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NOTIONS CONCERNING GOD ENTERTAINED BY SOLOMON. 81
wisdom, power, and goodness of Jehovah in the creation and in the government of mankind. These are the truths which must ever form the foundation of all vital religion.
“ Jehovah by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens. By his knowledge the depths are broken up and the clouds drop dowa the dew.”
Prov., Chap. iii. 19, 20. “ The hearing ear and the seeing eye, Jehovah hath made even both of them."-Chap. xx. 12.
“ The rich and poor meet together: Jehovah is the maker of them all.”—Chap. xxii. 2. The first instance of the personification of wisdom in the Old Testament occurs in the description of the creation, given in the Proverbs. We are here told that wisdom existed prior to the creation ; " From everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was,” she was with God, and was his counsellor when he made the world.
Later Hebrew writers have industriously copied this personification of the heavenly wisdom (copia); and, mingling foreign ideas, derived from the Platonic philosophy with this orientalism, they probably understood it in a sense not merely metaphorical. They regarded the attribute of wisdom as something substantial, they ascribed to it an actual existence distinct from God, yet possessing the closest internal union with him. But the author of this portion of the Proverbs does not seem to have had any such notions ; for according to him, wisdom is to be found among the qualities possessed by men; “ By wisdom Kings reign and Princes decree justice," and, “ All who love wisdom shall find her.” When he here speaks of men being gifted with wisdom, he does not refer to something personal, and distinct from these men : and we have no reason to conclude that, when he speaks of the wisdom which guided God in the creation, he meant to express anything more than that all God's works prove him to be possessed of perfect wisdom.
The creation of the world is poetically described, and the description is in conformity with the conceptions of the Hebrews, who, devoid of knowledge respecting physical and chemical agents, believed the first impressions of their senses. The cosmogony of Genesis, though not contradicted, is neither repeated nor alluded to. When God, with the skill of an architect, has appointed the foundations of the earth and completed the structure of the globe, WISDOM, his assistant, is represented as contemplating and rejoicing in God's new creation, and especially in man.
“ Jehovah possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was. When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled, before the hills was I brought forth: while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the highest part of the dust of the world. When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth : when he established the clouds above: when he strengthened the fountains of the deep: when he gave to the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment: when he appointed the foundations of the earth : then I was by him, as one brought up with him: and I was daily his delight, rejoicing always before him: rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth; and my delights were with the sons of men.”—Chap. viii. 22-31,
Character and Attributes of God. In the description of the creation just quoted eternity of existence* and infinite wisdom and power are attributed to Jehovah. We also find him represented as holy and just, as knowing everything which takes place upon the earth, even discerning man's most secret thoughts; as loving, commending, and rewarding piety and virtue, and as abhorring and punishing sin and transgression. Jehovah is omniscient.
“ For the ways of man are before the eyes of Jehovah and he pondereth all his goings.”—Chap. v. 21.
“ Hell and destruction are before Jehovah; how much more then the hearts of the children of men ?”—Chap. xv. 11.
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes; but Jehovah pondereth the hearts."-Chap. xxi. 2. Jehovah is omnipresent. The presence of Jehovah is not
* Jehovah " existed from everlasting, before the earth was.” This was the Hebrew, mode of expressing eternity of duration. And, as our author does not ascribe any origin to God, we may conclude from these expressions that he believed in his eternity.
confined to a particular spot, nor can it be contained within certain limits. However readily the less cultivated among the Hebrews pictured their Jehovah, dwelling on his throne in heaven, or presiding in his temple, his terrestrial palace on earth, that Solomon had far higher conceptions of the God he worshipped, we may conclude from the prayer he utters at the dedication of the temple--if indeed this prayer were composed by him.
“But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee: how much less this house that I have builded ?”—1 Kings viii. 27. Yet in this beautiful prayer, in compliance with the generally-received notions, Jehovah is styled “ Jehovah the God of Israel," and the heaven is said to be his dwelling place.
“ The eyes of Jehovah are in every place beholding the evil and the good.”—Prov., Chap. xv. 3. Jehovah is holy.
“ For the froward is abomination to Jehovah, but his secret is with the righteous."-Chap. iii. 32.
