Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth.

 

 

 

 

                       ILLUSTRATIONS

 

 

                                             OF THE

 

     BOOK OF PROVERBS.

 

 

 

 

                                               BY THE

               REV. WILLIAM ARNOT,

                                ST. PETER’S FREE CHURCH, GLASGOW.

 

 

 

 

                                            Second Series.

                                                  Vol. 2

 

 

 

 

 

                                              LONDON:

             T. NELSON AND SONS, PATERNOSTER ROW;

                             EDINBURGH; AND NEW YORK.

                                           MDCCCLVIII.

                                                 1858

 


                          TO THE READER.

 

WHILE, as a series of practical comments upon texts selected

from a Book of Scripture, the two volumes now published

constitute one whole; yet, from the nature of the sub-

jects, and the manner in which they have been treated,

each is complete in itself, and independent of the other.

For the sake of those who may see this volume first, or

this volume only, the explanatory note which was pre-

fixed to the former volume is reprinted here:—

 

            These Illustrations of the Proverbs are not critical, continuous,

exhaustive. The comments, in imitation of the text, are intended to

be brief, practical, miscellaneous, isolated. The reader may, however,

perceive a principle of unity running through the whole, if he take

his stand at the outset on the writer's view-point—a desire to lay the

Christian System along the surface of common life, without removing

it from its foundations in the doctrines of Grace. The authority of

the instructions must be divine: the form transparently human.

Although the lessons should, with a pliant familiarity, lay themselves

along the line of men's thoughts and actions, they will work no deli-

verance, unless redeeming love be everywhere the power to press

them in. On the other hand, although evangelical doctrine be con-

sistently maintained throughout, the teaching will come short of its

purpose unless it go right into every crevice of a corrupt heart, and

perseveringly double every turn of a crooked path. Without "the

love wherewith He loved us" as our motive power, we cannot reach

 


vi                               TO THE READER.

 

for healing any of the deeper ailments of the world: but having such

a power within our reach, we should not leave it dangling in the air;

we should bring it down, and make it bear on every sorrow that

afflicts, and every sin that defiles humanity. The two extremes to

be avoided are, abstract, unpractical speculation, and shallow, power-

less, heathen morality; the one a soul without a body, the other a

body without a soul—the one a ghost, the other a carcass. The aim

is, to be doctrinal without losing our hold of earth, and practical

without losing our hold of heaven.

            Most certain it is that if the Church at any period, or any portion

of the Church, has fallen into either of these extremes, it has been

her own fault; for the Bible, her standard, is clear from both impu-

tations. Christ is its subject and its substance. His word is like

Himself. It is of heaven, but it lays itself closely around the life

of men. Such is the Bible; and such, in their own place and mea-

sure, should our expositions of it be.

            Had our object been a critical exposition of the Book, it would

have been our duty to devote the larger share of our attention to the

more difficult parts. But our aim from first to last has been more to

apply the obvious than to elucidate the obscure, and the selection of

texts has been determined accordingly. As there is diversity of gifts,

there should be division of labour. While scientific inquirers re-exa-

mine the joints of the machine, and demonstrate anew the principles

of its construction, it may not be amiss that a workman should set

the machine a-going, and try its effects on the affairs of life.

 

                                                                                                   W. A.

 

 

 


                                        CONTENTS

                                                                                                                              PAGE

I.     THE ALL-SEEING                                                                                            9

II.    A WHOLESOME TONGUE                                                                             23

III.   MIRTH A MEDICINE                                                                                       30

IV.   TASTES DIFFER                                                                                               37

V.    HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR                                                                     46

VI.   THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY’S PEACE                  51

VII.  THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE                                  59

VIII. MERCY AND TRUTH                                                                                     68

IX.    PROVIDENCE                                                                                                 74

X.     WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH                88

XL    THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT                                                            93

XII.   THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE                                                                      99

XIII.   THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS                                                                          104

XIV.   FRIENDSHIP                                                                                                 116

XV.    THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF                                                             126

XVI.   A WIFE                                                                                                           131

XVII.  ANGER                                                                                                           142

XVIII.  A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR                                                147

XIX.    THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK                                          152

XX.     THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT                                           164

XXI.    WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE                                              170

XXII.    TWO WITNESSES—THE HEARING EAR/THE SEEING EYE             175

XXIII.   BUYERS AND SELLERS                                                                          187

 


viii                                   CONTENTS.

 

                                                                                                                                    PAGE

XXIV.   A GOOD NAME                                                                                         195

XXV.    THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER                                   200

XXVI.   HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT                                                 205

XXVII.  EDUCATION                                                                                              209

XXVIII. THE BONDAGE OF THE BORROWER                                                 228

XXIX.    CONVENIENT FOOD                                                                               237

XXX.      THE RIGHTS OF MAN                                                                            244

XXXI.     A FAITHFUL FATHER                                                                            256

XXXII.    THE PROSPERITY OF THE WICKED                                                  268

XXXIII.   A BROTHER'S KEEPER                                                                         273

XXXIV.   PIETY AND PATRIOTISM                                                                     282

XXIV.      THE SLUGGARD’S GARDEN                                                               290

XXXVI.   MONARCHS—UNDER GOD AND OVER MAN                               296

XXXVII.  A FAITHFUL MESSENGER                                                                  303

XXVIII.   THE FIRE THAT MELTS AN ENEMY                                                  309

XXXIX.   A TIME TO FROWN AND A TIME TO SMILE                                   317

XL.          COLD WATERS TO THE THIRSTY SOUL                                           323

XLI.         AN IMPURE APPETITE SEEKS IMPURE FOOD                               328

XLII.        NOW, OR TO-MORROW                                                                      333

XLIII.      THE COUNTENANCE OF A FRIEND                                                   342

XLIV.      CONSCIENCE                                                                                          348

XLV.       SIN COVERED AND SIN CONFESSED                                               353

XLVI.      THE FEAR OF MAN BRINGETH A SNARE                                        366

XLVII.     PHILOSOPHY AND FAITH                                                                   379

XLVIII.    LEMUEL AND HIS MOTHER                                                               392

XLIX.      A HEROINE                                                                                              397

L.             FAITH AND OBEDIENCE—WORK AND REST                                 407

 

 

 

 

 

 


                      ILLUSTRATIONS

 

                                    OF THE

 

       BOOK OF PROVERBS.

 

 

 

 

                                            I.

 

 

                               THE ALL-SEEING.

 

 

"The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. Hell

and destruction are before the Lord: how much more then the hearts of

the children of men?"—PROVERBS xv. 3, 11.

 

 

THE omniscience of God is usually considered a funda-

mental doctrine of natural religion. Nobody denies it.

Infidelity in this department is acted, not spoken. Specu-

lative unbelievers are wont, in a free and easy way, to

set down at least a very large proportion of the existing

Christian profession to the credit of hypocrisy. Hypo-

crite is a disreputable name, and most men would rather

impute it to a neighbour than acknowledge it their own:

but it is one thing to repudiate the word, and another to

be exempt from the thing which it signifies. That weed

seems to grow as freely on the soil of natural religion as

in the profession of Christian faith. A man may be a

 


10                    THE ALL-SEEING.

 

hypocrite although he abjures the Bible. Most of those

who reject a written revelation profess to learn from the

volume of creation that a just God is everywhere pre-

sent, beholding the evil and the good; but what disciple

of Nature lives consistently with even his own short

creed?

            The doctrine of the divine omniscience, although owned

and argued for by men's lips, is neglected or resisted in

their lives. The unholy do not like to have a holy Eye

ever open over them, whatever their profession may be.

If fallen men, apart from the one Mediator, say or think

that the presence of God is pleasant to them, it is because

they have radically mistaken either their own character

or his. They have either falsely lifted up their own

attainments, or falsely dragged down the standard of the

Judge.

            Atheism is the inner spirit of all the guilty, until they

be reconciled through the blood of the cross. All image

worship, whether heathen or Romish, is Atheism incarnate.

The idol is a body which men, at Satan's bidding, prepare

for their own enmity against God. The gods many and

lords many that thickly strew the path of humanity over

time, are the product ever and anon thrown off by the

desperate wriggle of the guilty to escape from the look

of an all-seeing Eye, and so be permitted to do their deeds

in congenial darkness. When spiders stretched their webs

across the eylids of Jupiter, notwithstanding all the efforts

that Greek sculpture had put forth to make the image

awful, the human worshipper would hide, without scruple,

in his heart the thoughts which he did not wish his deity

 


                     THE ALL-SEEING.                               11

 

to know. It was even an express tenet of the heathen

superstitions that the authority of the gods was partial

and local. One who was dreadful on the hills might be

safely despised in the valleys. In this feature, as in all

others, the Popish idolatry, imitative rather than inven-

tive, follows the rut in which the ancient current ran.

Particular countries and classes of persons are assigned to

particular saints. With puerile perseverance, the whole

surface of the earth and the whole course of the year

have been mapped and appropriated, so that you cannot

plant a pin point either in time or space without touch-

ing the territory of some Romish god or goddess. In

this way the ignorant devotee practically escapes from

the conviction of an omniscient Witness. "Divide and

conquer" is the maxim of the enemy when he tries to

deaden or destroy that sense of divine inspection which

seems to spring native in the human mind When he

cannot persuade a man that there is no such witness, he

persuades him, as the next best, that there are a thousand.

When a man will not profess to have no god, the same

end is accomplished by giving him many.

            We sometimes feel and express surprise that rational

beings should degrade themselves by worshipping blind,

dumb idols, which their own hands have made; but it is

precisely because the idols are blind and dumb that men

are willing to worship them. A god or a saint that

should really cast the glance of a pure eye into the con-

science of the worshipper would not long be held in

repute. The grass would grow again round that idol's

shrine. A seeing god would not do: the idolater wants

 


12                     THE ALL-SEEING.

 

a blind one. The first cause of idolatry is a desire in an

impure heart to escape from the look of the living God,

and none but a dead image would serve the turn.

            From history and experience it appears that idolaters

prefer to have an image that looks like life, provided

always that it be not living. A real omniscience they

will not endure; but a mimic omniscience pleases the

fancy, and rocks the conscience into a sounder sleep. In

the present generation the Romish craftsmen have tasked

their ingenuity to make the eyes of their pictured saints

move upon the canvass. The eyeball of a certain saint

rolled, or seemed to roll, in its dusky colouring within

the dimly-lighted aisle, and great was the effect on the

devotions of the multitude. In places where Protestant

truth has not shorn their superstition of its grosser out-

growths, the procession of the Fete Dieu is garnished

with a huge goggle eye, carried aloft upon a pole, moved

in its socket by strings and pulleys, and ticketed "The

Omniscient." This becomes an object of great attraction

in the crowd. In one aspect it is more childish than

any child's play; but in another aspect a melancholy

seriousness pervades it. This hideous mimicry of omni-

science is an elaborate effort to weave a veil under which

an unclean conscience may comfortably hide from the eye

of God. After all the darkening and distorting effects of

sin, there lies in the deep of a human soul an appetite

for the knowledge of God, which, when it can do no

more, stirs now and then, and troubles the man. It is

the art of Antichrist to lie on the watch for that blind

hunger when first it begins to stir, and throw into its

 


                            THE ALL-SEEING.                         13

 

opening mouth heaps of swine-food husks, to gorge and

lay it, lest it should seek and get the bread of life.

            This is the grosser method, which grosser natures adopt

to destroy within themselves the sense of divine omni-

science. There is another way running off in an opposite

direction,—more refined, indeed, but equally atheistic,

more manly, but not more godly, than the crowded Pan-

theon of ancient or modern Rome. This other road to rest

is Pantheism. If there is speculation in an age, it becomes

restive under the thick clay of image-worship. There is a

spirit which will not endure a material idol, and yet is not

the spirit of God. Dagon falls, and the philosophers make

sport of his dishonoured stump. Instead of making a little

ugly idol for themselves, they adopt a great and glorious one

made to their hands. God, they say, is the soul of Nature;

and Nature therefore is the only god whom they desire or

need. Sea, earth, air,—flowers, trees, and living crea-

tures, including man, —the creatures in the aggregate,—

the universe is God. In this way they contrive to heal

over the wound which the sense of an omniscient Eye

makes in an unclean conscience. It is the personality of

God that stings the flesh of the alienated. It is easier

to deal with Nature in her majestic movements than with

the Self of the Holy One. Nature heaves in the sea, and

sighs in the wind, and blossoms in the flowers, and bleats

on the pastures. Nature glides gently round in her

gigantic orbit, and stoops not to notice the thoughts and

words of a human being. He may live as he lists, al-

though Nature is there. Philosophy compels him to reject

the paltry, tangible, local gods of all the superstitions.

 


14                  THE ALL-SEEING.

 

Reason constrains him to own the universality of the

Creator's presence. The problem in his mind is, how to

conceive of the Lord's eyes being in every place, and yet

indifferent to sin. In order to accomplish this, the per-

sonal, with its pungency, must be discharged from the

idea of God. This done, the great idol, though more

sublime, is not a whit more troublesome than the little

one. The creature, whether great or small, whether God's

hand-work or man's, cannot be a god to an intelligent,

immortal human soul. Neither the idolater's stock nor

the philosopher's universe has an eye to follow a trans-

gressor into those Chambers where he commits his abomi-

nations in the dark; but in every place "our God is a

consuming fire" upon a sin-stained conscience. The dark-

ness and the light are both alike to him (Ps. cxxxix 12).

            "In every place" our hearts and lives are open in the

sight of Him with, whom we have to do. The proposi-

tion is absolutely universal. We must beware, however,

lest that feature of the word which should make it power-

ful only render it to us indefinite and meaningless. Man's

fickle mind treats universal truths that come from heaven

as the eye treats the visible heaven itself. At a distance

from the observer all around, the blue canopy seems to

descend and lean upon the earth, but where he stands it is

far above, out of his sight. It touches not him at all; and

when he goes forward to the line where now it seems to

touch other men, he finds it still far above, and the point

which applies to this lower world is as distant as ever.

Heavenly truth, like heaven, seems to touch all the world

around, but not his own immediate sphere, or himself, its

 


                          THE ALL-SEEING.                         15

 

centre. The grandest truths are practically lost in this

way when they are left whole. We must rightly divide

the word, and let the bits come into every crook of our

own character. Besides the assent to general truth, there

must be specific personal application. A man may own

omniscience, and yet live without God in the world.

            The house of prayer is one important place on earth,

and the eyes of the Lord are there when the great con-

gregation has assembled, and the solemn worship has begun.

He seeth not as man seeth. Thoughts are visible to Him.

Oh! what sights these pure eyes behold in that place!

If our eyes could see them, a scream of surprise would

rend the air.  "Son of man, hast thou seen what the

ancients of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man

in the chambers of his imagery? for they say, The Lord

seeth us not; the Lord hath forsaken the earth" (Ezek.

viii. 12). Take your place beside a hive of bees in a

summer day at noon, and watch the busy traffickers.

The outward-bound brush quickly past the heavy-laden

incomers in the narrow passage. They flow like two

opposite streams of water in the same channel, without

impeding each other's motions. Every one is in haste:

none tarries for a neighbour. Such a hive is a human

heart, and the swarm of winged thoughts which harbour

there maintain an intercourse with all the world in con-

stant circulation, while the man sits among the worship-

pers still, and upright, and steady, as a bee-hive upon its

pedestal. The thoughts that issue from their home in

that human heart, bold like robbers in the dark, over-

leap the fences of holiness, suck at will every flower that

 


16                   THE ALL-SEEING.

 

they reckon sweet, and return to deposit their gatherings

in the owner's cup. The eyes of the Lord are there,

beholding the evil.

            The family is His own work, and He does not desert

it. His eyes are open there, to see how father and

mother entwine authority and love, a twofold cord, at

once to curb the children's waywardness and lead them

in the paths of peace; how children obey their parents

in the Lord; how a sister employs that gentleness

whereby God has made woman great, to soothe and win

the robuster brother; how a brother proffers the arm that

the Almighty has made strong, a support for a mother

or a sister in her weakness to lean upon; how masters

become fathers to their servants, and servants lighten

their labour by infusing into its dull heavy body the

inspiring soul of love. In the family, the place where

all these bonds unite, and all these relations circulate,

are the eyes of the Lord its Maker:  let all its members

"walk as seeing Him who is invisible."

            In the street, in the counting-house, in the shop, in

the factory, these eyes ever are. God does not forget

and forsake a man when he rises from his knees and

plunges into business; the man, therefore, should not

then and there forget and forsake God.

            In the tavern, when its doors are shut and its table

spread,—when the light is brilliant and the laugh loud,—

when the cup circulates and the head swims,—in that

place are the eyes of the Lord, and they are like a flame

of fire. It would be a salutary though a painful experi-

ence, if the eyes of these time-killers were opened but for

 


                        THE ALL-SEEING.                              17

 

a moment to meet the look of their omniscient Witness,

before he become their almighty Judge.

            But the eyes of the Lord are bent on this world, to

behold the good as well as the evil that grows there. Is

there any place among pits thorns and thistles which bears

fruit pleasant to the eyes of its Maker? Yes; there are

fields which he cultivates (1 Cor. iii. 9), and trees which

he plants (Isa. v. 3). On these places his eye rests

with complacency, beholding the growth of his own

grace. One of the places that attract the Redeemer's

eye is a shady avenue where a youth saunters alone on

a summer eve, communing with his own heart, grieving

over its detected backslidings, and breathing a prayer

for reconciliation and renewing. That angular recess in

the ivy-covered rock, dark in daylight by the thickness

of the leafy shade,—that is a place to which the Lord's

eye turns intent; for thither, when the fire burned, the

penitent turned aside unseen; and there he "wept and

made supplication, and prevailed," nor parted from the

place, nor let the Angel of the Covenant go, until he had

gotten a whole Saviour for his soul, and surrendered his

whole soul to the Saviour. This tree of righteousness is

the planting of the Lord. By its freshness and fruitful-

ness he is glorified. The new creation is at least as lovely

in the Creator's eye as the old one was before it was

marred by sin. In that ransomed captive the Redeemer

"shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied."

            "Hell and destruction are before the Lord; how much

more then the hearts of the children of men?" This

terrible truth these hearts secretly know, and their despe-

 


18                   THE ALL-SEEING.

 

rate writhings to shake it off show how much they dis-

like it. The Romish confessional is one of the most

pregnant facts in the whole history of man. It is a

monument and measure of the guilty creature's enmity

against God. We know authoritatively from their own

books what Rome expects her priests to do in the con-

fessional, and history gives some glimpses of what they

actually do. We have felt the glow of indignation in

our breast as we learned how the confessor fastens like

a home-leech on his victim, and how the victim, like a

charmed bird, abandons itself to the tyrant's will. We

have heard how a full-aged unmarried man explores at

will the half-formed thoughts that flutter in the bosom of

a maid, and rudely rakes up the secrets that lie the deep-

est in the memory of a matron. We have wondered at

the blindness and stupidity of our common nature, in

permitting a man, not more holy than his neighbours, to

stand in the place of God to a brother's soul. There is

cause for grief, but not ground for surprise. The pheno-

menon proceeds in the way of natural law. It is the

common, well understood process of compounding for the

security of the whole, by the voluntary surrender of a

part. The confessional is a kind of insurance office, where

periodical exposure of the heart to a man is the premium

paid for fancied impunity in hiding that heart altogether

from the deeper scrutiny of the all-seeing God. Popish

transgressors have no particular delight in confession for

its own sake. Confession to the priest is felt and dreaded

as an evil. The devout often need spurring to make

them come. And when they come, it is on the principle

 


                      THE ALL-SEEING.                          19

 

of submitting to the less evil in order to escape the

greater.

            The incoming of the Heart Searcher is feared and loathed,

like a deadly and contagious disease. A quack comes up,

and by dint of bold profession, persuades the trembler

that voluntary inoculation with the same disease in a

milder form will secure exemption from the terrible reality.

The guilty, although he does not like to have his con-

science searched,—because he does not like to have his

conscience searched, submits to the searching of his con-

science. The pretending penitent accepts the scrutiny by

a man, in the hope of escaping thereby the scrutiny of

God. The impudent empiric tells his patient that if he

submit to inoculation, the small-pox will never come.

Behold "the human nature of the question;" behold the

philosophy of the confessional.

            It is in principle the old question of the heathen,—

"Shall I give the fruit of my body for the sin of my

soul?" (Mic. vi. 7.)  It is not, however, the fruit of the

body that is offered, for they do not make their children

pass through the fire to Moloch now; the spiritual chas-

tity of the soul is laid down as the price of impunity for

sin. God made the human soul for himself. It is vilest

prostitution to abandon it to the authoritative search of

a sinful man. Yet this unnatural sacrifice is made, this

galling yoke is worn, in the vain hope of shutting out the

eyes of the Lord from one place of his own world.

            But what fearful dilemma have we here? The Holiest

changeth not when He comes a visitant to a human

heart. He is the same there that he is in the highest

 


20                    THE ALL-SEEING.

 

heaven. He cannot look upon sin; and how can a

human heart welcome Him into its secret chambers?  

How can the blazing fire welcome in the quenching

water.  It is easy to commit to memory the seemly

prayer of an ancient penitent, "Search me, O God, and

know my heart; try me, and know my thoughts" (Ps.

cxxxix. 23). The dead letters, worn smooth by frequent

use, may drop freely from callous lips, leaving no sense

of scalding on the conscience; and yet, truth of God

though they are, they may be turned into a lie in the

act of utterance. The prayer is not true, although it is

borrowed from the Bible, if the suppliant invite the All-

seeing in, and yet would give a thousand worlds, if he

had them, to keep him out for ever.

            Christ has declared the difficulty, and solved it: "I am

the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto

the Father, but by me" (John xiv. 6). When the Son has

made a sinner free, he is free indeed. The dear child, par-

doned and reconciled, loves and longs for the Father's pre-

sence. What! is there neither spot nor wrinkle now upon

the man, that he dares to challenge inspection by the

Omniscient, and to offer his heart as Jehovah's dwelling-

place?  He is not yet so pure; and well he knows it.

The groan is bursting yet from his broken heart:  "O

wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the

body of this death?" (Rom. vii. 24.) Many stains defile

him yet; but he loathes them now, and longs to be free.

The difference between an unconverted and a converted

man is not that the one has sins and the other has none;

but that the one takes part with his cherished sins against

 


                           THE ALL-SEEING.                           21

 

a dreaded God, and the other takes part with a reconciled

God against his hated sins. He is out with his former

friends, and in with his former adversary. Conversion is a

turning, and it is one turning only, but it produces simul-

taneously and necessarily two distinct effects. Whereas

his face was to his sins and his back to God, his face is

now to God and his back toward his sins. This one

turning, with its twofold result, is in Christ the Mediator,

and through the work of the Spirit.

            As long as God is my enemy, I am his. I have no

more power to change that condition than the polished

surface has to refrain from reflecting the sunlight that

falls upon it. It is God's love, from the face of Jesus

shining into my dark heart, that makes my heart open,

and delight to be his dwelling-place. The eye of the just

Avenger I cannot endure to be in this place of sin; but the

eye of the compassionate Physician I shall gladly admit

into this place of disease, for he came from heaven to

earth that he might heal such sin-sick souls as mine.

When a disciple desires to be searched by the living God,

he does not thereby intimate that there are no sins in him

to be discovered: he intimates rather that his foes are so

many and so lively, that nothing can subdue them except

the presence and power of God.

 


22               A WHOLESOME TONGUE.

 

 

                                        II.

 

 

                    A WHOLESOME TONGUE.

 

       "A wholesome tongue is a tree of life."—xv. 4.

 

 

NOT a silent tongue: mere abstinence from evil is not

good. The beasts that perish speak no guile; what do

ye more than they? The tongue of man is a talent given

by God, and the commandment, “Occupy till I come,” is

deeply graven in its wondrous structure. He who hides

his talent in the earth is counted wicked and slothful.

The servant vainly pleads that it was not employed for

evil: the Master righteously condemns because it was not

employed for good. Idleness is evil under the adminis-

tration of God.—Not a smooth tongue: it may be soft

on the surface, while the poison of asps lies cherished

underneath. "The mouth of a strange woman is smoother

than oil." A serpent licks his victim all over before he

swallows it. Smoothness is not an equivalent for truth.

—Not a voluble tongue: that active member may labour

much to little purpose. It may revolve with the rapidity

and steadiness of manufacturing machinery, throwing off

from morning till night a continuous web of wordage, and

yet not add one grain to the stock of human wisdom by

the imposing bulk of its weightless product.—Not a sharp

tongue: some instruments are made keen-edged for the

purpose of wounding. "There is that speaketh like the

 


                A WHOLESOME TONGUE.                        23

 

piercings of a sword", (Prov. xii. 18). The wrath of man

worketh not the righteousness of God. A great apostle

used sharpness, and so did his Lord before him; but un-

less we partake of their spirit, we cannot safely imitate

their plan. He would need to have a loving heart and

a steady hand who ventures to cut with a sharp tongue

into the quick of a brother's nature.—Not even a true

tongue: truth is the foundation of all good in speech,

but it is the foundation only. Wanting truth, there is

only evil; but even with it there may be little of good.

Truth is necessary, but not enough. The true tongue

must also be wholesome.

            Before anything can be wholesome in its effects on

others, it must be whole in itself.  The tongue must be

itself in health before it can diffuse a healthful influence

around. But our tongue, as an instrument of moral

agency, is diseased. It is in the human constitution the

chief outgate from the heart, and the heart of the fallen

is not in health. The scripture of the Old Testament

quoted by Paul in the New, declares, with memorable

pungency, that it is corrupt and corrupting:  "Their

throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they

have used deceit" (Rom. iii. 13). Government, watch-

ing over the health of the nation, will not permit a grave

to lie open. Because there is putridity in its heart, its

mouth must be closed. The throat of a grave, if left

open, would breathe forth pestilence. Alas! the moral

disease is pouring out moral infection, and no government

can stay the plague. Every corrupt heart is generating

the poison, and every unwholesome tongue is a vent for

 


24           A WHOLESOME TONGUE.

 

its escape. The air is tainted. Men both give out and

draw in corruption like breath.

            Parents who wisely love their children greatly dread

unwholesome tongues. Sometimes they are in great

straits as to the path of duty. They cannot take the

young out of the world, and yet they are afraid to send

them into it. When a father hears a torrent of polluting

words from a foul tongue on the street, or in a public

conveyance, and returns home to look upon his little boy,

ignorant as yet of full-grown wickedness, he could almost

wish that his child were deaf, and so shielded on one side

from the great adversary's onset. If the wish were law-

ful, you would be inclined to say, Let his ear be open to the

song of birds and the murmur of streams, to the rushing

of the winds and the roll of the thunder; but let him not

hear the voice of man until he hear it new in the kingdom

of the Father—until it burst forth wholesome from the

ranks of the redeemed round the throne, where they vie

with the unfallen in praising the same Lord.

            But this cannot be. We and our children are in the

world, and the world teems with evil. In particular, it

is like a lazar-house because of unwholesome tongues.

Hear from the Apostle James a faithful description of the

danger:  "The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity:

it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course

of nature; and it is set on fire of hell. It is an

unruly evil, full of deadly poison" (James iii. 6, 8). One

would think that parents, in view of such a pestilence

abounding, would not be in haste to "bring out" their

children at a tender age into the region of infection.

 


                A WHOLESOME TONGUE.                       25

 

True love would rather shield them as long as possible

from the inevitable contact, and in the meantime move

heaven and earth to have the shield of faith interposed

between the tender conscience of the child and the fiery

darts of the wicked one.

            Dogs licked the sores of Lazarus as he lay at the rich

man's gate, and the poor cripple reaped a benefit from

their kindness. The dumb brute has a wholesome tongue,

and an instinct that prompts him to use it. Would that

his master's tongue were as soft, and its touch as sooth-

ing!  The best things, corrupted and misapplied, become

the most mischievous. Our tongue is fearfully and won-

derfully made!  Great is its capacity for hurt or for heal-

ing. If it were attuned to the praise of God, it would be

a medicine for the sufferings of men. If Christians were

like Christ, they would be more happy and more useful.  

He spake as never man spike. When men had sunk

helpless in a deadly disease, "He sent his word and healed

them." For a wounded spirit there is no medicine like

love-drops distilling from a wholesome tongue: even

where they fail to heal, the wound, they will soothe the

sufferer, and so lighten his pain. A high place in the

sight of God and man has the physician who remains on

the battle-field after the conquering host has passed on,

tending indiscriminately wounded friends and wounded

foes; or who plies his task in a plague-stricken city,

entering every house where a chalk-mark on the door in-

dicates that the infection is within. His is an honourable

work. Angels, eyeing him as they pass, might envy him

the work which he has got in the service of the common

 


26             A WHOLESOME TONGUE.

 

Lord. But every one of us might attain a rank as high,

and do a work as beneficent.  If broken limbs lie not in

our way, broken spirits abound in our neighbourhood.

Sick hearts are rife on the edges of our daily walk.

Although we lack the skill necessary to cure a bodily

ailment, we may all exercise the art of healing on diseases

that are more deeply set. A loving heart and a whole-

some tongue are a sufficient apparatus; and the instincts

of a renewed nature should be ever ready to apply them

in the time and place of need.

            The tongue, when it is whole and wholesome, "is a

tree of life." In a former chapter (x. 11) the similitude

employed was a well; but whether the manner of the

diffusion be like a well sending forth its streams, or like

a tree scattering its ripened fruit, the influence diffused

from a good man is "life."  The product which issues

by the tongue from a renewed heart is healthful in its

character, and it spreads as seed spreads.  In autumn from

the plant on which it grew. "Winged words" have

fluttered about in poetry and prose through all the lan-

guages of the civilized world from old Homer's day till

now. The permanence and prevalence of the expression

prove that it embodies a recognised truth. Words have

wings indeed, but they are the wings of seeds rather than

of birds or butterflies. We are all accustomed to observe

in autumn multitudes of diminutive seeds, each balanced

on its own tiny wing, floating past on the breeze. Some

of these have fallen from useful plants, and some from

hurtful weeds; but the impartial wind bears the good

and the evil alike forward to their destiny. Some plants

 


                  A WHOLESOME TONGUE.                        27

 

are prolific almost beyond the reach of arithmetic or of

imagination. These countless multitudes are scattered

indiscriminately over all the land. Words are like these

seeds, in their varied character, their measureless multi-

tude, and their winged speed. They drop off in incon-

ceivable numbers: they fly far: they are widely spread.

It is of deep importance that they should in their nature

be good, and not evil. The tongue is a prolific tree;

it concerns the whole community that it should be a

tree of life, and not of death. Considering the in-

fluence of our words on the world, what manner of

persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and

godliness!

            In modern times the art of printing has given wings

to human words in a measure that seems to vie even

with the fecundity of nature. The quantity thus carried

is such as to baffle all our powers of description or con-

ception. But in the department of art, as in that of

nature, there is great variety in the character of the seed,

and a terrible impartiality in the law of diffusion. When

the evil seed is permitted to grow, the wings are at hand

to carry it across the world. It is the part of those who

love their kind, and desire to see this sin-cursed earth

become a paradise again, to keep down the growth of

noxious seed, and cultivate the better kinds. The quan-

tity of vain and hurted words that are flying across the

world on printed pages is enough to make us tremble for

the coming generation. But to stand and tremble in

presence of the danger is neither useful nor manful.

When we hear of unwholesome words being sent week

 


28              A WHOLESOME TONGUE.

 

after week by the ton-weight to the principal reservoirs

in the large cities, and thence by various channels distri-

buted over all the land, we should indeed be aroused to

take the measure of the crisis, but not lose heart or hand

at the discovery of its magnitude. Christians should take

heart and hope. We have words and wings for them as

well as those who are against us. We have precious

seed in our hands, and a world to spread it on. Our

Father in heaven expects us to labour on his field. We

have a good Master and pleasant work. In the labour of

laying the words on these pages we are cheered by the

thought that we are in the very act of attaching wings

to the living seed of saving truth, that it may be cast on

the winds at a venture, and borne way, under the direc-

tion of an all-wise Providence, to some needy, desert

place. As we frame these sentences, we are like a humble

artisan in his work-shop, fashioning wings for the word of

righteousness. We are encouraged to pray, as they pass

from our hands, that on these wings that word may be

borne far beyond our sight, and that it may drop, in

Indian jungle, or Australian mine, or American backwood,

on some lone exile, and find entrance into the weary

broken heart which at home in prosperity had been

always hard and closed.

            Ye who love the Lord and the brethren, wing the seed

and give it to the wind. It is God's gift, and is in his

keeping. When it goes out of your sight, plead with

Him who employs the winds as his angels to guide it to

some bare but broken ground. While you pray for the

fruitfulness of what has already been scattered, work to

 


                 A WHOLESOME TONGUE.                  29

 

scatter more. This or that may prosper; perhaps this

and that too. The very mountain tops shall wave yet

like Lebanon with a harvest from the seed of "whole-

some words." The earth shall yet be full of the know-

ledge of the Lord. The sowers may well wipe their tears

away as they go forth, for they shall one day return

rejoicing, "bringing their sheaves with them." The

Lord gave the word,—the Lord is the Word; great

should be the company of them that publish it (Ps.

lxviii). After all, the shortest and surest method of kill-

ing and casting out the mischievous weeds that infest a

field, is to get the field covered from side to side with a

closely growing crop of precious grain. Wholesome words

are the true antidote to the unwholesome. When the

enemy sows tares, Christ's servants have only one way of

effectually counter-working him, and that is by sowing

wheat. The best way of eradicating error is to publish

and practise truth.

 


30                       MIRTH A MEDICINE.

 

 

                                          III.

 

 

                           MIRTH A MEDICINE.

 

 

"A merry heart maketh a cheerful countenance:
            but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken."—xv. 18.

"Hoariness in the heart of man maketh it stoop:

            but a good word maketh it glad."—xii. 25.

