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strictly on his guard, proposing to himself the example of the godly, and availing himself of their aid in his walk before God. He knows, that “ he cannot take fire in his bosom, and not be burned;" and therefore he will use the utmost possible circumspection in the whole of his deportment. The books, the company, the conversation that would defile his mind, he carefully avoids; and, like the Jews at the time of the Passover, he searches the most secret recesses of his soul, to sweep
from it the leaven that would offend his God.]
4. It leads us continually to God for direction and support
[Without divine aid all human efforts are vain. But the word of God clearly, fully, constantly directs us to look to him; and an experience of it in our own souls will convince us of the necessity of crying to him continually, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe." It is in this way chiefly that divine wisdom preserves us.
The soundness of our principles may prescribe what is right; and our love to those principles may incline us to the performance of it: but divine grace alone can ever prove effectual for us. No "power, but that which raised Jesus Christ himself from the dead,” will be sufficient to carry on within us the work that has been begun. On the other hand, if we really trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, we shall," through his strength, be able to do all things," "nor shall any thing ever prevail to separate us from his love."] Having illustrated the great truth in our text, we
would further IMPROVE it, by suggesting, 1. In what spirit we should hear the word
(We should not come to the house of God in a mere customary manner, for example sake, or to perform a duty, and still less to be amused with what we hear: but, as Cornelius and his friends, when Peter came to minister unto them, said, “Now are we all here before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God;" so should we come up to the house of God to “hear what the Lord our God shall say concerning us." We should come to learn our duty, in order that we may practise it. We should bless our God that so sublime a privilege is accorded to us. We should come as a patient to receive the counsels of his physician, with a determination of heart to follow his prescriptions. A mariner, if amongst shoals and quicksands, does not consult his chart and compass for amusement, or with a disposition to dispute their testimony, but with a desire to have every mistake rectified, and to navigate his ship through the dangerous passage, agreeably to their direction. O! when will Christian assemblies meet in this frame? When will God's ordinances be thus improved for
their proper end? Brethren, only reflect on the office of true wisdom, as delineated in the passage before us, and you will never want either a direction or a motive for a profitable attendance on the means of grace.] 2. With what care we should improve it
[The word we hear will judge us in the last day: and if we do not take occasion from it to follow the counsels of the Most High, we shall greatly aggravate our guilt before God. The word we hear, if it
a savour of life unto life, will become to us a savour of death unto death." The lessons of wisdom had better never have been delivered to us, than be suffered to pass away without a suitable improvement of them. Our blessed Lord told his hearers, that if he had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin; but that now they had no cloak for their sin. And so must I also you. All that you have heard respecting the evil of sin, the sufficiency of Christ, the beauty of holiness, of what use will it be to you, if it do not humble you as sinners, encourage you as penitents, and animate you as believers ? I pray you, neglect not the day of
visitation, nor hold the truth in unrighteousness;" but receive the truth in the love of it; and deliver your souls into it as a mould, that it may fashion you after the image of your God. And never imagine that you have got above the use of ordinances, or that it is of no profit to attend upon them: they are the golden pipes through which, to your latest hour, you must receive the golden oil into your lamps; and through the supplies of the Spirit which you may receive by them, you may hope that your path shall shine brighter and brighter unto the perfect day.”]
BENEFITS OF TRUE WISDOM. Prov. ii. 10—22. When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and
knowledge is pleasant unto 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 ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked, whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths : to deliver thee from the strange woman, even from the stranger which flattereth with her words, which forsaketh the guide of her youth, and forgetteth the covenant of her God: for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again, neither take they hold of the paths of life; that thou mayest walk in the way of good men, and keep the
paths of the righteous. For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain in it: but the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.
WHETHER we regard Solomon as a saint walking with his God, or as a backslider restored to God, we must consider him as pre-eminently qualified to give advice for the regulation of our conduct : for, as a saint, he was endued with wisdom above all the children of men; and, as a backslider, he had a wider range for his wickedness, and a deeper experience of its folly, than any other person ever possessed.
Under the character of “wisdom,” he here speaks of true religion; which he recommends to all, but especially to persons in early life; and, in order to impress his advice the more deeply on our minds, he sets before us, I. The benefits derived from true wisdom
When once religion is deeply rooted in the heart, it will render us the most essential services1. It will keep us from the society of ungodly men
[There are many whose delight is in wickedness: they have departed from God themselves, and have “made crooked paths for themselves;” in which they proceed with all imaginable “frowardness" and perverseness. Disdaining to receive any light from God or his word, they "walk in utter darkness, not at all knowing whither they goa." And not content with casting off all restraint themselves, and walking after their own lusts in all manner of uncleanness, they wish to draw all they can along with them: they deride all serious piety, and labour to the uttermost to turn aside from the way of godliness any who may be inclined to it b.
