“How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof” (Proverbs 1:22-23).
The world, the entire community whereby the earth is peopled, is divided by God into two grand classes, the saved and the unsaved; or, the “children of God,” and the “children of wrath.” But the latter class, that of the unsaved, is subdivided into three minor classes.
True, they are all equally unsaved, equally the children of wrath, and equally, without difference in the mind of God, sinful, unprofitable, and helpless. Yet, whilst this is the case, the distinction between the three classes is marked and unmistakable.
There are first of all the “simple.” Those who compose this class move in a region of moral and spiritual quietude. They are not troubled by the great question of judgment to come. They take for granted that with them all is right and well. They follow the religion of their ancestors, nor do they see the need of vexing themselves with points of doctrine that appear to perplex the wisest and devoutest of divines. To them there appears to be no certainty in such matters, and hence they agree to let them lie. They move gradually onward from youth to manhood, and from manhood to senility, destitute of that deep heart-exercise that characterises some, at least, of their neighbours. Times of misgiving, indeed, there may be, yet relapses cone, and the conscience is lulled by the sluggard’s petition, “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep,” and thus all is quiet again, all is peaceful, all is silent, but it is the silence of death.
Like the log that glides without a motion down the surface of the stream, unconscious of its dangerous proximity to the yawning cataract beyond, or like the light and feathery down of the thistle that is borne by the breeze to the fierce conflagration ahead, so are these “simple ones” drifted along. The veil is upon their eyes. The false congratulation of the devil suffices to still their fears. They believe his lie. He whispers his lullaby of “peace, peace,” and they are content. His opiate succeeds. His drug is successful. Their souls are deceived. “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity?”
How long, oh! how long, ye simple ones, will ye yield to your simplicity? Your day is fading, your time is passing, your danger is constant, your judgment approaches. Say not, “We have no time, no leisure, no opportunity, no ability.” You have time for the things of this world, leisure for your pleasure, opportunity for your business, and ability for the calls of this life. “Ye love simplicity.” Ye love that state of indifference to the truth which maintains you on good terms with the world and with its ways. You care not to clash with your old companions and friends. To go with the stream is easier than to go against it. So you find it. But remember that judgment is ahead. How long? Oh! venture on so foolhardy a course no more. Hearken to God’s expostulation, and “turn at his reproof.”
Secondly, there are the scorners. Differing widely from the composed and self-complacent constituents of the first class, those who come under the second subdivision are far from “loving simplicity.” Far from taking for granted that everything is right, they set their brains to work, and pluming themselves on the “infallibility of logic” and the “accuracy of reason,” they discover, to their own satisfaction, what appears unreasonable in the revelation—the Word of God. That that revelation should be within the province of faith, and outside that of reason altogether, they cannot allow; and, acting by reason instead of faith, they pretend to find discrepancy and contradiction. Hence their contempt, their pride, their scorn.
From their hearts they despise one who, in the divine sense of it, “loves simplicity,” that true and beautiful and childlike simplicity that leads the humble child of God to believe Him because He speaks. This they cannot endure.
Never shall I forget the look of supreme and absolute disdain that was cast upon me by one of these, who, when he asked me if I really believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead, was met by the firm reply, “I am sure of it.” His countenance betrayed the evidence of his scorn; but that look of contempt did not shake my confidence in the glorious truth of Christianity, that “Christ is risen,” and that therefore those who believe are not in their sins. My simplicity may have galled and annoyed him, as may also the deep, calm joy that abode in my heart and expressed itself in my words. But if the scorn were on his side the joy and peace were on mine, and I could truly afford to pity him.
Oh, ye scorners, “the turning away of the simple shall slay you, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy you.”
“How long, ye scorners, will ye delight in your scorning?” Believe me, soon your steps will begin to stagger, your lips to chill, your tongue to grow heavy, and soon will your brains turn to powder and commingle with the dust. Soon ye scorners, must you appear before the judgment seat of that Christ whose name you dishonour and whose throne you disregard; and, mark me, there are none of your class in hell. Not one infidel, scoffing tongue shall raise its note of blasphemy there, infidelity has no place there; all is stern reality and stubborn fact in that place of torment. The “fixed gulf” and everlasting fire preclude all unbelief as to their existence.
Oh! scorner, “how long?” You may have your own way now. Grace may suffer with you long, but not for ever. God will take you in hand one day, and, believe me, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”
Scorner, “turn ye at my reproof.”
Thirdly. In the last subdivision we may anticipate a character that has not been portrayed in those which have preceded it. We have seen the simple ones, we have heard the scorner—the one having no character, and the other having one, not of open sin as generally understood, but of profound contempt for that which acknowledges the written Word of God.
Now, however, we have to deal with the openly wicked, the profligate and abandoned, those who “hate knowledge,” those doers of evil, who, as the Lord said in John 3:20, “hate the light, neither come to the light, lest their deeds should be reproved.” To them the light, the truth, and “knowledge” are hateful. The light exposes their evil ways, the truth forbids their evil practices, and knowledge would lead into a path of obedience to God, and therefore of denial of ungodliness and worldly lusts. This they eschew. Sin has its pleasures, and therefore its followers and its slaves. None can commit sin without being its servant. Sin has many guises, many garbs, and many dresses. It makes itself as agreeable as it can, and its paths are broad and highly decorated. The “strait gate” and the “narrow way” that lead unto life are extremely distasteful to this class, and therefore the “narrow way” is not only avoided but hated. Oh, what crowds throng the “broad way.” Alas! how popular, how fashionable how pleasant is that way! Look at the public-houses, the theatres, the gambling saloons, the race-courses. What bell needs to ring the commencement of their services? What slumberer needs to be awakened to hear their call?
I have heard of an earnest young preacher, who had laboured long and hard to awaken from their sins those around him, telling them a dream. He had seen two devils, the one thickly clad, yet cold, and compelled to wrap his cloak the more closely about him; the other wholly nude, yet perspiring profusely. The first had been placed in charge of the theatre and had to decoy people into it until it was filled. His post was, however, so easy, that he had not sufficient work to keep himself warm; the other was commanded to prevent people from entering the place where this devoted servant of the Lord was preaching. He had to stop the enquiries of the people, had to raise difficulties in their minds as to their freedom to attend the meetings, had to create false reports as to the character and doctrine of the preacher, and had by all means to retard the work of the Lord. Well did he fulfil his charge. The people listened to him; despised the preacher, questioned his sincerity, disregarded his appeals, and turned into the theatre instead. A solemn dream; but what servant of the Lord cannot see truth stamped upon its face?
“How long will fools hate knowledge?”
Ah, thoughtless one, God calls thee a fool. It is the only word that explains thy character. Thy sins are going before to judgment, and thou wilt meet them there. “Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap,” and “Thy sin will find thee out.”
“Turn at God’s reproof.” The one earnest call is “turn,” “TURN,” “TURN.” Ye simple ones, turn! ye scorners, turn!! ye fools, turn!!! otherwise God “WILL LAUGH AT YOUR CALAMITY AND WILL MOCK WHEN YOUR FEAR COMES.”
Man, woman, thy soul, thy priceless soul, is at stake. Unsaved one, pause and think, eternity is before thee. Awake, hearken, turn; God enjoins thee to turn, to yield, to submit, to flee from coming wrath, to trust in the atoning blood of His Son, that thou mayest be saved. Spurn not His call. Reject not His reproof. Trample not His Son under thy foot. Jesus died for us. God gave Him. “Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”