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine:

            but a broken spirit drieth the bones."—xvii. 22.

 

THE emotions that thrill in the heart mark themselves in

legible lines on the countenance. This is a feature in the

constitution of man, and a useful feature it is. The

wisdom of our Maker may be seen in the degree of its

development. If there had been more of it or less, the

processes of human life could not have gone on so well.

If the hopes and, fears that alternate in the soul were as

completely hidden from the view of an observer as the

action of the vital organs within the body, the intercourse

between man and man would be far less kindly than it

now is. How blank would the aspect of the world be if

no image of a man's thought could ever be seen glancing

in his countenance!  Our walk through life would be

like a solitary march through a gallery of statues,—as cold

as marble, and not nearly so beautiful.  On the other

hand, if all the meaning of the soul could be read in the

countenance, the inconvenience would be so great as to

bring the machinery of life almost to a stand still.

Society could not go on if either all the mind's thoughts

 


                    MIRTH A MEDICINE                          31

 

or none were legible on the countenance. That medium

which actually exists in the present constitution of hu-

manity is obviously the best. You halve some power of

concealing your emotions, and your neighbour has some

power of observing them. He who made us has done all

things well.

            Great purposes in providence are served by this ar-

rangement. If the veil which hangs between the outer

world and our hearts' emotions were altogether opaque,

we would be too much isolated from our neighbours: if

it were perfectly translucent, we would be too much in

their power. The soul within is a burning light, some-

times bright and sometimes lurid: the countenance is a

semitransparent shade, through which the cast and colour-

ing of the inner thought can be seen, but not its articulate

details. A happy heart beaming through a guileless coun-

tenance is the best style of beauty. It is pleasant to look

upon in the spring-time, and does not wither in the winter

of age.

            But joy in the heart can do more than make the aspect

winsome. Besides enlivening a dull countenance, it heals

a diseased nature. It “doeth good like a medicine;”

whereas its opposite, "a broken spirit, drieth the bones."

All who have watched the experience of themselves and

their neighbours will acknowledge this in all its breadth

as a practical truth. I know nothing equal to cheerful

and even mirthful conversation for restoring the tone of

mind and body when both have been overdone. Some

great and good men, on whom very heavy cares and toils

have been laid, manifest a constitutional tendency to relax

 


32                   MIRTH A MEDICINE.

 

into mirth when, their work is over.  Narrow minds de-

nounce the incongruity: large hearts own God's goodness

in the fact and rejoice in the wise provision, made for

prolonging useful lives. Mirth, after exhaustive toil,

is one of nature's instinctive efforts to heal the part

which has been racked or bruised. You cannot too

sternly reprobate a frivolous life; but if the life be earnest

for God and man, with here and there a layer of mirthful-

ness protruding, a soft bedding to receive heavy cares

which otherwise would crush the spirit, to snarl against

spurts of mirth may be the easy and useless occupation

of a small man, who cannot take in at one view the

whole circumference of a larger one.

            But it is as medicine, and not as food, that mirth is use-

ful to man. As well might the wild ass live and fatten by

snuffing up the north wind, as a man's character become

solid if merriment is its chief or only aliment. To live

on it as daily bread, will produce a hollow heart and a

useless history. But that which is worthless as food

may be precious as medicine. Administered in proper

quantities and at proper times, it will make the staple of

solid seriousness more productive of actual good.

            Even a dull observer may see wisdom and goodness

in the habitual cheerfulness of the young. There is a

time to laugh, and childhood is eminently that time.  A

sad, sombre spirit in a child, is both the effect and the

cause of disease. Mirth in large quantities is needful

as a medicine for the ailments of childhood, and our Maker

has placed an abundant supply of it in their nature, with

a tendency to draw it day by day for use.

 


                   MIRTH A MEDICINE.                         33

 

            But some persons and some classes are all too ready

to acknowledge the virtue of mirth as a medicine. There

are quacks who take it up and vaunt its universal effi-

cacy. In ignorance or bad faith they apply it in cases

where it may kill, but cannot cure. Recognising the

law that a broken spirit drieth the bones, these practi-

tioners, when conviction of sin burns like fire in the

patient's conscience, would deliberately pour in a stream

of mirth to quench it. With equal zeal they prescribe

the same medicine as a preventive, lest the wasting body

should be still more enfeebled by an inroad of serious-

ness upon the soul. They will quietly push a novel

beneath the pillow on which the too beauteous cheek of

consumptipn lies. They will search the sick-room round,

and carry off bodily The Saints' Rest, or A Call to the

Unconverted, lest these books should arouse a slumber-

ing soul, and so shake too roughly its frail tenement. In

their own way they adapt and apply the maxim, "A

merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

            It is true that to maintain the patient's cheerfulness

hastens the patient's cure. A bright hope within will

sometimes do more to restore the wasted strength than

all the prescriptions of the physician.  A light heart we

acknowledge, is itself a potent medicine, and lends effec-

tual aid in co-operation with other cures. If the resto-

ration of the body's health were our only care, we would

not examine scrupulously either the kind or the quantity

of joyfulness that friends might infuse into a fainting

heart. But while the healing of the body is a great

thing, a greater lies beside it. For the chance of con-

 


34                    MIRTH A MEDICINE.

 

tributing to a corporeal cure, I would not cheat an immor-

tal soul, as it fluttered on the verge of eternity. Is it

true—yea or nay—that before death mercy is offered,

and after it judgment is fixed? Is it true that Christ is

the way to eternal life, and that there is no other? If

it is, to divert a human soul from looking unto Jesus

when the last sands of life are running, is the unkindest

act which man can do to man. If you were Atheists

and Materialists,—if you believed in no God and no here-

after,—there would be at least a melancholy consistency

in occupying life's last hours with trifles, that the spirit,

burdened with a decaying body, should have no other

weight to bear; but it is both cruel and stupid for those

who bear Christ's name to blindfold, at the very exodus

of life, a brother's soul, in order to catch a chance of

temporary benefit to his body.

            Nor is this all. This effort to banish care does not

always succeed. Through all these coverings the terrors

of the Lord may burst in, and agitate the soul all the

more fiercely, that you have tried so long to keep them

out. When bodily pains or convictions of conscience rise

to the full, your frivolous pleasures are driven away like

smoke before the wind. A merry heart is a medicine

for his ailment!  Granted; but who shall give him a

merry heart?  Who shall give the guilty a merry heart

when God is drawing near to judgment, and sin is lying

heavy on his soul?  If you could introduce the peace of

God which passeth all understanding, it would keep his

heart and mind; but no inferior consolation can meet thy

case. Will any one dare to say that in nature's extremity

 


                       MIRTH A MEDICINE.                        35

 

those who neglect Christ are happier at heart than those

who trust in his love?

            When a human heart is stooping and breaking beneath

the heavy load of suffering and sin, "a good word maketh

it glad." But if the man is dying, to assure him he will

soon be better, is not a good word. If the man is in sin

and under condemnation, to assure him his sins are trivial

and his Judge indulgent, is not a good word. A good

word will gladden the grieved heart, but where shall it

be found? Hark! the Man of Sorrows lets it drop

like dew from his own lips—"Peace I leave with you,

my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give

I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let

it be afraid" (John xiv. 27). Happy are they who

have such a comforter in the time of need. David, like

Abraham, saw his Lord's day afar off, and was glad. The

presence of his Redeemer kindled a gladness in his heart

which took the torment out of even dying pains: Yea,

though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil: for thou art with me" (Ps. xxiii.)

            True Christians have two advantages over the men of

the world: they are happier now, and safer at last.

There is more gladness put by a gracious God in a be-

lieving heart, than all that the worldly know even when

their corn and wine abound the most. It would be a

great attainment for themselves, and a great means of

good to others, if the disciples of Christ in our day could

let the hope which cheers their hearts also shine in their

faces. If the joy of the Lord, which really is a Chris-

tian's strength within, should sit habitually as a beauty

 


36                   MIRTH A MEDICINE.

 

on his countenance, his talent would be better occupied

now, and his entrance more abundant at the last. When

Stephen's short but quick career was coming to a close,—

when the seventy elders had taken their places on the

judgment-seat, full of enmity against the name of Jesus,

—when the baser sort of the persecutors, at the in-

stigation of their leaders, had dragged him violently

into the council-hall,—when perjured witnesses, taking

their cue from the keen and cruel eye of Saul, de-

clared in concert that he was a habitual blasphemer of

holy things,—when the meek martyr saw and felt from

many signs that through a boisterous passage he must

quickly go to another judgment—his heart did not lose

its hopefulness, and his countenance did not fall.  At

that moment, when the crisis of his fate had come, the

joy that played about his heart shone through:  "All

that sat in the council, looking steadfastly on him, saw his

face as it had been the face of an angel." Perhaps that

heaven-like brightness held some of the spectators, and

would not let them go until it led them into the arms of

Stephen's Saviour. We have known a case in which the

gleam of joy on a departing disciple's face feathered the

arrow of divine truth, and sent it home with saving

power to a heart that had hitherto kept its iron point at

bay. If Christians could get living hope lighted within,

and let it beam like sun-light all the day through an open

countenance, their lives would be more legible as epistles

of Christ, and more effectual to win souls.

 


                                TASTES DIFFER.                             37

 

 

                                             IV.

 

 

                                TASTES DIFFER.

 

 

"The heart of him that hath understanding seeketh knowledge: but the mouth

            of fools feedeth on foolishness. Folly is joy to him that is destitute of wis-

            dom.” —xv. 14, 21.

“It is joy to the just to do judgment.” —xxi.15.

 

 

            TASTES differ widely, and so therefore do enjoyments,

Water is the element of one creature, and air the element

of another. The same material is to this poison, and to

that food. Each species differs in nature from all others,

and nature will have her own way.

            Among men, viewed in their spiritual relations, there

is a similar variety of tastes and pleasures. There is first

the grand generic difference between the old man and the

new.  The change of nature is radical, and the change of

appetite consequently complete. "What things were

gain to me, these I count loss." So true was the ob-

servation of the heathen as to the effect of the gospel

preached by the apostles. The world to Saul of Tarsus

was turned upside down, from the moment that he met

the Lord in the way, and as a lost sinner accepted par-

don through the blood of the cross. After that moment

his tastes were not only changed; they were absolutely

reversed.  What he had formerly chased as gain, he now

loathed as loss. He was a converted man; that is, a

man turned round, and his whole life rushing the other

way.


38                        TASTES DIFFER.

 

            Besides the first and chief distinction between the

dead and the living, many subordinate varieties appear,

shading imperceptibly away into each other, according as

good or evil preponderates in the character. The best way

to know a man is to observe what gives him pleasure. A

good man may once or many times be betrayed into foolish

words or deeds, but the indulgence makes him miserable.

Folly, like Ezekiel's roll, was sweet in his mouth, but left

a lasting bitterness behind. Fools feed on foolishness;

it is pleasant to their taste at the time, and they rumi-

nate with relish on it afterwards. The heart's joy in any

act of the life, supplies a surer test of character than the

act itself.  Two persons of opposite spiritual tastes may

be detected for once in the same act of evil; but they do

not walk abreast in the same life-course. Sin becomes

bitter to the taste of the renewed, and he puts it away

with loathing; but the corrupt, who has never known a

change, counts the morsel sweet, and continues to roll it

under his tongue. Two young men, of nearly equal age,

and both the sons of God-fearing parents, were seen to

enter together a theatre at a late hour in a large city.

They sat together, and looked and listened with equal

attention. The one was enjoying the spectacle and the

mirth; the other was silently enduring an unspeakable

wretchedness. The name of God and the hopes of the

godly were employed there to season the otherwise vapid

mirth of the hollow-hearted crowd. One youth, through

the Saviour's sovereign grace, had, in a distant solitude,

acquired other tastes. The profanity of the play rasped,

rudely against them. He felt as if the words of the

 


                       TASTES DIFFER.                              39

 

actors and the answering laugh of the spectators were

tearing in his flesh. He breathed freely when, with the

retiring crowd, he reached the street again. It was his

first experience of a theatre, and his last. It is a pre-

cious thing to get from the Lord, as Paul got, a new relish

and a new estimate of things. This appetite for other

joys, if exercised and kept keen, goes far to save you

from defilement, even when suddenly and occasionally

brought into contact with evil; as certain kinds of leaves

refuse to be wet, and though plunged into water come

out of it dry.

            The gratification of appetite is pleasant. This law of

nature bears witness that God is good. Food and drink

are necessary to the maintenance of life.  If, as a general

rule, the act of taking them were painful, the duty would

be neglected, and the race would become extinct. The

Author of our being has made the performance sure by

making it delightful. The pain of hunger is an officer of

the executive under the supreme government of Heaven,

ever on the watch, compelling living creatures to give the

body its necessary support. This beneficent law, like all

the other good things of God, is perverted by the fallen.

This truth of God is profanely turned into a lie by the

corrupt appetites of men. Appetite, and the pleasure of

indulging it, is still a great force when it is turned in the

wrong direction. That which among God's works is

mighty to save life, is in Satan's hand mighty to destroy

it. When the taste is depraved, the pleasantness of the

poison supplies a power like gravitation, silently dragging

down the slave with ever-increasing speed into the

 


40                     TASTES DIFFER.

 

bottomless pit. If folly were not joy to the fool, he

might soon be induced to forsake it. Nothing will pro-

duce a new life but a new nature.

            The soul has an appetite, and needs food as well as the

body. In this department too the tastes are various, and

there is a corresponding variety in the provided supply.

Fools feed on foolishness, and like it. They have no

relish for more solid food. On the other hand, "it is

joy to the just to do judgment." The Just One relished

the doing of the Father's will as his meat and drink.

Christians grow like Christ. Those who hope in his

mercy learn to fall in with his tastes. If we saw a

hungry human being turning away from the finest of the

wheat, and by choice satisfying himself with the husks

that swine do eat, we would shudder in presence of the

prodigy; we would weep over the low estate into which

one of our kind had fallen. Such a perversion of the

bodily appetite is rare—perhaps altogether unknown:

but a greater derangement of the spiritual taste is not

only possible in certain cases; it is the common condition

of men.

            It is sad to think how men run to what they like,

with as little forethought and as great impetuosity as

swollen rivers rush towards the sea. In the main the

taste of the renewed leads them to the food which will

sustain and invigorate the health of the soul; but even

they need to watch and pray, lest they enter into temp-

tation. He will not be a thriving, growing Christian,

who partakes freely of joys as they come, on the right

hand on the left. Even a healthful man, if he is

 


                       TASTES DIFFER.                            41

 

wise, will observe carefully the nature of his food, and

watch the effects of each kind. If he discovers that any

species, though pleasant at the time, hurts his health

afterwards, he will carefully abstain from the tempting

morsel.  You may prove to him that it is not poison,—

that it will not take away his life: that is not enough:

if it is hurtful to his health, he will abandon it.  Alas!

the children of this world are wiser in their generation

than the children of light. Men who, on the whole,

value their spiritual life the most, lightly expose its

health to injuries against which they would resolutely

defend their bodies. If a man should eat unwholesome

food from day to day, the mischief would soon become

palpable both to himself and his neighbours. He would

feel his own feebleness, and others would stare at him as

a walking skeleton. But when the spiritual life is ex-

posed to the action of a slow poison, the emaciation of

the soul is a thing not so easily felt by the patient, and

not so easily seen by his neighbours. It is written of

Ephraim in a time of spiritual decay, "Gray hairs are

here and there upon him, yet he knoweth it not" (Hos.

vii. 9).  Ah! if the soul's health and sickness were visible

like those of the body, the old question, "Why art thou,

being the king's son, lean from day to day?" would be

appropriately addressed now to many of the royal family

of heaven.  The answer, if truly given, would in most

cases be, They feed too much on foolishness, and do not

satisfy themselves with that which was meat and drink to

their Master in the days of his flesh.

            In dealing with men for their reformation, they who

 


42                            TASTES DIFFER.

 

do not begin at the beginning lose all their labour. If

you assume that human nature is already good, and only

needs to be helped forward to higher degrees of virtue,

you miss the mark, and gain nothing. You are fish-

ing with a bait for which the fishes have no taste. They

do not like it, and will not take it. The corrupt are not

naurally alarmed at their own corruption, and eager to

leap into holiness.

            You may have seen living, moving things, in the rank-

est material corruption, and shuddered to think that life

of any kind should be imprisoned in such a horrid place.

The instinct of compassion for wretchedness is stirred

within you; but a second thought lays it to rest again.

These worms do not loathe that which is at once their

dwelling and their food. It is their nature: it is their

life to be there. These worms, to your taste so loath-

some, are not ashamed of their condition, and have no

desire to leave it. Although an opportunity is offered,

they do not hasten to escape into cleanness, and wipe

themselves from their filth. Such is moral corruption

and the life therein, if it is left to itself.  The tenants of

the mire do not grow ashamed, or weary of it.  They

have been bred in it, and it is their delight. Sinners are

not, of their own motion, weary and ashamed of sin.

They do not desire to escape out of it. Although all

intelligent beings, who are not themselves in the mire,

1ook on with inexpressible disgust, whether they be the

angels who never fell, or the saints who have been lifted

up, those who are, and have always been in it, love their

condition, and would not leave it. If in compassion for

 


                         TASTES DIFFER.                          43

 

living creatures crawling in material filth, you should bene-

volently pick them out one by one, and lay them in clean

dry beds, you would become their tormentor by taking

them out of their element. Such, to the spiritually impure,

God’s word and messengers are felt to be. The unclean

do not hail them as deliverers. This is the most fearful

feature of our case. It is not like that of a man who has

fallen into the water, and instantly struggles to escape

with all the energy of his being. Sin is the element of

the sinful.  The cure is not another place, but a new

nature.

            Mahomet manifested great shrewdness in the conception

of his paradise.  If he mistook the kingdom of God, he

comprehended well the appetites of men. He promises

his followers as a heaven the fullest gratification of all

their desires. But what if a foundation of eternal truth

be found lying beneath all these abominations!  The

prophet’s followers have a right principle in their hands,

although, by turning it upside down, they make it the

most destructive of errors. It is true that heaven will

give unbridled scope to all the appetites of all its inmates.

There will be no crucifying of the flesh there. No man

will have his taste thwarted, or his supply stinted there.

Mahomet is right, in so far as he says that in heaven

every entrant will have all his passions gratified to the

full.  The difference lies in this: they expect that hea-

ven’s joys will be made to suit human appetites; we

know that the tastes of the saved will be purified into

perfect conformity with the joys that are at God's right

hand for evermore. In heaven, indeed, there is no

 


44                   TASTES DIFFER.

 

foolishness to feed upon; but there are no fools to desire

it. Heaven denies no pleasure, and yet provides nothing

impure. All the evil desires are left behind, and all the

good are gratified.

            It is time that we who seek that better country should

be forgetting past attainments, and reaching forth after

newer and higher measures of holiness:  "Grow in grace."

The night is far spent; the day is at hand. Be ye also

ready.  There will be no crucifying of the flesh in heaven!  

but that is because there will be no flesh to crucify. It

must be crucified now. The old man must be put off

with his deeds and his desires; and for this salvation

work, "now is the appointed time." Those who do not on

this side of life's boundary-line acquire a taste for holi-

ness, will not on the other side get an entrance into

heaven.  "To them that look for Him, He shall appear:"

they who look now in the opposite direction shall not

then behold His face in peace.

 


            HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.                  45

 

 

                                    V.

 

 

             HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.

 

"Before honour is humility."—xv. 33.

"Pride before destruction; and an haughty spirit before a fall."—xvi. 18.

"A man's pride shall bring him low: but honour shall uphold the humble in

      spirit."—xxix. 23.

 

            "IF a man strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned,

except he strive lawfully" (2 Tim. ii. 5). There is only

one way of reaching honour, and the candidates who do not

keep that way will fail. You must go to honour through

humility. This is the law—the law of God. It cannot

be changed.  It has its analogies in the material creation.

Every height has its corresponding depth. As far as the

Andes pierce upward into the sky, so far do the val-

leys of the Pacific at their base go down into the heart

of the earth.  If the branches of a tree rise high in the

air, its roots must penetrate to a corresponding depth in

the ground; and the necessity is reciprocal. The higher

the branches are, the deeper go the roots; and the deeper

the roots are, the higher go the branches.

            This law pervades the moral administration as well as

the material works of God. The child Jesus is set for

the fall and the rising again of many in Israel: but it is

first the fall and then the rising; for "before honour is

humility." Fall they must at the feet of the Crucified,

before they can rise and reign as the children of the great

King.  No cross, no crown. "Blessed are the poor in

 


46               HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.

 

spirit for theirs is the kingdom." What are these, and

whence came they,—they, are in honour now, whatever

their origin may have been,—these that stand before the

throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes and

palms in their hands? These are they which came out

of great tribulation, and have washed their robes, and

made them white in the blood of the Lamb, (Rev. vii)

Like Joshua the high priest (Zech. iii.), they were clothed

with filthy garments, before they obtained that glorious

change.  If the unhappy guest at the King's table (Matt

xxii.) had gone first through the valley of humilia-

tion, he would not have been cast at last into outer dark-

ness; if he had owned his own garment worthless, he

would have gotten a fit one, free, and not have been speech-

less at the incoming of the King. "Before honour is

humility:" this is the organic law of the kingdom of

heaven. The King is far from the proud, but dwells

with him that is humble and of a contrite heart.

            There are two mountains in the land of Israel, equal

in height, and standing near each other, with a deep nar-

row valley between. At an interesting point in the

people's history, one of these mountains bore the curse,

and the other received the blessing (Deut xi. 26-29).

If you had stood then on Ebal, where the curse was

lying, you could not have escaped to Gerizim to enjoy

the blessing without going down to the bottom of the

intervening gorge. There was a way for the pilgrim

from the curse to the blessing, if he were willing to pass

through the valley of humiliation: but there was no flight

through the air, so as to escape the going down.

 


                 HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.               47

 

            These things are an allegory. All men are at first in

their own judgments on a lofty place, but the curse hangs

over the mountain of their pride.  Nature's hopes are

high, but there is wrath from the Lord upon them, be-  

cause they dishonour his law by expecting that it will

accept sin for righteousness. All the saved are also on

a mountain height, but God the Lord dwells among them,

and great is the peace of his children. All who have

reached this mountain have been in the deep. They

sowed in tears before they went forth rejoicing, to bear

home the sheaves.

            Paul was high at first in nature's pride:  "I was alive

without the law once."  But the commandment came, like

a light from heaven above the brightness of the sun, and

its instant effect was to cast him down to the ground:

“When commandment came, sin revived, and I died."

He felt that he was altogether vile; he saw that he was

lost.  When he had been so brought low in conviction

of sin, he was raised again in the hope of mercy. It

was necessary that he should be brought down, but it

was also necessary that he should rise again. Fear is the

way to trust, but fear is not trust. You must, indeed,

come down from the mountain that is capped with the

curse; but you must then ascend the mountain where

Jesus, transfigured and radiant with the glory of grace,

makes his ravished disciples feel it is good to be

there, and desire to dwell for ever in the light of his

countenance. It is not the going down that will make

you safe and happy.  It is not the putting off, but the

putting on, that saves; and the preciousness of putting off

 


48             HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.

 

the old man lies in this,—that it is the only way of put-

ting on Christ.  Before honour is humility; but after

humility is honour. If our hearts are truly humbled,

God has pledged himself to exalt us in due season. In

proportion as we attain the contrite heart, we may count

on his gracious indwelling. If we are led by the Spirit

of the Lord down into humility, we may be assured the

next thing is honour; as we confidently anticipate that

the day will follow the night. The broken heart is the

Lord's chosen dwelling-place. When David was in the

depth (Ps. cxxx.), he waited for the Lord: how? As

those who are exposed to danger in night's darkness wait

for the morning,—keenly feeling the want of it, but con-

fidently counting that it will come. The Lord loves to

be so looked for:  to them that look for him he will come,

and his coming will be like the morning. This humility

—this honour have all the saints.

            It is a part of the same divine law that "a man's pride

shall bring him low." That which brings a creature far-

thest down is his own rebellious effort to exalt himsel£

It is with spirit as with matter,—the farther it shoots

upward from its own proper sphere into the heavens above,

the deeper will it sink down, and the more will it be

broken by its fall That law operated on spirit, as the

law of gravitation acted on matter, before man was made.

Among the angels that excel in strength, there was a

leap of pride in order to exalt itself, and a conse-

quent fall into the lowest depths of the pit.  When these

morning stars fell from the very height of heaven, they

fell into a deep from which even the power of God pro-

 


               HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.               49

 

vides no rising.  In the same way man fell. It was a

leap upward that brought us down so low. It was the

proud effort to be as gods that brought man down to the

companionship of devils. Under this eternal law the

Papacy now lies. It cannot glide gently down from its

presumptuous height, and so save itself from destruction.

It has flown too high for falling softly. It is fixed, and

that by unchanging law, that it cannot be reformed, and

must be destroyed.

            This law will crush every one of us if we cross its path.

Like the other laws of God, it touches the smallest, while

it controls the greatest.  An atom obeys the same im-

pulses that guide a world. Oh, how jealously should a

man watch the swellings of pride in his own breast!  How,

eagerly would each desire to have his own pride purged

wholly out!  Pride remaining in us will bring us down,

though we were in the highest heaven. When two

things are weighed in the opposite ends of a balance, who

can make both simultaneously descend? The crushing

of the proud is but the other side of the exaltation of the

lowly.  Either pride must be cast out of me, or I must be

cast out from the company of the blessed.

            The seventy-third Psalm, like the seventh chapter of

the Epistle to the Romans, is a specimen of spiritual auto-

biography. Cut out, at the crisis, a section from that

self-history of a soul:  "So foolish was I and ignorant: I

was as a beast before thee. Nevertheless I am continually

with thee: thou hast holden me by my right hand. Thou

shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive

me to glory."  Extremes meet here. The lowest and the

 


50               HUMILITY BEFORE HONOUR.

 

highest touch each other. Within the compass of a few

lines, recording one man's experience, we find a humility

which depresses him beneath the level of man, and an

honour which admits him into the presence of God. One

moment the penitent feels himself to be brutish; another,

his glad forgiven spirit rises buoyant toward the throne

like a flame of fire, or a ministering angel. These are

the footsteps of the flock. It concerns us to know that

we are on the same track; for none other conducts to

safety. It is when a man is so purged of ride as to count

himself like a "beast," that he is best prepared for the

company of a justifying God, and the spirits of just men

made perfect. They who thus put off their own righteous-

ness as filthy rags, are ready to put on Christ; and in

Him they are counted worthy. Paul kept close on the

track of the Psalmist: in one verse it is, "O wretched

man that I am!" in the next, "I thank God, through

Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. vii. 24, 25). If we get

down into the "humility" through which these ancient

disciples passed, we shall share the "honour" to which

they have been raised.

 


THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.     51

 

                                               VI.

              THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A

                                   FAMILY'S PEACE.

 

"Better is little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure and trouble

            therewith. Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and

            hatred therewith. He that is greedy of gain troubleth his own house."—

            xv 16, 17, 27.

"Better is a dry morsel, and quietness therewith, than an house full of sacrifices

            with strife."—xvii. 1.

 

THESE are blessed words in a world of strife. They are

welcome as a well of water springing in the desert. They

drop on weary hearts like rain on the mown grass. The

gift is good. We receive it with gladness, and thank the

Giver.

            The constitution of man and the law of God are fitted

into each other, like lock and key. The capability of the

subject corresponds to the rule which the Sovereign enacts.

When the creature falls in with the Creator's will, all the

machinery moves smoothly: when the creature resists, it

stands still or is riven asunder. Truth sweetens the rela-

tions of life falsehood eats like rust into their core.

When they live in love, men meet each other softly and

kindly, as the eyelids meet. Envy casts grains of sand

between the two, and under each. Every movement then

sends a shooting pain through all the body, and makes

the salt tears flow. So good are peace and love for human

 


52    THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY’S PEACE.

 

kind, that with them a family will be happy though they

have nothing else in the world; and without them miser-

able, although they have the whole world at their com-

mand.

            No creature can with impunity break any of the Crea-

tor's laws. He is not a man, that he should fail to detect

or punish the transgressor. He depends not on the acti-

vity of police, or the speed of the telegraph. Sin follows

the sinner, and finds him out, and inflicts the punishment.

Sorrow comes on the heels of sin, as the echo answers to

a sound, as the rebound answers to a blow. Let a

family have abundant wealth, and all the luxuries that

wealth can buy,—a commodious house and a sumptuous

table, broad lands and a troop of attendants,—yet if

strife enters the circle, it will act like leaven in the mass,

and imbitter all their enjoyments. Being under law to

God they cannot escape. When they sin they suffer.

Strife makes them more miserable amidst all their wealth

than a loving family who have not wherewith to buy to-

morrow's food.

            A dinner of herbs and a stalled ox indicate the two

extremes,—humble poverty on the one side, and pampered

luxury on the other. These brief expressions open for a

moment the doors of the cottage and of the palace that

we may obtain a glimpse of what is going on within.

Look into the dwelling on this side: it is dinner time:

the family, fresh from their labour, are seated round a

clean uncovered table; there is no meat from the stall or

the flock, no bunch of ripe grapes from the vine-yard, and

even no bread from the corn-field. Some green herbs

 


THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.    53

 

gathered in the garden have been cooked and set down

as the meal of the household. The fare, is poor; but this

poor fate and love together make a more savoury mess

than any that ever graced a royal banquet. The people

thrive upon the precious mixture. Look into the lofty

castle on the other side at the moment when this word

throws open its doors. A rich feast is reeking in the

hall. The stalled ox is there, surrounded by a labyrinth

of kindred luxuries. A crowd of attendants must be in the

room, observing every look, and hearing every whisper.

The poor man's family dine in private; the rich man's in

public. This is one point in favour of the poor. The

servant at his master's back is a man with human feel-

ings in his breast. If he has been treated unkindly, anger

rankles in his heart, while the smile that is paid for plays

upon his countenance. If, moreover, there be jealousy

between husband and wife, rivalry between brother and

brother, in this great house, their meeting at a meal is

misery; their politeness before strangers is the encrusted

whitewash on a sepulchre's side, cracking and falling off

at every movement, and revealing the rottenness within.

When love leaves the family circle, it is no longer a piece

of God's own hand-work, and there is no security for safety

in any of its motions. Love is the element in which all

its relations were set, for softness and safety; and when

it has evaporated, nothing remains but that each member

of the house should be occupied in mounting a miserable

guard over his own interests, and against the anticipated

contact of the rest. In that dislocated house each dreads

all, and all dread each. The only distinction remain-

 


54   THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.

 

ing is, that the one who is nearest you hurts you the

most.

            But mark well, it is neither said in the Bible nor found

in experience that they are all happy families who dine

on herbs, and all unhappy who can afford to feast on a

stalled ox. Some rich families live in love, and doubly

enjoy their abundance; some poor families quarrel over

their herbs. Riches cannot secure happiness, and poverty

cannot destroy it But such is the power of love, that

with it you will be happy in the meanest estate; with-

out it, miserable in the highest. Would you know the

beginning, and the middle, and the end of this matter,—

the spring on high, the stream flowing through the chan-

nel of the covenant, and the fruitful outspread in a dis-

ciple's life below,—they are all here, and all one—Charity:

"GOD IS LOVE;" "Love is of God;" "Walk in love."

            In this book the greed of gain stands side by side with

strife, as the twin troubler of a house. As a husband-

man looks on a prevailing weed that infests his garden;

as a shepherd looks on a wolf that ravages his flock, so

our Father in heaven looks on that love of money which

grievously mars the harmony of his own institute, the

family. That instrument of torture points both ways. The

miser, as we know by his name, is a torment to himself:

he is also a thorn in the flesh of those who are nearest to

him. Perhaps in our community, and in our day, more

families are troubled by a lavish expenditure, than by an

undue hoarding of money; but the prevalence of one evil

does not make another evil good. Dealing with one thing

at a time, the words give out a certain sound,—that if a

 


THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.    55

 

man be himself a miser, he makes his house miserable.

When God has given a man one of his choicest blessings

a family; and given him, too, means sufficient for their

support; if the man intercept the flow of the Creator's

bounty, and hoard that which was given for use, he dis-  

pleases the Giver, and injures the gift, as surely as if he

should impiously arrest the flow of the blood from its

central reservoir, and prevent it from circulating through

the frame. The hoarded blood would clot and stagnate

and corrupt; while the body, for want of it, would pine

away. The benefit of its circulation would be lost, and

its accumulation in one place would become an encum-

brance dangerous to life. Thus the man troubles his

house who diverts the children's daily portion into the

miser's corrupting hoard.

            In my earliest years, as far back on the line of life as

memory's vision can distinctly reach, the nearest neigh-

bour of our house on the right, was an old farmer, very

religious and very rich. He had three sons and seven

daughters. Instead of employing the increase of his fields

to elevate the condition and enlarge the minds of his

numerous, winsome, and well-conditioned family, he left

them to nature, and laid up his money in the bank. The

sons and daughters all married in succession, and left him.

Thereafter, at the age of seventy-three, he married a

servant-girl of exactly the same age as his youngest

daughter. The match supplied the young people of the

district with merriment for many months. The young

woman wrought upon the old man's failing faculties, and

in order to secure the money for herself, persuaded him

 


56    THE MAHER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.

 

that all, his children were banded in a conspiracy against

his life. He made his will under this impression, be-

queathing the bulk of his fortune to his wife; and, with a

refinement of cruelty which was certainly not his own in-

vention, devised small sums to each of his sons and

daughters,—to one five pounds, to another ten, to each a

different amount, reaching at the highest the sum of

twenty-five pounds. The sums were made to vary with

the varying shades of the children's guilt, as they were

marked on the imagination of the imbecile parent. The

old man died. The widow enjoyed her legacy unchal-

lenged. But the daughters who had got the smaller

sums went to law with their sisters who had obtained the

larger sums, in order to have them equalized. After

these miserable pittances had served to rend a whole

family asunder in hopeless feuds, the worthless money

itself was lost in law. The God of providence taught me

early, as they teach children now in schools, by a picture,

that "he who is greedy of gain troubleth his own house."

