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will then in a great measure cease. And the people and followers of Jesus, brought to a state of perfection, will for the future be entirely governed by the reason of things, and the will of God. Yet still they will be for ever thankful for the gospel-dispensation, and for all the condescension and humiliation of the Lord Jesus, and for his after exaltation: by which their hearts were won to God, and they were established, and upheld in the practice of virtue, under all the difficulties they met with here, until they were brought to glory. 10. Though i. of moral obligation have the preference above others, yet positive appointments, of divine authority, are not to be omitted or neglected. These also have their use, and are expedient in the present state of things. They were wisely appointed, and therefore ought to be submitted to and obeyed. It is our Lord's own determination upon the point: “These ought ye to have done;” meaning the weightier matters of the law; “and not to leave the other undone,” Luke xi. 42. 11. Finally, let us not rest satisfied with observing positive appointments, or with any external performances, or the profession of the principles of religion, or a partial obedience: but let us sincerely do the whole will of God so far as we are acquainted with it. It may afford matter of sorrowful thought and consideration, that so many are far from that righteousness which is recommended both by reason and revelation: that so few are eminent therein: and likewise that there are others whose character is but doubtful, both to themselves and others. However, our main business is not to lament or aggravate the faults or defects of others, but to amend our own. And since there is reason to fear, that many will hereafter seek to enter into the kingdom of heaven, and shall not be able; since we have the prospect of a rest remaining for the people of God, let us take heed that we fail not thereof. If any are able to assure their hearts before God, as sincere and upright, and have a comfortable hope of the future heavenly inheritance reserved for his children: let them take the comfort of it. If ever we attain that felicity, we shall have clearer apprehensions of these truths, than now we have, and shall be ennobled by them. Now we know but in part, and prophesy but in part, and are sanctified but in part. “But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part,” all imperfection, of every kind, “shall be done away,” I Cor. xiii. 9, 10.
I love them that love me. And they that seek me early, shall find me. Prov. viii. 17.
THE book of Proverbs is a large collection of excellent rules, maxims, and observations, for directing the conduct of men of every age, and almost every circumstance and condition of life. A particular regard is herein had to persons of tender age, unexperienced, and entering into the world. Counsels are delivered with much affection and earnestness. The same things are repeated, and inculcated again and again. The attention of men is excited by frequent representations of the importance of right conduct, and of the snares they are exposed to, by which they are in danger of being misled to their utter ruin.
More effectually to recommend the reasonable and useful counsels, and observations here proposed, they are often delivered in the name of Wisdom. W. herself is introduced, as teaching these things. So at the beginning of this chapter: “Doth not Wisdom cry, and Understanding !" forth her voice? She standeth in the top of high places, y the way, in the places of the paths: Unto you, O men, I call: and my voice is to the sons of men. And, as an encouragement to all to hearken to her, and pursue the rules she lays down, she says in the words of the text: “I love them that love me: and they that seek me early, shall find me.”
If it were a thing of any moment, I might just observe to you, that what in our #. translation is rendered, seek early, is but one word in the original. The Hebrew therefore might be as well rendered, they that seek me, shall find me. However, our translators have not done much amiss in adding something concerning the best manner of seeking wisdom: or in expressing what may be supposed to be implied in the word. “I love them that love me: and they that seek me early,” or diligently, “shall find me.”
Without any farther preface, I would now immediately lay down the method in which I intend to discourse on these words.
