JOB'S DESCANT ON TRUE WISDOM
The place occupied by this chapter one peculiar to itself. Its connection with the preceding or succeeding portions of the book by no means obvious. Appears scarcely to form a part of the dialogue. Seems, as it stands before us, to have been delivered by Job during a lull in the controversy. Forms a poetical descant on the praises of true wisdom. Job left alone in the field, and now in a much calmer mood, in circumstances to enter on such a subject. Perhaps led to it by what he had stated in the preceding chapter in regard to the wicked, as well as by his own affliction and the inabiltiy of his friends and himself to account for it. Strongly expresses his approbation of true piety, and so affirms his own character. Himself an exemplification of his own definition of true wisdom. That definition the character secretly given him by God, and which Job was resolved at all hazards to hold fast. The section thus appears to be introduced by the author to give prominence to Job's real character. Probably indicates the author's design in the book to give an exhibition of the nature of true wisdom. Has a special importance in connecting the book with other parts of Scripture, especially with the writings of David and Solomon, and the wise men of that period (1Ki ), and, in the New Testament, with those especially of Paul and James (1 Corinthians 13; Jas 1:3). Its similarity to passages in the Proverbs at once obvious, especially to chapters 1, 3,
8. The last verse of the section, which gives the key of the whole, almost an echo of Psa ; Pro 1:7; and Pro 9:10. Perhaps an indication thus afforded of the period of the composition of the book, as one when the attention of thoughtful pious men was especially directed to the subject of true wisdom. The section exhibits—
(1) The inability of man, by his own unaided powers, either to discover or acquire true wisdom.
(2) The supreme excellence of that wisdom.
(3) Its origin and discovery with God Himself, the Creator of all things.
(4) Its nature, as consisting of true piety—the fear of God and the consequent departing from all evil.
This chapter, the oldest and finest piece of natural history in the world (Adam Clarke). Indicates Job to have lived in a period of considerable advancement in civilization.—Barnes.
I. Man unable, by his own unaided powers, either to discover or acquire it
Wisdom not to be discovered or obtained like metals or gems. These hid in the bowels of the earth, but discovered and obtained by human art and industry. (Job )—"Surely (or, ‘for indeed' the speaker being about to show the rarity and excellence of true wisdom as contrasted with what he had said of the prosperous ungodly) there is a vein (or ‘outlet,' Margin, ‘mine') for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it" (or, "which they smelt," to render it fit for the purposes of life). Gold formerly found in Arabia. Abundant in Judæa in the time of Solomon (1Ki 10:12; 1Ki 10:14-15). The art of extracting and refining it learned at an early period of the world. Mortals soon became metallaries. Trapp. The discovery and earliest manufacture of metals apparently ascribed to the descendants of Cain (Gen 4:22). The search for gold and silver poetically ascribed by Milton to the suggestion of Mammon, a fallen angel whose name denotes "riches:"
"By him first
Men also, and by his suggestion taught,
Ransack'd the centre, and with impious hands
Rifled the bowels of their mother earth,
For treasures better hid."