            But the teaching was still more specific and guarded

and fatherly than this. At the same time the other

lesson was exhibited with equal vividness on the other

side. Our nearest neighbour on the left—in this case

half a mile distant, and in the former case a quarter—

was another old man, very religious and very drunken.

He had a light rent, a long lease, and an indulgent land-

lord. Plenty of money passed through his hands, but

none ever remained in them. He was not greedy of gain,

and yet he troubled his own house. His spendthrift and

intemperate life aggravated by his religious profession,

 


THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.    57

 

told with fearful effect upon a band of stately and intel-

ligent sons. They were all clever, but all made ship-

wreck.

            At this advanced period of my life I think still with

interest and awe on the sovereign providence that placed

me, while yet a child, in that middle space between two

evils, opposite, yet equal, and in full sight of both. The

lessons were given not in the thin profile of a single line,

but in the full breadth and varied features of large family

groups. The examples did not glance into sight and out

again like visions of the night: they remained in view

for a long series of years. I saw the beginning, and I

have lived to witness the end. In my childhood they

were sowing the seed beside me, and in manhood I saw

them reaping in tears. When God gave the law to

Moses, it was accompanied by the precise and significant

intimation, "I have written that thou mayest teach."

The same Lord continues writing still on the fleshy tables

of human hearts, and on the same condition—that the les-

son so engraved should not be a talent hid in a napkin,

but published for the benefit of all whom it may concern.

These lines, written by the Lord's own hand in the work-

ings of providence, lie in sharpest outline in the lower

strata of my memory, and are fixed like fossils in the

rock: the tide of city life rushing over them during many

successive years, instead of defacing the letters, seems

only to make the matrix more transparent, and so bring

the characters more clearly out. The possession of these

manuscripts I recognise as the obligation to exhibit them.

            The man who lavishly spent his money, troubled his

 


58    THE MAKER AND THE BREAKER OF A FAMILY'S PEACE.

 

own house; so also did the man who greedily hoarded it.

Between these two extremes the path of safety lies in the

scriptural rule, "Use this world as not abusing it" (1 Cor.

vii. 31).

            The house—the family is God's own work. He in-

tends that it should be a blessing to his creatures. He

framed it to be an abode of peace and love. He visits

his handwork to see whether it is fulfilling its destiny.

Let the disturber beware; an eye is on him that cannot

be deceived, a hand is over him that cannot be resisted.

Whether it be husband or wife, parent or child, master or

servant, the disturber of a house must answer to its

almighty Protector for abusing his gifts, and thwarting

his gracious designs.

            "Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be

called the children of God." How shall we best bring peace

into a family on earth, and keep it there, until the little

stream that trickles over time be lost in the ocean of

eternity? Invite Christ into the house, and the hearts of

its inmates. "He is our peace,"—with God and with

each other. Invite Him to come in; constrain Him to

abide.

 


THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.    59

 

 

                                      VII.

 

 

     THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.

 

 

"All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the

            spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be estab-

            lished."—xvi. 2, 8.

 

 

THE first of these two verses tells how a man goes wrong,

and the second how he may be set right again. He is

led into error by doing what pleases himself; the rule for

recovery is to commit the works to the Lord, and see

that they are such as will please him. When we weigh

our thoughts and actions in the balances of our own

desires, we shall inevitably go astray: when we lay them

before God, and submit to his pleasure, we shall be guided

into truth and righteousness.

            Such is the purport of the two verses in general;

attend now to the particulars in detail:  "All the ways

of a man are clean in his own eyes." To a superficial

observer this declaration may seem inconsistent with ex-

perience; but be who wrote these words has fathomed fully

the deep things of a human spirit. As a general rule, men

do the things which they think right, and think the things

right which themselves do. Not many men do what they

think evil, and while they think it evil. The acts may be

obviously evil, but the actor persuades himself of the con-

trary, at least until they are done. There is an amazing

 


60    THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.

 

power of self-deception in a human heart. It is deceitful

above all things. It is beyond conception cunning in

making that appear right which is felt pleasant. Some,

we confess, are so hardened that they sin in the face of

conscience, and over its neck; but for one bold, bad man,

who treads on an awakened conscience in order to reach

the gratification of his lust, there are ten cowards who

drug the watcher into slumber, that they may sin in

peace. As a general rule, it may be safely said, if you

did not think the act innocent, you would not do it; but

when you have a strong inclination to do it, you soon find

means to persuade yourself that it is innocent. After all,

the real motive power that keeps the wheels of human

life going round is this:—Men like the things that they

do, and do the things that they like. In his own eyes a

man's ways are clean. If he saw them filthy, he would

not walk in them. But when he desires to walk in a

particular way, he soon begins to count it clean, in order

that he may peacefully walk in it.

            In his own eyes: Mark the meaning of these words.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked. Eyes other than

his own are witnessing all the life-course of a man. The

eyes of the Lord are in every place. He does not adopt

our inclination as the standard of right and wrong. He

will not borrow our balances to determine his own judg-

ment in that day. "The Lord weigheth the spirits." Not

a thought, not a motive, trembles in the breast which he

does not weigh; more evidently, though not more surely,

are the gross and palpable deeds of our life open before

him! He has a balance nice enough to weigh motives—

 


    THE FALSE BALANCE DETECT BY THE TRUE.       61

 

the animating soul of our actions; our actions themselves

will not escape his scrutiny.

            Before we proceed to any "work," we should weigh it,

while yet it is a "spirit" unembodied, in the balances

which will be used in the judgment of the great day.

Letters are charged in the post-office according to their

weight. I have written and sealed a letter consisting of

several sheets. I desire that it should pass; I think that

it will; but I know well that it will not be allowed to

pass because I desire that it should, or think that it will;

I know well it will be tested by imperial weights and

imperial laws. Before I plunge it beyond my reach,

under the control of the public authorities, I place it on

a balance which stands on the desk before me—a bal-

ance not constructed to please my desires, but honestly

adjusted to the legal standard. I weigh it there, and

check it myself by the very rules which the Govern-

ment will apply. The children of this world are wise

for their own interests. We do not shut our eyes, and

cheat ourselves as to temporal things and human govern-

ments: why should we attempt to deceive where detection

is certain and retribution complete? On the table before

you lies the very balance in which the Ruler of heaven

and earth will weigh both the body of the act and the

motive, the soul that inspires it. Weigh your purposes

in this balance before you launch them forth in action.

The man's ways are unclean, although, through a deceit-

ful heart, they are clean in his own eyes. By what means,

therefore, "shall a young man cleanse his way? By

taking heed thereto according to thy word " (Ps. cxix. 9).

 


62    THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.

 

            A most interesting practical rule is laid down as ap-

plicable to the case—"Commit thy works unto the Lord;"

and a promise follows it,—"Thy thoughts shall be estab-

lished." It is a common and a sound advice, to ask coun-

sel of the Lord before undertaking any work. Here we

have the counterpart lesson equally precious—commit the

work to the Lord, after it is done. The Hebrew idiom

gives peculiar emphasis to the precept—Roll it over on

Jehovah. Mark the beautiful reciprocity of the two,

and how they constitute a circle between them. While

the act is yet in embryo as a purpose in your mind, ask

counsel of the Lord, that it may be crushed in the birth

or embodied in righteousness. When it is embodied,

bring the work back to the Lord, and give it over into his

hands as the fruit of the thought which you besought

him to inspire; give it over into his hands as an offering

which he may accept, an instrument which he may em-

ploy. Bring the work, when it is done, to the Lord; and

what will follow?—"thy thoughts shall be established."

Bring back the actions of your life to God, one by one,

after they are done, and thereby the purposes of your

heart will be made pure and steadfast: the evil will be

chased away like smoke before the wind, and the good

will be executed in spite of all opposition; for "when a

man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies

to be at peace with him "

            A boy, while his stock of experience is yet small, is

employed by his father to lend assistance in certain

mechanical operations. Pleased to think himself useful,

he bounds into the work with heart and hand; but

 


THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.    63

 

during the process, he has many errands to his father.

At the first he runs to ask his father how he ought to

begin; and when he has done a little, he carries the

work to his father, fondly expecting approval, and ask-

ing further instructions. Oh, when will the children of

God in the regeneration experience and manifest the same

spirit of adoption which animates dear children as an

instinct of nature towards fathers of their flesh! These

two rules, following each other in a circle, would make

the outspread field of a Christian's life sunny, and green,

and fruitful, as the circling of the solar system brightens

and fertilizes the earth.

            Perhaps this latter hemisphere of duty's revolving circle

is the more difficult of the two. Perhaps most professing

Christians find it easier to go to God beforehand, asking

what they should do, than to return to him afterwards

to place their work in his hands. This may in part

account for the want of answer to prayer,—at least the

want of a knowledge that prayer has been answered.

If you do not complete the circle, your message by tele-

graph will never reach its destination, and no answer will

return. We send in earnest prayer for direction. There-

after we go into the world of action. But if we do not

bring the action back to God, the circle of the suppli-

cation is not completed. The prayer does not reach the

throne; the message acknowledging it comes not back to

the suppliant's heart. To bring all the works to the Lord

would be in the character of a dear child. It would

please the Father. A young man came to his father, and

received instructions as to his employment for the day.

 


64    THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.

 

"Go work in my vineyard," was the parent's command.

"I go, sir," was the ready answer of the son. So far,

all was well; but the deed that followed was disobedience.

The son went not to work in the father's vineyard: but

we do not learn that he came back in the evening to tell

his father what he had done. To have done so would

either have kept him right, or corrected him for doing

wrong.

            But some of the works are evil, and how could you

dare to roll these over on the Lord? Ah! there lies the

power of this practical rule. If it were our fixed and

unvarying practice to bring all our works and lay them

into God's hands, we would not dare to do any except

those that he would smile upon. But others, though not

positively evil, may be of trifling importance, and the

doer may decline to bring them to the King, not because

they are impure, but because they are insignificant. The

spirit of bondage betrays itself here, and not the spirit of

adoption. They are small; they are affairs of children;

trouble not the Master. Ah! this adviser is of the earth,

earthy: he knows not the Master's mind. The Master

himself has spoken to the point:  "Suffer the little chil-

dren to come unto me, and forbid them not." Be assured,

little children, whether in the natural family of man or

the spiritual family of God, act in character. There is

no hypocrisy about them. The things they bring are

little things. Children speak as children, yet He does

not beckon them away. He rebukes those who would.

He welcomes and blesses the little ones. Nay, more;

He tells us plainly that we must be like them ere we

 


THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.    65

 

enter his kingdom. Like little children without hypo-

crisy bring all your affairs to him, and abandon those

that he would grieve to look upon. Bring to him all

the works that you do, and you will not do any that you

could not bring to him.

            "When a man's ways please the Lord, he maketh even

his enemies to be at peace with him" (ver. 7). There is,

it seems, such a thing as pleasing God. If it could not

exist on earth, it would not be named from heaven. Even

to try this is a most valuable exercise. There would be

more sunlight in a believer's life if he could leave the dull

negative fear of judgment far behind as a motive of action,

and bound forward into the glad positive, a hopeful effort

to please God. "Without faith it is impossible to please

Him" (Heb. xi. 6); therefore with faith it is possible.

"They that are in the flesh cannot please God;" there-

fore they that are in the Spirit can. In this aspect of a

believer's course, as in all others, Jesus has left us an

example that we should follow his steps:  "I do always

those things that please Him" (John viii. 29). The glad

obedience of the saved should not be thought inconsistent

with the simple trust of the sinful. A true disciple is

zealous of good works; it is a spurious faith that is jealous

of them. Those who, being justified by faith, are most

deeply conscious that their works are worthless, strive

most earnestly to do worthy works.

            This, like that which enjoins obedience to parents, is a

commandment "with promise." When your ways please

God, be will make even your enemies to be at peace

with you. This is one of two principles that stand to-

 


66    THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.

 

gether in the word, and act together in the divine

administration. Its counterpart and complement is, "If

any man will live godly in Christ Jesus, he must suffer

persecution." They seem opposite, yet, like night and

day, summer and winter, they both proceed from the

same God, and work together for good to his people. It

is true that the mighty of the earth are overawed by

goodness; and it is also true that likeness to the Lord

exposes the disciple to the persecution which his Master

endured. Both are best: neither could be wanted. If

the principle that goodness exposes to persecution pre-

vailed everywhere and always, the spirit would fail before

Him and the souls which He has made. Again, if the

principle that goodness conciliates the favour of the world

prevailed everywhere and always, discipline would be done,

and the service of God would degenerate into mercenary

self-interest. If the good received only and always per-

secution for their goodness, their life could not endure,

and the generation of the righteous would become extinct:

if the good received only and alway; favour from men,

their spiritual life would be overlaid, and choked in the

thick folds of worldly prosperity. A beautiful balance

of opposites is employed to produce one grand result. It

is like the balance of antagonist forces, which keeps the

planets in their places, and maintains the harmony of the

universe. Temporal prosperity and temporal distress, the

world's friendship and its enmity, are both formidable to

the children of God. Our Father in heaven, guarding

against the danger on either side, employs the two reci-

procally to hold each other in check. Human applause

 


THE FALSE BALANCE DETECTED BY THE TRUE.    67

 

on this side is a dangerous enemy, and it is made harm-

less by the measure of persecution which the godly must

endure: on the other side, the enmity of a whole world

is a weight under which the strongest would at last suc-

cumb; but it is made harmless by the opposite law,—the

law by which true goodness conciliates favour even in an

evil world. A Christian in the world is like a human

body in the sea,—there is a tendency to sink and a ten-

dency to swim. A very small force in either direction

will turn the scale. Our Father in heaven holds the

elements of nature and the passions of men at his own

disposal. His children need not fear, for he keeps the

balance in his own hands.

 


68                    MERCY AND TRUTH.

 

 

                                       VIII.

 

 

                        MERCY AND TRUTH.

 

 

"By mercy and truth iniquity is purged:

      and by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil."—xvi. 6.

 

No object can well be more dull and meaningless than

the stained window of an ancient church, as long as you

stand without and look toward a dark interior; but when

you stand within the temple, and look through that win-

dow upon the light of heaven, the still, sweet, solemn

forms that lie in it start into life and loveliness. The

beauty was all conceived in the mind and wrought by

the hand of the ancient artist whose bones now lie moul-

dering in the surrounding church-yard; but the beauty

lies hid until the two requisites come together,—a seeing

eye within, and a shining light without. We often meet

a verse on the page of the Old Testament scriptures very

like those ancient works of art. The beauty of holiness

is in it,—put into it by the Spirit from the first; and

yet its meaning was not fully known until the Sun of

Righteousness arose, and the Israel of God, no longer

kept in the outer court, entered through the rent veil,

and, from the Holy of Holies, looked through the ancient,

record on an illumined heaven. Many hidden beauties

burst into view on the pages of the Bible, when Faith's

open eye looks through it on the face of Jesus.

            One of these texts is now before us. There is more in

 


                       MERCY AND TRUTH.                        69

 

it than met the reader's eye before Christ came. The

least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than the Bap-

tist. The feeblest of the faithful after the incarnation

sees more meaning in the Bible than the eagle eye of the

mightiest prophet could discern before it.  "By mercy

and truth iniquity is purged." That line of the Scrip-

tures becomes thoroughly transparent only when you hold

it up between you and Christ crucified.

            The subject is the expiation of sin. The term is the

one which is employed in connection with the bloody

sacrifices. It intimates that sin is purged by the sacrifice

of a substitute. The two clauses of the verse, balanced

against each other in the usual form, seem to point to

the two great facts which constitute redemption,—pardon

and obedience. The first clause tells how the guilt of

sin is forgiven; the second, how the power of sin is sub-

dued. The first speaks of the pardon which comes down

from God to man; the second, of the obedience which

then and therefore rises up from man to God. Solomon

unites the two constituent elements of a sinner's deliver-

ance in the same order that his father experienced them:

"I have hoped for thy salvation, and done thy command-

ments" (Ps. cxix. 166). It is when iniquity is purged

by free grace that men practically depart from evil.

            How then is iniquity purged? By mercy and truth.

The same two things are repeatedly proclaimed as the

grand distinguishing fruit of Christ's incarnation by the

disciple that leant on his breast (John i. 14, 17). "Grace

and truth came by Jesus Christ," whether you take the

term "truth" in its most general sense, or in its specific ap-

 


70                 MERCY AND TRUTH.

 

plication as the fulfilment of the types. The law, according

to the thunders of Sinai, gives one of these; and the gospel,

according to the imaginations of corrupt men, gives an-

other:  but only in Christ crucified both unite. The law

from Sinai proclaims Truth without Mercy, and the unre-

newed heart desires Mercy without Truth. The one would

result in the perdition of men; the other in the dishonour

of God. Truth alone would honour God's law, but destroy

transgressors: mercy alone would shield the transgressors,

but trample on the law. If there were only truth, earth

would no longer be a place of hope: if there were only

mercy, heaven would no longer be a place of holiness.

On the one side is the just Judge; on the other the guilty

criminals. If he give them their due, there will be no

mercy: if they get from him their desire, there will be no

truth. You may get one at the expense of casting out

the guilty multitude; you may get the other at the ex-

pense of putting to shame the Holy One: but apart from

the gospel of Christ, both cannot be.

            They meet in the Mediator. In Christ the fire meets

the water without drying it up: the water meets the fire

without quenching it out. Truth has its way now, and

all the desert of sin falls on Him who bears it: mercy

has its way now, and all the love of God is poured out

on those who are one with his beloved Son. Iniquity is

punished in the substitute sacrificed, and so purged from

the conscience of the redeemed. "There is now no con-

demnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." The blood

of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin. This is the gospel.

There is no salvation in any other. The Scriptures from

 


                   MERCY AND TRUTH.                              71

 

beginning to end testify of Christ. All their promises

are yea and amen in Him. We shall never discover the

meaning of "mercy and truth" until we “look unto

Jesus.” We shall never get our "iniquity purged" until

we "behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin

of the world." All the power lies in the great fact, that

Christ died the just for the unjust; and all salvation

comes through the simple act, "Believe in the Lord Jesus

Christ, and thou shalt be saved."

            This purging of iniquity is the first and great con-

stituent of the gospel; and the second, which is like

unto it, is, let the pardoned depart from evil. Only "by

the fear of the Lord" can this command be obeyed. In

preceding expositions we have pointed out that the fear

of the Lord means the mingled awe and confidence of a

dear child. Fear of the Lord is a very different thing

from fright at the Lord. The reverential love which

keeps you near tends to practical holiness; but the terror

which drives you to a distance permits you to wallow

there in everything that is unclean.

            The fear which produces obedience is generated by

mercy and truth united in the manifested character of

God. Mercy without truth would beget presumption:

truth without mercy would beget despair. The one

manifestation would not touch the conscience of the trans-

gressor, and therefore he would not obey; the other mani-

festation would crush him so that he could not. It is by

the fear of Him who is at once a just God and a Saviour

that men depart from evil. The emotion that fills a

disciple's heart is, like the atmosphere, composed mainly

 


72                 MERCY AND TRUTH.

 

of two great elements in combination. These are love

and hate. Together in due proportion they constitute

the atmosphere of heaven, and supply vital breath to be-

lievers on the earth. Love of the Saviour who forgives

his sin, and hatred of the sin that crucified his Saviour,—

these two, in one rich and well-proportioned amalgam,

make up the vital element of saints. Separated they

cannot be. To dissolve their union is to change their

essence. As well might one of the atmosphere's consti-

tuent gases sustain the life of man as one of these

emotions satisfy a saved sinner. The separation indeed

is impossible, —perhaps we should say inconceivable.

Hatred of sin is but the lower side of love to the Saviour,

and love to the Saviour is but the upper side of hatred

to sin. In the new nature there is a twofold strain or

leaning, acting constantly like an instinct, although much

impeded in its exercise,—a strain or bent of heart towards

the Lord and away from sin. They who are near to

God depart from evil; and they who really depart from

evil draw near to God. The man in the Gospel (Luke

xii. 45) "said in his heart, My Lord delayeth his coming,"

and then began in his practice to "beat the men-servants

and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken."

At the two extremities stand the "Lord" and "evil;" in the

midst, this man. He cannot move nearer this side with-

out departing farther from that. If he draw near the

Lord, he will depart from evil: if he draw near to evil, he

must put the Lord far away. When a man determines

on a course of actual transgression, he puts God out of all

his thoughts: when he desires to escape the snares of

 


                   MERCY AND TRUTH.                           73

 

Satan, he must walk closely with God.  A people near

to Him is a people far from wickedness: a people far

from wickedness is a people near to Him. Absolutely

and in origin, there is none good save one, and that is

God: comparatively among men, the more godly, the

more good. In their course over a parched land, those

streams continue longest full which maintain unimpeded

their union to the fountain. Our goodness will dissipate

before temptation like the morning dew before the sun,

unless we be found in Him and getting out of His fulness.

 


74                         PROVIDENCE.

 

 

                                      IX.

 

 

                             PROVIDENCE.

 

 

"A man's heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps."—xvi. 9.

"There are many devices in a man's heart;

            nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand."—xix. 21.

 

 

THE Bible throughout teaches the providence of God in

theory, and exhibits the providence of God in fact. The

prophecies are one continuous assertion of the doctrine;

the histories one vast storehouse of its fruits. The works

are manifest; the Worker is withdrawn from view. "Thou

art a God that hidest thyself," is one of the songs in which

the trustful praise him. The clouds and darkness that

are round his throne concealed him from the wisest of

the heathen; and yet, at the cry of any Israelite indeed,

he was wont to shine forth from between the cherubim,

and make bare his holy arm as it wrought deliverance.

When a stroke of judgment was about to fall, so heavy

that its sound should echo for terror to the wicked down

through all time, the Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abra-

ham the thing that I do?" Yet, with all their philosophy,

the Athenians in Paul's day were compelled to own that

they worshipped an unknown God. The knowledge of

His ways is hid from the wise and prudent, but revealed

unto babes. "Even so, Father; for so it seemed good in

thy sight." If, as to power, faith can remove mountains,

as to perception it can see through clouds. "The secret

 


                        PROVIDENCE.                              75

 

of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will

shew them his covenant" (Ps. xxv. 14).

            "God executeth his decrees in the works of creation

and providence." There are two psalms—the 104th and

105th—placed next each other in the collection, which

correspond to these two departments of the divine adminis-

tration. The one is a hymn to God in nature; the other

a hymn to God in history. In the first He appears

appointing their course to the rivers of water; in the

second, turning whithersoever He will the hearts of men.

This psalm deals with the habitation and its furniture;

that with the inhabitant and his history. These two

songs exhibit an intelligence most comprehensive and a

devotion most pure, circulating in the rustic community

of the Hebrews, at a time when the conceptions of other

nations on the same themes were grovelling and their

worship vile. Both in the history that records the act,

and the psalms that celebrate the Actor, the patriarch

Joseph appears a most vivid portrait standing out of the

canvass, and the Exodus stretches away like a landscape

lying in the light. The persons and events that occupy

that great turning-point in human history serve as speci-

mens of the government which the Most High ever exer-

cises over the children of men.

            Providence is as far above us as creation. To direct

the path of a planet in the heavens, and his own steps

over time, are both and both alike beyond the power of

man. God is as much a sovereign in appointing the

bounds of my habitation now upon the earth, as in ap-

pointing the earth at the beginning to be a habitation for

 


76                      PROVIDENCE.

 

living creatures. Our shoulders could not sustain the

government; we should delight to know that it rests on

His.

            These two proverbs of Solomon announce in different

yet equivalent terms that the two grand constituent ele-

ments which exist and operate in the divine government

of the world, are man's free agency and Jehovah's supreme

control.  When it is said that a man's heart deviseth his

way, but the Lord directeth his steps, we must not think

that the purpose of the creature is condemned as an im-

pertinence. It is an essential element of the plan. Neither

human purposes, the material on which God exercises his

sovereign control, nor the control which he exercises on

that material, could be wanted. If there were no room

for the devices of a man's heart, providence would disap-

pear, and grim Fate, the leaden creed that crushes Eastern

nations in the dust, would come in its stead. If, on the

other hand, these devices are left to fight against each

other for their objects without being subjected all to the

will of a living One, Faith flees from the earth, and the

reign of Atheism begins.

            The desires of human hearts, and the efforts of human

hands, do go into the processes of providence, and consti-

tute the material on which the Almighty work.  When

God made man in his own image, a new era was inaugu-

rated and a new work begun. Hitherto, in the govern-

ment of this world, the Creator had no other elements to

deal with than matter and the instincts of brutes; but

the moment that man took his place on creation, a new

and higher element was introduced into its government.

 


                       PROVIDENCE.                                  77

 

The sphere was enlarged and the principle elevated.

There was more room for the display of wisdom and

power. The will of intelligent moral beings left free,

and yet as completely controlled as matter and its laws,

makes the divine government much more glorious than

the mere management of a material universe.  For God's

glory man was created, and that purpose will stand; a

glory to God man will be, willing or unwilling, fallen or

restored, throughout the course of time and at its close.

The doctrine of Scripture regarding providence neither

degrades man nor inflates him. It does not make him a

mere thing on the one hand, nor a god on the other. It

neither takes from him the attributes of humanity, nor

ascribes to him the attributes of deity. It permits him

freely to propose, but leaves the ultimate disposal in a

mightier hand.

            When we seek for specimens of providential rule,—of

devices manifold in a man's heart, and the counsel of the

Lord standing accomplished either by or against them all,

the Exodus is, and ever will be, the richest mine. Let us

look at one example, and learn from it the character of

all. The cruel decree, repeated in two different forms,

devoting to death all the male infants of Israel, was one

of the blows, dealt unconsciously by the oppressor's own

hand, which went to break the captive's chain and set

him free. It was an edict that could not be executed.

Blinded by his own eagerness to achieve his object early,

Pharaoh grasped at too much, and therefore obtained no-

thing. It is in this way generally that our Father in

heaven protects the poor from the wicked devices of the

 


78                     PROVIDENCE.

 

powerful. Evil is kept within bounds by being permitted

to exceed all bounds. Its excesses make it barren. As

well might Pharaoh have commanded the Nile to flow

upward. A massacre of innocents, commanded by a tyrant,

may be executed by his slaves. The babes of Bethlehem

may be slaughtered by the decree of Herod,—a stroke

against Christ in his own person; the Protestants of

France may be murdered in a night,—a stroke against

Christ in his members; but neither the Instigator of

evil nor any of his instruments can secure the execution

of a decree which permanently violates the instincts of

nature. To murder day by day and year by year con-

tinually the infants of a whole people as soon as they

are born, is impossible. God has made it so in the con-

stitution of things. By the power of Pharaoh the Nile

might be dammed up for a day, but all the power of the

world could not stem its flood for a season. So, although

the instincts of nature may be held in abeyance till the

sword has done its short work on the babes of Bethlehem

or the Huguenots of France, they gather strength, like

the river, from the impediment that crossed them, and at

the next onset will sweep all impediments away. Pha-

raoh's decree must have fallen aside as a dead letter when

a few infant corpses had been washed upon the river's

brim. In point of fact, the history contains no trace of

its existence after the childhood of Moses. It served to

prepare the way of a deliverer, and then disappeared.

God served himself of Pharaoh's cruel law, and then

crushed it by the instincts which he has planted in human

breasts. The people of Egypt were flesh and blood;

 


                         PROVIDENCE.                                   79

 

therefore the purpose of their stony-hearted ruler could

not be accomplished: they had infants of their own, and

therefore could not day by day continue to murder infants,

whose struggling limbs felt soft and warm in the exe-

cutioners' hands.

            The huge machine of murder, constructed for the pur-

pose of keeping down the Hebrew population, having

been set in motion, turned round once, and stopped to

move no more; but by its one revolution, it threw a

foundling—a capacious Hebrew mind and a fervid Hebrew

heart—into the palace of the Pharaohs, to be charged

there with all the learning of Egypt, and employed in due

time as the instrument to break the oppressor's rod, and

set his suffering kindred free.

            Although God's hand is in it, and all the more because

his hand is in it the history, as to its form, is intensely

human. Everywhere throughout the details, the pur-

poses of men's hearts protrude; and yet God's hand

fashions the issue for his own purposes as absolutely as

it framed the worlds of the solar system, and gave to

matter its laws. The history of ancient Israel is marked

all over with the foot-prints of the Chief Shepherd as he

led his flock, and teems with types or working plans for

the conduct of the divine government to the end of time.

Even the life of the Great Deliverer pointed now to one,

and now to another feature of the Mosaic programme, as

the needle quivers beneath the electric current. In the be-

ginning of his life on earth he went down into Egypt and

out of Egypt again God called his Son. At the close of

his ministry, when be showed the three disciples a glimpse

 


80                       PROVIDENCE.

 

of his heavenly glory, Moses was his companion, and

Exodus his theme. Children understand and love that

wonderful story. It engraves itself on their memory, and

abides there even unto old age. The book is true to

nature, and true also to grace. Children never weary of

the tale; the children of God can never get enough of its

spiritual lesson.

            There is literally no end to the multiplication of im-

pressions on the current history of the world, from the

types which the deep fount of sacred Scripture contains.

They are thrown off as days and years revolve, in num-

ber and variety all but infinite. The Angel is doing

wondrously; it is our part reverently to look on. "Who-

so is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall

understand the loving-kindness of the Lord (Ps. cvii. 43).

            Passing over providential arrangements on a small

scale involving similar principles and leading to similar

results, numerous as reflections of sun-light from the

dancing waves, we select as an example one that in seve-

ral features bears an obvious analogy to the Exodus—the

present bondage and prospective freedom of the Negro

race in the United States of America.  The process is

not yet complete, and therefore we cannot fully under-

stand what the counsel of the Lord therein may be. We

cannot yet predict all the turnings that the course of

events may take; but the issue is not doubtful.  We

know that the Lord reigneth; we know also certain

great principles that run through his administration. We

wait confidently for the end of the Lord in that great

conflict. He that believeth shall not make haste.

 


                       PROVIDENCE.                                  81

 

            The device of many leading politicians in the United

States has been, and is, to maintain three millions of

human beings in slavery, to be bought and sold like cattle

or any other species of property. There are, indeed, in

the laws some shreds of protection for human flesh and

blood, not accorded to other species of possessions; but

these proceed upon low grounds, and never rise to the

recognition of a brother's nature and a brother's rights.  

The citizens of that country have probably an average

share of humanity in their personal character; but the

institution to which they cling chokes up the channel

through which the affections of nature ought to flow.

They make laws on the one side to prevent excessive

cruelty in the treatment of slaves, and on the other side

to forbid the dissemination of knowledge, lest it should

emancipate the mind while the body remains in bondage.

These alternate struggles this way and that way are

painful to the community that makes them, and by

no means effectual to accomplish the end desired. To

treat a man as the property of man, is to fight against

nature and against God. He who falls upon this stone

shall be broken. The nation, accordingly, is broken, is

rent asunder, by a wound that refuses to be healed.

Action and reaction are equal and opposite, as well in

morals as in physics. One person or one race cannot

hurt another, without receiving a corresponding injury

in return. If my brother and myself are standing both

together on ice, and I push him violently away from me,

I have thereby pushed myself as far in the opposite direc-

tion. I may succeed in driving my brother out of his

 


82                          PROVIDENCE.

 

place, but the same effort drives me also out of mine.

The Americans are so situated with respect to their

slaves. They cannot push the Africans aside from the

best condition of humanity on the one hand, without

pushing themselves as far from the best condition of

humanity on the other. Man is not a fixture on the

earth like the everlasting hills. The ground is slippery,

and our foot-hold feeble at the best. It is not in our

power to turn aside a neighbour from his right, and

maintain our own standing and character as before. The

master depresses and degrades his slave; but in that very

act he has deeply wounded the tenderest part of his own

nature. If the oppressed race are necessarily mean, the

oppressing race are necessarily arrogant.  As far as the

slave is sunk below the level into brutish insensibility,

so far the master is forced up above it into an odious

unfeeling pride. It is in vain that the potsherds of the

earth strive with their Maker. His laws are even now

silently operating to adjust these inequalities. Some

portions of their working may be already seen cropping

out upon the surface.

            Slaves, stung by injuries at home, and favoured by

compassionate hearts abroad, were escaping in a strong

steady stream to a land of liberty. A gradual exodus

had begun, and the dominant power, by the instinct of

self-preservation, adopted a device to arrest it.  They

passed an enactment, known as the Fugitive Slave Law,

which requires that the citizens shall aid in delivering

the fleeing African into his pursuers' hands, and imposes

severe punishment on all who shall dare to harbour him

 


                         PROVIDENCE.                                  83

 

or facilitate his escape. This, it seems, is the best device

which the powerful could employ to keep the feeble

under the yoke. But it has failed, and will fail.  Like

Pharaoh's device to keep down his slaves, it contains

within itself the elements of its own dissolution. The

Legislature of the States has ventured to run counter

not only to the principles of justice, but to that which

in human breasts is a stronger thing—the instincts of

nature. Fathers and mothers in the Free States cannot

be compelled to deliver up a fugitive mother and her in-

fant to the mercy of her pursuer. There is a law which

lies underneath that shallow enactment, with power to

hold it in check for a time, and to crush it at last.

