“But wisdom is justified of all her children (Luke 7:35).”
At the request of an esteemed brother, we propose to give some general views on the subject of wisdom; and the apostle James informs us that there are two kinds which are essentially different from each other, emanated from opposite sources, and productive of very different fruits, each known by its peculiar qualities and general characteristics. That which is most popular in the world, and which is called the wisdom of this world, we are told, “descendeth not from above; but is earthly, sensual, devilish;” its tendency is to confusion and every evil work (see James 3:13-16). It was found in the serpent that beguiled Eve in the morning of the creation and has its fountain in the depths of hell. By this kind of wisdom, the world knew not God. None of the princes, or ruling powers of this world, knew Christ; for if they had known him they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. This wisdom is so cheap that all may have it; it is so easily acquired that no divine or spiritual power is required for the attainment of it. Our mother Eve received it, unasked from the serpent in the garden, and it is now being insidiously instilled into the natural minds of children and adults from all the humanly devised religious institutions of the world, from the Infant School to the more imposing Theological Seminaries in the land, and almost every school is more or less infested with it. It being of the world, the world approves and loves it. It qualifies the carnal mind of men to contest and resist the truth of God with more subtlety, and craft, and to control the natural mind with the greater plausibility.
It is set forth allegorically in the seventh chapter of Proverbs, as used by the strange woman, (anti-christ) in her seductive and adulterous wiles, and missionary arts by which she makes proselytes of those who are void of true wisdom. Allured by her deceptive flattery and crafty words, her converts “go after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool goeth to the correction of the stocks, till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life.”
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy (James 3:17).” This wisdom which is from above, is the wisdom of God, and it is therefore pure: free from all impurity or deception, and possessed of eternal excellency in itself. It is peaceable in its fruits; inspiring good will to men, and glory to God in the highest; all who are richly endowed with it will beat their swords into plough shears, and their spears into pruning hooks; and the nation ruled by it will learn war no more. It is gentle in its nature and in all its effects; easy to be entreated. “If any of you (of the scattered people of God to whom this epistle was addressed) lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him (James 1:5).” How gentle, and how easily entreated by all who have faith in God! It is full of good fruits, leaving no room for partiality or hypocrisy. This wisdom, let it be remembered, can only come from above; God alone can make us wise unto salvation.
This heavenly wisdom is personified in Proverbs 8; and indeed the whole book of Proverbs is addressed by Wisdom to her children. This should be carefully observed that we may better understand their proper import. Some of the proverbs have been read and so constructed as to make the false impression that they are addressed by God himself to men; or that our Lord Jesus Christ is personified by Wisdom, and in that character he speaks in the proverbs to the sons of men generally; saying, for instance, “I love them that love me, and they that seek me early shall find me.” Now God has no where in the scriptures made any such propositions to men. God does not love men in return for their love to him; nor does he propose to do so, for his people and all who ever have or ever shall love God, love him because he has first loved them. Our love is subsequent to his, and his first love is invariably the cause of our love to him. When he has shed abroad his love in us, but not before, then we love him as a consequence. But when Wisdom doth cry, and understanding puts forth her voice, she crieth at the gates, at the entrance, at the coming in, at the doors. That is, at the portals of the house which she has builded. None can enter her gates and be admitted to participate with her children in the banquet of Wisdom until they are called by grace, quickened by the Holy Spirit and made partakers of that fear of the Lord which God has graciously promised to put in the hearts of his people. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This beginning of wisdom is the gate of her house, the entry of her city, and the coming in of her doors. Here at her portals Wisdom is found; and here her voice is put forth to all who possessing the fear of the Lord approach her dwelling. Unto all such she calls, and her voice is to the sons of men; and thus she speaks to them. “O ye simple, understand wisdom: and ye fools, be of an understanding heart.” All who approach her gates are of this character.
The fear of the Lord has made them conscious of their simplicity, and aware of their folly. “If any man would be wise let him first become a fool, that he may be wise.” In the early experience of every saints, he is made to see, feel and confess that all his wisdom is foolishness, and all his righteousness but filthy rags. All his schemes and plans which he thought were so wisely laid for attaining life have failed, all his former calculations are laid low; and in the fear of the Lord he will acknowledge that he is the very character addressed by Wisdom. Blessed now of the Lord with a knowledge of his folly, and of his need of understanding, he watcheth daily at Wisdom’s gates, and waits at the posts of her doors, for that wisdom which descendeth from above, which wisdom dwells with prudence, and finds out knowledge of witty inventions.
