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The Book of PROVERBS.
WE have here another book, and another author, namely, Solomon, the wisest of men, who had uncommon abilities, and large experi̟It contains excellent maxims for the conduct of life. The word proverb signifies a ruling speech, or observation, that ought to have great weight with mankind'; a short sententious speech, of great excellency and importance: and such among the ancients being chiefly similes and comparisons, in which one thing looked to another for the better illustration of it, it became in common use to signify any wise, important maxim. The first nine chapters are more connected than the rest, and contain a commendation of and exhortation to truc wisdom; which is the fear of God. The remaining chapters contain directions how to govern ourselves in all circumstances and relations in life. Other parts of scripture are like a rich mine, where the precious ore runs along in one continued vein; but this book is like a heap of pearls, which, though they are loose and unstrung, are not therefore the less valuable.
HE proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel;
of understanding; to make men know when good advice is given, and how to give it to others; or to teach them to avoid errors, and S to correct those they have fallen into; To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity; that is, to make them good in every circumstance, condition, and relation in life; 4 To give subtilty to the simple, to the young man knowledge
and discretion; they are designed to teach caution and sagacity to the unexperienced; but they are not intended for them alone, there 5 is that in them which may improve the wisest. A wise [man]
will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understand6 ing shall attain unto wise counsels: To understand a proverb, and the interpretation; the words of the wise, and their dark sayings; to understand the meaning of parables, figures, and other ways of instruction.
The fear of the LORD [is] the beginning of knowledge: [but] fools despise wisdom and instruction. This verse is a key to the whole book. By wisdom, he does not mean common sagacity, car nal policy, or great learning, but true religion; and by fools here,
are not meant those who want common sense, but who are thought. 8 less, and oppose themselves to all true religion and piety. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother; meaning not his own son merely, but all his readers, especially the young, whom he addresses with tender affection as 9 his children: For they [shall be] an ornament of grace unto
thy head, and chains about thy neck; better than any gay dress. 10 11 My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they
say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily 12 for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive
as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit; there is no more danger of a discovery, than if they were swallowed 13 up at once by an earthquake: We shall find all precious sub
stance, we shall fill our houses with spoil; not only get enough to furnish out a short entertainment, but to live upon in a splendid 14 manner hereafter: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have 15 one purse :* My son, walk not thou in the way with them; 16 refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and 17 make haste to shed blood. Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird, but wicked men are more foolish, they see 18 their danger, and yet run into it. And they lay wait for their [own] blood; they lurk privily for their [own] lives; the ven19 geance of the magistrate, or of God, will overtake them. So [are] the ways of every one that is greedy of gain; they are like a bird taken in a snare; [which] taketh away the life of the owners thereof, the owner's life to get it, or rather, his own life when he has got possession of it, and thinks himself secure.
Wisdom, in the abstract, which is here represented as a person, crieth without; she uttereth her voice in the streets; that is, by conscience and Providence, by the scriptures and prophets : 21 She crieth in the chief place of concourse, in the openings of 22 the gates in the city she uttereth her words, [saying,] How
long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity, that is, folly ? and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? 23 that is, religion and good advice. Turn you at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you, I will make known my words unto you; I will communicate my whole mind to you, 24 and explain things in the clearest manner. Because I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man 25 regarded; But ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would 26 none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh; if you disregard my counsel, I 27 will as little regard what becomes of you; When your fear com
eth as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress of body and anguish of mind cometh upon you. 28 Then shall they call upon me, but I will not answer; they shall seek me early, but they shall not find me. Here is a remarka
It is probable that luxury prevailed in the peace and plenty of Solomon's reign; and young men who had spent their fortunes might turn highwaymen and plunderers; therefore they say, Do as we do, and thou, though a new comer, shalt fare we fare, though we have been longer at the trade.
ble change of persons ; divine wisdom began its speech as to them; but while speaking it turns from them, and speaks only concerning them; as if he had said, I will have no more to say to them, but 29 thus and thus shall it be done unto them: For that they hated 30 knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the LORD: They
would none of my counsel: they despised all my reproof. 31 Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be
filled with their own devices; suffer the natural consequences of 32 their folly. For the turning away of the simple from the paths of piety, shall slay them, and the ease or prosperity of fools shall destroy them; make them proud, scornful, and forgetful of God, 33 and so hasten their ruin. But whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell safely, and shall be quiet from fear of evil; not only from real evil, but even the fear of it.
I is the first Solomon
N order to profit by the instructions of this book, the fear of
lays down; and it is indeed a very important one. We should be duly sensible that there is a God; that it is our highest wisdom to please him, and to be careful of offending him. This is the foundation of all useful knowledge. Without some degree of this principle, no instructions will profit. It should recommend this book to our study, that it far exceeds all other systems of morality among the ancients, and that it insists so much on our regard and duty to God; of which they take little or no notice.
2. It is our duty to pay a serious attention to the instructions which are delivered by our parents and other teachers. Children should hear the instructions of their fathers, and forget not the law of their mothers; (see v. 8.) for the divine law secures a regard to mothers. If children think themselves wise enough, and too wise to learn, let them remember what Solomon says, v. 5. a wise man will hear and will increase learning. It is a mark of wisdom to hear; and none of us shall loose our labour by studying this book. The aged and experienced, as well as the young, may improve in knowledge and piety by it, and should therefore seriously attend to it.
3. Let us be thankful that we have so many good instructions, for gaining knowledge and regulating our conduct. God uses various methods to communicate wisdom to us; such as reason and conscience, his providence, the holy scriptures, his ministers, and spirit. Instructions are given to all of us; they are plain and open, frequently repeated, strongly and affectionately urged, and have Leen long continued. God is very good to us in these advantages, and it becomes us to receive them with all thankfulness.
4. Let us observe the bad consequences of despising and neglecting this advice; fear and anguish, distress and destruction, shall come upon such. They may call for mercy, but God will not hear. v. 26. I will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear