Isaiah 33:6
This is presented by showing what would be the secret of stability in the kingdom of Hezekiah, when safety and peace were again restored. The prophet anticipates the removal of the great and serious national evils, which had brought on the people Divine judgments, and rejoices in the prospect that "righteousness would exalt the nation." We may well think that, in thought, he passed on to the times of Messiah, when alone his great hopes could be perfectly realized. We have four words given as the great sources of the national security and stability - "judgment, righteousness, wisdom, and knowledge." If we attach precise and appropriate meanings to each of these, we shall learn what are the secrets of stability for all times.

I. JUDGMENT. Not here equivalent to "wise decisions," "skillful plans," or "good counsels." The idea is rather that of strong and vigorous dealing with sin. There is no security for any community or society that is weak in its handling of sin. And this is true also of the individual life; we must be resolute and firm in mastering our own habits and passions, "cutting off right hands, and plucking out right eyes." If a nation is to prosper it must be strong and firm in its judgments.

II. RIGHTEOUSNESS. Here ordering life and relations by good and wise principles and rules. Unrighteousness is disorder - the chaos which follows when "every man does that which is right in his own eyes." Righteousness, for a people, is rightness, corn-fortuity to good rules, the copying of good models. And this is a first and important sense of righteousness for the individual. It is the righteousness which a man may attain; but there is the further righteousness which a man may receive from Jehovah Tsidkenu, "the Lord our Righteousness."

III. WISDOM. This, on its practical side, is the skilful ordering and rule of circumstances, so as to get the most and the best out of them, and resist the evils that may be connected with them. "The wisdom profitable to direct." The wisdom which may be illustrated for social and political life from the ever-watchful man of business, who seeks to turn everything to good account; or from the anxious housewife, who tries to make the best of everything.

IV. KNOWLEDGE. Which, in this connection, is the careful adjustment of things which men may make on the bases of experience. Knowledge proving a practical help. The knowing man is the opposite of the simple, or inexperienced, man, who is bewildered and endangered by difficult circumstances. - R.T.







Wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times.
I. THE VALUABLY. INSTRUCTION IN THE ART OF READING WHICH THEY HAVE IMPARTED TO MANY WHO COULD NOT OTHERWISE HAVE ATTAINED IT.

II. THEY HAVE BEEN EMINENTLY USEFUL IN PROMOTING THE CIVILISATION OF THE INFERIOR ORDERS, AND IN PROVIDING A POWERFUL AND EFFECTUAL ANTIDOTE TO PAUPERISM AND MENDICITY.

III. THEY HAVE BEEN EXCEEDINGLY BENEFICIAL IN PRESERVING THE YOUNG FROM MANY CRIMES WHICH ARE DESTRUCTIVE OF THE PEACE AND ORDER OF SOCIETY.

IV. The higher and more important effects which have resulted from these schools, IN PROMOTING A SPIRIT OF PIETY AND VIRTUE AMONG THEIR YOUTHFUL PUPILS.

(J. Brown, D. D.)

The general principle is, that wisdom or practical religion and knowledge are the best elements of the stability of any people, — the best defence of any nation, — and that irrespective of the difference between a nation under the ordinary providence of God, and one enjoying a theocracy.

I. CHRISTIANITY PROMOTES WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE. That Christianity promotes wisdom and knowledge we might conclude from facts which lie on the face of it, even before ascertaining the connection between the cause and the effect. We may assume Jesus Christ to be the living type of His own system, and He is the very impersonation of wisdom and knowledge. Then, wisdom and knowledge may be regarded as synonymous with practical Christianity. They are at least essential to its existence. We shall take them separately, and ascertain —

1. How the Gospel of Christ promotes wisdom, or that practical religion of which the fear and love of God are the principles. The God whom the Bible reveals is the fit object of reverence and love. The mere manifestation of the Divine character, however, invested with every possible perfection, is not enough to rekindle the flame of piety in a fallen world. It is otherwise with holy beings. But in our case the revelation is made to a race of apostates, partially acquainted with God, but estranged from Him in heart and will. Christianity provides, in the great facts through which it conveys the knowledge of God, the means of reducing men to contrition and restoring them to love. The Gospel is adapted to convert the soul. Any scheme whereby you would regenerate must contain a provision of mercy. And thus far the Gospel is adapted to produce practical piety. But this is not enough. The Gospel reveals a most glorious expedient for the vindication of the law, for the manifestation of the Divine righteousness, and of the demerit of sin, while it offers a free and eternal pardon. It opens the door of hope to the guiltiest criminal, but by the mode of doing it, it impresses his mind with a sense of his sinfulness, it moves him to repentance, and inspires him with all the zeal to obey that can arise from his conscious obligation to Divine grace.

