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The Gift of God

The Gift of God

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Studies in Life from Jewish Proverbs

Studies in Life from Jewish Proverbs

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Published by: GLENN DALE PEASE on Jun 15, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Gift of GodBY W. A. L. ELMSLIE, M.A.Studies in Life from Jewish ProverbsThe sayings we have been quoting in this volume for themost part belong to the life of ordered and peacefulsociety. There is no tramp of armies, no sense of imminentdeath, no outrage of gigantic suffering and injustice, in thepages of Proverbs or Ecclesiasticiis. To-day, however, theordinary problems and interests of peace-time seemaltogether irrelevant. Twenty million fighting men inEurope, asked what a maxim is, would talk to you of machine-guns ; the maxims otherwise called proverbsbelong to a different and forgotten world. For triflingmoralisms we have to-day neither taste nor time.But the Jewish proverbs range wide enough to have aword for everyone, for the grave or the gay, for pious orprofane, for those in haste just as much as for those atleisure ; and many of their comments on life are very farremoved from being trifling. In our enquiry we have metnot a few winged words worth capturing and holding fasteven in war-time ; great thoughts such as this assertion,He that foUoweth after righteousness shall attain unto life,hut he that pursueth evil doeth it to his own death (Pr. ii^9),or this reassuring hint of the fundamental goodness of human nature, When the righteous triumph there is greatglorying, hut ivhen the wicked come to power men hide them-selves (Pr. 28'* ; cp. ii'°), or this grand medicine for atempted people. Righteousness exalteth a nation, hut sin is adisgrace to any folk (Pr. 1434).280The Gift of GodMoreover it ought to be recognised that, properlyregarded, morahty is never unimportant ; morahsms beingtrifling only so long as they remain mere words, not whenthey are translated into deeds. Act upon the good that isfound in these proverbs, and immense results would follow.
But just there is the crux : " It is a small matter to get rightprinciples recognised, the whole difficulty lies in gettingthem practised. We need a power which can successfully,contend against the storm of our passion and self-will."*ow there is one deeply significant fact which we haveseen in our study of the Jewish proverbs, but on which wehave not yet laid sufficient stress — the fact that theyseemed to their authors to point beyond themselves to aDivine Source. They were not fortuitous atoms gatheredno man knew whence or why, but part of a marvelloussystem inspired and originated by God, sustained by Hisinexhaustible power, and governed by His holy purposes.Whatever may be thought regarding particular proverbs, nosensible person can imagine that Wisdom itself is idle orunimportant talk. Wisdom remains wise even in such a waras this, though the nations rage and the kingdoms aremoved.But is there a Divine Wisdom ? Or is the aspiring faithof men only an unsubstantial dream ? From first to lastthe Jews believed that Wisdom is a reahty, and, far fromweakening as the years went on, their confidence evenincreased, and their thoughts of the wonder and glory of theHeavenly Wisdom became, if possible, more sublime andyet no less intimate. And high as they exalted Wisdom,her chiefest glory remained this, that she was willing todwell with men. Let us take as a last quotation somebeautiful and loving words from that late work, the Wisdomof Solomon, to which reference was made in Chapter IX :' Horton, Proverbs {Expositor's Bible), p. 318.281Studies in Life from Jewish ProverbsWisdom is an effulgence from everlasting light,A stainless mirror of God's working, and an image of Hisgoodness.And it, being one, hath power to do all things ;And remaining in itself, reneweth all things :And from generation to generation passing into holy soulsIt maketh men friends of God and prophets . . .
Wisdom is fairer than the sun, and above all the constellationsof the stars.Being compared with light, it is found to be before it ;For to the light of day succeedeth night,But against Wisdom evil doth not prevail (W.S. 7'^-3°).Is there this Heavenly Wisdom ? Century by century,Life is accumulating its patient answer to the question,building up its vast evidence that the word of God endures,generation by generation confirming the intuition thatthe visible is for man the least real and that it is the unseenthings that are eternal. But out of the midst of historythere has also come one finished and marvellous reply — thepersonality of Jesus Christ.Wisdom, whence cometh it? And where is the place of understanding ? cried one who had despaired to find an answer.But the day came when certain of the Jews declared thatWisdom was found, that the infinite Divine Wisdom in itsfull glory had dwelt amongst us. All, and more than all,that had been said or thought or hoped of the HeavenlyWisdom, they had discovered in Christ Jesus, For onewho had been man among men to be thus by Jewsidentified as the Perfect Wisdom, which was but an aspectof God Himself, is clearly wonderful ; but just how utterlyamazing it is, perhaps only those can realise who are con-scious of the innate and magnificent monotheism of the Jews,and who have listened with sympathy and understandingto these reverent and rapturous praises of Wisdom, That a282The Gift of Godhuman being could possibly be felt to be the incarnation of Wisdom's Self is a miracle. But the miracle is preciselythat which has happened, and it is explicable only by acause as great as the effect ; that is, by the miracle of whatJesus was and is.Recognition of Christ as the Divine Wisdom, and of Wisdom as incarnate in Christ, permeates the traditionand theology of the ew Testament. It is visible in almostevery passage where His disciples have sought to express

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