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be a blessing, unless it is regarded rather as a trust than as property, and is enjoyed with moderation and self-control. It must be dispensed, in a considerable measure, to assist the needy, to clothe the naked and feed the hungry, to relieve the helpless, and to mitigate distress and pain. The wealthy are recommended to God's favour only by doing good but without “a wise and understanding heart,” very little good can be done, in the way that He requires. Riches, instead of being an ornament, are a pitiable incumbrance, when they are lavished in gaudy equipage and sumptuous entertainments, and serve merely as incentives to luxury and temptations to vice. The purpose for which they are given entirely fails, if their possessors are void of benevolence. The distribution of them, for purposes of charity, is the proper mode of expressing gratitude to God for his bounty in bestowing them. A rich man's character, when he acts as he ought to do, is beautifully described in the book of Job.--He is “eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.” He “gives deliverance to the poor that cry, and to the fatherless and him that hath none to help him.”
And the happy consequences, as far as his own immediate satisfaction is concerned, are, that he draws upon himself “the blessing of those that were ready to perish ; and he causes the widow's heart to sing for joy.” “The ears that hear him will bless him, and the eyes that see him will give witness unto him.”
And then, as to power. Unless it is exerted to the
glory of Almighty God, and to the benefit of mankind, it is absolutely useless, if not mischievous. If it is unjustly or harshly exercised, woe to the man that so abuses it ! Were it not better, indeed,-far better-for him to be altogether inactive, and even slothful, than to be busy in doing harm? Were it not far better to be aloof from other men, and incapable of serving them, than to pervert the means of promoting their interests and comforts ? Lamentable are the effects of power, when it is lodged in the hands of wicked and dishonest men !—for, though it was intended as an instrument of beneficence, it is made subservient to self-interest only, or to self-interest and maliciousness combined. It harrasses, where it should give ease; it oppresses, where it should relieve; it fetters those whom it should set at liberty ; and it heaps new loads of heaviness on sorrow and affliction. Power, without a conscientious regard to the true use of it, only enables the evil-minded to become worse than they otherwise would be. It may, indeed, secure the oppressor from the effects of human vengeance ; but it lays up for him “ wrath, against that day of wrath,” when the divine justice will infallibly overtake him.
All this serves to illustrate the wisdom of Solomon, with regard to the petition in the text. Had he preferred health and long life, pomp and dominion, to that wisdom which is the parent of beneficence and of public and private virtue, he might have been qualified for a tyrant, an oppressor, and a scourge to Israel ; he might have been a pest to mankind, far beyond the boundaries of his own kingdom : but he would have forfeited the favour of the Almighty ; he would never have been the delight of his people ; he would not have filled the earth with his dark parables ;" his “ name would not have gone far unto the islands, nor for his peace would be have been beloved.” (Eccles. xlvii. 15, 16.)
As the discipline of our hearts and minds in the ways
of true wisdom will ensure to us God's assistance, our actions will be the most conformable to his will, and, consequently, the most acceptable to him, when they are employed for the purposes of usefulness and kindness, to our brethren.
In Solomon this laudable disposition displayed itself in administering justice to his people, in protecting, and defending them, and in devoting his chief attention to their prosperity. In us, who are of inferior degree, it must be shewn by a cheerful readiness to embrace every opportunity of doing good to our neighbours,—by an active benevolence to all mankind, as far as our power extends,—and by an exact conformity of our actions to those immutable laws of virtue and piety, “which God has ordained, that we should walk in them.” We should carefully endeavour to preserve our health, that we may not only be comfortable in ourselves, but serviceable to others :—and this cannot be done, without adhering to the rule of temperance, and strictly persevering in the paths of prudence. Our wisdom will be turned into folly, if we employ
it only in “laying up for ourselves treasures on earth, where the moth and the rust corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal. To shelter us from the wrath of God, our pursuit of happiness must be regulated by the precepts of the Gospel ; and our affections must be invigorated, in administering to the wants of our brethren. And, whatever may be our rank in life, or however extensive our power may be, we must seek opportunities, in a proportionate measure, of promoting the general welfare ; always bearing in mind the example of our divine Saviour, who “ went about doing good,” and who has taught us“ that it is more blessed to give, than to receive.”
I cannot close this discourse, without recalling to our notice the weakness and frailty that belong even to the greatest of mankind, and that were so notorious in Solomon, who, in the decline of life, suffered himself, in opposition to his better judgment, to be seduced from his integrity and plunged into sensuality and idolatry. This should quell in us all those risings of pride, which the conceit of our own wisdom and sufficiency are but too apt to produce. It should teach us that there are temptations strong enough to surmount the greatest resolution and virtue, in such frail creatures as men are ; that the most cultivated understanding and the most extensive knowledge cannot guard us from error and sin, but that we are hurried by our headstrong passisons, to do what our sober reflections cannot but abhor, and to leave unperformed those duties, which we know by the strongest conviction, are required of us.
We must, indeed, be eternally miserable, unless our heavenly Father shall extend his mercy to us, through the merits of Christ. It is through His merits alone, that we can hope to have our endeavours accepted,—if sincere obedience, received by him as perfect, will admit us into “the joy of our Lord.”