Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary

Verses 20-33 (Proverbs 1:20-33)

Solomon, having shown how dangerous it is to hearken to the temptations of Satan, here shows how dangerous it is not to hearken to the calls of God, which we shall for ever rue the neglect of. Observe,

I. By whom God calls to us?by wisdom. It is wisdom that crieth without. The word is plural?wisdoms, for, as there is infinite wisdom in God, so there is the manifold wisdom of God, Eph. 3:10. God speaks to the children of men by all the kinds of wisdom, and, as in every will, so in every word, of God there is a counsel. 1. Human understanding is wisdom, the light and law of nature, the powers and faculties of reason, and the office of conscience, Job 38:36. By these God speaks to the children of men, and reasons with them. The spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord; and, wherever men go, they may hear a voice behind them, saying, This is the way; and the voice of conscience is the voice of God, and not always a still small voice, but sometimes it cries. 2. Civil government is wisdom; it is God?s ordinance; magistrates are his vicegerents. God by David had said to the fools, Deal not foolishly, Ps. 75:4. In the opening of the gates, and in the places of concourse, where courts were kept, the judges, the wisdom of the nation, called to wicked people, in God?s name, to repent and reform. 3. Divine revelation is wisdom; all its dictates, all its laws, are wise as wisdom itself. God does, by the written word, by the law of Moses, which sets before us the blessing and the curse, by the priests? lips which keep knowledge, by his servants the prophets, and all the ministers of this word, declare his mind to sinners, and give them warning as plainly as that which is proclaimed in the streets or courts of judicature by the criers. God, in his word, not only opens the case, but argues it with the children of men. Come, now, and let us reason together, Isa. 1:18. 4. Christ himself is Wisdom, is Wisdoms, for in him are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and he is the centre of all divine revelation, not only the essential Wisdom, but the eternal Word, by whom God speaks to us and to whom he has committed all judgment; he it is therefore who here both pleads with sinners and passes sentence on them. He calls himself Wisdom, Luke 7:35.

II. How he calls to us, and in what manner. 1. Very publicly, that whosoever hath ears to hear may hear, since all are welcome to take the benefit of what is said and all are concerned to heed it. The rules of wisdom are published without in the streets, not in the schools only, or in the palaces of princes, but in the chief places of concourse, among the common people that pass and repass in the opening of the gates and in the city. It is comfortable casting the net of the gospel where there is a multitude of fish, in hopes that then some will be enclosed. This was fulfilled in our Lord Jesus, who taught openly in the temple, in crowds of people, and in secret said nothing (John 18:20), and charged his ministers to proclaim his gospel on the housetop, Matt. 10:27. God says (Isa. 45:19), I have not spoken in secret. There is no speech or language where Wisdom?s voice is not heard. Truth seeks not corners, nor is virtue ashamed of itself. 2. Very pathetically; she cries, and again she cries, as one in earnest. Jesus stood and cried. She utters her voice, she utters her words with all possible clearness and affection. God is desirous to be heard and heeded.

III. What the call of God and Christ is.

1. He reproves sinners for their folly and their obstinately persisting in it, Prov. 1:22. Observe, (1.) Who they are that Wisdom here reproves and expostulates with. In general, they are such as are simple, and therefore might justly be despised, such as love simplicity, and therefore might justly be despaired of; but we must use the means even with those that we have but little hopes of, because we know not what divine grace may do. Three sorts of persons are here called to:?[1.] Simple ones that love simplicity. Sin is simplicity, and sinners are simple ones; they do foolishly, very foolishly; and the condition of those is very bad who love simplicity, are fond of their simple notions of good and evil, their simple prejudices against the ways of God, and are in their element when they are doing a simple thing, sporting themselves in their own deceivings and flattering themselves in their wickedness. [2.] Scorners that delight in scorning?proud people that take a pleasure in hectoring all about them, jovial people that banter all mankind, and make a jest of every thing that comes in their way. But scoffers at religion are especially meant, the worst of sinners, that scorn to submit to the truths and laws of Christ, and to the reproofs and admonitions of his word, and take a pride in running down every thing that is sacred and serious. [3.] Fools that hate knowledge. None but fools hate knowledge. Those only are enemies to religion that do not understand it aright. And those are the worst of fools that hate to be instructed and reformed, and have a rooted antipathy to serious godliness. (2.) How the reproof is expressed: ?How long will you do so?? This implies that the God of heaven desires the conversion and reformation of sinners and not their ruin, that he is much displeased with their obstinacy and dilatoriness, that he waits to be gracious, and is willing to reason the case with them.