According to Pliny, gold first found by Cadmus, the Phœnician. According to Herodotus, first coined into money by the Syrians. Job .—"Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass (or ‘copper') is molten out of [and so separated from] the stone. He (the miner or metallurgist, in searching for and producing these metals from the earth) setteth an end to darkness [by sinking shafts, and, with the aid of torches, exploring mines], and searcheth out all perfection (or, ‘searcheth out with the utmost thoroughness') the stones of darkness (lying hid beneath the earth's surface), and the shadow of death" (or places of deepest darkness). Tubal-Cain, probably identical with the Vulcan of Greek and Roman mythology, represented by Moses as the first artificer in brass and iron (Gen 4:22). The Chalybes, or Cyclops, said by Pliny to be the discoverers and earliest workers of these metals. Brass and iron said by Moses to be found in the rocky mountains of Palestine (Deu 8:9). Iron appointed by Lycurgus to be used by the Spartans for money instead of gold, to prevent its accumulation. Job 28:4.—"The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant (or, ‘he' [the miner] openeth a channel or shaft away from the habitations of men,—or, ‘from the foot of the mountain'); even the waters forgotten of the foot (or, ‘the men forgotten of the foot,' i.e., descending to places in the mine untrodden by human or any other feet,—nothing in the Hebrew text either for waters or men): they are dried up, they are gone away from men (or, ‘they [the miners] are suspended,' viz., by ropes from the mouth of the mine; ‘they swing away from men' [who remain above on the surface]). As for the earth, out of it cometh bread (or bread-corn), and under it (or ‘underneath,' or ‘its lower parts') is turned up as it were fire (combustible materials, as sulphur, bitumen, naphtha, coal (Gen 14:10); or perhaps precious stones glowing like lire (Eze 28:14). Note—Underground warmth, boiling springs, and red-hot mud, are believed to prove that fire still exists within the globe.—"The stones of it are the place (or bed) of sapphires, and it hath [belonging to it] the dust of gold" (‘clods or lumps of gold'—Margin, gold ore'). There is (or ‘it is,' viz. the mine) a path which no fowl [however keen-sighted] knoweth, and which the vulture's eye hath not seen. The lion's whelps (or, ‘the proud wild beasts,' in their search for prey) have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed by it" [being deep below the surface of the earth]. Yet even there man's skill and enterprise find a way. Job 28:9.—"He [the miner] putteth forth his hand upon the rock (Heb., ‘the flinty rock,' viz. with a view to its excavation); he overturneth the mountains by the roots [by means of wedges and hammers, acid liquids, or, as in more modern times, by gunpowder—overcoming every obstacle that stands in his way]. He cutteth out rivers (or ‘channels') among the rocks [in searching for the precious, metals or still more precious gems]; and his eye [with the aid of torches] seeth every precious thing [whether metal or gem, contained in those dark recesses]. He bindeth the floods from overflowing (stops or dams up the water to prevent them from trickling and overflowing the mine); and the thing that is hid (the metals or gems he is in quest of) bringeth he forth to light." Observe—
1. The remarkable provision of Divine goodness and wisdom in making the earth itself a storehouse of substances that should contribute so largely to the comfort, gratification, and improvement of the human race. For example, iron and coal, not to speak of gold, silver, and precious stones. Beds of coal, many feet thick, and extending over an area of many hundreds of miles, stored up far below the earth's surface. These beds the remains of ancient forests, and the result of changes on what was the earth's surface many thousand years ago. Iron, so important for man's use and progress in the arts of civilized life, largely embedded in rocks, slowly formed thousands of years before man was upon the earth. Remarkable, too, that as these beds of iron-stone required fire both for the extraction and working of the metal, they are generally found in close proximity to beds of coal, as well as to sulphur which facilitates its production.
2. Man's art and industry necessary to the acquisition and use of those, materials which God has stored up in the earth for his benefit. Man intended for work, and so to be a kind of fellow-worker with his Creator. The materials provided for him by God, but, in order to his enjoyment and use of them, requiring to be discovered, obtained, and elaborated by himself through the intellect with which God has endowed him. Man not only to exercise his art and industry on the productions of the earth's surface in order to obtain his daily food, but also on what lies beneath it for the purposes of civilized life. In the one case, as well as the other, man must eat his bread in the sweat of his brow.
3. Remarkable adaptation between the productions and content of the earth, and the faculties given to man for their discovery and use. Faculties bestowed on man to fit him for subduing the earth and turning its treasures to his advantage. The art and industry of the miner and metallurgist from the same Creator as the minerals on which he works. The ant operates on his little hill; the bee on its comb; the beaver on his dam; man on the earth itself, with all that it contains. "His God doth instruct him to discretion, and doth teach him" (Isa ). Human intelligence and skill a faint reflection of that wisdom with which God made the world, and part of that Divine image in which man was created. "This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working" (Isa 28:29).
4. Man's industry in searching for the precious metals an example of the earnestness and perseverance with which he should seek for the better and more enduring riches. Treasures exist for man, compared with which all earthly possessions are but as the dust of the balance. Heavenly wisdom, in which are durable riches and unending happiness, to be sought for as silver, and to be searched for as for hid treasures (Pro ). The earnestness of the miner, with much less toil, under the direction afforded by the Gospel, sufficient to put a man in speedy possession of gold which no thief can steal, and of which not even death itself can deprive him. Eternal riches close at hand wherever the Gospel is revealed, and awaiting only the humble and earnest seeker (Rev 3:18; Mat 13:44).
