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and trembling," and seek “ the things belonging to their peace, before they be for ever hid from their eyes."] ADDRESS1. Those who are postponing their work
[Like those who neglected the rebuilding of the temple, we are apt to say, “ The time for this work is not yet come. Youth look forward to adult age; and they who are grown to manhood think that a more advanced period of life will be more favourable for the exercises of religion: and even the aged put off the work from day to day, hoping for some" more convenient season.” But how many thousands perish by deferring that work which they acknowledge to be necessary! Sickness and death find them in an unconverted state, and hurry them unprepared into the presence of God. O that all of us, whether old or young, would guard against these fatal consequences, and turn to God “this day, while it is called To-day." 2. Those who are trifling with their work
[There are many who would be offended, if they were thought regardless of religion, who yet by their listlessness and formality shew that they have no real delight in it. They are exact in their attendance on ordinances; but they engage in them with a lukewarm Laodicean spirit: they have “ the form of godliness, but not the power.” But what can such persons think of the representations which the Scripture gives us of the Christian life? It is there described as a race, a wrestling, a combat; all of which imply the strongest possible exertions. Would to God that this matter were duly considered; and that we called upon our souls, and all that is within us,” to prosecute this great concern. To every thing that might divert our attention from it, we should answer with Nehemiah, “ I am doing a great work, and cannot come down ?.” It is in this way only that we shall ever be enabled to adopt the words of our dying Lord, " Father, I have glorified thee on earth, I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”] 3. Those who are heartily engaged in their work
[While the greater part of mankind make their worldly duties an excuse for neglecting religion, there are some who run into a contrary extreme, and make their religious duties an excuse for neglecting their worldly concerns. But this will bring great dishonour on religion. We are placed in the world as social beings, and have civil and social, as well as religious, duties to perform. These must be made to harmonize : and all must be attended to in their order. We must “not be slothful in business, though we must be fervent in spirit; for
f Neh. vi. 3, 4.
in both we may serve the Lord.” Indeed our relative duties are, in fact, religious; because they are enjoined by God, and may be performed as unto God: nor are they less acceptable unto him in their place than the more spiritual services of prayer and praise. While therefore we would exhort all to an immediate, earnest, diligent, patient, unremitted attention to the concerns of their souls, and encourage them to disregard all the persecutions which they may endure for righteousness sake, we would entreat them also to "walk wisely in a perfect way;" and to shew by their conduct that religion is as conducive to the interests of society, as it is to the welfare of the soul.]
DCCCXLII. . WISDOM NOTIONALLY APPROVED, BUT PRACTICALLY DIS
REGARDED. Eccl. ix. 14–16. There was a little city, and few men within
it : and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man : and he by his wisdom delivered the city : yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard.
WHETHER the account here given us was an actual occurrence, or only a parabolic representation, we will not undertake to determine: but certainly the event described may easily be supposed to have taken place, and to have come to the knowledge of Solomon. In fact, a precisely similar event had taken place within the memory of Solomon; the only difference being, that the city was saved by“ a wise woman,” instead of “a poor wise man.” After the rebellion of Absalom had been suppressed, a man of Belial, whose name was Sheba, caused the defection of all the tribes of Israel. David therefore sent an army to pursue Sheba, and to besiege any city in which he should have taken refuge. Joab finding that Sheba was shut up in a city called Abel, went and“ battered the wall of the city, to throw it down.” Then “ a wise woman” called to Joab, and remonstrated with him on the subject of the assault which he was making; and undertook, that, if he would suspend his assault, the object of his indignation should be sacrificed, and his head be cast over the wall. She then“ went to all the people, in her wisdom,” and prevailed on them to execute her project; and thus effected by her wisdom the deliverance of the city, and the preservation of all its inhabitants. The minute resemblance which there is between this history and the event mentioned in the text, renders it highly probable, that the passage before us is a parable, founded upon the very fact which is here recorded.
But, whether it be a fact, or a parable, with what view is it mentioned ? Some think that it is intended to represent the work of redemption by our Lord Jesus Christ, and the sad neglect with which he is treated, notwithstanding the benefits he has conferred. According to these persons, the interpretation is this. The little city, with a small garrison, is the Church, which confessedly consists of but “a little flock.” The great king who comes against it, and besieges it, is Satan, with all his hosts, even all the principalities and powers of hell. The poor wise man is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the counsels of eternal Wisdom, has devised a way for the deliverance of his people; yet after the deliverance he has wrought out for them, is by the generality most grievously neglected.
