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forsaketh the guide of her youth, her husband, whom she chose as such, and forgetteth the covenant of her God; her solemn vows 18 of fidelity, to which God was both a party and a witness. For her
house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead; the Hebrew is, to the giants, that is, sinners of the old world, who for 19 indulging fleshly lusts were swept down to hell by the flood. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life. An awful passage, intimating that it is very uncommon, and next to impossible, for impure sinners to be reclaimed. Wisdom will keep thee from these paths, and incline thee to a better 20 way; That thou mayest walk in the way of good [men.] and
keep the paths of the righteous; the ways of the holy patriarchs 21 and prophets, and other righteous men. For the upright shall
dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it; enjoy the 22 good things of life, and peace with them. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it; their hopes from this world shall be disappointed, their families be extinct, and none left to preserve their memory.
ET us reflect on the importance of gaining wisdom, and the certainty of succeeding in the attempt, as a motive to diligence in the pursuit of it. It is of the utmost importance, as it will teach the fear and knowledge of God, which is the noblest science; and lead us in the paths of religion, which are the most pleasant paths. We are likewise sure of success, for God will give wisdom. But he will not give it to the slothful; we must take pains for it. Let us observe the expressions, we must incline our car, apply our hearts, lift up our voice, seek and search, as men who dig in the mines; we must exert all the powers of the soul; must not be discouraged by any difficulties, but persevere in the attempt; then the gain will amply repay all the toil and labour.
2. In order to make progress in religion, and experience its good effects, it is necessary that we take pleasure in it. It must enter into the heart, and be pleasant to the soul; take possession of the affections, and be pursued and entertained with relish and delight; yea, it must be preferred to every other gain and pleasure. Men neglect religion, or make very little improvement in it, because they come to it with reluctance; do not take delight in it, but esteem it a task, and therefore find it a burden. Let us labour to conquer this unhappy aversion, and regard religion as our most important business and highest pleasure.
3. The study of wisdom, and the practice of piety, are the best securities against evil company and all its snares. The love of reading and study is very useful to all, especially to young minds, particularly when it is attended with a suitable disposition to receive and obey useful instructions. It will keep them from those that speak froward things, that would corrupt their minds, argue or laugh
them out of good principles, dispositions, and resolutions; from men that rejoice to do mischief, and take pleasure in the destruction of their fellow creatures. It will also keep them from the company of bad women, which is more dangerous still, for they have various charms and artifices to allure; and yet their abandoned characters ought, one would think, to deter every person from coming near them. If such should ever tempt young persons, let them remember those awful words, none that go unto her return again; it is a thousand to one that they are never recovered; for whoremongers and adulterers God will judge. Finally, wisdom will incline them to walk with the righteous, in the ways of good men; to choose them for their friends and companions, to hearken to their advice, and follow their example; men, whose lives are honourable, whose end is peace, and whose glory will be eternal. Stand therefore in the paths of wisdom and piety; ask for the good old way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest to your souls.
Solomon goes on to recommend the study of wisdom, by the many benefits it brings; and cautions us against those things which are inconsistent with it.
Y son, let me again entreat thee, forget not my law: but
days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee; a long, 3 healthful, and prosperous life. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee, but practise these duties: bind them as ornaments about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart; keep them in 4 perpetual remembrance: So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man; when persons are governed by integrity, they generally find that a good interpreta5 tion is put upon their actions. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding, that is, to thine own wisdom and skill, as if that were sufficient for thy direc6 tion and prosperity. In all thy ways, in all thy undertakings, public and private, daily and solemnly, acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths, and protect and prosper thee in them. Be not wise in thine own eyes, to the neglect of the rule now given : fear 8 the LORD, and depart from evil. It shall be health to thy navel,
or, as some render it, to thy flesh, and marrow to thy bones; it is 9 the way to obtain health of body and cheerfulness of mind. Honour
the LORD with thy substance, and with the first fruits of all thine 10 increase; with thy tythes, offerings, and first fruits. So shall thy
barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with 11 new wine. My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD,
as if it was not worth regarding; neither be weary of his cor. rection; afflictions are sent for some good end; they are very beneficial, and tokens of God's love, therefore be patient under them.
12 For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son [in whom] he delighteth.
Happy [is] the man [that] findeth wisdom, and the man 14 [that] getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it [is] better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than 15 fine gold. She [is] more precious than rubies and all the
things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her; a comparison peculiarly beautiful, considering how great their com16 merce was in Solomon's days. Length of days [is] in her right
hand; [and] in her left hand riches and honour; she comes to thee like a wealthy princess, with her hands full of blessings. 17 Her ways [are] ways of pleasantness, and all her paths [are] 18 peace; present peace and eternal rest. She [is] a tree of life to
them that lay hold upon her; a principle of immortality and happiness, alluding to the tree of life in paradise: and happy [is every one] that retaineth her; which implies the difficulty of laying hold 19 of her, and of keeping that hold. The LORD by wisdom hath found
ed the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. 20 By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds
drop down the dew, that is, the vapours arise from the sea and the earth, and furnish a supply of rain; intimating, that wisdom makes a man something like God, resembling him in knowledge and good21 ness. My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep 22 sound wisdom and discretion: So shall they be life unto thy 23 soul, and grace to thy neck. Then shalt thou walk in thy way
safely, and thy foot shall not stumble; thou shalt go about thy 24 business comfortably and successfully. When thou liest down,
thou shalt not be afraid; yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet; no anxious distracting cares or painful reflections 25 shall disturb thy repose. Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the
desolation of the wicked, when it cometh; of enemies and wicked 26 men, who are ready to lay all waste. For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken by those who lie in wait to destroy thee. And if thou desirest that God should hear thy prayers, and help thee,
Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is 28 in the power of thine hand to do [it.] Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and tomorrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee; not only pay thy just debts, but be kind and liberal to those in distress; keep not any one in a cruel or unnecessary 29 suspense. Devise not evil against thy neighbour, against his person, property or reputation, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee, does not suspect thee, is off his guard, and therefore it were 30 greater baseness and wickedness to injure him. Strive not with
a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm; do not go to law, or engage in quarrels, where there is no real or intended 31 injury, or none that is very great. Envy thou not the oppressor, 32 and choose none of his ways, though he thrives by them. For the froward [is] abomination to the LORD: but his secret [is] with the righteous; they are his friends and favourites. VOL. V.