II. The supreme value and excellence of true wisdom. Job .—"But where shall wisdom be found? and where is the place of understanding [where it may be found like gold and silver]? Man knoweth not the price thereof, neither is it found in the land of the living (not only not to be discovered by the highest human intellect, but not to be purchased with anything on earth). The depth (or abyss—waters under the earth—perhaps the ocean with its ‘deep un-fathomed caves') saith, It is not in me; and the sea (waters on the earth's surface) saith, It is not with me (nothing in either one or the other able either to discover it to man or afford him a price to buy it with). Note—The ocean's bed covered for hundreds of miles with beautiful seaweeds, and with submarine forests and jungles thronged with living beings. "It cannot be gotten for gold (the most precious and pure, 1Ki 6:20-21): neither shall silver be weighed (as in ancient times, Gen 23:16) for the price-thereof. It cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir (stamped gold, or the golden wedge or ingot from the place most distinguished for its production), with the precious onyx, or the sapphire. The gold and the crystal (or vases of crystal and gold) cannot equal it; and the exchange (or barter of it, according to the ancient mode of traffic) shall not be for jewels of fine gold (vessels or ornaments of pure and massive gold, such as have been recently discovered in the coffin of an Egyptian princess living in the time of Joseph, nearly four thousand years ago). No mention shall be made of coral (some costly gem or natural production—long uncertain what), or of pearls (always held in highest esteem among men, Mat 13:45-46); for the price of wisdom is above rubies. The topaz of Ethiopia shall not equal it; neither shall it be valued with pure gold." Gold so abundant in Job's time and country, and so variously employed, that five kinds or forms of it are mentioned in these few verses.
Similar language to that of the text in reference to the excellence and preciousness of true wisdom, found in Pro ; Pro 4:7; Pro 8:10-11; Pro 8:18-19. That exhibited in various particulars by Solomon in the Book of Proverbs, which is only asserted by the author of Job. (Compare Pro 3:16-18; Pro 4:5-9; Pro 8:20-21; Pro 8:35). The superiority of Divine wisdom or true piety over all earthly treasures evinced—
1. In its intrinsic excellence. Other treasures only material, and of the earth; this spiritual—a thing of the soul—as much excelling material treasures as spirit excels matter, and as moral and spiritual beauty excels material. Gems and gold adorn the body, wisdom and piety the soul. Those beautiful and attractive to the eye of sense; these to the spiritual eye, both of God, angels, and holy men. True wisdom, or the fear of God, assimilates us to God Himself, the source and model of wisdom, "the only wise God." That which mainly constitutes the Divine image in us (Pro ; Pro 8:22-31; Col 3:10). Allies us to all holy beings, the unfallen intelligences of heaven. Is to man what creative and providential wisdom is to God. Prepares us for correct, satisfying, and ever-increasing knowledge of God and of His ways and works. Purifies the heart, sanctifies the will, and enlightens the understanding.
2. In its ability to afford true and solid happiness. Other treasures only gratify the senses, or furnish the means of gratifying them. This gives peace and satisfaction to the soul. Other things unable to repel sickness and trouble, or to give solace under them. This acts like oil on the troubled waters. Divine wisdom like the voice of Jesus to the winds and waves: Peace be still. Her ways pleasantness and her paths peace. Delivers from the disturbing and destructive tyranny of the passions. Secures enjoyment of the Divine favour, which is life. Wisdom is a tree of life to every one who lays hold of her. Gives health to the soul, and even contributes to that of the body. Profitable to all things, having the promise both of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
3. In its endless durability. All earthly treasures perishable. Gold and gems soon cease to delight. At most only follow us to the grave. Unable, except as rightly used, to further our interests or promote our happiness in another world. Wisdom or true piety not only accompanies its possessor to the grave, but beyond it. The greatest of the noble triad—faith, hope, and charity. Faith ultimately changed into sight, and hope into enjoyment; charity or love, another name for wisdom, lives on and never dies. A cut rather than a comfort in the words of Abraham and Dives—"Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things." Sad when our good things must end with our life. The excellence of heavenly wisdom that it not only gives solid peace here, but prepares us for eternal joy hereafter. Wisdom not only accompanies her children through the chilly waves of death, but takes them by the hand on the other side, and introduces them into the presence of God and the Lamb, who is wisdom itself. True wisdom, like its Author and Archetype, everlasting.
