"I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity: I will mock when your fear cometh."—Prov. 1:24-26.
This passage of Scripture has often been brought forward to support the sentiment which teaches that a large portion of the intelligent creation will be endlessly miserable. It is affirmed that the Infinite Ruler of the universe will apply the language of the text to the "finally impenitent" at the day of judgment, a class of individuals nowhere spoken of in the Word of God. It is said that the Almighty will indulge in language something like the following: "I once sought your redemption; I sent prophets and priests, and even my own beloved Son, but you heeded them not. I called and invited you to make your peace with me, but you refused. Now you must suffer eternally; you must make your bed in endless despair. I will no longer seek your happiness, nor be interested in your welfare; but I will Rejoice at your sufferings, and make sport of your misery; I will Laugh at your calamity, and Mock when your fear cometh."
Thus our heavenly Father, the God whose nature is love, and who delighteth in mercy, is represented as sporting with the sufferings of his own children, delighted with their wretchedness, mocking their misery, and absolutely laughing at their calamity!
But such a view of the Divine Being is opposed to his nature, which is love, and the revealed attributes of our heavenly Father. He was moved by the benevolence of his own nature to awaken man into existence, and has created all things for his pleasure. Morning and evening testify of his goodness, and innumerable are the blessings which flow from his hand. And being immutable, He never can take pleasure in witnessing the misery of his offspring. He can never laugh at any calamity that may come upon them— never mock their sufferings. A fiend only can do that!
To apprehend rightly and clearly the meaning of the text, we must ascertain the representative being to whom the language is attributed. By looking at the context, we learn that Wisdom, personified, is represented as speaking. She invites the disobedient to walk in the ways of virtue, and warns the sinful and unrighteous of the fearful consequences of transgression, and urges and entreats them to walk in the path of uprightness—in the ways of wisdom—whose ways are ways of pleasantness, and whose paths are paths of peace.
Principles are frequently personified by the sacred penman and represented as speaking. Nature is personified, and the floods represented as clapping their hands, and the fields as rejoicing. Evil thought is personified, and represented as holding a conversation with the Savior. In the 8th chapter of Proverbs, wisdom is personified, and stands forth in the representative character of a female, standing where the ungodly and sinful pass, and exhorting them to be of understanding hearts. So in the context wisdom is personified thus:
"Wisdom crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates: in the city she uttereth her words, saying, How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn you at my reproof."
Wisdom is still represented as speaking:
"Behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you. Because I have called and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; But ye have set at naught all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity: I will mock when your fear cometh; When your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you. Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me; For that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord: They would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil."
Wisdom, personified, admonishes man of the way of sin, and portrays the fearful consequences of disobedience. "I, wisdom, have called and ye refused." Who thus refused, or declined to listen to her counsel or instruction? These are denominated here the "simple ones," "fools," "scorners." They who hate knowledge, "who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of dark
What were the consequences of this neglect and sin? Answer: "They shall eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them." It was the voice of wisdom that called to the sinful to turn from the evil way and walk in the paths of obedience and uprightness. Those who gave no heed to her instructions are called the " simple ones;" they spurned her teachings, cared not for her reproof, but passed on and were snared in the work of their own hands — suffered the fearful consequences of their disobedience and folly. The whole subject refers to the present consequences of wrong doing—the retributive justice of God in this life—without any regard to the immortal world. This is so apparent to the mind of Dr. Adam Clarke, the Methodist commentator, that he wrote as follows:
"Nor can anything here be considered as applying or applicable to the eternal state of the person in question."
To walk in wisdom's ways, was to be upright, moral and just. Wisdom exhorts the sinner to flee from his iniquity, cease to do evil and learn to do well. It entreats the liar to keep his tongue from evil, and his lips from speaking guile. To the intemperate man she utters fearful warnings, and exhorts all to walk in the paths of virtue, saying to the disobedient, "Turn ye at my reproof." But, instead of heeding her voice and obeying her instructions, they rush into sin, and then, when it is too late, they desire to escape the fearful consequences of wrong doing. But now that retribution is merited; all entreaty and effort to escape punishment are vain. Wisdom now could not avert the justice of God, nor save man from an adequate retribution, and, therefore, it appeared like mocking his suffering. When punishment was merited, vain would be the effort of the disobedient to escape it. As wisdom, then, could render no assistance, it would seem as though it laughed at their calamity.
Here is a man who lifts high the hand of rebellion against God and man. He scorns the counsel of the wise and virtuous. Wisdom pleads with him to listen to her voice, and walk in the testimonies of the Most High; but he tramples upon her teaching, and will none of her reproofs. But while rushing into sin, he is arrested in his iniquity and now must suffer an adequate punishment. He seeks to escape, but in vain. He calls upon wisdom to aid him, but as punishment is deserved, she can render no assistance. She once called, but he refused to listen to her counsel and instruction, and he must now suffer for his folly and sin. Instead of affording help, it seems as though she laughed at his calamity, leaving him to suffer for his sins.
Now, the punishment is merited; the disobedient call for assistance in vain. She does not answer. Though they seek her now, they shall not find her, for they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord. Therefore, shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices, and suffer merited retribution for sin.
Wisdom now calls upon all to refrain from evil and walk uprightly; but if we sin, punishment will be merited, and all effort to escape, apparently, will be laughed at. He who is wise must be wise for himself.