It would not, perhaps, be wise for any one to discuss this subject in the presence of a general congregation. The sin is so fearfully contaminating that it is scarcely possible to touch it in any way without contracting some defilement; and the few who might benefit by a public exposure of the evils of profligacy would be greatly outnumbered by the multitude of people, especially the young, to whom the direction of attention to it would be unwholesome. But on special occasions, and before special audiences, a strong, clear denunciation of this sin may be called for. We can avoid the subject too much, and so leave the sin unrebuked. Certainly some men do not seem to realize how fearfully wicked and how fatally ruinous it is.]
I. IT IS A DESECRATION OF THE TEMPLE OF GOD . It is a sin against God as well as an offence against society. Utterly abandoned men will set little weight by such a consideration, because they have long lost all serious care for their relations with God, But it is important that they who are in danger of falling should remember the solemn words of St. Paul, and the lofty point of view from which he regards the subject ( 1 Corinthians 6:18 , 1 Corinthians 6:19 ). The Christian is a temple of the Holy Spirit. Every man is designed to be such a temple. See that this temple is not converted into a nest of corruption.
II. IT IS RUINOUS TO ANY ONE WHO SUCCUMBS TO IT . It ruins the mind, degrading the whole tone and energy of thought. It is the most gross and disastrous dissipation. It ruins the physical health. It ruins wholesome interest in pure delights. It ruins business prospects. It ruins reputation. It brings other sins in its train. It ruins the soul. He who abandons himself to it is indeed a lost man.
III. IT IS HEARTLESSLY CRUEL . The heaviest guilt lies with the tempter. When a man has deluded and ruined a woman, society regards the woman with loathing and contempt, while the man often escapes with comparative impunity. This is one of the grossest instances of injustice that the future judgment will surely rectify. But in any case of profligacy great selfishness and cruelty are shown. The miserable creatures who live by sin could not continue their wretched traffic if men did not encourage it. The demand creates the supply, and is responsible for the hopeless misery that results.
IV. IT IS FATAL TO SOUND SOCIAL ORDER . It is a gangrene in society, eating out its very heart. Nothing more surely undermines the true welfare of a people. It is fatal to the sanctities of the home—sanctities on which the very life of the nation depends.
V. ALL THIS ACCOMPANIES THE INDULGENCE OF WHAT IS PURSUED SOLELY AS SELFISH PLEASURE . The profligate man has not the thief's excuse, who may rob because he is starving (see Proverbs 6:30-32 ); nor can he pretend that he is benefiting any one else by his wickedness.
1 . Let the Legislature be urged to repeal any laws that make the indulgence of this sin more easy by counteracting its natural penalties.
2 . Let all men avoid the smallest temptation towards it—all amusements and scenes that lead thither.
3 . Let employers endeavour to protect young people under their charge from the fearful dangers of city life.
4 . Let Christians seek to save the failing and rescue the fallen in the spirit of Christ, who received penitent sinners.
A tragedy of temptation
This is a fine piece of dramatic moral description, and there is no reason why it should not be made use of, handled with tact and delicacy, with an audience of young men.
I. THE PROLOGUE . ( Proverbs 7:1-5 .) On Proverbs 7:1 , see Proverbs 1:8 ; Proverbs 2:1 ; Proverbs 6:20 . On Proverbs 6:2 , see on Proverbs 4:4 . Here an expression not before used occurs. "Keep my doctrine as thine eye apple;" literally, "the little man in thine eye." It is an Oriental figure for what is a treasured possession ( Deuteronomy 32:10 ; Psalms 17:8 ). On Proverbs 4:3 , see on Proverbs 3:3 ; Proverbs 6:21 . "Bind them on thy fingers," like costly rings. Let Wisdom be addressed and regarded as "sister," Prudence as "intimate friend" ( Proverbs 6:4 ). On Proverbs 6:5 , see on Proverbs 2:16 ; Proverbs 6:24 . On the prologue as a whole, remark
II. THE FIRST ACT . ( Proverbs 6:6-9 .) The teacher looked through a grated loophole, or eshnab, and saw among the silly fools, the simple ones, who passed by or stood chatting, one simpleton in particular, who attracted his notice. He watched him turn a corner (hesitating, and looking around a moment, according to Ewald's explanation), and pass down a street. The Hebrew word finely shows the deliberacy, the measured step, with which he goes; he has made up his mind to rush into sin. It was late in the evening—" dark, dark, dark, " says the writer, with tragic and suggestive iteration—dark in every sense. The night is prophetic.
III. THE SECOND ACT . ( Proverbs 6:10-20 .) A woman—"the attire of a harlot" (as if she were nothing but a piece of dress), with a heart full of wiles, meets him. She was excitable, noisy, uncontrollable, gadding—now in the streets, now in the markets, now at every corner ( Proverbs 6:11 , Proverbs 6:12 ). Her characteristics have not changed from ancient times. And so with effrontery she seizes and kisses the fool, and solicits him with brazen impudence. Thank offerings had "weighed upon" her in consequence of a vow; but this day the sacrificial animal has been slain, and the meat which, according to the Law, must be consumed within two days, has been prepared for a feast. And she invites him to the entertainment, fires his fancy with luxurious descriptions of the variegated tapestries and the neat perfumes of her couch, and the promise of illicit pleasures. She alludes with cool shamelessness to her absent husband, who will not return till the day of the full moon ( Proverbs 6:20 ). "This verse glides smoothly, as if we could hear the sweet fluting of the temptress's voice." But it is as the song of birds in a wood before an awful storm.
