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The first is of those who place blessedness in the knowledge of natural things, and in human wisdom ; which begins at the 12th verse of the 1st chapter, and reaches to the beginning of the 2d. For in the preceding verses, he only lays a foundation for his discourse, and plains his way to the proof of what he intended.
The second is of those who place it in pleasure, which he dispatches as unworthy of a long confutation, in the three first verses of the 2d chapter. But there being those of this sect, who, joining these two together, pleasure and knowledge, imagine they will make up a complete hap. piness, he spends more time in shewing their vanity, from the 4th verse of the 2d chapter to the 16th verse of the third ; interposing only a parenthesis, wherein he compares wisdom with folly, and the effects of both shew how much the former is to be preferred before the latter.
The third touches those who think honours, magistracies, and power in the commonwealth, to be the highest of all goods. In which number are they, who seek to extend their empire, though it be by a vast effusion of their own blood; by which means also they establish their tyranny, when they have acquired it. Which disputation reaches from the 16th verse of the ad chapter to the 9th verse of the 5th. Yet so, that from the beginning of the 4th chapter to the 13th verse of the same, he inserts the miseries that grow from such tyrannical administration, and the vices which break in, upon the impunity of evil-doers, and neglect of the laws. Particularly, he gives us a lively description of emulation and covetousness, two of the foulest and most cruel pests of the commonwealth. In the 5th chapter, also, he inserts a discourse of that superstitious and vain worship of God, in which some, despising all other things, place their satisfaction, and most lamentably applaud themselves in it. Which disputation contains in it most excellent precepts of true religion and piety, which the reader may find in the first eight verses of the 5th chapter.
After which follows the fourth opinion of those who propound to themselves riches and wealth as their last end; which if they can attain, they doubt not they shall live very happily. Which extends itself from thence to the 11th verse of the 6th chapter, where you have the general epilogue of the first part, concerning false felicity.
The other part,
X. Then follows the second, and most elegant, as well as useful part of the Sermon. In which he teaches, that the felicity, for which men take so much pains, (every one going his own way to it), is not to be found any where but in a religious and serious fear of God; according to that of the psalmist, “ Blessed are all they that fear the Lord, that walk in his ways;" and again, “ Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in his commandments.” For other things, though they promise felicity, yet they cannot perform it ; because they have such a mixture of va. nity, trouble, and grief with them, as will not suffer them to be absolutely good; and because, if they were sincere, yet they being so uncertain, that they may be lost before we die, and at the best are terminated within the narrow bounds of this short life, they cannot give that satisfaction and quiet of mind which we desire. But the fear of God, is such a good, that it both gives true content, satisfaction, and tranquillity of mind, as long as we live, and when we die fills us with a sure hope of a better life ; in which true and genuine felicity is accomplished.
For the sum of what can be said in this matter, may be reduced to this argumentation : “ That which can make a man's mind quiet, still, and calm, both in life and death, that alone can
- make him happy; « Now this the fear of the Lord can do for him, and this alone : “ Therefore, this, and nothing else, will make him a happy man.”.
The proposition needs no proof; for then we feel ourselves happy, when our minds are so quiet and well pleased, that they neither grieve nor fear, nor solicitously desire, nor vainly hope, for uncertain things, but rest satisfied in that excellent and most certain joy and hope which arise out of a pure conscience.
The assumption is proved from two effects of the fear of God, viz. wisdom and justice. The first of which teaches us what to follow, and what to fly; and furnishes us with such caution, that we be not imposed on in the choice of that which seems to be good for us. The other instructs us to do our whole duty towards God, towards our neighbour, and towards ourselves. In which two, all religion and piety, together with satisfaction, tranquillity, and felicity, is contained.
And, because effects are more known than their causes, and it will be uncertain what he meant by the fear of God, unless he explained it by those things wherein it consists, he begins his disputation on this subject, with those effects; and employs himself wholly in shewing what are the offices of wisdom and justice ; that he might inform us not only what is the chief good to which we ought to aspire, but by what ways and means we may come io it.
