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take upon yourselves. And tell me Whether in my text you have not all the encouragement that your souls can desire ? Give yourselves to the world, and you will inherit only vanity : but “ seek to love the Lord, and you shall inherit substancer.” Think how happy you will be through life, when you are the objects of the Saviour's care and love --- and think how happy you will be in death ---- O let me not plead with you in vain! but“remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, in which you shall say, you have no pleasure in them " -- " Seek ye the Lord whilst he may be found; call ye upon him whilst he is near?” ---]
2. To Parents, and those who have an opportunity of influencing the minds of young people
[This is a favourable opportunity for you to exert yourselves, and to concur with your minister in his labours of love. Be labourers together with him, with all your might --But do not forget that the glorious truths in our text are to be experienced by you also --- And, if much of your day is already past, be the more earnest now in “ redeeming the time” that yet remains to you ---]
x ver. 21. y Eccl. xii. 1. 2 Isai. lv. 6.
WISDOM'S ADDRESS TO MEN. Prov. viii. 29–32. When he appointed the foundations of the
earth, then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him : rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth : and my delights were with the sons of men. Now therefore hearken unto me, O ye children! for blessed are they that keep my ways.
THE Proverbs of Solomon are a rich compendium of moral precepts, suited to men in all the various situations of civil, social, and domestic life. Some intimations indeed there are of Evangelical doctrines; but they are neither numerous, nor distinct; the scope and intent of the author having been, not so much to enlighten the minds of men with respect to principles of religion, as to supply them with a code of sacred ethics, for the regulation of their conduct. Yet, in the chapter before us, the language is so peculiar, as to have induced the most able commentators to think, that there was in the author's mind an intentional departure from his accustomed plan, and a
designed reference to Christ, the Saviour of the world. It is not our object to decide this point, but, rather, to exhibit the passage in such a view, as may render it most conducive to our spiritual improvement.
Let us consider then, 1. What is that wisdom which here addresses us
The two leading views of it will come under our consideration, if we interpret it as importing, 1. Wisdom personified
[It is evident that, throughout the whole chapter, Wisdom is represented as a person, and it must be spoken of as a person, in order to give scope for such a representation of it as is contained in our texta.
Wisdom was then ever “ with God, as one brought up with him." It is an essential perfection of his nature, attendant on him on all occasions as a counsellor, without whose advice not any thing was ever transacted from all eternity. God has never done any thing from the mere impulse of his own sovereign will and pleasure: whatever he has predestinated, has nevertheless been “wrought according to the counsel of his own willb. Wisdom has presided in all his councils ; nor has any thing ever been carried into effect without having previously received her sanction.
Her deliberations have been very mainly conversant about the affairs of men. God foresaw that man would fall, and, if left to himself, would perish like the fallen angels. But he greatly desired to save man, if peradventure it might be accomplished consistently with his own perfections. Every one of his attributes concurred in the wish; but with some of them there seemed to be claims, which interfered with that object, and which could not by any means be set aside. Holiness required, that its hatred of sin should be fully known. Justice required satisfaction for the violations of God's law, and could in no wise be induced to relax its demands. Truth also desired, that its honour should not be compromised. It had no objection to the exercise of mercy, if only the sacred word of God might be kept inviolate: but it could never consent, whatever object were to be attained thereby, that the immutable God should be “made a liar.” In this difficulty, all looked to Wisdom, to know, whether she could devise any way, whereby the exercise of mercy might consist with the rights of all the other attributes of the
a We beg this to be particularly noticed ; because it is the sole ground of the following statement, which, if that circumstance were overlooked, might appear fanciful.
b Eph. i. 5, 10. < 1 John v. 10.
Deity. Wisdom intimated, that she had a plan to'propose; a plan, whereby Mercy might have free scope for exercise, not only without invading or injuring the rights of any other attribute, but to the great advantage of them all, insomuch that all should be honoured to an infinitely greater extent than they ever could have been, if their demands had been satisfied through the destruction of the whole human race. It proposed, that the Son of God himself should take upon him the sins of the whole world, and suffer, as man's substitute, all that Truth and Holiness had denounced against him, and all that the most rigorous justice could require. Such a sacrifice made to law and justice, to truth and holiness, would put on all of them an honour, which they could never by any other means obtain - -
Her proposal, made with infinite delight to herself, was heard with infinite delight by Almighty God. Whilst she was thus, by anticipation, “ rejoicing in the habitable part of the earth, and her delights were with the sons of men, she was daily God's delight, and rejoiced always before him." We may be assisted in our meditations on this subject, by considering a philosopher occupied with the deepest investigations, and crowned with unexpected success : what joyous exultation fills his breast! how is he ready to proclaim to all the world, “I have found it! I have found it !” Or perhaps we shall approximate nearer to the point, if we conceive of a physician, on whose skill the life of thousands is depending, discovering an antidote that will arrest the progress of the plague, and a remedy that will restore to health all those who are already infected with it: what pure and holy joy will animate his soul! But the Scripture itself furnishes us with various illustrations of this important idea: the woman finding the piece of money which she had lost, and the shepherd his sheep that had strayed from the fold, are each represented as calling for the sympathetic joys of their friends and neighbours : and, as these are intended to elucidate the joy which our Redeemer feels in the successful execution of his office, they may well serve to illustrate the ineffable delight which the proposals of Wisdom are represented as exciting in her own bosom, and in the bosom of the Deity.
