And, behold, there met him a woman with the attire of an harlot, and subtil of heart. (She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house: Now is she without, now in the streets, and lieth in wait at every corner.)
~ Proverbs 7:10-12
She is loud and stubborn; her feet abide not in her house:
~ Proverbs 7:11
For a whore is a deep ditch; and a strange woman is a narrow pit. She also lieth in wait as for a prey, and increaseth the transgressors among men.
~ Proverbs 23:27-28
Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
~ Proverbs 20:17
Such is the way of an adulterous woman; she eateth, and wipeth her mouth, and saith, I have done no wickedness.
~ Proverbs 30:20
And when he came to the tower, he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house: and he let the men go, and they departed. But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither. And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow.
~ 2 Kings 5:24-27
For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret.
~ Ephesians 5:12
Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, by the way in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.
~ Proverbs 8:1-3
Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my doors. For whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.
~ Proverbs 8:33-36
The Pleasures of Sin, by William Arnot.
A foolish woman is clamorous; she is simple, and knoweth nothing. For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city, to call passengers who go right on their ways: whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet and bread eaten in secret is pleasant. But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.”
—Proverbs ix. 13-18.
We have heard Wisdom’s cry, and learned what are his own offers to men: the next scene exhibits Wisdom’s great rival standing in the same wide thoroughfare of the world, and bidding for the youth who throng it. The evil is personified that it may be set more visibly forth in all its deformity over against the loveliness of truth. All that is contrary to Christ, and dangerous to souls, is gathered up and individualized, as an abandoned woman lying in wait for unwary passengers, baiting her barbed hook with the pleasures of sin, and dragging her victims down the steep incline to hell. One of the foul spirits that assail and possess men is singled out and delineated, and this one represents a legion in the background.
The portrait is easily recognised. We have met with it before, both in the pages of this book, and in other places of the Scripture. It is no fancy picture,– it is drawn from life. Neither is it a peculiarity of Eastern manners, or of ancient times. It concerns us, otherwise it would not have met us here. The plague is as rampant in our streets as it is represented to be in the Proverbs. Mankind have sat for the picture: there is no mistake in the outline; there is no exaggeration in the colouring. It is a glass held up for the world to see itself in. Dark as the lines are in which the importunate, shameless solicitations of a wanton woman are drawn on this page, they are not darker than the reality, as seen in our crowded thoroughfares by day and by night.
The vulture, with unerring instinct, scents the carrion, and flutters round the place where it lies until an opportunity occur of alighting upon it and satiating her appetite on the loathsome food. These vultures would not hover around our exchanges, and banks, and warehouses, and manufactories, unless the carrion that feeds them were scented there. While we have cause to thank God for the measure of truth, and love, and purity, that His word and Spirit have transfused through our families, we have cause also to weep in secret that so many whited sepulchres glitter pharisaically in the sun of the world’s prosperity, while rankest corruption revels within. We again cry, “ with a great and exceeding bitter cry,” to all that is morally sound in society, resolutely to withdraw their countenance from the impure, however great their wealth may be, and however high their position in the world.
The specific occupation of the foolish woman is “to call passengers who go right on their ways,” and persuade them to turn aside for “stolen waters.” A multitude of the young, issuing from their parents’ homes, where they have been trained in virtue, start in life’s wide path, with the intention of going “right on;” and of these, alas, how many are suddenly enticed aside, entangled in the net, and lost! Beware of the turning aside. Let not a youth ever once or for a moment go where he would be ashamed to be found by his father and his mother. “Forsake the foolish and live.” Go not at her bidding aside; “the dead are there.”
But although the argument that stolen waters are sweet is, for the sake of vivid representation, put into the mouth of a “foolish woman,” we must understand by the figure all evil–the devil, the world, and the flesh, whatever form they may assume, and whatever weapons they may employ. The one evil spirit dragged forth from the legion and exposed, is intended not to conceal but to open up the generic character of the company. From above Divine Wisdom cries (v. 4), “ Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither;” from beneath, a multiform lust, that is earthly, sensual, devilish, cries, “Whioso is simple, let him turn in hither.” There they are, conspicuously pitted against each other, the two great rivals for possession of a human heart. No man can serve two masters. No heart can follow both of these drawings. No man can choose both death and life, both darkness and light. Every one must go this way or that. Every sinner must turn his back either upon his Saviour or upon his sin. In this life every human being is placed between these two rival invitations, and every human being in this life yields to the one or to the other.
