It means New Switzerland and it was a 50,000-acre tract of land in California. The owner wanted to establish a simple life and invite level-headed, balanced people to join him as he transformed the rugged western wilderness into an inhabitable paradise. While he and his workers were building a sawmill along the American River, one of John’s workers discovered something which would change the world. News quickly spread across the country and around the world. The population of the California territory would balloon from a handful of Americans to over 300,000 people all because of a little nugget of gold found near John Sutter’s sawmill.
The Gold Rush of 1848 through 1849 revved into high gear. People risked everything to get to the rivers of California where you supposedly could overturn a rock and find riches to last a lifetime. They had to endure the harshness of traveling across the country in a wagon or around the cape of South America by boat. Many left with nothing but the clothes on their back, hoping to purchase their essentials for a new life in the new land. The merchants in California were the ones who really struck gold. It is reported a single egg and a pound of coffee was sold for $25 and $100 respectively in today’s dollars! People were buried along the trail, at sea, and near the mines. The rage of greed led to murder and pillaging all for fast and easy money. People would try and fail, try and fail, repeatedly hoping the next gold strike would be theirs.
All of this was done for the sake of a precious metal mankind has esteemed as valuable, yet many people scoff at the value and refuse to pursue the thing which “is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold” (Proverbs 3:14). Much like the scoundrels in the first chapter, the world craves riches and spoil, but they pan for it at all the wrong places and in all the wrong ways. “We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil” (Proverbs 1:13).
If we seek as for silver and search as for hid treasures, we will surely find wisdom. Reflect for a moment on the blessings of wisdom: Length of days, riches and honor, pleasant ways and paths of peace, and sweet sleep. Compare and contrast that with the alternatives. How many suicides shorten the lives of the miserable? How many lives end in ignominy because of poor choices? How many drown their sorrowful ways in alcohol or shoot-up into another dimension? How many are saddled with so much guilt not even the strongest arsenal of prescriptions could provide a good night’s sleep for them?
Human nature has not changed. Men and women are chasing after a mirage. Once they think they’ve captured their dream, it wisps away like smoke.
But “all the things thou canst desire” cannot be compared to wisdom.