“They rejoice to do evil:" and, if they can but succeed in their efforts to ensnare a person who has been fleeing from sin, and to divert him from following after God, not even Satan himself will exult more than they-
Now from such companions true religion will preserve us. We shall see at once how far they are from God, and how impossible it is to be happy in their society: "for what fellowship can righteousness have with unrighteousness; or light with darkness; or Christ with Belial; or he that believeth with an unbeliever?" Instead of seeking their society, therefore, we a ver. 13. with 1 John ii. 11. b 1 Pet. iv. 4.
c 2 Cor. vi. 14, 15.
shall come out from among them, and be separated;" and not have any fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove theme” -]
2. It will keep us from the snares also of ungodly women
[It is lamentable to think how degraded human nature is, and how assimilated to the very beasts multitudes are, who were originally formed in the image of their God. Females, married, as well as unmarried, “ forsaking the guide of their youth and the covenant of their God,” will abandon themselves to the most vicious courses, soliciting the embrace of men to whom they are utter “strangers," and practising every species of artifice, to ensnare and vitiate all who come in their way
And such is their influence over those whom they have once ensnared, that it is a miracle almost if even one is recovered to a sense of his duty, and is brought back again in penitential sorrow to his God? Truly their ways lead down to death and to hell 8: for not only do they draw men from all thoughtfulness about their souls, but they bring them into extravagances and crimes, which not unfrequently issue in suicide, or death by the hands of the public executioner. But from these also will vital piety preserve us.
It will lead us to use all the precautions against them, that a prudent government employs against the infection of the plague. We shall have no communication with persons, whose very presence will endanger the life of our souls.
We shall not go near their houses, or the places of their resorth. We shall not parley with temptation when it comes in our way; but shall fee from it, as Joseph did, saying, “ How shall I do this great wickedness, and sin against Godi?"---]
3. It will guide us in the paths of righteousness and peace
(When once true religion enters into the soul, we shall take the Scriptures for our guide, and endeavour to walk in the paths which all the holy men of old have trod before usk. We shall not be satisfied with following the customs of those around us, or with conforming to the standard of duty which the world approves; we shall desire to be “ holy, as God is holy;" and shall determine through grace to “perfect holiness in the fear of God” ---]
Such being the effects of true wisdom, I will proceed to point out to you, d 2 Cor. vi. 17. e Eph. v. 11.
ver. 19. & Prov. v. 3–5. and vii. 26, 27.
h Prov. v. 8. i Gen. xxxix. 9.
ver. 20. VOL. VII.
II. The vast importance of seeking after it
Both the promises and threatenings of the Mosaic law were chiefly of a temporal nature; the people who served God faithfully being encouraged to expect peace and plenty in the land of Canaan; whilst those who were disobedient to his laws were to be visited with war, famine, pestilence, and ultimately to be driven out of that land, as the Canaanites had been before them. But under these figures truths of far higher moment were veiled : and the present and eternal states of men were shadowed forth as indissolubly connected with their moral and religious character. Hence the contrast drawn between the sentence accorded to “the upright” and “the wicked” in the concluding verses of our text, must be understood as referring to their respective states, 1. In this world
[“Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come!" Certainly in this world there is an immense“ difference between those who serve God, and those who serve him not m.” We readily grant that the ungodly and profane may prosper in respect of outward things, and that the saints may be in a state of degradation and oppression": but there is no comparison between the real happiness of the one and of the other: the ungodly are “ like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirto:" they are agitated by many ungovernable and conflicting passions: their tempers are a source of continual disquietudep: and they have no inward resources to calm the tumult of their minds But the godly have consolations peculiar to themselves, and abundantly sufficient to counterbalance their afflictions. They have a God to go unto; a God, who
says, “Cast thy burthen on the Lord, and he will sustain thee.” The very tribulations which they endure for righteousness sake, are to them a ground of glorying and the light of God's countenance lifted up upon them fills their souls with joy and peace, even with “ a joy that is unspeakable," and“ peace that passeth all understanding,
If then we look no further than to this present life, we do not hesitate to declare, that " the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, that is understanding'."]
11 Tim. iv. 8. m Mal. ii. 18. n Ps. lxxiii. 3–10. * Isai. lvii. 20, 21. p Rom, iii. 16, 17. q Rom. v. 3. I Job xxviii. 28.