IV. THE THIRD ACT . ( Proverbs 6:21-23 .) Her seductive speech, the "fulness of her doctrine," as the writer ironically says, and the smoothness of her lips, overcome the yielding imagination of her victim. Proverbs 6:22 implies that he had hesitated; but "all at once," passion getting the better of reflection, he follows her like a brute under the dominion of a foreign will driven to the slaughter house. He is passive in the power of the temptress, as the fool who has got into the stocks. "Till a dart cleave his liver "—the supposed seat of passion. Hastening like a bird into the net, he knows not that his life is at stake.
V. THE EPILOGUE . ( Proverbs 6:24-27 .) On Proverbs 6:24 , see on Proverbs 5:7 . "Let not thy heart turn aside to her ways, and go not astray on her paths." Properly, "reel not" ( shagah ) , as in Proverbs 5:20 . Beware of that intoxication of the senses and fancy which leads to such an end. For she is a feller of men, a cruel murderess (verse 26). Her house is as the vestibule of hell, the facilis descensus Averni— the passage to the chambers of death (see on Proverbs 2:18 ; Proverbs 5:5 ).
1 . Folly and vice are characteristically the same in every age. Hence these scenes have lost none of their dramatic power or moral suggestion.
2 . Only virtue is capable of infinite diversity and charm. The pleasures of mere passion, violent at first, pass into monotony, thence into disgust.
3 . The character of the utter harlot has never been made other than repulsive (even in French fiction, as Zola's 'Nana') in poetry. What exists in practical form is mere dregs and refuse.
4 . The society of pure and refined women is the best antidote to vicious tastes. For to form a correct taste in any matter is to form, at the same time, a distaste for coarse and spurious quality. Perhaps reflections of this order may be more useful to young men than much declamation.—J.
The two ways
Here we have—
I. THE WAY OF SIN AND DEATH . This is:
1 . The way of thoughtlessness. It is the "simple ones," the "young men void of understanding" ( Proverbs 7:7 ), those who go heedlessly "near the corner," "the way to the house" of the tempter or the temptress ( Proverbs 7:8 ). It is those who "do not consider," who do not think who they are, what they are here for, whither they go, what the end will be;—it is these who go astray and are found in the way of death.
2 . The way of darkness. ( Proverbs 7:9 .) Sin hates the light; it loves the darkness. It cannot endure the penetrating glance, the reproachful look, of the good and wise man. It prefers to be where it can better imagine that it is unseen of God.
3 . The way of shame. ( Proverbs 7:10-20 .) The result of habitual sin is to rob woman of her native purity, to make her impudent and immodest. How sad, beyond almost everything, the effect of guilt that will put shameful thoughts into a woman's mind, shameless words into a woman's lips! If sin will do this what enormity of evil will it not work?
5 . The way of weakness and defeat. ( Proverbs 7:21 , Proverbs 7:22 .) A man, under the power of sin, yields himself up; he is vanquished, he surrenders his manliness, he has to own to himself that he is miserably beaten. The strong man is slain by sin, the wounded is cast down ( Proverbs 7:26 ). He who has gained victories on other fields, and won trophies in other ways, is utterly defeated, is token captive, is humiliated by sin.
6 . The way of death and damnation. ( Proverbs 7:27 .)
II. THE WAY OF RIGHTEOUSNESS AND LIFE . ( Proverbs 7:1-5 .) This is:
1 . The way of attention. The will of God must first be heeded and understood.
2 . The way of holy love. We must take Divine wisdom to our heart, and love it as that which is near and dear to us ( Proverbs 7:4 ).
3 . The way of wise culture. ( Proverbs 7:1-3 .) We are to take the greatest pains to keep God's thought in our remembrance, before the eyes of our soul. We are to take every needful measure to keep it intact, whole, flawless in our heart. We are to find it a home in the inmost chamber, in the sacred places of our spirit. Then will this path of righteousness prove to us to be:
4 . The path of life. Keeping his commandments, we shall "live" ( Proverbs 7:2 ). We shall live the life of virtue, escaping the snares and wiles of the vicious ( Proverbs 7:5 ). We shall live the life of piety and integrity, beloved of God, honoured of man, having a good conscience, cherishing a good hope through grace of eternal life.—C.
13. Thirteenth admonitory discourse, containing a warning against adultery, treated under a different aspect from previous exhortations, and strengthened by an example. In this chapter and the following a contrast is drawn between the adulteress and Wisdom.
To show the greatness of the danger presented by the seductions of the temptress, the writer introduces no mere abstraction, no mere personification of a quality, but an actual example of what had passed before his own eyes.
She is loud; boisterous, clamorous, as Proverbs 9:13 . The description applies to a brute beast at certain periods. Stubborn; ungovernable, like an animal that will not bear the yoke ( Hosea 4:16 ). Vulgate, garrula et vaga, "talkative and unsettled;" Septuagint, ἀνεπτερωμένη καὶ ἄσωτος , "flighty and debauched." Her feet abide not in her house. She is the opposite of the careful, modest housewife, who stays at home and manages her family affairs ( Titus 2:5 ). The Vulgate inserts another trait: quietis impatiens, "always restless."