Commentary on Proverbs 2:4-5 by William Arnot – Part 2

Commentary on Proverbs 2:4-5 by William Arnot – Part 2

This is the conclusion of the short excerpt from William Arnot’s “ILLUSTRATIONS OF THE BOOK OF PROVERBS: Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth”:

3. “Cry after knowledge.” The preceding verse expressed the bent heavenward of the heart within and the
senses without: this verse represents the same process at a more advanced stage. The longing for God’s salvation already begotten in the heart, bursts forward now into an irrepressible cry. It is not any longer a Nicodemus inclined toward Jesus, he cannot tell how, and silently stealing into His presence under cloud of night; it is the jailor of Philippi springing in, and crying with a loud voice, “What must I do to be saved?” While the man was musing, the fire burned; and now it no longer smoulders (burns) within, it bursts forth into a flame. He who gave Himself for his people loves to feel them kindling thus in his hands. Men may be offended with the fervour of an earnest soul—God never. “Hold your peace,” the prudent will still say to the enthusiastic follower of Jesus: but he feels his want (his lacking), and hopes for help; he heeds them not: he cries out all the more, “Jesus, the Son of David, have mercy on me.” Even disciples, apparently more alarmed by what seem irregularities in the action of the living than they were by the silence of the stiffened dead, may interpose with a frown and a rebuke; but compression will only increase the strength of the emotion struggling within. That word hidden in the heart will swell and burst and break forth in strong crying and tears, “Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:25, 26.

4. “Seek her as silver.” Another and a higher step. The last was the earnest cry; this is the persevering endeavour. The strong cry is not enough: it is a step in the process, but the end is not yet. It might be Balaam’s cry, “Let me die the death of the righteous,” while in life he loved and laboured for the wages of iniquity. Fervent prayer must be tested by persevering pains.

Seek wisdom. Not only be inclined to spiritual things, and earnestly desire salvation, but set about it. Strive to enter in; lay hold on eternal life. Work out the salvation. “The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” The Christian life is a battle to be fought: the reward at last is a crown to be won. More particularly, the search for wisdom is compared to another search with which we are more familiar. Seek her as silver. Those who seek the treasures that are at God’s right hand are referred to their neighbours who are seeking treasures that perish in the using, and told to go and do likewise. The zeal of mammon’s worshippers rebukes the servants of the living God. We are invited to take a leaf from the book of the fortune-seeker. Besides the pursuit of money in the various walks of merchandise, there is, in our day, much of a direct and literal search for treasures hid in the earth. A prominent part of our daily public news, for years past, has been the stream of emigration from the settled countries of Europe to the western shores of America, and the great Australian Continent in search of hid treasure. The details are most instructive. Multitudes of young and old, from every occupation, and every rank, have left their homes, and traversed (travelled through) stormy seas, and desert continents, to the place where the treasure lies. Not a few have perished on the way. Others sink under privations (deprivations or the lack of essential things) on the spot. The scorching sun by day, and the chill dews at night; labour all day among water, and sleeping under the imperfect shelter of a tent; the danger of attack by uncivilized natives on the one hand, and by desperately wicked Europeans on the other,—all these, and a countless multitude more, are unable to deter from the enterprise, or drive off those who are already engaged. To these regions men flock in thousands, and tens of thousands. Those shores lately desolate are in motion now with a teeming (full) population.

Search for her as for hid treasure! He knows what is in man. He who made the human heart, and feels every desire that throbs within it, takes the measure of men’s earnestness in their search for silver. He pronounces it sufficient for the object which he has at heart, the salvation of sinners. He points to it as a fit measure of the zeal with which a being, destitute (made poor) by sin, should set out in the search for the salvation by grace. He intimates this will do—this earnestness, if directed upon the right object. How all this puts to shame the languid (weak and feeble) efforts of those who do seek the true riches! There may be an inclination on the whole rather to the imperishable riches—a wish to be with Christ rather than left with a passing world for a portion. There may be the desire in that direction, but another question comes in, what is the strength of that desire? That blessed portion in Christ is what you desire; well, but how much do you desire it? Will not the far reaching plans, and heroic sacrifices, and long enduring toil of Californian and Australian gold diggers rise up and condemn us who have tasted and known the grace of God? Their zeal is the standard by which the Lord stimulates us now, and will measure us yet. Two things are required in our search—the right direction, and the sufficient impulse. The Scriptures point out the right way; the avarice (extreme greed) of mankind marks the quantum of forcefulness, wherewith the seeker must press on.

But the search for hid treasure, which reads a lesson to the Church, is not confined to the gold regions, and the gold diggers. They dig as hard at home. It cannot be told how much of plan and effort, of head and hand, are expended in making money. It is no business of ours here to draw the nice distinctions between the rightful industry of a Christian merchant, and the passage through the fire of mammon’s (wealth) child. This is not our present theme at all. What we want is to get our slackness in seeking a Saviour rebuked and quickened (improved) by the parallel movement of a more energetic search. Our question here is not how much is gold worth? but is gold worth as much as the grace of God in Christ to a sinner? You answer, No. This is our unanimous reply. It is true in its own nature; and sincerely it is uttered by our lips. Out of our own mouths then will we be condemned, if He who compasses us about like air in all our ways, feels that we strive with our might for the less, and but languidly (weakly) wish for the greater. Seek first the kingdom.

Those who seek thus shall not seek in vain; we have the word of the true God for it in many promises. Among the gathered multitudes in the great day, it will not be possible to find one who has sought in the right place for the right thing, as other men seek money, and who has nevertheless been disappointed. No doubt there are some who seek after a fashion, and gain nothing by it; who vent a wish to die the death of the righteous, and never attain to the object of their desire. But none fail who seek according to the prescription of the word, and after the example of the world.

Many people proceed upon a principle the very reverse of that which the word inculcates (teach). They search for money as if it were saving truth, instead of searching for saving truth as if it were money. These must be turned upside down before they begin to prosper. There is no promise to indolence (laziness). The hand of the diligent makes rich. As to what you should seek, hear what the Lord says: as to the earnestness of the search, observe how the world does. Those who keep between these two lines are sure to gain in godliness.

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