12 I wisdom dwell with prudence, and find out knowledge of witty inventions. 13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil: pride, and arrogancy, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate. 14 Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength. 15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth. 17 I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me. 18 Riches and honour are with me; yea, durable riches and righteousness. 19 My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold; and my revenue than choice silver. 20 I lead in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment: 21 That I may cause those that love me to inherit substance; and I will fill their treasures.
Wisdom here is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; it is Christ in the word and Christ in the heart, not only Christ revealed to us, but Christ revealed in us. It is the word of God, the whole compass of divine revelation; it is God the Word, in whom all divine revelation centres; it is the soul formed by the word; it is Christ formed in the soul; it is religion in the purity and power of it. Glorious things are here spoken of this excellent person, this excellent thing.
I. Divine wisdom gives men good heads (Pr 8:12): I Wisdom dwell with prudence, not with carnal policy (the wisdom that is from above is contrary to that, 2Co 1:12), but with true discretion, which serves for the right ordering of the conversation, that wisdom of the prudent which is to understand his way and is in all cases profitable to direct, the wisdom of the serpent, not only to guard from harm, but to guide in doing food. Wisdom dwells with prudence; for prudence is the product of religion and an ornament to religion; and there are more witty inventions found out with the help of the scripture, both for the right understanding of God's providences and for the effectual countermining of Satan's devices and the doing of good in our generation, than were ever discovered by the learning of the philosophers or the politics of statesmen. We may apply it to Christ himself; he dwells with prudence, for his whole undertaking is the wisdom of God in a mystery, and in it God abounds towards us in all wisdom and prudence. Christ found out the knowledge of that great invention, and a costly one it was to him, man's salvation, by his satisfaction, an admirable expedient. We had found out many inventions for our ruin; he found out one for our recovery. The covenant of grace is so well ordered in all things that we must conclude that he who ordered it dwelt with prudence.
II. It gives men good hearts, Pr 8:13. True religion, consisting in the fear of the Lord, which is the wisdom before recommended, teaches men, 1. To hate all sin, as displeasing to God and destructive to the soul: The fear of the Lord is to hate evil, the evil way, to hate sin as sin, and therefore to hate every false way. Wherever there is an awe of God there is a dread of sin, as an evil, as only evil. 2. Particularly to hate pride and passion, those two common and dangerous sins. Conceitedness of ourselves, pride and arrogancy, are sins which Christ hates, and so do all those who have the Spirit of Christ; every one hates them in others, but we must hate them in ourselves. The froward mouth, peevishness towards others, God hates, because it is such an enemy to the peace of mankind, and therefore we should hate it. Be it spoken to the honour of religion that, however it is unjustly accused, it is so far from making men conceited and sour that there is nothing more directly contrary to it than pride and passion, nor which it teaches us more to detest.
III. It has a great influence upon public affairs and the well-governing of all societies, Pr 8:14. Christ, as God, has strength and wisdom; wisdom and might are his; as Redeemer, he is the wisdom of God and the power of God. To all that are his he is made of God both strength and wisdom; in him they are laid up for us, that we may both know and do our duty. He is the wonderful counsellor and gives that grace which alone is sound wisdom. He is understanding itself, and has strength for all those that strengthen themselves in him. True religion gives men the best counsel in all difficult cases, and helps to make their way plain. Wherever it is, it is understanding, it has strength; it will be all that to us that we need, both for services and sufferings. Where the word of God dwells richly it makes a man perfect and furnishes him thoroughly for every good word and work. Kings, princes, and judges, have of all men most need of wisdom and strength, of counsel and courage, for the faithful discharge of the trusts reposed in them, and that they may be blessings to the people over whom they are set. And therefore Wisdom says, By me kings reign (Pr 8:15,16), that is, 1. Civil government is a divine institution, and those that are entrusted with the administration of it have their commission from Christ; it is a branch of his kingly office that by him kings reign; from him to whom all judgment is committed their power is derived. They reign by him, and therefore ought to reign for him. 2. Whatever qualifications for government any kings or princes have they are indebted to the grace of Christ for them; he gives them the spirit of government, and they have nothing, no skill, no principles of justice, but what he endues them with. A divine sentence is in the lips of the king; and kings are to their subjects what he makes them. 3. Religion is very much the strength and support of the civil government; it teaches subjects their duty, and so by it kings reign over them the more easily; it teaches kings their duty, and so by it kings reign as they ought; they decree justice, while they rule in the fear of God. Those rule well whom religion rules.
