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Israel, “ hearken unto me, Oye children, for blessed are they that keep my ways. Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not. Blessed is the man that heareth me, watching daily at my gates, waiting at the posts of my
doors ! for whoso findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the Lord. But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul : all they that hate me love death."6
Wise, enterprising, and knowing as the age in which we live may call itself, yet is it needful that the men of this generation, yea, the men of our own enlightened country, be affectionately exhorted, lest they, with all their getting, and with all their advancement in worldly knowledge, and with all their wonderful progress in scientific information, get above that knowledge of themselves, of their own natural condition, and of man's immortal destiny, of which if they lose sight, to them must belong the reproof from the Lord,—“Thy wisdom and thy knowledge it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me."7
6 Prov. viii. 34-36.
It was, as we may recollect, the patriot desire of the prophet leader of the armies of Israel, that his countrymen should be renowned throughout the earth as “a wise and understanding people ;"& and their title to this honourable distinction was to be established in their observance of, and obedience unto, the statutes and ordinances of the Lord their God. Let us, indeed, my brethren, be timely persuaded, that it is no mark of understanding to be ignorant of, or to scorn the fulfilment of those duties which are prescribed to us on the authority of God, and which are to be read in God's sacred word. It is neither wisdom nor understanding to neglect the study of that holy book, from which are to be gathered the riches of heavenly wisdom, and which, instead of ? Isa. xlvii. 10.
8 Deut. iv. 6.
increasing our self-vanity, and nourishing our pride, will teach us to “ cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ."9 For, after all, what does man know ? Extensive as may be, and is, his grasp of knowledge, yet shall there still be something for him to acquire : and the longest life shall not suffice to satisfy the cravings of an immortal spirit, or the most laudable thirst for information. “ The Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth ? Hast thou commanded the morning since thy days; and caused the dayspring to know his place? Canst thou lift up thy voice to the clouds, that abundance of waters may cover thee ? Doth the hawk fly by thy wisdom ? Doth the eagle mount up at thy command ?” ? Before these and other great questions, matchless in the dignity of their language, and powerful in their eloquence, Job was constrained to humble himselfto acknowledge the worm-like nature of man-his insignificance in strength, in knowledge, and in discernment, as compared with the dealings of Omnipotence, and the counsels of Eternity. And in like manner it is required of us that we submit ourselves to the words and the teachings of Infinite Intelligence and unsearchable Power. So shall we happily be making advances towards the right understanding of ourselves, and of our own obligations and duties.
92 Cor. x. 5. 1 Job xxxviii. 1, &c.
In truth, it is a painful thing to witness the little progress the generality of men are inclined to make in that understanding which, in the scriptural sense of the word, is the only true wisdom : “ The fear of the Lord,” as we read in Job, " that is wisdom; and to depart from evil, is understanding.”2
Man may in2 Job xxviii. 28,
deed be wise, and wise not only in his own sight, but also in the judgment of the world; nevertheless, unless he is “ wise as to that which is good,” wise in the government of himself, of his own wayward passions and corrupt inclinations,-wise in the practice of the laws of sobriety, righteousness, and godliness,his wisdom and his talents will scarcely afford proof of his possessing a truly wise and christian heart, “ right towards God.” And the mere worldly wise man may, to his own everlasting ruin, be the willing and infatuated prey to “ many foolish and hurtful lusts."
Let us then, my brethren, be on our guard, lest we mistake either the beginning, or the end of knowledge. “That the soul be without knowledge, it is not good :"but that knowledge must be sought for, and acquired from, and in subservience to, the written oracles of Divine truth. It must be based in that
3 Prov. xix. 2.