The book of Proverbs is divided into five parts: the first of which ends with the ninth chapter, and treats chiefly about two women: the one called “ the strange woman,” and the other called the “ wife”? Which thing contains an allegory: for the wife (v. 8, 9) represents wisdom personified (i. 20-33; viii-xi. 6); that is, the wisdom of God in contrast to the wisdom of this world, which is foolishness with God; and the strange woman represents the wisdom of this world personified. Both wisdoms are described in 1 Cor. i, “For the word of the cross is to. them that perish foolishness; but unto us that are saved it is the power of God. For it is written—
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where ig the disputer of this world? Hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of the preaching to save them that believe. Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified, unto Jews a stumbling block, and unto Gentiles foolishness; but unto them that are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.”
All men in the world are the children of the one wisdom or of the other. We that have heard the voice of Wisdom calling to us and attended “ are saved;” but those who refuse to listen to her, and disregard her, ‘‘ perish,’ and Christ the embodiment of wisdom—
The “hidden wisdom” is veiled to those that perish, through the god of this world blinding their minds by unbelief. But unto us, the called, this Wisdom ‘was foreordained before the worlds unto our glory:”” (which none of the rulers of this world knoweth: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory); as it is written—
When Christ was on earth he was the expression of this wisdom to men: but if was “hidden” from the wise and prudent of this world, and ‘‘revealed” only unto babes, like Peter of old, who knew Him by revelation, not of flesh and blood, but of God the Father in heaven.
Let us, therefore, as many of us who are Wisdoms’ children, follow after and grow therein, let us put away all carnality and fleshly wisdom, which is incompatible with our spiritual growth, and press on from babyhood in Christ to full grown men. If any man thinketh that he is wise among us in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise: and let none of us glory in men. Who is wise and understanding among us? Let him show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom. But if we have bitter jealousy and faction in our heart, we are not to glory and lie against the truth. This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down from above, but is earthy, sensual, devilish. For where jealousy and faction are, there is confusion and every vile deed. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peacable, gentle, easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without variance, without hypocrisy.
Moreover, let as many of us as preach the gospel, preach not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but with demonstration of the Spirit and of power, conducting ourselves with ‘fear and much trembling ” knowing the weakness of the instrument and the solemnity of the work: though as to the truth itself, we must have faith in God’s power and boldness of speech corresponding thereto). Picture to yourself a surgeon about to make a painful operation‘ on a patient; does he not hold his breath, as it were, while executing his task, lest he make a wrong cut with his lancet, and so endanger the life of his patient? And how much more should a worker together with God take heed how he uses His word, which is sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of the soul and spirit, and of both joints and marrow.
In the foregoing passage quoted from James’ epistle, we have the sources of the two wisdoms traced out. The one “from above,” the other “ earthy, sensual, devilish.” In Proverbs they are indeed personified as women; but these women, again, represent the two religions of the present day, and of all eternity—from Adam to the eternal state: (The one is the religion of Christ, the motto of which is ‘‘Done;” but the other is that of the world, whose motto is ‘ Do.” The one is characterised by faith and godliness, the other by ritualism, ordinances, and law-keeping); and which two religions, in the form of women, are represented as having taken up their abode on earth in houses—.
The house of one is a spiritual house composed of living stones, even ‘‘ the house of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” James, Cephas, and John were three of the pillars of this house. The house of the strange woman is “the synagogue of Satan,” built with wood, hay, and stubble, and containing not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth, even some to honour, and some to dishonour.
To which of these two religions (for there are only two in God’s sight) do you cling, my reader? Do not deceive yourself; you must belong to one or the other; there is no neutral ground.
‘When Christ was on the cross He wrought out our redemption, giving Himself a ransom for all; and He cried, “It is finished.” He then finished all works required to be done to make us righteous, leaving us none to do. (“For not by works of righteousness, which we have done ourselves, but according to His mercy must we be saved). And God was so satisfied with that one work or act of Christ in dying the just for the unjust, that He justifies all that believe in Jesus, and in the merits of that blood, which He shed upon the cross to make our peace with God—God who made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.. Abel was of the religion of Christ, he believed in sacrifice, a substitute in death. But Cain was of the religion of the world, he offered to God of the fruit of his own works, even the produce of his own cultivation of an accursed earth.
If you, my reader, are of the religion of works, listen to these verses—
Take heed lest you be deceived by the religion of works; for she is very seducing.