Now though there are parts of this which do not exactly accord with such an interpretation, yet we should not have altogether disapproved of the interpretation, provided Solomon himself had not given us any clew whereby to discover his real meaning: for it is not necessary that a parable should be applicable in all its parts: it is sufficient if in its main scope it be fitted to illustrate the point which it is intended to shadow forth. But we are precluded from affixing to this passage the sense which we have now suggested, because Solomon's own reflection upon the supposed event determines beyond all controversy its precise import. Solomon intended to commend wisdom, as he frequently does in other parts of this book: in one place he exalts wisdom above folly ;
a 2 Sam. xx. 1, 2, 6, 15—22.
b Eccl. i. 13.
in another, above wealth; in another, above soldiers, and weapons of war. Thus in our text he exalts it above strength; “ Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength.” Hence the subject for our consideration is two-fold; I. The excellency of wisdom
Wisdom is practical understanding, or knowledge regulated by sound judgment. Now this is greatly superior to physical force, in every point of view: 1. In relation to temporal concerns
[The particular instance here adduced, the deliverance of a city by some extraordinary devices, will lead us to notice the operations of wisdom in the different departments of civilized life.
In war and politics it prevails far beyond mere bodily strength, however great. It is from superior skill in arms that we, who are so few in number, have been enabled to conquer an immense extent of territory, and by a very small army to keep in subjection eighty millions of people, who have scarcely one feeling, or one sentiment, in common with ourselves. And it is from the wisdom of our Constitution, and of our Governors, that we, under God, have rode out the storm which overwhelmed the rest of Europe, and have been enabled to rescue from their bondage the prostrate nations all around us. Had there been less wisdom at our helm, we, and all the nations of Europe, should probably at this moment have been sunk in the lowest state of degradation and misery.
In arts and manufactures the excellency of wisdom also most eminently appears. See the machinery that is used in every branch of trade! A few children are enabled to effect in a month what thousands of grown people could not by mere manual labour accomplish in a year.
Nor is the excellency of wisdom less visible in science and philosophy. Who can calculate the benefits that have arisen from the study of astronomy, and the invention of the compass? How light is all human strength when placed in the balance against these products of intellectual research !
In truth, it is wisdom which most elevates us above the beasts; and draws as broad a line of distinction between man and man, as light and darkness do in the material world.] 2. In relation to spiritual affairs
[Here wisdom is all. See what mere human efforts can effect in heathen lands: what penances, what pilgrimages, what
c Eccl. vii. 12.
d Eccl. vii. 19.
e ver. 18.
sufferings of different kinds, will men have recourse to, in order to obtain peace in their own souls! yet can they never obtain it. They may weary themselves even unto death, yet can they never secure to themselves any spiritual benefit whatever.
But let a man attend to the councils of wisdom given him by our blessed Lord, and all that he can desire is attained at
Peace will flow into his soul, as soon as ever his conscience is sprinkled with the blood of Christ. His powers are invigorated with preter-natural strength, the moment he by faith apprehends the Lord Jesus: from being so weak as not to be able to do any thing, he becomes instantly so strong as to be “ able to do all things.” A new set of energies are developed, and such as Satan is not able to withstand. That enemy, who with assured confidence of success besieged the soul, is constrained, like Sennacherib, to flee with precipitation and disgrace. In a word, the simple device of a "life of faith upon the Son of God” effects every thing, liberating the soul from all its bondage, and making it victorious over all its enemies.]
But from daily observation, we are constrained to lament, II. The disregard shewn it, notwithstanding its ac
knowledged worth. By how few are its dictates attended to as they ought to be! Alas! they are neglected and despised, by the great mass of mankind.
1. By the gay and thoughtless
[They have no ear for the counsels of Wisdom. They will commend her in general terms; but will have as little as possible to do with her instructions. Let the parent labour ever so much to instil wisdom into the minds of his children, he will find, to his grief, that the enchantments of folly baffle all his efforts. It should seem no difficult task to prevail on them to think before they act, and to regulate their conduct by sound principles : but though he give " line upon line, and precept upon precept,” he will have reason to bless himself, if, after all his endeavours, his family do not embitter his days by their faults and follies. The word of God too may be acknowledged by them as good : but not a precept in it is suffered to have an ascendant over their mind. Sabbath after Sabbath are divine instructions poured into their ears; but none are suffered to descend into the heart. In fact, they are despised ; and if obtruded upon the mind as principles of action, they are rejected with scorn and contempt.]
f John xv. 2. Phil. iv. 13.
& James iv, 7.