The curse of the LORD [is] in the house of the wicked 34 but he blesseth the habitation of the just. Surely he scorneth the scorners, will expose them to scorn and contempt: but he giveth grace unto the lowly, that is, favour with himself and with 35 men. The wise shall inherit glory, though they may be dissatis fied for a while but shame shall be the promotion of fools; shame shall render them conspicuous, and their folly will appear more remarkable and shameful by their exaltation.
HIS chapter is so full of excellent instructions for the conduct of life, that every verse suggests them. Let us particularly attend to the following remarks.
1. The happy consequences of getting wisdom, should excite us diligently to pursue it. Solomon was so sensible of the weakness of human nature, of the importance of gaining wisdom, and how necessary it was that this should be inculcated again and again upon young people, that he urges it by a variety of arguments. The knowledge and practice of piety and virtue conduce to the health of the body, the peace of the mind, to our living upon good terms with others, and being respected by them. It tends to our success in business, and adds an additional charm to all the comforts of life; above all, it ensures the favour of God. How justly then does Solomon represent this as the best trade and merchandise! Let us therefore apply our minds to religion, that we may find, by our own experience, the truth of these observations. Godliness hath the promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come.
2. Humility and prayer are the best means of engaging the divine direction and blessing. The first maxim of importance to young people is, not to be wise in their own eyes, nor lean to their own understandings. Conceit makes them rash and contemptible, keeps them in ignorance, and makes them unwilling to submit to the rules and restraints of religion. But God giveth grace to the lowly, and therefore, sensible of our own weakness, let us trust in him; and by daily, serious prayer, acknowledge him in all our ways, especially in all affairs of difficulty and importance. We must not only believe that there is an overruling Providence, but seriously acknowledge it. Then will God direct us in the right way; and though we • meet with affliction in it, it will end well, in everlasting peace and joy.
3. Let us learn how we are to behave under the afflictions of life. The apostle quotes the eleventh verse of this chapter, in Heb. xii. 5. and calls it an exhortation that speaks to us as unto children. This is an important hint, viz. that all these exhortations speak to us, as well as to those for whose immediate use Solomon wrote them. May we not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor think lightly of it, or that it is not sent with a good design, and capable of being very useful. Nor must we be weary of it, or, as the apostle says, faint under it, though it may be long continued. Though it should
grow heavier and heavier, we ought not to murmur, nor take unlawful methods to remove it: we should not think it more than we need, or that it is continued longer than is for our good. All proceeds from love; it is not the sword of an enemy, but the rod of a father; that is, a token of his love, and the means of his children's happiness.
4. We are taught the surest and readiest way of thriving in the world. Hearken, ye men of trade, to the exhortation of the wisest man and the greatest trader that ever lived; the merchandise of visdom is better than that of silver; and the gain thereof than fine gold. Honour the Lord with your substance; dɔ good with it, relieving the poor, and supporting the interests of religion. Honour him with your increase: as your substance increases, do the more good with it. This is the way to have his blessing, which maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow with it. When we have opportunities of doing good, we ought to embrace them quickly and readily; not bid our neighbour come again tomorrow. If he demand justice of us, a just debt, it is unjust to defer payment. If he solicit charity, it is barbarous to keep him in suspense; his wants may be urgent, and we may die before the morrow. Let us never study to find excuses for omitting or deferring to do good; for God loveth a cheerful giver.
5. We are here taught to guard against anxious fears; be not afraid of sudden fear, which is indeed apt to put a man into confusion, because he has not time to recollect himself. But this is a disposition we should strive against, for our own sakes, and the honour of religion. It is very weak to give way to every little alarm, or to believe every story which foolish and wicked men may spread. It is also very unbecoming those who profess to believe, that the Lord reigneth. Be not afraid of the desolation of the wicked when it cometh, much less when it is at a distance, and least of all when it is only suspected or rumoured. The Lord is the confidence of his people, and therefore they should not fear. But if they dis honour him and his providence by their unbelief, it may provoke him to give them up a prey to their own tormenting fears, and thus make their lives very miserable. Fear the Lord then and de fart from evil, and fear nothing else.
Solomon here continues his exhortations to all, especially to young peo pie, whom he addresses with the tender concern of a father.
to know understanding. For I give you good doctrine, not a trifling, indifferent matter, but what is absolutely necessary for your peace and happiness; forsake ye not my law. To recommend these instructions he relates that they were such as he received from his pious father. For I was my father's son, ten