This religion is also very plausible, showy, and clamorous: just suitable for all proud self-righteous men, who think they are all right, and on the right road, but who pay no particular heed to examine themselves by the light of God’s truth.
Moreover, let us Christians, who have believed in Christ, beware of this false religion; since it is one of. ordinances and of the rudiments of the world. In Christ dwelleth all the fulness of the godhead bodily, and in Him we are made full and complete. Why, then, ‘‘as though living in the world do ye subject yourself to ordinances, handle not, nor taste, nor touch, after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will. worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.”
This “strange woman” is really an adultress, who hath forsaken her true husband, the “guide of her youth,” and forgotten the covenant of her God— the marriage-bond instituted of God. That is, this “religion is departure or apostasy of the heart from God (which equals idolatry, see 1 John v. 21); and it is first manifested as such—I mean, the name “strange woman” is first applied to it—in the time of Solomon; Jerusalem being then the centre of this religion. For the Jews were “going away backward” [lit “ estranged” i.e., they were becoming like a woman estranged to her husband, through having left him and gone to another man] Is.i.4. Ezekiel says (xiv. 5), “They are all estranged from me through their idols.” Compare Deut. xxiv. 1-4 with Jer. iii, 1-5. Jehovah says to Israel:—
Adam was engaged to God as a friend or companion with whom to converse and commune by a covenant of friendship or peace, in virtue of creation; he, through transgressing it, became “alienated” or estranged in mind, Christ made up our peace with God by the blood of His cross, and now we even as many of Adam’s children who believe in the Lord Jesus, are reconciled. Israel was, however, engaged to Jehovah by a covenant of marriage in virtue of redemption from Egypt.
The Jews turned their law into a wrong use; for they went about seeking to establish their own righteousness by keeping the letter thereof, and did not discern that the law was spiritual, and they carnal, sold under sin: whereas God ordained it to show man how weak and sinful he was, and to point him to Christ, who is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. There never was a law made that could give cither life or righteousness. They did not know the ways or heart of God: for He “desired mercy and not sacrifice.”
In Paul’s time the Jews sought to Judaise the Christians, i.e., to unite the Christian faith with their religion, even to make the Christians circumcise themselves and keep the law: to whom Paul ‘‘ gave place in the way of subjection, no, not for an hour;” that the truth of the gospel might continue with us. And he wrote strongly to the Galatian Christians, saying, ‘‘ Behold, I, Paul, say unto you, that, if ye receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. Ye are severed from Christ, ye who would be justified by the law; ye are fallen away from grace.” “I would that they which unsettle you would even cut themselves off.” Peter rebuked the Judaisers sharply, ‘Now, therefore, why tempt ye God, that ye should put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?”
Their religion is directly opposed and antagonistic to ours: they can never be reconciled together, though men may try to amalgamate them. Theirs is prefigured by Hagar the handmaid, who had a son born after the flesh—our’s by Sarai (who represents Jerusalem that is above, our mother); the freewoman, who had a son born through promise. ‘‘ Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are children of promise. But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now. Howbeit what saith the Scripture? Cast out the handmaid and her son: for the son of the handmaid shall not inherit with the son of the freewoman, With freedom did Christ set us free; stand fast, there. fore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage.”
But the time is quickly coming when the Church will be taken out of the world; then shall the Christian profession be overthrown; for Christ will spue it out of His mouth; and the apostasy— the falling away” from the Christian faith to Judaism— will take place (2 Thess. ii. 3). For “the Spirit speaketh expressly that in latter times some shall fall away [apostatize] from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines (taught) of demons, through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth.”
I would specially direct your attention to this fact, as to the apostasy; because the passage of Proverbs, chapter 2, quoted herein, properly applies to the period of time after the Church is caught up; though, of course, the teaching therein may, and does, apply in principle now.
The metropolis of Christianity was first at Jerusalem; but when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus, it removed to Antioch or Constantinople, and then afterwards to Rome; and, lastly, when the Church is caught up out of the world, the metropolis of Christendom will return to Jerusalem—and this is the apostasy.
The Hebrew Christians or believers would, naturally speaking, be the first in danger of falling back to Judaism—their old religion. Therefore Paul in writing to them, says, ‘‘Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away (apostatizing) from the living God.” “For as touching those who were once enlightened, and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Ghost. . . . and then fell away, it is impossible to renew them again unto repentance.” “ Let us, therefore, go forth unto Him (Christ) without the camp (i.e., out of the Jewish fold or system of religion at Jerusalem). For we have not here an abiding city, but we seek after the city which is to come.”
(To be continued.)