XI. Of wisdom and prudence, therefore, which is conversant in the choice of things, he treats in the first place, chap. vii. ; because no man can act either righteously, or valiantly, or temperately, unless, by the benefit of prudence, he be before instructed what force they are unto our happiness. He explains, therefore, its various offices in such documents as these : “ That a good fame is to be desired above all things; that death ought to be the subject of our frequent meditations ; that those things are to be avoided, which incite to pleasure, and the contrary to be followed, which admonish us to be modest and sober ; that severity and gravity are to be preserred before mirth; chastisements and corrections to be willingly admitted ; flattery and soothing people to be cashiered; not to be too much disturbed at calumnies and reproaches; to take no bribes; to expect the issue and conclusion of things ; to bridle anger, as an enemy to reason ; to love the use of money, not money
itself;" and such like, unto which, last of all, he adjoins a brief commendation of wisdom; rejecting both the larger explication of its effect and its praises to the end of the 9th chapter, and beginning of the 10th.
Now this first part,.concerning wisdom, is handled in the twelve first verses of the 7th chapter.
XII. Then he enters upon the other, concerning justice; which he divides into that which respects God, and that which respects men. The former of which (comprehended under the names of religion, piety, and godliness) consists in this ; that in the first place we conceive aright and judge well of God, and of his providence in the administration of human affairs ; and then that we pay him that honour, worship, and service, which is due unto his divine majesty.
This discourse, which he touches upon from the 13th to the 16th verse of the 7th chapter, he resumes again in the 8th chapter, and pursues it from the 9th verse of it, to the 13th verse of the 9th chapter.
As for that justice which respects others, it is manifold. For it is either towards men, or tj. wards women, which consists, in a manner, altogether in shunning both the extremes of it, and observing an initixeiu, moderation or equity; and hath respect to their offences, either against ourselves or others ; which we are partly to correct, and partly to bear withal. Which is the sum of his discourse, from the 16th verse to the beginning of the 8th chapter.
Where, interspersing a few things after his manner, in the praise of wisdom, he begins another division of justice, concerning the duty of subjects to their princes, from the 2d verse to the 8th ; and on the other side, the duty of princes towards their subjects; of both which it may be fit to give a larger account. For this tractate is truly royal, and worthy to be read perpetually, in this most turbulent age, both by high and low; that from hence subjects may learn to perform obedience, and the greatest observance, both in word and deed, towards their princes ; chusing rather to bear and suffer any thing, than to attempt rebellion against them : and kings may also remember, that they ought to govern their kingdoms according to the rules of law and equity, and not according to their own will and pleasure ; God having committed unto them the sceptre of justice, clemency, and welfare of their subjects ; not the sceptre of cruelty, tyranny, and destruction.
In which this wise king, observing both princes and people to be too negligent, and that thence ariseth a very great licence in sinning, lest well-affected minds should be offended at this horrible corruption of manners, he digresseth into a long, but very profitable and necessary, disputation of
God's providence, and the economy of justice. Which though the wicked deny, and deride, because they see not such manifest difference as one would expect, made between the good and the bad, in the events that befal them both; yet he advises all that fear the Divine Majesty, not to be. dejected and disheartened at this, nor to search with too much curiosity into God's secrets ; but stedfastly resolving, that it shall not be well with the wicked, though all things flow at present according to their heart's desire, and that whatsoever the godly may suffer now, they shall find at last that God is their friend, to look upon themselves therefore as happy men, both in the peace of their conscience in this world, and in a sure and certain hope of a better condition in the other. Upon which account he frequently inculcates this counsel, that they who are studious to fear God, and do well, being secure of God's administration, and of the event of things, should enjoy the present good things, which his divine bounty bestows upon them, with chearful minds, and with thanksgiving to him. This discourse, (which, it must be confessed, is not altogether so methodical as some other), extends from the 9th verse of the 8th chapter, to the 13th verse of the 9th.
And because he had shewn, that the event of things is not in our own counsel and in human wisdom, but in the hand of God, lest any body should be so weak or perverse, as thence to conclude, that it is the same thing, whether we act wisely or foolishly, he again makes a digression into the praises of wisdom, shewing how much it excels folly, front the effects of both. It begins at the 17th verse, and reaches to the 4th of the 10th chapter. Where he returns to his discourses, about the mutual offices of justice between one another, both of princes and subjects.
And then, in the six. first verses of the 11th chapter, he exhorts most earnestly to li. berality, and almsgiving, which is no small part of righteousness. And with that he concludes the two effects of the fear of God, wisdom and justice.
XIII. The rest of the work is his Peroration ; in which he fully opens his opinion concerning the chief good; which he confirms to lie wholly in a truly religious fear of God. Which therefore he seriously exhorts every one to make their study as earnestly as possible ; before dull and unactive old age, and death itself, (both which he elegantly describes), come upon us, and before we think of it, oppresses us.
