Verses 1–11

The will of God revealed to us for our salvation is here largely represented to us as easy to be known and understood, that none may have an excuse for their ignorance or error, and as worthy to be embraced, that none may have an excuse for their carelessness and unbelief.

I. The things revealed are easy to be known, for they belong to us and to our children (Deut. 29:29), and we need not soar up to heaven, or dive into the depths, to get the knowledge of them (Deut. 30:11), for they are published and proclaimed in some measure by the works of the creation (Ps. 19:1), more fully by the consciences of men and the eternal reasons and rules of good and evil, but most clearly by Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The precepts of wisdom may easily be known; for, 1. They are proclaimed aloud (Prov. 8:1): Does not Wisdom cry? Yes, she cries aloud, and does not spare (Isa. 58:1); she puts forth her voice, as one in earnest and desirous to be heard. Jesus stood and cried, John 7:37. The curses and blessings were read with a loud voice by the Levites, Deut. 27:14. And men’s own hearts sometimes speak aloud to them; there are clamours of conscience, as well as whispers. 2. They are proclaimed from on high (Prov. 8:2): She stands in the top of high places; it was from the top of Mount Sinai that the law was given, and Christ expounded it in a sermon upon the mount. Nay, if we slight divine revelation, we turn away from him that speaks from heaven, a high place indeed, Heb. 12:25. The adulterous woman spoke in secret, the oracles of the heathen muttered, but Wisdom speaks openly; truth seeks no corners, but gladly appeals to the light. 3. They are proclaimed in the places of concourse, where multitudes are gathered together, the more the better. Jesus spoke in the synagogues and in the temple, whither the Jews always resorted, John 18:20. Every man that passes by on the road, of what rank or condition soever, may know what is good, and what the Lord requires of him, if it be not his own fault. There is no speech nor language where Wisdom’s voice is not heard; her discoveries and directions are given to all promiscuously. He that has ears to hear, let him hear. 4. They are proclaimed where they are most needed. They are intended for the guide of our way, and therefore are published in the places of the paths, where many ways meet, that travellers may be shown, if they will but ask, which is the right way, just then when they are at a loss; thou shalt then hear the word behind thee, saying, This is the way, Isa. 30:21. The foolish man known not how to go to the city (Eccl. 10:15), and therefore Wisdom stands ready to direct him, stands at the gates, at the entry of the city, ready to tell him where the seer’s house is, 1 Sam. 9:18. Nay, she follows men to their own houses, and cries to them at the coming in at the doors, saying, Peace be to this house; and, if the son of peace be there, it shall certainly abide upon it. God’s ministers are appointed to testify to people both publicly and from house to house. Their own consciences follow them with admonitions wherever they go, which they cannot be out of the hearing of while they carry their own heads and hearts about with them, which are a law unto themselves. 5. They are directed to the children of men. We attend to that discourse in which we hear ourselves named, though otherwise we should have neglected it; therefore Wisdom speaks to us: “Unto you, O men! I call (Prov. 8:4), not to angels (they need not these instructions), not to devils (they are past them), not to the brute-creatures (they are not capable of them), but to you, O men! who are taught more than the beasts of the earth and made wiser than the fowls of heaven. To you is this law given, to you is the word of this invitation, this exhortation sent. My voice is to the sons of men, who are concerned to receive instruction, and to whom, one would think, it should be very welcome. It is not, to you, O Jews! only, that Wisdom cries, nor to you, O gentlemen! not to you, O scholars! but to you, O men! O sons of men! even the meanest.” 6. They are designed to make them wise (Prov. 8:5); they are calculated not only for men that are capable of wisdom, but for sinful men, fallen men, foolish men, that need it, and are undone without it: “O you simple ones! understand wisdom. Though you are ever so simple, Wisdom will take you for her scholars, and not only so, but, if you will be ruled by her, will undertake to give you an understanding heart.” When sinners leave their sins, and become truly religious, then the simple understand wisdom.

II. The things revealed are worthy to be known, well worthy of all acceptation. We are concerned to hear; for, 1. They are of inestimable value. They are excellent things (Prov. 8:6), princely things, so the word is. Though they are level to the capacity of the meanest, yet there is that in them which will be entertainment for the greatest. They are divine and heavenly things, so excellent that, in comparison with them, all other learning is but children’s play. Things which relate to an eternal God, an immortal soul, and an everlasting state, must needs be excellent things. 2. They are of incontestable equity, and carry along with them the evidence of their own goodness. They are right things (Prov. 8:6), all in righteousness (Prov. 8:8), and nothing froward or perverse in them. All the dictates and directions of revealed religion are consonant to, and perfective of, the light and law of nature, and there is nothing in them that puts any hardship upon us, that lays us under any undue restraints, unbecoming the dignity and liberty of the human nature, nothing that we have reason to complain of. All God’s precepts concerning all things are right. 3. They are of unquestionable truth. Wisdom’s doctrines, upon which her laws are founded, are such as we may venture our immortal souls upon: My mouth shall speak truth (Prov. 8:7), the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, for it is a testimony to the world. Every word of God is true; there are not so much as pious frauds in it, nor are we imposed upon in that which is told us for our good. Christ is a faithful witness, is the truth itself; wickedness (that is, lying) is an abomination to his lips. Note, Lying is wickedness, and we should not only refrain from it, but it should be an abomination to us, and as far from what we say as from what God says to us. His word to us is yea, and amen; never then let ours be yea and nay. 4. They are wonderfully acceptable and agreeable to those who take them aright, who understand themselves aright, who have not their judgments blinded and biassed by the world and the flesh, are not under the power of prejudice, are taught of God, and whose understanding he has opened, who impartially seek knowledge, take pains for it, and have found it in the enquiries they have hitherto made. To them, (1.) They are all plain, and not hard to be understood. If the book is sealed, it is to those who are willingly ignorant. If our gospel is hidden, it is hidden to those who are lost; but to those who depart from evil, which is understanding, who have that good understanding which those have who do the commandments, to them they are all plain and there is nothing difficult in them. The way of religion is a highway, and the way-faring men, though fools, shall not err therein, Isa. 35:8. Those therefore do a great wrong to the common people who deny them the use of the scripture under pretence that they cannot understand it, whereas it is plain for plain people. (2.) They are all right, and not hard to be submitted to. Those who discern things that differ, who know good and evil, readily subscribe to the rectitude of all Wisdom’s dictates, and therefore, with out murmuring or disputing, govern themselves by them.

III. From all this he infers that the right knowledge of those things, such as transforms us into the image of them, is to be preferred before all the wealth of this world (Prov. 8:10, 11): Receive my instruction, and not silver. Instruction must not only be heard, but received. We must bid it welcome, receive the impressions of it, and submit to the command of it; and this rather than choice gold, that is, 1. We must prefer religion before riches, and look upon it that, if we have the knowledge and fear of God in our hearts, we are really more happy and better provided for every condition of life than if we had ever so much silver and gold. Wisdom is in itself, and therefore must be in our account, better than rubies. It will bring us in a better price, be to us a better portion; show it forth, and it will be a better ornament than jewels and precious stones of the greatest value. Whatever we can sit down and wish for of the wealth of this world would, if we had it, be unworthy to be compared with the advantages that attend serious godliness. 2. We must be dead to the wealth of this world, that we may the more closely and earnestly apply ourselves to the business of religion. We must receive instruction as the main matter, and then be indifferent whether we receive silver or no; nay, we must not receive it as our portion and reward, as the rich man in his life-time received his good things.