III. God Himself the author and revealer of true wisdom (Job ). "Whence then cometh wisdom? and where is the place of understanding? Seeing it is hid from the eyes of all living (or of every beast or animal), and kept close from the fowls of the air (referring to Job 28:7-8). Destruction and death (the regions of the dead or under-world, or those inhabiting it) say, We have heard the fame thereof with our ears" (only heard of it, as neither possessing it themselves nor able to communicate it to others, but as if approaching nearer to the knowledge of it, men often having their eyes opened only when it is too late, and regretting the loss of past opportunities for obtaining the knowledge and possession of true wisdom, Pro 5:11-14). Observe—
(1) That of which earlier generations only heard the report, now clearly revealed.
(2) Sad to be only hearing the fame of a good thing which can make us happy, and to be unable to obtain it. The case of the lost in another world; happily not the case of those in this. The rich man in hell "saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom," but was unable to reach him. Job .—"God understandeth the way thereof (how it is to be obtained), and He knoweth the place thereof (where it is to be found and in what it consists). For He looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven" (penetrating the universe with one glance of His omniscient eye; therefore able to instruct man as to true wisdom,—what is his highest interest, and the way to secure it). God, however, not only omniscient and surveying all things, but the all-wise creator and disposer of universal nature, and as such the fountain and model of wisdom to His intelligent creatures. For the same thought see Pro 3:13-20; Pro 8:11-29. Divine wisdom displayed in establishing the universe with all its mysterious laws and forces, assigning to each department of nature its bounds and operations. Job 28:25.—"To make (while making or about to make) the weight for the winds (giving due weight to the atmospheric air when at rest—fifteen pounds of it pressing on every square inch of the earth's surface—as well as proper momentum to it when in motion in the form of wind, through the earth's motion on its axis, and more especially through the rarefaction of some parts of it by the sun's heat, and the rushing in of colder parts to take their place; so as to be not only not hurtful and destructive to the earth's inhabitants, but in many respects highly beneficial to them); and He weigheth the waters by measure" (having at creation assigned their respective quantities to land and water, so that there should be sufficient of the latter for the irrigation of the former, as also to the waters on the earth, and those suspended in the atmosphere, whether as clouds or invisible vapour). Observe—
(1) All things in nature arranged in exact measure and proportion, of which chemistry affords an interesting example.
(2) As winds and waters, so also trials and afflictions are measured (Isa ). Job 28:26.—"When he made a decree for the rain (constituting those natural laws by which it should be formed from the vapour exhaled from land and sea, and should descend in showers according to the earth's requirements), and a way for the lightning of the thunder (or the lightning which precedes the thunder; how it should be produced as the electric flash which proceeds from the clouds, when, to restore the equilibrium, the superabundant electricity discharges itself in passing from one cloud to another, causing the thunder to follow it as the report of a gun follows the flash, by the particles of the rent atmosphere suddenly striking together again—electricity, of which that flash is the expression, being one of the most mysterious forces in nature). Then (even when at the creation He prescribed the laws by which external nature was to be governed) did he see it (contemplate this wisdom in its excellence and suitability for man's welfare and happiness), and declare it (Margin, ‘number it,' as carefully considering its nature and results,—take an exact survey of it, noting it as it were in a book for future communication); he prepared it (set it before him for contemplation, or established it as what should constitute man's true wisdom), yea, and searched it out (examined it fully in all its properties and bearings,—actions ascribed to God in condescension to our capacity, in order to indicate the excellence and importance of the thing; spoken of). And unto man [as that work of His hands in whom the image of His own essential wisdom was to be reflected] he said [on the day of his creation, either speaking by an external voice or writing it internally on his conscience, in order that he might know wherein his true interest lay, and what was the true wisdom for him as a moral and intelligent creature], Behold, the fear of the Lord [not the proud self-sufficient scrutiny, or even the mere intellectual study, of the Divine operations, whether in creation or providence], that is wisdom [the wisdom for him, as a finite but moral and intelligent creature]; and to depart from evil [not the knowledge or examination of my secret purposes in dealing thus or thus with any of my creatures] is understanding" [that fear of the Lord and departing from evil being at the same time the best way by which he will come to know and understand why I act as I do in my providential dispensations]. This emphatic, cardinal, and ever-outstanding statement introduced with a "Behold," as indicating—
(1) The importance of it.
