THE FOURTH ASPECT OF TRUE WISDOM: DIFFICULTY OF OBTAINING WISDOM: ECCLESIASTES 7:23-29
For wisdom to help with happiness, it must first be acquired. We must plainly understand this difficulty if it is to be overcome. Solomon sets forth the nature of the difficulty in acquiring wisdom in this passage.
23 All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me. 24 That which is far off, and exceeding deep, who can find it out? 25 I applied mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdom, and the reason of things, and to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness: 26 And I find more bitter than death the woman, whose heart is snares and nets, and her hands as bands: whoso pleases God shall escape from her; but the sinner shall be taken by her. 27 Behold, this have I found, says the preacher, counting one by one, to find out the account: 28 Which yet my soul seeks, but I find not: one man among a thousand have I found; but a woman among all those have I not found. 29 Lo, this only have I found, that God has made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
The difficulty to attain to this wisdom, which properly as it commends wisdom by its rarity, so it pulls down man’s pride and checks his curiosity. This difficulty is demonstrated unto us two ways:
First, by Solomon’s experience in his own study and search after it: All this have I proved, viz., I have attained to great experience and that by more than ordinary helps, so that I said and thought no less with myself, I shall be wise and know all things, but all things reckoned up, I see it is far from me, viz., perfection thereof. And if it were far from Solomon, what other man shall come near it, verse 23.
Second, the difficulty to obtain wisdom is shown from the nature of those things which are to be known to make a man wise: These things are expressed:
Generally, all things are full of darkness and obscurity: by similitude of things far distant from us, or deeply hid in the bowels of the earth, both which are hard and almost impossible to be exactly searched out and known by us. That which is far off & c., who can find out? Yea, though he have more wisdom than Solomon had, verse 24.
In particular, there are two things which make it difficlt to acquire wisdom. The first is the difficulty in learning of all sorts in the several arts and mysteries thereof: Here called wisdom which is interpreted in the next word, the reason of all things so far as by discourse they may be found out.
Wisdom is difficult to acquire due to the corruption and guilefulness of man’s heart: a special inquiry of singular use for the advancement of true wisdom: And to know the wickedness of folly, or the wicked folly of men, even of foolishness and madness so is the sinfulness, deceitfulness and corruption of a wicked man styled, who is beside his wits foolish and mad, verse 25.
The Conclusions of His Research
Touching both these Solomon declares unto what was his inquiry and search: This he understood, notwithstanding the difficulty aforesaid, with great diligence and pains expressed in many words, I applied mine heart with much attention to know and to search and to seek, verse 25.
The issue of his study, what he found out; expressed only in the latter part concerning man’s wickedness )of the former he had spoken, chapter 1( which in brief he finds to be infinite and beyond man’s comprehension:
The Example of the Harlot
His conclusion is declared ]proved[ by instance and induction:
Of one sex, viz, the weaker and in it, of its worst kind, the Harlot, whose infinite subtleies and wily wickedness is described by her parts, her: )1( Wiliness to catch: Her heart is as snares & nets full of cunning, fetches, plots, devices, and polices to entangle mens’ affections, as fishers, & c. )2( Power to keep, her hands as bands, her embraces, kisses, looks & c., are as cords wherewith she binds fast the loving beast to be always at her command, verse 26.
Aggravated by many arguments:
First, by comparison with death: I find more than death the woman, the wickedness of a harlot causes a lingering consumption of the body, name, estate: and after brings to eternal death, verse 26.
Second, from the power and force of her temptations which are so enticing as nothing but supernatural helps, grace and God’s love can preserve us from them: A sinner left to himself cannot but fall into her snare, who so pleaseth God shall escape but the sinner, & c., verse 26.
Third, from Solomon’s earnest study to find out the depth of a woman’s beguiling heart, the exact knowledge whereof he could not attain, Behold this I have found, viz, so much is mentioned, verse 26. Says the Preacher, who was able to discern fruther than other, coming one by one trying and examining the disposition & nature of many to find out the accounts, the perfect knowledge of this point, which yet my soul and desire seek after, but I find it not, not attain unto it, verse 27, 28.
Fourth, by comparison with men, amongst whom there might be found one of a thousand whose politic, devices, fraud & falsehood might be discovered; but not one woman among a thousand could be found, the depth of whose devilish deceit could be measured, one man & c. but a woman among those, haply those thousand wives and concubines which he had whereof, it seems there were few good, verse 28.
The Instance of All Human Beings
Of both sexes, man and woman, viz., that neither of them are as God has made them, but both have strangely gone awry from that straightness of their creation. Lo, this only I have found, God made man upright and straight, but they, both Adam and Eve and also their posterity, have found out of their own accord many inventions, many crooked counsels and devices for the practicing, defending, execusing & c., of their evil courses. The shifts are many so that it is hard to find them out: which must needs argue that true wisdom is difficult to be had, which consists in the knowledge of ourselves and others, that is hard to come by, this far more, verse 29.