2. He invites them to repent and become wise, Prov. 1:23. And here, (1.) The precept is plain: Turn you at my reproof. We do not make a right use of the reproofs that are given us for that which is evil if we do not turn from it to that which is good; for for this end the reproof was given. Turn, that is, return to your right mind, turn to God, turn to your duty, turn and live. (2.) The promises are very encouraging. Those that love simplicity find themselves under a moral impotency to change their own mind and way; they cannot turn by any power of their own. To this God answers, ?Behold, I will pour out my Spirit unto you; set yourselves to do what you can, and the grace of God shall set in with you, and work in you both to will and to do that good which, without that grace, you could not do.? Help thyself, and God will help thee; stretch forth thy withered hand, and Christ will strengthen and heal it. [1.] The author of this grace is the Spirit, and that is promised: I will pour out my Spirit unto you, as oil, as water; you shall have the Spirit in abundance, rivers of living water, John 7:38. Our heavenly Father will give the Holy Spirit to those that ask him. [2.] The means of this grace is the word, which, if we take it aright, will turn us; it is therefore promised, ?I will make known my words unto you, not only speak them to you, but make them known, give you to understand them.? Note, Special grace is necessary to a sincere conversion. But that grace shall never be denied to any that honestly seek it and submit to it.

3. He reads the doom of those that continue obstinate against all these means and methods of grace. It is large and very terrible, Prov. 1:24-32. Wisdom, having called sinners to return, pauses awhile, to see what effect the call has, hearkens and hears; but they speak not aright (Jer. 8:6), and therefore she goes on to tell them what will be in the end hereof.

(1.) The crime is recited and it is highly provoking. See what it is for which judgment will be given against impenitent sinners in the great day, and you will say they deserve it, and the Lord is righteous in it. It is, in short, rejecting Christ and the offers of his grace, and refusing to submit to the terms of his gospel, which would have saved them both from the curse of the law of God and from the dominion of the law of sin. [1.] Christ called to them, to warn them of their danger; he stretched out his hand to offer them mercy, nay, to help them out of their miserable condition, stretched out his hand for them to take hold of, but they refused and no man regarded; some were careless and never heeded it, nor took notice of what was said to them; others were wilful, and, though they could not avoid hearing the will of Christ, yet they gave him a flat denial, they refused, Prov. 1:24. They were in love with their folly, and would not be made wise. They were obstinate to all the methods that were taken to reclaim them. God stretched out his hand in mercies bestowed upon them, and, when those would not work upon them, in corrections, but all were in vain; they regarded the operations of his hand no more than the declarations of his mouth. [2.] Christ reproved and counselled them, not only reproved them for what they did amiss, but counselled them to do better (those are reproofs of instruction and evidences of love and good-will), but they set at nought all his counsel as not worth heeding, and would none of his reproof, as if it were below them to be reproved by him and as if they had never done any thing that deserved reproof, Prov. 1:25. This is repeated (Prov. 1:30): ?They would none of my counsel, but rejected it with disdain; they called reproofs reproaches, and took them as an insult (Jer. 6:10); nay, they despised all my reproof, as if it were all a jest, and not worth taking notice of.? Note, Those are marked for ruin that are deaf to reproof and good counsel. [3.] They were exhorted to submit to the government of right reason and religion, but they rebelled against both. First, Reason should not rule them, for they hated knowledge (Prov. 1:29), hated the light of divine truth because it discovered to them the evil of their deeds, John 3:20. They hated to be told that which they could not bear to know. Secondly, Religion could not rule them, for they did not choose the fear of the Lord, but chose to walk in the way of their heart and in the sight of their eyes. They were pressed to set God always before them, but they chose rather to cast him and his fear behind their backs. Note, Those who do not choose the fear of the Lord show that they have no knowledge.

