THE WORDS OF THE WISE

By REV. FREDERICK WHITF1ELD, M.A. 'A D moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge ; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words ; and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. And further by these, my son, be admonished ; of making many books there is no end ; and much study is a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : Fear God, and keep His commandments ; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' — EccL xii. 9-14. THE Book of Ecclesiastes, of which Solomon was the author, is divided into two parts. From the first chapter, to the sixth and tenth verse, it brings before us the vanity of all earthly things. From the sixth chapter and tenth verse, to the twelth chapter, the excellence of heavenly wisdom. Solomon him self was endowed with inspired wisdom, specially fitting him for the task of writing this book (see 1 Kings iii. 5, 14; vi. 11, 12; ix. 1; and ix, 11). The close of the eleventlfchapter teaches the young what to shun ; the opening of the twelfth teaches them what to follow. The verses now under consideration show us how the inspired Word of God was written. What are some of the effects of that Word, and what is the great end of all its teaching. ' Moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge.' That knowledge was the fruit of divinely inspired wisdom, and the teaching was partly oral and partly written. ' Yea, he gave good heed.' In the writing of such a revelation, what

watchfulness and care were needed that nothing should be written but what the Holy Spirit would suggest. What ' good heed ' that he himself should keep all his faculties in such a state that they might be the ever-ready instrumentality of that Spirit. He ' sought out ' from all the sources of nature and art, and from all the stores of information on every side of him, such knowledge as the Spirit of God might use in the work He had set before him. And lastly, he ' set in order ' the truths he had accumulated, in the form of ' Proverbs,' of which, in conjunction with parables, types, symbols, and figures, much of the Word of God is comprised. These steps, on the part of Solomon, show us how the Word of God, from the very beginning, was made up. The writers ' taught the people know ledge;' yea, they gave 'good heed,' they 'sought out,' and they ' set in order ' truth in these forms. or was the work completed with this. othing was written, but what was the inditing of the Spirit of God. ' My tongue,' says the Psalmist, 'is the pen of a ready writer.' Just so were the writers of God's Holy Word. They were the ' pens ' in the hand of the great Writer, the Holy Ghost. ot that they were mere machines. The human was not overpowered by the Divine, but used by it, and guided and directed. The Book is thus divinely human. The written Word has its illustra tion in the living Word, the Divine Logos, Jesus Christ. The Divine and the human were perfect in Him, and inseparable. He was filled with the Holy Ghost. So also with the written Word — as to what was written — for ' the prophecy came not in old time by the will of men ; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost ' (2 Peter i. 21). The words here signify that they did not speak, or write, of themselves, but that they were ' moved,' or borne along as by a rushing, mighty wind ; so that what they wrote was the Holy Spirit's inditing. And you cannot separate the human and Divine in the Holy Scriptures any more than you can separate them in the Person of the

Lord Jesus Christ. They are inseparable. or can we say, ' the word of God is in the Holy Scriptures, that is to say, is contained in them, but it must be left to the individual to discover where it is.' For then, one man would find that word in one passage ; another man would find it in another ; while a third would pronounce it to be in neither, but would find it somewhere else. Thus we should have no Word of God left. o : the Word of God is not in the Bible only ; but the Bible is the Word of God. Let us return to our chapter. To give 'good heed,' to ' seek out,' and ' set in order,' are followed by three other considerations, which refer to the character of that which was sought out and set in order. The words were to be ' acceptable,' or words of delight (see margin) ; ' upright ' words, and ' words of truth.' Look at the Word of God, and see how accurately these requirements are met there. How ' delightful ' are those words to a true child of God ! How that Book spoaks to him as no other book has ever spoken ! What mul titudes have endorsed with their whole soul the language of the Prophet, 'Thy words were found, and I did eat them ; and Thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart ; ' or those of the Psalmist, ' Oh, how love I Thy law : ' ' how sweet are Thy words unto my taste ! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth.' And, as to the second of these requirements, ' uprightness/ how often does the Word of God speak of uprightness, purity, righteous ness, equity and justice. But there is another requirement, without which the words of ' delight,' and of ' uprightness,' would be incomplete and imperfect, namely, ' words of truth.' Yes, God's words are words of truth, even as He of whom they speak is ' the way, the truth, and the life.' They are ' the truth as it is in Jesus ; ' and our Lord prays for His people, ' Sanctify them through Thy truth ; Thy word IH truth.' These three features,

