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societies of men. Thus it is expressly said in this chapter: “ Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom. I am understanding, I have strength. By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth," ver. 14, 15.
This is wisdom. It contains the principles of beauty, order, and proportion in the things of nature, and all the branches of good conduct in men; particularly the fear of God, or a serious and awful, yet delightful and cheerful respect for the Divine Being, and sincere gratitude for all his benefits : sobriety, or the government of ourselves, and a just moderation of our affections for sensible things; justice, judgment, and equity toward others; discretion in the management of our own affairs; and the just and equitable laws of civil government.
III. We should now consider, what is to be understood by loving wisdom, and seeking it.
And hereby nothing more is meant, than a desire to be wise, and endeavours to attain to wisdom. To love wisdom is to esteem and prize it, to be persuaded that its principles and rules must be right, and to be desirous to know and be acquainted with them, and the reasons of them; together with a sincere purpose, and firm resolution of mind, to walk by them, and make them the rule of our action. Such will use the means of improvement. The thoughts of such will be much about this matter. They will hearken to instruction, and attend to their teachers. They will be inquisitive, and observe, and lay up, and meditate upon, what they have heard. They will not be averse to counsel, or even reproof. This is seeking wisdom. Such are very likely to succeed in their pursuit, and to obtain their wishes and desires.
IV. Which brings us to the next point, the encouragement here afforded, and set before men, in these expressions : “ I love them that love me: and they that seek me shall find me.”
Three things may be reckoned to be implied in this encouragement. Such shall attain to the knowledge of the principles of wisdom. They shall become wise, and act wisely and virtuously. They will have all the advantages which are annexed to the knowledge and observation of wise counsels and maxims.
1. They who love wisdom and seek it, will attain to the knowledge of its rules and principles, and the ways it recommends. It is the design of the undertaking in this book of Proverbs, as declared at the beginning, (as it is also the design of all other like attempts,) “ to give knowledge to
the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion." And in this eighth chapter: “ All the words of my mouth are in righteousness. They are all plain to him that understandeth, and right to them that find knowledge.” That is, the knowledge of them is easy to be attained by those who are attentive. And they who have so much understanding, as to prize wisdom, will soon perceive how right and reasonable all its rules and precepts are.
Again, in the second chapter of this book : “ My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; so that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding: yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding ; if thou seekest for her, as for silver, and searchest for her, as for hid treasure :” that is, if thou be sincere and diligent in seeking after wisdom, as what thou esteemest very valuable: “ then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God. Then shalt thou understand righteousness, and judgment, and equity, yea, every good work.”
They who seek knowledge and understanding, who are sincerely desirous to be informed in the principles of wisdom, will certainly become acquainted with all the rules and precepts which are of general importance, and suited to their rank and condition.
2. If you love and seek wisdom, you will become wise, discreet, and virtuous, and make its maxims the rule of your conduct. So Solomon says in the just cited second chapter of this book : “ When wisdom enters into thy heart, and knowledge is pleasant to 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 way of darkness.
He who loves wisdom, and labours sincerely to be acquainted with its principles, and perceives how right and reasonable they are, must be disposed to observe and follow them; and will be prepared for, and fortified against, the enticements of sinners, and the specious pretences of those who speak froward and perverse things.
3. Another thing included in this encouragement is, that they who love and seek wisdom shall have the many advantages that are annexed to the knowledge, and practice, or observation of wise rules and maxims. This must be implied in the expressions here used of wisdom's “ loving them that love her," and being “ found of them that seek her.” She will favour, prefer, and advance such, and cheerfully bestow upon them all the gifts and blessings which are in her disposal, and which indeed are great and manifold.
These are oftentimes affectionately set before men, in a variety of expressions, in order to determine their right choice: which cannot but be much for their benefit.
“ My son, forget not my law, but let thy heart keep my commandments. For length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add unto thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee. Bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thy heart. So shalt thou find favour and good understanding, (or acceptance,] in the sight of God and man,” Prov. ii. 1-4. And afterwards : “ Happy is the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies. And all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her. Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her, and happy is every one that retaineth her,” ver. 13-18.
Again; “ Keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding. Forget it not, neither decline from the words of my mouth. Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee. She shall bring thee to honour, when thou shalt embrace her. She shall give to thy head an ornament of grace. A crown of glory shall she give unto thee. Hear, my son, and receive my sayings: and the years of thy life shall be many,” Prov. iv. 4-10.
