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life, and concentrates the most momentous precepts into the narrowest compass. The former appeals to the imagination; the latter to the judgment. The one exhibits all the genius of poetry ; the latter all the art of composition ; and hence the general matter is rendered as attractive in the one instance as in the other.
• The great object in each of the Proverbs of the present part is, to enforce a moral principle in words so few, that they may be easily learnt, and so curiously selected and arranged, that they may strike and fix the attention instantaneously; while, to prevent the mind from becoming fatigued by a long series of detached sentences, they are perpetually diversified by the changes of style and figure. Sometimes the style is rendered striking by its peculiar simplicity, or the familiarity of its illustration ;' sometimes by the grandeur or loftiness or the simile employed on the occasion ;? sometimes by an enigmatical obscurity,' which rouses the curiosity ; very frequently by a strong and catching antithesis ;' occasionally by a playful iteration of the same word ;' and in numerous instances by the elegant pleonasms or the expansion of a single or common idea by a luxuriance of agreeable words."
The Third Part we conceive to comprise the last seven chapters. The first five were written by Solomon, and edited some centuries after by the royal scribes in the reign of Hezekiah. The two last were written by separate hands, but preserved by Divine care, and altogether worthy of the place they hold in the inspired Canon.
The time when this book was written is a matter of some uncertainty. We cannot doubt but its contents were a part of “the three thousand Proverbs,”” which“ he spake” before his most lamentable fall. They were therefore the exercise of his vast and comprehensive mind, under the full influence of his Divine wisdom. They might, however, as many judicious critics have thought, been “set in order” in their present form at a period subsequent to that affictive event. Both parts of this hypothesis read a most solemn practical lesson. Do we see
"outlandish women causing him to sin’io—this “ beloved of his God” falling himself into the snare which he so minutely described, and against which he so earnestly and repeatedly warned ?" Christian Ministers! Does not Solomon no less than Paul's awfully teach us, that preaching to others will not save our own souls ? The supposition of the posterior arrangement gives additional weight to his faithful admonitions. They come to us like the exhortations of the restored Apostle's—with all the force of pain. ful experience—in the true spirit of his Master's command—“ When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren." '
The interpretation of this Book requires much care and sobriety. Believing the principles of the Old and New Testament to be essentially the same, it seems reasonable to expound the more obscure by the more clear. The primary duty is indeed to affix to each Proverb its own literal and precise meaning. This is undoubtedly its spiritual meaning—that isthe mind of the Spirit. In an extended application of this discovered 1 Chap. x. 19; xvi. 3; xxii. ii.
2 Chap. xii. 28; xv. 11; xxi. 16, 22. 3 Chap. xvi. 24 ; xvii. 8; xviii. 20. 4 Chap. xiv. 10; xvi. 16; xvii. 10; xvii. 4; xix. 12; xx. 14. 5 Chap. xi. 15; xiii. 20; xvii. 13, 15. 6 Chap. xvi. 32; xvii. 17, 27, 28; xix. 6. 7 1 Kings iv. 32. 8 lbid. ver. 29. 9 Eccl. xü. 9. 10 Neh. xii. 26. 11 Chap. ii. v. vii. ix. xxi. 14; xxi. 27, 28.
12 1 Cor. ix. 27. 13 1 Pet. i. 13, 17; iv. 7; v. 8, with Matt. xxvi. 35.
14 Luke xxi. 32.
meaning, or in deducing inferences from it, judgment—not imagination -must be the interpreter. When no other than a literal meaning is plainly intended, the object must be—not to search out a new and miscalled spiritual meaning, but to draw practical instruction from its obvious
There is however—we may remark—a line to be drawn between exposition and illustration. The figures used in this Book-after their literal meaning has been wrought out—may fairly be used as illustrative of other collateral truths, not specifically intended. The Sacred Writers appear to warrant this principle of accommodation, though its use requires great delicacy and consideration ; lest it should divest Scripture of its determinate meaning, and identify us with those artists, whom Dr. South memorializes—who can draw any thing out of any thing.”
