teaching; wisdom is to be possessed. Hence the words, "Get wisdom;" "Wisdom is the principal thing, therefore get wisdom" (iv. 5 & 7). Wisdom is worth getting; it can be got; thousands have it. Get wisdom. Never rest until able to say, "We have this treasure" (2 Cor. iv. 7).
"He that getteth wisdom loveth his own soul" (Prov. xix. 8). "Fools despise wisdom" (i. 7). They think it beneath them; the fact is, it is above them: "Wisdom is too high for a fool" (xxiv. 7). What is the highest wisdom, they reckon "foolishness" (1 Cor. i. 18). He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy" (Heb. x. 28). "Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy who hath trodden under-foot the Son of God?" Such "despisers" shall "perish" (Acts xiii. 41). How do we get wisdom? "If thou seekest her as silver, and seekest for her as for hid treasures" (ii. 4). "For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her" (iii. 14, 15). Surely this wisdom can be nothing less than the salvation of the soul. Should not such treasure have the first thought? "How much better is it to get wisdom than gold?" (xvi. 16). One of the unanswered Bible questions! Wealth may not give pleasure, but a knowledge of Christ does; as the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste, "so shall the knowledge of wisdom be unto thy soul" (xxiv. 13, 14).
"A scorner seeketh wisdom, and findeth it not" (xiv. 6). "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" saith he (John i. 46). He who scorns to descend the silver mine will not find the silver. "When pride cometh, then cometh shame; but with the lowly is wisdom" (xi. 2). He who would learn of Christ, must be like his Teacher---"meek and lowly in heart" (Matt. xi. 29; 1 Cor. iii. 18).
Wisdom is compared to silver, gold, rubies, &c., because these precious things are prepared and laid up by God long before man discovers them; so with the knowledge of Christ. "He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous" (ii. 7). "The hidden wisdom which God ordained before the world unto our glory" (1. Cor. ii. 7). When this wisdom is found, it is no new thing; it is an old jewel (Eph. i. 3, 4). "The Lord giveth wisdom" (ii. 6). This proves the greatness of the wisdom given---not the gift of schools, colleges, nor professors, but of the Lord. "Giveth." God keeps free school. He "giveth," which implies, He imparts it without any particular cleverness, or wit, of the receiver. "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, Who giveth liberally" (Jas. i. 5). "Wherefore is there a price in the hand of a fool to get wisdom?" (Prov. xvii. 16). A heart is the price God fixes; with this buy wisdom, and "sell it not" (Prov. xxiii. 23).
"Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding" (xiv. 33). When that wisdom is God’s wisdom---the Lord Himself—what a blessed resting-place and rest! When Christ rested in the storm-tossed vessel, it was safe, and the storm soon ceased. Christ must occupy the centre of the being; then "His rest shall be glorious" (Isa. xi. 10). Wisdom in the heart, the drawing-room; not the head, the sky-parlour. "When wisdom entereth into thine heart" wonderful benefits follow. "Then shalt thou understand righteousness," &c. (ii. 9, 10). The righteousness of God, which must be met; the righteousness of Christ, which is able to meet and satisfy the righteousness of God; the righteousness of a free, full forgiveness, through Christ, by a righteous God; the righteousness which is transferred to the unrighteous, resulting in active practical righteousness (Ps. xi. 7; Isa. lxiv. 6, liv. 17, lxi. 10; Rom. iii. 22; 2 Cor. v. 21; Phil. iii. 9; 2 Tim. iv. 8; 1 John iii. 10).
In this wisdom, we shall "find the knowledge of God" (ii. 5). "God, Who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor. iv. 6). "Filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom . . . increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col. i. 9, 10). The Son of God "hath given us an understanding, that we may know Him that is true" (1 John v. 20). "This is life eternal" (John xvii. 3). Such knowledge implies—PEACE (2 Pet. i. 2). POWER (Dan. xi. 32). PURSUIT (Phil. iii. 8-10).
From the latter part of Prov. ii., we see that wisdom keeps from evil—evil men and evil women. It was for those who had the knowledge of God, through Christ’s manifestation (John xvii. 6 and 25), that the prayer was offered, "Keep them from the evil" (verse 15). "That thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the paths of the righteous" (ii. 20). The knowledge which makes us wise unto salvation, will regulate our walk, leading us to follow the good, especially the only truly good One, avoiding dangerous, dirty, and downward paths. "See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" (Eph. v. 15).
"Happy is the man that findeth wisdom" (iii. 13). Any "folly is joy to him that is destitute of wisdom" (xv. 21); but here is true happiness, including---
"Length of days" (iii. 16).
"Honour" (iii. 16).
"Riches " (iii. 16).
A way of pleasantness (iii. 17).
A path of peace (iii. 17).
Promotion (iv. 8).
"Ornament of grace" (iv. 9).
"A crown of glory" (iv. 9).
"Eternal life" (John iii. 36).
"Honour" (Rom. ii. 10).
"Treasures in heaven" (Matt. vi. 20).
"I am the way" (John xiv. 6).
"Peace be unto you" (Luke xxiv. 36).
"In heavenly places" (Eph. ii. 6).
"Ornaments" (Ezek. xvi. 11).
"A crown of glory" (1 Pet. v. 4).
"She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her" (iii. 18). Christ is such a tree of life. Lay hold of Him; shake the branches by prayer; eat the fruit by faith; rest beneath the shade in hope; look up through the shadow to heaven. "The wise shall inherit glory" (iii. 35). On the tomb of a young officer we read, "Terminated his career of glory in the 22nd year of his age." How different the Christian’s glory!—glory everlasting, Christ’s glory, God’s glory. "Fools die for want of wisdom" (x. 21), but those who have this heavenly wisdom live and enjoy it forever.
II.----We have, in Prov. ix., wisdom as a builder and provider. Solomon appears to have been both; and, as a type of Christ, illustrates these verses.
"Wisdom hath builded her house" (Prov. ix. 1). Solomon built his own house in Jerusalem. He built another, called "the house of the forest of Lebanon" (1 Kings vii. 2), probably a summer residence. A third was for the queen, his wife (verse 8); and a fourth, called "the house of the Lord" (1 Kings viii. 11).
Christ, as Wisdom, built His Own house. He dwelleth "in heaven" (John iii. 13). "The heavens are the works of Thine hands" (Heb. 1. 10). Solomon's house had windows; so has Christ’s house. "He looketh forth at the windows" (Cant. ii. 9). It had doors; Christ not only looks but comes—"I will come to you" (John xiv. 18). It had a throne. "He that judgeth me is the Lord" (1 Cor. iv. 4).
Christ builds a house for His spouse taken from the land of Egypt. "We have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor. v. 1). Of this Christ said, "I go to prepare a place for you" (John xiv. 2).
Christ’s greatest work is building the church. "Ye are God’s building" (1 Cor. iii. 9). "Whose house are we" (Heb. iii. 6). "Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house" (1 Pet. ii. 5). "After the similitude of a palace" (Ps. cxliv. 12). Christ, as Wisdom, builds wisely, not upon sand (Matt. vii. 24). "Upon this rock" (Matt. xvi. 18); the same rock as Peter and the apostles rested upon (Eph. ii. 20). "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it" (Ps. cxxvii. 1).
Wisdom "hath hewn out her seven pillars" (verse 1). Solomon had two special pillars, upon which the prophets are said to have posted their messages (1 Kings vii. 21). These were destroyed by Nebuchadnezaar (2 Kings xxv. 13). God’s pillars abide forever. Jeremiah is called a pillar (Jer. i. 18). James, Cephas, and John were also pillars (Gal. ii. 9). John Bunyan says, "The pillars were eighteen cubits high apiece, and that is as high, yea, as high again, as the highest giant that ever we read of in the world . . . We have now, as I know of, but few that remain of the giants, and though they boast as if they were higher than Anak, yet these pillars are higher than they . . . Christ did raise His apostles eighteen cubits high, not in conceit, for so there are many higher than they, but in office, and calling, and authority." "Him that overcometh, will I make a pillar in the temple of My God" (Rev. iii. 12). These are the only pillars of the church and are hewn out of nature’s rock (Isa. li. 1).
"She hath killed her beasts" (ix. 2). The New Testament parallel is, "My oxen and my fatlings are killed" (Matt. xxii. 4). We may guess the richness of an extraordinary feast by the ordinary supply. "Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty measures of fine flour, and three-score measures of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty oxen out of the pasture, and an hundred sheep, beside harts, and roebucks, and fallow deer, and fatted fowl" (1 Kings iv. 22, 23). Truly, "a feast of fat things" (Isa. xxv. 6). Death must take place to provide this bounty; it was no bloodless spread. The fatted calf must die to feed the prodigal (Luke xv. 23). "My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed" (John vi. 55). This leads us to the next sentence.
"She hath mingled her wine" (verse 2). There is a wine that "is a mocker" (Prov. xx. 1). We are not; even to look upon it (xxiii. 31). But there is a "pure blood of the grape" (Deut. xxxii. 14), "which cheereth God and man" (Judges ix. 13), and shadows the love of Christ, which is "better than wine" (Cant. i. 2 & 4). This wine flowed forth when He was crushed even to death; it "maketh merry" at any feast (Eccl. x. 19), and is "that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink" (2 Sam. xvi. 2). Does not this wine also represent the joy produced by the Holy Spirit? "Be not drunk with wine; . . . but be filled with the Spirit" (Eph. v. 18).
"She hath also furnished her tables" (verse 3). A furnished table means, "Come; for all things are now ready" (Luke xiv. 17). Wisdom does all—builds, kills, furnishes, and then invites. Wisdom owns all—her house, her beasts, her wine, her table, her invitation.
"There’s room around the Father’s board,
For thee and thousands more;
Oh, come, and welcome, to the Lord;
Yea, come this very hour."
"She hath sent forth her maidens" (verse 3). In other words, her "servants," as in Matt. xxii. 3. In Luke xiv. 21, it is "that servant"; perhaps intending the Holy Ghost. In Matthew, the idea seems male servants---ministers, preachers, evangelists. Here we have female servants, as if to show the invitation is to be given by both "servants" and "handmaidens" (Acts ii. 18).
"She crieth upon the highest places of the city" (verse 3). Wisdom herself---Jesus Himself. God, who spake by His servants, spake also by His Son (Heb. i. 2), and so, "I heard the voice of Jesus say," is literally true. Wonderful personal invitation! and so public as to leave us without excuse. "I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort" (John xviii. 20).
The invitation is to, "Whoso is single," and "him that wanteth understanding" (verse 4). How suitable the invitation of Wisdom to such! A wise teacher for foolish scholars! Once we wanted understanding; but now the Son of God "hath given us an understanding" (1 John v. 20). We are all born spiritually "without understanding" (Rom. i. 31); but He who invites us says, "I am understanding" (Prov. viii. 14). God hath "hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes (Matt. xi. 25). Oh, to be simple enough to learn of Him who maketh "wise the simple" (Ps. xix. 7); wise unto salvation (2 Tim. iii. 15)! What are these simpletons to do?
1. "Turn in hither" (verse 4). No feast outside. First the door, then the dinner. It was thus with the Passover. "How foolish it is to expect enjoyment whilst you are keeping away from Christ; staying on the threshold of the door which is sprinkled with Christ’s blood. You never will have it there . . . Come in through the door into the house, and though you have left all the flesh-pots of Egypt outside, you shall find inside such a feast."—S. A. Blackwood.
2. "Eat of My bread" (verse 5). Bread here means more than bread. "According to the Hebrew idiom, ‘bread’ signified the whole provisions of the table."---Dr. MacKnight. Abraham said he would "fetch a morsel of bread," and he brought a dressed calf, with butter and milk (Gen. xviii. 5-8). It is taken for all needful food in Gen. iii. 19, and in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. vi. 11). In this sense, Christ is our Bread (John vi.).
"That Bread from heaven" (ver. 32) . . . "The Bread of Life" (ver. 35). "The Bread of God" (ver. 33) . . . "The Living Bread" (ver. 51). "If any man eat of this Bread, he shall live forever." Coming is not enough; he must "eat." "Blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God" (Luke xiv. 15).
3. "Drink of the wine which I have mingled" (verse 5). Wisdom thus provides a two-fold bounty. "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved" (Cant. v. 1). "Wine and milk without money" to drink, and "that which is good" to eat (Isa. lv. 1 & 2). The comer is thus satiated and satisfied (Jer. xxxi. 12, 14). Is it not remarkable that bread and wine are here mentioned? The very figures chosen by the Lord to represent His body and His blood in the Commemoration Supper (Matt. xxvi. 26; 1 Cor. xi. 23).
4. "Forsake the foolish, and live" (verse 6). Separation is here taught. Unbelievers are "foolish," and if we would be among the wise, we must leave them, as Lot left Sodom; as Israel left Egypt; as the congregation left Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. "Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins" (Num. xvi. 26). Forsake even "thine own people, and thy father’s house" (Ps. xlv. 10). "Save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts ii. 40; 2 Cor. v. 17; Rev. xviii. 4). So shalt thou live---live truly, live eternally.
5. "Go in the way of understanding" (verse 6). First, "Come," then, "Go." This has a parallel in Christ’s "Come and dine" (John xxi. 12), followed by "Go . . . and teach" (Matt. xxviii. 19). After the pascal feast, a desert march. We hunger for understanding in Prov. ix. 4: we come to Wisdom’s table and obtain understanding; then we are to go in "the way of understanding." "Turn in," then "Go in." The Christian life is not only a feast, it is also a walk.
If God has a good thing, the Devil is sure to imitate it; hence we have evil represented as another suitor (ix. 13, &c.).
One is Wisdom. The other Folly (R.V. marg.)
One calls the simple. The other is "simple" (verse 13).
Both have a house.
Both publicly invite.
Both use the same words.
One has her own wine. The other stolen waters.
By one "thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased " (ver. 11). the depths of hell" (verse 18). Of the other it is said, "the dead are there," and "her guests are in the depths of hell" (verse 18). How Satan’s counterfeit is discovered before God’s truth! How like, and yet how unlike! May we escape the invitation of all seducing voices by accepting the call of "Wisdom." If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself; but if thou scornest, thou alone shall bear it" (Prov. ix. 12).
III.----We often hear Proverbs viii. 17 quoted as applying to Christ. If this be fair, then it is also fair to apply other passages that tell of wisdom, and especially the whole of this particular chapter; in doing so, we shall learn the personality of this wisdom.
The first eleven verses present wisdom as a teacher, her object being to give "an understanding heart" (verse 5), speaking with "plain" words (verse 9), as Jesus did. "I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world" (Matt. xiii. 16 & 17, 34 & 35).
Her scholars are men. "My voice is to the sons of men" (verse 4). The Son of Man spake to the sons of men. Who can escape the summons? "Unto you, O men, I call." As wisdom, Christ is suited to teach "men" in the highest sense of the word. Christ’s religion is a manly thing.
Her subjects are "excellent things," "right things," "truth," and "righteousness" (verses 6, 7 & 8). Grand subjects for a grand Teacher!
From verse 12, we have emphatically the personality of "I Wisdom;" "I" being used fourteen and "Me" thirteen times, from this verse onward. Let us never forget the real personality of our Lord in His wisdom. A wise Friend, a wise King, a wise Surety, a wise Master.
"Counsel is Mine, and sound wisdom; I am Understanding" (verse 14)! He Who is wisdom is also love. Some have all head and no heart. Jesus has both; hence He says, "I love them that love Me" (verse 17). "We love Him because He first loved us" (1 John iv. 19). His love fired our hearts when cold and dark; now our love is accepted, and He loves His love in us. Are there four sweeter words than "I will love him" (John xiv. 21)?
"Loved of my God, for Him again
With love intense I burn;
Chosen of Him, ere time began,
I choose Him in return."
"These that seek Me early shall find Me" (verse 17). A Person---not peace, not pardon, not joy, but Christ. "Early will I seek Thee" (Ps. lxiii. 1). "Seek ye first the kingdom of God" (Matt. vi. 33). Such seekers find, for "everyone that seeketh findeth" (Matt. vii. 8). We have a splendid illustration in John xx.----"The first day of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early." "Jesus saith unto her, Mary" (verses 1 and 16). What a contrast in Prov. i. 28: "They shall seek Me early, but they shall not find Me."
Three things are with this Person:—
1. "Honour" (verse 18). "Called the sons of God" (1 John iii. 1). "And hath made us kings and priests unto God" (Rev. i. 6). "This honour have all His saints" (Ps. cxlix. 9).