“ These six things doth Jehovah hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: a proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood. An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”—Chap. vi. 16-19.
• Lying lips are abomination to Jehovah: but they that deal truly are his delight."--Chap. xii. 22.
“ The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination unto Jehovah : but the words of the pure are pleasant words. Jehovah is far from the wicked: but he heareth the prayer of the righteous.” — Chap. xv. 26-29. Jehovah is incomprehensible.
No human powers are capable of comprehending the nature of God or understanding his works. The conviction of this inability is beautifully expressed by Agur, of whom we know nothing: neither who he was, nor when he lived.
“I neither learned wisdom, nor have the knowledge of the holy. Who hath ascended up into heaven, or descended ? who hath gathered the wind in his fists? who hath bound the waters in a garment? who hath established all the ends of the earth?
who is bis name, and what is his son's name, if thou canst
Government and Providence of God. The providence of Jehovah is over all his works, he is ever active in heaven and on earth, and nothing takes place but by his will and ordination. Throughout the book of the Proverbs no mention is made of angels. Everything is accomplished by the exertion of God's almighty power. In this particular, the Proverbs harmonize with the writings of the ancient prophets. Jehovah ruleth the destiny of man.
“Trust in Jehovah, with all thine heart; and lean not to thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."--Chap. iii. 5, 6.
“ The preparation of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from Jehovah. Commit thy works unto Jehovah, and thy thoughts shall be established. The lot is cast into the lap, but the whole disposing thereof is of Jehovah.”
Chap. xvi. 1, 3, 33. A prudent.wife is from Jehovah.”—Chap. xix. 14. “ The king's heart is in the hand of Jehovah, as the rivers of water : he turneth it whithersoever he will."-Chap. xxi. 1. Jehovah instructs his people by means of his oracle, and he has given them a law, the observance of which shall secure their happiness.
“ Where there is no vision the people perish : but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.”—Chap. xxix. 18. Jehovah imparts or reveals wisdom to men.
“ Jehovah giveth wisdom: out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding."-Chap. ii. 6. Blessings are granted to God's favourites, independent of any exertions on their part. Everything is under the guidance of Jehovah, and consequently the success or failure of individuals in their worldly concerns is wholly dependent on the will of Jehovah.
“ The blessing of Jehovah maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.”—Chap. X. 22. Jehovah recompenses virtue and punishes vice. Worldly prosperity, health, and long life are the promised rewards of the godly. Adversity and all its attendant sufferings are
the threatened punishments of the wicked. The fallacy of this doctrine became daily more and more apparent to the Hebrew people, and produced an ever growing distrust in just Providence. Yet disappointment and scepticism were not perhaps the worst results of this system of temporal rewards and punishments. Such a belief, instead of inspiring a pure love of virtue and a disinterested obedience, tended to produce cleverness, cunning, and deep selfishness. But how should a barbarous people in a barbarous age obtain purer notions of morality?
For the upright shall dwell in the land, and the perfect shall remain it. But the wicked shall be cut off from the earth, and the transgressors shall be rooted out of it.'--Chap. ii. 21, 22.
“Honour Jehovah with thy substance, and with the first-fruits of all thine increase : so shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.”-Chap. iii. 9, 10.
“ Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death. Jehovah will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish: but he casteth away the substance of the wicked.
“The fear of the wicked, it shall come upon him: but the desire of the righteous shall be granted.
The fear of Jehovah prolongeth days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened. The hope of the righteous shall be gladness: but the expectation of the wicked shall perish.”
Chap. x. 2, 3, 24, 27, 28. The evils and misfortunes which afflict the virtuous man are to be regarded by him as the chastenings of Jehovah, inflicted by God, with a view to promote the moral improvement of him whom he loveth :
· My son, despise not the chastening of Jehovah, neither be weary of his correction. For whom Jehovah loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”
Chap. iii. 11, 12. This maxim is much employed in the book of Job in his defence against unjust accusations and calumnies. And it is calculated to give much comfort to the sorrowful heart.
It is said that the curse of Jehovah rests upon the wicked. This, as well as every other harsh expression in the Old Testament, must be interpreted according to the prevailing notions of the age in which it was written. A certain attainment in philosophy must be made, before man will cease to