(2.) The sentence is pronounced, and it is certainly ruining. Those that will not submit to God?s government will certainly perish under his wrath and curse, and the gospel itself will not relieve them. They would not take the benefit of God?s mercy when it was offered them, and therefore justly fall as victims to his justice, Prov. 29:1. The threatenings here will have their full accomplishment in the judgment of the great day and the eternal misery of the impenitent, of which yet there are some earnests in present judgments. [1.] Now sinners are in prosperity and secure; they live at ease, and set sorrow at defiance. But, First, Their calamity will come (Prov. 1:26); sickness will come, and those diseases which they shall apprehend to be the very arrests and harbingers of death; other troubles will come, in mind, in estate, which will convince them of their folly in setting God at a distance. Secondly, Their calamity will put them into a great fright. Fear seizes them, and they apprehend that bad will be worse. When public judgments are abroad the sinners in Zion are afraid, fearfulness surprises the hypocrites. Death is the king of terrors to them (Job 15:21; 18:11); this fear will be their continual torment. Thirdly, According to their fright will it be to them. Their fear shall come (the thing they were afraid of shall befal them); it shall come as desolation, as a mighty deluge bearing down all before it; it shall be their destruction, their total and final destruction; and it shall come as a whirlwind, which suddenly and forcibly drives away all the chaff. Note, Those that will not admit the fear of God lay themselves open to all other fears, and their fears will not prove causeless. Fourthly, Their fright will then be turned into despair: Distress and anguish shall come upon them, for, having fallen into the pit they were afraid of, they shall see no way to escape, Prov. 1:27. Saul cries out (2 Sam. 1:9), Anguish has come upon me; and in hell there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth for anguish, tribulation and anguish to the soul of the sinner, the fruit of the indignation and wrath of the righteous God, Rom. 2:8, 9. [2.] Now God pities their folly, but he will then laugh at their calamity (Prov. 1:26): ?I also will laugh at your distress, even as you laughed at my counsel.? Those that ridicule religion will thereby but make themselves ridiculous before all the world. The righteous will laugh at them (Ps. 52:6), for God himself will. It intimates that they shall be for ever shut out of God?s compassions; they have so long sinned against mercy that they have now quite sinned it away. His eye shall not spare, neither will he have pity. Nay, his justice being glorified in their ruin, he will be pleased with it, though now he would rather they should turn and live. Ah! I will ease me of my adversaries. [3.] Now God is ready to hear their prayers and to meet them with mercy, if they would but seek to him for it; but then the door will be shut, and they shall cry in vain (Prov. 1:28): ?Then shall they call upon me when it is too late, Lord, Lord, open to us. They would then gladly be beholden to that mercy which now they reject and make light of; but I will not answer, because, when I called, they would not answer;? all the answer then will be, Depart from me, I know you not. This has been the case of some even in this life, as of Saul, whom God answered not by Urim or prophets; but, ordinarily, while there is life there is room for prayer and hope of speeding, and therefore this must refer to the inexorable justice of the last judgment. Then those that slighted God will seek him early (that is, earnestly), but in vain; they shall not find him, because they sought him not when he might be found, Isa. 55:6. The rich man in hell begged, but was denied. [4.] Now they are eager upon their own way, and fond of their own devices; but then they will have enough of them (Prov. 1:31), according to the proverb, Let men drink as they brew; they shall eat the fruit of their own way; their wages shall be according to their work, and, as was their choice, so shall their doom be, Gal. 6:7, 8. Note, First, There is a natural tendency in sin to destruction, Jas. 1:15. Sinners are certainly miserable if they do but eat the fruit of their own way. Secondly, Those that perish must thank themselves, and can lay no blame upon any other. It is their own device; let them make their boast of it. God chooses their delusions, Isa. 66:4. [5.] Now they value themselves upon their worldly prosperity; but then that shall help to aggravate their ruin, Prov. 1:32. First, They are now proud that they can turn away from God and get clear of the restraints of religion; but that very thing shall slay them, the remembrance of it shall cut them to the heart. Secondly, They are now proud of their own security and sensuality; but the ease of the simple (so the margin reads it) shall slay them; the more secure they are the more certain and the more dreadful will their destruction be, and the prosperity of fools shall help to destroy them, by puffing them up with pride, gluing their hearts to the world, furnishing them with fuel for their lusts, and hardening their hearts in their evil ways.

4. He concludes with an assurance of safety and happiness to all those that submit to the instructions of wisdom (Prov. 1:33): ?Whoso hearkeneth unto me, and will be ruled by me, he shall,? (1.) ?Be safe; he shall dwell under the special protection of Heaven, so that nothing shall do him any real hurt.? (2.) ?He shall be easy, and have no disquieting apprehensions of danger; he shall not only be safe from evil, but quiet from the fear of it.? Though the earth be removed, yet shall not they fear. Would we be safe from evil, and quiet from the fear of it? Let religion always rule us and the word of God be our counsellor. That is the way to dwell safely in this world, and to be quiet from the fear of evil in the other world.

- Matthew Henry's Complete Commentary