2. "Durable riches " (verse 18). "The unsearchable riches of Christ " (Eph. iii. 8). "Treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt" (Matt. vi. 20). "Rich in good works" (1 Tim. vi. 17, 18). Such riches are durable. "That good part which shall not be taken away" (Luke x. 42).
3. "Righteousness" (verse 18). Christ fulfilled all righteousness (Matt. iii. 15); was girded with righteousness (Isa. xi. 5); has brought in everlasting righteousness (Dan. ix. 24); and gives this righteousness to believers (Isa. lxi. 10).
"I lead in the way of righteousness" (verse 20). "The evil way . . . do I hate" (verse 13). "Lead me into the land of uprightness" (Ps. cxliii. 10) is the Christian’s prayer. "He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness" is the answer (Ps. xxiii. 3). Of these paths it may be said, "In the way of righteousness is life" (Prov. xii. 28). Christ, as Wisdom, leads. "When He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before" (John x. 4; Matt. xxvi. 32). How blessed to have a wise Leader, who always leads "in the midst of the paths of judgment " (verse 20), keeping us far from the ditches on either hand, and well along the middle of the king’s highway (Isa. xxxv. 8).
Christ’s love is practical, causing those whom He loves to "inherit substance" (verse 21). All else is shadow. Faith lays hold of "the substance of things hoped for" (Heb. xi. 1). Christ is "a living, bright REALITY," and heaven an "eternal weight of glory" (2 Cor. iv. 17). This substance they inherit, being born to it; "an inheritance incorruptible" (1 Pet. i. 4).
"The simple inherit folly" (Prov. xiv. 18).
The wicked "inherit the wind" (Prov. xi. 29).
"The wise shall inherit glory" (Prov. iii. 35).
Christ's love will also "fill their treasures" (verse 21), for love delighteth to give. That He is able is evident from the fact that His revenue is better "than choice silver" (verse 19). Who can estimate the revenue of this "Prince of the kings of the earth" (Rev. i. 5), by whom "kings reign and princes decree justice" (Prov. viii. 15)?
We now come to words which, above all others, seem to apply to Christ, proving the eternal existence of Wisdom. We give them in full:---"The Lord possessed us in the beginning of His way, before His works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills, was I brought forth; while as yet He had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When He prepared the heavens, I was there; when He set a compass upon the face of the depth; when He established the clouds above; when He strengthened the fountains of the deep; when He gave to the sea His decree, that the waters should not pass His commandment when He appointed the foundations of the earth; then I was by Him as one brought up with Him; and I was daily His delight, rejoicing always before Him; rejoicing in the habitable part of His earth; and my delights were with the sons of men" (Prov. viii. 22-31).
"In the beginning," &c. (verse 22). How these words naturally take us to John i. 1-3: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," &c., &c. "I am the first and the last" (Rev. i. 17). "All things were created by Him" (Col. i. 16). He Who has been our Surety, Who is our Friend, our King, our Master—the Wisdom Who builds the Church—is the same as built the world. He Who was wise enough to prepare the first heaven, will establish the new heavens; and He Who gave to the sea His decree, can decree the rise and fall of every flood.
Christ is not only eternal in His existence, but has eternal relations to His work for man. "I was set up from everlasting" (verse 23). Anointed, "set" as God’s King upon His holy hill (Ps. ii. 6). "Set" to be "a light of the Gentiles" (Acts xiii. 47). "Set forth to be a propitiation" (Rom. iii. 25). "Set" at God’s right hand (Eph. i. 20). His place and work were eternally fixed by the Father. "My delights were with the sons of men" (verse 31). Wonderful words, when we consider who these "sons of men" were! It is in the plural; not the one son, Adam, sinless and pure, but those who are described in Gen. vi. What wonder that His voice is still "to the sons of man" (verse 4)! "Because He delighted in me," is the secret of every mercy (2 Sam. xxii. 20; Ps. xviii. 19). This was the secret of Israel’s favour (Deut. x. 15), and it is the secret of ours. "Thou shalt be called Hephzi-bah . . . the Lord delighteth in thee" (Isa. lxii. 4). "When there were no depths, I was brought forth" (verses 24, 25). As this word is repeatedly rendered "begotten," we are led to think of Him who is "the only-begotten of the Father" (John i. 14), "the only begotten Son of God" (John iii. 18). What light this throws upon 1 John iv. 9: "God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him." "Brought up with Him" (ver. 30). Cherished as in His bosom. "The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father (John i. 18). And the Father "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son" (John iii. 16). His Son, Who had worked with Him "as a master workman" (Prov. viii. 30, R.V.); Who had lain upon His breast; Who was His delight; He gave HIM, and He came---
To declare (John i. 18).
To do (Psalm xl. 8).
To die (John x. 18).
To deliver (Heb. ii. 15).
As the result, we have two beatitudes:—
1. "Blessed are they that keep My ways" (verse 32). Naturally, we choose our "own ways" (Isa. lxvi. 3), the end of which is death (Prov. xiv. 12). We do not even know His ways (Ps. xcv. 10); but Wisdom first teaches, and then leads in—
"Ways of pleasantness" (Prov. iii. 17).
Ways "of righteousness" (viii. 20).
Ways that please the Lord (xvi. 7).
2. "Blessed is the man that heareth Me" (verse 34). The nature of this blessedness is wrapped up in John v. 24: "He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life."
"Watching daily at My gates" (verse 34). We "turn in," according to Prov. ix. 4; but we must "look out," according to this verse---look out for others who are coming, to encourage and aid them. We watch also for the King, who shall by and by, come forth (1 Thess. v. 6; Matt. xxvi. 41).
"Waiting at the posts of My doors" (verse 34). Till He shall send Thee upon His errands; waiting for fresh blessings; waiting and listening to the music from within the pearly gates. "At the posts of My doors," where Thine ears were bored (Exodus xxi. 6). God’s doorkeeper (Ps. lxxxiv. 10). "Doors." Two-fold—Justification and Sanctification are the double—doors in the one Door, Christ (John x. 7).
"Whoso findeth Me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against Me wrongeth his own soul" (verses 35 & 36). The favour of the Lord is through finding Christ; wrong to the soul is through sinning against Christ. Here is life and death (Rom. vi. 23). "Whoso findeth Me findeth life" (verse 35). "All they that hate Me love death" (verse 36).
THE WITNESS OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
A WITNESS is "one who gives testimony."—Eadie’s Bible Cyclopaedia. Hence the character of a wltness is vastly lmportant. "A faithful witness will not lie, but a false witness will utter lies" (xiv. 5). Christ is emphatically "the Faithful Witness" (Rev. i. 5), for He "is not a man, that He should lie" (Num. xxiii. 19), but "God, that cannot lie" (Titus i. 2; Heb. vi. 18). He is "The Truth" (John xiv. 6), and His teaching is "the Truth of Christ" (2 Cor. xi. 10; Eph. iv. 21), or "the Truth which is after godliness" (Titus i. 1). So faithful was His witness, that it agreed with all that the other God-sent witnesses had said (John i. 45, v. 32, 39); a Witness Who betrayed no errors, though cross-examined by cunning lawyers (Matt. xxii. 35, &c.); so truthful that He spake "as one having authority" (Matt. vii. 29), holding back nothing (John xiv. 2).
"Hearts may untroubled tread with Him that go,"
Thou would’st have told me if it were not so."
"Have not I written to thee, excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth?" (xxii. 20, 21). The testimony of Christ was written for our reference, the Holy Ghost acting as official recorder, with inspired men under Him. "Write: These things saith the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness" (Rev. iii. 14). It has been said: The Old and New Testaments are Christ’s two lips, with which He still beareth witness.
I. GOD'S WITNESS ON EARTH, testifying what He has seen and heard, so bringing glad tidings. "As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (xxv. 25). Our world was once so near to God that He called in every evening to have a quiet chat with its inhabitants; but man removed into "a far country," and needed a witness to come unto him with news, or he would have forgotten God altogether. "What He hath seen and heard, of that He beareth witness; and no man receiveth His witness. He that receiveth His witness, hath set his seal to this, that God is true. For He Whom God hath sent, speaketh the Words of God" (John iii. 32-34, R.V.) "I speak that which I have seen with My Father" (John viii. 38). Without this great Witness, we must have remained in the ignorance of our far country. Blessed Father, Thou hast not only sent us a letter, but a Person—an Eyewitness! "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" (John i. 18; Matt. xi. 27). It is remarkable that Solomon, in the words "good news," gives the exact meaning of the word "gospel," which is the sum total of Christ’s witnessing.
II. THE "GOOD NEWS"---
Of the kingdom (Matt. iv. 23). Of grace (Acts xx. 24).
Of Christ (Rom. xv. 29; 2 Cor. iv. 4). Of peace (Eph. vi. 15).
Of God (Rom. xv.16; 1 Tim. i. 11). Of good things (Rom. x. 15).
Of salvation (Eph. i. 13).
Such "good news" is indeed "as cold water to a thirsty soul;" it is nothing less than "the water of life" (John iv. 10; Rev. xxi. 6, xxii. 17). The Book of Proverbs shows these waters in a three-fold aspect, the Words of Christ as a witness being suited to different capacities.
1. "The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life" (x. 11). Earth is a desert; but the mouth of Christ is an unexpected well of comfort, independent, alone, a little dark perhaps, but constant in its blessings.
2. "The words of a man’s mouth are as deep waters" (xviii. 4). Christ’s Words were vast as the ocean, for He witnessed of judgments, "a great deep" (Ps. xxxvi. 6), and was the Word expressing God’s thoughts, which "are very deep" (Ps. xcii. 5), revealing "the deep things of God" (1 Cor. ii. 10).
3. "The wellspring of wisdom is as a flowing brook" (xviii. 4, R.V.) Simple, clear, bright; where a sparrow may drink, a minnow play, a child bathe. Deep waters, yet also a shallow brook; the same Witness Who could puzzle the doctors, could please a peasant, and enlighten a fool.
"The lips of the righteous feed many" (x. 21). How truthfully this illustrates the results of Christ’s testimony—not only giving the Water of Life, but the Bread of Life. "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every Word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. iv. 4).
"Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones" (xvi. 24). Here is not only necessity, but luxury. "Sweet words, on which our spirit lives!" Christ had bitter words for hypocrites, but honeyed promises for penitents, the result, health (xii. 18); and gladness (xii. 25); for "a good report maketh the bones fat" (xv. 30).
"The tongue of the just is as choice silver" (x. 20). Thus, in Christ as a bringer of good news, we have food, refreshment, and future wealth. Every promise, fresh from the mint of His heart is precious, stamped with the Royal impress, and meant to enrich poor and needy ones. With these we buy (Isaiah lv. 1).
To see Christ thus given for a Witness (Isaiah lv. 4) of a world otherwise unknown, may help us to understand the Word "Believe." We know what it is to receive the Word of our fellow-mortals, and "if we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater" (1 John v. 9). If Jesus were alone, His witness would deserve credit. "Even if I bear Witness of Myself, My Witness is true" (John viii. 14, R.V.). But He could add, "The Father Himself, Which hath sent Me, hath borne witness of Me" (John v. 37), and could point back to a great cloud of witnesses (Heb. xii. 1). Faith is believing this Witness.
Christ is also---MAN'S WITNESS IN HEAVEN, for "He that descended is the same also that ascended" (Eph. iv. 10). This half of our subject must deal with the judicial sense of witnessing. "A true witness delivereth souls" (xiv. 25). In Zech. iii., we have a door opened into the court-house. A charge is brought against God’s faithful high priest, and Satan is the accuser. In these matters, we cannot be our own witness. "Most men will proclaim every man his own goodness" (xx. 6). It might answer if we were the only witness, but there are witnesses on the other side. "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him" (xviii. 17). Hark! the trial has begun. "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?" (Rom. viii. 33). We have only one Witness: "It is Christ that died, yea, rather, that is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us" (Rom. viii. 34). His very body pleads (Rev. v. 6); each wound, an open mouth on my behalf. "He deserves to die, O Judge, but I have died instead. All that his enemies witness against him is true; but I bear My witness against theirs, that I have suffered for and discharged all that justice can bring against him" (Heb. vii. 25). Thank God for such a Witness! "The Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoiled them" (xxii. 23). Thus He fulfils the exhortation, "Open thy mouth for the dumb in the cause of all such as are appointed to destruction" (xxxi. 8 & 9, xxiii. 11).
It is sweet to think that this Witness, having once covered our sins, will never dig them up again (Prov. xvi. 27). "A talebearer revealeth secrets; but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter" (xi. 13). "He that speaketh truth, showeth forth righteousness, but a false witness, deceit" (xii. 17). There are slanders and misrepresentations, suspicions and misunderstandings to-day; but our great Witness is yet to speak. "He shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light" (Ps. xxxvii. 6). "Then shall the righteous shine forth as the sun." (Matt. xiii. 43). How wonderfully He will bear witness of cups of cold water and visits to the sick (Matt. xxv. 35)! And that testimony shall be "unchallenged" (xxi. 28, R.V.) and unchanged forever.
There is a terrible thought springing out of this blessed subject. The same "Messenger of the covenant" (Mal. iii. 1), Who brings us good news from heaven and bears witness for us in heaven, will be a swift witness against some described in Mal. iii. 5. If not, He would overthrow His own law (Lev. v. 1). When He has borne witness against a soul, what then? "The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people" (Deut. xvii. 7; Acts vii. 58). First the judgment of the Saviour, Who turns to be a witness against thee, then thy sins and thy fellow-sinners—the tormentors. Christ is both Witness, Judge, and Executioner. Believe His witness for God on earth; He will then be a witness for thee in heaven, and never a witness against thee in hell. Much is said in Proverbs about false witnesses; may we never be such for Christ----
"A false witness will utter lies" (xiv. 5).
"A false witness the Lord hates" (vi. 16-19).
"A false witness shall not be unpunished" (xix. 5).
"A false witness shall perish" (xxi. 28).
THE SONSHIP OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS
"WHO hath ascended up into heaven or descended? . . . What is His name, and what is His Son’s name?" (Prov. xxx. 4). The answer to this question is John iii. 13: "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man which is in heaven." The Son’s name was long kept secret (Gen. xxxii. 29; Jud. xiii. 18). Gradually it was revealed---"Immanuel" (Isa. vii. 14); "Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. ix. 6); "The Lord our Righteousness" (Jer. xxiii. 6); "Jesus" (Matt. i. 21); "The Word of God," "King of kings and Lord of lords" (Rev. xix. 12, 13, 16). "A name which is above every name" (Phil. ii. 9). The name of the Son is only revealed by the Spirit (Matt. xvi. 16). In His Sonship, Christ is called—
"The Son" (1 John iv. 14).
"The Son of God " (John i. 34).
"The only begotten Son of God" (John iii. 18).
"The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father" (John i. 18).
The words of Solomon addressed to a son are to a mortal being; so, if used as illustrating the Sonship of Christ, we must think of Him as the "Son of Man" (Mark x. 33). As such, He is said to be—
"The seed of the woman" (Gen. iii. 15).
"The Son of Mary" (Mark vi. 3).
"The Son of Joseph" (John i. 45).
"A Man approved of God" (Acts ii. 22).
"It pleased Him Who is the everlasting Father to be born."---Philippe Mestrezat. "As Moses, when coming down from Mount Sinai, his face shining with glory, covered it with a veil, lest the eyes of the people should be too much dazzled; so likewise the Son of God, when descending from heaven, veiled the splendour of His Divine majesty with His human nature."—Dumoulin. Christ thus takes the position "between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. ii. 5).
As Son of Man the Lord places Himself in the position of other sons to their father, and the first thing that strikes us is----
I. TENDERNESS.---"I was my father's son, tender and only beloved in the sight of my mother" (iv. 3.) A tender infant, a tender lad, such was Christ. Can we picture the feelings of a pure child, alone, far from home, in the midst of a rough school? Such a tender one was Jesus. A tender heart in a tender body, and yet buffeted, scourged, nail-pierced. "An only one," says the Revised Version, "in the sight of my mother." Mary had other children (Matt. xii. 47, xiii. 55); but this tender One was her best beloved. What proof of Christ’s humanity is the fact that He had a mother!
II. INSTRUCTION.—"Get understanding," &c. (iv. 5). A line in our Bibles may link six thoughts in this chapter---"Get wisdom," "Forsake her not," "Love her," " Exalt her," "Embrace her," "Let her not go" (verses 5-13). It is another proof of Christ’s true humanity that though He was "Wisdom" yet He "increased in wisdom" (Luke ii. 52). He obtained wisdom as other boys obtain it; and had there been Board Schools in His day, doubtless He would have been a scholar. A Christ for school-boys! Speaking as Son of Man, He said, even near the end of His life, there were some things He knew not (Mark xiii. 32). We need not marvel if we have to get wisdom by degrees, finishing our education above, as one ten year old, whose grave I saw at Hastings. This was her epitaph:
"She is not dead, the child of our affection,
But gone unto that school
Where she no longer needs our poor protection,
And Christ Himself doth rule."