(2) The unlikeness of it to what proud man might himself have conceived.
(3) The backwardness of man to believe, learn, and embrace it. Observe—
1. All nature under lam prescribed by God Himself. Nature itself God's work. The universe, with all its laws, only the material expression of His being and attributes. Every part formed and placed by Him in exact fitness to each other, and to the whole. Those laws established by Him at the first in infinite wisdom, and preserved in their operation according to His own will and for His own purposes. God's kingdom a kingdom of settled law; not of chance or caprice. Hence the comfort and confidence of His intelligent creatures. Men not afflicted capriciously, but in wisdom. The execution as well as constitution of natural laws with God Himself, who may suspend or contravene them for His own purposes as He pleases.
2. Man enabled to penetrate far into the secrets of nature and the facts of the universe, but unable of himself to discover true wisdom. The greatest philosophers of antiquity in the dark in regard to it. Professing themselves wise, they became fools. Man, like the mole, does all his works underground (Epiphanius). Homer called all-wise, and said to know all things human. Aristotle, for his soaring wisdom, called an eagle fallen from the clouds. Yet the greatest of Grecian sages professed they wanted other lights, and took it for granted the time would come when God would impart a further revelation of His will to mankind.
"The first and wisest of them all (Socrates) profess'd
To know this only, that he nothing knew;
The next (Plato) to fabling fell and smooth conceits;
A third sort (Pyrrho) doubted all things, though plain sense;
Others (Aristotle) in virtue placed felicity,
But virtue joined with riches and long life;
In corporal pleasures he (Epicurus), and careless ease;
The Stoic last, in philosophic pride,
By him called virtue; and his virtuous man,
Wise, perfect in himself, and all possessing,
Equal to God, oft shames not to prefer,
As fearing God nor man."
Paradise Regained, Book iv.
Jerome said to have known all that was knowable, yet one of the most devoted students of revelation. The greatest philosophers in our own or any other country, as Newton, Faraday, and Brewster, have loved to sit with the humility of a child at the feet of Jesus, to learn wisdom out of the Scriptures of truth.
3. God alone able to inform man as to his true interests. One of the great problems among the sages of antiquity, wherein lies man's chief good. A question naturally occurring to thinking men. God answers it for man: "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good" (Mic ). As great diversity of opinion among ancient sages about wisdom as about the chief good. With those of Chalda, it was the study of the starry firmament and its interpretation as declarative of the events of Providence; with those of Arabia, that of the designs of God in His dealings with men and the whole system of the Divine government; with those of Egypt, the origin of the universe; with those of Greece and Rome, the nature of the Deity, with the problems of their own existence and of the universe around them. Such Speculations, apart from revealed truth, represented by Milton as the employment, perhaps in part the punishment, of some of the fallen angels.
"Others apart sat on a hill retired,
In thoughts more elevate, and reason'd high
Of Providence, foreknowledge, will, and fate;
Fix'd fate, free-will, foreknowledge absolute;
And found no end, in wandering mazes lost.
Of good and evil much they argued then,
Of happiness and final misery,
Passion and apathy, and glory and shame;
Vain wisdom all, and false philosophy."