But with all care to preserve a soundly-disciplined interpretation, we must not forget, that the Book of Proverbs is a part of the volume entitled
“ The Word of Christ." And so accurately does the title describe the Book, that the study of it brings the whole substance of the volume before
It furnishes indeed the stimulating motive to search the Old Testament Scripture the true key that opens the Divine Treasure house ; so that, as Mr. Cecil observes—. If we do not see the golden thread through all the Bible, marking out Christ, we read the Scripture without the Key." This remark however does not undervalue its large mass of historical and practical instruction. But unquestionably Christ is the Sun of the whole Scripture system ; "and in his light we see the light,” that reflects upon every point of practical obligation, and quickens life and energy throughout the whole Christian path. There is therefore, as Professor Franke reminds us—much joy, comfort and delight to be found in the writings of the Old Testament (especially in reading those places, which before were wearisome and almost irksome) when we percieve Christ is so sweetly pictured there.”:
It has been recorded of Mary Jane Graham,' that she was delighted in the course of her study of the Book of Proverbs to have Christ so much and so frequently before her mind'e—a recollection-her Biographer ventured to observe-of great moment for the spiritual discernment of the Divine Wisdom treasured up in this storehouse of practical instruction.”. Indeed—considering that these “ Proverbs set in order—these words of the wise”—were originally“ given from one Shepherd,'
»10 whom we cannot surely fail to identify; we might naturally expect them to record a distinct testimony of himself.
We cannot but fear however, that this portion of the Sacred Volume is not generally estimated at its just value. 'Doubtless its pervading character is not either explicit statement of doctrinal truth, or lively exercises of Christian experience. Hence the superficial reader passes over to some (in his view) richer portion of the Scriptural field. Now we readily admit, that all parts of the Bible are not of equal importance. But to value one part to the disparagement of another, is a slight to the Divine Testimony, that will be visited with a severe rebuke. Such a reader will only be possessed of mutilated fragments of truth, severed from their vital influence. He will never rise beyond a sickly sentimentalism. Seeking for novelty and excitement, rather than for the food of solid instruction ; like Pharaoh's kine,' he devours much, but digests nothing. Never will he have light enough for the firm settlement of his faith. Neither can he receive the true moulding of the mind of the Spirit, or the impress of the Divine image.
I See the Apostle's application of Ps. xix. 4, at Rom. x. 18, and Doddridge's and Guyse's Paraphrase. Comp. Scott on Chap. xxv. 6, 7. 3 Sermon on Matt. v. 44.
3 Col. iii. 16.
4 John v. 39. 5 Mrs. Hawkes's Life, p. 171. So Augustine — The Old Testament has no true rolish, if Christ be not understood in it.' Ninth Tractat. on John.
6 See. Ps. xxxvi. 9. ? 'Christ the sum and substance of Holy Scripture.' Sect. xxi. 8 See Chap. i. viii. ix. &c. 9 Life, Chap. v. 10 Eccl. xii. 9-11.
But the question has been often asked—and that—not in a cavilling, but in an anxiously enquiring, spirit—How can I read this Book profitably? Not unfrequently the confession has been added — My mind and soul do not get food from it. I think I am less interested in this, than in any other, part of Scripture. I acknowledge the wisdom of its sayings. I am fully persuaded, that—being the Word of God—it was not written in vain. The fault therefore must be in myself. Still the question returns—How am I to read it with profit ?'