But even the Head Master was once in an infant class."
III. FILIAL REGARD.—"A wise son heareth his father’s instruction" (xiii. 1). "My son, attend to my words; incline thine EARS unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine EYES; keep them in the midst of thine HEART" (iv. 20, 21; i. 8; v. 1). Christ could say, "Mine EARS hast Thou opened" (Ps. xl. 6); "Thy law is within My HEART" (verse 8). Therefore He could declare God’s "faithfulness" and "salvation" (verse 10), His Own Words being, "I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him" (John viii. 26); "All things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you" (John xv. 15).
IV. OBEDIENCE.—"My son, forget not my law; but set thine heart to keep my commandments" (iii. 1). "My son, keep thy father’s commandments" (vi. 20, vii. 1). "Whose keepeth the law is a wise son" (xxviii. 7).
Christ could say, "I came down from heaven, not to do Mine Own will, but the will of Him that sent Me;" "I seek not Mine Own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent Me;" "I know Him, and keep His sayings;" "As the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do" (John vi. 38, v. 30, viii. 55; xiv. 31). As a result, Prov. iii. 23-26 was fulfilled—"Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble," &c.
"Not stumble" (Prov. iii. 23). "He stumbleth not" (John. xi. 9).
Sleep sweet (Prov. iii. 24). "He was asleep" (Matt. viii. 24).
Foot kept (Prov. iii. 26). Not entangled (Matt. xxii. 15).
No sudden fear (Prov. iii. 25). In the garden (Matt. xxvi. 50).
These were personal results of Christ fulfilling "all righteousness" (Matt. iii. 15). The relative result to us is Rom. v. 19: "By the obedience of one, shall many be made righteous."
V. COMPANY.—"My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not," "My son, walk not thou in the way with them" (i. 10 & 15). Christ was true to such words, being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners" (Heb. vii. 26).
VI. DISCIPLINE.----"Whom the Lord loveth, He correcteth; even as a father the son, in whom he delighteth" (iii. 12). In applying these words as illustrating the Sonship of Christ, we must guard against an error, and yet not forget a great truth. Christ’s obedience was perfect, and needed no correction; but we read, "Though He were a Son, yet learned He obedience by the things which He suffered" (Heb. v. 8)—thus voluntarily putting Himself under discipline.
VII. WORK.—"He that gathereth in summer is a wise son" (x. 5). God’s Son realized there was a time to work: "I must work the works of Him that sent Me, while it is day; the night cometh, when no man can work" (John ix. 4). He knew this even in early life: "Wist ye not that I must be about My Father’s business?" (Luke ii. 49); "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent Me, and to finish His work" (John iv. 34). Christ so gathered in summer that when the summer ended, no sheaf was left—the harvest was complete—and He could say, "I have finished the work which Thou gavest Me to do" (John xvii. 4). Such a son, in Solomon’s estimation, would give joy to a father. "A wise son maketh a glad father" (x. 1, xv. 20). "My son, thine heart be wise, my heart shall rejoice, even mine;" "The father of the righteous shall greatly rejoice, and he that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him" (xxiii. 15 & 24, xxvii. 11). Jesus could say of His Father, "I do always those things that please Him" (John viii. 29). Consequently the Father could say, "This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased" (Matt. iii. 17). "I have kept My Father’s commandments, and abide in His love" (John xv. 10). Oh, the satisfaction of the Father over His well-beloved Son! As sons, represented by this accepted Son, let us imitate Him in tenderness of heart, willingness to learn, filial love, obedience, patience under correction, and service.
In the margin of Prov. xxxi. 8, we read of "sons of destruction." Such are we, but the Royal Son is commanded to open His mouth for these His brothers. May He ever do so for us.
THE PARABLES OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
THE parabolical and the proverbial form of teaching are closely related, hence we may expect to trace the leading features of Christ’s parables in the proverbs of Solomon.
THE WISE AND FOOLISH BUILDERS.
A wise man built his house upon a rock: the rain, the floods, the winds, beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock. A foolish man built his house upon the sand: rain, floods, winds, beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Matt. vii. 24).
"The house of the wicked shall be overthrown; but the tabernacle of the righteous shall flourish" (Prov. xiv. 11). "The wicked are overthrown, and are not: but the house of the righteous shall stand" (xii. 7). "As the whirlwind passeth, so is the wicked no more, but the righteous is an everlasting foundation" (x. 25). To which Solomon adds, "The righteous shall never be removed" (x. 30). "On the Rock of Ages founded" they are safe. The house of their character, profession, business, family, is built upon the Rock. No difference in the structure or the storm; the foundation is all. "The righteous man considereth the house of the wicked, how the wicked are overthrown to their ruin" (Prov. Xxi. 12 R.V.).
THE FRUITFUL FIELD.
Christ tells a parable of a sower who sowed "by the way-side," "upon stony places," "among thorns," "into good ground." The seed in the first example was "devoured," in the second "scorched," in the third "choked." Here was three-fold failure; but then follows three-fold fruit—"some an hundred-fold, some sixty-fold, some thirty-fold."
"Other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit " (Matt. xiii. 8). "The root of the righteous yieldeth fruit." (Prov. xii. 12) In the Christian life, the root is everything; a good root means good fruit. The seed did not stay long enough to root by the way-side; it had "no root" in the stony places; and its young root was choked among the thorns. God give us roots.
THE TEN VIRGINS.
The principle laid down in this parable is recognized by Solomon. "They that were ready went in to the marriage." "Our lamps are gone out." (Matt. xxv. 8). "The light of the righteous rejoiceth; but the lamp of the wicked shall be put out." (Prov. xii. 9). "The light of the wise led to greater light, even the joy of the festal hall; the extinguished lamp of the foolish led to denser darkness—a midnight without a star or hope of dawn. We need lamps, fed by Divine oil, that even the breath of death cannot extinguish.
THE ANGRY KING.
In Christ's parable of the king whose servants were ill-treated, we read of anger and punishment being dealt out to the rebellious subjects. "When the king heard thereof, he was wroth, and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers" (Matt. xxii. 7). "An evil man seeketh only rebellion, therefore a cruel messenger shall be sent against him" (Prov. xvii. 11). He first "sent forth his servants" (Matt. xxii. 3); he next "sent forth his armies" (verse 7). This is God’s order. Their refusal meant rebellion—such is sin. How evil that man must be who wishes to rebel, "against a king who feasts his subjects! No wonder courteous messengers are followed by cruel messengers.
"The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hid in a field; which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth it" (Matt. xiii. 44). "If thou seeketh her as silver, and searchest for her as hid treasures" (Prov. xvii. 11). "Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding" (iii. 13). Solomon gives four expressions—"seekest," "searchest," "findeth," "getteth." The man found by seeking; he got by selling all that he had, as Moses gave up the pleasures of sin for the people of God, and the riches of Egypt for the recompense of the reward (Heb. xi. 25). Paul acted in a like manner: "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord" (Phil. iii. 8). If all the things that may be desired are not to be compared to this treasure (Prov. viii. 11), we may well sacrifice even goodly pearls for this pearl of greatest price (Matt. xiii. 46).
COUNTING THE COST.
Of the wisdom of this Christ, told a short parable, which is illustrated by the Words of Solomon. "What king, going to make war with another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him. that cometh against him with twenty thousand?" (Luke xiv. 31).
"Every purpose is established by counsel; and with good advice make war" (Prov. xx. 18). "Go not forth hastily to strive, lest thou know not what to do in the end thereof" (xxv. 8).
Solomon adds "when thy neighbour hath put thee to shame" (xxv. 8), God wants to be a neighbour to us; why get up a war against Him which can only end in our shame? Of the folly manifested by such a course, we have further illustrations in Isa. xlv. 9 & Jer. xii. 5.
THE PHARISEE AND THE PUBLICAN.
This parable has its counterpart in the Book of Proverbs. "The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank Thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week; I give tithes of all that I possess" (Luke xviii. 11).
"There is a generation, O how lofty are their eyes, and their eyelids are lifted up" (Prov. xxx. 13). "For men to search their own glory is not glory" (xxv. 27). "Let another man praise thee, and not thine own mouth" (xxvii. 2).
The ancestors of this gentleman were evidently walking the earth in King Solomon’s time. Note the eyes of pride and of penitence: "How lofty are their eyes!" while the publican "would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven." God gives no glory to those who have so much glory. "No one," said a popular preacher, speaking upon Luke xxi. 28, "can rightly look up, who has not first learned to look down." First humbling, distress, repentance; and "when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh."
THE RICH FARMER.
Among Solomon’s many fools, we find the portrait of Christ’s rich fool as described in Luke xii. 16. "Soul, then hast much goods laid up for many years." "God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee" (Luke xii. 19). "He that trusteth in his riches shall fall" (Prov. xi. 28). "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (xxvii. 1). Boast not, for thou knowest not, "What a day may bring forth"; it is a birth of joy or sorrow—a bud to "bring forth" fruit or thorns. It may "bring forth" the best robe, or the axe of execution; it may even "bring forth" the royal diadem. Every day is a gracious gift to a poor pauper; shall he boast of the alms he receives? Each day is a purse filled with golden hours and silver moments; we may soon "bring forth" the last mite. Only fools boast of an empty purse.
THE RICH MAN AND LAZARUS.
Christ told of another rich man, side by side with a beggar. Solomon knew both. "There was a certain rich man . . . a certain beggar. The beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham's bosom. The rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lifted up his eyes" (Luke xvi. 19). "Riches profit not in the day of wrath; but righteousness delivereth from death" (Prov. xi. 4). "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing; there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches" (xiii. 7).
We can only notice one other parable---
THE PRODIGAL SON,
of whom it is said, "He wasted his substance with riotous living" (Luke xv. 13), and according to ver. 30, "with harlots." That sin took the same course in Solomon’s time, is evident from Prov. xxix. 3: "He that keepeth company with harlots spendeth his substance." The R.V. of this parable says "thy substance" (verse 12). Sin wastes our Father’s substance. The margin of the same says "the substance," as though it belonged to the whole family. Sin wastes the substance of brothers and sisters. Literally,"wasteth"---such is R.V. of Prov. xxix. 3. In this verse, Solomon gives the other side of the picture: "Whoso loveth wisdom, rejoiceth his father." This the prodigal did when he became wise enough to return, for "they began to be merry." How beautiful to think a sinner can make God glad! The elder brother thought only of making merry with his friends (verse 29); he had no sympathy with the father’s joy. To every son God saith, "My son, be wise, and make My heart glad" (Prov. xxvii. 11).
From these parallel passages, we see that the same Spirit of truth taught Solomon his proverbs as taught Christ His parables. Another proof of the oneness of the Scriptures.
THE TEACHING OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
CHRIST did not always teach by parables. He taught in ordinary language. Let us compare such teaching with the teaching of Solomon upon leading subjects.
REWARDS.----Christ said He would "reward every man according to his works" (Matt. xvi. 27). Almost the exact words He might have used had He been quoting Prov. xxiv. 12: "Shall not He render to every man according to his works?" Of course He will. A faithful master pays according to the labour performed.
JUDGMENT.—"Every man’s judgment cometh from the Lord" (Prov. xxix. 26). Upon which subject Christ says, "The Father hath committed all judgment unto the Son" (John v. 22). Christ is Lord, and as Lord, He will deal judgment to every man. The "Jesus" of to-day will be the "Judge" of to-morrow.
SIN A BURDEN.—Our Lord spake of sinners as "heavy laden" (Matt. xi. 28). Turning to Prov. xxi. 8, R.V., we find the wise man describing the walk of these burdened ones: "The way of him that is laden with guilt is exceeding crooked." How can it be otherwise? Such a pack is sure to turn the feet. A heavy load wants a wide road. When the pilgrim’s burden is lost at the Cross, he will walk straight.
SIN A CHAIN.—of condemnation and slavery. "He shall be holden with the cords of his sins" (Prov. v. 22). And no Samson is strong enough to break them. Chains of restraint devils can snap; but cords of sin are too strong for any arms. One only can deliver, Who said, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John viii. 36). When He says, "Loose him, and let him go," no cord can bind.
NEGLECT.----We might think men would be glad to lose burdens and cords, but they are not. "Ye will not come to Me" (John v. 40). Why? "Everyone that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved" (John iii. 20). "A scorner loveth not one that reproveth him; neither will he go unto the wise" (Prov. xv. 12). In the dark, he does not see the cords that bind him, and he avoids the light that reveals his bondage. Yet He Who shows the chains, breaks them.
SIGHT.—Men are not only in darkness, they are blind, so see not the fetter; deaf, so do not hear it clanking at their heels. "Their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears," &c. (Matt. xiii. 15). The healing hand of John ix. can still open blind eyes and unstop deaf ears (Mark vii. 35). This is a part of the new creation, and Solomon was not so much in ignorance about it as we imagine. "The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord hath made even both of them" (Prov. xx. 12).
FOOD.----The next verse says, "Open thine eyes, and thou shalt be satisfied with bread." Sin shuts our eyes; Christ opens them, and what do we see? When God opened Hagar’s eyes, she saw a well of water (Gen. xxi. 19). So do we, and bread enough and to spare. "The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul; but the belly of the wicked shall want" (Prov. xiii. 25). The prodigal found this doubly true. Why did Solomon mention the "soul" of the righteous and the "belly" of the wicked? Because the righteous think most of the soul.
SATISFACTION.—I like that word "the satisfying of his soul." "None but Christ can satisfy." "The fear of the Lord tendeth to life; and he that hath it shall abide satisfied" (Prov. xix. 23). Not only satisfied, and abundantly satisfied, but abidingly satisfied. He ought to abide satisfied, who has a fountain within. "Whosover drinketh of the water that I shall give him, shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him, shall be in him a well of water" (John iv. 14, vi. 35). He drinks the water of life and eats the bread of life, and so "shall never hunger," "shall never thirst," "shall abide satisfied."
CLEANSING.—The water that quenches thirst, cleanses filth. Solomon asks (chap. xx, verse 9), "Who can say, I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin?" Only Christ can accomplish this purification; and when it is done, He says, "He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit" (John xiii. 10). Did the Lord mean they were clear of every tendency to sin? No; for that night some of them slept when they ought to have watched; they all turned cowards and ran away; while their chief man nearly committed a murder, and actually cursed, swore, and denied his Master. A good thing for them, and us, the fountain continues flowing.
HEART WORK.----The Saviour always taught that cleansing must touch the heart, for the outward springs from the inward. "Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh" (Matt. xii. 34). He not only cleanses the heart, He fills it; so that "a good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good," and an evil man evil (Luke vi. 45). Solomon taught the same doctrine: "Wisdom resteth in the heart of him that hath understanding but that which is in the midst of fools is made known" (xiv. 33j; "The heart of the righteous studieth to answer; but the mouth of the wicked poureth out evil things" (xv. 28). If the heart—the instrument—be in tune, all that comes from it will be in harmony. "The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth" (xvi. 23).
PURITY.—-The result of having the heart thus cleansed is spoken of by Christ and Solomon in almost the same words. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matt. v. 8). They shall go in and have audience with the King; and more, "He that loveth pureness of heart, for the grace of his lips, the King shall be his friend" (xxii. 11). Here the heart and lips are again linked.
MOTIVE.—A pure heart will give a pure motive, and motive is much with God. No sacrifice is accepted unless brought in a right spirit; if this be wrong, "leave thy gift," said Christ, until the wrong is righted (Matt. v. 23). Solomon taught this truth thus: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?" (xxi. 27, R.V.). In the margin it reads, "when he bringeth it to atone for wickedness." Even good works, if done to atone for sin, are worse than abominations to God; for atonement hath been fully made.
LOVE.----Jesus taught that we were to love even those who hate us (Matt. v. 44). We sometimes forget that such doctrine as this was taught in the Old Testament. "If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink" (xxv. 21). How beautifully our Example practiced what He preached by dying for us, "when we were enemies" (Rom. v. 10), that so He might feed us and give us drink!
HUMILITY.—He who humbled Himself, constantly taught humility.
"To cure thee of thy pride, that deepest-seated ill,
God humbled His own self; will thou thy pride keep still?"
Let us place two passages together:
"When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden . . . when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher" (Luke xiv. 8). "He that shall humble himself shall be exalted " (Matt. xxiii. 12).
"Put not forth thyself in the presence of the king, and stand not in the place of great men; for better it is that it be said unto thee, 'Come up hither' than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the prince whom thine eyes have seen." "Before destruction, the heart of man is haughty, and before honour is humility" (Prov. xxv. 6, xviii. 12, xxix. 23).
HONOUR.—If humility leads to honour, so does service. "He that waiteth on his master, shall be honoured" (Prov. xxvii. 18). How? The Master "shall gird Himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them" (Luke xii. 37). We wait on Him to-day; He waits on us to-morrow. Is not this honour?
FEAR.—Shall such servants fear? "The fear of man bringeth a snare" (Prov. xxix. 25). How true, Peter found these words (Matt. xxvi. 70)! Twice, our brave Leader warns us not to fear men: "Fear them not;" "Fear not them"(Matt. x. 26 & 28); and, upon homeopathic principles, He gives a fear to cure a fear: "Rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (verse 28).
PRAYER.—Christ taught conditions upon which answers are given: "If My Words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you" (John xv. 7). If we turn from His Words, He will turn from ours. This, like all truth, is old and eternal. "He that turneth away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer shall be abomination" (Prov. xxviii. 9).
GROWTH.—The man who fulfils these conditions and abides in Christ, is compared to a branch (John xv. 2-6)----
A. Alive. B. Beautiful. C. Conspicuous. D. Dependent. E. Enduring. F. Fruitful. G. Green. H. High. I. Increasing.
His prayers are the fruits of life within, so come to perfection. Years before the disciples met in the guest-chamber and heard their Lord’s sweet Words about the Vine, Solomon had written, "The righteous shall flourish as a branch" (xi. 28).----
A grafted branch (Rom. xi. 17). An olive branch (Ps. lii. 8). A palm branch (Ps. xcii. 12). A vine branch (Ps. lxxx. 11).
"Blest with communion so divine,
Take what thou wilt, shall I repine,
When, as the branches to the vine,
My soul may cling to Thee?"—C. Elliott.
CHASTISEMENT.—Almost the last recorded Words of Christ, speak of chastening. The branch needs pruning, the child needs correcting, so the Lord said to John, "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten" (Rev. iii. 19); which Words seem but an echo of Prov. xiii. 24: "He that spareth his rod hateth his son; but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes." The lesson our Father wishes to teach is L-O-V-E. The rod points to its four golden letters; may grace give us wisdom to spell.
"We cannot always trace the way
Where thou, our gracious Lord, dost move;
But we can always surely say
That Thou art love.
"Yes! Thou art love;----a truth like this
Can every gloomy thought remove,
And turn all tears, all woe to bliss----
Our God is love."
THE CHURCH OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
THE Church of Christ is constantly spoken of as a woman (Psalm xlv. 9-14; Gal. iv. 26; Rev. xii. 1-6); therefore we shall not strain Scripture if we take Solomon’s description of a good woman as illustrating what the Church ought to be as a whole, and in its individual membership.
"Who can find on virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies" (Prov. xxxi. 10). Here we have the supreme excellence of the Church. Where can we find virtue? It ought to be the distinguishing characteristic of her whose price is so far above rubies, that, when Christ sought her, He had to give Himself for her (Eph. v. 25)—"a chaste virgin" (2 Cor. xi. 2). In return, He has a crown for His outlay.
"A virtous woman is a crown to her husband" (xii. 4). The apostle spake of each saint as his crown (Phil. iv. 1; 1 Thess. ii. 19). "What a crown that must be, in which each separate saint is but one jewel (Mal. iii. 17)! "Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God" (Isa. lxii. 3).
"Every wise woman buildeth her house" (xiv.1). The work of the Church is to build (1 Cor. iii. 9-15). It is her own house. Perhaps, we are sometimes more earnest in building for earthly masters than in building the house which is emphatically our own, with which we are identified—the house of our Husband.
"The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her" (xxxi. ll). He commits his business into her hands. Other matters call him among the elders of the land in the gate (verse 23); so he leaves the house to her, and is quite safe in so doing, for "he shall have no need (or lack) of spoil." While Christ governs the universe, He has, in a sense, left the house-work to the Church, trusting her, trusting us. Shall He lack spoil through our lack of energy? How Christ trusted His disciples! "All things that I have heard of My Father, I have made known unto you" (John xv. 15).
"Oh! see how Jesus trusts Himself
Unto our childish love,
As if by His free-ways with us
Our earnestness to prove,"----F. W. Faber.
"She will do him good and not evil, all the days of her life" (verse 12). Jesus has done us good; can we do Him good? Certainly; and evil too. Both are possible; but in this ideal, evil is spoken of as an impossibility. Good done to our fellows, is good done to Him. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto Me" (Matt. xxv. 40).
"She seeketh wool and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands" (verse 13). The Church works. Some work if materials are found them; but this woman seeketh her own wool and flax. We want teachers who find their own classes; tract distributors who find their own districts. It is noted that she worketh willingly. How often this is mentioned! "Whosoever is of a willing heart" (Ex. xxv. 5, 21, 22, 29). "Not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind" (1 Pet. v. 2). Why? She is not a paid menial; she is the working mistress.
"She is like the merchant ships, she bringeth her food from afar" (verse 14). She believes the best way to look after home, is to look abroad. If the Church used ships more, she would often bring food from afar. Not war-ships, but merchant-ships, making them mission-ships. In peace, she is to trade for God, and so get gain. Oh, the spiritual food rotting upon foreign shores!
"She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and their task to her maidens" (verse 15, R.V.). She is up before the sun. When duty calls, it is well to be early, like Abraham (Gen. xxii. 3). She riseth to feed her servants; she does not expect toil without food. First to Gods larder, then to God’s labour. If Christians are to do good work, they must have good spiritual food. The daily "task" is also appointed by this lady—a proof she does not slight home to use the merchants’ ships.
"She considereth a field, and buyeth it; with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard" (verse 16). She is prudent. Not like the man who bought a field in the day, and went to see it at supper-time. She considers the field first, and lays out her money to the best advantage; when she has bought it, she improves it, and makes it into a vineyard. A city waif costs the Church a few pounds, is converted, and brings forth the fruit of the Spirit; an old hall, paid for by a few, may soon become a vineyard full of workers. This is money well spent.
"She girdeth her loins with strength" (verse I7). She believes in being personally up to the mark. If the worker is not girded with strength, the work must suffer. Weak sinews can only render weak service. In the Church, it is necessary to maintain the personal tone at the highest point. "She strengtheneth her arms by exercise."
"She perceiveth that her merchandise is good (or profltable)" (verse 18). Both to herself and her customers. She does not deal in common goods, or goods that are not what they profess to be. Her goods are good. Her milk is not half water, nor her gospel diluted. She tasteth all that she sells, and knows its worth by experience (1 John i. 1).
"Her lamp goeth not out by night" (verse 18). Foolish virgins may have their lamps go out, but not the true Christian. The light will not fail us when most we want it. Nights must come—the last dark night —but we shall not be left in darkness; our light is everlasting.
"She layeth her hands to the spindle" (verse 19). She does not work by proxy. Her own hands hold the distaff. Too many like to set others serving. A donation to support others is well; but the Lord wants our hands, as well as the gifts of our hands. The Bride must not be above hard work.
"She stretcheth out her hand to the poor" (verse 20). The Church is unselfish. While there are poor and needy ones, they must be helped; not by sending them to the workhouse or by the bare gift of alms and meals, but by touching them, lifting them. The Church must never ignore the poor (Prov. xiv. 21 & 31, xxviii. 8; Matt. xxvi. 11; Gal. ii. 10). "She reacheth forth her hands to the needy."
"She is not afraid of the snow for her household; for all her house- hold are clothed with scarlet" (verse 21). Clothed with "double garments," she is prepared for rough weather. Summer’s glow or winter’s snow are alike to her and hers. All the servants in her establishment are equally provided for. Winters of poverty, persecution, temptation, bereavement, sickness, cannot harm, for the household of faith are well clothed. "Wherefore fear? We may not see our scarlet cloaks in time of sunshine, much less wear them; but when frost comes, we shall find the wardrobe well stocked.
"She maketh herself coverings (cushion) of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple" (verse 22). She is no mean person. "She maketh beautiful vestments for herself." Not for her priests. Her garments are of the best materials. She has tapestry-covered cushions upon which to rest. In short, she is a lady; for the poorest saint is among God’s aristocracy. "Her clothing is of wrought gold" (Ps. xlv. 13). Why go in rags? It is not the Husband’s wish. He provides silks; don’t disgrace Him by wearing sackcloth. "Put on thy beautiful garments" (Isa. lii. 1, lxi. 10; Rom. xiii. 14).
"She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant" (verse 24). Fine linen of righteousness (Rev. xix. 8) and girdles of truth (Eph. vi. 14), not only for herself, but for the merchants, the Canaanites. These she sells according to the words of Rev. iii. 18. She girdeth herself (verse 17), and then makes girdles for others.
"Strength and honour are her clothing" (verse 25). She is no "comely and delicate woman," kept under glass (Jer. vi. 2). She is strong, and clothed with honour and dignity. Men despise God’s people (1 Cor. iv. 13); but they are honourable. "Unto you therefore which believe, He is an honour" (1 Pet. ii. 7, marg.). "Honourable women" (Ps. xlv. 9). "Honourable, and I have loved thee" (Isa. xliii. 4).
"She shall rejoice in time to come’’ (verse 25). Why? Because prepared for it. The wicked shall wail in time to come, but the righteous shall rejoice. The "time to come" may be dark----fear may see many things, ignorance may be blind to many things----but one thing is certain—JOY. "She laugheth at the time to come," for it cannot separate her from her Lord (Rom. viii. 38).
"She openeth her mouth with wisdom" (verse 26). The Church may always do this, for God hath said, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Ps. lxxxi. 10). "I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist" (Luke xxi. 15). This wisdom is kindly; she lays down the law, but it is "the law of kindness." "The teaching of kindness is on her tongue." Who knows the power of a kind word! "Kind words can never die."
"She looketh well to the ways of her household" (verse 27). The Church is a household----"the household of God" (Eph. ii. 19); "His household" (Matt. x. 25). The ways of this household must be looked to by discipline. She "eateth not the bread of idleness." Though head of "the household of faith" (Gal. vi. 10), she believes in works. No toil, no spoil. The loafer’s loaf is not kept in the Church’s cupboard (2 Thess. iii. 10).
"Her children arise up, and call her blessed" (verse 28). Let us look well to the children. Bring them for Christ to bless, and they will be a blessing, and call the Church blessed.
"Her husband also, and he praiseth her" (verse 28). It is a marvel that Christ should praise His people. Yet, if any doubt, let them turn to Cant. iv. 7: "Thou art all fair, My love; there is no spot in thee." We began with the husband trusting his bride (verse 11); we end with him praising her, saying, "Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all," &c. (verses 29-31).
There is one thought we have missed. "Her husband is known in the gates" (verse 23). Known as her husband; she is such a credit to him that she makes him popular. Is not this the duty of the Church? "That we should be to the praise of His glory" (Eph. i. 12 & 14). "Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God" (Phil. i. 11; Matt. v. 16; John xv. 8). May the Spirit thus make "manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place" (2 Cor. ii. 14).
THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST, AS ILLUSTRATED IN THE BOOK OF PROVERBS.
I.----THE Bible is brilliant with illustrations, a perfect galaxy being found in the Book of Proverbs; let us focus our gaze upon one cluster, forming the Cross of Christ.
"As cold waters to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country" (xxv. 25). The Gospel is good news, for it "publisheth peace" and "salvation" (Isa. lii. 7), and proclaims "liberty to the captives" (Isa. lxi. 1). It comes from a far country, for we have wandered to a far country (Luke xv. 13); but Jesus came and preached peace to us "which were afar off" (Eph. ii. 17). This good news is compared to cold water—fresh and refreshing, new and renewing, bright and brightening, pure and purifying. "Cold"—direct from the rock; not mixed, not warmed by human invention or intervention. But it will only be valued by "a thirsty soul." Solomon says the faithful messenger who brings this news "refresheth the soul of his masters" (xxv. 13). Even if men are not blest by the tidings of salvation, the Father, Son, and Spirit, our Masters, are pleased. The good news is not only water, it is as food; for "a good report maketh the bones fat" (xv. 30). There are solids as well as liquids in truth (Isa. lviii. 11).
"Every man is a friend to him that giveth gifts" (xix. 6). God gives gifts (Jas. i. 17); specially through Christ (Rom. v. 15-18, vi. 23; 2 Cor. ix.15; Eph. iv. 8, ii. 8). How unnatural for men not to be His friends! "A man’s gift maketh room for him" (xviii. 16). Shall not Christ’s gift in the Gospel make room for Him?
"Oh, lovely attitude! He stands,
With melting heart and laden hands."
Shall we not say, "There is room in my heart for Thee"? "A gift is as a precious stone in the eyes of him that hath it, whithersoever it turneth, it prospereth (xvii. 8). A precious stone is precious in itself; but before I personally feel its value, I must have it—it must be given to me. "Unto you which believe He is precious" (1 Pet. ii. 7), and bringeth prosperity. "Whose boasteth himself of a false gift is like clouds and wind without rain" (xxv. 14). Jude knew such (verse 12). To boast of the gift of life falsely, results in nothing but disappointment and emptiness—the darkness of a cloud without its blessed showers.
Old landmarks had been removed and the fields of the fatherless entered, but they had a friend. "Their redeemer is mighty" (xxiii. ll). Sin bereaved us of our Father, and Satan, taking advantage, removed the old landmarks, cheating us of our inheritance; but our Redeemer is mighty in influence, wealth, and power, and has restored our possessions. Even now the enemy would remove the old landmarks and rob us of the "all things" which are ours. Through redemption, every landmark is restored, and our portion even increased, for we are heirs together with Him (Rom. viii. 17). Let us watch that we lose no part of this good land.
"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself; but the simple pass on, and are punished (xxii. 3, xxvii. 12). There is danger; there is a hiding-place (Isa. xxxii. 2). The danger may be seen, and so may the hiding-place. A prudent man looks ahead, peers into the future, and hears a voice saying, "Because there is wrath, beware" (Job xxxvi. 18). Foreseeing that evil is coming, he gets out of its way, and "hideth himself." The simpleton, who only sees the length of his own nose, passes on, and so passes by the Hiding-Place and into the place of danger; consequently he suffers for it. It is a solemn thought that we may so pass by the Hiding-Place as to find it impossible to come back to it. Have I said,----
"Thou art my Hiding-Place" (Ps. xxxvii. 7).
Am I hidden in His pavilion (Ps. xxvii. 5)?
In the secret of His tabernacle (Ps. xxvii. 5)?
In the secret of His presence (Ps. xxxi. 20)?
In the shadow of His hand (Isa. xlix. 2)?
Under His wings (Ps. xvii. 8)?
With Christ in God (Col. iii. 3)?
"The conies are but or feeble folk, yet make they their houses in the rocks" (xxx. 26). These rock badgers, mountain mice, or wild rabbits, are weak but wise. They are a feeble folk, yet dwell in fine fortresses. This summer, on the rocky coast of Devonshire, I saw the rabbits playing among the clifts, where no foot could follow them. Nothing could come to them from above; no one could clamber to them from below. They could look down upon the waves and laugh at their fury; no spray could reach their rocky home. They had a hiding-place. Note, the conies make their houses in the rocks, not upon them, not under their shadow. Their homes may be dark, but they are secure. In the Rock, we may not see all we want, but we are safe; and safety is superior to sight.
"Thou blest Rock of Ages, I'm hiding in Thee!"
"The full soul loatheth an honeycomb; but to the hungry soul, every bitter thing is sweet" (xxvii. 7). There is not only safety in Christ, there is sweetness—the sweetest sweetness (Ps. xix. 10); the Rock yields honey (Deut. xxxii. 13; Ps. lxxxi. 16). Christ’s Words in the Gospel "are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones" (xvi. 24). Christ Himself is our desert manna----"the taste of it was like wafers made with honey" (Ex. xvi. 31)----and He leads us into a land of honey (Deut. viii. 8). Yet the full, self-righteous soul loatheth, "trampleth upon," this honeycomb. There are hungry ones, however, to whom even a bitter thing is sweet. At first Christ appears bitter; but if we have a real appetite, the bitterness will soon pass away.