But we have said that Wisdom may also be interpreted as signifying,] 2. Wisdom incarnate
Most Commentators think that the expressions in our text refer to Christ, who is called “the Wisdom of Goda ;" and who, as the Logos or Word, declares to men the hidden counsels of the Father. Of him it is distinctly said, that He “ was with God, and
d 1 Cor. i. 24. VOL. VII.
be pourpas it ner God
was Gode;" that “ He made all things; and that without him nothing was made that was made." Here then we have the precise language of our text applied to the Son of God, who was from all eternity “in the bosom of the Father"," concurring with him in all that ever he planned or executed 6.
How he was occupied in the concerns of men, is familiar to all our minds. Truly k his delights were with the sons of men," whom he determined to rescue from perdition, and to " redeem unto God by his own blood." This was “the joy that was set before him, for which he engaged to endure the cross, and despised all the shame that should ever be poured upon himh." No sacrifice was too great for him to make. Was it necessary that satisfaction should be made for all the breaches of God's law; and that the very nature that had sinned should suffer? He willingly engaged to lay aside his own glory, and to assume our nature, in order that he might suffer, and, by suffering in our stead, “ make reconciliation for our iniquities."
In understanding this mysterious office, he was filled, as his Father also was, with ineffable delight. What joy the thought of ransoming our fallen race excited in his bosom, we are told by the Psalmist: for when it was declared by the Father, “ with whom the council of peace was held," that all creaturesacrifices would be insufficient for the occasion, he instantly replied, “ Lo, I come; (I, thy co-equal, co-eternal Son, come :) I delight to do thy will, O my God! yea, thy law is within my heartk." A corresponding joy sprang up also in the Father's breast; as the prophet Isaiah tells us; for in the contemplation of the future accomplishment of this mystery, the Father, looking with infinite complacency on his Son who had undertaken the office, and on his people as accepted in and through him, said, “ Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth?!" And, at the time when he bore an audible testimony to his Son from heaven, it was in these words, “ This is that my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleasedm.” Thus, in reference to this great event, it is said in our text, “ I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him :” and in reference to the same we must understand that declaration of our Lord himself, “ Thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world"."]
Thus, whether we understand the address as made to us by Wisdom personified, or Wisdom incarnate, we cannot but feel a deep interest in all that it has spoken to us, and set ourselves carefully to ascertain, e John i. 1–3. with Heb. i. 10.
John i. 18. & John v. 19. and x. 38.
h Heb. xii. 2. i Zech. vi. 13. * Ps. xl. 6–8. with Heb. x. 5-9.
Isai. xlii. 1. m Matt, iii. 17. See the Greek. n John xvii. 24.
II. Our duty in reference to it
Doubtless we should “hearken to its voice," and with child-like simplicity receive its loving instructions. We should,
1. Delight ourselves in the contemplation of wisdom
[Wisdom generally, wisdom universally, should be the object of our continual pursuit: “ through a desire of attaining it, we should separate ourselves, and seek, and intermeddle with all wisdomo." The works of creation should, as far as we have a capacity for such subjects, be investigated by us, in order to excite our admiration of that wisdom by which they were framed. The order and harmony of the heavenly bodies, the beauty and richness of this terraqueous globe, the exquisite workmanship of the human frame, together with the powers and faculties of our immortal souls, all open to us such inexhaustible stores of wisdom and knowledge, as, if duly explored, will strike with reverential awe the humble inquirer, and fill with devoutest gratitude the admiring soul. The works of Providence also, if once we are enabled to view them in their mutual relation and dependence, will transport the soul with wonder, and overwhelm it with the deepest sense of gratitude. No book in the universe, except the Bible, will convey half so much instruction to the mind, as may be gathered from a man's own experience of God's dealings with him, especially in the concurrence of his providence with the operations of his grace: and the man who has learned to read this book, and become conversant with its contents, has acquired “ secrets of wisdom, which are doublep,” yea, which are tenfold greater than any which are known to the merely natural man. God has said, that “ he has abounded towards his people in all wisdom and prudence? :" but “ his secrets are with those alone who fear him":" none others are at all able to appreciate his love: that “ knowledge is plain only to him that understandeth."
Our chief attention however must be directed to that adorable Saviour, who “ spake as never man spake,” and in whom his most inveterate enemies could not find a flawt. In him we have such lessons of wisdom as the whole universe besides does not afford. In tracing all the circumstances of his life, we should do well at every step to inquire, What answer should I have given? what conduct should I have pursued ? and, from such examinations frequently repeated, we shall learn at last, how far we are removed from true righteousness, and how much “ folly is bound up in our hearts.” In a word, we should sit • Prov. xviii, 1.
P Job xi. 6. Eph. i. 8.