I. In the first place I shall endeavour to show how we are to understand the word wisdom, as used in the book of Proverbs. II. I shall show what is comprehended in wisdom. III. I shall consider what is to be understood by loving wisdom, and seeking it. IV. I shall observe the encouragement, here set before men, to seek wisdom: they shall find it. V. And then conclude with directions for the right manner of seeking it. I. I shall endeavour to show how we are to understand the word wisdom, as used in the book of Proverbs. Hereby some have understood a real person, and even a divine person. And this their opinion is founded chiefly, I think, upon some expressions in this eighth chapter. As ver. 15, “By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, and all the judges of the earth:” And especially those words in ver. 22, 23: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his ways, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth, was.” But the meaning of these words I take to be this: ‘that * God himself is wise, and before he created the world he “ had wisdom in himself: and that the laws of righteous‘ness, and the rules of right conduct, are everlasting and ‘unchangeable.” It is agreeable to the style of this book, not to understand by wisdom a real person, but an attribute, or property clothed with a personal character, or a feigned personage introduced. In like manner it has been very common for polite writers to introduce justice, or virtue, or wisdom, or prudence, delivering rules and counsels to men, or reproving their folly and extravagance. Sometimes they are represented looking down, at other times coming down from heaven to visit the abodes of mortals: or, in the style of the Proverbs, men, the sons of men: calling aloud to them, dehorting them from their evil ways and perverse wanderings, and inviting them into the paths of truth and happiness; which reason, and the considerations of their own true interest, prescribe to them. The personage introduced in this book in the name and character of Wisdom is represented to be a queen, or a wealthy matron or lady: for her servants, or attendants, are maidens. She is brought in as a matron, living in great credit., Her house is a spacious and lofty building, adorned with a magnificent portico at the entrance, consisting of seven, or many pillars. She there makes an entertainment, and invites people to come and partake of her provisions; that is, to hear and receive the rules and principles of knowledge and virtue. This is beautifully expressed at the beginning of the ninth, the following chapter: “Wisdom has builded her house: she has hewn out her seven pillars: she has killed her beasts: she has mingled her wine: she has also furnished her table: she has sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places in the city,” Prov. i. 21. Or, as in another place: “She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of the gates. In the city she uttereth her words:” that is, in the most public and frequented places, where there is usually the greatest resort of people: “Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither.” She rejects not the weakest, and the most deluded. If they will but attend, she will teach them what is fit and becoming: “Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither. As for him that wanteth understanding, she says to him: Come eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.” This stately dwelling, or palace of wisdom, where men may receive instruction, is alluded to at ver. 34th of this chapter: “Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my door.” Moreover wisdom is used in this book, as equivalent to understanding or instruction. “Doth not wisdom cry? and understanding put forth her voice?”. Prov. viii. 1. “Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding,” ch. iii. 13. And, “Take fast hold of instruction. Let her not go. Keep her, for she is thy life,” ch. iv. 13. If understanding and instruction are not persons, what reason is there to think that wisdom is so? And agreeable to this account is that affectionate counsel: “Say unto wisdom, thou art my sister: and to understanding, thou art my kinswoman,” ch. vii. 4. The opinion therefore, that wisdom is a real person, or a distinct subsistence, and intelligent being, appears to be without foundation. It is much more ... to suppose, that wisdom is only a fictitious character, or personage introduced, in order to recommend to men more effectually, and with greater advantage, those rules of righteousness which it is of the highest importance they should regard. II. I would now show what is comprehended in wisdom. By wisdom, in general, we are to understand the principles of order and proportion, both in the natural and the
moral world: or the laws and rules of exact order and proportion in the ". of nature, and the rules of discreet and virtuous conduct among rational and intelligent beings. This is the most general and comprehensive meaning of the word wisdom. And it is plainly used in this sense in the book of Proverbs, particularly in this chapter. 1. It includes, I say, the rules and principles of beauty, order, and proportion in the things of nature: according to which rules God made the world, and disposed and adjusted the several parts of it. So in the 27th and following verses of this chapter: “When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when ''. set a compass upon the face of the depth: when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep; when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him.” That is, all God’s works of creation were performed in wisdom: and it was his will and pleasure to |. and command all things, according to the most perfect rules of order and proportion. The same thing is expressed elsewhere after this manner: “The Lord by wisdom has founded the earth: by understanding has he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew,” ch. iii. 19, 20. This exquisite order and "..." in the several parts of nature are beautifully and forcibly described in the prophet Isaiah. “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand 3 and meted out heaven with the span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure, and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a balance f* Is. xl. 12. 2. But though wisdom comprehends in it the rules of beauty and perfection, order and proportion, in natural things; yet you cannot but be sensible, that what Solomon in this book chiefly enlarges upon, and most earnestly recommends, is right conduct. Nor does he here speak of the sacrifices of beasts, and offerings of the fruits of the earth, nor of external washings and purifications: the methods of which may be various, where no one of them is of absolute necessity: But the things he insists upon are the rules and principles of virtuous conduct: which are right and reasonable in themselves, and always and universally obligatory. And because these moral rules and principles are the subjects of his discourse, therefore the lessons, which wisdom teaches and recommends, are represented and cha