Unwilling now to depart from the avenues of true wisdom, though he feels that he is very slow to learn, yet having no where else to look, he waits at the posts of her doors. “For whoso findeth wisdom findeth life and shall obtain favor of the Lord.” As he listens to her voice, she speaks to him of excellent things; and the opening of her lips, in the disclosure of her treasures, points out to him the way of understanding; she discriminates understandingly between right and wrong, truth and error, good and evil; she directs only to right things. The mouth of true wisdom always speaks truth; as error is unwise; wisdom rejects it, and wickedness being unwise, is an admonition to the lips of Wisdom. As she cries and lifts up her voice to the pupil who is entering her gates, he finds that all the words of her mouth are in righteousness, and that there is nothing froward or perverse in them. True wisdom which comes from above never misleads, deceives or fails to give unerring counsel. All her ways are pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. And they are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.
All the children of Zion are taught of God, and therefore they have understanding, and knowledge of the truth, and can understand the instructions of that wisdom which is an attribute of God himself. But none can understand the words of wisdom until they are quickened and taught of God. The preaching of the gospel of Christ crucified is to the work-mongrel Jew or legalist a stumblingblock, and to the learned Greek, foolishness; but to them that are called it is the wisdom and the power of God.
To the disciple in the school of Christ, Wisdom says, Receive my instruction and not silver; and knowledge rather than choice gold; for wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things that may be desired are not to be compared with it. Silver and gold are among the most precious treasures of this world; the carnal mind makes them an idol, and they constitute the mammon of this world. The love of this specious idol is the root of all evil. The rich fool whose golden treasures were increased, could take no part of them with him on the night in which his soul was required of him. But the revenue of Wisdom are durable riches of righteousness. The children of Wisdom should never diverge from the counsels of wisdom for all the glittering bates this world can present. Wisdom from on high proclaims her dwelling, association, and her business, saying, “I, Wisdom, dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions.” Some have supposed these words were spoken by Christ, personified by Wisdom; but it will be seen in all this connection Wisdom assumes the feminine gender, which is no where in the scriptures applied to Christ.
It is to us a most glorious truth, Wisdom as an attribute of the eternal God, with every other perfection of the deity is embodied in Christ, and that Christ is of God made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, Sanctification, and Redemption; and that in him are hidden all the treasures of Wisdom and knowledge. But no one perfection severed from its connection with all the other perfections of the Godhead is sufficient to express all the fullness of the Godhead that dwells in him bodily. Besides, we think the misapplication of this perfection as a personal identification of Christ has a tendency to mystify some of the words of wisdom, and make them seem to conflict with the general doctrine of the Bible. Some have supposed that the strong language used of Wisdom in this eighth chapter of Proverbs are required to prove the divinity, or eternity of Christ. To such a supposition we cannot consent; for John 1:1 is much more conclusive and to the point. The Word was with God, and the Word was God; this is irrefutable testimony of his Eternal Godhead. And there are many other passages, equally strong and conclusive.
When we attempt to prove a position by passages which are inapplicable to the subject we weaken rather than strengthen our argument. We feel certain that if the inspired writer had designed to personify Christ, in this chapter, he would not have used pronouns of the feminine gender; as where he says, “Doth not Wisdom cry and Understanding put forth her voice? She hath hewn out her seven pillars. She hath killed her beasts, she hath mingled her wine, she hath furnished her table, she hath sent forth her maidens, she crieth upon the high places of the city,” etc. Can any scripture be found wherein the feminine gender is applied personally to Christ, or to God?
Again some have thought that what is written in this chapter must apply to Christ; as proving what is called his pre-existence; that he was with the Father, from everlasting, etc. We do not need thus to construe the chapter for any such purpose, as we have abundant direct testimony to prove not only that he was with God before the worlds began, but also, that he was absolutely God.
