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BOOK OF PROVERBS.
Os Augustus Cæsar it is said, that when he read the works of men of learning and genius, he used to extract such precepts as might prove useful to him in his government. This part of his conduct manifested wis dom; the precepts thus collected, served to assist hina and his ministers in managing the affairs of the empire. But the necessity of our imitating this part of his conduct, has been in a great measure superseded by that Spirit of truth, under whose guidance Solomon wrote his Proverbs, and transmitted them to future ages for their instruction in righteousness. In this little book there appears more wisdom than in the combined monuments of Greek and Roman learning. The wisest of men wrote it, and his object is to make us wise :-But a greater than Solomon is here, for Wisdom speaks in her own person.
The first nine chapters are a preface to the book. In it Solomon recommends to our study, that wisdom which he designs to teach, and insists on some of her most useful precepts. VOL. I.
In this chapter, Solomon gives us an account of the writer, and the design, of this book; recommends the fear of the Lord, a dutiful regard to the instructions of parents, and diligence in guarding against the temptations of bad company, as principal parts of wisdom. It is concluded with an earnest call to the unwise to learn wisdom.
Lei us hear, first, what Solomon has to say, for recommending this much neglected book to our attention.
Verse 1. The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, King of Israel.
This book consists of proverbs, which are wise, and short sayings of great use to direct us in the conduct of life. Proverbs were much valued in ancient times. But no proverbs deserve so much esteem and attention as these, for they are the proverbs of Solomon, another name almost for wisdom. In his days he was honoured like an angel of God, for his understanding. All kings that heard of him, admired him, and thought themselves happy if they could hear some of his wise instructions. The Queen of Sheba came from the uttermost parts of the earth to hear his wisdom; although she had not heard the one half of what she found to be true concerning him, yet even these imperfect accounts were such as to exceed her belief. Did she come so far, upon uncertain reports, to hear his wisdom? and shall not we receive with gladness his instructions, since he is come to us, to be our teacher ? We have no need to cross dangerous seas, and travel into distant countries, to hear the lectures of this divine teacher, he cries to us in our streets, he talks with us in our closets. He died some thousands of years ago, but he yet speaks.
Though Solomon had been the son of an Ahaz, or of some poor herdsman, his wisdom would have entitled him to our respect. But this wisest of men was the son of the best of men. He that was raised on high,—the anointed of the God of Jacob,—the man after God's own heart,- was his father. This wise son enjoyed all the advantages to be expected from the instructions and the example, the prayers and the blessings, of so good a father. Solomon was a prophet, and the son of a prophet,-he was the son of the best of kings; and of the many sons whom God had given to David, he was chosen to fill his father's throne.
Great men are not always wise, and except from their own subjects, the words of kings are seldom entitled to more regard than those of other men. But it was in Israel, where God was well known, that Solomon was king; and he was advanced to that dignity, because he was the worthiest of it in the kingdom.
These words are the instructions of that king, who excelled in wisdom and grandeur all the kings of the earth. This great prince is our teacher ; but not he alone,--the only wise God here condescends to become our instructor ;-he, then, who disregards this book, despises a greater than Solomon.
This book is the work of a noble writer, and truly it was written with a noble design-
Ver. 2. To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding
To give us the knowledge of wisdom, and that instruction by whích knowledge is conveyed into our minds; for man is born without wisdom, and without instruction must continue foolish all his days.
The words of understanding are the instruction of wisdom, and this book will lead the simple and inexperienced to perceive these words. But what sort of wisdom is it that Solomon means to teach in this book ? The best kind of wisdom
Ver. 3. To receive the instruction of wisdom; justice, and judgment, and equity.
The careful reader of this book will receive the instructions of that wisdom which directs men to practise justice, regulated by discretion, and tempered by moderation and mercy. It teaches us our duty to God and man, and leads us in every good path. Solomon could have given us lectures on Astronomy and Poetry, on the nature of birds and beasts, and every thing that attracts the curiosity of men; but as the wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, he is directed by the Spirit of God to give us in this book the instructions of divine and moral wisdom, to remain for the use of men till the latest posterity.
They thought themselves happy that were admitted to hear the discourses of this great philosopher, while he lived among men.
But the best of his instructions are left on record for our benefit. The best knowledge is the knowledge of God, and of Christ, who is his representing image to men, and holiness, which is the image of God in men. The most necessary truths are first to be learned, and these are clearly represented in this little book.
But who are the persons that may receive benefit from it? This you may learn from the next verse
Ver. 4. To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion.
Plato wrote on the door of his Academy, inan unskilled in Geometry come hither.” Solomon writes the very reverse on the door of his school : “Let the simple man who is easily deceived come
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hither, and he shall learn that subtilty which is neces. sary to preserve him from the snares of the destroyer, and is yet fully consistent with integrity. Let the young and inexperienced come and learn knowledge and discretion.”
Which of us does not need subtilty to preserve us from the wiles of the great deceiver and his agents ? This book not only teaches, but gives subtilty to the simple. When its truth enters into the soul, and takes possession of the heart through the grace of the Spirit who dictates the Scriptures, and makes use of them as his instrument of illumination, then the simple are made wise, and the hearts of the rash understand knowledge.
It were our happiness if we understood our own simplicity, that we might thankfully receive the instructions of wisdom, and fervently pray for the Spirit of God to open our ears and seal our instructions. If any man would be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
Persons to whom books are dedicated, may be expected to give them a careful perusal. Solomon dedicates this book to the young, as well as to the simple. He knew that young people stand in great need of advice and direction, and earnestly desired to do them good; and could they be persuaded to accept of Solomon as their teacher, he will speak to them with the kindness of a father, and communicate to them knowledge and discretion.
But is this book of no use but to the unwise and the untaught ?-It is of great use to the wise also; and if men are truly wise, they will value it above much fine gold, and by the diligent use of it, will greatly improve in wisdom.
Ver. 5. A wise man will hear, and will increase learn