The power of sin lies in its pleasure. If stolen waters were not sweet, no one would steal the waters. This is part of the mystery in which our being is involved by the fall; and it is one of the most fearful features of our case. Our appetite is diseased. If our bodily appetite were so perverted that it should crave for what is poisonous and loathe wholesome food, we would not give ourselves up to each random inclination: the risk of death would be great, and valuing life, we would set a guard on the side of danger. But in man fallen there is a diseased relish for that which destroys. Sin, which is the death of a man’s soul, is yet sweet to the man’s taste. There is much to appal us in this state of things : it should make us walk circumspectly, not as fools. When the redeemed of the Lord shall have come to Zion with songs of joy, they may indulge to the full unexamined, unrestricted, all their tastes. There will be no sinful things to taste there, and no taste for sinful things. There will neither be the appetite nor its food. Nothing shall enter that defileth. But here, and now, it should make us tremble to know that there is an appetite in our nature which finds sweetness in sin. Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from myself? God’s children, while in the body, watch their sinful appetites, and endeavour to weaken and wither them by starvation. They who give rein to the appetite are daily more brought under its power: it grows by what it feeds on. If sin had no sweetness, it might be easier to keep from sinning. Satan might fish in vain, even in this sea of time, if he had no bait on his hook that is pleasant to nature. Beware of the bait, for the barb is beneath it.
It is only in the mouth that the stolen water is sweet: afterwards it is bitter. Sin has pleasures, but they last only for a season, and that a short one. On the side of sin that lies next a sinner, Satan has plastered a thin coating of pleasure : a deceived soul licks that sweetness, deaf to the warning that behind it an eternal bitterness begins. If a grand bazaar were erected, filled from end to end with sweetmeats of every form, and laid out in the most fascinating aspects, but all poisoned so that to swallow one were death; and if it were a necessity laid on you to introduce shared and taken—who have sunk, and are lying yet in the deep mire. Sins are sweet, and therefore men take them ; they are soporific, and therefore those who have taken them are inclined to lie still.
A man has fallen into the sea and sunk: he soon becomes unconscious. He is living yet, but locked in a mysterious sleep. Meantime, some earnest neighbours have hastily made preparations, and come to the rescue. From above, not distinguishing objects on the bottom, they throw down their creeper at a venture, and draw. The crooked tooth of the iron instrument comes over the face of the drowning man, and sticks fast in the dress of his neck. It disturbs the sleeper, but it brings him up: it scratches his skin, but saves his life. The saved, when he comes to himself, lavishes thanks on his saviours, mentioning not, observing not, the hardness of their instrument, or the roughness of its grasp. Beneath the surface of society, sunk unseen in a sea of sin, lie many helpless men. Slumbering unconscious, they know not where they are. They dream that they are safe and well: they have lost the sense of danger, and the power of crying for help. Help comes, however, without their cry. Over the place where we know the drowning lie, we have thrown these sharp instruments down. We have been raking the bottom with them in all directions. If the case had been less serious, we might have operated more gently. If any be drawn up, they will not find fault with the hardness of the instrument that reached and rescued them. The slumbering may wish it were soft to slip over them, but the saved are glad that it was sharp to go in.
When a world of human kind lay senseless in a sea of sin, one wakeful eye pitied them, and one Almighty arm was stretched out to save. The Highest bowed down to man’s low estate. He sent His word, and healed them ; but the word was quick and powerful. The sleepers cry out when first they feel it in their joints and marrow. The evil spirit in them still resists the coming of Jesus as a torment; but when they are restored to their right mind, they sit at the Saviour’s feet, and love Him for His faithfulness.