then, characterize that blessed Word of God — ' words of delight,' ' words of uprightness,' ' words of truth.' ow, let us look, for a moment, at the effects of these words upon the soul : ' The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.' The first comparison of the words of God here, is to ' goads.' They were the sharp pointed goads used to urge on the lagging cattle, while ploughing. They are referred to in the history of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus—' Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me ? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks' (or goads). The allusion is to the pricking of conscience, under the figure of the cattle kicking against these sharp goads, which only pierced them the more deeply. This deep-piercing character of God's words is again referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews (chap. iv. 12) : ' for the Word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.' Such are the words of God, when brought home by the Holy Spirit to the hearts and consciences of men — piercing, penetrating to the inmost depths, the most secret recesses of man's nature, and laying his whole soul bare before God. But the words of the wise are also ' as rlails fastened'— fastened in the memory, like nails driven home with the mighty power of a master hand. When used of the Holy Spirit, they pierce like 4he ' goads,' and are fastened in the memory like nails. But it continues, ' as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one Shepherd.' The one Shepherd is the Lord Jesus Christ. He it

is who gives out these blessed words of the wise to the ' masters of assemblies,' or, as the words mean, to the under shepherds. They receive them from the one great and true Shepherd, the Lord Jesus, and the Holy Spirit uses them in their hands, to pierce the inmost recesses of the soul, and to fasten as nails on the memory and the heart. Let us now notice how these divinely inspired words of God are separated off, by a divine line, from all other words : ' and further, by these, my son, be admonished ; of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh.' The words ' by these ' distinctly mark off these divinely inspired words, by which the soul is to be ' admonished,' from the ' many books ' which are being made all around, and the much study of which is 'a weariness to the flesh.' The word ' admonished ' includes all that teaching and instruction in righteousness, all that edification and building up of the soul, which is so constantly enjoined in St. Paul's epistles. ' By these ' divinely inspired words the man is to be converted, quickened, renewed, and prepared for heaven. This is the Divine ' admonition ' referred to, carried out by the Spirit of God in every soul He is preparing for glory. And, lastly, observe the aim and end of all Divine teaching. ' Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter ; Fear God and keep His commandments; for this is the- whole duty of man.' Yes, by all means, ' let us hear ' the end of all God's Divine words. 'He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.' He that hath the inward ear, opened by the Spirit of God, 'let him hear if.' ' Fear God.' This is the filial fear of a loving child not to grieve his heavenly Father. It includes within it that which is the grand motive — God's great love, and reflected back in man's love to God. This is the only motive for all true fear of God.

' And keep His commandments.' ' If ye keep My commandments, ye shall abide in My love.' ' He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me ; and he that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father.' These two words, ' Fear God, and keep His commandments,' may be said to include the whole of God's Word. ' Fear God,' is the inward and experimental aspect of true religion ; ' keep His commandments,' is the life of daily and hourly obedience, in all things, to God's Holy Word. Yes, this is the aim and end of all Divine revelation. And mark what follows : ' This is the whole duty of man.' Leave out the word ' duty,' which is not in the original, and you have the full truth : ' this is the whole of man.' This is the full ideal of man as originally contemplated, realized wholly by Jesus Christ alone, and through Him by His children, now in part, and hereafter perfectly. The day that is coming, the return of the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, will be the test of what is ' vanity,' and of what is solid and true ; for then ' God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.' Reader, are you in Christ or out of Christ ? Which ? Think how often you have heard the words of the Gospel, how long you have come under the sound of truth. What has it all done for your soul ? Has it made you think much of eternity ? Is God more real ? Is Christ more in your thoughts ? Is there more holiness in your life ? What secret sin has it made you break off, what selfishness, what temper, what lust or pas sion ? If not, what good has all your religion done for you all these many years ? Had you not far better be without it ? Oh, do not evade these solemn

questions ! God will ask you them again one day, you may be sure. But it may be too late then. Oh, for the love of your poor soul, think of them now \ Come to Jesus while yet the door is open, while yet the heart of infinite mercy and love is waiting to clasp you to it. I know not what the future dim may bring — Weakness or strength ; If I have nearly reached my Father's home, Or if a length Of road remains o'er which my feet must tread, Upheld by Christ, the Church's Living Head. I know not what may lie within my path, But Christ is mine ; And so I rest my trembling hand in His, And all resign ; He knows whatever is the best for me, The end from the beginning He can see. Then, why do shrinking fears and doubts remain, To vex my soul ? Why do I weakly quail, because round me The billows roll? Why am I ever troubled and opprest, When Jesus says, 'Come unto Me and rest?' Oh, faithless, doubting heart, be strong in Him ; He is thy stay ! Ere long the clouds will break, the Lord will come,

And chase away The shadows which oft hide the glorious light Of His own presence, changing day to night, ' He doeth all things well ' — He calms the storm, Saying, ' Be still ! ' And come what may to me, of pain, or ease, I love His will ; The tears will come, but Jesus will not chide, He knows my weakness, yet for me He died. 'A little while,' and I shall be with Him, Then let me rest, 'Mid storms, and this uncertainty of mine, Safe on His breast ; I know not why, but I can trust His grace, Till I in glory see Him face to face. The ' Everlasting Arms ' are underneath, I cannot fall ; He is my sure defence, whate'er may come, My all in all ; My Saviour, and my never-failing Friend, Who, having loved, will love me to the end ! S. E. W.

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