            That latest effort which the slaveholding power has put

forth to secure their property has probably done more

than any other single event to weaken their tenure, and

ultimately wrench it from their grasp. The counsel of

the Lord, that shall stand, whether the adversary opposed

to it be an ancient despot or a modern democracy. The

stroke which was intended to rivet the fetters of the slave

more firmly, guided in its descent by an unseen hand, fell

upon a brittle link, and broke it through. The news-

papers announced that the cruel device had been enacted

into a law. The intelligence fell like a spark on the deep

compassion that lay pent up in a woman's heart, and kin-

dled it into a flame. The outburst was in the form of a

book, the chief instrument of power usually employed in

these later ages of the world.  It is certainly true, and is

widely known, that the enactment of the Fugitive Slave

Law produced the book, and that the book caused a pano-

 


84                        PROVIDENCE.

 

rama of slavery to pass before the eyes of millions in

America and Europe, inexpressibly augmenting the pub-

lic opinion of the civilized world against the whole sys-

tem, root and branch. Let no one imagine that we are

elevating little things into an undue importance. We

speak of Jehovah's counsel, and how it stands erect and

triumphant over all the devices of men. He is wont to

employ weak things to confound the mighty. Long ago

He employed the tears of a helpless child and the strong

compassion of a woman (Ex. ii. 6) as essential instru-

ments in the exodus of an injured race; and it would be

like himself if, in our day, while statesmen and armies

contend in the senate and the battle-field, he should per-

mit women who remain at home to deal the blow which

decides the victory, and distribute the resulting spoil.

"He sits King upon the floods."  "All are His servants."

"Stand still and see the salvation of God."

            The exodus of the New Testament, the decease which

Christ accomplished at Jerusalem, when, by the shedding

of his blood, and through a sea of wrath, he opened a way

for his redeemed to pass over, teems even more than that

of the Old Testament with studies of Providence. Caiaphas

proclaimed him the sacrificed substitute for sinning men

(John xi. 49-52), and Pilate recorded his kingly dignity

(John xix. 19). Are Caiaphas and Pilate also among the

prophets? They are, although they know it not. He

who makes the winds his messengers, and the flaming fire

his angels, can harness these untamed spirits, and yoke

them to his chariot. He makes the tongue of Caiaphas

preach the priesthood, and the pen of Pilate write the

 


                             PROVIDENCE.                            85

 

sovereignty of Jesus. When God has a message to de-

clare, he is not limited in his choice of the angel who

shall bear it. He can compel the servants of Satan to do

his errands, without even putting off their dark cos-

tume. Their own hearts devise their ways, but the Lord

directs their steps. In pursuing their own devices, they

unconsciously become the instruments of accomplishing

the purpose of God.

            "Pilate wrote a title," in Hebrew and Greek and

Latin, and fixed it aloft upon the cross. The title so com-

posed and published was, "JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE

KING OF THE JEWS." In the same spirit the governor

had already said, "Shall I crucify your King?" This

testimony from his view-point served two purposes. It

gave vent to the conviction struggling in his own mind

that the Sufferer was innocent and divine: at the same

time it afforded him the opportunity of taking vengeance

on the Jews for the blood-hound cruelty with which they

had hunted him down, and compelled him, against his own

judgment, to give up the Just One to be crucified. He

held their shame aloft to heaven, and spread it in three

languages across the world. Such is the object which

Pilate "proposes" to himself. But this man's weak vin-

dictive passion God "disposes" so, that it shall proclaim

to Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, that the crucified is the

King of Israel. Pilate's shaft was well aimed. It reached

its mark, and rankled in the bones and marrow of those

Jewish rulers. The governor, whom their policy had con-

cussed, now overreached them. They were ashamed

that a formal title, under the supreme civil authority,

 


86                        PROVIDENCE.

 

should publish to the indigenous multitude in their ver-

nacular, and to strangers from the east and west in the

languages of the empire, that the Nazarene on the accursed

tree was their promised, expected King. They requested

that the writing should be changed. Pilate rejected their

request. It was now his turn to tighten the screw on the

flesh of the victim. Revenge at that moment was sweet

to his revengeful heart. "What I have written I have

written!" and he pushed them aside with contempt. He

determined to pillory these proud priests aloft upon the

place of skulls, as the subjects of the Crucified. And yet

God employed that fierce passion to print above the cross,

and publish through all time, a testimony to the royalty

of Emmanuel. Said not the Scriptures truly, "The

wrath of man shall praise Thee?"

            We have been contemplating the working of Provi-

dence in those great events which have nations for their

actors, and a world for their stage. We have preferred

to exemplify a principle by the larger specimens of its

produce, as we are wont to illustrate the law of gravita-

tion by the balancing of worlds: but that law may be

seen as well in the drooping of a snow-drop, or the falling

of a leaf.  And in like manner our Maker's might and

our Father's tenderness descend with us from great public

events, and follow our private, personal interests, until

they are lost to our view, but not to His, in the micro-

scopic minuteness of a hair falling off or growing gray.

In a storm at sea, when the danger pressed, and the deep

seemed ready to devour the voyagers, one man stood com-

posed and cheerful amidst the agitated throng. They

 


                            PROVIDENCE.                                87

 

asked him eagerly why he feared not,—was he an expe-

rienced seaman, and did he see reason to expect that the

ship would ride the tempest through? No; he was not

an expert sailor, but he was a trustful Christian. He

was not sure that the ship would swim; but he knew that

its sinking could do no harm to him His answer was,

"Though I sink to-day, I shall only drop gently into the

hollow of my Father's hand, for he holds all these waters

there." The story of that disciple's faith triumphing in

a stormy sea presents a pleasant picture to those who read

it on the solid land; but if they in safety are strangers

to his faith, they will not in trouble partake of his conso-

lation. The idea is beautiful; but a human soul, in its

extremity, cannot play with a beautiful idea. If the

heart do not feel the truth firm to lean upon, the eye will

not long be satisfied with its symmetry to look at.

Strangers may speak of providence; but only the children

love it. If they would tell the truth, those who are

alienated from God in their hearts, do not like to be so

completely in His power. It is when I am satisfied with

His mercy, that I rejoice to lie in His hand.

 


88    WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH.

 

 

                                                   X.

 

 

           WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE

                                              WORTH.

 

 

"How much better is it to get wisdom than gold?
            and to get. understanding rather to be chosen than silver?—xvi. 16.

 

 

THE question only is written in the book; the learner is

expected to work out the answer. We, of this mercantile

community, are expert in the arithmetic of time; here is

an example to test our skill in casting up the accounts of

eternity. Deeper interests are at stake; greater care

should be taken to avoid an error, more labour willingly

expended in making the balance true. Old and young,

rich and poor, should take their places together in the

school, and, under the Master's own eye, work this preg-

nant problem out to its issue.

            The question is strictly one of degree. It is not,

Whether is wisdom or gold the more precious portion for

a soul? That question was settled long ago by common

consent. All who in any sense make a profession of faith

in God, confess that wisdom is better than gold; and this

teacher plies them with another problem,—How much

better?

            Two classes of persons have experience in this matter,

—those who have chosen the meaner portion, and those who

have chosen the nobler; but only the latter class are

capable of calculating the difference suggested by the

 


WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH.     89

 

text. Those who give their heart to money, understand

only the value of their own portion: those who possess

treasures in heaven, have tasted both kinds, and can

appreciate the difference between them.

            When a man has made money his idol and his aim, he

may be made to feel and confess that it is a worthless

portion. He may understand well that a world full of it

cannot procure for him one night's sleep when he is in

pain,—cannot dispel the terrors of an unclean conscience,—

cannot satisfy the justice of God,—cannot open the gate

of heaven. The man, in his misery, can tell you truly and

intelligently that gold, as the chosen heritage of an im-

mortal, is worthless; but how much better heavenly wis-

dom would have been, he cannot tell, for he has never

tried it. As the man born blind cannot tell how much better

light is than his native darkness; as the slave born under

the yoke of his master cannot tell how much better liberty

is than his life-long bondage; so he who has despised the

treasures that are at God's right hand, cannot conceive

how much more precious they are to a man in his ex-

tremity than the riches that perish in the use. A man

knows both what it is to be a child and what it is to be

a man; but a child knows only what it is to be a child.

He who is now a new creature, has experience also of the

old man; but he who has not yet put off the old man, has

no experience of the new. Only those who have chosen

the better portion can intelligently compare the two.

But even these cannot compute the difference. Eye

hath not seen, ear hath not heard it. Wisdom from

above, like the love of God, passeth knowledge. Even

 


90   WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH.

 

those who are best instructed can stretch their line but

a little way into the depth. How much better is wisdom

than gold? Better by all the worth of a soul, by all the

blessedness of heaven, by all the length of eternity. But

all these expressions are only tiny lines that children fling

into the ocean to measure its depth withal. None of them

reach the ground. It is like the answer of a little child

when you ask him How far distant is that twinkling star?

It is very very far above us, he will say; but with all the

eagerness of his tone and gesture—with his outstretched

finger, and twittering lips, and glistening eye, he has not

told you how deep in the heavens that lone star lies. As

well might you expect to find out God, as find out, here

in the body, the measure of the goodness which he has

laid up for them that fear him.

            In a time of war between two great maritime nations, a

ship belonging to one of them is captured on the high seas

by a ship belonging to the other. The captor, with a few

attendants, goes on board his prize, and directs the native

crew to steer for the nearest point of his country's shore.

The prize is very rich. The victors occupy themselves

wholly in collecting and counting the treasure, and arrang-

ing their several shares, abandoning the care of the ship

to her original owners. These, content with being per-

mitted to handle the helm, allow their rivals to handle

the money unmolested. After a long night, with a steady

breeze, the captured mariners quietly, at dawn, run the

ship into a harbour on their own shores. The conquerors

are in turn made captives. They lose all the gold which

they grasped too eagerly, and their liberty besides. In

 


WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH.    91

 

that case it was much better to have hold of the helm,

which directed the ship, than of the money which the

ship contained. Those who seized the money and ne-

glected the helm, lost even the money which was in their

hands. Those who neglected the money and held by the

helm, obtained the money which they neglected, and

liberty too. They arrived at home, and all their wealth

with them.

            Thus they who make money their aim suffer a double

loss, and they who seek the wisdom from above secure a

double gain. The gold with which men are occupied

will profit little, if the voyage of their life be not pointed

home. If themselves are lost, their possessions are worth-

less. It is much better to get wisdom, for wisdom is

profitable to direct, and the course so directed issues in

Rest and Riches. When Christ is yours, all things are

yours, and gold among them. The gold and the silver

are His, and whether by giving them to you, or withhold-

ing them from you, he will compel these his servants to

attend upon his sons.

            The ship may carry a precious cargo of this world's

goods, but the main concern of the master is not the

quantity and value of his freight. It is better to come

home empty a living man, than to be cast away in com-

pany with your riches. Alas! I think I see many men

spending their days and nights down in the hold keeping

their eyes on the coffers, permitting the vessel which

carries both themselves and their treasures to drift at the

mercy of wind and tide. Come up! come up! This is

not your rest. This is a tempestuous and dangerous sea.

 


92    WISDOM AND WEALTH—THEIR COMPARATIVE WORTH.

 

Look to the heavens for guiding light; keep your eye on

the chart and your hand on the rudder. Immortal man!

let your chief aim and effort be to pass safely through

there troubled waters and arrive at last in the better

land.  As to wealth, if you carry little with you, plenty

awaits you there. "We passed through fire and water,

yet thou broughtest us to a wealthy place."

 


              THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.             93

 

 

                                           XI.

 

 

               THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.

 

 

"The highway of the upright is to depart from evil:

        he that keepeth his way preserveth his soul."—xvi. 17.

 

EVERY man has a highway of his own. It is formed, as

our forefathers formed their roads, simply by walking

often on it, and without a predetermined plan. Foresight

and wisdom might improve the moral path, as much as

they have in our day improved the material. The high-

way of the covetous is to depart from poverty and make

for wealth with all his might. In his eagerness to take

the shortest cut he often falls over a precipice, or loses

his way in a wood. The highway of the vain is to depart

from seriousness, and follow mirth on the trail of fools. 

The highway of the ambitious is a toilsome scramble up

a mountain's side towards its summit, which seems in the

distance to be a paradise basking in sun-light above the

clouds, but when attained is found to be colder and barer

than the plain below. The upright has a highway too,

and it is to "depart from evil."

            The upright is not an unfallen angel, but a restored

man. He has been in the miry pit, and the marks of

the fall are upon him still. Even when a sinner has

been forgiven and renewed—when he has become a new

creature in Christ, and an heir of eternal life—the power

of evil within him is not entirely subdued, the stain of

 


94         THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.

 

evil not entirely wiped away. He hates sin now in his

heart, but he feels the yoke of it in his flesh still.  His back

is turned to the bondage which he loathes, and his face to

the liberty which he loves. He hastens away from evil, and

if he looks behind him at any time, it is to measure the

distance he has already made, and quicken his pace for

the time to come. In this way the pilgrim walks un-

wearied, nor dares to rest until in dwellings of the right-

eous he hear that "melody of joy and health:"  "Salva-

tion to our God who sitteth upon the throne, and unto

the Lamb" (Rev. vii. 10). Then at last he ceases to

depart from evil; for there is no more any evil to depart

from. He treads no more his chosen beaten highway,

because he is now at home.

            The man who has found this highway and keeps it,

"preserveth his soul." How necessary to each other

reciprocally are doctrine and life!  To sever them is to

destroy them; and to sever them is a more common error

in Christendom than most are able to perceive or willing

to confess. Doctrine, although both true and divine, is

for us only a shadow, if it be not embodied in holiness.

Nothing more effectually serves Satan's purpose in the

world than a strict creed wedded to a loose practice.

This union secures a double gain to the kingdom of dark-

ness. It keeps the man himself in bondage, and also

exposes to shame the gospel of our Lord and Saviour.

The true doctrine is necessary to salvation, because it is

the only way of reaching righteousness. The precious-

ness of revealed truth lies in this, that it teaches how we

may please God, first and primarily by the righteousness

 


               THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.                95

 

of Christ, second and subordinately by personal obedi-

ence. He who keepeth his way preserveth his soul:

conversely, he who departs from it shall perish.

            There stands the word in all its simplicity and blunt-

ness: the preserving of your soul depends on the keeping

of your way. The way is obviously the life: no reader

can mistake the meaning of the term. It was not the

profession, but the "walk" of those Philippian back-

sliders that made Paul weep, and ranked them "enemies

of the cross of Christ." The Lord himself, in the sermon

on the mount, has settled this point with extraordinary

precision and minuteness (Matt. vii. 21-27), especially

in the parable of the two houses, that of the wise man

built upon a rock, and that of the foolish man built upon

the sand. He has graven as with a pen of iron, and the

point of a diamond in the rock for ever, the lesson that a

sound creed will not save a careless liver in the great

day.

            To contend for a high standard of doctrine, and be

satisfied with a low standard of life, is a fatal inconsistency.

It is a "damnable heresy," whoever brings it in; for it

issues in the loss of the soul. At certain periods in the

history of the Church, and among certain communities of

professors, evangelical doctrine has prevailed, while moral-

ity has languished. This knowledge, dissociated from

obedience, is a more melancholy object of contemplation

than the actual idolatry of Athens, where the living God

was unknown; as a blighted corn field is a sadder sight

than a bare unsown moor. In the early Christian cul-

ture some fields ran waste in this way, on which much

 


96            THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.

 

labour had been expended; and to these the reproof of

James is specially addressed:  "But wilt thou know, O

vain man, that faith without works is dead?" (ii. 20.)

It is as false in philosophy as in religion to assume that

a knowledge of the way will lead those home who refuse

to walk in it.

            In our day and our country, the supreme and funda-

mental importance of truth in doctrine is generally

acknowledged and inculcated in the religious education of

the people. This is both right and necessary, but it is

not enough. Why should men separate and set up as

rivals the knowing of the right way, and the walking in

the way that is right? You may as well pit against

each other the seeing eye and the shining light, some

declaring for this and some for that as the one thing

needful. Shake off prepossessions and traditions; go in

simplicity to the Bible; sit at the feet of Jesus, and

listen to the Teacher sent from God; and you will find

that a so-called right believing which does not clothe it-

self in right living, so far from being a passport to safety,

is an aggravation of guilt. "To him that knoweth to do

good and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

            When a wanderer has been met, like Paul, in the way

of death, and led into the way of life, the end is not yet.

Let not him that putteth on his armour boast himself as

he that putteth it off. Those who have found the way

must keep it. There are many out-branching by-paths,

and many enticers clustering round the entrance of each.

"Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation."

"He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved."

 


            THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.                   97

 

            While we learn in this verse that a soul is preserved by

keeping the way, we may observe the counterpart truth

glancing from behind,—"a soul is lost by departing from

the way."

            It is in the way, the conduct, the life, that the breach

occurs whereby a soul is lost, that seemed to bid fair for

the better land. It is probable that with nine out of

every ten of our people in this favoured land, the enemy

finds it easier to inject actual impurity into the life than

speculative error into the creed. Danger to the soul is

greater on the side of practice than on the side of faith.

A shaken faith, I own, leads the life astray; but also a

life going astray makes shipwreck of the faith. I do

not teach that any righteousness done by the fallen can

either please God or justify a man; but I do teach, on

the authority of the Bible, that a slipping from the way

of righteousness and purity in actual life is the main stay

of Satan's kingdom —the chief destroyer of souls. When

your conduct becomes impure, your belief will not continue

sound.  It is more common in the experience of indi-

viduals, if not also in the history of the Church, to find

evangelical doctrine undermined by sinful practice, than

to find holy practice perverted by a heterodox belief.  A

successful assault by the enemy on either side will ruin all,

but in the battle of life the side of conduct is weaker and

more exposed than the side of profession. If the spirits

of darkness could be heard celebrating their success, while

erroneous doctrines might, in their dreary paean, occupy the

place of Saul who slays his thousands, indulged lusts

would certainly be the David who slays his ten thousands.

 


98       THE HIGHWAY OF THE UPRIGHT.

 

Young men and women! when you are in the place and

the hour of temptation, look to that apostle who had

sorely stumbled himself and therefore, when confirmed

by grace, was better fitted than others to have compas-

sion on them that are out of the way; his eyes are red

with weeping and his manly heart is breaking in his

breast: he cries with an exceeding great and bitter cry,

that should run through you like a sword in your bones:

"Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pil-

grims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the

soul" (1 Peter ii. 11).

            Every one has a highway, and every one is a traveller.

The whole human race are travelling, each on his, own

chosen track, across Time and toward Eternity. Every

traveller has something very precious in his custody—

the most precious of created things—his own soul. "What

shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose

his soul?" You will lose it, pilgrim, if you go off the

way. The miners in the gold fields of Australia, when

they have gathered a large quantity of the dust, make

for the city with the treasure. The mine is far in the

interior. The country is wild: the bush is infested by

robbers. The miners keep the road and the day-light.

They march in company, and close by the guard sent to

protect them. They do not stray from the path among the

woods; for they bear with them a treasure which they value,

and they are determined to run no risks. Do likewise,

brother, for your treasure is of greater value, your enemies

of greater power.  Keep the way, lest you lose your soul

 


                      THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.                  99

 

 

                                              XII.

 

 

                      THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.

 

 

"Understanding is a well-spring of life unto him that hath it."—xvi. 22.

 

 

THE well is deeper now than Solomon in his day was able

to penetrate, and sends forth accordingly a fuller, fresher,

more perennial stream. Then, in ancient Israel, it was much

to learn from the lips of the king all that the Spirit taught

him about understanding as a well-spring of life; but a

greater than Solomon is here teaching us, and the youngest

scholar who sits at Jesus' feet may in these high matters

be wiser than the ancients. "Whosoever drinketh of the

water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the

water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of

water springing up into everlasting life" (John iv. 14).

Behold the lessons of David's son, expanded and completed

by David's Lord!

            Understanding is a well-spring to him that hath it:

but in me dwelleth no good thing. Every good gift and

every perfect gift is from above. A rainless sky makes a

barren land. As long as the heavens are brass, the earth

will be iron. There are many living well-springs on the

earth, but the fountain-head is on high. The earth gets

all the good of the refreshing streams as much as if they

were originally its own; and yet it is indebted to the sky

for every drop that rises in its springs and flows in its

rivers.  The springs are in the earth for possession and

 


100           THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.

 

benefit, though not of the earth as their independent

source. It is thus with the understanding which becomes

a well-spring of life to men. It is in them; they possess

it, and enjoy all its preciousness: but it is not their own.

It is the gift of God. They have nothing which they

did not receive.

            Two things are necessary to the opening and the flow

of well-springs—deep rendings beneath the earth's surface,

and lofty risings above it. There must be deep veins

and high mountains. The mountains draw the drops

from heaven; the rents receive, retain, and give forth the

supply. There must be corresponding heights and depths

in the life of a man ere he be charged as a well-spring

with wisdom from above. Upward to God and down-

ward into himself the exercises of his soul must alter-

nately penetrate. You must lift up your soul in the

prayer of faith, and rend your heart in the work of re-

pentance; you must ascend into heaven to bring the

blessing down, and descend into the depths to draw it up.

Extremes meet in a lively Christian. He is at once very

high and very lowly. God puts all his treasures in the

power of a soul that rises to reach the upper springs, as

the Andes intercept water in the sky sufficient to fertilize

a continent. And when the Spirit has so descended like

floods of water, the secret places of a broken heart afford

room for his indwelling, so that the grace which came at

first from God rises within the man like a springing well,

satisfying himself and refreshing his neighbours.

            Enlarging the germ of thought which Solomon infolded

within the Old Testament scriptures, the Lord intimated

 

 


                       THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.                101

 

that this well, when charged and set a flowing, springeth

up into everlasting life. There are many joys springing

from the earth, and limited to time,—joys which God

provides, and his children thankfully receive; but the

characteristic defect of all these is that those who drink

of them shall thirst again. It is recorded of Israel in the

wilderness, that they came one day to a place where were

twelve wells, and seventy palm-trees. Here, then, were

two of the pilgrims' chief wants amply supplied—shade

and water: but we learn from the history that at another

station in their journey, a few days afterwards, the

people were reduced to extremities again by thirst.

Such are all the temporary refreshments provided for pil-

grim's by the way. He who has solaced himself at these

wells to-day will thirst again to-morrow. But the well-

spring of life, the water that flowed from the Rock, will

follow the weary all their way, and refresh them most

when their thirst is greatest—in the final conflict with the

latest foe. "That Rock was Christ"

            "To him that hath it," said Solomon, will understand-

ing be a well-spring. "Whosoever drinketh of the water

that I shall give him," said Jesus, "shall never thirst."

Both the Old Testament and the New distinctly teach

that grace offered by God may only increase the condem-

nation: it is grace accepted by man that saves. There

is plenty in the fountain, for "God is love;" and yet you

may thirst again, and thirst for ever. There is plenty

falling, for in Christ our Brother, and for us, all the ful-

ness of the Godhead bodily dwells; and yet you may

thirst again, and thirst for ever. The Son of God came


102          THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.

 

the Life of men, and yet many men live not. The Son

of God came the Light of the world, and yet whole nations

are sitting in darkness. "He that hath the Son hath

life." He is the wisdom of God. This wisdom is life

"to him that hath it;" but the greatness of this salvation,

and the freeness of its offer, only aggravate the guilt of

those who neglect or despise it.

            Thirst and water, the appetite and its supply, are fitted

into each other like a lock and key in human art, or

the seeing eye and the shining light among the works of

God. In these pairs, either member is useless if it be

alone. However exquisite in itself one side of the double

whole may be, it is barren if it want its counterpart.

Water can no more nourish fruit alone than dust; dust can

no more nourish fruit alone than water. Let the dust be

refreshed by water,—let water saturate the dust. The

two apart were both barren: their union will be prolific.  

Thirst without cater is merely pain: water without

thirst is merely waste. It is when thirst receives water,

water quenches thirst, that a substantial benefit accrues.

We should carefully observe this inexorable law of na-

ture, and learn that it reigns with all its rigour in the

spiritual sphere. Men who personally reject the gospel

seem to expect that the gospel will save them notwith-

standing. Understanding cannot be a well-spring of life

to him that hath it not.  The terms are, "Whosoever will,

let him take the water of life freely." Even the love

of God cannot offer more favourable terms than these, and

it remains true, that those who will not take the water

of life perish for want of it. At Jerusalem, in the days


               THE WELL-SPRING OF LIFE.                   103

 

of his flesh, on the last day of the feast, Jesus uttered a

great cry. It was a cry of fear and grief. It came from

the breaking heart of the Man of Sorrows. He feared,

as the feast days were passing, lest the time of mercy

should run out, and those lingerers be lost. He who

knew what is in man and before him, was anxious: they

who knew neither themselves nor their Judge, were con-

fident. He cried out: they kept silence. His cry was, "If

any man thirst, let him come unto me and drink" (John

vii. 37). He saw the water of life poured out and running

to waste. He saw, too, a multitude of lifeless, withered,

perishing souls. What he desired to see in them was a

thirst that would induce them to take the offered mercy.

Alas! now when the Giver cries, the needy sit silent: a time

will come when the needy will cry, and the great Giver

will refuse to answer! The loss of a soul is an exceeding

bitter thing at every stage of the process, from the begin-

ning to the close. Now there is water, but no thirst:

then there will be thirst, but no water. If these two be

not joined in the day of mercy, they will remain separate

through the night of doom. If God's cry, "Take, take!"

be left echoing unanswered in heaven, man's cry, "Give,

give!" will echo unanswered through the pit. If God's offer

be barren in time for want of man's desire, man's desire in

eternity will be barren for want of an offer to meet it

from God. To him that hath it, this wisdom from above

will be a well-spring of life;—to those who refuse it, life

will never spring at all.


104                THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

 

                                          XIII.

 

 

                      THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

 

"Let a bear robbed of her whelps meet a man,

            rather than a fool in his folly."—xvii. 12.

 

 

THE wrath of man is a dreadful thing. The mere recital

of the havoc which it has wrought on the earth would

sicken the stoutest heart. Who can calculate how many

acts of cruelty, done by man upon his fellow, have ac-

cumulated for the inquisition of the great day, since the

blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance against his

brother. The rage of wild beasts is short-lived, and their

power is circumscribed within narrow limits.  Man has

more cause to dread his brother than all the beasts of the

forest. It is easier to meet a bear robbed of her whelps,

than a fool in his folly.

            Cruelties are of different species, owing their origin to

diverse passions, and perpetrated with a view to diverse

ends. Ambition has often steeped her hands in blood.

Many sweet olive plants, especially of those that spring

round royal tables, have been nipt in the bud, lest their

growth should obstruct the path of a usurper hastening

to the throne. Perhaps it is not strictly correct to say

that war perpetrates, for it consists of cruelties. It is,

rather than does, murder. Jealousy, too, leaves many

victims on its track. And Superstition, Pagan, Moham-

medan, and Popish, has lighted the fires of persecution in


                 THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.                  105

 

every land, and relieved the world of those who had

grown so like to God that the world could not endure

their presence. These, and many other species of cruelties,

have offended God and afflicted man ever since sin began;

but the cruelty specified in this text is of another kind.

It is not the cruelty of the warrior in his thirst for glory

not the cruelty of the persecutor, in his blindness think-

ing to please God by destroying men. It is the cruelty

of a fool in his folly.

            Nothing so exactly answers to this description as a

drunkard in his drink Both the tree and its fruits cor-

respond precisely to Solomon's report. The proverb fully

characterizes the violence done by drunkards, and can be

applied to nothing else that is done on a large scale in

our country and our day. An instance may be found

of a fool's cruelty, apart from the influence of intoxication,

more terrible to meet than the rage of a bereaved wild

beast; but this kind is not characteristic of the nation or

the age. In the records of drunkenness, cases answering

to the description of the text are piled in heaps like the

hills. Elsewhere they are either not found at all, or

found so seldom as not sensibly to affect the general esti-

mate. We are therefore not only permitted, but com-

pelled, if we attempt an application of the proverb at all,

to gather our instances where they are to be found,—

among the fools who drive their judgment out by strong

drink.

            Instances of violence in this form seem to be increasing

in number and atrocity in the present day. At all events,

it is certain that they attract the attention of statesmen


106              THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

and philanthropists much more now than in former times.

Day by day, as our eye runs over the loathsome list of

wife-beatings and wife-murders, by drunken husbands,

we read at the same time, in the same columns, indignant

denunciations of the dastard deeds, and peremptory de-

mands for more astringent laws to repress the growing

enormity. This species of crime, it is acknowledged on

all hands, is the fruit of drunkenness.

            The public journals are never long free from the details

of some gigantic atrocity. Before one tragedy has passed

through the usual three acts in presence of the public,

another is announced, and begins to obtain its run. First,

the curtain suddenly rises and reveals a new deed of blood.

When the neighbourhood has wondered nine days at the

cruelty of a fool, the solemnities of the trial succeed.

The foreground is occupied by the public-house, and the

process whereby a number of men divest themselves at

once of the money they have toiled for and the judgment

which God has given them. Many subordinate episodes

adhere to the principal plot. Glimpses are gotten, through

doors accidentally opened in the cross-examination, of the

drunkard's naked children at home, or the coolness of the

publican in the prosecution of his business. This act

closes with the solemn answer of the jury's foreman, the

black cap of the judge, and removal of the weeping

prisoner to the cell of the condemned. The last short

act opens with the sound of carpenters' hammers in the

misty dawn, and closes soon with the dead body of the

drunkard dangling on the gallows. A thrill runs through

the crowd, and a sigh escapes from such hearts as retain


                  THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.                        107

 

some tenderness. The people return to their employment,

the newspapers chronicle the event, and it glides away on

the tide of time into the darkness of the past. But ere

these harsh echoes have died away from the ear of the

public, some other she-bear in human form meets and

mangles her helpless victim. The public is put through

the same process over again. So frequently do these

shocking barbarities pass before our eyes, that they

have, in a great measure, lost the power to shock us.

We bear of them unmoved, as things that have been, and

that will be, and that cannot be prevented. If a tenth

of the accidents, assaults, and murders, with which the

folly of drunkards is year by year desolating the land,

were produced by any other cause, the community would

rise as one man and put forth all its wisdom and might

in an effort to pluck up the evil by the root.  The na-

tion bears with appalling patience the tearing out of its

own bowels by the cruel madness of the drunkard.

            Not long ago the local authorities of a certain district in

India sent to the supreme government a representation that

as many as sixteen persons within the territory had perished

in one year by the bite of a small poisonous snake, and

requesting permission to set a price upon the head of the

reptile, with the view of uniting the whole population in

an effort to exterminate their subtle and deadly foe. The

government granted all their demands, and proclaimed a

liberal reward for every dead snake that should be brought

in. The people, thus encouraged by their rulers, entered

heartily into the plan, and the work was done.  Ah! in

compassion for my country, I am tempted to wish that


108             THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

our scourge had come in the form of poisonous serpents.

Sixteen lives lost by that plague within a year, in a popu-

lation perhaps as great as ours, were sufficient to bind the

rulers and the people together in a solemn league, and

send them forth, as by the summons of the fiery cross, to

root out their destroyer. Our annual loss in the ignoble

battle is to be reckoned not by tens but by thousands, and

yet we have neither head to contrive nor heart to execute

any plan adequate to the emergency. We seem to be as

helpless as the children that mocked Elisha in the paws

of the bears that tore them.

            But, great and numerous as the publicly reported atro-

cities of drunken folly are, they constitute only a small

proportion of what the nation suffers from that single

scourge. From the nature of the case and the position

of the parties, most of the cruelties, inflicted in secret,

are suffered in silence; most of the murders, done by

slow degrees, escape the notice of the judicial authorities.

To hurt a stranger once on the street brings a drunkard

into trouble; but he may hurt his own flesh and blood a

hundred times at home, and hear no reproof, except the

sighs of the helpless sufferers. When the fool kills a com-

panion outright at once, with a knife or an axe, the law

lays its strong hand upon him: but although, by blows,

and nakedness, and hunger, he wear out by inches the

life of his wife and little ones, he escapes with impunity.

From personal observation, within my own sphere, and

the testimony of others similarly situated beyond it, I

know that a great amount of crime in this form is left

unpunished, unnoticed.


                          THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.            109

 

            I have entered the house of a labouring man, at his own

earnest request, and found in it besides himself an ill-clad

wife and a sick daughter. On making inquiry regarding the

girl's health, I have heard the wife and mother, in tones that

had long lost all their softness, declare, "She is dying, and

there," pointing to her husband, "there is her murderer."

He made no effort to deny the charge, or even palliate his

guilt, for he was sober and repentant at the moment.

The appearance of the man, the house, the child, corrobo-

rated, by unmistakable symptoms, the woman's strong

indictment. It was true: the daughter was dying, and

the father was her murderer. But, fool though he was,

he did not hate his child; he did not desire her death.

When he was "in his folly," he treated her so as to waste

her life away; and he returned to his folly as often as he

earned a few pence with which he might purchase spirits

in the nearest public-house. By long habit, and in con-

sequence of the permanent effect which frequent inebria-

tion had left upon his brain, he could not, or (what as to

its effects on others is practically equivalent) would not

refrain. Given a shilling in that man's hand, and a public-

house within reach, and his intoxication follows as surely as

any of the sequences of nature. It has done so for many

years. All the neighbourhood knows it. Murder of the

worst kind is done in that house in open day-light, and in

sight of all. Murder is so done in many thousand houses—

we say not homes—of this our beloved land, and, provided

it be done slowly and without much noise, we abandon the

victims to their fate, and permit the murderers to go free.

            It is only "in his folly" that even the fool is more


110              THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

dangerous to society than a wild bear would be. Com-

paratively few of these outrages would be committed if the

perpetrators did not destroy their judgment and inflame

their passions by drink. It is demonstrable that the

guilt of the resulting crime lies mainly in the inebriation

from which it sprung. If the fit pass off without any act

of violence, no thanks to the man who voluntarily de-

prived himself of reason for a time, and so exposed his

neighbour's life as well as his own to serious risk. Every

man who makes himself drunk, thereby places the limb

and life of his neighbour in danger. He has no right to

do so, and he should be punished for doing it.

