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5. Though he finds no worthiness in the sinner, on which to ground his pleas, but the greatest unworthiness, yet he has that to plead which effectually overbalances it. It is remarkable, that in that admirable speech of Judah on behalf of Benjamin, he did not fetch his pleas from the innocence of the young man, nor from the possibility of the cup being in bis sack without his knowledge, nor from the smallness of his offence; but from his father's love to him, and his own engagements to bring him, and set him before him! I need not say that on this principle our Advocate bas proceeded. The charges against Benjamin were mysterious and doubtful, yet, as Judah could not prove his innocence, he admitted his guilt. But our guilt is beyond doubt ; in pleading our cause, the Advocate is supposed to rest it on the propitiation, in consideration of which, our unworthiness is passed over, and our sins are forgiven. The connexion of things is often signified by the order of time in which they occur. Thus the out-pouring of the Spirit, that it might appear to be what it was, a fruit of the death of Christ, followed immediately after it : and thus, on his having died, and risen from the dead, bis followers are directed to pray in his name. His directing us to pray in his name conveys the same idea as to the meritorious cause of forgiveness, as his being our Advocate with the Father on the ground of his propitiation.
From the whole: We are directed to commit our cause to Christ. We have a cause pending, which, if lost, all is lost with us, and that forever. We shall not be able to plead it ourselves; for every mouth will be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God. Nor can any one in heaven or earth, besides the Saviour, be heard on our behalf. If we believe in him, we have everlasting life : but, if not, we shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on us.
We are also directed, by this subject, how to obtain relief under the
numerous sins to which we are subject as we pass through life. We all have recourse to some expedient or other to relieve our consciences, when oppressed with guilt. Some endeavour to lose the recollection of it among the cares, company, or amusements of the world; others have recourse to ceremonial observances, and are very strict in some things, hoping thereby to obtain forgiveness for othere; on some the death and advocateship of Christ have the effect to render them unconcerned, and even to embolden them in their sins. Painful as our burdens are, we had better retain them, than get relief in any of these methods. The only way is, to come unto God in the spirit of Job, or of David, before referred to, seeking mercy through the propitiation. Thus, while we plead, 'Do not condemn me!' our Advocate will take it up, and add, 'Do not condemn him!'
Finally: From the all-sufficiency of the propitiation, there is no room for despair. When Jonah was cast into the sea, and swallowed by the fish, still retaining his consciousness, he concluded that all was over with him : I said I am cast out of thy sight; yet, even in this condition, the thought occurred, I will look again toward thy holy temple. His body was confined, but his mind could glance a thought toward the mercy-seat, from whence he had heretofore received relief. He looked and lived. Let this be our determination, whatever be our circumstances or condition. Jesus is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow.
We have, in this book, an estimate of human life. Most of the things that are seen under the sun here pass under review ; and each, as it passes, is inscribed with vanity.
It may be thought, from the pensive strain of the writer, to be an effusion of melancholy, rather than the result of mature reflection; but it should be considered, that no man had greater capacity and opportunity for forming a just judgment; that the book was written at the most mature period of life ; and, what is that it was written under divine inspiration.
As wisdom and knowledge, in the writings of Solomon, commonly include true religion, so madness and folly seem here to be used for irreligion. He studied the nature and effects of both good and evil.
In ascribing vunity and vexation of spirit to almost every thing that passed before him, he does not mean, that they were in them
selves evil, or of little or no value ; but that every good had its alloy, or something attached to it which subtracted from it. Thus it was even with wisdom and knowledge. It is because these were not only good in themselves, but ranked high in the scale of what is estimable, that they are introduced. If the best things pertaining to human life have their alloy, the same must be said of the rest.
In discoursing on the subject, we shall endeavour to show the justness of the remark, and to draw some conclusions from it.
I. LET US ENDEAVOUR TO SHOW THE JUSTNESS OF THE REMARK, OR ITS AGREEMENT WITH UNIVERSAL EXPERIENCE. Knowledge may be distinguished, by its objects, into three parts, or branches: the knowledge of men and things about us ; the knowledge of ourselves; and the knowledge of God. Each of these is good, and the practical use of it is wisdom ; but each has its alloy, subtracting from the enjoyment which it would otherwise afford.
First : Let us try the justness of the remark in respect of the knowledge of men and things about us. None can deny that the thing itself is good and valuable, and the want of it to be regretted, as an evil: That the soul be without knowledge it is not good. It is this which distinguishes men from brutes, and raises some men much higher in the scale of being than others. Minds thus qualified are susceptible of much greater enjoyments than others, and are able to do much more good in their generation than others. The greatest and best things that have been done in the world, have been done, in general, not by the ignorant, but by men o' understanding. Yet, with all its advantages, there is that attached to it which increaseth sorrow.
1. He that knows the most of mankind will see the most of their faults and defccts, and so be compelled, upon the whole, to think the worst of them; and this, to a good man, must needs be a source of sorrow. I would by no means wish to cherish a spirit of misanthropy. I remember, in a speech delivered in a very respectable assembly, meeting with this sentiment: I think well of man, but ill of men.' On the contrary, I should say, ' [ think ill of man, but well of men, till I see cause to think otherwise.' Scripture,'observation, and experience concur to justify