2. Christianity promotes knowledge. Christianity contains the only true system of Divine knowledge. But further, Christianity promotes general knowledge. It is itself a system of truth and not of error, a system of knowledge and not of ignorance, a system of intelligence and not a mere bodily ceremonial or a dark superstition. The very commission it has received from heaven is, "Go and teach all nations." Revealing .God, it makes known the highest truths; and promotes and facilitates inquiry into every other. From this conviction we deduce principles which seem to possess all the simplicity of axioms. There cannot be any real contrariety between the doctrines of Christianity and the truths of reason or the facts of science.

II. BY PROMOTING WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE, CHRISTIANITY ESTABLISHES A PEOPLE. In support of the proposition before us, we might reason a fortiori Christianity, by promoting wisdom and knowledge, purifies and elevates society, — how much more will it establish or give the elements of perpetuity to society. Take society in any of its lowest states, and you will find Christianity an adequate power to raise it. For example, it is an acknowledged fact, that the Gospel makes men unfit for a state of slavery. If Christianity thus elevates, how much more will it establish! But what are the means of the stability of a nation — what the elements of perpetuity? Religion, virtue, freedom, and good order.

(J. Kennedy.)

I. TRUE PRACTICAL RELIGION PROHIBITS WHAT WOULD ENDANGER NATIONAL SECURITY AND PEACE.

II. WHILE RELIGION DISCOUNTENANCES WHAT WOULD BE PERNICIOUS IN PUBLIC LIFE, IT PROVIDES ALSO WHAT, IN OTHER RESPECTS, IS NECESSARY AND SALUTARY.

III. It is drawn from OBSERVATION AND EXPERIENCE. No argument is more valid or conclusive in confirmation of a fact. A single well-conducted experiment in philosophy may demonstrate the truth of a general principle; and, similarly, in morals and religion, the experience of a single nation, or the uniform experience of the ages, may attest the inutility or value of any particular theory or scheme.

(T. S. Cartwright.)

As Christianity introduced religious light, so did that light become the parent of every other kind of useful and excellent knowledge. When once the powers of the human mind are brought into acquaintance with evangelical truth, they acquire vigour, a strength and expansion in their exercise before unknown. And hence it is that the knowledge which the revealed truth of God communicates will be found in all ages to produce that discipline of mind which ministers so much to its strength, and places it in the most favourable circumstances for the discovery and acquisition of truth generally. So little opposition, in fact, is there between Christianity and true science, that all the most important discoveries of a scientific nature, all the knowledge whence nations derive power and refinement, have occurred in Christian nations, and Christian nations only.

(R. Watson.)

There appears no real connection between mere scientific knowledge and moral influence; the opinion that such a connection exists is false in its foundations and injurious in practice. No moral influence is exerted, except by the truths revealed to us in the Scriptures.

I. I AM TO MAKE AN APPEAL TO THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE, in support of the proposition that we have no right to expect any moral improvement from the influence of any kind of knowledge except that of Divine truth. It ought to be stated, that this sacred Book is altogether in favour of the cultivation of all useful knowledge, and its general circulation through society.

1. We turn to the Old Testament. We are there expressly required to view religion as wisdom. "Wisdom," we are told, "is the principal thing"; and it is urged upon us that we "get wisdom," yea, that "with all our getting, we get understanding" When the attainment of wisdom is thus inculcated and enjoined, we may well inquire, "What kind of wisdom is it to which so many moral effects are ascribed?" It is not to scientific wisdom, but to moral wisdom: to the knowledge of God and His will; to the knowledge of our own obligations and duties; to the knowledge which applies to man as an accountable creature, destined to a future judgment; to the knowledge of the way in which man, as a sinner, may find pardon, and peace, and holiness from God, whom he has offended. All this is included in the scriptural idea of wisdom; and it is to this only that moral results are ascribed.

2. We find the same sentiment in the New Testament. Jesus Christ never drops a word from which it might be gathered that mere knowledge, knowledge of any and every kind, is sufficient to exert a moral influence on the mind and character. On the contrary, there are passages in which He represents it as operating to the hindrance of salvation. So that solemn declaration in Matthew: "I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." So in the writings of the Apostles. The Gospel, which gives moral knowledge, they declare to be" the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; while of the wisdom of the world, so long tried among the heathen, they only declare, that "the world by wisdom knew not God." When St. Paul points to the injurious effects of "philosophy and vain deceit," he tells us that he means that which is "after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of this world, and not after Christ." Such philosophy could not be depended upon to conquer a single vice, or implant a single principle of virtue, and therefore he pronounces it to be but vain deceit, empty and powerless.