In opposition to all this, God Himself declares what is the true wisdom for man,—the fear of the Lord, and as its consequence, to depart from evil. This prescribed by God to man in the exercise of His own infinite wisdom as Creator and Governor of the universe. Made the law for man by Him who gave laws to universal nature, and at the time that He did so. A wisdom that is "earthly, sensual, devilish." True wisdom from above,—the gift of "the Father of lights." "The law (or revealed will) of the Lord maketh wise the simple." The Scriptures able to make men "wise unto salvation." The Gospel of Christ "the hidden wisdom." Christ Himself the "wisdom of God" and the "light of the world." Whoever follows Him "shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." Christ the teacher come from God. Anoints with eye salve the eyes of the spiritually blind, "that they may see." Gives "the unction of the Holy One," that we know all things. Nature, in all its departments, tells of a God, but not how to obtain His favour and forgiveness. Christ reveals both in His Word. Himself, as the Son of God, eternal wisdom; as the Son of Man, incarnate wisdom; and "of God is made wisdom" to all who are "in Him" (1Co ; 1Co 1:30; Pro 8:12-36).
IV. The nature of true wisdom. Job .—"The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding." The gold and the silver, the sapphire and the ruby, have their place in the bowels of the earth. Wisdom has its place in the "fear of the Lord" and the "departing from evil." The one the root, the other the stem and the branches. The former the spring, the latter the streams issuing from it.
1. The "fear of the Lord" (Heb. ‘Adonai,' denoting ‘lord' or ‘governor,'—usually applied to the Messiah, and by the Jews substituted for Jehovah) the first part of true wisdom. That fear not a slavish, but a filial one. A reverential feeling and conduct as much allied to love as fear. The fear rather of a child in regard to a beloved parent, than of a slave in regard to a dreaded master. When genuine, always combined, if not identical, with love. Love as directed to a superior, especially to the Supreme Being. A feeling and deportment due from an intelligent creature to his Creator—a being at once of unbounded goodness, infinite excellence, supreme majesty, and almighty power. A fear that shudders at offending, not so much from the dread of punishment as from an inward consciousness of, and love to, what is right. A principle originally implanted in man as the law of his being. Obedience to it his wisdom and interest. The violation of it his ruin. Actually violated and cast off at the Fall. Now universally violated by fallen humanity. Its violation the cause of all the misery in the world. Its observance the harmony of the soul, the harmony of man with man, and the harmony of man with his Maker. May be re-implanted in man's breast. Its re-implanting the object of the Saviour's mission, and the effect of the Holy Spirit's grace in the soul (Jer ).
2. To "depart from evil" the second part of true wisdom. Moral evil, or sin, that abominable thing which the Lord hates (Jer ). To be departed from—
(1) As contrary to the nature and will of our Creator.
(2) As opposed to our own interest and happiness. All sin the opposite of God's character which is goodness, purity, and holiness. Moral evil the necessary source of all physical and social evil. The fear of the Lord necessarily evinced by, and conducting to, a departure from evil. The two combined constitute the perfect man. Job's own character (ch. Job .], 8). Evil to be departed from—
(4) At all hazards. Moral evil both internal and external—both in heart and life. Both to be equally departed from. Departure from evil necessarily connected with the practice of good. The only way for a fallen man to depart from evil is by the implantation of a new nature through the operation of God's Spirit in the heart. Hence the promise (Jer ; Jer 32:39; Eze 11:19; Eze 36:26-27).
3. The fear of God or true religion the wisdom of man. Wisdom the choice of the best end, and employment of the best means for attaining it. True religion both aims at and secures glory to God and our own best interests. Seeks and secures the chief end for which man was made—to glorify God and enjoy Him for ever. The only means of man's happiness, either here or hereafter. Godliness favourable both to his physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal, welfare. Has the promise both of the life that now is, and of that which is to come. The way to make the best of both worlds. Gives much in the hand, more in the hope. Is in harmony with man's moral nature given him by his Creator. The foundation of personal and domestic, social and civil, peace. Fits for the enjoyment of the Divine fellowship—man's highest happiness. Smooths the pillow of death. Prepares for a happy eternity beyond the grave. Preserves him from many troubles, and enables him calmly to meet and patiently to endure those that are unavoidable. Allies him with the noblest and choicest of God's intelligent creatures. Opens to him an ever-brightening path of excellence and delight. Renders him a blessing to others and a fellow-worker with God.