This is the method of this most excellent sermon ; which I cannot but exhort all men to study diligently, and with great intention of mind, both for the author's sake, and for the matter of it. Which he handles in such a manner, as first to draw us from the desire and love of earthly things, and from the perverse use of them; and then to lead us unto the true and lawful use of them, without any offence to God, as well as without hurt to ourselves. And he teaches us how we may, without a preposterous solicitude and anxiety about events, enjoy all things in the fear of God, with tranquillity and satisfaction of mind at present; and at last, by the same fear of God, and observance of his commandments, arrive at a never-dying felicity.
To conclude, he intersperses through the whole discourse abundance of common places, both philosophical and theological ; which are so fitted to make us every way more learned, more pru. dent, and more pious, that we shall find great use of them in all the passages of our lives.
XIV. Thus that learned Spaniard concludes his preface ; which I have contracted, that I might set before the reader's eyes, in one short view, both the design and the procedure of the dis
Of the former (the design) there is no doubt ; and the latter is very regular, as it will farther appear in the explication I shall give of it. Wherein I have not followed this author throughout, in every part of this division of the book, because, though for the most part I take it to be accurate enough, yet, I think, in several places I had reason to differ from him, and take another way, to make the connection more easy and natural, and the sense thereby more clear and evident.
I beseech God, that the pains I have taken herein may not be in vain, but prove an effectual means, both to make the mind of Solomon in this book better understood, and to turn all our minds from these frivolous things, about which now they are too much employed, unto the solid and full good which here he recommends to us. Who may be the better trusted in what he saith, because he had tried what satisfaction could be found in all manner of enjoyments here; and
it could not be objected to him that he disparaged the world, merely because he could not get any share in it, or had not the liberty which was necessary to enjoy it. For no man ever had greater plenty, or gave a greater loose to his desires ; but after all the experiments he could make, came to this resolution, which he had better have taken at first,—that religion and virtue are the only things that can make a man happy.
And perhaps, as God suffered St Thomas to doubt of our Saviour's resurrection, for the greater confirmation of our faith, by the satisfaction he at last received ; so he let this
great man go astray, that by his dear-bought experience he might teach us this wisdom, to keep the closer to God in faithful obedience.
Which it will be a very great shame if we do not learn, who live under the instruction of a greater master than Solomon,—the Son of God himself. By whom we are taught these things in a more effectual manner, not only by his doctrine, but by his whole life, and by his death; in which he declared the greatest neglect and contempt of this world, and that his mind was wholly set upon the other.
And what a blessed sort of resurrection would it be, if (as Erasmus somewhere admirably speaks) we would all lay aside our dissensions, strifes, and quarrels, and study the lessons our Lord hath taught us. Whose business it was in this world, to form unto himself “ a people that should wholly depend on Heaven, and, placing no confidence in any earthly support or comfort, should be after another manner rich, after another manner wise, after another man. ner noble, after another manner potent; in one word, after another manner happy; designing to attain felicity by the contempt of those things which are vulgarly admired. -A people that should be strangers to filthy lusts, by studying in this flesh the life of angels; that should have no need of divorce, by being able to mend or bear all manner of evils; that should be wholly ignorant of oaths, as those who neither distrust, nor will deceive any body; that make not the getting of money their business, having laid up their treasures in heaven ; that should not be tickled with vain glory, because they refer all to the glory of Christ alone ; be void of ambition, as disposed, the greater they are, to submit themselves so much the more unto all-men, for Christ's sake ; that should be unacquainted with wrath, much more with revenge, as studying to deserve well of those who deserve ill of them; that should be so innocent in their behaviour, as to force commendations even from heathens ; that should be born again to the purity and simplicity of infants ; that should live like the birds of the air, without care and solicitude ; among whom there should be the greatest concord, nothing different from that which is between the members of the same body, in which mutual charity should make all things common ; that whether there were any good thing, it should help to supply him that wanted, or any evil thing, it should either be removed or mitigated by the good offices of others; who should be so wise by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, to live according to the example of Christ, as to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world, like a city on an hill, conspicuous to all the country round about; whose abilities, whatsoever they are, should make them forward to help others; to whom this life should seem vile, death desirable out of a longing for immortality ; who should neither fear tyranny, dor death, nor the devil himself; relying upon the invincible power of Christ alone; who should act in all things, so as to be ever prepared and ready for that last and most to be wished for day, when they shall take possession of true and of eternal felicity.”