The Treasures of Wisdom
Proverbs 3:14
For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

Man is the only trading animal; commerce is his prerogative. The blazon of his trade, or exchange, is his patent of nobility. There is no distinction more honourable. There is no earthly title nobler than "a merchant"; and as such they are the controlling class in society — the chieftains and nobles of the later civilisation. Without them, there could be no division of labour, and consequently no accumulation of capital, and therefore no education, no literature, no science, no fine art, no true civilisation. The term "merchant" is altogether honourable and honoured, and therefore, and as such, is aptly metaphorical of a true Christian. Consider some points of resemblance.

I. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN OF STRONG FAITH. Indeed, in regard of temporal things, he above all other men may be said "to walk by faith." His barks are on the sea, and the sea is treacherous. His goods are consigned to men who may be plotting to defraud him. His ability to meet obligations depends on media of exchange, which some financial panic may paralyse in a moment. Yea, his "walk by faith" goes far beyond this. His business extends practically to the very ends of the earth, to lands he has never seen, and with races of men with whom he has never mingled. And thus in this walk by faith he is a fit emblem of a Christian.

II. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN OF GREAT EARNESTNESS AND ACTIVITY. His faith is not an indolent trust, but an energising principle.

III. THE TRUE MERCHANT IS A MAN PRACTICALLY AND PRE-EMINENTLY USEFUL. His wares are of real value — his labours sincere benefactions. Traced carefully back to their origin, to mercantile enterprise under God, must be ascribed all real human progress, from the hut and hunting spear of the earlier barbarism to the palaces and emporiums of the last civilisation. It is the merchant who has bridged the oceans and united continents; covered the seas with sails and the land with machinery.


1. He must be a man of strong faith. This is essentially and every way the foundation of his character. He must rely confidently for his salvation on another, and live ever in reference to the far-away and invisible.

2. A. Christian must be an active and earnest man. That indolent reliance on Christ, which some men call faith, is a fearful delusion of the great adversary. While we can do nothing to merit salvation, yet we must do very much "to work out our salvation." The high calling of God in Christ Jesus is not a lullaby over a cradle, but a great voice out of heaven saying, "Come up hither."

3. A Christian must be a useful man. The law of his life is that of his Master, "not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

4. But we are not to forget that while thus beneficent to other men, a Christian, like a merchant, is above all, and ineffably, benefiting himself. This, indeed, is the main truth set forth in the emblem. Mark the language, "The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver." It is implied here that this trading of the merchant in earthly products is good because profitable. But the Christian's exchanging of temporal for eternal things is affirmed to be obviously better, because ineffably more profitable.

(1) Because of the security of the transaction. All material commerce is manifestly with a hazard. But not so the spiritual. The Christian's trust is in nothing finite, but in the living God. His bark cannot founder, for Christ sails with him. Thieves cannot steal his treasure, for it is laid up in heaven.

(2) Because the treasure it secures is infinitely more valuable. This, indeed, is the great truth of the whole passage. We have here a most beautiful climax of all earth's rarest and richest things. Silver, gold, rubies, all in their rarest purity and richest abundance, are declared to be of inferior value. Yea, the inspired penman affirms that "all things the human heart can desire are not to be compared with his." And if you will remember that this is the testimony, not of some poor, unsuccessful man, but of Solomon — of Solomon, too, at a period of his experience when he had tested, as no other man ever did, the worth of all earthly things — not the utterance of one who, disappointed in his struggle for riches, pleasure, honour, turns in melancholy misanthropy away, to rail at the world and call it hard names, and scold from a hermit's cell, or a priest's pulpit; but of a crowned king in a palace, on a throne, around whom the world delighted to gather all the prizes of life's mightiest triumphs, then you will take his testimony as demonstrated, that the treasure secured by Christian life is letter than all the results of an earthly commerce.

(C. Wadsworth, D.D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

WEB: For her good profit is better than getting silver, and her return is better than fine gold.

The Honour, Profit, and Pleasure of Religion
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