"Burning lips and a wicked heart are like a potsherd covered with silver dross" (xxvi. 23). An earthen vessel electro-plated. Judged by appearance, silver; in reality, a potsherd. We are all earthen vessels, and it is useless to cover the earthenware with a silvering of profession. Better be a dove, and leave the pots on real wings "covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold" (Ps. lxviii. 13). Burning words and fervent lips are no proof of a warm and burning heart. Putting on the Gospel is not putting on Christ. After all, even the silver is only silver dross. Be real, all through alike!
"The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead" (xxi. 16). Here is the picture of one who leaves the high road, and the result is death----continued death. "The way of understanding"—a good description of the narrow way; but this man strikes off a new way. The beaten track is too old-fashioned; he wandereth out of it, first a foot, then a mile, and the new path lands him where many have gone----in the congregation of the dead and there he remains; no voice can call him back; the first resurrection does not awake him, and nothing will, till the resurrection of damnation.
A LOST BIRD.
"As a bird that wandereth from her nest, so is a man that wandereth from his place" (xxvii. 8). Here is another picture of a wanderer. A little bird has a nest in the church tower; but, as it grows, it looks forth into the world and desires to spread its wings. At first it hops among the ivy, but ever downward; the old birds chide, but still it flutters and falls; at length it tumbles to the earth and becomes a prey to its enemies. There is the Home nest, the Sunday-school nest, the Bible-class nest, the Church-nest, God’s nest----a prepared place, a place of comfort, rest, safety—the right place for the bird. Alas for those who wander! What shall we say when the old birds wander? What will become of the young ones?
A SNARED BIRD.
Here is a person who is entangled by his words: he is under legal obligations which he finds he cannot fulfil, promises which he cannot keep. How is he to escape? "Go, humble thyself, and make sure my friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself . . . as a bird from the hand of the fowler" (vi. 1-5). Have we not promised God to keep His law? Have we not found ourselves snared with the words of our mouth? We cannot pay; the net is all around us. Effort cannot free us; our only course is to humble ourselves and to make sure our Friend. He is not an enemy; never let us think of Him as such. Alas, how men sleep in the snare! Let us not give slumber to our eyelids until able to say, "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowlers" (Ps. cxxiv. 7).
"The spider taketh hoid with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces" (xxx. 28). A picture of the sinner. Hurtful, hateful, and hunted; despised, and, when found, to be destroyed; insignificant, of no service, a murderer; yet this loathsome creature arrives at the king’s palace, where she abides and sees the king’s face. How? By taking hold with her hands. Wings she has not, so cannot use them; but she has hands. God’s Word to the weak sinner is, "Let him take hold of My strength" (Isa. xxvii. 5, lxiv. 7). This is faith, and by it we enter the palace of grace now, and the many mansions of glory by-and-by (Ps. xlv. 15). The place of----
Richness (Ps. cxii. 3; Prov. xxiv. 4; 2 Cor. vi. 10; Phil. iv. 19; 1 Tim. vi. 6).
Rarity (1 Sam. ii. 2; 2 Sam. vii. 22, 23; Deut. xxxii. 31, xxxiii. 29).
Royalty (Ps. xliv. 4, xlv. 14; Isa. xxxiii. 17 ; Cant. ii. 4).
Some think this verse about the spider ought to read, "The lizard thou canst seize with thy hands, yet is she in kings’ palaces." Only a reptile, easily captured, unclean, not fit to be placed upon God’s altar (Lev. xi. 30); yet it dwelt in the royal chambers. Blessed thought unclean and not fit for the temple, I may yet attain to the palace.
"Let us keep a closer grip o’ Him, for time is on the wing,
An’ sune He’ll come an’ tak’ us tae the palace o’ the King."
CAPTURING A CITY.
"A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, and casteth down the strength of the confidence thereof" (xxi. 22). Our last illustration shows how the Gospel enters the heart. Bunyan, in his "Holy War," had this thought. Here is the city of the mighty—mighty pride, sins, prejudices, scepticisms----the soul is no mud village. The soldier who attacks it is called "a wise man;" such is every soldier of the Cross----wise in being a soldier; and he should be wise as a soldier. The city has confidences----its Walls (Numb. xiii. 28). Princes (Ps. cxviii. 9). Wealth (Job xxxi. 24). Power (Ps. xciv. 4-6).
The wise man does not parley, make a truce, plot and scheme. He attacks and scaleth the city, casting down its confidenoes. May the Holy Spirit make every soldier, even if single-handed, thus wise and brave; so shall the Gospel----
"Win and conquer, never cease.
And its lasting, wide dominion
Multiply, and still increase."
II.----HAVING taken a glance at various illustrations of the Gospel in the Book of Proverbs, let us now confine ourselves to the blessings of that Gospel as shadowed in the same portion of the Word.
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper" (xxviii. 13). Adam tried to cover his transgression (Gen. iii. 10); Cain did the same (iv. 9); Achan also (Josh. vii. 21), and Gehazi (2 Kings v. 25); but they did not prosper. The sheep will bleat, and Saul’s sin be discovered (1 Sam. xv. 14). If I say, "Surely the darkness shall cover me" (Ps. cxxxix. 11), He whose eyes are "as a flame of fire" (Rev. i. 14), sees all. "There is nothing covered that shall not be revealed" (Matt. x. 26). When gunpowder covers a spark, then may one sin cover another.
"Love covereth all sins" (Prov. x. 12). Peter says it covereth "a multitude of sins" (1 Pet. iv. 8). If this be true of human love, we may be sure it only feebly illustrates the love of God. His love wanted to cover our sins, but the only covering large enough was His Son; and He so loved that He gave Him to be the propitiation, or covering (1 John iv. 10). His merit covers our demerit, as a crown-piece covers a threepenny piece. He is the Living Ivy, that covers our ruined nature and all its records of evil. "The depths have covered them," may be sung over the multitude of our sins (Ex. xv. 5). As the cloud of incense covered the priest, the representative of all the sins of all the people (Lev. xvi. 13), so the cloud of Christ’s sacrifice and the incense of His intercession cover us and our sins. The valleys in themselves are black, bare, and barren; but when the valleys are "covered over with corn" (Ps. lxv. 13), how the black, bare earth is hidden! My heart is such a valley, but God covers it with the golden harvest of life. What a difference between the rags of the prodigal and the robes of the priest! Such white robes are my covering. Nay, the best robe to cover God’s worst son (Luke xv. 22). Never let us imagine God likes to see our fault; He wishes to cover them. A good father when showing his son’s copy-book, will conceal the page where the ink was upset. Love always covers defects, and has an object in so doing, for—
"He that covereth a transgression seeketh love" (xvii. 9). Love makes God cover our sins, that the kind act may make us love Him back." He might find fault, He might punish; but He covers. "Blessed is he . . . whose sin is covered" (Ps. xxxii. 1).
"God wants to have us love Him!
His heart of boundless grace
Can only find its filling
Embracing our lost race;
And so in condescension,
With gifts, and deeds, and pleas,
Beseeches, where His greatness
Might claim our bended knees."
SIN PASSED OVER.
"The discretion of a man defereth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression" (xix. 11). Solomon commends those who are slow to anger (xiv. 29, xvi. 32); but in this, God takes the palm—"a God ready to pardon, gracious and merciful, slow to anger" (Neh. ix. 17; Ps. ciii. 8; Joel ii. 13; Nah. i. 3). Because God is thus slow to anger, "it is His glory to pass over a transgression." Slow to punish, but quick to pardon. As soon as David says, "I have sinned against the Lord," it is recorded, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin" (2 Sam. xii. 13). He is swifter than our prayers; for when the dying thief said, "Remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom," the answer came, "To-day shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke xxiii. 42, 43). Truly it is His glory to pass over a transgression, but only when covered by the appointed covering. "When He seeth the blood upon the lintel, and on the two side posts, the Lord will pass over the door" (Ex. xii. 23).
"By mercy and truth, iniquity is purged; and by the fear of the Lord, men depart from evil" (xvi. 6). Purged, or atoned for. This is so in a limited sense between man and man; but how much more so when He Who is "the Truth," undertakes the work (John xiv. 6)—He Who unites the most lenient mercy with the strictest truth; He by Whom "grace and truth came," and Who is "full of grace and truth" (John i. 14 & 17). By Him iniquity is more than covered, it is purged—as dross is purged from gold (Isa. i. 25), as chaff is purged from wheat (Matt. iii. 12), as old leaven was purged from a Jewish house (1 Cor. v. 7), as a branch is purged from all that injures (John xv. 2), as uncleanness was purged by blood (Heb. ix. 22). He "by Himself purged our sins" (Heb. i. 3). When this is done practical holiness follows, and "men depart from iniquity."
"The labour of the righteous tendeth to life" (x. 16). Without life, he could not labour, so he does not labour for life, but all he does proves life, manifesting it, spreading it, approaching nearer to perfect life. Lest any should think such labour hard, we read, "The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life" (xi. 30). His Works are fruit, borne naturally, not manufactured by force; but lest this should destroy the thought of progress, let us add a word about the way of life, which is "above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath" (xv. 24). He who departs from iniquity will depart from hell beneath. His life, like the life of the seed, seeks to rise. "Seek those things which are above . . . Set your affection on things above" (Col. iii. 1, 2). Thus, we have a sermon with three heads:---- 1. The labour of life. 2. The tree of life. 3. The way of life.
Divine life is closely connected with righteousness. "In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof, there is no death" (xii. 28). In the way of righteousness is life and no death; in the way of sin is death and no life. One name given to God’s people is: "the righteous;" to them as such, special promises are made----
"The righteous are bold " (xxviii. 1).
"The righteous are delivered" (xi. 8).
"The righteous doth sing" (xxix. 6).
"The righteous hath hope" (xiv. 32).
"The desire of the righteous shall he granted" (x. 24).
"The way of the righteous is made plain" (xv. 19).
"The hope of the righteous shall be gladness" (x. 28).
"The root of the righteous shall not be moved" (xii. 3).
"Follow after righteousness" (1 Tim. vi. 11); for "He loveth him that followeth after righteousness" (xv. 9).
"He that followeth after righteousness and mercy, findeth life, righteousness, and honour" (xxi. 21). This honour may be illustrated by (1) a good name; (2) loving favour. "A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favour rather than silver and gold" (xxii. 1). The Bride takes the honour of the Bridegroom’s name, as well as His loving favour. She has the right to use that name (John xvi. 23), and to enjoy that favour. Is there anywhere a better name than that of "Christian"? Transposed, its letters read, "A Christ in;" and the man who has Christ in him is indeed honoured.
"The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous runneth into it, and is safe" (xviii. 10). Sins are covered, passed over, purged, so he is safe from punishment. He has life eternal, so is safe from death; is righteous, so is safe from condemnation; is in the tower, and so is safe from all dangers, set up on high, safe forever; for his tower is not only a place to run to, it is a dwelling-place, where he "shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil " (i. 33). Obedience to God’s voice insures security. Of Noah it is said, "According to all that God commanded him, so did he" (Gen. vi. 22); therefore it is also said, "Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark" (Gen. vii. 23). He dwelt safely, and so do we (John x. 28). "Safety is of the Lord" (xxi. 31). The R.V. says, "Victory is of the Lord," which implies there may be fighting, but there must be triumph.
JOY."He that giveth heed unto the Word shall find good; and whoso trusteth in the Lord, happy is he" (xvi. 20, R.V.). Here we have the one Gospel requisite, faith—faith in "the Word," both written in the book, and manifested in Him Who is "the Word" (John i. 1). Such a man is happy; not thinks he is, or hopes to be some day, but IS—"happy is he." His faith brings joy, and so do his works, for "it is joy to the just to do judgment" (xxi. 15). He acts according to his nature; as singing birds sing, so he who is righteous doeth righteousness. Blessed Gospel that brings such blessings!
III.----SIN brought the knowledge of evil; the Gospel brings the knowledge of good. "When we receive the saving revelation, it may be said, "Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God" (Prov. ii. 5). It brings a knowledge of God as emphatically the Holy God: "The knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" (ix. 10, R.V.). This knowledge is not natural to any of Adam’s fallen sons; when they know themselves, they have to say, "I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy" (xxx. 3). The world by wisdom, knows not this God (1 Cor. i. 21); whom it ignorantly worships, the Gospel declares (Acts xvii. 23).
"That the soul be without lmowledge, it is not good" (xix. 2). Not good in itself, for itself, or for others. Ignorance is uncertainty, prevents gratitude, leads to error, and lives in danger. Truly it is not good; and if we measure the importance of knowledge by the object known or unknown, how evil must be any ignorance of God! How can the soul worship, love, and obey a God it does not know? Happily the whole aim of the Book of Proverbs, among the other books of Scripture, is to give this knowledge (i. 4). But here a difliculty arises, for—
"Fools hate knowledge" (i. 22). "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light" (John iii. 19). Men hate the knowledge of a holy God; this is the secret of opposition and persecution. A knowledge of self as a sinner, and of God as a sin-avenger, is not pleasant. A black heart naturally hates the Divine purity. What must be the result of this hatred? "Calamity" "fear," "desolation," "destruction," "distress," "anguish;" "for that they hated knowledge" (i. 26-29; Rom. i. 28).
"He that refuseth instruction despiseth his own soul" (xv. 32). He so despises it that he does not think it worth teaching, and treats it as an idiot, incapable of anything higher than eating, drinking, and sleeping. "The ear that heareth the reproof of life, abideth among the wise" but of fools, it is written, "They despised all My reproof" (xv. 31, i. 30). "He that despised Moses’ law, died without mercy . . . of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under-foot the Son of God?" (Heb. x. 28, 29). "Whoso despiseth the Word, shall be destroyed" (xiii. 13). Then what value will there be in any other form of knowledge? Will astronomy find a star of hope; mathematics shorten the years of eternity; philosophy soothe the anguish of despair; or chemistry put out the unquenchable fire?
"The ear of the wise seeketh knowledge" (xviii. 15). He wishes to know self, sin, and salvation, so goes where he can hear. It is said of him, "Thou criest after knowledge" (ii. 3). The knowledge of God is worth the seeking. It is the highest botany, for it reveals the Lily of the Valley and the Rose of Sharon; it teaches the language of heaven, makes known the Sun of Righteousness, comprises the history of all time, and publishes the secrets of all eternity. But it must be sought.
"If any man think that the Spirit is given to save us the labour of hard and long studies, Solomon hath spent so many chapters in calling them to dig, search, cry, labour, wait for wisdom, that, if that will not undeceive them, I cannot; they may as well say that God’s blessing is to save the husbandman the labour of ploughing and sowing, as that the Spirit is given to save men the labour of learning to read the Bible, or to hear it, or think of it, or to pray to God."—Richard Baxter.
Thus seeking, we "find knowledge" (viii. 9)----"the knowledge of God" (ii. 5). This was Paul’s great desired (Phil. iii. 10; Eph. i. 17; 2 Pet. iii. 18; 2 Cor. iv. 6). Like the pillar of fire between the Israelites and the Egyptians, God is a dark mystery to the world, but a bright reality to His Own people, who know Him by His Words, His ways, His works. When we know God as our Father, we need not trouble to know many things that puzzled us before we know Him, and He knoweth all things (1 Sam. ii. 3; Job ix. 4, xxxvi. 4; Ps. cxlvii. 5; Heb. iv. 13).
It is said, Prov. xxi. 11, "When the wise is instructed, he receiveth knowledge." Though it is perfectly true that we seek this knowledge, it is equally true that we receive it, but not in a miraculous way; it is received by instruction, according to that promise, "I will make known. My Words unto you" (i. 23). We seek; that is the active part, we receive; that is the passive. Thus "the heart of the prudent getteth knowledge" (xviii. 15). The heart, not the head. We may have a foolish head and yet a wise heart, for the knowledge the Gospel brings, is for the inner being. The heart has sinned; the heart is sad; the heart needs the Saviour.
"Apply thine heart unto My knowledge" (xxii. 17). This is a step further; the heart knows, and then applies itself to know, more. "My knowledge"----given by Me, and revealing Me. Apply thine heart to this, as the merchant to merchandise, the artist to art, the scientist to science.
Let "the words of the wise" have the application of thine whole heart, "for it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them within thee; they shall withal be fitted in thy lips" (xxii. 18). A man describing his conversion said, "The word came in at one ear, went out at the other, and then came back and lodged." Words thus kept within the heart are sure to come from the heart, and are sure to fit the lips.