II. Let us now consider THE MANNER BY WHICH RELIGIOUS KNOWLEDGE OPERATES TO PRODUCE THESE MORAL RESULTS. That such results are produced will appear —

1. From the truths which it presents to the mind; God, &c.

2. The law of God presents a standard of duty, binding on the conscience; for there can be no authoritative standard of right and wrong except by revelation from God Himself, the supreme Lawgiver.

3. We have appealed to the Scriptures. Now, these assure us that, along with the truth of God, there goes an accompanying influence; the words that are spoken to you are "spirit and life." This is because the illuminations of the Holy Ghost go along with them.

III. BY NO OTHER SPECIES OF KNOWLEDGE THAN THAT WHICH WE HAVE BEEN CONSIDERING CAN THIS MORAL INFLUENCE BE EXERTED.

1. Though many seem to take for granted that, if we circulate knowledge, we improve society, it is nevertheless true that there are many kinds of knowledge which do not contribute to the improvement of morals.

2. All experience is against the supposition I am combating.

3. But let us even suppose that morals are taught. What then? I am aware that there are often some moral instructions added to systems of education; some moral precepts in which all will agree are, perhaps, even selected from the Book of God; still, if this Book be true, even such teaching must fail. This Book has its doctrines and promises, as well as its moral precepts; and its morals are connected most intimately both with its doctrines and promises. Man must be taught not only what is right, but why it is right; and he must be shown that he is bound to do it. The term "duty" refers not merely to the action which is to be done, but to the obligation to do it. Take, then, the morality of the Bible away from that with which God has connected it, and you make it powerless.

(R. Watson.)

We seem to have here something like a prophetic sanction for the propagation of knowledge Isaiah, in speaking of the future prosperity of the Jewish empire, rests the stability of its fortunes, not upon wealth, nor extensive dominion, but directly upon knowledge.

1. The most common objection to the education of the lower orders of the community is, that the poor, proud of the distinction of learning, will not submit to the performance of those lower offices of life which are necessary to the well-being of a State. Our poorer brethren do not toil because they are ignorant; neither would they cease to toil because they were instructed; the fabric of human happiness God has placed upon much stronger foundations; they labour, because they cannot live without labour; this has ever been sufficient to stimulate, and to continue the energy of man, and will, and must ever stimulate it, and secure its continuance, while heaven and earth remain.

2. The next objection urged against the education of the poor is, that the most ignorant poor, in country villages, are the best; and that the poor of large towns, as they gain in intelligence, lose in character, and become corrupt as they become knowing; but the country poor, it should be remembered, are the fewest in number; they are not exposed to all those innumerable temptations which corrupt the populace of large towns; this, and not their ignorance, is the cause of their superior decency in morals and religion.

3. In considering the effects of educating the poor, we must not merely dwell upon the power, but upon the tendency which we have created to use that power aright; not merely ask if it is a good thing for the poor to read, but to read such books as are full of wise and useful advice. A mere instrument for acquiring knowledge may be used with equal success, either for a good or a bad purpose; but education never gives the instrument without teaching the proper method of using it, and without inspiring a strong desire to use it in that manner.

4. Education may easily be made to supply, hereafter, the most innocent source of amusement, and to lessen those vices which proceed from want of interesting occupation; it subdues ferocity, by raising up an admiration for something besides brutal strength, and brutal courage.

5. We must remember, in this question, that all experience is in our favour.

6. There are many methods in which a community is considerably benefited by the education of its poor; a human being who is educated is, for many purposes of commerce, a much more useful and convenient instrument; and the advantage to be derived from the universal diffusion of this power is not to be overlooked in a discussion of this nature.

7. I would ask those who place such confidence in the benefits of ignorance, how far they would choose to carry these benefits? for, if the safety of a State depends upon its ignorance, then, the more ignorance the more safety.

(S. Smith, M. A.)

is the chief defence of nations.

(Edmund Burke.)

The schoolmaster is abroad! I trust more to him, armed with his primer, than I do to the soldier in full military array, for the upholding and extending the liberties of his country.

(Lord Brougham.)

