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PRELIMINARY

DISSERTATION.

Preliminary Dissertation.

SECTION I.

THE reign of Solomon was the most splendid and the happiest period in the Jewish annals. It was the halcyon day of Israel. A long respite from the scourge of war produced the tranquillity so necessary to the cultivation and improvement of the peaceful arts ; an extensive commerce promoted the wealth and affluence of the nation; while a philosophic Monarch sat upon the throne, whose mild and equitable government secured the happiness of his subjects. The magnitude of the empire, which extended from the Euphrates to the Nile; the stately edifices erected by royal taste and munificence; the attendance of a numerous retinue; and the choicest articles of foreign luxury, imported by the navy which sailed to Tharshish and Ophir, together with every article of elegance and refinement which an

immense revenue could purchase: all combined to surround the court of Solomon with a pomp and splendour which, till then, had not been witnessed in the East.

Nor, amidst the dazzling objects of Oriental magnificence, were the interests of religion neglected. A Temple, of unrivalled grandeur, arose under the superintending care of the Monarch, by whom it was dedicated to the Lord God of Hosts, with the solemnities of prayer and sacrifice; and he composed, for the benefit of his subjects, several treatises, admirably calculated to promote the love and practice of religion. This unremitting attention to the welfare of the people and the glory of Jehovah, shed the brightest lustre upon the regal diadem; and his wisdom became the theme of admiration and panegyric in all the surrounding states. The copious description of bis riches and power in the first book of Kings, and second of Chronicles, presents a less exalted picture of the Jewish Monarch, than this single circumstance, that “there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom."*

* 1 Kings, iv. 34; 2 Chron, ix. 23.

The wisdom of the royal Sage was often promulgated to the world in short aphorisms and sententious maxims, expressed in poetical numbers, as being more easily remembered, and more useful to the great mass of the people, than abstruse arguments, and methodical discourses. Short and pithy sentences have been employed, from the most remote antiquity, as the vehicle of ethical instruction, and particularly adapted to the simplicity of the early ages. When writings were but few, and the reasonings of systematic philosophy almost unknown, just observations on life and manners, and useful moral precepts, delivered in concise language, and often in verse, would form a body of the most valuable practical wisdom, which, by its influence upon the conduct, must have contributed largely to the peace and wellbeing of society. An acute remark, a moral adage, an admonition conveyed in a brief and compact sentence, would arrest the attention, and operate upon the hearts of a rude people with a force, of which there is no example in periods of greater cultivation. Yet, in every age, they are well fitted to impress the minds of the young and uninformed; and, as they are the most valuable guides in the affairs of life, when we are called upon, not to deliberate, but to act; not to unfold a circuitous argument,

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