"Wise men lay up knowledge" (x. 14). Store the mind with memories of the past, with God-revealed facts for the present, and with promises for the future. "Lay up these My Words in your heart" (Deut. xi. 18; Job xxii. 22; Prov. vii. 1). As Joseph laid up corn for famine, so lay up all you know of God and His Christ (Gen. xli. 48). Then may you truly say, "Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years" (Luke xii. 19). Fruit laid up for a visit from the Beloved (Cant. vii. 13).
In Prov. v. 2, we read about keeping knowledge. The Gospel seed needs to be kept in the soil, for there are many evil birds with sharp beaks ready to steal it (Luke viii. 12). Some folks have the knowledge of salvation to-day and lose it to-morrow. God would have us keep this knowledge in spite of fears, feelings, foes, failings, or fainting fits. By the importance of the instruction, "we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip" (Heb. ii. 1). Keep knowledge, as the miller keeps back the water to turn his mill; keep knowledge, as a tradesman keeps a horse—to work—not as a lady keeps a lap-dog to fondle. Keep this knowledge always at hand, as a sword: "Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you " (1 Pet. iii. 15).
"The lips of the wise disperse knowledge" (xv. 7). This looks like a contradiction; how can we keep and yet disperse? How can any man disperse who does not keep? If the farmer stored no seed-corn, he could not sow it. If you can only say, "One thing I know," tell somebody that one thing. A boy learned A, B, C; it was all he knew, yet he offered to teach another boy his letters; and by the time he had taught him A, B, C, he had himself learned D, E, F; and so he went on dispersing all he knew. Christ does not give us ears without bidding us use our tongues. "What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light" (Matt. x. 27). "The tongue of the wise useth knowledge aright" (xv. 2).
Knowledge thus laid up and used will be "pleasant unto thy soul" (ii. 10). Oh the pleasure of knowing God and His way of salvation! There is always pleasure in solving mysteries. Here the greatest of all mysteries is solved, and the pleasure is proportionate. If our knowledge of the Gospel is not pleasant, it is not real and clear, for it is the knowledge of PARDON PURCHASED, PEACE PROCLAIMED, POSSESSIONS PROMISED.
"Through knowledge shall the just be delivered" (xi. 9). From slander, from sorrow, from sin, from self, and from Satan.
A knowledge of God’s love delivers from dread.
A knowledge of God’s Son delivers from death.
A knowledge of God’s salvation delivers from damnation.
If we better knew the Divine Dispensary, we might often be delivered from many a pain. A knowledge of the promises would frequently find a key to open Doubting Castle. To be able to say, "We are not ignorant," is to be well armed (2 Cor. ii. 11).
"The eyes of the Lord preserve him that hath knowledge" (xxii. 12, R.V.). It is a mercy He does not leave the wisest to their own wisdom. God’s wisdom is engaged to preserve our wisdom. A friend was climbing Snowdon; he knew the way fairly well, and so had knowledge. But when he reached the summit, he found one who knew more than he, and who had been watching him all the way with a glass to see he did not wander. In climbing life’s hill, God gives us a certain amount of knowledge, and expects us to use it; but it is blessed to know that His eyes preserve us even though we have this knowledge.
There is a twofold end in Divine knowledge. "That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not I written to thee excellent things in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?" (xxii. 19-21). God makes us know the truth, that our trust may be in Him, and that we may have an answer for any who question us. "We must "know the certainty of the words of truth" before we can "answer the words of truth." Yet some folks tell us we cannot know. Both Solomon and John evidently thought difierently, for a parallel passage to this in Proverbs is found in 1 John v. 13----"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life." We end this paper with an extract from Richard Baxter’s "Knowledge and Love"----"All our knowledge of God Himself is given us to kindle in us the love of God. It is the bellows to blow up this holy fire."
IV.----THE target of every Gospel arrow is the heart; if that is missed, all is missed. The bleeding heart of Christ is full of balm for the bleeding hearts of men. Civilization affects the arts of the world----Christianity, the hearts of the world. Nowhere is this phase of truth better illustrated than in Solomon’s Proverbs.
"The Lord pondereth the hearts" (Prov. xxi. 2). He weighs them in the balances, and judges of the man by the ounces of heart he possesses. "Every way of a man is right in his own eyes." But the Lord does not accept our opinion of ourselves. It is wonderful what a man can think right if he does it himself, and likes doing it; if other people did it, of course it would be wrong. When the Lord has pondered, considered, weighed the heart, what is the result?
"The heart of the wicked is little worth" (x. 20). It is the most important part of him; so if it is little worth, there is not much of value about him. Why is his heart of little worth? Because it is a bubble of pride, ready to burst. "Before destruction, the heart of man is haughty" (xviii. 12). Big, bright, and beautiful, but soon to break. "A proud heart . . . is sin" (xxi. 4); and sin is of such an estimation in God’s sight, that He tramples it under foot. Sin is filth, and filth lowers the value of what might be precious, if clean. The heart is a defiled vessel, and as such is of little worth. "Who can say, I have made my heart clean?" (xx. 9). It is easy to say it, but will God repeat His "Amen," after our saying? "There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness" (xxx. 12).
As a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he" (xxiii. 7). This proves that the Lord rightly judges, when He judges by the heart. As the works of the clock move, such is the clock----a good timekeeper, or the reverse. A good case and face may decide about it being a good piece of furniture; but as a clock, we must judge by the internal ticking; so with man. In time of war, an enemy is no less an enemy because he comes into the camp in the uniform of an ally; he is rather a greater enemy on that account. What the heart is, the man is.
"He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" (xxviii. 26); for he trusts in that which is of little worth. His confidence is in a bank without capital. He trusts to rise to heaven on a bubble. He is a fool, not on the first of April only, but every day of his life, for only a fool’s head would trust in a foul heart. He trusts in what does not really exist, in any good sense, for Solomon says of a fool—
"He hath no heart" (xvii. 16). He has heart enough for gold and glory, fame and fashion, pomp and pleasure, but no heart toward God. Talk about politics in the hearing of a dog, and he has no heart; but say, "Rats!" and his heart is found at once. Men are like dogs, only the interesting word is a little different.
To an entertainment they crowd; to chapel they creep;
At a play, all attention; at church, all asleep.
"He that heareth reproof getteth a heart" (xv. 32, marg.). This is gospel to those who feel they have no heart for Divine things. We hear anxious ones say, "I have no heart." Behold the remedy! Here is obtained a new heart and a true heart, a right heart and a bright heart, a filled heart and a stilled heart—
"A heart in every thought renewed,
And full of love divine;
Perfect, and right, and pure, and good,
A copy, Lord, of Thine."
If, as a man "thinketh in his heart, so is he," and if the heart is "in every thought renewed," then the man who owns the heart is a new man. Hallelujah!.
"A sound heart is the life of the flesh" (xiv. 30). The old heart was faint, diseased, broken; the new heart is strong and healthy. Such a heart means life—enjoyed life, working life. Who would not sound the praises of a sound heart! To be sound in doctrine is blessed, but to be sound in heart as well is a double blessing. The Revised Version says in the margin, "a tranquil heart." A violet in the valley, unruffled by the tempest that shakes the tall pines—a little pebble, resting in the depths of Divine love—a dove, abiding in the Rock—"a heart at leisure from itself"—"a heart from every sin set free."
"My son, give Me thine heart" (xxiii. 26). A child had a new watch; but he understood little about watches, so he looked at it, and listened to its ticking, until presently the watch stopped. The child was dismayed, and went to its father, telling him the watch was spoiled. "No," said the parent, "it only wants the key." So his strong hand wound the watch, and it ticked merrily once more; but in time it stopped again; then the child said, "Father, I will give you my new watch to keep until I am older." So the father wore it very near his heart, and the child would come close and hear its ticking, and hear the throbbing of his father’s bosom as well. Father, keep my new heart, as that father kept the watch.
"Keep thy heart with all diligence" (iv. 23). The margin of the Revised Version says, "above all that thou guardest." God keeps our hearts by helping us to keep them. It is God’s gift; keep it as such for His sake. Keep it in His keeping. Do not want thy watch to show at the world’s fair.
"The preparation of the heart in man . . . is from the Lord " (xvi. 1). He prepares it to feel, to fear, and to follow; to worship, and work, and wait. If my heart is to be His altar, He alone must cut and polish; no tool of mine is allowed (Ex. xx. 25). A part of the preparation is that He traces His laws upon the new tablet, and then bids us go over the blessed lines.
"Write them upon the table of thine heart " (iii. 3, vii. 3). This is said twice, as if God would show us that he writes what we write, and so there are two writers, yet only one writing (Heb. viii. 10). This writing must not be rubbed out. "Let thine heart retain My Words" (iv. 4). "Bind them continually upon thine heart" (vi. 21). God’s Words are a pilaster for every heart wound. "Let thine heart keep My commandments" (iii. 1). They are to be (a) bound upon, (b) written in, (c) kept by the heart. The best way to keep the heart is for the heart to keep God’s Words. "Keep them in the midst of thine heart " (iv, 21), as a garrison to keep thee.
"Guide thine heart in the way" (xxiii. 19). Have reins to thy heart, and see that it does not run away, or turn aside (vii. 25). The heart is a fountain; have channels for its streams, and so guide it (xxi. 1). As a mother guides her babe, guide thou thine heart.
"Give wine unto those that be of heavy hearts" (xxxi. 6). Some wines only make heavy hearts heavier; God’s wine, bought "without money," truly cheers (Isa. lv. 1).
"Ointment and perfume rejoice the heart" (xxvii. 9). No medicine for sad hearts like the mention of Him whose name is as ointment, and Whose love is the perfume of heaven (Cant. i. 3)
"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart" (iii. 5). Some try half-hearted religion, and it fails. Do not hang to the Lord with one hand only; do not stand upon the rock with one foot, while the other is on the quicksand; both feet, and nothing less, will ensure firm standing. Trust God for a heart, and with thine heart. Thank God, Christ’s gospel deals with hearts, and gives that new which it finds "of little worth." William Gurnal says of those who have this new heart, "An old heart would have served well enough to have done the Devil’s drudgery withal; but God intends them for more high and noble employment, to lift up their heads out of sin’s prison, and prefer them to His own service; therefore He throws away their jail clothes, and beautifies them with the graces of His Spirit, that their hearts may suit their work."
V.----CHRIST’S Gospel is emphatically a gospel for the poor. He said, "Blessed be ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke vi. 20); and He gave to John’s disciples, as a sign of His Messiahship, "The poor have the Gospel preached to them" (Matt. xi. 5). Poor, not only in purse, but in heart. This poor man’s Gospel is well illustrated in the book we are considering. THE CAUSES OF TEMPORAL POVERTY ILLUSTRATE THE CAUSES OF SPIRITUAL POWER.
SLEEP AND SLOTHFULNESS.----(vi. 11, xx. 13, xxiv. 34).—While men slumber, poverty overtakes them "as one that travelleth" post-haste, and "as an armed man." How many sleep the sleep of death, and so are spiritually poor, robbed of what little they had, and never likely to earn more!
EXCESSES.----"The drunkard and the glutton shall come to poverty" (xxiii. 21). "He that loveth pleasure shall be a poor man; he that loveth wine and oil shall not be rich" (xxi. 17). A pampered body always makes a lean soul. He who wastes all on his flesh leaves nothing for the spirit. The sluggard sleeps until poverty comes to him; the spend-thrift runs so fast that he comes to poverty.
VANITY.—"He that followeth after vain persons shall have poverty enough" (xxviii. 19). Company brings many a man to penury, both of home and heart. There are many pick-pockets in Vanity Fair. Going to a theatre costs more than the mere price of admission.
STINGINESS.—"There is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty" (xi. 24). Many a man has filled his bag until the weight has forced the bottom out. God says, "Give Me all----thy goodness and thy badness;" and when we obey, He changes our farthings into golden pieces; but if we keep back, it will tend to poverty. Money, like manna, if kept, breeds worms that eat it up, and the soul of the keeper too (x. 4).
REFUSAL.—"Poverty and shame shall be to him that refuseth instruction." (xiii. 18). He that refuseth the instruction given in Christ’s Gospel, must come to want, and want with shame attached. Those who are thus poor are slaves, for in their extremity they have sold themselves for nought (Isa. lii. 3), and are under a cruel lord. "As a roaring lion, and a ranging bear; so is a wicked ruler over the poor people" (xxviii.15). Oh, what a tyrant is Satan, that roaring lion (1 Pet. v. 8)! How he tantalizes poor hungry souls! "Eat and drink, saith he; but his heart is not with thee. The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up, anal lose thy sweet words" (xxiii. 7, 8). Yet some who are poor as church mice, think they are rich as stalled oxen. "There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing" (xiii. 7). He thinks his broken chips of glass are diamonds; his tinsel, solid gold and silver; his county court summons, a title to an estate. (Rev. iii. 17) "Hath nothing." Good Gospel condition! that prepares a man to say----
"Nothing in my hand I bring;
Simply to Thy cross I cling."
"The righteous considereth the cause of the poor" (xxix. 7). This the good Lord does. The poor man did not consider his poverty before it came (xxviii. 22), but God did (Eph. 1). He considered the need, and made provision to meet it.
"The Father’s good pleasure hath laid up in store
A bountiful treasure to give to the poor."
"Whoso stoppeth his ears at the cry of the poor, he also shall cry himself, but shall not be heard" (xxi. 13). This implies that the poor cry. "The poor useth entreaties" (xviii. 23). God has made provision, but He expects us to take the place of beggars. Mere wishes are not enough. "The soul of the sluggard desireth, and hath nothing" (xiii. 4). Many who desire heaven get hell. Needing must lead to pleading. If God commands His people not to stop their ears at the cry of the poor, is it likely He will stop His own? The ear has no door; this letter-box is always open. "His ears are open unto their cry" (Ps. xxxiv. 15, xviii. 6; 2 Sam. xxii. 7). But crying is not the only means by which the poor become rich.
"By humility and the fear of the Lord are riches" (xxii. 4). A proud beggar seems an anomaly; yet there are such beings. To find divine riches, I must descend into the mine of humility. "As waters meet and rest in low valleys, so do God’s graces in lowly hearts."—Trapp. Poverty and pride are ill-mated, and the sooner they are separated the better; then comes a holy, reverent fear—not dread. Such an approach to God, in the name of Jesus, is sure to obtain "riches, and honour, and life."
"He that hath mercy on the poor, happy is he" (xiv. 21). Oh the happiness of Jesus when having mercy! We sometimes seem to think He requires urging to mercy—nay, it is His delight. Which was the happier, poor, blind Bartimoeus, when he received sight, or the Lord who gave sight (Mark x. 46)? Helping poor souls was a part of the joy set before Him (Heb. xii. 2). It brings Him blessing to bless us. The mercy which Christ shows is practical----bread and wine.
"He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor" (xxii. 9). An open ear to hear, and a bountiful eye. to give. John Berridge has so quaintly hit on this verse, that we cannot do better than give his words—
"Jesus hath a bounteous eye,
Calls the sick and needy nigh,
Seeks the friendless as they roam,
Brings the wretched outcasts home.
"Gathers crowds around His door,
Looks and smiles upon the poor,
Gives the bread for which they cry---
Bread which princes cannot buy!
"Pleased to help them in their need;
Pleased if, hungry, they can feed;
Pleased to hear them tell their case,
Pleased to cheer them with His grace.
"All that hunger for His bread
May and will be kindly fed;
He will pass no beggar by:
You may eat, and so may I.
"Hallelujah to the Lamb!
Let the poor exalt His name!
Raise your voice as angels raise,
Sing and give Him lusty praise.
"Jesus, with Thy bread impart
Something of Thy bounteous heart;
I would learn to copy Thee---
Feed the poor as Thou dost me."
In addition to the bread of life, so well described in John vi., the poor soul wants its thirst quenched, that he may "drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more" (xxxi. 7). This Christ provides. Not as the world giveth, giveth He wine; His wine does in reality what other wines only pretend to do (Prov. ix. 2 & 5; Isa. xxv. 6, lv. 1; Matt. xxvi. 27). They who drink Christ's wine, though before "ready to perish," and "of heavy heart," literally forget all former misery (Isa. liv. 4).
"The blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it" (x. 22). No true riches without His blessing, and His greatest blessing is in the Gospel; therefore, Gospel blessings make the poorest truly rich. "And He addeth no sorrow" Sin is all sorrow; salvation brings no sorrow. How rich is he who hath God’s blessing, if he hath nought beside! The text does not say, "The Lord blesseth with riches" but, "The blessing of the Lord," in itself, with nothing beyond, "maketh rich."