Let us read the testimony as applicable to Wisdom, as a perfection or attribute of God, and it must also stand confessed that the wisdom as well as every other attribute of his Godhead was with him, or ever the earth was, and from everlasting. Can we conceive a period either in time or eternity when God was without Wisdom, or when Wisdom was not with him? In these inspired scriptures, the exalted character of divine Wisdom is very clearly and most beautifully demonstrated. Remember that it is Wisdom that makes the proclamations. “I Wisdom dwell with prudence.” “Counsel is mine and sound wisdom, I am understanding, I have strength.” “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.” This last passage is relied upon by some to prove a divine right by which many of the most despotic kings and wicked and profligate governments are sustained. Compare this text with Psalm 2:10-12. “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish by the way.” How many foolish kings have been deposed in ancient and modern times for their folly in their mad rejection of the counsels of wisdom. How many human governments have perished for their folly. Wisdom directs that human rulers shall kiss, or be at peace with the Son of God who is invested with power above them as King of kings, and Lord of lords. “He shall rule the nations with a rod of iron, and break them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” It is extreme folly and madness for kings and rulers of the earth to ignore his government, and dare to oppress his saints; to command them to do what Christ has forbidden, or fail to do what he has commanded. “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm; for he that toucheth them touches the apple of his eye.” It is not by Christ’s Mediatorial power or command that the kings of this world reign; for he says, “My kingdom is not of this world.” But it is by wisdom they reign. A fool may be a king nominally for a time, but he does not really reign; his ministers do that for him; and soon his dominion ceases.
Wisdom further proclaims, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” Is this a proclamation from Christ to the children of men? How very differently it sounds from what he said in John 7:34, “Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me.” But how harmonious with the whole of the divine testimony when understood as a proclamation of Wisdom to her children. Those who, as soon as they are born of the Spirit (for that is as early as any seek this wisdom which cometh from above) seek the counsel of wisdom; and stand waiting at the posts of her door for a supply, shall assuredly find it: and such are the peculiar favorites of Wisdom. Can any dispute that riches and honor are with Wisdom, even durable riches and righteousness? Well may she declare, “My fruit (the fruit of wisdom) is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver.” Those who are void of understanding are led by folly, like fools to the correction of the stocks. But Wisdom says, I lead in the way of righteousness; in the midst of the paths of judgment; that I may cause them that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.”
The highest possible commendation of the wisdom set forth in this chapter is found in the testimony that God possessed it in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. It is the wisdom which God displayed when his hand garnished the skies, and laid the foundation of the earth. This wisdom shines in all his works of creation, providence and grace. In the contemplation of this profound wisdom the inspired apostle exclaimed, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God. How unsearchable his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counselor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed to him again (Romans 4:33-35).&rdquo Wisdom claims association and companionship with God from everlasting. “I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.” However justly and truly this language may be applicable to the Son of God, as set up in his Mediatorial relation to his church, we cannot, for reasons already given, understand it as in this connection spoken of him personally. The truth that God possessed this Wisdom before his works of old is abundantly apparent in the perfections of all his works; for in the absence of it, how could his wonderful works have been so perfectly wrought? He had not to experiment, and try a variety of experiments in order to gain a knowledge, or to perfect his wisdom; for if he were less wise before his works of old than now, how could we rely upon his immutability, or any of his eternal attributes? “He is of one mind and none can turn him.” He is the Lord, he changes not; therefore the sons of Jacob are not consumed.
Wisdom may well claim her priority to all the works of God, and in the sublime language of this chapter declare, “When there were no depths, I was brought forth; [or as pre-existing in God himself called into requisition.] 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 depths: 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 was I 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 (Proverbs 8:24-31).”
Now all this is declared in commendation of the wisdom of God, and in all the particulars named, these declarations are sustained and demonstrated. And in conclusion, the children of Wisdom, by whom she is justified, are appealed to from these considerations; to listen to her voice, to discard folly, and cordially embrace her.
Now therefore (or in consideration of all this) hearken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways. The plain import of this strong appeal of Wisdom to her children is that they should attend at her gates, wait at the posts of her doors; hear her instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not; for she saith, “Blessed is the man that heareth me; watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favor of the Lord. But he that smnneth against me, wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.”
How peculiarly appropriate are all the illustrations of the wisdom which God has displayed in all his works and ways, and how important that all who would live godly in Christ Jesus should hearken to all her admonitions, receive all her instructions, conform to all her rules, obey all her precepts, and walk in all her paths. How blessed are the children of wisdom, trained under her tuition, and endowed with her revenue. All who possess this wisdom are wise unto salvation, and find life; but all who hate her and love folly, reject her counsels and heed not her admonitions love death. Allured, ensnared and betrayed by that wisdom which is from beneath, and which is the opposite of that which is from above, those who despise her maxims shall be involved in the direful consequences of their folly, and then Wisdom shall laugh at their calamities and mock when their fear cometh. Alas! how true are the words:
“Broad is the road that leads to death,
And thousands walk together there;
But Wisdom shows a narrow path,
With here and there a traveler.”
April 1, 1867.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6
Pages 464 - 472