            Morally and economically this nation suffers much from

the lightness with which the act or habit of intoxication

is viewed and treated, both by those who commit it and

those who look on. In the public opinion it seems

scarcely to be regarded either as a sin or a crime. Even

where it is so regarded, the impression is trivial, and the

prevailing tendency is either to palliate the guilt of the

deed, or make mirth of it as innocent. When the crime

of murder is committed by a drunk man, we would not

remove any of the guilt from the perpetrator, but we

would lay a large proportion of it on the act by which

he bereft himself of reason. A man drinks all the even- 

ing, quarrels with his comrade at midnight, and in the

quarrel sheds that comrade's blood. Although he was

"in his folly," and scarcely knew what he did when he

dealt the blow, we admit no palliation,—we hold him

responsible to the full before God and before man. The

guilt lies on the man who, being sober and intelligent,


                 THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS                  111

 

made himself drunk and unintelligent. He is guilty not

merely of the indiscretion of taking too much drink, but

of shedding his brother's blood. The deprivation of

reason by his own hand was the guilty act, and the guilt

of murder lay in it, as the tree within the seed. The

aims that followed, in so far as the controlling reason

was actually in abeyance, was the unconscious consequence

of an act already done. A Guy Fawkes might fire a train

calculated to creep along the ground in silence for an hour

before it should produce an explosion. That train might

explode a mine, over which stood, innocent and uncon-

scious, a thousand men. He who lighted it might be at

a distance,—might die and be in eternity before the ex-

plosion, but, notwithstanding, he was guilty of the blood

of all these; and the blood of all these would ooze through

the earth, and trickle into the pit, and find him out in

"his own place," to be a make-weight in his doom. In

the act of drinking to excess a man fires the match. For

anything he knows the other end of that match may be

dipt in murder; and when it is fired it will run its

course: he cannot extinguish it.

            We all abhor the deeds of cruelty which the "fool in

his folly" so frequently commits; but, alas! we have not

all an adequate estimate of the guilt attaching to the

man at the moment and in the act of entering into

his folly. Public abhorrence and indignation should

be stirred up and directed upon the act whereby a man

turns himself into a bear bereaved of her whelps, and

not reserve themselves until it be ascertained how many

children the ferocious animal has torn limb from limb.


112                  THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

            I shall record here, for the reader's benefit, the leading

features of one case.  I know it well, and shall tell it

truly. A young man, now the only son of a widow, the

only brother of a virtuous sister, began active life with the

best opportunities and the fairest prospects. In the social

circle he contracted habits of intemperance, in the usual

way. By degrees, he drank himself into delirium tremens.

The disease returned so frequently, and with such violence,

that it became necessary to place him under restraint.

When his mother and sister, after bearing long, were at

length worn out, a warrant of lunacy was obtained at the

moment when he was "in his folly," and the fool was

confined in the lunatic asylum. There he got no whisky,

and, in consequence, long before his term had expired,

he was in his right mind again. At the expiry of the

three months he was dismissed,—for there is no law by

which his confinement could be prolonged. He soon drank

himself back into madness. Another warrant followed,

and another period of confinement.  Again came a cure

in the asylum, and a consequent dismissal. Whenever his

senses return, the law lets him loose; and whenever he is

loose, he drinks away his senses. I have lost reckoning

of the times, but for many years that young man's life

has passed in regular alternations of madness produced by

drink, and sanity produced by compulsory abstinence.

He lives his alternate quarters at home and in the mad-

house.

            What has this youth done for his mother in her age

and widowhood? He has lain a mountain of lead on her

heart. Her burden would be comparatively light, if her


                      THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.                   113

 

only son were in his grave. He debased himself by his

own free will at, first, but he cannot now work his own

cure. His softened brain and scorched stomach draw in

strong drink as a dry sponge draws in water. He is in

the grasp of a disease which is incurable, except by

abstinence from the stimulant; and if the stimulant is

within his reach he will not abstain.

            I have heard of a torture invented by the Inquisition

which correctly shadows that widow's suffering. The victim

is laid on her back, and bound to a table, with her breast

bared. A huge pendulum, fastened in the lofty ceiling,

is set in motion over her. Silently, heavily, slowly, it

swings from side to side of the gloomy chamber, right

over the victim's breast. A sharp blade protrudes down-

ward from the bulb below, and above, the machine is so

constructed that each vibration lengthens the rod by a

hair's-breadth. As the eyes of the sufferer become accus-

tomed to the dim light of the prison, she observes the

quivering glance of the polished blade as it is swinging

past. Nearer it comes, and nearer to her bosom; tortured

already before it is touched. At length the knife's point

grazes the skin. By the law of nature, the pendulum

continues pitilessly to wag to and fro, tearing deeper and

deeper at each vibration, till at last it lets out the heart's

blood, and sets the prisoner free.

            That widow is so bound; that widow's breast is so

torn. Her only son is the horrid engine, set in motion

by possessing demons, and playing with helpless and

awful regularity over her. His alternate movements

are slowly cut-cutting into his mother's heart. Swing-


114               THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.

 

ing obedient to that overmastering lust, he is tearing

out her life by inches, heedless and heartless as the

iron rod and bulb that wagged in the inquisitor's dun-

geon.

            Thus the "fool in his folly" is tearing the flesh of the

mother that bore him, more cruelly than a bereaved she-

bear would, and the nation stands by indifferent or help-

less, able neither to invent a cure nor to inflict a punish-

went.

            I am witness of many murders, slow but sure.  Some

of the victims have broken limbs, and many have broken

hearts. One class live on the wounds and bruises of

another, while the majority of the public pursue their own

business, caring for none of these things.  I am weary of

witnessing the triple wrong—the tortures of the writhing

victims, the wild-bear ferocity of fools in their folly, and

the culpable indifference of the world. "Arise and de-

part; for this is not your rest, because it is polluted."

"A rest remaineth for the people of God." "They shall

not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain." Those

who have sailed aloft on the atmosphere, as ships sail on

the sea, tell us that the upper side of the darkest thunder-

cloud which threatens the earth, is like a vale of paradise

basking in the sunlight. Thus, while the proclamation,

"Drunkards shall not inherit the kingdom of God," is, in its

aspect earthward, a terror from the Lord to alarm the

guilty; it is, in its aspect upward, a consoling promise to

the heirs that their home in heaven will not be disturbed

by those wild bears that terrified or tore them in the

house of their pilgrimage. When the Lord, and they who


                THE CRUELTY OF FOOLS.                   115

 

waited for him, had, in symbol, entered into the eternal

rest, "the door was shut." The clang of the shutting

door resounds in both directions, a terror, indeed, to those

that are without, but a thrill of joy unspeakable through

all who are within.  "Nothing shall enter that defil-

eth."


116                                    FRIENDSHIP.

 

 

                                                 XIV.

 

 

                                          FRIENDSHIP.

 

 

"A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” —xvii.17.

"A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly:

            and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."—xviii. 24.

 

 

MUCH has been said and sung about friendship among

men. Even the broken fragments of it that remain now

on earth are sweet to weary wayfarers. The glimpses of

it which we get in life are like those little isolated pools

which stand in the deeper portions of a water-coarse in

summer, when the spring-head has failed, and the stream

has ceased to flow. Some broken bits of heaven are

mirrored on their surface, when all around is dull and

earthy. The burning eye gets some relief when it rests

upon them; and parched lips are refreshed by the

water, such as it is which they still contain. To creatures

who are “but for a season,” and have never known the

fresh, full flow of the living stream, these little pools seem

very pure, and cool, and deep. These, accordingly, have

become the theme of earth's most joyful songs. Here

in the desert they deserve all the praise that they get.

We shall not lose sight of these little pools until the

river flows full again. They will continue to cheer dis-

ciples on their pilgrimage through the desert, and will not

be forgotten until they disappear in the river which makes

glad the City of God. When the redeemed of the Lord


                             FRIENDSHIP.                                 117

 

shall enter the kingdom, these remnants of true friend-

ship, which were their rejoicing in the house of their pil-

grimage, will have no glory because of the glory that ex-

celleth. A new song will be sung about friendship when

the new heavens and the new earth shall appear. Many

disappointments in the past generate fear for the future,

and "fear hath torment," —a torment which dilutes, if it

does not positively imbitter, the joys of an imperfect

love; but perfect love when it comes casteth out fear,

sad the joy of the Lord from its fountain-head flows forth

unimpeded, filling the chosen vessels to the brim.

            In the Scriptures we learn where the fountain of true

friendship lies, what is its nature, why its flow is impeded

now, and when it shall be over all like the waves of the

sea.

            "A friend loveth at all times." This proverb might

be employed, if not positively as a definition of true

friendship, at least negatively as a test to detect and ex-

pose its counterfeit. Sternly applied, it would diminish 

the crowd of fair-weather friends that flutter round the

prosperous, as much as the proclamation permitting

cowards to return, thinned the ranks of Gideon's army

when the foe was near. Love is a holy thing. It comes

from heaven, and, according to the measure of its pre-

valence, changes the face of the world, and turns its de-

sert into a garden. Men who are strangers to its nature

frequently appropriate its good name. We flatter our-

selves that we are loving, when we are merely selfish.

            You love, and love much. You are distinctly sensible

of that blessed emotion circulating, and circulating in great


118                       FRIENDSHIP.

 

volume, through your being. It is directed upon cer-

tain objects, now one and now another. Here is a neigh-

bour, for example, whom you love. Both according to the

definitions of the Bible, and in the estimation of the world,

he is worthy. Surely then your emotion is pure on

both sides; in its character, and its object.  Nay; the

conclusion is too hastily drawn. A number of mirrors

are set round a little child. He looks into them all in

turn, and admires each. What then? does he think the

mirrors beautiful?  No; he sees and admires only him-

self, although, in his childishness, he is not aware that

the beauty which draws him is all his own.

            Alas! we often use our friends only as looking-glasses

to see ourselves in.  We imagine that we are loving

them because we look towards them while we love; but

it is the reflection of our own interest, all the time, that

leads us captive. Apply this proverb to detect the spurious-

ness of such love. The shining counterfeit grows black

when you touch it with the word. A friend loveth at all

times, and in all places. Love, while it remains essen-

tially the same, appears tenfold more loving when its ob-

ject has fallen from prosperity into poverty; as a lamp burn-

ing in daylight shines much more brightly in the darkness.

Many will court you while you have much to give; when

you need to receive, the number of your friends will be

diminished, but their quality will be improved. Your mis-

fortune, like a blast of wind upon the thrashed corn, will

drive the chaff away, but the wheat will remain where it

was. How very sweet sometimes is the human friendship

that remains when sore adversity has sifted it!


                         FRIENDSHIP.                          119

 

            Of the many steamers that ply with passengers on

the Clyde through all the sunny summer, one only con-

tinues its course on the Lord's day. As no business is

done on that day, the voyage is emphatically a pleasure-

trip, and doubtless there are many professions of brother-

hood and fellow-feeling among the joyous company. In

the narrow river near Glasgow, when the air was bright

with sunlight and the water's surface like a mirror, one of

the passengers, who, finding the sail not sufficient of itself,

had adopted other means to augment his pleasure, lost

his balance and fell overboard. Although he struggled

for some time on the surface, the poor man sank and

perished, ere his friends, all dry and comfortable, reached,

by a circuitous route, the fatal spot. If there had been

one in all the crowd with the nerve of a man, not to say

the love of a Christian in his heart, he would have leapt

into that still water and held his brother up a few mo-

ments until help had come from gathering hundreds.

While our Father in heaven reigns over all, we often need

help from a brother's hand; and I pray that when I am

in danger I may be surrounded by other friends than a

company of Sabbath pleasure-seekers. I would not count

much either on the pith of their arm or the compassion of

their heart. That species of pleasure takes the manliness

out of a man, and forces native selfishness up to its fullest

growth.

            Man in his weakness needs a steady friend, and God in

his wisdom has provided one in the constitution of nature.

Not, intrusting all to acquired friendship, He has given

us some as a birthright inheritance. For the day of


120                        FRIENDSHIP.

 

their adversity a brother is born to many who would not

have been able to win. one. It is at once a glory to God

in the highest and a sweet solace to afflicted men, when

a brother or a sister, under the secret and steady impulses

of nature, bears and does for the distressed what no other

friend, however loving, could be expected to bear or do.

How foolish for themselves are those who lightly snap

those bonds asunder, or touch them oft with corrosive

drops of contention One who is born your brother is

best fitted to be your friend in trouble, if unnatural strife

has not rent asunder those whom their Maker intended

to be of one spirit. In visiting the sick I am often

constrained to exclaim in glad wonder, What hath the

Lord wrought! when I see the friendships of nature sup-

plying a ministry in sickness for the poor, such in tender-

ness and patience as the wealth of a world could not buy

for the rich.

            "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother."

He must be a fast friend indeed; for a brother, if nature's

affections have been cherished, lies close in, and keeps a

steady hold. I know how closely a brother sticks, for I

have been warmed and strengthened by the grasp; and

have shivered as if alone in a wintry world when it slack-

ened in death, and dropped away. I know by tasting,

both the worth and the want of a brother's love. It

seemed the chief earthly joy of my youth. Perhaps the

stream flowed more strongly because it was all con-

fined within one channel, and that a narrow one; for

I had only one brother, and him I had not long.

We grew up together in childhood, and at the softest


                            FRIENDSHIP.                             121

 

period of life were run into one by kindred tastes in-

herited, and common objects pursued. While we were

passing together through the tender but decisive stage of

youth, he was smitten by his death-disease, and I was

spared in health. One was taken, and another left: not

so taken, however, or so left, as to make a sadden sepa-

ration; for the malady, besieged the tower of his strength

three full years and a half ere its gates were opened and

the life given up.  Born of the Spirit, and having his new

life hid with Christ in God, he was, and felt himself to be,

beyond the reach of that enemy who was closing round

the body, and cutting off its resources. As the outward

man was perishing, the inward man, both as to intellect

and faith, was renewed day by day. Through his weak-

ness, and my strength, we were let into each other much

more deeply than if both had been feeble, or both robust.

It was something analogous to that other work of God in

his creatures—woman's weakness and man's strength, so

arranged with a view to completer union. Such a fusion,

whether accomplished by a general law or a special pro-

vidence, is good for man. We did stick closely together,

till death divided us. His pale brow was in my hands

when its aching ceased. His grave in the village church-

yard became a place of pilgrimage. The memory of that

brother cleaving to my soul, after he had gone to rest, was

God's own hand holding me back from enticing vanities,

at the period of their greatest power, that, undistracted

by the tumult of the world, I might better hear his own

paternal voice. Oh! When hindering things are taken out

of the way of God's work, a brother lies very close to a


122                    FRIENDSHIP.

 

brother! He who comes closer must be no common

friend.

            And yet there is a Friend that comes closer than a

brother. I do not venture to give a judgment here on

critical grounds, Whether the text contains a specific and

intentional prophecy regarding the Son of Man, the Saviour.

But this is not necessary. We reach the same object

more surely in another way. The affirmation in the text

is, that close though a brother be, there is a friend that

comes closer still.  It is the idea of a friendship more per-

fect, fitting more kindly into our necessities, and bearing

more patiently with our weakness, than the instinctive

love of a brother by birth.  From God's hand-work in

nature a very tender and very strong friendship proceeds:

from his covenant of mercy comes a friendship tenderer

and stronger still. Now, although in some sense the

conception is embodied in the communion of saints, its

full realization is only found in the love wherewith Christ

loves his own. When the Word became flesh, and dwelt

among us, man found a Friend who could come closer to

his heart than any brother. The precious germ which

Solomon's words infold, bore its fully ripened fruit only

when He who is bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh

gave himself, the Just for the unjust. Thus, by a surer

process than verbal criticism, we are conducted to the

man Christ Jesus, as at once the Brother born for our

adversity and the Friend that sticketh closer than a

brother. The brother and the friend are, through the

goodness of God, with more or less of imperfection, often

found among our fellows; but they are complete only in


                                  FRIENDSHIP.                            123

 

Him who is the fellow of the Almighty. Whoever would

prosecute the twin ideas to their utmost issue, must pass

out through humanity, and settle down in "God with us"

beyond.

            In the day of your deepest adversity, even a born

brother must let go his hold. That extremity is the

opportunity of your better Friend. His promise, "Lo, I

am with you alway," entering into your sinking spirit,

kindles the light of life in its darkness, and your con-

fiding answer is, "I will not fear, for thou art with me."

            "A man that hath friends must show himself friendly."

It is another example of the pervading law, action and

reaction are equal. When love is received, it is reci-

procated. It is one of the most repulsive features of

fallen humanity, to tale selfishly material good from an-

other, and refuse to show kindness to a neighbour when

an opportunity occurs. This phase of selfishness, pictured

by the Lord's own lips, is held up for our reprobation in

the Bible (Matt. xviii. 26-30). A man in his distress

asked and obtained mercy on a large scale from his mas-

ter, and then harshly refused a little grace, when a fel-

low-servant humbly besought it at his hands. The man

had a friend, and yet would not show himself friendly.

            Our best friendship is due to our best Friend. He

deserves it and desires it. The heart of the man Christ

Jesus yearns for the reciprocated love of saved men, and

grieves when it is not given. "Where are the nine?" he

exclaimed with a sigh, when one only of the cleansed

lepers came back to praise him. Who shall measure the

strength of that longing for the friendship of his friends


124                   FRIENDSHIP.

 

which drew from his loving heart the triple appeal,

"Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"

            Recall now the idea with which our exercise opened,

that we may gather another lesson from it in the close.

The separated pools remaining in the deeper places of the

river's bed, after the river has dried up from it source,

become narrower, and shallower, and muddier as the

season advances. If no new supply come down, they

will soon be dry. Even before they are wholly dry, the

water is hot and stagnant, unsatisfying and repulsive;

and after the water has exhaled, the place where it lay is

noisome. Such are friendship of the earth, if they be

of the earth merely. As life draws onward to age, one

and another will fail you. The breadth and depth of

your pool will diminish apace, as secretly and insensibly,

but as surely, as a lake is reduced in bulk by evapora-

tion, when the sources of its supply have failed. When

friends become fewer, you have not the power which you

possessed in youth, of forming new intimacies to supply

the place of the old. Not only does the absolute quan-

tity of available friendship gradually decrease; your capa-

bility of enjoying the remainder decreases too. Disap-

pointments in the course of life do more to make us dis-

trustful than success to render us confiding. The friends

grow fewer, and feebler grows your trust in friends. It

is a desolate thing to grow old in this world, and have

none but the world and the worldly to lean upon in the

day of need. The last little pool that lay in nature's

deepest place has vanished like the rest, and the weary

has not a drop of consolation now to cool his tongue! He


                             FRIENDSHIP.                                125

 

has always been without God in the world, and now he

is without man.  The nether springs are dry, and the

upper springs he never knew. Woe is me for the friend-  

less!

            But for those who are in faith's union with the Fountain

head another experience is prepared. To them that look for

Him he shall appear. In due season a stream will flow

in the desert. The little pools in the river-bed of their

life will be lost too; not by a drying up, but by an over-

flowing. In the spring-time of youth close with the

sinners' Friend, and be will not leave you comfortless

when age draws on.

 

            "One there is above all others:

                        Oh, how he loves!

            His is love beyond a brothers:

                        Oh, how he loves!

 

            "Earthly friends may pain and grieve thee,—

              One day kind, the next day leave thee;

              But this Friend will ne'er deceive thee:

                        Oh, how he loves!"


126          THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.

 

 

                                          XV.

 

 

                THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.

 

 

"He that is first in his own cause seemeth just;

            but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him."—xviii. 17.

 

 

THIS proverb touches human life at many points, and

human beings feel it touching them. It accords with

common experience. It is much noticed, and often quoted.

Evidence of its truth flashes; upon us from the contacts

and conflicts of life at every turn. This word falling

from heaven on the busy life of men, is echoed back from

every quarter in a universal acknowledgment of its just-

ness.

            It is true to nature—nature fallen and distorted. It

does not apply to humanity in innocence. It has no

bearing on the new nature in a converted man. It does

not describe the condition which the unfallen possessed,

which the regenerated aim at, which the glorified have

regained. This scripture reveals a crook in the creature

that God made upright. There is a bias in the heart, the

fountain of impulse, and the resulting life-course turns

deceitfully aside. Self-love is the twist in the heart within,

and self-interest is the side to which the variation from

righteousness steadily tends.

            "He that is first in his own cause seemeth just." The

word refers to the most common form of contention in

the world. A man's interest is touched by the word or


                 THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.             127

 

deed of another: forthwith he persuades himself that

what is against his own wish is also against righteous-

ness, and argues accordingly. He states his own case.

But he leans over to one side, and sees everything in a

distorted form. Matters on his own side are magnified:

matters that are against himself are overlooked. View-

ing the whole case from, this position and in this attitude,

he gives forth a representation of it, as it appears to his

eye; but the representation is false. His conduct is both

a sin and a blunder it offends God, and will not deceive

men. We are not now dealing with a case of deliberate,

intentional falsehood. We are not describing the vulgar

vice of making and telling a lie. We speak of a sin that

is much more covert, and to some classes, on that account,

much more dangerous. There are amongst us lying lips

and brazen faces not a few. There are persons who in-

vent a new lie to clear each turn of a tortuous course,

apparently with as much readiness and ease as you would

throw your arms out now to this side and now to that,

to keep yourself from stumbling in a rugged path. There

are others who, in a sense, speak the truth with their

lips, and yet have lies bidden in their hearts. The heart

makes the lie, deceiving first the man himself, and there-

after his neighbours the bent is in the mould where

the thought is first cast in embryo, and everything that

comes forth, is crooked.

            In my early childhood—infancy I might almost say—a

fact regarding the relations of matter came under my

observation, which I now see has its analogue in the

moral laws. An industrious old man, by trade a mason,


128          TO BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.

 

was engaged to build a certain piece of wall at so much

per yard. He came at the appointed time, laid the foun-

dation according to the specifications, and proceeded with

his building, course upon course, according to the approved

method of his craft. When the work had advanced seve-

ral feet above the ground, a younger man, with a steadier

hand and a brighter eye, came to assist the elder operator.

Casting his eye along the work, as he laid his tools on

the ground and adjusted his apron, he detected a defect,

and instantly called out to his senior partner that the wall

was not plumb.  "It must be plumb," rejoined the

builder, somewhat piqued, "for I have laid every stone

by the plumb-rule." Suiting the action to the word he

grasped the rule, laid it along his work, and triumphantly

pointed to the lead vibrating and settling down precisely

on the cut that marks the middle. Sure enough the

wall was according to the rule, and yet the wall was not

plumb. The rule was examined, and the discovery made

that the old man, with his defective eye-sight, had drawn

the cord through the wrong slit at the top of the instru-

ment, and then, from some cause which I cannot explain,

using only one side of it, had never detected his mistake.

The wall was taken down, and the poor man lost several

days' wages.

            It is on some such principle that people err in prepar-

ing a representation of their own case. They suspend

their plumb, not from the middle, but from one edge of

the rule, and that the edge which lies next their own inter-

ests. The whole work is vitiated by a bias in the rule

which regulates the workman.


          THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.                129

 

            This is not a light matter. Perfect truth will be the

consummation in heaven, and should be the steady aim

on earth. Honesty sufficient to keep you out of prison

is one thing, and honesty that will adorn the doctrine of

Christ is another. He left us an example, and it is our

part to follow his steps.  The reproof of this proverb

touches not the life of the man Christ Jesus. Guile

was not found in his Mouth. How calm and truthful is

every statement!  No one coming after and searching

him could find any flaw. The disciples, though they

loved and followed him, lingered far behind Disciples

now have abundant room for growth of grace in this

direction. On this side there is a large field for progress

in conformity to the example of Christ.

            What do ye more to others? In the statement of

your case, do you permit a selfish desire for victory to

turn your tongue aside from the straight line of truth?

He who is through Christ an heir of heaven has an inter-

est in being true before God, infinitely greater than in

appearing right before men. Why should he neglect the

greater and follow the less? There is room for improve-

ment here, and improvement here would tell upon the

world. If we lived in heaven and walked with God, our

bearing, when we were called to plead our own cause,

would reveal our home and our company. If the whole

tone and strain of our evidence, in a case that touched

our own temporal interests, were cast in the pattern that

Jesus gave, the world would readily observe the likeness

and take knowledge of us that we had been with him.

They would own the act as a fruit not indigenous on


130          THE BIAS ON THE SIDE OF SELF.

 

earth, and conclude that the tree which bore it was the

planting of the Lord. In all this he would be glorified.

            "His neighbour cometh and searcheth him." If a

man can detect exaggerations on one side, and conceal-

ments on the other, amounting to untruthfulness in their

general effect, it shows that the fear of God was not

before the eyes of the witness when he emitted his evi-

dence. To walk with God in the regeneration is the

short and sure way to rigid truth in all our intercourse

with men.  Acquaint yourself with him before you

speak, and then let all the world sift your testimony. To

make certain that you shall never be put to shame for

your words by the searching of a neighbour, submit your

heart's thoughts beforehand to the searching of the Lord.

In vain would your neighbour scrutinize your testimony,

if your God and Saviour had at your invitation searched

the germ, while it was a purpose forming within your

heart. According to the rural proverb, "The rake need

not come after the besom." The Adversary will find

nothing, if a greater than he has been there before him.


                                 A WIFE.                            131

 

 

                                     XVI.

 

 

                                A. WIFE.

 

 

"Whose findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the Lord."

            —xviii. 21

"A prudent wife is from the Lord."—xix. 14.

"The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping." "It is better to dwell

            in the wilderness, than with a contentious and an angry woman."—xix. 13;

            xxi. 19.

 

THESE three portions, scattered promiscuously over several

chapters, contain three distinct but connected propositions.

The first intimates that the marriage relation, as the

appointment of God, and without particular reference to

the character of the persons, is good for man. The second,

that when a man, upon entering that relation, obtains a

wife who is in her individual character a prudent woman,

he has obtained a blessing above all price. The third,

that when the object chosen to occupy a relation so ten-

der and close is personally unworthy, the calamity to the

man is great in proportion to the preciousness of the

divine institute which has in this case been perverted.

The three announcements may be more briefly expressed

thus:  1. A wife—the conjugal relation as such—is a

good gift of God.  2. When the wife is a good woman,

there is a double blessing, in the nature of the relation,

and in the character of the person fulfilling it.  3. When

the woman's own character is evil, her position as a wife

indefinitely augments her power for mischief. Having


132                              A WIFE.

 

thus once for all set forth the subjects in their order and re-

lations, I shall not rigidly adhere to the logical arrangement,

but permit the illustration in some measure to revert to the

miscellaneous form which characterizes the original text.

            Had the first text made the boon depend on the per-

sonal goodness of the wife, it would have been more

easily understood, but the range is wider, and the mean-

ing deeper, as it is. The word declares boldly, and

without qualification, that a wife is a gift from God, and

good for man.  The text which intimates that a prudent

wife is from the Lord tells a truth, but it is one of the

most obvious of truths. The text which intimates that

a wife is a favour from the Lord, without expressly stipu-

lating for her personal character, goes higher up in the

history of providence, and deeper into the wisdom of

God. His Maker in the beginning said, "It is not good

for man to be alone;" and after all the ill that came to him

through that weaker vessel, the same word remains as

true as ever. Although Satan tempted Eve, woman as

she came from God's hand, is the meetest help for man.

The catastrophe did not take the Omniscient by surprise;

the event did not change his view.

            "From the beginning God made man male and

female." He knows what is in man whom he made.

Of design he made neither complete. He left a want in

each, that the two might coalesce into one—one flesh

and one spirit. Woman, who becomes the filling up of

the vacuum in man, balancing his defects, absorbing the

excesses of his cares, and reduplicating his joys,—woman,

by her constitution and her place, is a good thing,


                                A WIFE.                               133

 

and should be devoutly sought as well as devoutly

acknowledged, a favour from the Lord.

            The Creator of Man gives peculiar honour to this

ordinance. He has framed the world in accordance with

it. The designed imperfectness of an individual runs

through all life, vegetable as well as animal; and the

same type meets us on every hand, even in inanimate

nature. Duality is necessary to completeness. This

feature runs down from units to fractions,—from persons

to the subordinate members of which they consist. You

meet it in the hands, eyes, ears, of your own body. The

principle that two are better than one lies very deep, and

spreads very widely in the works of God. Having set

it thus in nature, he solemnly appoints it in his word,

and guards it in his providence. When he made man in

his own image, he gave great prominence to this principle

by mailing him at first alone, and thereafter finishing the

incompleted work.  He defended the integrity of the

institution in thunder from Sinai, and engraved it in

the tables of stone. He chose it as the body in which

his own spiritual relation to ransomed Israel might be-

come, as it were, visible:  "Thy Maker is thy husband."

And when Christ came to make all things new, he

expressly took the marriage union under his own pro-

tection; certified it as an original appointment of God

for man; purged it of the corruptions wherewith Jewish

tradition had overlaid it; and gave it over to his church

in such terms, that his apostles ever after delighted to

call himself the Bridegroom, and his people the bride

prepared for his coming.


134                         A WIFE.

 

            This union is greatly honoured by God, and much

dishonoured by man. We should recognise this as one

great cause of his controversy with us, when we lament

the judgments that fall on the nation and the deadness  

that lies on the church. In treating lightly what he

counts so grave, in defiling that which he desires to keep

holy as a fitting emblem of Christ's union to the saved,

the nation is provoking the Most High to jealousy, and

suffering retribution, in the uneasy motion or abrupt

rending of the various joints which bind society together.

The extent to which this holy institution is profaned

and disregarded, both in high places and low, is one of

the abominations done in the land, for which those who

seek a revival should sigh and cry.

            Here is a presumptuous abuse which provokes the Lord

to anger, and torments the community by infusing rotten-

ness into its bones:—Among certain classes marriage is de-

liberately contemplated beforehand, and in the fulness of an

evil time deliberately resorted to, as a cure to save a liber-

tine in the last resort. In some quarters it seems to be

scarcely regretted that a youth with large prospects should

run riot in early manhood, seeing he has marriage to fall

back upon when he is wearied with his own ways. The

slight and measured reprobation of this course, not to speak

of the positive approval, is a daring defiance of the Holy

One. Vengeance is exacted by the awful machinery of his

providential law. The shallow trick is not successful.

Man cannot cheat the Omniscient.  The barbs of punish-

ment are bedded in the crime, and infallibly run through

the criminal. When a young man, deceived it may be,


                               A WIFE.                                      135

 

and encouraged by he opinion of those who surround

him, throws the reins on the neck of his passion, he

flatters himself that he has a good heart,—that at any

moment, ere matters go too far, he has it in his power to

marry, reform, and enjoy the staid, sober pleasures of

wedded life. He flatters himself indeed!  He is laying

a lying unction to his soul. Licentiousness takes out of

a human heart the softness necessary to complete conjugal

union. Although the wounds which a libertine's soul has

ignobly gotten in the house of the strange woman may be

healed, through mercy, to the saving of the soul's life, their

effects never can be removed, until the body crumble into

dust. There is a hardness which for ever prevents the

peculiar fusion of nature implied in two becoming one flesh.

Consciousness of antecedent impureness, and mutual sus-

picion thereby generated, constitute an effectual bar to

the full fruition of he good ordinance of God. They

who have dared the knowledge of evil, are inexorably

driven from the garden, and must maintain an uneasy

conflict against wild beasts without and thistles within,

all their days. You cannot enjoy the pleasures of sin,

and when these have failed, turn round and take the

pleasures which our Father in heaven has provided for

the pure. A treaty of alliance you may have, like those

which potentates frame to regulate the intercourse of

nations; or a partnership, like that which constitutes a

mercantile firm; but marriage, as God appointed it at

creation, and Christ described it,—marriage you can-

not have, if you profanely grasp it as a convenience to

stop your own excesses and decently cover the disgrace


136                                WIFE.

 

which they have entailed. No; the real coalescence of

two into one, which doubles the joys and divides the

sorrows of life, is an inner Eden, from which the weary

debauchee is debarred for ever, as if by an angel with a

flaming sword.

            "It is better to dwell in the wilderness, than with a

contentious and an angry woman." Though the bond in

itself be a blessing, an unequal yoke only galls the

wearers. Every one has known some pair chained

together by human laws, where the hearts' union has

either never existed or been rent asunder. Two ships

at sea are bound to each other by strong short chains.

As long as the sea remains perfectly calm, all may be

well with both; though they do each other no good, they

may not inflict much evil. But the sea never rests long,

and seldom rests at all. Woe to these two ships when

the waves begin to roll!  There are two conditions in

which they might be safe. If they were either brought

more closely together, or more widely separated, it might

yet be well with them. If they were from stem to stern

rivetted into one, or if the chain were broken, and the

two left to follow independently their several courses,

there would be no further cause of anxiety on their

account.  If they are so united that they shall move as

one body, they are safe; if they move far apart they are

safe. The worst possible position is to be chained

together, and yet have separate and independent mo-

tion in the waves.  They will rasp each other's sides

off, and tear open each other's heart, and go down

together.


                              A WIFE.                                      137

 

            See in this glass the different kinds of conjugal union

which obtain in actual life, and the corresponding conse-

quences. Let it be a real marriage,—let the two be no

longer twain, but one flesh; and then, though the united

pair may experience many ups and downs in the troubled

sea of life, they will rise and fall together. Common

troubles will never make them tear each other. The two

in one will present a broader surface to the sea, and stand

more steady when it rages. But when the two are not

one—when the mysterious cement has broken, or never

taken band—when they obey separate impulses and

point in different directions, while yet they are tied to-

gether by a legal contract, their condition is dreadful.

How many wretched paires, separate and yet bound, are

tossing on the troubled sea of time!  It is now a racking

check when the binding chain is suddenly tightened, and

now a rasping of their sides when they come together.

Such are the alternations of married life where hearts are

divorced and legal bonds still hold fast. Now and then

a faint shriek is heard through the whistling winds; and

when the spectators look in that direction, one of the

labouring vessels has disappeared. "To him that hath shall

be given, and he shall have abundance; but from him that

hath not shall be taken even that which he hath." This

awful law is ever at hand to defend or avenge God's

primeval institute. As becomes a great King, the rewards

are great on the one side, the sanctions heavy on the other.