Now it might almost appear, as if the rules given at the opening of the Book’ were intended to answer this question. Certain it is, that they do furnish the most satisfactory reply. The first and chief directionthat which gives life to every other—that which applies to every page and every verse of the Bible is—Begin with prayer—“Cry-lift up thy voice.” Then combine a pondering mind with a praying heart. Actively apply thyself to “ seek and search for the hid treasures.” The riches lie not on the surface. Only those therefore, that dig into the bowels of the earth—not the readers, but “the searchers-of the Scriptures' -are enriched. If the surface be barren, the mine beneath is inexhaustible. Indeed it is a wise discipline, that has made an active spirit of meditation necessary to give solid and fruitful interest to this study, and to possess ourselves of a blessing, which carelessness or indolence will never realize. The promise here held out to diligent investigation fixed that intelligent Christian just mentioned “on one occasion in intense meditation for two hours. She appeared to be lost in astonishment and gratitude at the condescension and kindness of God in giving a promise, so free, so encouraging. She grasped it, as if determined not to let
The habit of interested attention being fixed, how shall we best “ apply the heart to the understanding” of the Book ? Here the valuable exercise of Scripture reference will greatly expand our own thoughtful meditation. Gather contributions from all parts of the field. Many a doubtful or apparently uninteresting Proverb will thus be brightened in instructive application. We are persuaded, that an enlarged Scriptural study, with whatever collateral helps may be within our reach, will bring no regret in having rested awhile in this part of the field, instead of passing onwards to a more inviting surface. To advert once more to our Scriptural Student—She frequently employed herself in the profitable exercise of “comparing spiritual things with spiritual”—Scripture with itself; thus making God his own interpreter. Much light and heavenly unction she conceived herself to have gained by this means. ." The fruit
1 Gen. xli. 20, 21. Comp. the picture drawn, 2 Tim. iii. 7. 2 Chap. ii. 1-4. 3 John. v. 39. 4 Life of Mary Jane Graham, ut supra. 5 Ibid. Nichols's Exposition of this Book, and Scott's Marginal References, will
fulness of this exercise will be, when we « find God's words” as our treasure, “eat them” as our invigorating food, and “ they” thus become “the joy and rejoicing of our hearts.” • Set your affection'-saith the apocryphal writer- upon my words. Desire them, and ye shall be instructed. Wisdom is glorious, and never fadeth away; yea, shu is easily seen of those that love her, and found of such as seek her. She preventeth those that desire her, in making herself first known unto them. Whoso seeketh her early shall have no great travail ; for he shall find her sitting at his doors. Whoso watcheth for her shall quickly be without care. For she goeth about seeking such as are worthy of her, showeth herself favorably unto them in the ways, and meeteth them in every thought.'s
An accurate apprehension of the main end and scope of this Book will greatly facilitate the understanding of it. Different portions of Scripture may be seen to have different ends—all however subordinate to one end -primary and supreme. Without entering into detail foreign to our purpose, suffice it to remark, that the end of this Book appears to be—to set out a system of practical instruction, generally applicable. Nor let this be thought a low gradation in the Christian scheme. Unpalatable as it may be to the mere professor of godliness,' the true man of God will honor practical inculcation in its place, no less than doctrinal statement. " The truth as it is in Jesus”—that which flows from him, leads to him, and centres in him—that which “we are to be learned, and to be taught by him”-is practical truth. While other parts of Scripture show us the glory of our high calling ; this may instruct in all minuteness of detail how to “walk worthy of it.” Elsewhere we learn our completeness in Christ ;' and most justly we glory in our high exaltation, as "jointheirs with Christ, made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Je. sus." We look into this Book, and, as by the aid of the microscope, we see the minuteness of our Christian obligations ; that there is not a temper, a look, a word, a movement, the most important action of the day, the smallest relative duty, in which we do not either deface or adorn the image of our Lord, and the profession of his name. Surely if the book conduced to no other end, it tends to humble even the most consistent ser. vant of God, in the consciousness of countless failures. Not only therefore is the last chapter-as Matthew Henry would have it—a lookingglass for ladies,' but the whole Book is a mirror for us all.
Nor is it only a mirror to show our defects. It is also a guide-book and directory for godly conduct. The details of the external life, in all give much valuable assistance to this study. No foreign help however should damp the profitable interest of original research.
1 See Jer. xv. 16. 2 'O ayurvugas-whom wisdom scarcely affords to sleep.
3 Wisd. vi. 11–16. The reader will find throughout this Exposition frequent reference to the Apocryphal Books of Wisdom--but only as human authorities. Mr. Horne has most demonstrably overthrown their claim to a place in the sacred canon. (Introd. to Script. Vol. i. Append. No. 1, last edit.) Never was it more important to mark the wide gulf between inspired and uninspired writings. Nevertheless there seems no necessity to lose much valuable and beautiful instruction, only because the writers were not inspired, or their writings were tainted with pernicious errors.
4 We fear that Mr. Scott's bearers at the Lock as a sect have not died away. Their real objection-as his son admirably observed—was not to Arminianism (of which they very probably scarcely knew the meaning) but to half, or more than half, the word of God. They had been accustomed to overlook it themselves, and could not bear to have it pressed upon their notice by another.' Scott's Life, pp. 232-235.