"The rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the destruction of the poor is their poverty" (x. 15). A Christian's riches in Christ are his strong city----his city of refuge----his rock city, stronger than Edom—his treasure city—his new Jerusalem—his city of gold with gates of pearl. No famine, no foe, no fear, can reach him. On the other hand, the poverty of the unsaved soul is its destruction; it tries to trade without capital, or even credit; for who will trust one who "hath nothing"? Soul, thine only safety is to take the place of humility, use entreaties, and thou shalt have bread and drink, and riches, and honour, and life, and all that is good for thee.
VI.----THE Book of Proverbs speaks many times of "righteousness," and as this grace is one of the blessings of the Gospel of Christ, we may well spend a little time looking into its details.
"He that saith unto the wicked, Thou art righteous; him shall the people curse" (xxiv. 24). Now Scripture saith, "There is none righteous" (Rom. iii. 10); yet Solomon speaks of those whom he calls "the righteous." Is it possible for the unrighteous to be called righteous, without incurring the curse here referred to? Yes; for in Isa. i., the city which had become a city of wickedness (verse 21) is called "the city of righteousness" (verse 26). The steps by which this change is wrought are well given in the same prophecy. We are (a) "far from righteousness" until God says, (b) "I bring near My righteousness" (Isa. xlvi. 12, 13). We next (c) "follow after righteousness" (Isa li. 1); we thus come to (d) "know righteousness" (Isa. li. 7), and are among those of whom God says, (e) "Their righteousness is of Me" (Isa. liv. 17), and are able to say, (f) "Surely in the Lord have I righteousness" (xlv. 24)—a righteousness that (g) "shall not be abolished" (li. 6). Like Paul, we have no righteousness of our own (Phil. iii. 9); but Christ is made unto us righteousness (1 Cor. i. 30), leading us to "awake to righteousness and sin not" (1 Cor. xv. 34).
"Who are the righteous? Every penitent sinner that is sorry from the bottom of his heart for his wickedness, and believeth that God will forgive Him for His Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ’s sake."----Latimer.
"Christ is the righteousness of all them that truly do believe in Him. He for them paid their ransom by His death. He for them fulfilled the law in His life. So that now, in Him and by Him, every true Christian man may he called fulfiller of the law."—Cranmer.
"He hath made Him to be sin for us Who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. v. 21). We cannot give a better comment than quote Chrysostom: "He made a just Person a sinner, that He might make sinners just. But the apostle's language is ‘still stronger; he doth not say, ‘He made Him a sinner,’ but ‘SIN,’----that we might be made, not righteous, but righteousness, even the righteousness of God".
We are righteous because all unrighteousness is gone. "Christ, by taking our sin on Himself, took it clean away from us, banished it out of the creation, and eternally annihilated it to every believer, who is as far from the charge of it before God as if there never has been any such thing in the world."—Thomas Adams.
But Christ has done more than this. "As our sins were imputed to Him upon the account of His union with us in nature, and His consent to be our Surety; so His righteousness is meritoriously imputed to us upon our union with Him by a lively faith."—William Bates.
Thus we, God’s priests, are washed from defilement and clothed with purity and beauty.
"Holiness on the head,
Light and perfection on the breast,
Harmonious bells below, raising the dead
To lead them unto life and rest:
Thus are true Aarons’ drest.
"Profaneness in my head,
Defects and darkness in my breast,
A noise of passions ringing me for dead
Unto a place where is no rest:
Poor priest! thus am I drest.
"Only another head
I have, another heart and breast,
Another music, making live, not dead,
Without whom I could have no rest;
In Him I am well drest.
"Christ is my only Head,
My alone only heart and breast,
My only music, striking me e’en dead,
That to the old man I may rest,
And be in Him new drest."—George Herbert.
This righteousness imputed and imparted leads to righteousness practiced as described in Solomon’s Proverbs, for Christ therein provides----
The only Platform for righteousness.
The highest Precepts of righteousness.
The deepest Principles of righteousness.
The sublimest Pattern of righteousness.
The most effective Persuasives to righteousness.
The only Power to maintain righteousness.
"Righteousness delivereth from death" (x. 2, xi. 4). Death is the punishment of unrighteousness (Rom. v. 12), and when that which deserves the penalty is removed, the penalty is no longer due (Rom. vi. 9; 2 Tim. i. 10). God declares "the unrighteous shall not inherit the Kingdom" (1 Cor. vi. 9); but the blood of Christ cleanseth us "from all unrighteousness" (1 John i. 9), and we receive "righteousness from the God of our salvation" (Ps. xxiv. 5). Thus we are delivered from death (Heb. ii. 15; John viii. 51; Rev. ii. 11, xx. 6). "The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them" (xi. 6).
"As righteousness tendeth to life; so he that pursueth evil pursueth it to his own death" (xi. 19). Right doing does actually tend to life—natural life (Ps. xxxiv. 12). Take the drink evil as an example. Speaking of the United Kingdom and General Provident Institution, Dr. Ridge says: "For every hundred deaths that were expected amongst moderate drinkers (not drunkards), 97.3 took place; whilst of every hundred expected deaths amongst total abstainers only 71.1 occurred." Righteousness tendeth to the full enjoyment of life, as well as to the actual fact of living. "The Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness" (Deut. vi. 24). The R.V. says, "He that is steadfast in righteousness shall attain unto life" (xi. 19). God wants us to be so steadfast that nothing can move or remove us, and through Solomon, He has given us a picture of one not steadfast.
"A righteous man falling down before the wicked is as a troubled fountain, and a corrupt spring" (xxv. 26). I love Mordecai for refusing to bow before Haman (Esther iii. 2). Nehemiah is another grand illustration of steadfastness: "Shall such a man as I flee?" (Neh. vi. 11). The Hebrews before Nebuchadnezzar are further examples (Dan. iii.). Righteousness and steadfastness always go together. "If iniquity be in thine hand, put it far away, and let not wickedness dwell in thy tabernacles. For then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot; yea, thou shalt be steadfast, and shalt not fear" (Job xi. 14, 15). "A troubled spring," mired by dirty feet, disturbed and perturbed----such is always the experience of those who bow to men. "God hath said, ‘Fear not man; who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass? (Isa. li. 12). Do you see, Christian, God would not have you to be afraid of men; he that is afraid of man is afraid of grass."—William Dyer. Shall the Lord’s cedars bow to grass blades? "A righteous man that giveth way before the wicked" (xxv. 26, R.V.), is indeed a sad sight. Why should he, when God says, "Behold, I have made thy face strong against their faces, and thy forehead strong against their foreheads. As an adamant harder than flint have I made thy forehead; fear them not, neither be dismayed at their looks" (Ezek. iii. 8).
"Righteousness keepeth him that is upright in the way" (xiii. 6). The straight wall of righteousness on either hand keeps him walking in a straight path. A child had been washed and dressed in a clean pinafore, and the cleanness of the child kept it from playing with dirt. The Revised Version gives the idea of an attendant angel—"Righteousness guardeth him that is upright in the way." The saint’s righteousness is powerful, keeping and guarding. It is the wedding garment, and also a coat of mail.
"He heareth the prayer of the righteous" (xv. 29). We must have clean hands if we would lift them to God (1 Tim. ii. 8), otherwise prayer may be hindered (1 Pet. iii. 7). If the Lord heareth the prayer of the righteous, we need not wonder that the prayer of the righteous availeth much (Jas. v. 16). Sin strikes prayer dumb, so that God cannot hear the voice of supplication. The righteous touch the electric bell on earth, and, though they hear it not, God hears it ring in heaven. "His secret is with the righteous" (iii. 32). Some secrets God does not reveal.
"I know not what may soon betide,
Nor how my wants may be supplied;
But Jesus knows, and will provide."----Newton.
Some secrets are already revealed, others shall be. "Tell me, I pray Thee, Thy name" (Gen. xxxii. 29). "I will write upon him My new name" (Rev. iii. 12). "They that know Thy name will put their trust in Thee" (Ps. ix. 10).
"I know Thee, Saviour, Who Thou art---
Jesus, the feeble sinner’s friend!
Nor wilt Thou with the night depart,
But stay, and love me to the end.
Thy mercy never shall remove;
Thy nature, and Thy name, is love!"----C. Wesley.
"The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show them His covenant" (Ps. xxv. 14). They have His secret, His counsel, His friendship (R.V., marg., iii. 32), as in John xv. 15.
"The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish" (x. 3). I saw the swallows flying to and from their nest, feeding their young, and I said, "God will feed the righteous." I saw the tiny ants carrying food to their miniature cities, and none were starving or complaining of the hard times; then I said, "God will feed the righteous." I read His promise—complete, comprehensive, comforting and I said, "God will feed the righteous." I peeped into His granaries and thought of His riches in glory, and I sang boldly, "The Lord will feed the righteous." He will do it in temporals and in spirituals (Phil. iv. 19).
"When righteous men do rejoice, there is great glory" (xxviii. 12). They rejoice because they are righteous. No bell rings so sweetly as a sound bell. Listen to such an one----Aonio Paleario, born 1503, and martyred 1568:—"Let us embrace the righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ, and let us make it ours by means of faith. Let us assure ourselves that we be righteous not for our own works, but through the merits of Jesus Christ, and let us live merrily and assured that the righteousness of Jesus Christ hath utterly done away all unrighteousness, and made us good, righteous, and holy before God."
In their rejoicing there is great glory, for they have something worth rejoicing in. Some glory in their shame (Phil. iii. 19); these in righteousness, which brings glory to God and ends in glory on high. "When the righteous triumph, there is great glory" (R.V.). Other triumphs bring stained glory; but triumph over self, sloth, shame, sorrow, sin, and Satan, bring untarnished glory. What will be the glory of the final triumph over death, when the body is raised in glory (1 Cor. xv. 43), when we shall see His glory (John xvii. 24), appear with Him in glory (Col. iii. 4), be to the praise of His glory (Eph. i. 12), and obtain "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thess. ii. 14). Who will not give glory to the Author of a Gospel that makes the unrighteous righteous and heirs of such bounties and blessings!
VII.----"I AM the child of a King," is the happy song of a filial heart, and King Solomon alludes to this relationship in many of his proverbs; and that more than mere natural relationship of sire and son is intended, may be gathered from Heb. xii. 5, "Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children" then follows one of the proverbial sayings of the book we are considering. Now, if the Holy Spirit thus takes one sentence addressed "My son," who shall forbid us taking other such sentences similarly addressed, as illustrations of the Gospel sonship of all believers (Gal. iii. 26)?
"Such, by faith, are sons of God,
Trained beneath His chastening rod:
By a Father’s wisdom taught;
To a Father*s bosom brought;
’Neath a Father’s eye preserved;
From a Father's table served;
With a smile, and Father’s love
Beaming on them from above."
"Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child" (xxii. 15). God’s children are no exceptions; foolishness is in their heart, bound up like a reel of black thread, which Satan will, if possible, unwind. "Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies" (Matt. xv. 19). Sin is bound up like a spring, always ready to rebound. Our Father undertakes to manage such children.
"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (xxii. 6). Foolishness is bound up; righteousness is trained up. "Up," not along upon earth’s level, but "up" and upward. How is it done? Let us hear God’s Own programme for Solomon himself: "I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men," &c. (2 Sam. vii. 14). God will not use His own rod of iron, that is for His enemies (Ps. ii. 9). He will only use "the rod of men"—mild means.
"There is as much difference between the sufferings of the saints and those of the ungodly, as between the cords with which an executioner pinions a condemned malefactor and the bandages wherewith a tender surgeon binds his patient."----Dr. Arrowsmith. "The severest sufferings of the godly are not the effects of the Divine vengeance. ’Tis true, they are the evidences of God’s displeasure against them for sin, but not of hatred. For being reconciled to them in Christ, He hears an unchangable affection to them; and love cannot hate, though it may be angry."—William Bates, 1697.
Thus love’s rod of correction shall drive out the foolishness, for God knows too well the end of "a child left to himself" (xxix. I5).
"Withhold not correction. from the child, for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die" (xxiii. 13). God is too good a Father to withhold rebuke. He kills sin that sin may not kill His child.
"Do you think He ne’er reproves me?
What a false Friend He would be
If He never, never told me
Of the sins which He must see!"----Elgoreh
"God deals with us as we do with our children. He first speaks, then gives a gentle tap, at last a blow."—Newton.
"Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not they soul spare for his crying" (xix. 18). We may cry, but our Father will not spare the rod and spoil the child to save our tears. God sees there is hope and a grand prospect before His own, so acts accordingly; as the R.V. puts it: "Chasten thy son, seeing there is hope; and set not thy heart on his destruction." "God had one Son without corruption, but none without correction."----W. Dyer
"Correct thy son, and he shall give thee rest; yea, he shall give delight unto thy soul." "The rod and reproof give wisdom" (xxix. 15, 17). Blessed result! Three gifts—wisdom to the child; rest and delight to the father. Truly such chastening is for our profit, "that we might be partakers of His holiness" (Heb. xii. 10). When God thus sees the peaceable fruits of righteousness brought forth by correction, He finds rest and delight. Who would not wish to be such children! Perhaps we shall see the beauty of such children if,, we place here portraits of other children.
"A foolish son is a grief to his father" (xvii. 25); more than this, he "is the calamity of his father" (xix. 13). We read also of a son who "wasteth his father" (xix. 26), "robbeth his father" (xxviii. 24), and of a generation that "curseth their father" (xxx. 11). "What a contrast to those who delight their father! In chap. xxviii., verse 7, we have both pictures: "Whoso keepeth the law is a wise son; but he that is a companion of riotous men shameth his father." May we never shame our Father. That we may not, let us mark four steps of obedience.
"Hear ye children, the instruction of a father" (iv. 1). If my Father speaks, shall I not hear? He wishes to give me instruction; shall I close my eyes? When I hear, I must attend: "Attend to the words of my month" (vii. 24). If I realize that the words are direct from my Father’s mouth, I cannot help attending. When I have "heard" and "attended" I must "keep:" "My son, let not them depart from thine eyes" (iii. 21). I saw in a signal-box, a copy of all the signalman's duties hung upon the walls; he thus kept them always before his eyes. If God’s Words are not to depart from me, I must not depart from them.
"Hear me now therefore, O ye children, and depart not from the Words of my mouth" (v. 7). In all these steps, it will be well to remember, I am indebted to my Father for all, even my life. "Hearken unto thy father that begat thee" (xxiii. 22). I am not only adopted, I am begotten; the relationship of son is not imaginary, it is real (Jas. i. 18; 1 Pet. i. 3). "He that begetteth a wise child shall have joy of him" (xxiii. 24). May we prove wise sons, and not foolish. "He that begetteth a fool doeth it to his sorrow: and the father of a fool hath no joy" (xvii. 21). "A fool despiseth his father’s instruction" (xv. 5). He is a fool, or he would not despise one old enough to be his father. There is a kind of instruction it is best to despise. "Cease, My son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the Words of knowledge" (xix. 27). Some of God’s children have itching ears; they must hear this and that and the other. Here is a good rule as to who and what we hear. Does it cause me to err from the words of knowledge, God’s Word, the truth as spoken by His mouth? If so, our duty is plain. Cease to hear it. The R.V. gives another thought: "Cease, My son, to hear instruction only to err from the words of knowledge." To hear and not do is to hear in vain; yet how many hear and yet err.
"My son, fear thou the Lord and the king" (xxiv. 21). Hearing must lead to fearing. Our "Father" is also "the Lord," and the filial must never supersede the devotional; nor because Christ calls us "brethren," must we forget that He is the King. The wise man adds, "and meddle not with them that are given to change." Who wishes to change such a King! "A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children" (xiii. 22). If ever parents laid up for children, our Father has (2 Cor. xii. 14).
"The foes, the friends, the sins I often dread,
My Father holds in chains, and will control:
I have His grace---I shall have glory too,
Because He is my Father and my God."
All things are mine, because I am a child of God. "If children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom. viii. 17; Gal, iv. 7).
God is our inheritance (Ezek. xliv. 28; Ps. xvi. 5)
Heaven is our inheritance (1 Pet. i. 4; Ps. xxxvii. 18).
All things are our inheritance (1 Cor. iii. 21, 22).
Of every child of God it may be said, as of Joseph and his king, He "found grace in his sight, and he served him, and he made him overseer over his house, and all that he had, he put into his hand" (Gen. xxxix. 4).
"His children shall have a place of refuge" (xiv. 26). The Father's children have a right to run into their Father’s house in any danger. The conies’ children have the conies’ rocks to hide in; the lion’s children have the lion’s lair; the hen’s children have the hen’s wings; the eagle’s children have the eagle’s crags; and God’s children have God.
