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racterized as right things, as proclaimed in the most public places, and as everlasting or in being before the world was.
These rules and counsels of wisdom are said to be right and excellent. Thus at the sixth verse. “ Hear, for I will speak of excellent things: and the opening of my lips shall be right things.” • The rules, which I deliver: the
things, I recommend to men, are right, and fit. Their * reasonableness and usefulness cannot be contested or gain• sayed.'
They are also represented as proclaimed in places of the greatest resort, and indeed in all places, because they are obvious to men's reason and understanding: and there are not a few who speak of them, and recommend them to others, who are less knowing; and because the judgment and conscience of all men in general assent to them, and not seldom put them in mind of them. This is the design of those expressions at the beginning of this chapter, and of other like expressions elsewhere. “ Does not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? She standeth in the top of the high places, by the way, in the places of the paths. She crieth at the gates, at the entry of the city, at the coming in at the doors.” And ver. 8, 9, “ All my words are in righteousness. There is nothing froward or perverse in them. They are plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.” Every where her reasonable precepts are sounding in men's ears, and demanding attention and regard.
They are also always obligatory. And therefore are spoken of as ancient, eternal, and “unalterable rules and maxims. ver. 22—26, “ The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning or ever the earth
When there were no depths, I was brought forthWhile as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world.”
These are general characters and properties of the rules and principles of wisdom, relating to the moral conduct of men.
And it should be observed, that wisdom with her principles, contains the rules and maxims of all right conduct, with dissuasives from every evil thing; particularly wisdom includes these several things:
1. The fear of God, the first principle, and the most important branch of religion : which is much spoken of, and greatly recommended in this book of Proverbs, and in the book of Ecclesiastes, another work of the Wise Man, containing observations upon human affairs, and upon the divine
providence and government of this world. “ The fear of the Lord," says he, " is the beginning of wisdom," Prov. ix. 10; " and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. The fear of the Lord is strong confidence,” cb. xiv. 26. “ Let not thy heart envy sinners; but be thou in the fear of the Lord all the day long," ch. xxiii. 17. 6 Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man,” Eccl. xii, 13; the sum and substance of his duty, and his main interest and concern.
2.) Wisdom, with its principles and maxims, includes the rules and laws of sobriety and moderation for all earthly things. “ The knowledge of the Lord is to hate evil. Pride and arrogance, and the evil way, and the froward mouth, do I hate,” Prov. viii. 13. And you know very well, that there are in this book many earnest dissuasives from all manner of excess and intemperance, and every thing contrary to purity. Ambition, vain conceit, immoderate love of pleasure and riches, haughtiness of speech and countenance, sloth and idleness, are here also condemned and exposed: and humility, modesty, diligence, and a teachable and inquisitive temper, are frequently recommended.
3.) Wisdom includes righteousness and equity toward other men. So this book begins: “ The proverbs of Solo
“ mon :-to know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and equity.” At the twentieth verse of the eighth chapter: “ I lead in the midst of the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of judgment.” And in the twenty-first chapter is that excellent remark: “ To do justice and judgment is more acceptable to the Lord, than sacrifice," ch. xxi. 3.
4.) Beside all these things, wisdom includes prudence, or a becoming regard and discreet concern for our own interests. So Solomon in this chapter, drawing the character of wisdom, introduces her, saying: “I wisdom dwell with prudence. I find out knowledge of witty inventions," ch. viii. 12. Many are the prudential directions and cau. tions which are inserted in this collection of wise and judicious maxims and observations. And the importance and the advantage of prudence are often shown. It is said: “ The simple believeth every word: but the prudent lookcth well to his going,” Prov. xiv. 15. Agreeably to which the Psalmist observes: “A good man will guide his affairs with discretion,” Ps, cxii. 5. or, as in the margin of our Bibles, with judgment, which is the same thing.
5.) Wisdom includes the laws of civil government, tending to the good order, peace, and prosperity of large bodies and societies of men. Thus it is expressly said in this chapter : “ Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom. I am understanding, I bave strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth," ver. 14, 15.
This is wisdom. It contains the principles of beauty, order, and proportion in the things of nature, and all the branches of good conduct in men; particularly the fear of God, or a serious and awful, yet delightful and cheerful respect for the Divine Being, and sincere gratitude for all his benefits: sobriety, or the government of ourselves, and a just moderation of our affections for sensible things; justice, judgment, and equity toward others; discretion in the management of our own affairs; and the just and equitable laws of civil government.
III. We should now consider, what is to be understood by loving wisdom, and seeking it.
And hereby nothing more is meant, than a desire to be wise, and endeavours to attain to wisdom. To love wisdom is to esteem and prize it, to be persuaded that its principles and rules must be right, and to be desirous to know and be acquainted with them, and the reasons of them; together with a sincere purpose, and firm resolution of mind, to walk by them, and make them the rule of our action. Such will use the means of improvement. The thoughts of such will be much about this matter. They will hearken to instruction, and attend to their teachers. They will be inquisitive, and observe, and lay up, and meditate upon, what they have heard. They will not be averse to counsel, or even reproof. This is seeking wisdom. Such are very likely to succeed in their pursuit, and to obtain their wishes and desires.
. IV. Which brings us to the next point, the encouragement here afforded, and set before men, in these expressions : “I love them that love me: and they that seek me shall find me.”
Three things may be reckoned to be implied in this encouragement. Such shall attain to the knowledge of the principles of wisdom. They shall become wise, and act wisely and virtuously. They will have all the advantages which are annexed to the knowledge and observation of wise counsels and maxims.
1. They who love wisdom and seek it, will attain to the knowledge of its rules and principles, and the ways it recommends. It is the design of the undertaking in this book of Proverbs, as declared at the beginning, (as it is also the design of all other like attempts,)“ to give knowledge to
the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion." And in this eighth chapter: “ All the words of my mouth are in righteousness. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.” That is, the knowledge of them is easy to be attained by those who are attentive. And they who have so much understanding, as to prize wisdom, will soon perceive how right and reasonable all its rules and precepts are.
Again, in the second chapter of this book : “ My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding: yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; if thou seekest for her, as for silver, and searchest for her, as for hid treasure :" that is, if thou be sincere and diligent in seeking after wisdom, as what thou esteemest very value able: “then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity, yea, every good work.”
They who seek knowledge and understanding, who are sincerely desirous to be informed in the principles of wisdom, will certainly become acquainted with all the rules and precepts which are of general importance, and suited to their rank and condition.
2. If you love and seek wisdom, you will become wise, discreet, and virtuous, and make its maxims the rule of your conduct. So Solomon says in the just cited second chapter of this book : “ When wisdom enters into thy heart, and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things: who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the way
of darkness. He who loves wisdom, and labours sincerely to be acquainted with its principles, and perceives how right and reasonable they are, must be disposed to observe and follow them; and will be prepared for, and fortified against, the enticements of sinners, and the specious pretences of those who speak froward and perverse things.
3. Another thing included in this encouragement is, that they who love and seek wisdom shall have the many advantages that are annexed to the knowledge, and practice, or observation of wise rules and maxims. This must be implied in the expressions here used of wisdom's “ loving them that love her," and being “ found of them that seek her.” She will favour, prefer, and advance such, and cheerfully bestow upon them all the gifts and blessings which are in her disposal, and which indeed are great and manifold.
These are oftentimes affectionately set before men, in a variety of expressions, in order to determine their right choice: which cannot but be much for their benefit.
“ My son, forget not my law, but let thy heart keep my commandments. For length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add unto thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thy heart. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding, [or acceptance,] in the sight of God and man,” Prov. iii. 1-4. And afterwards : “ Happy is the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies. And all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is every one that retaineth her,” Ver. 13-18.
Again; “ Keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding. Forget it not, neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee. She shall bring thee to honour, when thou shalt embrace her. She shall give to thy head an ornament of grace. A crown of glory shall she give unto thee. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings: and the years of thy life shall be many," Prov. iv. 4-10.
Peace and tranquillity is one great advantage, mentioned in the passages already cited. Again it is said : “ Thou shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid : Yea thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken,” ch. iij. 23–26.
And though it be true, that a " little which a righteous man has, is better than the treasures of many wicked,” Ps. xxxvii. 16, yet virtue and discretion do also tend to secure a competence; and often add, or give, great abundance: as it is said in a place before cited : “ Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour,” Prov. j. 16. And, “ Through wisdom is an house builded, and by understanding it is established. And by knowledge sħall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant