« AnteriorContinuar »
very clerer, very ingenious, very praiseworthy characters; and, perhaps, of nearly equal benefit to their fellow creatures; but the term wisdom is here to be understood in a way only as regards general knowledge, or the accumulation of facts. Whoever has his judge ment thus formed, thus established, must, of course, be wise : that is, as well informed, on general subjects, as bis station in life will afford him to be: and the result will then soon convince him that whatever he has learned, is little, or nothing, in the scale of universal knowledge ! 'Tis the mere numeration table in wisdom's arithmetic! The first step (the ground step) leading to the pyramid of human discovery! The first rough sketch or outline, of the map of general information ! and something even less than a rough sketch of the map of nature !
Shakspeare, as well as Solomon before him, observed that: “ The wise man knows himself to be a fool!” By the bye, let it be asked, why was Solomon denominated wise ?. He did many things which have been gonerally allowed to be very weak, and highly blameable. Even so think some people at the present time. The words present time, are used, because opinions often change with the fashions of the age ; and there are different modes of thinking, as well as of dressing! and there ought to be published “Magazines for fashionable modes of thinking!" in the same way as for "fashionably dressing !” Indeed, most of the books and newspapers that are printed in all parts of the world, are somewhat after this plan, though under different titles. Read the books of all ages, and of all countries, and it will
be found that they are all filled with the most fashionable modes of thinking, the most prevailing opinions at the periods when the said books were published ! But as far as respects Solomon, why was he thought wise ? and wherefore were the chapters in the biblo given as having been the product of his brain ? Merely because lie had the character, and, no doubt, was one of the wisest men of the age in which he lived. We are told that Solomon was favored by the Deity when be followed the laws of wisdom; and he was punished when he swerved from what was just, and acted in a contrary direction. We are also told that David was a
man after God's own heart." As David was accounted wise, it is very consolatory to think that wisdom is in favor with the Deity, and therefore, it is praiseworthy to seek wisdom by all the means in our power. We ought to think nothing a trouble that puts us in possession of real knowledge, which implies the best method of attaining happiness; and by learning how altain it, wo, at the same timo, learn how to avoid practices that lead to consequences of an opposite nature.
As to the other branch of the question - why Solomon's writings, or sayings, were called proverbs ? *Tis probable that they were so styled from their own intrinsic value; the absolute worth of the wisdom they communicated : and as every benevolent and truly wise man wishes to serve his fellow creatures, Solomon thought it a part of his duty to enforce and to urge, the wholesome truths he bad discovered by all the means in his power; and that these truths were so often repeated by others, and so universally acknowledged, that they became proverbial, and in the mouths of all rapks of people ; in all nations, all countries and districts; wherever the scriptures were circulated, and the most sacred, most divine trutbs were sought or wished for, welcomed or adored. It is complimentary to any doctrines, any set of opinions, systems, or modes of communicating good sense, to say that those opipions are proverbial! It shows them to be generally esteemed and considered highly valuable: books of folly may prevail for a short time, but if they do not carry with them something of value, they will very soon siok into insignificance and be treated with contempt, till they are finally buried in silence and oblivion. But, on the contrary, Solomon's wisdom became so evident, and so generally admitted, that even common voices proclaimed it, spoke of its worth and general atility, in all places and on all occasions ; till it became as well known as a popular tune ; and hence it may be presumed, was the original cause why that portion of the bible was called Solomon's Song.
It is not meant to indulge in any degree of levity while speaking on a subject of this kind : but songs are often the greatest proofs of estimable notoriety, and sterling worth. That admirable, and truly pious, as well as humourous writer, Mr. Addison, tells us, in bis Spectator, that he had rather bave been the author of the old song of Chevy Chace, than of all the works that ever had issued from his pen. A greater compliment than this could not have been paid to proverbial maxims, old sayings or songs, or popular trifles of any kind : especially when it is considered
that Mr. Addison was
one of the best critics, and the author of the comedy of “ The Drummer,” and the tragedy of “ Cato :” and still more, well known to have been a truly wise, and strictly honest man. After statiag the authority of Mr. Addison, it may be presumed that no further apology is necessary for the insertion of the many trifles, and scraps that may be found in the course of nearly all popular writings, as well as in these desultory and methodical pages. If the said trifles afford any degree of amusement, and the manner of stating them should stimulate the reader into the search after any more important truths; the purpose will be fully accomplished, and the time not wasted that is spent in the perusal of them : on the contrary, inquiring minds will be turned from what is vain or frivolous, to what is at all events innocent; possibly amusing, and probably not uninstructive, nor without some manifestations of general utility. Sometimes I chide myself, lest it should be supposed, that I am too vain in seeming to believe, that any opinions or observations, that are scattered through these desultory pages, can ever possess the least tendency to influence any respectable portion of society. But I am 'not afraid of incurring the censure of any right thinking man, if at times I appear somewhat too vain, nay even ridiculous, in supposing that trifling pages like these, can ever have sufficient weight to rule the conduct or opinion, of even a single individual. To assume on my part too great a degree of modesty, or diffidence on this occasion, would be like betraying the cause of truth and advancing that of ignorance.
I am firmly of opinion, that the advanced position of the human mind in comparison with former ages, is owing more to small publications than large ones : while knowledge was made known only through the medium of large folio, or quarto volumes, it was confined to the perusal of those belonging to establishments who were prejudiced, or too much interested, to diffuse the light of knowledge amongst the bulk of mankind : therefore but for small or cheap publications, the people at large would never have been what they are at present. There is still a point not generally known; which isthat many good and wise men are of opinion that it is a pity that the common people (that is, the labouring classes) are so well informed as they now are : that information oniy tends to make them dissatisfied, and consequently unhappy. Now those who argue in this manner have only policy in view : they do not consider that their policy is founded on selfishness only; and that such narrow principles can no longer keep the human mind in subjection : no; even self-interest must now adopt a more liberal policy; and it is now too late to question which is the best of the two, - whether a selfish or a liberal policy? The narrow, illiberal
systen, kept mankind in ignorance for ages; and oceans of blood were shed to keep society in as low a condition and as little above brutes as possible ; and it is probable that our faculties would have remained very inferior to what they now are, but for the invention of Printing. The Press, by the rapid communication of thought, has been the means of making one year do the work of a century.