IV. It will make all those happy, truly happy, that receive and embrace it.
1. They shall be happy in the love of Christ; for he it is that says, I love those that love me, Pr 8:17. Those that love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity shall be beloved of him with a peculiar distinguishing love: he will love them and manifest himself to them.
2. They shall be happy in the success of their enquiries after him: "Those that seek me early, seek an acquaintance with me and an interest in me, seek me early, that is, seek me earnestly, seek me first before any thing else, that begin betimes in the days of their youth to seek me, they shall find what they seek." Christ shall be theirs, and they shall be his. He never said, Seek in vain.
3. They shall be happy in the wealth of the world, or in that which is infinitely better. (1.) They shall have as much riches and honour as Infinite Wisdom sees good for them (Pr 8:18); they are with Christ, that is, he has them to give, and whether he will see fit to give them to us must be referred to him. Religion sometimes helps to make people rich and great in this world, gains them a reputation, and so increases their estates; and the riches which Wisdom gives to her favourites have these two advantages:-- [1.] That they are riches and righteousness, riches honestly got, not by fraud and oppression, but in regular ways, and riches charitably used, for alms are called righteousness. Those that have their wealth from God's blessing on their industry, and that have a heart to do good with it, have riches and righteousness. [2.] That therefore they are durable riches. Wealth gotten by vanity will soon be diminished, but that which is well got will wear well and will be left to the children's children, and that which is well spent in works of piety and charity is put out to the best interest and so will be durable; for the friends made by the mammon of unrighteousness when we fail will receive us into everlasting habitations, Lu 16:9. It will be found after many days, for the days of eternity. (2.) They shall have that which is infinitely better, if they have not riches and honour in this world (Pr 8:19): "My fruit is better than gold, and will turn to a better account, will be of more value in less compass, and my revenue better than the choicest silver, will serve a better trade." We may assure ourselves that not only Wisdom's products at last, but her income in the mean time, not only her fruit, but her revenue, is more valuable than the best either of the possessions or of the reversions of this world.
4. They shall be happy in the grace of God now; that shall be their guide in the good way, Pr 8:20. This is that fruit of wisdom which is better than gold, than fine gold, it leads us in the way of righteousness, shows us that way and goes before us in it, the way that God would have us walk in and which will certainly bring us to our desired end. It leads in the midst of the paths of judgment, and saves us from deviating on either hand. In medio virtus--Virtue lies in the midst. Christ by his Spirit guides believers into all truth, and so leads them in the way of righteousness, and they walk after the Spirit.
5. They shall be happy in the glory of God hereafter, Pr 8:21. Therefore Wisdom leads in the paths of righteousness, not only that she may keep her friends in the way of duty and obedience, but that she may cause them to inherit substance and may fill their treasures, which cannot be done with the things of this world, nor with any thing less than God and heaven. The happiness of those that love God, and devote themselves to his service, is substantial and satisfactory. (1.) It is substantial; it is substance itself. It is a happiness which will subsist of itself, and stand alone, without the accidental supports of outward conveniences. Spiritual and eternal things are the only real and substantial things. Joy in God is substantial joy, solid and well-grounded. The promises are their bonds, Christ is their surety, and both substantial. They inherit substance; that is, their inheritance hereafter is substantial; it is a weight of glory; it is substance, Heb 10:34. All their happiness they have as heirs; it is grounded upon their sonship. (2.) It is satisfying; it will not only fill their hands, but fill their treasures, not only maintain them, but make them rich. The things of this world may fill men's bellies (Ps 17:14), but not their treasures, for they cannot in them secure to themselves goods for many years; perhaps they may be deprived of them this night. But let the treasures of the soul be ever so capacious there is enough in God, and Christ, and heaven, to fill them. In Wisdom's promises believers have goods laid up, not for days and years, but for eternity; her fruit therefore is better than gold.