"Even a child is known by his doings" (xx. 11). You soon know the father by the child; the child is the portrait of the parent. God's children ought to live godly, and so be imitators of God (Eph. v. 1). May we have our Father’s eyes of pity and love, of indignation and wrath; our Father’s lips like lilies, "dropping sweet-smelling myrrh" (Cant. v. 13); our Father’s voice, and our Father’s walk. May we thus be known as His children, and so glorify Him (John xv. 8). "The glory of children are their fathers" (xvii. 6). Our Father is indeed a glory to us, on account of His—Age. Achievements. Position. Possessions. Wealth. Wisdom. What an honour to address letters, "Our Father Who art in heaven"!
Let us glory in the glorious relationship (Isa. xli. 16; 2 Cor. x. 17). "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord " (Ps. xxxiv. 2).
The practical issue of the Gospel privilege of sonship is well illustrated in Prov. xxxi. 2, where it becomes the basis of an argument for right living. "What, my son? and what, the son of my womb? and what, the son of my vows?" Here is a holy astonishment that a son should act in a manner unbecoming his position. Let us apply this to our sonship. "What, My son," I seem to hear God say, "you go to that which has destroyed kings? you indulge in the Wine-cup? you act unjustly? you forget to plead for the poor? you sin? you disgrace Me? It must not be. No, it is not for the Royal seed to act so. Impossible!"
VIII.----WE read in John x. 23, "Jesus walked in the Temple in Solomon’s Porch." Taking the Book of Proverbs as Solomon’s Porch to God’s great Gospel Temple, we have plainly seen that Jesus walks there. In this paper we want to trace His footsteps from the curse of Eden to the blessing of Heaven, and thus get an epitome of the whole Gospel.
"The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked" (iii. 33). Sometimes we see that curse; sometimes it is unseen, but none the less real. Man’s curse is weak; God’s curse is almighty. Its awful nature may be gathered from Deut. xxviii. 15-68, where more than fifty verses are needed to describe it. This curse is not upon the openly wicked only; it is upon the morally wicked, for, "Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Gal. iii. 10). It is in their house as a skeleton in the cupboard, as an adder, under the pillow, as a shadow that darkens every room, and will reach its awful termination in the words, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire" (Matt. xxv. 41). There, when the blessing of the Lord illuminates the eternal "habitation of the just," His curse will be fully felt in the dark prison-house "of the wicked." Because there is a curse, therefore there is wrath.
"The expectation of the wicked is wrath" (xi. 23). This is the secret reason of man’s infidelity. He knows he has nothing to expect from God but wrath, and so he would rather disbelieve in God altogether. Woe to those who tell the wicked there is no wrath! It is true Christ is a Lamb, meek and harmless; but there is also "the wrath of the Lamb" (Rev. vi. 16). "There is wrath" (Job xxxvi. 18). "The sinner's feast is no sooner served in, but Divine Justice is preparing to send up on reckoning and the fearful expectation of this cannot but spoil the taste of the other."----Gurnal.
"We are by nature children of wrath (Eph. ii. 3). We treasure up wrath (Rom. ii. 5). Christ delivers us from wrath (1 Thess. i. 10).
"A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil" (xiv. 16). If evil brings wrath and a curse, a wise man runs away from the cause of the curse. Most conversions begin with fear. The roaring of the lion of wrath drives many a stray sheep to the Shepherd. Evil is a serpent. Only a fool will put his nose near it; a wise man departeth. There is no turning and returning to God without parting and departing from sin. Sin is evil in its origin, in itself, in its results. Fear of evil leads to fear of God.
"The fear of the Lord is a fountain of life, to depart from the snares of death" (xiv. 27). The evil the wise man departs from is compared to the "snares of death;" the fear of the Lord to which he turns is compared to a "fountain of life." What a contrast! The fountain gives life, and sustains life; the snares are intended for death, and end in death.
This fountain is with God (Ps. xxxvi. 9; Jer. ii. 13). It is for cleansing (Zech. xiii. 1), and refreshment (John vii. 37). Christ gives it freely (Rev. xxi. 6). When received, it becomes a fountain of living water within the receiver, "springing up into everlasting life" (John iv. 14). We have this fountain now in us; it will result in rivers from us (John vii. 38), and in the river of life for us by and by (Rev. xxii. 1). At the fountain of life, all are equal.
"The rich and poor meet together; the Lord is the Maker of them all" (xxii. 2). The Lord is the Creator and Re-creator of both. "The poor man and the oppressor meet together; the Lord lighteneth the eyes of them both" (xxix. 13, R.V.). The oppressor and the oppressed are as blind one as the other, but the Lord enlightens them; if He did not, like Hagar, they would never see the fountain of life (Gen. xxi. 19). "To have respect of persons is not good" (xxviii. 21, xxiv. 23). "Rich and poor are on the same level in birth, in death, at the Cross, before the throne."—Archibald Brown. God in the Gospel is "no respecter of persons" (Acts x. 34; Rom. ii. 11). He was not under the law (Deut. i. 17, xvi. 19). "Neither doth God respect any person; yet doth He devise means, that His banished be not expelled from Him" (2 Sam. xiv. 14). He who comes empty-handed is as welcome as a prince with presents, for "there is no iniquity with the Lord our God, nor respect of persons, nor taking of gifts" (2 Chron. xix. 7). Yet how many think their prayers and morality give them an advantage! Nay, it is without money and without bribe of any sort. "What are distinctions of good and bad to Him who has condemned all? What is wealth to Him who owns all worlds? "What is caste to the King of Kings? The simpleton and the sage are equal fools compared with Him Who is all-wise. He only knows two classes "sinners saved and sinners unsaved. They are called by various names in this book----"righteous" and "wicked" (x. 3), "upright" and "transgressors" (xi. 3), "just" and "workers of iniquity" (xxi. 15), "humble" and "proud" (xvi. 19), "a fool" and "a prudent man" (xii. 16), "him that hath understanding" and "him that is void of understanding" (x. 13).
Though difference makes no difference before conversion, yet conversion makes all the difference after conversion. Before conversion, man strives against God "without cause" when He has done him "no harm" (iii. 30). In conversion, he learns "it is an honour for a man to cease from strife" (xx. 3). We read just now, "The curse of the Lord is in the habitation of the wicked." after conversion, the other half of the verse is true----"He blesseth the habitation of the just" (iii. 33). Thus the curse is changed to a blessing. Good Gospel work this! Nor are the two following verses less true—"Surely He scorneth the scorners, but He giveth grace unto the lowly. The wise shall inherit glory," &c. The "scorner" becomes "lowly," and instead of being scorned receives "grace"; and He Who gives grace is sure to give "glory" (Ps. lxxxiv. 11). There is thus a difference in the man and a difference in God’s dealings. He who was wicked, is now amongst those of whom it is said, "The desire of the righteous is only good" (xi. 23).
This change is seen in his estimate of others. "They that forsake the law praise the wicked, but such as keep the law, contend with them" (xxviii. 4). His mind is according to God’s mind; once he contended with God; now he is on God’s side, and contends with all who are in arms against Heaven. Black sheep think black sheep beautiful; white sheep admire a snowy fleece. When a man is converted he soon falls out with his old companions. "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them" (Eph. v. 11). A false charity would live peaceably with the Devil himself; but if any man, especially a teacher, forsake the law, we are to contend with him, as Elijah with the prophets of Baal (1 Kings xviii. 17, &c.), and John the Baptist with Herod (Matt. xiv. 4; 1 Cor. v. 11; 2 Cor. vi. 14; 2 Thess. iii. 6 & 14).
Have you experienced this change? Is it practical, or do you still love the old company and work the old works? "A man of wicked devices will He condemn" (xii. 2). "This is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil" (John iii. 19). The Gospel saves from the wicked devices, and proclaims, "No condemnation to them who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" (Rom. viii. 1).
We often urge the Gospel need of immediate decision. Can we have a better quotation than Prov. xxvii. 1?----"Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." Are you young? "The flower of youth never appears more beautiful than when it bends toward the Sun of Righteousness."----Burke. Are you putting off to a death-bed? Matthew Henry says, "A death-bed repentance is a sacrifice offered to God out of the Devil’s leavings." When Mr. Richardson was travelling along the Mediterranean, while opening a temple at Absambul, the party were attacked by an Arab, who hurled great stones from above. He was the owner of a barley crop, upon which the visitor’s two goats had been allowed to feed for a fixed sum; the interpreter had told him to wait for payment until to-morrow; but, in their colloquial language, bouchara, which signifies to-morrow, is often taken in an acceptation synonymous with never—hence the Arab’s wrath. How often to-morrow really means never! When a child, I learned these lines----
"I will to-morrow, that I will, I will be sure to do it!
To-morrow comes, to-morrow goes, and still we are to do it.
’Tis thus repentance is deferred from one day to another,
Until the day of death is one and judgment is the other."
IX.----IN Solomon’s Porch, where Jesus walked, Peter afterwards preached a sermon which resulted in the conversion of five thousand men (Acts iii.). If we have seen Jesus in Solomon’s Porch, it is our privilege to tell out what we have seen to the salvation of others.
"If thou forbear to deliver them that are drawn unto death, and these that are ready to be slain, if thou sayest, Behold, we knew it not; doth not He that pondereth the heart consider it?" (xxiv. 11, 12). There are those who are drawn unto death—carried away—as ancient criminals in the death-cart; these we are to deliver, and no excuse will excuse us. "When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand" (Ezek. xxxiii. 8). When Lot was drawn away unto death by Chedorlaomer, Abram delivered him (Gen. xiv. 13). When the women of Ziklag were taken captive by the Amalekites, David delivered them (1 Sam. xxx.). When we were Satan’s captives, our Saviour delivered us; and now we do the same for others. "What would a physician, who had a sovereign cure for all diseases, be accounted if he kept it a secret, or was slothful in dispensing it, or mixed poison with it? How much more criminal is a minister of the Gospel, who thinks himself entrusted with an infallible medicine for all the disorders of the soul, he adulterates it, or is unfaithful and inactive in applying it!" Thomas Adams.
"He that withholdeth corn, the people shall curse him" (xi. 26). If we have the new corn of Canaan, we must not store it. The Christian’s work is, first to save from death, and then to feed life. "He that hath meat" is to "impart to him that hath none" (Luke iii. 11). "Whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" (1 John iii. 17). If this be true of temporal good, how much more of spiritual! He who withholds this corn shall indeed be cursed. A story is told of one who had withheld corn, and when it was discovered, a stake was fixed in the centre of the granary and the miser bound and left to starve in the midst of the store he had refused to share. Many suffer thus spiritually, and have to fast against their will, because they would not observe the fast according to God’s will. "Is not this the fast that I have chosen? . . . Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry?" (Isa. lviii. 6, 7). "The lips of the righteous feed many"(x. 21).
Though the Gospel acknowledges all God’s people as priests to do His work, yet it acknowledges no priest between God and man. "Debate thy cause with thy neighbour himself, and discover not a secret to another" (xxv. 9). God is willing to debate with any sinner, and says, "Come now, and let us reason together" (Isa. i. 18). Christ is the one "Door" (John x. 9), the one "Way" to the Door (John xiv. 6), and the One by Whom we "have access" beyond the Door (Rom v. 2); in short, He is the "one Mediator between God and men" (1 Tim. ii. 5), through Whom we may each have a personal interview with the King. Away with all second persons! "Make confession unto the Lord God" (Esra x. 11). "Take with you words, and turn to the Lord" (Hos. xiv. 2). "I will confess my transgression unto the Lord" (Ps. xxxii. 5). Job said he would make supplication to his "JUDGE" (Job ix. 15); how much more may we say, "I will arise and go to my FATHER" (Luke xv.18)!
In publishing the Gospel, we are not to alter it. "Every Word of God is pure . . . Add thou not unto His Words, lest He reprove thee, and thou be found a liar" (xxx. 5, 6). We may "multiply" God's Words, and rightly "divide" them; but "addition" or "subtraction" is not allowed. We must not adulterate the sincere milk of the Word with water, however pure. If we mix any of our base metal with God’s gold, the coinage will be counterfeit. Truth is unchangeable.
"The light obscured, the truth with error mixed;
Once off the Rock, what standing can be fixed?"
"The slightest fragment of truth is more valuable than a diamond. Hold it, then, with all firmness. You are so much the richer by every truth you know; you will be so much the poorer by every truth you forget. Remember, we are not called to think out a new Gospel, as some imagine but we are called to be thinkers upon the old Gospel."—Spurgeon.
"Remove not the ancient landmark, which thy fathers have set (xxii. 28)----which our heavenly Father has set. "If to give up the text would enable you to make stones into bread, do not give it up; if to reject the precept would enable you to fly through the air like a seraph, do not reject it. If to go against the Word of God would make you emperor of the entire world, do not accept the bribes."----Spurgeon.
The Lord gave an early command to this effect (Deut. iv. 2): "Ye shall not add unto the Word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it." He gave the one we are considering in the centre of the book (Prov. xxx. 6); and He gave a third at the close: "If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book, and if any man shall take away from the Words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take his part out of the Book of Life," &c. (Rev. xxii. 18, 19). God will reprove all who add or diminish, and they will be found liars. He has drawn the circle of truth, and all outside is a lie.
To be true to this Gospel will involve persecution. "The blood-thirsty hate the upright, but the just seek his soul" (xxix. 10). "If ye were of the world, the world would love his own, but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you" (John xv. 19). "As a minister of the Gospel, I must either be despised or hated. I choose the latter."----Adams. Cain is sure to hate Abel (Gen. iv. 5; 1 John iii. 12). Ishmael is sure to mock Isaac (Gen. xxi. 9). "As then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now" (Gal. iv. 29). "An unjust man is an abomination to the just, and he that is upright in the way, is abomination to the wicked" (xxix. 27). There can never be a truce between light and darkness (2 Cor. vi. 14, &c.). Yet, "when a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (xvi. 7).
If the Gospel of Christ thus makes life hard, it also makes death easy. "The wicked is driven away in his wickedness, but the righteous hath hope in his death" (xiv. 32). The R.V. margin, says, he "hath a refuge." "For surely there is a reward; and thy hope shall not be cut off" (xxiii. 18, R.V.; xxiv. 14). Listen to Job in the twilight of Gospel truth: "Though after my [death], worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another" (Job xix. 26). David had hope in his death: "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me" (Ps. xxiii. 4). Paul stands forth in the full blaze of a resurrection sunrise, "We know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens . . . We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord " (2 Cor. v. 1 & 8). "Henceforth, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness," &c. (2 Tim. iv. 8). Gurnal says: "Hope goes into the field, and waits on the Christian till the last battle be fought and the field cleared, and then faith and hope together carry him in the chariot of the promise to heaven's door, where they deliver up his soul into the hands of love and joy, which stand ready to conduct him into the blissful presence of God." When the hope of the ungodly ceaseth, the hope of the saint is fulfilled. "Believers, go on; your last step will be on the head of the old serpent, to crush it and spring from it into glory."----William Mason
Our concluding thought is that there is no Gospel beyond death, "When a wicked man dieth, his expectation shall perish, and the hope of unjust men perisheth" (xi. 7). "He that, being often reproved, hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy" (xxix. 1).
"WITHOUT REMEDY! Awful words! The expressions used in describing the state of the lost, all indicate that it is unalterable. A "bottomless pit" (Rev. xx. 3); "a great gulf fixed," without a bridge (Luke xvi. 26); "the blackness of darkness forever" (Jude 13); "where their worm dieth not" (Mark ix. 44); "fire unquenchable" (Luke iii. 17); "everlasting fire" (Matt. xviii. 8, xxv. 41); "everlasting contempt" (Dan. xii. 2); "everlasting punishment" (Matt. xxv. 46); "everlasting destruction" (2 Thess. i. 9); "eternal damnation" (Mark iii. 29). They who despise the Gospel sin willfully; and "if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries" (Heb. x. 26, 27).
Once in God’s prison, there is no release until the uttermost farthing is paid (Matt. v. 26). And how shall he pay who takes nothing with him into the eternal world (Ps. xlix. 17; Eccles. v. 15)? "The redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth forever" (Ps. xlix. 8).
"God’s wrath in hell will ever be the wrath to come . . . They who handle the wheel have an emblem of eternity before them, for to which part soever of the wheel we look, one will still see another part beyond it; and on whatever moment of eternity you meditate, there is still another beyond it . . . to be ever in torment, and to know that there shall never, never be a release, will be the top-stone put upon the misery of the damned."—Thomas Boston. It is to save those who are in danger of this death that we are called in the verse first quoted in this paper, and the Gospel of Christ, unaltered, is the only means God has appointed.