            "The contentions of a wife are a continual dropping."

Contentions are not pleasant in any circumstances, but

the closeness of the parties, whether in moral relation or


138                            A. WIFE.

 

physical position, indefinitely augments the discomfort.

A man may pass through a sharp contention in the hall

of legislation or the mart of commerce, and an hour after-

wards mingle with an unburdened heart in the sports of

his children. The conflicts which are waged abroad may

be left behind you when you go home, if love unmixed

be waiting there to receive you. But a man soon be-

comes distracted if he is tossed like a shuttlecock from

the wearing cares of business to the biting strifes of

home, and from the biting strifes of home back to the

wearing cares of business. A quarrel between a man and

his wife is, as to the torment which it inflicts, the nearest

thing to a quarrel between the man and his own con-

science. Next after himself she lies closest to him, and

the pain of a disagreement is proportioned accordingly.

Specifically, this contention is a continual dropping. Let

a wife note well that the resulting mischief does not

depend on the degree of furiousness which may charac-

terize the conflict. It depends on length rather than

loudness. A perennial drop may do more to drive a

man to extremities than a sudden flood. A little for

ever is more terrible to the imagination than a great out-

pouring at once.

            "A continual dropping" is said to have been one of

the engines which the wit of man contrived when it was

put upon the stretch for the means of torturing his

fellows. The victim was so placed that a drop of water

continued to fan at regular intervals on his naked head.

With length of time, and no hope of relied the agony

becomes excruciating, and either the patient's reason or

 


                            A WIFE.                                  139

 

his life gives way. Let a wife, or a husband, beware:

Don't make home miserable by gloomy looks and taunting,

discontented words. Don't deceive yourself with the

plea that your complaints were never immoderate: if

your moderate complaints never cease, they will eat

through a man's life at last. Although no such disturb-

ance should ever occur as would demand the presence

of the police, or give you among your neighbours the

character of a scold, the patience of a husband may be

utterly worn out Though words of discontent should

never rise into the violence of a passion—although they

should never be heavier than drops of water—yet, if they

continue drop, drop, dropping, so that he sees no prospect

of an end, his heart will either be hardened into indif-

ference or broken into despair. Love cannot be sustained

by dislike, administered in moderate quantities. If it do

not get positive, manifest, gleaming love to live upon,

it will die.

            It is the testimony of all who have in person probed

the sores of society, that unfeeling, spendthrift husbands,

and sullen, slovenly wives, are to a large extent correla-

tives. In a very great number of cases, the two are

found together in the same dwelling. In all these, it is

further manifest that the two act reciprocally on each

other as cause and effect,—a drunken husband making a

sullen wife, and a sullen wife making a drunken husband.

How often the circulating train of connected evils is set

in motion at first by the fault of the husband, and how

often by the fault of the wife, cannot be precisely ascer-

tained. One may, however, infer that the predominance


140                               A WIFE.

 

of the evil lies on the side where there is predominance

of power. But making all due allowance on this side, it

remains sure and obvious, that the contentions of a

woman, falling like water-drops on her husband's head,

cause the drunkenness in many cases, and aggravate it in

all. In illustration of another text, I have distinctly inti-

mated, that if we had a greater number of sober husbands

we would have greater number of smiling wives: here,

desiring to divide the word as one who must give an

account, I say, the other hand, if there were a greater

number of smiling wives, there would be a greater number

of sober husbands.

            "Only in the Lord" (1 Cor. vii. 39), is the apostle's

rule on this subject. In view of all the difficulties, it is

sufficient, and it alone.

            If these suggestions have been cast mainly in a nega-

tive rather than a positive form—if, like the Decalogue

itself, their prevalent aspect be, "Thou shalt not"—there

is a cause.  Laws are made for the rebellious. The

obedient find a great reward in the act of keeping the

commandment, and the reproof which is aimed at pre-

sumptuous transgressors passes harmlessly over them. I

would fain give the encouragement and the warning too;

but where the blessing and the curse lie so near each

other, it is difficult to divide them aright. This divinely-

appointed union is, in human life, like the busy bee

returning laden home. The sweetest honey and the

sharpest sting lie in it both; and they lie not far apart

But for the honey it has been created, not for the sting:

for the honey it lives and labours, not for the sting. The


                                 A WIFE.                             141

 

sting is there only to make the honey secure. That

which is of the highest value is most sternly guarded.

The armed sentinel keeps watch beside the jewelled crown.

Every day, and all the day, the honey is gathered and

stored and enjoyed:  the sting lies idle in its sheath, and,

except to ward off or punish violence, is never used at all.

            Those who in marriage lawfully seek and enjoy the

sweets wherewith God has charged it, complain not of

the sting that never touches them. For thieves and

robbers it has been planted there, and the honest have

no desire to pluck it out.


142                       ANGER.

 

 

                                XVII.

 

 

                              ANGER

 

 

"The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a

            transgression."—xix. 11.

"A man of great wrath shall suffer punishment:
            for if thou deliver him, yet thou must do it again."—xix. 19.

"It is an honour for a man to cease from strife:
            but every fool will be meddling."—xx. 3.

 

 

TELL me the  specific rebukes that most thickly dot the

pages of the Bible, and I will tell you the specific sins

that most easily beset mankind. In that glass we may

behold our own defilements and dangers. If any vice is

often reproved in the word of God, you may be assured it

springs prolific in the life of man.

            In this book of morals anger is a frequently recurring

theme. The repetition is not vain. If the evil did not

abound on earth, the reproof of it would not come so oft

from heaven. There is much anger springing secretly in

human hearts, and its outbursts greatly imbitter the in-

tercourse of life. It disturbs the spirit in which it dwells,

and hurts, in its outgo, all who lie within its reach. It

is an exceedingly evil and bitter thing. Its presence

goes far to make this world a restless sea, and its absence

will be a distinguishing feature of the rest that remaineth.

            Anger cannot, indeed, be, and in a certain sense ought

not to be, cast wholly out of man in the present state. On

some occasions we do well to be angry; but in these cases


                                       ANGER.                              143

 

both the nature and the object of the affection should be

jealously watched.  The only legitimate anger is a holy

emotion directed against an unholy thing. Sin, and not

our neighbour, must its object: zeal for righteousness,

and not our own pride must be its distinguishing charac-

ter. The exercise of anger, although not necessarily sin-

ful, is for us exceedingly difficult and dangerous. It is 

like fire in the hands of children. Although it is possible

for them in certain cases to handle it safely and usefully,

we know that in point of fact they more frequently do

harm with it than good.  Accordingly we are accustomed,

as a prudential measure, to forbid absolutely its use among

the children. If anger in the moral department is like

fire in the physical, we, even the best of us, are like little

children. Unless we have attained the wisdom and sta-

ture of "perfect men in Christ," we cannot take this fire

into our bosom without burning thereby ourselves and

our neighbours. Thus it comes about, that although

anger be not in its own nature and in all cases sinful, the

best practical rule of life is to repress it, as if it were.

The holy might use it against sin in the world, if the holy

were here, but it too sharp a weapon for our hand-

ling. Let any one who tries to crucify the flesh and to

please God, scrutinize his own experience in this matter,

and he will find that the less he has felt of anger, the bet-

ter it has been for the peace of his conscience and the use-

fulness of his life.

            As usual in these laws of God's kingdom, suffering

springs from the sin, as the plant from its seed. "A man

of great wrath shall suffer punishment," and he shall


144                             ANGER.

 

suffer, although no human tribunal take cognizance of his

case. The impetuous tide of passion will listen to no

counsel, and submit to no control. Although the flood

springs within the man, it carries him away. The pro-

geny as soon it is generated, is too strong for its

parent. He who this moment produced it, is next mo-

ment a helpless captive in its hands. When the frenzy

runs high the "man of great wrath" gores right and left,

like a wild bull, who are within his reach; but, when

the frenzy has subsided, he is tormented by a remorse

from which the brute is free. More is expected from the

man than from the brute, and when no more is gotten,

heavy retribution is at hand. The conscience, bent aside

by the force of passion, comes back rebounding when

that force is spent; and then he who acted as a brute,

must suffer as a man. A man of great wrath, is a man

of little happiness. The two main elements of happiness

are awanting; for he is seldom at peace either with his

neighbour or himself.

            There is an ingredient in the retribution still more

direct and immediate.  The emotion of anger in the mind

instantly and violently affects the body in the most vital

parts of its organization. Hot cheeks and throbbing

temples follow the mysterious spark of passion in the

soul, as thunder-peals follow the lightning's flash. In

presence of this phenomenon, an unfathomable work of

God within our own being, it behoves us to "stand in

awe and sin not.”  When the spirit in man is agitated

by anger, it sets the life-blood a-flowing too fast for the

safety of its tender channels. By frequent commotions these


                               ANGER.                                   146

 

organs are injured: under great excesses they sometimes

break. Thus, even the organs of the body, impedi-

ments are thrown the path of passion, and the flesh

smarts for the spirit's waywardness.

            The best practical specific for the treatment of anger

against persons is to "defer it." Its nature presses for

instant vengeance, an the appetite should be starved. A

wise man may indeed experience the heat, but he will do

nothing till he cools again. When your clothes outside are

on fire you wrap yourself in a blanket, if you can, and so

smother the flame: in like manner, when your heart

within has caught the fire of anger, your first business

is to get the flame extinguished. Thereafter you will

be in a better position to form a righteous judgment,

and follow a safe course.

            "To pass over a transgression" is a man's "glory." This

is like the doctrine of Jesus, but not like the manners of

the world. It is a note in unison with the sermon on

the mount, and at variance therefore with most of our

modern codes of honour.  It has often been remarked

that the Bible proves itself divine by the knowledge of

man which it displays; but perhaps its opposition to

the main currents of a human heart is as clear a mark

of its heavenly origin as its discovery of what these cur-

rents are. The vessel which moves up the strong stream

of men's desires does not get from that stream its motive

impulse. The breath of heaven gives it direction and

urges it on. The best law on that subject which springs

on earth makes it a man's glory to obtain satisfaction, and

counts it his disgrace to pass an injury unavenged. We


146                               ANGER.

 

may discover her how little civilization by itself can do

for man. The rule regarding injuries which prevailed

throughout Europe in the generation now passing away

coincides precisely with the sentiment of savage tribes.

The principle of the duel reigned so imperiously till of

late, in military and semi-military circles, that the man who

dared to pass over an injury was, by a very vulgar species

of persecution, driven from his post and his profession.

This sentiment, which happily is passing away in our

day, neither marked the Christian nor made the gentle-

man. The same sentiment prevailed among the Highland

clans of Scotland before the Bible reached their hearts, or

roads led soldiers and sheriffs to their fastnesses. The

most savage communities and the most refined stood, in

the matter of the duel, nearly on the same level, and both

were opposed alike to Scripture and Reason. "Looking

unto Jesus" is, all, the grand specific for anger in both

its aspects, as a sin and as a suffering. Its dangerous

and tormenting fire, when it is kindled in a human breast,

may be extinguished best by letting in upon it the love

wherewith he loved us. Let Faith arise and make haste

and open the doors of an angry heart to the compassions

which flow in Christ crucified: the incipient tumult will

be quenched like a spark beneath a flowing stream. If

you abide in him sinful anger will be kept or cast out,

and that which remains, being like his own, will neither

trouble you nor hurt a brother.


       A POOR MAN IS BETTIES THAN A LIAR.                  147

 

 

                                    XVIII.

 

 

       A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR.

 

 

            "A poor man is better than a liar."—xix. 22.

 

 

THE imperial standard of weights and measures has

been sent by the King into the market-place of human

life, where men are busy cheating themselves and each

other. Many of these merchantmen, guided by a false

standard, have all their days been accustomed to call

evil good and good evil.  When the balance is set up by

royal authority, an the proclamation issued that all

transactions must be tested thereby, swindlers are dis-

mayed and honest men are glad. Such is the word of

Truth when it touches the transactions of men.

            Although society has, in many important aspects,

advanced in these later times, it is our wisdom to cast

former attainments behind us, and press on for more.

Public opinion greatly needs to be elevated and rectified

in its judgment of men and things. Society is like a

house after an earthquake.  Everything is squeezed out

of its place. No angle remains square: every pillar is

leaning; all is awry. The whirling world of human in-

tercourse is out of joint, and must undergo a grand

operation of "reducing" ere its movements become safe

or easy.

            Although here and there an individual may courage-

ously protest, the great public opinion of the nation prac-


148          A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR.

 

tically sets the gentleman high above the man, without

waiting to define very precisely what is a gentleman.

Exact definitions in this matter would go far to set us

right.  In misty evenings sharpers get more than their

own, and honest men less. Day-light would put the

parties upon a more equal footing. As long as any

sharper, under favour of the thick haze that hangs over

the public mind, may, by dint of a good coat, a gold ring,

and a stock of impudence, pass himself off as a gentleman,

and bear away the substantial benefits attached to that

dimly defined rank the people must lay their account

by frequent suffering in purse and person. Every now

and then the public is cheated and wounded; but for our-

selves, we confess that we do not greatly pity the public.

For most of its misfortunes on this side, it has itself to

blame. You alighted fawningly on a scare-crow gentle-

man, guided by his costume and his equipage. You are

now impaled alive on his sharp fleshless arms of sticks

and nails. You are suffering, we confess, but we reserve

our tears; for if you had looked for a man, you would

have found one, and been infolded now in the warm, soft

embrace of a brother.  A standard has been set up in the

market-place to measure the pretences of men withal,

and those who will not employ it, must take the conse-

quences. According to that standard "a poor man is better

than a liar;" if, in the face of that sure index, you de-

spise an honest man because he is poor, and give your

confidence to the substance or the semblance of wealth,

without respect to righteousness, you deserve no pity

when the inevitable retribution comes.


        A POOR IS BETTER THAN A LIAR.            149

 

            Error in this matter is not confined to any rank. It

is as rife in high places as in low. The tendency to

trust in quacks seems to be an instinct in human nature,

which education and experience can never wholly re-

move. Breaches of trust and fraudulent bankruptcies

are certainly not diminish either in number or magni-

tude. In the course of the last two or three years, the

cases seem to have been more numerous and more serious

than at any former period within the range of our

memory. We sympathize with the denunciations launched

by the sufferers against the depredators of every rank

and every hue. It would not be easy to give them, in

the form of moral castigation, more than their deserts.

We accordingly make no effort to shield the delinquents

from the blows that fall thick and heavy on their devoted

heads. As that part of the business is done heartily, if

not very wisely, by the public themselves, we shall step

round to the other side, where we can see the castigators,

and there endeavour to estimate what share of the blame

lies at their own door.  "There are two at a bargain;"

in every one of these great and complicated frauds there

are two parties. One alone, however evil in his own

nature, could not bring forth any fruits of mischief

Swindlers would not produce much commotion in society

if they found no dupes.  Rogue and fool are pairs; either

is barren if it do no meet its mate. Many are ready to

lecture the swindler;—we have a word for the dupe.

            "Do not cheat," is a needful and useful injunction in

our day; and "Do I not be cheated" is another. The

trade of the swindle would fail if the raw material were


150        A POOR IS BETTER THAN A LIAR.

 

not plentiful and easily wrought. The reckless life of a

son is, indeed, a proof of his own wickedness; but it may

be also a proof of his father's self-pleasing indulgence.

Such is the homage paid to wealth, that any man who,

with some degree of adroitness, puts on its trappings,

will be followed by a crowd of worshippers. "Covetous-

ness is idolatry." Not without cause is the definition

written in that pungent form. Every species of idolatry

begets a kind of sottish blindness. The idolaters lose

their common sense.  They are given over to believe a

lie. The wide-spread sufferings that periodically rend

the community, at the discovery of full-grown fraud, are

the strokes which our own sin inflicts when it finds the

sinners out. If the community would cease to value a

man by the appearance of his wealth, and judge him ac-

cording to the stand and of the Scriptures, there would be

fewer prodigies of dishonesty among us. When we learn

practically to honour true men, although they labour for

their daily bread, and turn our back upon liars, although

they drive their carriages, we shall be less exposed to the

depredations of unjust men, and more under the protec-

tion of a righteous God.

            There is a most refreshing simplicity in the language

of Scripture upon these points. This word speaks with

authority. It is not tainted with the prevailing adula-

tion of riches. A dishonest man is called a liar, however

high his position may be in the city. And the honest

poor gets his patent of nobility from the Sovereign's

hand. The honest rich are fully as much interested in

this reform as the honest poor. Make this short proverb

 

 


         A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR.      151

 

the key-note of our commercial system, and these epi-

demic panics will disappear. Get this standard acknow-

ledged in the exchange, and the reformation is accom-

plished.  Let it become the fashion to frown on all

falsehood, whether spoken or acted—all unrealities, how-

ever specious their appearance; let it become the practice,

open and uniform, to honour the honest, as far as he is

known, however poor he may be; and swindling will die

out for want of food. After each catastrophe people go

about shaking their heads and wringing their hands,

asking, What will become of us, what shall we do? We

venture to propose an answer to the inquiry: From the

Bible first engrave on your hearts, then translate into

your lives, and last emblazon aloft on the pediment of

your trade temple, this short and simple legend—

 

 

       "A POOR MAN IS BETTER THAN A LIAR."


152         THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

 

                                        XIX.

 

 

                THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

 

"Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging;

       and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise."—xx. 1.

 

 

FROM our point of view it seems strange that in the

verbs we should not have met with a specific warn-

ing regarding the dangers of strong drink until now.  

The book is eminently practical.  It was a book for the

times. It rebuked impartially the vices and follies of

every class. Covetousness, anger, falsehood, dishonesty

all the more common vices that infest society have, in

the preceding portion of the book, been repeatedly ex-

posed and reproved; but hitherto drunkenness has not

found a place in the discourses of this ancient Hebrew

preacher. I cannot account for this, except by the sup-

position that the vice was comparatively rare.

            If Solomon had lived among us, and written a volume

of lessons on life in the same style as the Book of Pro-

verbs, he could not have reached the twentieth chapter

without a word on drunkenness. This vice, with its

causes and consequences, would have crossed his path in

every movement, and forced itself upon his notice every

day.  It would have claimed a place at an earlier stage,

and continued to protrude through almost every para-  

graph. If such a book in our day and land should pro-

ceed as far ere any allusion to strong drink appeared, it

 


153      DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

would indicate a bias in the writer's mind, and under-

mine the authority of all his teaching. Ah, it would be

a blessed day for our poor beloved fatherland, if it were

possible here honestly to compose such a sermon for the

times, introducing intemperance at a late period, and

saying little about it even then! Although the sin ex-

isted and produced its appropriate sorrows in those

ancient days and those Eastern lands, it could bear no

comparison with our experience, either as to its absolute

extent or its proportion to other kindred ills.

            In regard to the whole subject of intemperance, it is

of the utmost importance to observe and remember the

difference between wine-growing countries in ancient

times and our own northern land now. The main points

of distinction are these two:—1. The chief agent of

intoxication among us is not wine at all, but a much more

potent draught, which was entirely unknown to antiquity.

2. Even the wines which we use, partly imported from

abroad and partly manufactured at home, are, by ad-

mixture of spirits and other materials, much more power-

ful as intoxicants than the wines ordinarily used of old

on the soil which produced them. I adjure all, as they

fear God and regard man—as they would save themselves

and the in brethren, not to overlook these distinctions.  I

entertain a sorrowful and solemn conviction, which I

have often spoken before, and speak now again weeping,

that many among us wrest to their own destruction those

scriptures which commend the use of wine. To quote

these expressions and apply them, without abatement, to

the liquors now ordinarily used in this country, is logi-


154    THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

cally incorrect, and practically most dangerous. It is

quite to true that wines capable of producing intoxication

were made and used in those days: it is also quite true

that there were both drunkards and isolated acts of

inebriation in those days: yet it is neither just nor safe

to assume that what is said in the Scriptures of wine is

applicable, without restriction, to our ardent spirits or

brandied wines. As to the measure of the difference,

exact knowledge is probably not attainable, and it does

not become any one to dogmatize; but if all were in-

duced to acknowledge that there is a difference, and

stirred up to seek direction for themselves, from Him who

gives the word, as to how far a scriptural commendation

of the weaker may be transferred also to the stronger

stimulant, our object would be obtained; for they who

seek shall find: the meek He will guide.

            It would be out of place to agitate here the questions

regarding the nature of ancient wines, and the meaning of

the several different Hebrew and Greek words indiscrimi-

nately translated "wine" in the vernacular version of the

Scriptures. I deem it my duty, however, to record at this

place the indisputable facts: 1. That some of the wines

of antiquity possessed the intoxicating property in various

degrees, and some of them did not possess it at all. 2.

That several terms, totally distinct from each other in ety-

mology, are in the original Scriptures applied to the manu-

factured juice of the grape, and, as a general rule, rendered

in our version indiscriminately by the term "wine." I

take this opportunity further of expressing, sorrowfully

and solemnly, my conviction that the questions arising


            THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK    155

 

out of these facts in our day, are in themselves as inter-

esting, and in their bearing as important, as any questions

of history or philology can possibly be. It may be that

the unwise attempting to solve them fall into dangerous

mistakes and that the wisest cannot solve them fully;

but the questions are grave and worthy of the most seri-

ous consideration. To ignore them as impertinent or

trifling, and quote from the English Bible a text about

ancient Judean wine in support of modern Scottish whisky,

is not right, and cannot long be successful.

            Avoiding, therefore, the examination of particulars, as

being, on account of its necessary length, unsuitable for

these pages, I submit a general proposition, which I be-

lieve all my readers will feel to be safe and moderate:

The expressions in Scriptwre which commend wine and

strong drink are LESS applicable to the liquors in ordi-

nary use among us, and the expressions which denounce

them, MORE.  How much less, and how much more, it is

difficult precisely to tell. Every one must judge for him-

self; as or me, I shall, God helping me, endeavour, in

the difficulty, to lean to the safer side.

            The characteristic of strong drink which this text singles

out is its deceitfulness. In the illustration of it I shall

exclusively regard our own day and our own circum-

stances. The warnings of Scripture may be intensified

manifold when brought to bear on the power of our in-

toxicants to "mock" their victims. If the fruit of his

own vine sometimes chastised the unwary Israelite with

whips, the fiery products of our distilleries chastise the

nation with scorpions. The little finger of strong drink


156         THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

in modern times is thicker than the loins of its father and

representative in Solomon's day. The deceits which our

enemy practises are legion; and legion too are the unwise

“who are deceived thereby." I shall now enumerate a

few of these lying devices.

            1. A great quantity of precious food is destroyed in

this country that strong drink may be extracted from the

rubbish. Barley, the principal material, is a wholesome

grain, and if it be unsuited to the taste of the community

in the form of food, others might be cultivated in its stead.

The fruit of the earth, therefore, which is fit for the food

of man, is destroyed by man's own hand, to supply him

with drink.  As to the quantity so consumed, exact sta-

tistics are not necessary for our purpose. We can afford

to leave a margin wide enough for all contingencies. On

an average of ten years the quantity of barley converted

into malt in the United Kingdom has been nearly six

millions of quarters annually. When you add to this the

unmalted grain consumed in the distillation of spirits in

Ireland, you have an aggregate sufficient to feed between

four and five millions of people throughout the year.

            When I see cart-loads of dirty, brown, reeking rubbish

passing along the streets, food for pigs and cattle, I gaze

with melancholy interest on the repulsive object. The

sight, though few would count it poetical, is more sugges-

tive to my imagination than shady groves at noon, or

moonlight on a rippling lake. I think of the yellow wav-

ing harvest field which reproduced its seed a hundred-fold

—of the labourers who tilled it going home with heavy

hearts to their half-fed children—of the amen that rose


   THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.           157

 

from many a cushioned pew when the prayer for daily

bread as addressed to "our Father in heaven." If the

question, "Where is the bread which I have given you?"

should now peal in thunder from the throne, this nation

must stand speechless, between those bounteous harvest

fields on the one hand, and these steaming, fetid heaps of

husks which the swine do eat, on the other.

            So much we destroy of that which God commands the

earth to bring forth for the life of man; and what do we

obtain in return? A large quantity of malt liquors and

distilled spirits. And is the gain not equivalent, or

nearly equivalent, to the loss, in the material means of

support life? Here lies another deceit:

            2. The curative and strengthening properties of our

strong dinks, which are so much vaunted, are in reality

next to nothing. We except, of course, the infinitesi-

mal proportion of them that is used as medicine. We

speak of the ordinary use of these articles as a bever-

age by the people. A vague but influential notion

is abroad that there is a good deal of nourishment

in ale and spirits. The evidence of science is distinct

and decisive on the other side; but it is not potential on

the mind and conduct of the community. Ardent spirits

contain no nourishment at all. If they contribute at any

time to the quantity of force exerted by man, it corre-

sponds not to the corn which you give to your horse, but

to the whipping. A master who has hired you only for

a day, and desires to make the most of his bargain, may

possibly find it his interest to bring more out of your

bones and sinews by such a stimulus; but you certainly


158      THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

have no interest in lashing an additional effort out of

yourself to-day, and lying in lethargy to-morrow. The

ardent spirits put nothing in; whatever therefore they

take out, is taken from your body. The inevitable con-

sequence is, permanent feebleness and shortened days.

Whatever gain it may be to the master, every atom of

exertion drawn forth by the stimulant is a dead loss to

the man. As to malt liquors the case is different, but the

difference is small. When you go down among infini-

tesimals the calculation is difficult. Our strong drink is

eminently a mocker. It successfully deceives the people

as to the quantity and the kind of nourishment which it

contains. How many gallons of porter an Englishman

must drink ere he get into his stomach a quantity of food

equal to a loaf of bread, I do not remember, and I fear

readers would be incredulous if the figures were set down.

Liebig has a pleasant notion about balancing on the point

of a pen-knife, like a pinch of snuff, all the nourishment

that the most capacious German swallows with his beer

in a day. And it is chemistry that he is giving us; not

poetry or wit. He is submitting the results of a scien-

tific analysis. But people don't believe the chemists,—

at least not with that kind of belief which compels a man

to thwart his own appetite. We believe them when they

detect by their analysis a few grains of arsenic in an ex-

humed body, and on the faith of their evidence we hang

a man for murder; but we do not believe them when

they tell us how little sustenance and how much poison

is in our beer. Why? Because we like our beer. It

takes a great deal of evidence to convince us, when our


  THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.     159

 

appetite is on the other side. Draymen may be seen

in London, belonging to the breweries, living, as it

were, at the fountain-head of drink, and showing an im-

posing bulk of body. If we judge men by the standard

applied to fat cattle, they will bear away the prize. But

apart from all moral considerations, and looking to the

men as machines for doing work, the bulk damages the

article.  It will not last;—see the tables of mortality.

It is not sound; if the skin is scratched, it cannot be

healed again. How much better bodies these might have

been,—how much better working machines,—if they had

eaten as bread the grain which has been destroyed to

supply them with porter!  How much tougher bodies—

how much brighter souls!

            3. Strong drink deceives the nation by the vast amount

of revenue that it pours into the public treasury. It is

a true and wise economy to tax the articles heavily for

behoof of the community, as far and as long as they are

sold and used; but it is a false and foolish economy to

encourage the consumption of the article for the sake

of the revenue which it produces. Drink generates

pauperism, and pauperism is costly. Drink generates

crime, and crime is costly. If the national appetite for

stimulants should suddenly cease, and the stream of taxa-

tion which constitutes one-third of the imperial revenue

should consequently be dried up, a smaller amount of

money, no doubt, would pass through the treasury; but

we would find it easier to pay our way. A comfortable

balance is a healthier thing for a mercantile firm, or an

imperial treasury, than mere magnitude of transactions,


160    THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

where the expenditure is continually threatening to rise

above the income. They who are deceived into the

belief that strong drink enriches the nation “are not

wise.”

            There is a huge living creature with as many limbs as

a Hindoo idol, and these limbs intertwined with each

other in equally admired confusion. The creature having

life must be fed, and being large must have a great deal of

food for its sustenance. One day, having got rather

short allowance, it was rolling its heavy head among its

many limbs, and felt something warm and fleshy. Being

hungry, it made an incision with its teeth, laid its lips to

the spot, and sucked. Warm blood came freely: the

creature sucked its fill, and, gorged, lay down to sleep.

Next day it supplemented its short rations in the same

way. Every day the creature drank from that opening,

and as this rich draught made up about one-third of its

whole sustenance, the wonder grew, why it was becoming

weaker under the process from day to day. Some one

at last bethought him of turning over the animal's inter-

mingled limbs, and found that all this time it had been

sucking its own blood!  The discoverer proposed to

bandage the spot, and not permit the continuance of the

unnatural operation. The financiers cried out, " A third

of the animal's sustenance comes from that opening; if

you stop it, he will die!"

            Behold the wise politicians who imagine that the body

politic would die of inanition if it were deprived of the

revenue which it sucks from its own veins, in the shape

of taxes on the consumption of intoxicating drinks!


   THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.          161

 

            4. In far as human friendship is, in any case, depend-  

ent on  artificial stimulant for the degree of its fervency,

it is a worthless counterfeit.  No man who entertains a

proper respect for himself will accept the spurious coin in

the interchange of social affections. There is another

sphere on which the deceiver sometimes operates,—a

sphere so high, that I am afraid to follow him thither

and contend with him there. I am in a strait betwixt

two. I dare not speak it out, lest the very mention of

it should offend God's little ones and I dare not pass it

in silence, lest some unwise brother should stumble into

the snare for want of the timely warning. The priests

of Israel were expressly prohibited from tasting wine or

strong drink before they approached the altar (Lev. x. 9).

When the redeemed of the Lord—a spiritual priesthood

all—enter into the Holiest through the blood of Christ,

no spark of strange fire should be permitted in any de-

gree to add intensity to the flame of their emotions.

            5. Perhaps, after all, the chief deception practised by

strong drink on the community lies in the silent, stealthy

advances which it makes upon the unsuspecting taster,

followed, when the secret approaches have been carried to

a certain point, by the sure spring and relentless death-

gripe of the raging lion who goes about amongst us seek-

ing whom he may devour. All are not so deceived into

drunkenness: the majority are not so deceived. If they

were, the vessel of the State would soon go down bodily.

Even as it is, the drunkards, a sweltering inert mass of

brutalized humanity, lie so heavy in her hold, that a prac-

tised eye may observe a sickly stagger as she yet boldly


162      THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.

 

breasts the wave. How came all these into that con-

dition of shame and wretchedness?  Ask these many

thousands of mindless, pithless, hopeless inebriates—ask

them one by one; they will all tell, and tell truly, that

they did not intend to sink into that condition, but sank

into it beyond recovery ere they were aware of danger.

You are strong; you feel your footing firm: so did they.

"Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he

fall.”  This Bible warns you that wine is a mocker. The

warning applies with greatly augmented force to us. I

implore the reader to observe that the caution to the

sober, to beware of the deceiving, insnaring power of

strong drink, is not the alarm of an enthusiast, but the

word of the living God.

            A deceiver is in the midst of us. He has many strong-

holds in our streets: he has free access to our homes. His

victims are many; and his treatment of them is merciless.

Like the old serpent, he fastens his chains always by guile,

never by violence. His professions are friendly, and his

approaches slow. He touches the taste, and pleases it:

he is therefore invited to return.  Every time he is admit-

ted to the tongue he sends along the nerves to the brain

an influence, as secret as the electric current along the

wire, and as sure. The effect is distinctly felt each time,

but it seems to go off soon. It does not all go off, how-

ever. Something remains, invisible, it may be, as the

effects of light at first on the photographer's plate, but

real, and ready to come out with awful distinctness at a

succeeding stage. When the brain is frequently exposed

to the comings and goings of these impressions, silent and


  THE DECEITFULNESS OF STRONG DRINK.     163

 

secret as rays of light penetrating the camera, it acquires

imperceptibly the susceptibility which an accident any day

may develop into an incurable disease. Considering the

power of this deceiver,—considering the number around

us who are deceived thereby,—considering the wondrous

delicacy and susceptibility of the human brain,—consider-

ing that in this life the soul can neither learn nor act ex-

cept through the brain, as its organ,—considering that

strong drink goes by a secret postern direct into the pre-

sence-chamber of the soul,—considering the satanic malig-

nity with which it holds the struggling victim,—consider-

ing how few of those who have fallen into this pit have

ever risen again, and how tenderly God's word warns us

not to venture near its slippery brim,—surely it is the part

of wisdom to lean hard over to the safer side. Brother!

your immortal soul is embodied in flesh. You have in

that body only one organ through which the soul can act,

either in getting from God or serving him. That organ

is refined and delicate beyond the power of words to ex-

press.  If its eye is dimmed and its feeling blunted, your

soul has lost its only avenue of access to the Saviour. As  

you hope to see God, beware of those mists that cloud

the vision of the soul. As you hope to feel a Redeemer's

love softly embracing you in a dying hour, beware of

those drops that have turned so many hearts into stone.


164     THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.

 

 

                                            XX.

 

 

          THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.

 

 

“The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold;

     therefore shall he beg in harvest, and have nothing."—xx. 4.

 

THE reproof of slothfulness often recurs: we may safely

infer that it was a besetting sin in the Hebrew common-

wealth. It is a vice to which primitive and pastoral

communities, other things being equal, are more liable

than merchants and artisans. You may expect to find

more of it in the Scottish Highlands than on the wharves

of Liverpool, or in the mills of Manchester. As a general

rule, it is not the weak side of the Anglo-Saxon race.

Our history and position in the world prove that we pos-

sess in large measure the counterpart virtue. Other vices

thrive on our busy industry, like parasites upon living

creatures; but it cannot be said that we are nationally a

slothful people.