Tytler's History.
The ravages of the Danes had totally extinguished any small sparks of learning, by the dispersion of the monks, and the burning their monasteries and libraries. To repair these misfortunes, Alfred (the Great), like Charlemagne, invited learned men from all quarters of Europe to reside in his dominions. He established schools, and enjoined every freeholder possessed of two ploughs to send his children there for instruction. He is said to have founded, or, at least, to have liberally endowed the illustrious seminary afterward known as the University of Oxford.

(Tytler's History.)

The fear of the Lord is his treasure.
There is a servile fear of God which wicked men possess, but that which distinguishes the believer is filial and reverential. He fears, not because he has sinned, but that he may not sin; and dreads not so much the punishment of sin as the commission of it. He fears God as a friend, and not as an enemy; as a father, and not as a judge. The Scripture speaks of a natural and constitutional fear, arising from pusillanimity and want of courage, whereby persons are alarmed at the least appearance of danger, and sink under the slightest affliction. They fear where no fear is, and flee when no one pursueth. There is also a superstitious fear, which is forbidden as inconsistent with the fear of God. There is likewise a fear which tends to desperation, and sometimes ends in it; a fear which hath torment, and is attended with a spirit of bondage. In distinction from this, there is a fear arising from distrust, the fruit of unbelief, which good men too frequently betray in this imperfect state, but which the Scripture justly condemns. The fear of the Lord is a gracious principle wrought in the soul by the Holy Spirit, and consists in a reverential regard for the Divine authority and glory.

I. Enquire WHEREIN THE FEAR OF THE LORD CONSISTS. God is the immediate object of it; and it consists in a mixture of admiration and love, arising from an apprehension of His incomparable excellences and infinite superiority, joined with a humble hope of interest in His favour and regard.

1. The greatness and majesty of God may well excite our fear, and fill us with the deepest reverence and awe.

2. His omnipresence and allseeing eye are a sufficient ground of fear to sinful and erring creatures.

3. The justice and holiness of God are adapted to excite our fear.

4. There is something awful even in the Divine goodness (Psalm 130:4).

II. THE ADVANTAGES ARISING FROM THIS HOLY PRINCIPLE. "The fear of the Lord is his treasure."

1. It is in its own nature exceedingly precious, and all the things of this world are base and mean in comparison of it.

2. It answers the most valuable purposes.

3. Its advantages are permanent.

4. It is called a treasure in order to teach us the following things —

(1)The necessity of seeking after it that we may fully possess it.

(2)That we may be taught highly to value and esteem it.

(3)That we may be careful to cultivate and preserve it.

(4)We are hereby taught to impart this inestimable treasure to others, and to enrich the world with it, by endeavouring to inspire them also with the fear of God.

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

It keeps the conscience tender, and the mind spiritual, and is the enemy of arrogance and pride. Hence the apostle joins these two together: Be not high-minded, but fear (Romans 11:20). If we fear the Lord, we shall dread all formality and hypocrisy, and shall serve Him in sincerity and truth (Joshua 24:14). It will also inspire us with courage and fortitude, and enable us to say as Nehemiah did in the face of the greatest danger, Should such a man as I flee? All lesser fears are swallowed up of this great fear, the fear of God. A heart fully impressed with it can neither sink into stupidity, or indulge in any unbecoming levity; will neither be too much elated with prosperity, or depressed by adversity. The fear of the Lord will also guard us against evil compliances, and criminal indulgences. It stands as a sentinel over the soul, warns it of approaching dangers, and suppresses the first risings of corruption, before they break forth into actual sins. I will do you no hurt, says Joseph to his brethren, for I fear God. Though at the utmost distance from presumption, it produces a holy confidence in God (Psalm 147:11). The same Divine excellences which are incitements to fear are also attractives to love; so that these kindred graces are not only planted but flourish together, and the same promises are made to both. The Lord will fulfil the desire of them that fear Him; He also preserveth all them that love Him. (Psalm 145:19, 20). A servile fear contracts the mind; but an ingenuous fear of God enlarges the heart in His service. The one diverts us from the path of duty, the other disposes us to walk in it; the one is slothful and indolent, the other active and persevering. Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord, that delighteth greatly in His commandments (Psalm 112. I). And when David himself prayed to be taught God's ways, so as to walk in the truth, he added, Unite my heart to fear Thy name (Psalm 86:11). The fear of the Lord is indeed a universal good; it affords peace of conscience, support under affliction, and comfort in the view of death. The fear of the Lord tendeth to life, a long life, a comfortable life, and life everlasting. As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy towards them that fear Him; like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. Oh how great is His goodness, which He has laid up for them that fear Him; which He has wrought for them that trust in Him, before the sons of men (Psalm 31:19, 103:11-13).

(B. Beddome, M. A.)

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