תמונות בעמוד

threw a nest of swallows chattering, “because,” said he, “they accuse me of killing my father." If these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out, Luke xix. 40. The Al. mighty, even by dead and inanimate creatures, can discover wickedness. The earth itself, which drank in blood, shall disclose and reveal it, Gen. iv. 10, 11; Isai. xxvi. 21; Hab. ii. 11. The Chaldee, by “birds of the air,” understands the angels of heaven, who, like winged eagles, shall make report of secret wickedness. Others refer it to fame, which is a swift and aërial messenger, alluding to what is said of princes : Πολλοι βασιλεων οφθαλμοί και πολλά ώτα, Kings have many eyes, many ears, and long arms, which can see, and hear, and punish offences at a great distance.

[ocr errors]


Having demonstrated the utility of true wisdom in regulating our behaviour towards superiors, and in preventing those dangers to which their displeasure might subject us, the inspired penman proceeds to manifest its excellency in directing our conduct towards inferiors, especially to such as are in want. First, substantial and useful charity is enjoined, ver. 1. and enforced with a powerful motive; both drawn from a metaphor of sowing and reaping. Secondly, the manner and measure of our charity are determined, and urged by a reason drawn from the uncertainty of future events, ver. 2. Thirdly, both are illustrated by many similitudes, in which such objections are prevented as the covetous dispositions of some persons are apt to make against this obvious duty. First, a man may say, That he is nearest to himself, and that he must look after his own supplies, leaving it to others to act the same part for themselves. To which he replies, That as clouds are not filled with water on their own account, but to be emptied on the earth ; so God's blessings are not conferred on men for their own sake, but, as good stew. ards, they are to dispense thein for the benefit of others, ver. 3. Secondly, it may be objected, If I relieve seven or eight, it will be very probable that much of this bounty will be cast away upon unworthy and ungrateful people, that will make no suitable return for it either to God or man.

To this he answers, That as it is indifferent to the owner of a tree whether it fall to the north or south, since either way it falls to his use and benefit; so, whatever good is communicated to the necessitous with a desire of honouring God and of assisting our neighbour, shall prove beneficial to the giver, whatever be the character of the receiver, ver. 3. Thirdly, it may be alledged, That it is not a proper season to be thus bountiful, and that there are many impediments and discouragements in the way: this charge or loss, and that affliction, or danger, or expence, lies heavy upon me; when I have surmounted these, and when I am secured against my own wants, it will then be a fitter time to think of the wants of others. To this objection be replies by another similitude drawn

from husbandry: He that will not sow his seed lest the wind should blow it away, nor reap his corn lest the clouds should rain and wet it, will never want exceptions against what is necessary to be done. Our duty, therefore, is to embrace the present opportunity, and to leave the success to the divine blessing. If we could certainly foresee better weather, and more seasonable accommodations for our business, to-morrow than to-day, we might bring forward some reasons for delay ; but these are as unknown to us as the way of the wind, or of the soul's coming into the body, or of the growth of the bones of an embryo in the womb, ver. 4, 5. On this ground he repeats the exhortation in the same metaphor: Sow thy seed, scatter thy charity in season and out of season, in youth, in advanced age, at all times, and on all occasions, since thou knowest not which will be most successful, ver. 6.

Having thus largely prescribed various precepts for rendering a man's life comfortable, and quieting his mind amidst all the vanities of the world, he next instructs him how he may provide for death and judgment, and thus secure happiness in another world. Should any one be disposed to say, When by the observation of these directions I am prepared for a secure and comfortable manner of living,

[ocr errors]

possessing the favour of the great, the blessing of the poor, peace within, and plenty in my external circumstances ; and when, by the wisdom that is from above, the vanity and vexation that pervade all things below, are healed and removed, it must then be a very pleasant thing to live, to behold the light of the sun, and to enjoy the blessings I have obtained, ver. 7. To this the wise man answers, That although, by following these rules, life is much sweetened, and the vanity interwoven with it is considerably abated, it is never thoroughly removed ; but when every thing is done which can be effected to render our si. tuation here comfortable, yet all that cometh, both life itself and all its supplies, are vanity, and will pass away, and the succeeding days of darkness will be more numerous than the preceding days of light. We ought therefore, by the seasonable remembrance of both, to moderate our delight in present gratifications, and to prepare to lift up our heads with comfort in the judgment to come, ver. 8.

And because young men, whose blood is warm, and whose spirits are active, are, of all other persons, most inclined to surfeit on present pleasures, and to put far from them the evil day, in despite of such admonitions, the preacher, in an ironical manner, derides the

« הקודםהמשך »