            Individual instances of sloth, however, occur amongst

us; all the more inexcusable because of the industry which

abounds. Short and sure is the process by which the

sluggard's sin finds the sluggard out. If he does not

plough, he cannot reap. If he is idle in the seed-time, he

will be hungry in the harvest. The very alphabet of

providential retribution is here. The simplest may read

the law when it is written in letters so large, and so fully

exposed to the light. We submit to the law as inevitable;


  THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.      165

 

and wherever reason is even moderately enlightened,

we acquiesce in the law as just and good. No man

who neglects his field in spring complains that it does

nothing for him in autumn. We all know that such the

law is, and most of us secretly feel that such it should be.

            God's system of government is not to work for man,

but to supply him with the means of working for himself.

He gives rain from heaven; but if we do not till and sow

on earth, our fields will not be fruitful, our hearts will

not be glad. He gives seed, but he gives it to the sower.

Riches without limit are stored in His treasuries, but only

the hand of the diligent can draw them forth. No man

expects a different arrangement of the providential laws,

and no wise man desires it. It is better for man, as man

now is, that he is placed in circumstances to win his bread

by the sweat of his brow, than if bread had dropped into

his lap from heaven, or sprung spontaneously from the

earth. Our Father has graciously turned the very curse

into a blessing. The rod that was lifted in anger to

smite the alien, descends as discipline to correct the child.

            There is a silent submission to the law, if not an in-

telligent acquiescence in its propriety. All our habits of

acting are formed in accordance with it. A poor man

honestly seeking work is everywhere respected: a sturdy

beggar clamouring for alms is everywhere despised. The

common sense of men falls in with the express injunction

of the gospel, that he who will not work should not be

allowed to eat (2 Thess. iii. 10).

            This principle lies deep in the nature of things, and

pervades every department of the divine government. Its


166     THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.

 

operation is as sure and uniform in morals as in matter.

The Scriptures frequently employ the physical facts as

wherewith to print off for learners the spiritual law.

May "He that ministereth seed to the sower, increase

the fruits of your righteousness," is Paul's prayer for the

Corinthians when he longed for their growth in grace

(2 Cor. ix. 10). He knew that God would give it; but

he knew also that it would be given only as the increase

of the field is given. Writing at another time to the

same people, he says, "We are labourers together with

God; ye are God's husbandry" (1 Cor. iii. 9). True, the

Author and Finisher of their faith will not leave them in

the greatest of all matters to their own resources. God

works in concert with men for their good; but he works

in a special department and within well-defined limits.

He is a fellow-worker in promoting their spiritual pro-

gress, but it is as he co-operates with men in their "hus-

bandry." He does not relieve the husbandman from tilling.

God is a fellow-worker in giving him rain from heaven;

but if he does not till and sow he will beg in harvest,

although the Almighty offers to be his partner in the work.

Such is the law by which the husbandry of the heart is

regulated. The promise, sufficient, yet not redundant, is,

“Their soul shall be as a watered garden" (Jer. xxxi. 12).

Notwithstanding the promise of an omnipotent co-oper-

ator, the garden well watered by the rain of heaven will

be a fruitless waste if it be not tilled, fenced, sown, weeded.

This is no abatement from the worth of the promise or

the kindness of the Promiser. If He should so work with

men either in spirit or in matter, as that the fruit would


   THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.         167

 

be sure dependently of the husbandman's labour, all dis-

tinctions between good and evil would be lost and govern-

ment become impossible.

            He is in this husbandry a fellow-worker; the indus-

trious cannot fail: but He works only in his own de-

partment: the lazy cannot succeed. Your soul is the

garden: it need not lie barren, for He will water; but it

will lie barren, if you do not work.

            The watered field will fill no man's bosom in the har-

vest if it be not tilled in spring. "Break up your fallow

ground" (Jer. iv. 3). When the heart is beaten hard by

troops of worldly cares treading constantly over it and

not broken up or made small by exercises of self-exa-

mination and godly sorrow, the seed does not go beneath

the surface, and, so far from reaping a golden harvest, you

never see even the promises of spring. But although the

field be tilled and broken from its depths, the labour will

be unprofitable if it be sown with tares or not sown at

all the seed is the word;" and ourselves are the field

to be cultivated. Put the good seed plentifully in. Hide

the word in your heart diligently, hopefully, as the hus-

bandman commits his precious seed to the ground. If we

do not sew our own field, how shall we help to sow the

field of our neighbour? Even a tilled and sown field may

be rendered in a great measure unproductive for want of

fences.  If it be left exposed to every comer, its early

sprouting will be trampled under foot, and the hopes

which it kindled will be quenched in tears. If men

would treat their souls as carefully as they treat their

fields, all would be well. Draw defences round your


168    THE SLUGGARD SHALL COKE TO WANT.

 

soul: keep out those who would cruelly or carelessly

tread down the buds of beginning grace. Leave not

your heart open, like an exposed common, to the reckless

tread of promiscuous passers. Tempters, like wild boars

of the woods, prowl round about your garden: ward them

resolutely off; keep it for the Master and his friends.

Further still: the tilled, sown, fenced garden, may be over-

run with weeds, and the full-grown fruit be choked before

it reach the ripening. In the garden of your soul weeds

spring up without any sowing. Unless you labour daily

to keep them down, they will gain upon the good seed

and overtop it. As a man who loves his garden may be

seen stooping down every now and then in his daily walk

through it to pluck out and cast over the wall each weed

that meets his eye as it is struggling through the ground;

so a man that loves his soul and would fain see it flour-

ishing, is ever on the watch for malice and envy and

falsehood, and vanity and pride and covetousness,—for

any and for all of the legion-species of bitter roots that

are ever springing up, troubling himself and defiling his

neighbours (Heb. xii. 15). They that are Christ's have

crucified, and all their life long continue to crucify, their

own lusts.

            All these efforts for the garden will be useless if it

is not watered: but, on the other hand, the plentiful

watering of the garden with rain from heaven will not

make it fruitful if any of these operations are neglected.

These operations lie to our hand. God works with us,

indeed, but he will not perform for us these works. He

co-operates by giving us refreshing rain, and commands


  THE SLUGGARD SHALL COME TO WANT.    169

 

us to meet his gift by our industrious labour. He does

for a soul what he does for a garden. It shall be watered.

The grace of the Spirit shall not be wanting; yet, in the

spiritual husbandry, the sluggard who will not plough shall

not reap.

            Not having any ripened grain to reap, he falls a-beg-

ging when the harvest comes:  "Lord, Lord, open to us."

But it is too late. The Lord does not give at that time,

and in that way. He will give seed to the sower in

spring, but not alms to the sluggard in harvest. He gave

seed and rain, and saw them wasted. He pleaded with

men to accept and use them, and they would not.  At

last, when they plead with him, he will not. In an ac-

cepted time they would not take the seed: in a rejecting

time they cry for the fruit of eternal life, and are sent

empty away.  Alas! the sluggard begs in harvest, "and

has nothing." His soul was the only real treasure that

he ever had, and now it is lost.


170      WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE.

 

 

                                           XXI.

 

 

             WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE.

 

 

"Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water: but a man of understanding

            will draw it out.  Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness:
            but a faithful man who can find?"—xx. 5, 6.

 

 

HERE are two twin misfortunes from which mankind

suffer much,—the retiring bashfulness of true worth, and

the chattering forwardness of empty self-esteem. The

man who has something which would do good to his

fellows, is apt to keep it within himself: the man who has

nothing solid, is continually giving forth sound. The

wisdom which we value we cannot obtain, for it lies in

the heart of a modest man like water at the bottom of a

deep well: the folly of which we are weary we cannot

escape, for it babbles spontaneously from the fool's tongue

on the crowded thoroughfares of the world. It would be

a double benefit to society if the one man could be per-

suaded to say more, and the other to say less in the

heart of that man there is "counsel;" but it is like deep

water, and "a man of understanding" is required to draw

it out. On the lips of this man is vain-glory, which

bursts out unbidden; and a "faithful man" is needed

to keep it in. Who amongst us has not groaned under

the afflictions, either separately or both together?  Who

has not felt, alternately or simultaneously, the counter-

part twin desires, that the fountains of this wise heart


   WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE.          171

 

were opened and the mouth of that fool shut?  The two

kindred a sufferings generate two kindred desires; and these

two desires should make us expert in the two useful arts

of drawing out the good in conversation and keeping in

the frivolous.

            1. How to draw out the good. "Counsel in the heart

of a man is like deep water: but a man of understanding

will draw it out." Some men have the root of the matter

within them, but no tendency spontaneously to give it

out.  Constitutional timidity, or the grace of modesty,

or both combined, may shut in any company the wisest

lips.  A stone lies on the well's mouth, and a man of

understanding is the Jacob who rolls it off, that all the

circle may draw and drink. It is a touching picture, and

represents a frequently-recurring fact in actual life. A

man who is at once wise and modest is compared to a

deep well. Although a supply of water is within, neigh-

bours may walk round the brim and get no refreshing,

because it is deep and still. This is not a rare case. The

conversation in a company is often frivolous, although the

company is not destitute of solid, well-charged minds.

When no one has skill to draw out the wisdom of the

wise, the folly of the fools will rush out without any

drawing, and inundate the circle. It is not to be ex-

pected that men of solid gifts will spontaneously exert

themselves to bring out their treasures and press their

instructions on unwilling ears. A righteous man may

here and there be found so ardent in his love, and so

zealous of good works, that his mouth is like "a well of

life" (x. 11), spontaneously pouring forth a perennial


172      WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE.

 

stream; but many real wells are of the deep, still sort,  

which keep their water within themselves, until some one

draw it out. There is a certain sensitiveness which often

seals up within a man not only the treasures of useful

information, but also the graces of the Spirit. He who

has the tact to wait his opportunity, and gently draw the

covering aside, and touch the vein, and make the treasures

flow, has conferred, by a single stroke, a double benefit,—

one on the company for whom, and another on the indi-

vidual from whom, the instruction has been drawn. When

water is drawn from a deep well, the thirsty who stand

round its brim enjoy the benefit; but an advantage

accrues also to the well itself.  When much is drawn out

the circulation sweetens the supply, and leaves it as large

as before. One who values time, and watches for oppor-

tunities of improving it, may be as useful to society by

drawing "counsel" out of others as by giving it himself.

            2. How to repress the worthless.  "Most men will

proclaim every one his own goodness; but a faithful man

who can find?" This humiliating description is more

literally true, and more extensively applicable, than we in

the present artificial state of society are able to perceive.

There is so much of politeness on the surface, that it is

exceedingly difficult to estimate how much of real

humility exists in the heart. Polish is a picture of grace,

and pictures skilfully painted sometimes look very like

life.  Among uncivilized tribes or little children, the

reality is more easily seen. Unsophisticated nature, when

it has a good opinion of itself, frankly declares it. The

complicated forms of refined society supply convenient


    WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE            173

 

folds where the sentiment which cannot creditably be con-

fessed may be prudently concealed. To cover vain-glory

under a web of soft phraseology is not the same as to

crucify the lusts of the flesh. "This poor, worthless

effort of mine," may in secret mean, "This great achieve-

ment which I have successfully accomplished." We

would not, however, discard the idiom of modesty which

refinement has infused into our speech; it is often true,

and always comely. It is not that we love the garb of

humility less, but its living body more.

            It easy to find a man who will proclaim his own

goodness, but a faithful man, who will keep down such

egotism, is more needful and more rare. This faithful-

ness, where it exists, develops itself in two branches,

the one suppressing our neighbour's vanity and the other

our own.  The last mentioned is first in the order of

nature, and in relative importance the chief.  True faith-

fulness, like charity, begins at home. If you do not first

successfully crush your own self-esteem, your efforts to do

that service for others will provoke laughter or kindle   

wrath. Faithful reproof of another's foibles is a virtue

which come can exercise without an effort. They deal a

hearty blow on the head of a luckless brother egotist who

stands in the way of their own advancement, and then

expect to be praised for faithfulness. But it is Jehu's

driving.  The zeal which impels it is not pure. It is a

spurious faithfulness that spares self-esteem at home and

smites it abroad.

            Most proclaim their own goodness; but a faithful man

who can find? The ailment is prevalent, the remedy


174        WISDOM MODEST, FOLLY OBTRUSIVE.

 

rare. But if faithfulness is seldom found, it is precious

in proportion to its scarcity. When it is of the true,

solid, authoritative kind, loquacious vain-glory flees before

it like smoke before the wind. You may have seen a

mighty boaster, self-constituted sole monarch in the centre

of a gaping crowd, quenched in a moment by the entrance

of one honest man who knew him. An honest man is

indeed a noble work of God, and a useful member of the

commonwealth. Happy is the society that possesses a

few tall enough to be visible over all its surface, and stern

enough to scare away the vermin of empty boasters that

prey upon its softer parts.

            A consistent Christian is, after all, the best style of

man.  A steady faith in the unseen is the safest guide

through the shifting sands of things seen and temporal.

When a man's treasure is in heaven, he is not under the

necessity of courting popular applause. Those who have

truly humbled themselves before God, experience no in-

clination falsely to magnify themselves in the sight of

men.


                       TWO WITNESSES.                           175

 

 

                                  XXII.

 

 

  TWO WITNESSES—THE HEARING EAR AND

                        THE SEEING EYE.

 

 

"The hearing ear, and the seeing eye,

      the Lord hath made even both of them."—xx. 12.

 

Two witnesses, the hearing ear and the seeing eye, are

summoned forth to prove before the world that the Maker

of all things is wise and good. These two palm branches,

ever green, plaited into a simple wreath, are chosen from

the whole earth as a diadem of glory for the Sovereign's

brow. These words so gently spoken, these works so

wonderfully made, challenge for their Author the homage

and service of all intelligent created beings.

            It is a well-known fact in human experience, that the

nearer wonders are to the observer, and the oftener they

occur, the less wonderful they seem to be. Perhaps the

most powerful practical fallacy in life is to confound things

that are common with things that are of little value.

The counterpart and complement of this error is, to esteem

a thing in proportion to its distance and rarity. Bread and

water, light and air, are lightly esteemed and ungratefully

wasted by those who would pass a sleepless night if a little

sparkling stone were stolen or lost. God's word invites us to

consider his works. He takes it ill when we blindly over-

look the wisdom and goodness with which they are charged.

            “This famous town of MANSOUL had five gates, in at


176                  TWO WITNESSES.

 

which to come, out at which to go and these were made

likewise answerable to the walls,—to wit, impregnable,

and such as could never be opened nor forced but by the

will and leave of those within. The names of the gates

were these:—Ear-gate, Eye-gate, Mouth-gate, Nose-gate,

and Feel-gate." The reader will recognise in the picture

John Bunyan's hand, although his name is not inscribed

on the corner of the canvass. The ear and the eye are

the two chief gateways through which the human soul,

in its imperial palace, receives its knowledge from heaven

or earth. They are suitable specimens of divine work-

manship, for being submitted to the inspection and em-

ployed in the instruction of men.

            The ear and eye are curious instruments fixed in the

outer walls of the bodily frame, for receiving impressions

from sound and light, and conveying corresponding sen-

sations to the mind.*

            The ear, as a complex mechanical apparatus, lies

almost wholly within the body and beyond our sight:

only a wide outer porch through which the sound enters

is exposed to view. The mechanism within, like that of

all the corporeal organs, exhibits abundant evidence of

contrivance exerted intelligently with a view to a specific

end. The sound passing successively through a suite of

chambers each appropriately furnished, touches in the in-

nermost the extremities of the nerves which bear the

message to the brain. The eye, though more easily ob-

served, is scarcely more wonderful in its structure, adap-

 

  * See a most interesting and instructive little treatise on the Five Gateways of

Knowledge, by Professor George Wilson of the University of Edinburgh.


                         TWO WITNESSES                           177

 

tations, and uses. It is a window in the wall of this

house of clay, without which it would be comparatively

a dark and dreary dwelling for the soul. It is supplied

with a machinery in the form of eye-lids for washing and

wiping the glass all day long, so that the window may

never be dusty. It has an opening for receiving rays of

light, which enlarges itself spontaneously when the light

is scarce, in order to take in much; and contracts itself  

spontaneously when the light is plentiful, in order that

less may be admitted. It has transparent lenses like a

telescope through which the rays pass; and a white cur-

tain on its inmost wall, like a camera, on which the pic-

tures of external objects are painted. Into that canvass

from behind nerves are introduced like electric wires,

through which the soul receives in her presence-chamber

instant intimation of all that is going on without. Sun

pictures of the outer world were taken instantaneously

upon a prepared plate, by an instrument of small bulk

which a man can carry about with him, long before the

invention of photograph. Inventors are only discoverers

of what already is, and has from the beginning been.

They are hounds of keener scent, who track the secret

footsteps of nature more stanchly than their neighbours;

and nature is nothing else than the method by which it

pleases God to carry on his work. The rule applied to

religion, is in its very terms strictly applicable also to ark

"Be ye imitators of God, as dear children."

            The adaptation of each organ to its object, presents an

additional evidence of wise design, perhaps even stronger

than that which the mechanism of the instrument supplies.


178                  TWO WITNESSES.

 

The ear would be nothing without sound. The eye, with

all its curious and exact machinery, would be an elaborate

abortion if light were not, or were subject to different

laws. Whatever evidence of beneficent design may lie

separately in the seeing eye and the shining light, it is

multiplied a thousand-fold by the perfect reciprocal adap-

tation which subsists between them.

            Philosophy has long puzzled its disciples with questions

regarding the reality of the external world. Seeing that

the human mind does not come directly in contact with

earth and air and sea, but only receives pictures or notions

of them through the organs of sensation, a doubt has been

raised whether substances corresponding to these pictures

have any real existence. As the picture of an object is

not sufficient evidence that the object exists, it has been

said, Sensations of the external world, which are only

pictures conveyed to the brain through the senses, do not

certainly prove that the external world really is. This

question, though in itself an interesting one, is scarcely

entitled to rank higher than a plaything. It is useful in

calling our attention to the means by which we obtain a

knowledge of things beyond ourselves, but it has not

power to throw the slightest shade of uncertainty over the

existence of these things. The eye and the ear are the chief

instruments by which we ascertain the existence and quail-

ties of external objects, and God is the maker of them both.

For that very use he framed them and gave them to his

creatures and he has done all things well. There are no

deceptions in his plan, and no blunders in its execution.

            Besides, our belief in the existence of things is con-


                             TWO WITNESSES.                       179

 

firmed by the mouth of many independent witnesses. To

each object several of the senses, and to many all, bear

concurrent testimony. The eye and the ear do not act

in concert. They are as independent of each other as any

two witnesses that ever gave evidence in a trial. If the

eye should give a false testimony, the ear would correct

it.  To suppose that all the senses were made for telling

lies, an a corroborating each other in their falsehood, is at

once to magnify the wonders of the contrivance, and

ascribe it to Satan instead of God. These gateways of

knowledge were pierced in the body by its Maker's own

hand, that the soul might not sit darkling within its

house of clay. The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the

Lord hath made even both of them. He, into whose

hands believers commit the keeping of their souls, is "a

faithful Creator" (1 Peter iv. 19).

            On is subject, and in this point of view, the Popish

doctrine of transubstantiation possesses a peculiar interest.

We look at it in its philosophical rather than its religious

aspect.  It comes across our path here, not as a perversion

of the word, but as a dishonour done to the works of God.

Our cause of quarrel with it in this place is, that it pours

contempt on the seeing eye, which the Lord has made

and given to his creatures.

            The belief, inculcated and professed throughout the

mysterious spiritual commonwealth of Rome, that the

bread and wine in the sacrament of the Supper are

changed at the utterance of the consecrating word, and

are no longer bread and wine, but the body and blood of

Christ, is a great feature in the working of the human


180                TWO WITNESSES.

 

mind, and a great fact in the history of the human

race.  It sprung up in a dark age, and was irrevocably

incorporated in a system which professes itself infallible

and dares not change. The dogma of transubstantiation

could not be cast out when an age of light returned, be-

cause to lose the prestige of immutability would be more

destructive to Rome than to retain a belief which places

her in contradiction to the laws of nature and the senses.

of men. Accordingly they retain it, and, with impudence

on the one side, and ignorance on the other, manage to

keep their heads above water in some way, notwithstand-

ing the weight and awkwardness of their burden.

            This doctrine brings the huge bulk of Popery right

across the path on which we are now advancing. They

teach that what I taste and see to be bread and wine, is

not bread and wine at all, but the flesh and blood and

bones of a human body,—the very body that was nailed

to the cross on Calvary! They thereby repudiate the tes-

timony of the senses, competently given, and disparage

the work and gift of God. They concede that the senses,

in as far as they give, or can give, a testimony on the

subject, report the elements to be bread and wine; but

affirm that the senses are not in all cases trust-worthy,

and specify cases in which erroneous inferences are some-

times drawn from the impressions of a single sense.

Suppose we should commence the controversy on the

other side, by showing that their position proves too

much, and cuts away the ground on which they stand:—

If the senses deceive, how can I be sure that my ear con-

veys to me the words of the priest?  Under this pressure


                        TWO WITNESSES                        181

 

they select the sense of hearing, and affirm that it may be

trusted, and it alone. The senses of seeing, tasting,

smelling, and feeling, all take cognizance of the object,  

and all concur in representing it to be bread. The sense

of hearing does not take cognizance of the object at all,

and has no testimony to give. And this one they select

as the only one that should be trusted!  Five witnesses

are called to give evidence regarding a certain fact. The

question,  "Were you present?" is put successively to all

the five.  The first four answer, Yes; the last one, No.

The next question is, "Did the prisoner commit the deed?"

The first four answer, Yes; the last one answers, No. The

jury return a verdict of acquittal. But they are perjured

men.  They have a purpose to serve. They have be-  

lieved one witness who was not present, against four wit-.

nesses who were. Such is the state of the case when

contemplated in the abstract, but it becomes much clearer

and stronger when we refer to examples in Scripture.

            After his resurrection, and before he ascended to heaven,

Jesus showed himself alive, "by many infallible proofs,"

to the apostles whom he had chosen (Acts i. 3). And

what were the proofs which he gave? The evidence of

the senses, and that alone;—"being seen of them forty

days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the king-

dom of God."  It was the evidence of sight and hearing.

When the resurrection of Christ—the fact on which the

world's redemption hangs—is to be proved, the hearing

ear and the seeing eye are the two witnesses called to

support it. They are competent and true, for "the Lord

hath made even both of them." The evidence of the


182                   TWO WITNESSES.

 

senses is either sufficient proof of a fact, or it is not. If

it is sufficient, transubstantiation is not true, for the senses

testify against it: if it is not sufficient, the resurrection

of Christ is not proved, for it has no other evidence to

rest on. Thus the foundation of a believer's hope and

foundation of the Popish system cannot both stand:

thus is Popery proved to be Antichrist.

            In this place, however, we enter the lists against that

mysterious power, expressly in defence of the hearing ear

and the seeing eye as the good gifts of a true God. He

counts their evidence sure, for he has made it a link of

the chain on which his great salvation leans, when it is

let down to men. Through these inlets comes to us the

knowledge, not only of earth, but also of heaven; not

only of time, but also of eternity. It is by seeing and

hearing that the word enters a believing heart; and the

entrance of the word giveth life. The word, coming in

and abiding, is life—life for evermore. He that hath the

Son hath life.

            Man and his faculties are spoken of in Scripture as

vessels or instruments, wherewith God works out his

plans.  Paul was a "chosen vessel" for containing and

bearing to the nations Christ's name (Acts ix. 15). The

Romans were enjoined to yield not only themselves in

general, but specifically their "members as instruments

of righteousness unto God" (Rom. vi. 13). He honours

his own work in our bodies, although we blindly despise

and abuse it. These eyes and ears which he has made,

are, as instruments, worthy of his wisdom. They are

capable of useful employment in his service.  It is


                       TWO WITNESSES.                          188

 

breach of trust to use them in another and adverse in-

terest.

            The Omniscient is not bound to us and the organs of

our body for the accomplishment of his plans. With or

without us, he will do all his pleasure. It is our surest

safety be on his side—our greatest honour to be em-

ployed his instruments. The world which he works

in is full of the tools which he works with. In trees

and plants, every thorn and leaf and tendril is a cun-

ningly-contrived instrument fitted to conduct some delicate

operation in the vegetable economy. In animals, every

member of the body is a tool.  The work-shop is full of

materials and implements. Again, every part of creation

is an instrument necessary and suitable for some depart-

ment of the universal work. The internal fires of the

globe are machinery for heaving up the mountain ridges,

and causing the intervening valleys to subside. The

clouds are capacious vessels made for carrying water from

its great reservoir to the thirsty land. The rivers are a

vast water-power in perpetual motion, slowly wearing

down the mountains, and spreading the debris in layers

on the bottom of the sea. The sun is an instrument for

lighting and warming the world, and the earth's huge

bulk a curtain for screening off the sunlight at stated in-

tervals, and so giving to weary workers a grateful night

of rest. Chief of all the instruments for the Master's use is

man, made last, made best,—broken, disfigured, and de-

filed by sin, but capable yet, when redeemed and renewed,

of becoming a vessel for conveying God's goodness down

to creation, and creation's praises articulate up to God.


184                       TWO WITNESSES.

 

            In our religious exercises we must not limit our view

to the soul and its sins, so as to neglect the body and its

organs; for, in acts of sin or of holiness, the body is related

to the soul as the moving machinery to the water-stream

which drives it. In spiritual matters we are accustomed

to think with something like contempt of the senses and

their organs. There is some risk of error and loss at this

point.  It is true that we deserve contempt when we

waste them on vanity or cripple them by vice. But

these members are worthy of their Maker. They are

given to us for the noblest purposes. They are given in

trust. We should highly esteem the talent, and dili-

gently occupy it till the Giver come. He is not ashamed to

own that hearing ear and that seeing eye as his. He who

spread out the heavens, and sprinkled them with spark-

ling worlds, points to these members of our bodies as

specimens that will sustain his glory. How warily should

they walk upon the world who bear about with them

these precious and tender jewels, the cherished property

of the great King!  How carefully should we preserve

from pollution these delicate instruments, to which he is

even now pointing as evidence of his skill and kindness!

            Christian! these ears and eyes are the openings whereby

light and life have reached your soul; occupy them hence-

forth with sounds and sights that will please Him. If I

am Christ's, these ears and eyes have been bought for

himself by the price of his own blood. I must not em-

ploy them to crucify him afresh, and bring him to an

open shame. Let me listen to those sounds and look at

those sights which I would listen to and look at if he


                              TWO WITNESSES.               185

 

stood beside me listening and looking too. To other

sounds let me be deaf,—to other beauties blind.

            The subject is not a little one. Issues inconceivably

great depend on the purposes to which we now apply

these good gifts of God. Our time and our eternity both

depend on their use or abuse. The conflict rages now:

the victory will be decided soon. Through their ears

and eyes disciples, like their Lord, are plied with strong

temptations. To them as to him the kingdoms of the

world and their glory are offered, on the same dark con-

dition.  Sin waves its painted beauties and shakes its

music-bells to win and enslave. Through unwary ears

and eyes the adversary enters to drag the soul into cap-

tivity and death.

            Hark! another voice! Behold another sight! "Hear,

and your souls shall live." "Come unto me, all ye that

labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

Hear these words of life: behold that Lamb of God who

taketh sin away. By these openings, which his own

hand has made into our being, God our Saviour will send

in light and life.

            Soon these ears and eyes will be closed for ever against

earthly sounds and sights; but they will open again for

other entrants. The trumpet shall sound, and every ear

shall hear it.  "All that are in their graves shall hear

the voice of the Son of man, and shall come forth." Nor

shall the world's destiny be pronounced by an invisible

Judge.  He shall come as the lightning comes, and every

eye shall see him; they also who pierced him. The voice

of judgment will penetrate the ear that was deaf to the


186                   TWO WITNESSES.

 

message of mercy. The outcast will have an ear to hear,

but no word of hope will ever reach it: an eye to see,

but no light will ever dawn to meet its straining.

            Let my ears now hear the word, and my eyes behold

the beauty of the Lord: then, at his appointed time, let

them close in peace. When next they open, they shall

see and hear, what eye hath not seen nor ear heard as

yet—"the things that God hath prepared for them that

love him."


                      BUYERS AND SELLERS.                        187

 

 

                                     XXIII.

 

 

                      BUYERS AND SELLERS.

 

 

"It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer;

        but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth."—xx. 14.

 

 

A VERY large proportion of man's intercourse with man

is occupied by the acts of buying and selling. Nation

buys from nation separated by the sea,—citizen from

citizen separated by a street. In the progress of civili-

zation the commercial relations of states are gradually

rising above the political in importance and power. Fleets

and armies may, by a sudden blow, derange the course of

commerce for a time, but its accumulated waters soon ac-

quire a momentum sufficient to carry away all artificial

impediments, and clear or make a channel for themselves.

The many rivulets of domestic trade obey the same laws

as the majestic rivers of international commerce. Buy-

ing and selling on every scale, from the pennyworth of

the poor widow to the precious cargo of a merchant prince,

have in time past flowed like rivers, and like them will

continue to flow. It is not in the power of men to stop

or turn either class of streams. Those circulations that

are necessary to the world's well-being are placed by the

almighty Ruler beyond the reach of man's capricious will

and meddling hands. Neither our own body nor the

body of the earth is dependent on our thoughtfulness for

the flow and reflow of its life-blood. In like manner,


188                BUYERS AND SELLERS.

 

though in measure less complete, commerce holds direct

of the universal Lawgiver, and spurns the behests of par-

liaments and kings. It determines its reservoirs in the

interior, traces its own channel along the plain, curving

now to this side and now to that without giving an ac-

count of its ways, and at last chooses its own outlet on

the ocean. Each of these circulations maintains a life

after its kind; and it is good for man that, alike in the

momentum of their flow and the degree of their occa-

sional deflection, they obey other laws than his.

            The chief effort of the first Napoleon, in the latter

years of the great war, was to intercept the flow of com-

merce into Britain by his celebrated Continental System,

and so compel us to capitulate, like a garrison whose

supply of water is cut off. The scheme failed, notwith-

standing the vast resources employed in its behalf; and

the extraordinary energy with which it was prosecuted.

The commerce of nations is of the nature and dimensions

of a mighty river,—no embankments made by man can

arrest its course. The increase of commerce in our day

is a happy omen for the future of the race. Next to the

spread of the Truth in power, buying and selling are the

best antidotes to the spirit and practice of war.

            The passing and repassing of merchandise through some

of the greater arteries of the world's commerce is a sight

eminently fitted to arrest and occupy alike the imagina-

tion, the intellect, and the heart. The stream of carts  

and trucks and boats through the heart of a great com-

mercial emporium, is as sublime as rushing rivers or

floating clouds. Through its prosaic crust the true poet's


                  BUYERS AND SELLERS.                         189

 

eye can see a pure and healthful current witnessing the

beneficence of God and bearing blessings to men. Some

silly people of other countries have sneered at Britain as

a nation of merchants. They may as well sneer at the

waters which bear our merchandise, or the winds which

waft it on. We could sit easy under the taunts of

strangers for the quantity of our buying and selling, if

we had no cause to reproach ourselves on account of its

character. The nation's trade is the nation's honour;

the dishonest tricks that mingle with it constitute in that

matter our real, our only disgrace. Commerce is a noble

occupation,—be it ours to keep its mighty current pure.

            Looking now to the exchange of commodities in its

minuter details, it occupies in a very large proportion the

time and attention of neighbours when they meet. Let

a framer, for example, take in this light a note of a

week's transactions. He will find that most of his meet-

ings and conversations were connected with buying or

selling. On the one hand are a numerous class from

whom he obtains his supplies by purchase; and, on the

other, a smaller class to whom in larger transactions he

disposes of his produce by sale. His business with each

is a bargain. The community is not divided into two

classes,—one of buyers and another of sellers. The in-

terests of all are much more completely interwoven than

would be possible under such an arrangement. Each

class and each individual is a buyer and seller by turns.

He who sells bread buys clothes, and he who sells clothes

buys bread.  This intermixture binds society together.

It is in some measure analogous to the chemical admix-


190                     BUYERS AND SELLERS.

 

ture of constituents which secures the solidity and cohesion

of tones or timber.

            Buying and selling, then, constitute in a great measure

the point of contact for individuals as the particles which

make up society in the mass; and it is of the utmost

importance that there should be softness and cohesiveness,

not hardness and repulsion, on both sides at the meeting-

place.  If suspicion and dishonesty prevail there, the peace

of each will be marred, and the strength of the whole

diminished. Truth and trustfulness will bind us into

one, and union is strength. The soundest commonwealth

is a commonwealth of honest men.

            Throughout the Proverbs reproofs frequently occur

directed expressly against the unjust balances of the dis-

honest seller: the sentence now before us uncovers the

disingenuous pretences of the untruthful buyer. The

blame of existing evils does not all lie at the seller's door.

Allowing, for the moment, that he is guilty of all the

tricks which the public so readily and so indiscriminately

impute to him, the question remains, To what extent did

the community of buyers, by their own tortuous conduct,

produce in the seller the vice by which they suffer and of

which they complaint?  The case by its very nature pre-

cludes the possibility of a precise analysis, but perhaps

we would not greatly err if we should assume, in a gene-

ral way, that nearly half of the mischief belongs to the

buyer.

            The counts of the indictment against the seller are nu-

merous and varied, but the one with which we are

more immediately concerned here is,—He asks for his


                 BUYERS AND-SELLERS.                   191

 

article a larger price than it is fairly worth, and if he

cannot get what he first demands, he will sell it at a much

lower price, rather than not sell it at all. Well, this is your

complaint: assuming it to be true, and not justifying his

conduct, we raise the other question,—How far are you,

the buyers, guilty of inoculating the sellers with that

vice?

            By expecting dishonesty in the seller, you produce it.  