5 See Eph. iv. 20–24. 6 Col. ii. 10. 7 Rom. viii. 17. Epb. i. 6.
the diversified spheres, are given or implied with perfect accuracy, and with a profound knowledge of the workings of the human heart. Beside a code of laws directly religious, a variety of admirable rules stream forth from the deep recesses of wisdom, and spread over the whole field.” All ranks and classes have their word in season. The sovereign on the throne is instructed as from God. The principles of national prosperity or decay are laid open. The rich are warned of their besetting temptations. The poor are cheered in their worldly humiliation. Wise rules are given for self-government. It bridles the injurious tongue,' corrects the wanton eye, and ties the unjust hand in chains,'' It prevents sloth ;" chastises all absurd desires ;' teaches prudence ;' raises man's courage ;'8 and represents temperance and chastity after such a fashion, that we cannot but have them in veneration." To come to im. portant matters so often mismanaged—the blessing or curse of the marriage ordinance is vividly portrayed.16 Sound principles of family or. der and discipline are inculcated. Domestic economy is displayed in its adorning consistency." Nay—even the minute courtesies of daily life are regulated.'Self-denying consideration of others,'' and liberal distribution" are enforced. All this diversified instruction is based upon the principles of true godliness. Indeed the Writer may mention as one motive that led him to this work; that, having in a former Exposition" shown at large Christian experience to be built upon the doctrines of the gospel, he wished to exhibit Christian practice as resting upon the same foundation. That is not sound faith, that does not issue in practical godliness. Nor is there any true morality, apart from “ the principles of Christ." This Book-if it be not—as the New Testament—the Rule of Faith—may surely be considered as a valuable Rule of conduct. And -as Mr. Scott observes— it would be very useful for those, who can command their time, at some stated season every day, to read and deliberately consider a few of these maxims, with reference to their own con. duct, in the various affairs in which they are concerned.” Doubtless if the world were governed by the whole wisdom of this single Book, it would be “a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
One other weighty consideration the Writer would advert to, as having directed his attention to this Book—its distinctive character—as a Book for the Young. The Wise man's father propounded a most anxious
Lord Bacon's Advancement of Learning, Book viï. Chap. ii.
Chap. viii. 15, 16; xvi. 10–13; xx. 8, 26; xxi. 1; xxv. 2–5; xxvii. 16; xxix. 14; xxxi: 1–9.
Chap. xi. 14; xiv. 34; xxiv. 6; xxviii. 2. 4 Chap. xvii. 11; xxiii. 4, 5; xxviii. 20, 22. 5 Chap. xv. 16, 17; xvii. 1; xix. 1, 22; xxvii. 6. 6 Chap. iv. 23—27; xvi. 32; xxiü. 1-3. ? Chap. iv. 24; x. 31; xvii. 20; xxv. 23; xxvi. 20—26. Chap. v. 20, 21 ; vi. 25–29; xxiii. 26, 27.
9 Chap. xvii. 5; xxviii. 8. 10 Chap. vi. 6—11; xii. 27; xiii. 4; xix. 24; xx. 4; xxiv. 30–34. 11 Chap. xxi. 25, 26. 12 Chap. vi. 1–5; xiv. 8, 15, 18; xxii. 3; xxv 6–10. 13 Chap. iv. 14, 15; xxviii, 1. 14 Chap. v. 15—19, with xxii. 29–35. Basil quoted by Bp. Patrick. 15 Chap. xviii. 22; xix. 14; xxxi. 10, with xii. 4; xix. 13; xxi. 9, 19. 16 Chap. xiii. 24; xiv. 1; xix. 18; xxi. 6; xxiii. 14, 15; xxix. 15, 17, 19, 21. 17 Chap. xxvii. 23—27; xxxi. 10—27.
'18 Chap. xxiii. 6–8; xxv. 17. 19 Chap. iii. 27, 28. 30 Chap. xi. 24; xxii. 9. 21 Chap. xxxi. 10, 30. 22 On Ps. cxix.
23 Pref. to Comment, on Prov