4. Lay testimonies from Statesmen, Philosophers, and Poets, to the value of true religion in promoting men's best interests.
"That summum bonum which is only able to make thee happy, as well as in thy death as in thy life; I mean the true knowledge and worship of thy Creator and Redeemer, without which all other things are vain and miserable."—Lord Burleigh to his Son.
"I have lived to see five sovereigns, and have been privy councillor to four of them; I have seen the most remarkable things in foreign parts, and have been present at most state transactions for the last thirty years; and I have learned, after so many years' experience, that seriousness is the greatest wisdom, temperance the best physic, and a good conscience the best estate."—Sir John Mason: died 1566.
"Love my memory, cherish my friends, but, above all, govern your will and affections by the will and Word of your Creator; in me beholding the end of this world with all her vanities."—Sir Philip Sidney to his Brother, 1586.
"Love God, and begin betimes. In Him you shall find everlasting and endless comfort; when you have travelled and wearied yourself with all sorts of worldly cogitations, you shall sit down by sorrow in the end."—Sir Walter Raleigh to his Wife, before his execution, 1618.
"Living in an age of extraordinary events and revolutions, I have learned from thence this truth, which I desire might thus be communicated to posterity: that all is vanity which is not honest, and that there is no solid wisdom but in real piety."—John Ecelyn—Epitaph by Himself, 1706.
"Depend upon this truth, that every man is the worse looked upon, and the less trusted, for being thought to have no religion, in spite of all the pompous, specious epithets he may assume, of esprits forts, free-thinker, or moral philosopher; and a wise atheist, if such thing there is, would, for his own interest and character in this world, pretend to some religion."—Lord Chesterfield—Letters to his Son.
"Philosophy may infuse stubbornness, but religion only can give patience."—Dr. S. Johnson.
"Hold fast, therefore, by this sheet anchor of happiness, religion. You will often want it in the times of most danger—the storms and tempests of life. Cherish true religion as preciously as you would fly with abhorrence and contempt from superstition and enthusiasm. The first is the perfection and glory of human nature; the two last the depravation and disgrace of it. Remember, the essence of religion is a heart void of offence towards God and man; not subtle, speculative opinions, but an active vital, principle of faith."—Lord Chatham—Letters to his Nephew.
"To religion, then, we must hold in every circumstance of life for our truest comforts; for, if we are already happy, it is a pleasure to think that we can make that happiness unending; and if we are miserable, it is very consoling to think there is a place of rest. Thus, to the fortunate, religion holds out a continuance of bliss; to the wretched, a change from pain."—Oliver Goldsmith.
"We know, and, what is better, we feel inwardly, that religion is the basis of civil society, and the source of all good and of all comfort."—Edmund Burke, on the French Revolution.
"With all my follies of youth, and, I fear, a few vices of manhood, still I congratulate myself as having had, in early days, religion strongly impressed on my mind.… I look on the man who is firmly persuaded of infinite wisdom and goodness, superintending and directing every circumstance that can happen in his lot, I felicitate such a man as having a solid foundation for his mutual enjoyment, a firm prop and sure stay in the hour of difficulty, trouble, and distress; and a never-failing anchor of hope when he looks beyond the grave."—Robert Burns.
"Where there is most love of God, there will be the truest and most enlarged philanthropy. No other foundation is secure. There is no other means whereby nations can be reformed, than that by which alone individuals can be regenerated.… While men are subject to disease, infirmity, affliction, and death, the good never will exist without the hopes of religion; the wicked never without its fears."—Southey.
"I envy no quality of the mind or intellect in others; not genius, wit, or fancy. But if I could choose what would be most delightful, and I believe most useful to me, I should prefer a firm religious belief to every other blessing. For it makes life a discipline of goodness, creates new hopes when all earthly hopes vanish, and throws over the decay and the destruction of existence, the most gorgeous of all rights; awakens life even in death; and from corruption and decay calls up beauty and divinity; makes an instrument of torture and of shame the ladder of ascent to paradise."—Sir Humphrey Davy.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Job 28". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany