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read that the faithful servants to whom the talents were intrusted, went and traded with them. Let us particularly notice the pearl merchant. When he had found one of great price, or very valuable, he went and sold all that he had, even his “goodly pearls,” that he might buy it. This “ pearl of
reat price," represents to us the Lord Jesus Christ. Those who have really found him are ready to part with every worldly possession or indulgence, that they may obtain him. He has promised that those who seek him shall find him: “With all thy getting get understanding," Prov. iv. 7 ; and the knowledge of Christ, as the Saviour who suffered upon the cross for our sins, is the true wisdom.
Trade was not forbidden by the law of Moses, nor by our Lord, when carried on fairly and honestly, and without breaking the commands of God. But the trade was sinful which our Lord reproved, when he drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple, John ii., Matt. xxi., Mark xi., Luke xix. Observe, it is related by all the evangelists. Although in these days we do not see people buying and selling in the churches and chapels, how many there are who make the Lord's day a day of merchandise, and buy and sell thereon for their own pleasure and profit, without the least necessity ! Let them not deceive themselves, like the inhabitants of Jerusalem, who thought it necessary to buy fish and other things on the sabbath, Neh. xiii. 16; but when Nehemiah shut the gates on the sabbath, and kept out the dealers, the people found that they could manage without buying on that day. Again, there are many who do not buy or sell upon the Lord's day, but who think, and even talk a great deal about their merchandise, their bargains, and schemes of profit. Where is the difference between this and handling the goods themselves?
In the east, a bargain is often a very long transaction. Perkins says, he had occasion repeatedly to notice that at first, the article asked for, was spoken of as to be a present to the purchaser, who offering to pay, was then required to name his own price, that, even if reasonable, was refused ; and far more than the real value was then demanded ; but if the purchaser turned away, more fair terms were acceded to.
He refers to the transaction between Abraham and the sons of Heth, Gen. xxiii. 10, 11, as illustrating what now passes in bargaining in Persia. Lane says, it is the same in Egypt, the peasants well knowing that advantage will not be taken, of their offer to give up the article as a present.
The merchants and traders whom Nehemiah shut out were men of Tyre, the most famous place for trade among all the cities in or near Judæa. In Ezekiel xxvii. we have a full account of the vast trade of that wealthy city. In that chapter, Tyre is compared to a ship. The drawing and description at page 93, will help to explain that passage of Scripture, and also give some ideas respecting the ancient ships. "That chapter shows the great wealth and extensive commerce of the city, which appears to have traded with all countries, and to have dealt in all the principal articles of trade of the present day. Here again is mention of merchants who dealt in slaves ! ver. 13. Wealth increased, until “ her merchants were princes, and her traffickers the honourable of the earth," Isa. xxiii. 8. The people of Tyre became proud : in their anxiety to get riches they dealt unjustly, and became “defiled by the iniquity of their traffic,” Ezek. xxviii. 18. God, by the prophet Ezekiel, declared the downfall of that proud wealthy city; in a few years, it was accomplished, as foretold by the prophet : see Ezek. xxvi., xxvii., and xxviii. “Riches fly away as an eagle toward heaven,” Prov. xxiii. 5. This strongly shows the
uncertainty of riches, the danger of having our hearts cumbered and led astray by worldly wealth, and the certain consequences of unjust gain. In Ezek. xxvi. 4, 5, we read,
They shall destroy the walls of Tyrus, and break down her towers : I will also scrape her dust from her, and make her like the top of a rock. It shall be a place for the spreading of nets in the midst of the sea : for I have spoken it, saith the Lord God." Modern travellers have told us how completely this has been fulfilled. The precise situation of ancient Tyre is not exactly known, so utterly has it been destroyed : but a place is pointed out where it probably stood. Several travellers have borne witness to the fulfilment of the prophecy, that Tyre should be a place for fishers to dry their nets. Bruce saw two miserable fishermen who had just returned from their labours, and were about to spread their nets
upon the rocks. Yet, awful as the case of Tyre was, our Lord said it should be more tolerable for the inhabitants of Tyre, in the day of judgment, than for the inhabitants of Chorazin and Bethsaida, where he had so often preached the gospel, and told the glad tidings of salvation, confirming his words by his miracles ; yet the inhabitants attended not to his words!
The blessed Saviour called himself the Bread of life, John vi. 35, 48, 51. Large portions of this Bread are set before us, for we are told much about Christ, and how he suffered to save poor
sinners. Let us pray that we may be enabled to feast thereon, to love him, and to serve him. If we enjoy this glad news, which is spoken of as a feast, Isa. xxv. 6, surely we shall not forget the poor heathen, but be anxious to “send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared,” Neh. viii. 10, by helping those societies, by which the gospel is sent to the heathen.
The history of king Solomon presents many particulars respecting the commerce of the Jews, and other nations. He was a man of peace, as his name signifies, and encouraged trade. In his days the inhabitants of Tyre were very active in trade; he saw the advantages they derived from commerce, and was anxious that his subjects should partake of these benefits.
King David subdued his enemies on all sides of Judæa, and extended his dominions to the Red Sea, so that Solomon possessed a good harbour or sea-port there, called Eziongeber, 1 Kings ix. 26, from whence ships could sail to the rich countries of Africa and Asia. The Jews being ignorant of the method of building ships, Solomon applied to Hiram, king of Tyre, who sent workmen able to build vessels, and seamen to navigate them. The ships being ready, the two kings joined in sending them to foreign countries, and they brought back much gold, silver, ivory, and other valuable merchandise : they also procured apes, peacocks, and other foreign curiosities : see 1 Kings ix. 27, 28; x. 22 ; 2 Chron. viii. 18; ix. 21. So important did this trade appear to Solomon, that he went to Eziongeber and Elath, to superintend the fitting out of the ships, 2 Chron. viii. 17. The fleets sent out by Hiram and Solomon went to some countries at a considerable distance, called Ophir and Tarshish. They are generally supposed to be the same which are now called Zanguebar and Sofala, on the eastern coast of Africa ; but they may have been other places. The art of navigation was then so little understood, that the ships were three years in making a voyage, which now would occupy only a few weeks. There is not any account of the articles sent out in these ships ; but as the people of Tyre traded in all kinds of merchandise, there could be no difficulty in procuring suitable cargoes; and Judæa, we have seen, abounded in corn, wine, and oil. The articles received in return have been already mentioned. Solomon was supplied by this trade with many materials for his splendid palaces and other buildings, and the whole nation was enriched by this traffic. Silver became quite common in Jerusalem, so that “it was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon," 1 Kings x. 21, 27. This great monarch also traded with the Egyptians, from whom he purchased horses, chariots, and linen yarn. The horses cost 150 shekels each, the chariots 600, 1 Kings x. 28, 29 : he had 40,000 horses for chariots, and 12,000 for his horsemen, 1 Kings iv. 26.
After the death of Solomon, and the division of his kingdom, the eastern or southern trade continued, but with less advantage, and with less regularity. We read that the ships of Jehoshaphat were wrecked in the Red Sea. In the reign of Jehoram, his successor, the Edomites, in whose country these ports were situated, revolted from the Jewish yoke. Uzziah again obtained possession of Elath, when the trade continued
in the hands of the Jews, till Rezin, king of Damascus, and afterwards Tiglathpileser, king of Assyria, took these ports away from the Jews. Thus their trade