Peace and tranquillity is one great advantage, mentioned in the passages already cited. Again it is said : “ Thou shalt walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble. When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid : Yea thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet. For the Lord shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken," ch. iii. 23–26.
And though it be true, that a “ little which a righteous man has, is better than the treasures of many wicked,” Ps. xxxvii. 16, yet virtue and discretion do also tend to secure a competence; and often add, or give, great abundance: as it is said in a place before cited : “ Length of days is in her right hand, and in her left hand riches and honour,” Prov. üi. 16. And, “ Through wisdom is an house builded, and by understanding it is established. And by knowledge shall the chambers be filled with all precious and pleasant
riches :" that is, with all things both for use and ornament. “ A wise man is strong: yea, a wise man increaseth strength,” Prov. xxiv. 3–5.
All these blessings are often, and with great assurance, spoken of as advantages usually attending wisdom: or as the happy lot and portion of those who value and seek it, and observe and obey its rules and directions; health and long life, riches and honour; that is, a competence, and sometimes abundance, and credit and honour therewith, safety and security, peace and quietness, and great satisfaction of mind.
V. I shall conclude all with some directions concerning the right manner of seeking wisdom. Seek it early, diligently, and with continuance, and decline the society of those who respect not the laws of wisdom.
1. Seek wisdom early, or without delay: now, immediately, apply yourselves to the study of the principles of wisdom, the rules of right conduct. Attend to the instructions given you, suitable to your age and condition, by those who are knowing, and are concerned for your welfare and prosperity, both in soul and body. And now, immediately, form in your minds a fixed purpose and resolution of living and acting by those rules which appear just, wise, and reasonable.
2. Seek wisdom diligently. Let not time run waste, without employment. Let not whole days be lost in sloth and idleness; but be concerned to make daily improvement in some part of useful knowledge. Let the rules and maxims of wisdom be thought of, and meditated upon early and late. Let her principles be familiar to your minds, and always entertaining and delightful. So will they occur to you when they should be brought into action, and when you are in danger of being seduced to act contrary to them.
3. You must also endeavour to continue in this your love and affection for wisdom, and careful attention to her, because of our natural weakness and inconstancy, and because there are temptations and tempters: and you are in danger, if you are off your guard, of being misled by the enticements, or the provocations, of those you meet with.
4. Therefore let me add: decline as much as possible familiarity and intimacy with those who show no respect to the laws of wisdom; who have little or no worth; who possess, indeed, the human shape and intellect, but aim at no improvement; who rashly and inconsiderately venture to make a jest of sin, and despise wisdom, because it is too high for them; who are pleased with the worthless trash of sensual enjoyments: but have no taste of perfection and beauty, order and proportion, and the principles thereof, either in the natural, or the moral world; whose views and prospects are narrow and confined, low and base, like the
very beasts that perish,” Ps. xlix. 12, 20: minding nothing but present objects, neither looking forward to future time, nor observing the consequences and tendences of things present. Reckon yourselves to be above such contemptible people; and disdain to follow either their counsel or their example.
These are they that love wisdom. These she loves. They that so seek' her shall find her, and be blessed with all the precious things in her gift.
Let not, then, any immoderate love of pleasure, or ease, or much riches, or high honour and preferment, enter into the mind, to damp this reasonable principle, this excellent and becoming, this virtuous and hopeful disposition, the love of wisdom. But let this always be the prevailing, the governing, influencing principle of your minds. “ Exalt wisdom and she will promote you."
Esteem and study her rules and maxims, constantly obey her precepts, and decline not from her paths. “ She will, then, bring you to honour, and crown you with durable riches and righteousness.”
LITTLE CHILDREN BROUGHT TO CHRIST.
Then were there brought unto him little children, that he
should put his hands on them, and pray. And the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said: Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come unto me, for of such is the kingdom of heaven. And he laid his hands on
them. Matt. xix. 13, 14, 15. IT was now near the conclusion of our Saviour's ministry and life on this earth. He was in a place beyond Jordan, from whence he went up to Jerusalem, where he suffered.
This particular bistory being related by three evangelists, it is likely, that it contains something which may be of use for our direction or encouragement. St. John indeed has not taken any notice of it. . But you are sensible, that he had seen the three foriner gospels before he wrote: and