The piece of goods is displayed and examined. You

desire to purchase it, and ask the price. If from your

knowledge of the article you think it too high, and deter-

mine not to give so much, it is perfectly competent and

fair to offer a lower price. But when you demand an

abatement, simply in order to bring the seller down, not

based on a judgment as to the worth of the goods, you

endanger both his conscience and your own. This kind

of demand will be made upon the seller equally whether

he asks at first ten shillings for the article or five. It is

not a legitimate judgment regarding the bargain at all,

but a morbid appetite to bring down the price. This

occurs not once or twice, but many times every day. Con-

ceive yourself in the seller's place. This blind and uni-

form demand for an abatement presses upon him from

successive customers, like the continuity of a stream. He

perceives that the people who make it are not competent

to form opinion on the value of the goods. He per-

ceives that their aim is to bring him down from the

price which he has first announced, whatever it may be.

He perceives that the satisfaction of the buyer is not re-

gulated by the real advantage of his bargain, but by the


192                    BUYERS AND SELLERS.

 

difference between the price that was first asked and

that which was ultimately accepted. The pressure thus

brought to bear upon the seller to turn him aside from

the line of righteousness is very strong. It is true he

ought to withstand the pressure; but it is also true that

his customers ought not to subject him to its dreadful

strain.  If he yields to the temptation, his method is

short and easy: he asks a higher price than the goods

are worth, and then pleases the purchaser by letting

it down.

            The cunning buyer, when the price is named, addresses

himself vigorously to the work of depreciating the article.

Proceeding by rhyme rather than by reason, he reiterates

some unvarying formula, like that which the text has

preserved in a fossil state since Solomon's day,—"It is

naught, it is naught." When he has kept the dealer un-

der the clack of this mill for a sufficient length of time,

he offers a price, perhaps the half or two-thirds of that

which was at first demanded. His offer is accepted:

he shoulders his prize, believes the goods are excellent

and cheap, and goes home chuckling over his achieve-

ment. He imagines he has circumvented the dealer.

The dealer, being one degree more cunning, has circum-

vented him.  At every step of this miserable process,

buyer and seller are fellow-sinners, and fellow-sufferers.

If the public say to the merchant, Ask only one price,

and we will cease to beat down; the merchant may reply

the public, Cease to beat down and I will ask only

one price. Trust begets honesty, and honesty begets

trust.


                   BUYERS AND SELLERS.                  193

 

            We well aware that the art of higgling is in a great

measure antiquated now. The mine has been well-nigh

wrought out, and the diggers are trying other veins. The

old, base, undisguised see-saw process of knaves and fools

going into each other, the one asking a double price, and the

other pleased with a bad bargain because he has screwed it

down, has fallen now into the lower and more vulgar strata

of commercial life. In the higher spheres of trade, sellers

and buyers alike would be ashamed in the present day to

begin, in this form, the reciprocating series of deceit. I

rejoice over the advancement which has been made. I

believe that a large proportion of it is a real gain, and is

due to the diffusion of sound principles. I am not so

sanguine, however, as to believe that the root of the evil has

been destroyed. When the more healthful public opinion of

the age prevents it from sending forth its branches in one

direction, it will push them out in another. The forms of

its manifestion will vary with time and circumstances,

but a great amount of distrust and dishonesty, reciprocally

generating each other, still hangs over the border line

where men meet to make bargains, rendering it a com-

paratively waste and withered region—a region where

grace finds it hard to live and grow.

            In the days when England and Scotland were rival

kingdoms and their barbarous peoples animated by here-

ditary feuds, a traveller found, as he neared the border on

either side, a wide, uncultivated, unproductive territory.

The soil was generous, and the sky over-head As fair, as in

other portions of the country; but the inhabitants on

either side occupied themselves with alternate raids, and


194             BUYERS AND SELLERS.

 

each ruthlessly devastated his neighbour's land. The two

parties contrived to make matters nearly equal one year

with another. The balance was kept even by the impar-

tial desolation of both. At this day, too, the interests of

English and Scotch on both sides of the border line are

maintained on a footing of perfect equality. Neither ob-

tains any advantage over the other: yet waving corn-fields

touch the separating rivulet on either brim. There is no

belt of barrenness. The labour of our forefathers in

fighting against each other was more than lost. Peace

can make neighbours equal as well as war, and give them

all their crops beside.

            A state of warfare makes a barren border. Mutual

suspicion between buyer and seller makes the two equal

by wasting both. Trust on the one side and Truth on

the other would make bargaining morally as pleasant and

profitable as any other exercise in life. Righteousness

at the point of contact would do for the parties what peace

on the border has done for contiguous kingdoms: it would

at once weld the two into one, and preserve intact the in-

terests of each.

            Might the analogy be pursued yet another step? The

shortest and surest way of preventing a devastating hos-

tility on the borders, is to imbue the hearts of the bord-

erers on both sides with loving loyalty to one rightful

King. When independent and hostile tribes are brought

under complete subjection to the prince, they cease to wage

war against each other. Those who are under law to

Christ, will not try to overreach their neighbours in a

bargain.
                                A GOOD NAME.                      195

 

 

                                         XXIV.

 

 

                                A GOOD NAME.

 

 

"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,

       and loving favour rather than silver and gold."—xxii. 1.

 

 

WE are not good judges of value, in the public market

of life. We make grievous mistakes, both in choosing

and refusing. We often throw away the pearl, and care-

fully keep the shell. Besides the great disparity in

value between the things of heaven and the things of

earth, some even of these earthly things are of greater

worth than others. The valuables in both ends of this

balance belong to time; and yet there is room for a choice

between them. There is a greater and a less, where

neither is the greatest.

            A trader at his counter has a certain set of weights

which he uses every day, and all day, and for all sorts of

commodities.  Whatever may be in the one scale, the

same invariable leaden weight is always in the other.

This lump of metal is his standard, and all things are

tried by it. Riches practically serve nearly the same

purpose in the market of human life. Whether people

are aware of it or not, riches become insensibly the

standard by which other things are estimated. As the

dealer mechanically throws his old leaden pound weight

into one scale, whatever species of goods the other may

contain; so in human life, by a habit so uniform that it


196                  A GOOD NAME.

 

looks like instinct, men quietly refer all things to the

standard of gold.

            This is a mistake. Many things are better than gold;

and one of these is a good name. A good conscience, indeed,

is better than both, and must be kept at all hazards; but,

in cases where matters from the higher region do not

come into competition, reputation should rank higher

than riches in the practical estimation of men. If a man

choose honour as the substantial portion of his soul, it

flits before him as a shadow, and he is never satisfied;

but shadow though it be, and worthless alone, it is pre-

cious as an accompaniment of the substance. The

shadows are not the picture, but the picture is a naked,

ungainly thing without them. Thus the atmosphere of

a good name surrounding it, imparts to real worth addi-

tional body and breadth. As the substitute for a good

conscience, a good name is a secret torment at the time,

and in the end a cheat; but as a graceful outer garment

with which a good conscience is clothed, it should be

highly valued and carefully preserved by the children of

the kingdom. Robes rich in texture, and comely in

form, would not make a wooden image gainly; but it

does not follow that they are useless to the living human

frame. An idol is vile, whether it be gold or a good

name; but as articles in the inventory of our Father's

gold is good, and reputation better.

            The term "loving favour" serves to indicate the

sweetness of being esteemed and loved by our neigh-

bours. The Lord, who has made us capable of that

enjoyment, does not set it down as sin. If we be "a


                          A GOOD NAME.                     197

 

people near unto him," he will take care that we shall

not be spoilt by over-doses of loving-kindness from men.

It is our part so to act as to deserve that love: then, if

it be given, we may innocently enjoy it; if it be with-

held, we should meekly submit. If in adversity even a

brother turn his back, a Friend remains who sticketh

closer.

            I do not know any department of providence in which

the hand of God is more frequently or more visibly dis-

played, than in maintaining before the world the good

name of those who, before himself, maintain a good

conscience.  A small parenthesis of two words in the

evangelic history serves, like a magnetic needle, to point

out in this matter the way of the Lord. Among the

twelve, there was one named Judas, besides the betrayer,

a man faithful to the Lord. His fellow-disciple John

(xiv. 22) having occasion in the course of his history to

record a question which this Judas addressed to the

Master, adds to his name the significant notandum, "Not

Iscariot."  "The shields of the earth belong unto God,"

and he is ever ready to throw one round the reputation of a

true disciple, when danger is near. The Master knows who

betrays him, and who proves faithful. He will not per-

mit the two to be confounded. Eli made a mistake when

he reckoned Hannah among the drunkards, but her

righteousness came out as light. There will be no confu-

sion in the current accounts of the world; for its Governor

is wise and powerful. When the good and the evil come

near each other in sound, some note is inserted at the

point, so large that he who runs may read it; some paren-


198                      A GOOD NAME.

 

thetic "not Iscariot" is woven into the thread of history,

to keep the marches clear between the disciple and the

traitor. He will not spare the sins of his servants. Now

by the stern rebuke, "Get thee behind me, Satan,"

and now by the silent look that melts the fickle

denier's heart, he will take vengeance on their inven-

tions; but he will encircle themselves in his own everlast-

ing arms.

            An interesting example of "particular providence" in

this department has been recently brought to light. A

brief entry was discovered in an authentic record, which

seemed to leave a stain on the memory of Patrick Hamil-

ton, the herald and first martyr of the Scottish Reforma-

tion.  In the household accounts of the royal treasurer

for the year 1543, a sum is entered for a gown to Isobel

Hamilton, a lady of the queen's household, "daughter of

Patrick, abbot of Ferne." This was evidently the martyr's

daughter, in all probability a posthumous child. He died

young. Hitherto no mention had ever been made of his

marriage. In the silence of history it was assumed that

he had not been married. Could it be that this youth,

whom we have all along considered in every sense a holy

martyr of Christ, had imitated in his life the licentious-

ness of the Romish dignitaries whom be denounced?

Almost as soon as the question was raised, an answer was

provided. Evidence the most incidental, undesigned,

and certain, appears in time to shield the confessor's good

name at the threatened point The writings of Alexander

Alesius, a contemporary Scotchman, a witness of Hamilton's

death, and a Convert of his ministry, have lately been


                      A GOOD NAME.                               199

 

brought to light on the Continent.* The affectionate

pupil, all unconscious of the use that would afterwards be

found for his testimony, records, in a treatise written

while he was an exile for the truth in Germany, that

Hamilton married a "lady of noble rank," in the interval

between his return from the Continent and his trial at

St. Andrews. The letters of a true disciple's name were

beginning to appear very like those of the traitor, and

forthwith the writing, "Not Iscariot," beamed from the

wall, as emblazoned there by an angel’s hand.

_____________________________________________

 

      *Precursors of Knox—Patrick Hamilton. By Professor Lorimer of London.


200     THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.

 

 

                                          XXV.

 

 

            THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.

 

 

               "The rich and the poor meet together."—xxii. 2.

 

 

IN observing and representing the relative position of these

two, or of any two, much depends upon the view-point.

When you stand among the crowd on the surface of the

plain, the rich and the poor appear to move on lines far

apart and never once to approach each other from the be-

ginning of life's journey to its close. In their birth they

seem to be far asunder; one is exposed to hardship as soon

as his eyes are opened to the light; the other is tenderly

cared for, before he knows that he needs care. In their

childhood, intercourse is forbidden, as if it would intro-

duce infection. In maturity the divergence is still farther

increased; and distance is maintained even in the grave.

This proverb briefly and bluntly affirms that the rich and

the poor meet: but where, and when? If we look not to

exceptional instances, but to the ordinary course of events,

these seem to be the very two classes who are all their life-

time most widely separated, and never meet at all

            Change the view-point, and the scene will change.

When you lift your eyes from the earth and look on

objects in the expanse of heaven, worlds that move in

separate orbits appear to touch each other, and several,

like water-drops in contact, merge into a larger one.

Thus the spaces between rich and poor, which seemed so

 

 

 


       THE RICH A THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.       201

 

vast to themselves and other observers near them, disap-

pear when eternity becomes the background of the view.

They meet by appointment of their common Lord. There

are many inevitable meeting-places and meeting-times.

They meet in their birth and their death—in the cradle

and the grave. At the beginning and at the end, and at

many of the intermediate to stations of life's pilgrimage, the

two courses touch each other, and the two pilgrims walk

side by side.

            At birth they meet, answering each other by a cry.

The one is animated lust, the other animated dust; and

both have within themselves the seeds of many sorrows.

In regard to the two grand distinguishing features of

man's present condition, sin and suffering, they stand pre-

cisely on the same level; and if in some minor points

there is a distinction, its amount is too insignificant to

affect greatly the general result. Even in the periods

of infancy and childhood the two paths converge more

closely than superficial observers deem. If the rich man's

infant gets more attention from servants, the poor man's

child lies more constantly on his mother's breast. There

is compensation here, arranged by Him who balanced so

nicely the greater an the lesser orbs that circulate in

space. Mother-love cannot be made by man nor hired

for money. We do not undervalue the faithfulness and

affection of domestics. We find no fault with gas-light;

it is inestimably useful in the absence of day. Such is a

hired servant's care of an infant; it is excellent of its

kind, but not to be compared with that which is of God's

own kindling in a mother's heart. It ought to be instruc-


202   THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.

 

tive to the rich and reassuring to the fainting, overbur-

dened poor, to observe and remember that the welfare of

an infant depends much more on the character than on

the wealth of its parents. For this special object a good

name is rather to chosen than great riches.

            Each sickness a meeting-place between the rich and

the poor, and these occur frequently in the path of life.

A rich man's tooth is at least as liable to caries as a poor

man's, and it aches as keenly. The best joys, too, as

well as the sharpest pains, are common to the two condi-

tions. Food, rest, sleep; light, sounds, odours; family

affections and social intercourse,—these and other main

arterial streams of sensitive enjoyment are at least as

great, and pure, and sweet, in the ordinary experience of

the poor as in the ordinary experience of the rich.

            It would, however, be a defective, and therefore in so

far an untrue, representation of the facts, to speak only

of those meetings between rich and poor which nature

and providence inexorably prescribe. There are meetings

not a few in our day and our land, spontaneous in their

character and beneficent in their effects. Some on both

sides justly estimate the reciprocal relations of the parties,

and honestly address themselves to the duties which these

relations impose. This is one of the brightest features

of the age,—a gleam of sunlight gilding a somewhat

dusky landscape. Good intentions alone, however, will

not gain this cause.  It is an apostleship that demands

the wisdom of the serpent at least as much as the harm-

lessness of the dove. There are precious rights on both

aides that ought to be preserved. One must walk softly


THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.      203

 

over that meeting-ground, lest he rudely tread on some-

thing that is dear to a brother. Those approaches only

are safe and useful in which each man is both obliged to

respect his neighbour and permitted to respect himself.  

Willing union of rich and poor for mutual benefit, is the

true preventive of those revolutionary shocks which reduce

all classes to a level beneath a despot's feet. Looking to

the measure of our privileges in this respect, we have

good cause to thank God and take courage. When cloud

meets cloud in our skies, they seem, although charged

with antagonist forces, to give and take gently until the

equilibrium is restored; in other countries the same forces,

more rigidly pent up, have found relief in the lightning's

flash and the thunder’s roar. The adjustment comes, but

it is with the deluge.

            But, close though they are at many stations on the

way, the life-lines of rich and poor approach each other

still more nearly towards their close. They meet, with-

out a figure, in the grave. Unto dust both, and both

alike, return. They meet at the judgment-seat of Christ.

None may be absent when the roll of our race is called

from the great white throne. At that bar there are no

reserved seats, no respected persons.

            The lesson is obvious, and it looks both ways. The

poor need it as much as the rich, and the rich as much

as the poor; here, too, there is equality. Let the one

learn humility, the other contentment. If both be

"bought with a price" and both, in their several stations,

glorify God, yet another meeting awaits them at another

meeting-place. In Christ Jesus now there is neither


204    THE RICH AND THE POOR MEET TOGETHER.

 

Greek nor barbarian, neither bond nor free, neither male

nor female. That union avails to efface the distinctions

that are most deeply marked in nature; much more those

which lie on the surface of changing circumstances. There

will be no rich men in heaven, for the sinful are all in

utmost need; neither will there be any poor men there,

for all who enter are "rich in faith, and heirs of the

kingdom." The rich and the poor meet together in the

Father's house; the Lord is the Redeemer of them all.

            Faith exercises a decisive influence on practice. The

hope, cherished now, of mingling on terms of complete

equality with the whole family of God, when they

assemble in the Father's house, would cast out corroding

jealousies, and sweeten all the intercourse of life. Those

who are bought by the same price, and called by the

same name, should habitually look forward to the time,

not distant, when the distinctions which now separate

one from another be lost in the equal perfection of

all. And those who "have this hope in Him," that

earthly distinction will shortly terminate, should "purify

themselves, even as He is pure," from that selfishness

which, in various forms, turns the necessary inequalities

of human condition into thorns for tearing human hearts.


             HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT.           205

 

 

                                       XXVI.

 

 

             HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT.

 

"A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself:

         but the simple pass on, and are punished."—xxii. 3.

 

 

ONE main element of safety is a just estimate of danger.

Many of the great diasters that have occurred in war are

due to the rashness which springs from undervaluing the

enemy's power. He who foresees the evil, hides himself

until it pass; and he who so hides himself escapes the storm

which lays lofty rashness low. There is much room for

this species of prudence to exercise itself upon, in relation

both to the present life and to that which is to come.

There are both encompassing dangers and safe hiding-

places in the several regions of our secular business, our

moral conduct, and our religious hopes.

            1. In the ordinary business of life there are evils which

may be foreseen by the prudent, and places of shelter in

which he may safely lie. When speculation is rife, for

example,—when all that a man has, and much that

belongs to his neighbour, is risked at a throw, and a for-

tune made by return of post,— when people, made

giddy by success, farther and faster into the stream,

—evil is near and imminent. It hangs like a thunder-

cloud overhead. The prudent in such an hour is on

his guard. He seeth the evil before the bolt has

actually fallen. He seeks a place of shelter. Nor is that


206        HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT.

 

shelter far away His daily labour and his legitimate

business will be a sufficient defence against these foes.

A disciple who has his heart in heaven should beware of

fretting because his hands are full all day long with

earthly business. Labour, when the Lord appoints it for

his people, is a strong wall built round them to keep

dangerous enemies out.

            2. Evils lie before us in the region of practical morality

—evils for which the prudent keep a sharp out-look.

Frivolous and licentious companions, theatres, Sabbath

amusements, and a multitude of cognate enticements,

press upon a young man like wind: if he be like chaff,

he will be carried away. The wisest course is to go into

hiding. In your father's house and in your sisters' com-

pany,—among sober associates and instructive books,—

in the study of nature or the practice of art,—a multi-

tude of hiding-places are at hand. Even there the

enemy will seldom find you. But a deeper, safer refuge

still,—a strong tower of defence, from which all the fiery

darts of the wicked will harmlessly rebound,—is that

"name of the Lord" into which the righteous run. All

the power of the world and its god can neither drive a

refugee forth  from that hiding-place, nor hurt him

within it.

            3. But the greatest evils lie in the world to come, and

only the eye of faith can foresee them. To be caught

by death unready, and placed before the judgment-seat

without a plea, and then cast out for ever, are evils so

great that in their presence all others disappear like stars

in the glare of day.  But great though they are, the


        HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT.        207

 

prudent may foresee and the trustful prevent them.

There is a refuge, but its gate opens into Time. If the

prudent do not enter now, the simple will knock in vain at

the closed door, when he has passed on into eternity with-

out any part in Christ.  If the needy are numerous, the

refuge is ample. If the exposed are in poverty, the admis-

sion is free. If the adversary is legion, the Saviour is God.

            "The simple pass on, and are punished." "How long,

ye simple, will ye love simplicity?" Although the saved

are not their own saviours, the lost are their own de-

stroyers. The reason why they perish is declared by

Him who knows the hearts:  "Ye will not come unto

me." A man is passing on in the way which he has

chosen. He is eating and drinking, and making merry.

Guilt is on his conscience, but he feels not its fiery bite;

wrath is treasured over him, but he fears not its final out-

pouring. The open door of mercy abuts upon his downward

path, but he heeds it not: he passes on—he passes by it.

As he passes, a voice falls upon his ear; it is the voice of

God's own Son conjuring him with strong crying and

tears to turn and live.  Startled for a moment by the

sound, he pauses and looks; but seeing nothing that

takes his fancy, he passes on again. Again a voice be-

hind him cries, in tones which show that life and death    

eternal are turning on their hinge, "Repent, lest you perish!

why will you die?" He stops and looks behind. It is

a fit of seriousness, but it soon goes off. He heard a

sound; but it must have been an echo in the mountains,

or a call to some wanderer who has lost his way. Stop-

ping his ears, and shutting his eyes, he passes on. Deaf


208         HIDING-PLACES FOR THE PRUDENT.

 

to warnings from above, and blind to beacons reared

before him, he still passes on, until, at a moment when

he counts his footing firmest, he stumbles over the brink

of life, and falls into the hands of the living God! This

fall, the Bible to us, "is a fearful thing." Fear it now,

and flee, ye who are passing on through life in your sin,

and without a Saviour. Surely it should be plain to

any rational being, that though a man may live without

God in the world he cannot escape from God when he

dies. Do those who are passing on with their backs to

Christ, and their hearts full of vain shows, know where

life's boundary-line lies, or what awaits themselves be-

yond it? Why will men pass on, if they are on such a

path that another step may be perdition?

            If there were no hope, the wanderers would have no

resource but to go forward in despair until their doom

declared itself.  But here, and now, blessed hope abounds.

Cease to go on neglecting the great salvation, and the

great salvation is ready for you. Seek and ye shall

find. They are not the great, and the wise, and the

good, who escape, but the sinners who seek the Saviour,—

the prudent who foresee the evil, and hide. The ques-

tion is not, How great is your sin? or, How long have you

been a sinner?  If you are lost while another is saved, it

is not because your guilt is greater than his, but because

you neglected the salvation which he deemed precious.

If the simple is punished at last, it is because, in spite of

a beseeching, weeping Saviour, he "passed on" through

the day of grace, and fell upon the day of judgment.


                              EDUCATION.                             209

 

 

                                   XXVII.

 

 

                              EDUCATION.

 

 

“Train up a child in the way he should go;

         and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” —xxii.6.

 

 

AT all times and in all places education is a matter of

first-rate importance and in this country at the present

time its importance in some measure, felt and acknow-

ledged. It has become, or at least is becoming, the

question of the day. Out of it many difficulties spring;

over it many battles are fought. It should moderate our

grief however, and silence our fretful complaints, to

remember that our troubles grow out of our privileges.

This species of thistle is found only in fat corn-fields. It

is never seen in uncultivated moors. It is because we

have so much education that we complain so loudly of

the deficiency, and cry so earnestly for more. Besides

all the noise which we make about the quantity of edu-

cation, we quarrel energetically about the kind. Now,

although this state of warfare is not the optimism in

which we should acquiesce as a final attainment, yet, as

a symptom of progress, we might have worse. The edu-

cational difficulties which trouble us do not agitate the

worshippers of Brahma or Mahomet. Few of them are

felt in Spain or Italy.  These questions do not rise in

those portions of the world where superstition and des-

potism crush the intellectual energies of the people. If


210                       EDUCATION.

 

an adventurous inquirer at any time dare to raise them,

he is silenced by a short and simple process. Tyrants

make a solitude, and call it peace. When they point with

scorn to the strifes which agitate Protestant communities,

we sit easy under the taunt. We love not the contentions

for their own sake, but we love liberty so much that we

endure, with some measure of equanimity, the troubles

which, while men continue imperfect, must follow in its

wake. If the uneasy twisting and groaning of the body

politic prove that the nation, in matters of education, is

on a sick-bed, they prove also that she is not in the

grave. Granted that Britain educationally is ailing;

other countries that might be named are dead. We

would be glad to see the silent satisfaction of robust

health, but, in the meantime, we like the cry which in-

dicates life, better than the stillness that broods over the

body when the spirit has gone.

            This verse of he Bible is a pregnant utterance on our

much-vexed question. It goes to the point at once, and

goes through all the points in a very short space of time.

Root and branch of the case are here. Adopting the

terms of the English version, as conveying the sentiment

of the original substantially and perspicuously, without

the aid of and critical remarks, we find in it three clearly

distinguished yet closely related parts:—

            1. Whom we should educate—the material:  "A

child."

            2. How We should educate—the process: "Train up."

            3. Into what we should educate—the aim and issue:

"In the way he should go."


                               EDUCATION.                     211

 

            In education, the material should be pliable, the

method skilful, an the pattern divine. These three

points correspond nearly to the philosophy, the art, and

the religion of the question.

            1. The material on which the educator operates,—"A

child." That childhood is the proper period for education

is one of the most obvious of all general truths. In

profession, at least, it is universally acknowledged. The

law on which it is founded holds good in all countries

and all times. Its range is not limited to human kind.

It traverses the boundary of the animal kingdom, and

determines the form of a branch as well as the character

of a man. The world teems with analogies, both real and

obvious, whereby the moralist may enforce the duty of

educating in the comparatively pliable period of youth.

You may, within cerrtain limits, determine at will the

direction of a river, a tree, a man, if you touch them

near their sources, where they are tiny and tender; but

none of the three when full-grown can be bent, except

in very minute degrees, and at an expense of labour

greatly disproportionate to the result. The belief uni-

versally diffused through society, and floating impalpable

in the moral atmosphere, has at one spot been precipi-

tated and solidified in the convenient mould of a

rhythmical Scottish proverb:—

                        "Learn young, learn fair;

                        Learn auld, learn nair."

 

            In the horizon of the nation's future there is no more

ominous cloud than the multitude of children that are

advancing to maturity uneducated. We were slow to


212                  EDUCATION.

 

learn the danger; but we are in some measure aroused at

length. The lesson has been lashed into us by the rod

of correction,            gentler admonitions had been tried in

vain. The aggregate of crime was becoming so great,

that the vessel of the State was sensibly staggering under

its weight. When we came to close quarters with full-

grown criminals, we found that neglected children are

the raw material out of which they grow. Efforts were

put forth by individuals, societies, and the legislature, to

mitigate or arrest the evil. Hence the ragged schools

and kindred institutions which have of late years occupied

so large a share of the public attention, and which char-

acterize the philanthropy of the day. The opinion

boldly proclaimed by some distinguished Christian patriots,

That no man has a right to rear a young savage in his

house, and let him loose when full-bodied to prey upon a

civilized community, seems to be making its way toward

general acceptance.  It is conceded that when parents

cannot, or will not educate their children, the nation may

and should, in its own interest, effectually interfere.  The

disputes that have arisen respect not the principle, but

the best method of carrying it into practice. Slowly and

painfully the confession has been wrung from an afflicted

and penitent people, that to ply the gallows and the

penal colonies for the punishment of convicted malefac-

tors is only the 1eft-hand side of national duty; while we

permit careless or profligate parents to inundate society

with a brood of young Anakim, a hybrid compound of

animal strength and moral imbecility. The double con-

viction is taking possession of the popular mind, and


                          EDUCATION.                               213

 

already expressing itself in imperial legislation, that the

nation in its collection capacity should come to the rescue,

and that the rescue can be effected only by a thorough

and universal education of the young. We live in an

active and hopeful time. Life does not stagnate for

want of movement. There is room for all—for the man

of thought, and the man of labour–for all who have

talents, and all the talents of each. We need a spark of

truth from the head of the wise, and a push from the

arm of the strong—one contribution to the direction of

the movement, and another to its force. To draw the

country out of the slough in which it has deeply settled

down, we need a long pull, and a strong pull, and a

pull all together.

            We must not deceive ourselves by accepting a shadow

for the substance.  A general confession that the thing

ought to be done is not the doing of the thing. The

kind of evil spirit that possesses the outcast, neglected

youth of the kingdom, will not go out before a blast of

words, whether spoken or printed. After all that has

been said, the great part of the work remains to be

done. The number of children undergoing a training

into evil, is at once the greatest disgrace and the greatest

danger to the commonwealth. The most formidable

barrier, however, which impedes practical reformation is

neither the inertia of parliament nor the intolerance of

sects, but the short-sighted selfishness of human hearts.

It costs something to keep our outcast brother in a course

of training from childhood into adolescence, and therefore

under various pretexts we shuffle the obligation off. The


214                     EDUCATION.

 

sin most surely finds us out and exacts a fourfold retri-

bution, but we are not prudent enough to foresee the evil

and hide from it betimes in measures of prevention.

Even the machine which has been erected for the ac-

complishment of work is left in part unemployed,

not for want of the raw material, but to save the expense

of the operation. Corporations and communities, penny

wise and pound foolish, save their money, and leave the

lost little ones lying in the nation's skirts, like the cannon

balls which they sew up in the hasty winding-sheet of

those who die at sea, a dead-weight to make the body

sink. The guardians of a union may stave off an assess-

ment by making strait the gate of entrance to the industrial

school;* but out of the ashes of every such crushed

request a sturdier applicant springs up, whose demands

they will be compelled to grant,—whose heaviest drafts

they will be compelled to honour. It is easy to abandon

feeble infants, but when abandoned children have grown

wicked men, the voice must be heard, and their weight

will be felt. Crime and punishment constitute the awful

Nemesis of our neglect.  Train up a child in the way

he should go, while he is a child. For that specific

work, now only is the accepted time; now is the day of

salvation.

            2. The process of education,—"Train up a child." Of

_________________________________________________

 

      * I have myself danced attendance on a police magistrates' court from day to

day, according to successive appointments by the officials, provided with

witnesses and the person of the culprit, in the hope of rescuing a fatherless child

from a training in beggary by her own mother; and have been compelled to retire

from the conflict baffled and disgusted, because agents of parochial boards

protected successfully the cash-box of their constituents.


                        EDUCATION.                                    215

 

late years much attention has been directed to the distinc-

tion between teaching and training. The effort was

needed, and has been useful. The tendency in a former

age to pile up reading, writing, and a few other kindred

arts, and call them education, was superficial in its philo-

sophy, and disastrous in its practical results. There can-

not be training without teaching; but there may be

teaching without training.  The various branches of

knowledge which the teacher imparts constitute as it

were the elements which the trainer employs. They are

the types skilfully cast, and lying in the fount before him;

but they have little meaning, and less power, until they

have been arranged his frame, and submitted to his

press. Moral train according to a divine standard,

with the view of moulding the human being, while yet

young and tender, into right principles and habits of

action, and using up in its processes all kinds and degrees

of information within its reach, is the only education

worthy of the name. So much has of late been done in

this department, and so familiar have all the intelligent

portion of the community become with the subject, that

though it comes most naturally in our way, we do not

think it necessary in this place either to explain what

moral training is, or enforce its paramount importance

in education.

            The oldest training school is still the best. Home is

the best school-room, sisters and brothers the best class-

fellows, parents the but masters. The chief value of

those charitable institutions for the training of the young

which characterize and honour our age, consists in sup-


216                      EDUCATION.

 

plying the lack of home education. These schools deserve

all the praise that has been bestowed on them; but it is

on the principle that when the best has entirely failed,

the next best is very precious.  When limbs are broken,

hospitals are excellent; but it would have been better

both for the patients and the community if hospitals had

not been needed. To make well in the industrial school

is good; but to keep well in the home is better,—is best.

We speak specifically of training, the highest department

of education. As to its subordinate materials, the arts

of reading and writing, and the like, parents even in the

best state of society do well to avail themselves of pro-

fessional aid; but themselves should preside over the

process, and with their own hearts and hands labour to

get the whole, while soft, cast into a heavenly mould of

truth and righteousness.  Let any one and every one help

in spreading a sail and catching a breeze, but let the

parent keep the helm in his own hands.

            Formidable obstacles, both intrinsic and extrinsic, pre-

vent or impede parental training. In some cases personal

deficiencies, in others the pressure of circumstances from

without, and in many both barriers combined, stand in

the way of the work. But in all these the beautiful law

of providence appears, that good principles and habits, as

well as bad, count kin and help each other. Suppose a

father and mother personally deficient, but desiring to

have their children trained to truth and righteousness,

—observe how the various portions of the machinery

work together for good.  In giving them children, and

filling their hearts with parental love, God has supplied


                        EDUCATION.                                    217

 

them at once with the best exercise for improvement and

the most powerful motive to urge them on. Love to the

little ones will make them try the training, and each trial

will increase their capacity for the work. Every effort

to train their children will elevate themselves; and every

degree of elevation to which they attain will be an addi-

tion to their power of doing good to the children. God's

good gifts run in circles. An entrance into his family

in the spirit of adoption secures for you the benefit of

them all. If you should certainly know that in five

years hence your boy, who is now a little child, would fall

into a deep river all alone, you would not wait till the

event should happen ere you prepared to meet it. You

would begin now the process which would be safety then.

Your child cannot swim, and you are not qualified to

teach him; but forthwith you would acquire the art

yourself; that you might communicate it to him, and that

he might be prepared to meet the emergency. Now

beyond all peradventure your child, if he survive, will in

a few years be plunged into a sea of wickedness, through

which he must swim for his life. Nothing but right

moral principles, obtained from the Bible, and indurated

by early training into a confirmed habit, will give him

the necessary buoyancy.  Hence, as you would preserve

your child from sinking through the sea of sin into final

perdition, you are bound to qualify yourself for training

him up in the way he should go.

            In like manner when the obstacles are extrinsic, the

necessities of his child supply the parent with motives to

exert himself for the removal; and the effort which he


218                     EDUCATION.

 

makes for his child will rebound in blessings on himself

For example, if a parent has, through carelessness or a

supposed necessity, adopted a line of life which demands

Sabbath-day labour, or late hours all the week, he will

discover, as his children grow up, that his business is

incompatible with his duty to them. If, from love to his

family and enlightened desire for their welfare, he suc-

cessfully shake off the bondage, and obtain the means of

living without giving the Lord's day or the evening hours

to labour, he has thereby secured a double boon,—to his

children and to himself.

            Sabbath-school instruction, although good as far as it

goes, does not supply adequate moral education for the

juvenile hordes which infest the streets of our large cities.

The interval between Sabbath