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PROVERBS OF SOLOMON :
AN IMPROVED VERSION,
BY THE LATE
REV. WILLIAM NEWMAN, D.D.
PRESIDENT AND THEOLOGICAL TUTOR OF THE ACADEMICAL
PUBLISHED BY G. WIGHTMAN,
THE EDITOR'S PREFACE.
IN the best days of Solomon, neither the functions of royalty nor the splendours of a court were permitted to alienate his mind from the devout contemplation of the works and ways of God. "The works of the Lord," said his illustrious parent, "are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein:" and, in the distinguished son of Bathsheba, it was his happiness to see the appointed successor to his throne, whose extraordinary endowments abundantly qualified him to confirm the inspired statement, and whose numerous and elaborate researches must have comprehended its most perfect illustration. "And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the son of Mahol : and his fame was in all nations round about."
Among the mightiest intellects of ancient or of modern times, who could have penetrated so far into the arcana of nature, attained so lofty an elevation in mental science, or inscribed such incomparable maxims of moral prudence? "He," continues the inspired
historian, spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom." Yet, pre-eminently great, among mortals, as he undoubtedly was, there is ONE in whom it was no arrogance to say, "A greater than Solomon is here."
In the sacred canon, the Canticles and the Proverbs bear the name of Solomon; and, from internal evidence, the book of Ecclesiastes is also ascribed to him; the first sentence in which may be adduced in aid of the presumption-" The words of the Preacher, the son of David, the King of Jerusalem." Critical investigation has not yet so far succeeded as accurately to discover the respective periods, or the precise order, in which these books were written. On this subject, the opinion most generally received is, that THE SONG OF SOLOMON was earliest composed; that THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON were the result of riper years and more enlarged experience; and ECCLESIASTES the mellowed fruit of the autumnal season of his life.
The Proverbs of Solomon resemble a rich casket of precious jewels; which, however easy it may be correctly to ascertain their number, cannot, as to their intrinsic value, be brought within the limits of ordinary calculation. If, in the habitual intercourse of society,
they were exhibited in their native effulgence, they would shed upon its numerous pathways their chastened splendours, and invest even the common-place of human life with attractive interest and dignified importance. That such constellations of moral magnificence should be supposed to have originated in any mind not supernaturally endowed, must have arisen either from inadequate conceptions of their supreme excellence or from some unworthy design to disparage the inspired medium by which, with undiminished lustre, they have, for so many ages, shone upon this benighted world. It is immeasurably more probable that the admired apothegms of ancient and modern philosophy are indebted for the celebrity they have obtained to an unknown or unacknowledged derivation from this book of divine ethics.*
There is no available evidence by which to determine whether the book entitled THE PROVERBS OF SOLOMON be a selection from the "three thousand" said to have been spoken by him; and, in the absence of such data, to attempt the inquiry would be endeavouring to be wise above what is written. In addition to the fact
* 66 Sapientiam Salamonis Divinam, non verò humanam, fuisse docent 1 Reg. iii. 12, et iv. 29. Falluntur qui censent Salomenem nonnulla sua dogmata hausisse à Gentilium sapientibus: tum quia omnium prior fuit Salomon, adeóque ipse nullius fuit discipulus, sed omnium magister; (regnare enim cœpit anno mundi 2929; anno 239, ante Olympiades 482, ante Cyrum, sub quo floruêre septem Græciæ Sapientes; anno 679, ante Alexandrum M. sub quo floruêre Socrates, Plato, et Aristoteles; anno 1013, ante Christi natalem,) tum quia Hebræi nullam cum Gentilibus communionem habere voluerunt."