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I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my counsel, and would none of my reproof: I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your fear cometh ; when your fear cometh as desolation, and your destruction cometh as a whirlwind; when distress and anguish cometh upon you :—for that they hated knowledge, and did not choose the fear of the Lord.”
In these passages of Sacred Scripture, the good and the evil, the blessing and the curse, are set before us ; the path of wisdom, and the path of folly; the different conduct and fate of the humble learner, and of the proud scorner. “ A man's pride shall bring him low; but honour shall uphold the humble in spirit.” (Prov. xxix. 23.) Therefore, (chap. iii. ver. 5.) “Trust in the Lord with all thy heart, and lean not to thine own understanding.-Be not wise in thine own eyes; but in all thy ways acknowledge the Almighty, and he will direct thy paths.”
(2.) But the humble and teachable disposition so strongly inculcated, does not imply an easy acquiescence with whatever any body may suggest; quite the reverse! It is accompanied by a firm resistance to the enticements of evil men and bad women. (Prov. i. 10.) “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” If they say, 'Cast in thy lot among us—let us all have one purse,' and so entice you to steal or to rob, “Walk not thou in the way with them: refrain thy foot from their path, for their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood."
(Prov. ii. 10.) “When wisdom entereth into thy heart and knowledge is pleasant to thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee, and deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things”—who rejoices to do evil, and delights in the frowardness of the wicked; and will deliver thee from the strange woman, from the abandoned woman, who flattereth with her words, who forsaketh the guide of her youth (her father or her husband,) and forgetteth the covenant of her God;--for her house inclineth unto death, and her paths unto the dead. None that go unto her return again,
neither take they hold of the paths of life. (Prov. v. 2.) “Her feet go down to death, and her steps take hold on heli;” therefore, O man, remove thy way far from her, and come not nigh the door of her house, “Lest thou give thine honour unto others, and thy years unto the cruellest strangers be filled with thy wealth, and thy labours be in the house of a stranger," and thou mourn at the last, when thy flesh and thy body are consumed (by loathsome disease), and remorse extort from thee the exclamation“How have I hated instruction, and my heart despised reproof-I have not obeyed the voice of my teachers, nor inclined mine ear to them that instructed me!”
He who does not firmly resist the fair speeches of impudent and abandoned women, (Prov. vii. 21.) “goes after her as an ox to the slaughter, or a fool to the correction of the stocks; for her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death." (Prov. ix. 17.) “The simple fool who turneth into her house, knoweth not that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of hell.” This strong language is dictated by divine wisdom, to confirm the resolution of those who have any regard for their own honour or welfare in this world, or any concern for the salvation of their souls.
(3.) And the same divine wisdom which so strongly dehorts men from a licentious life, recommends honourable marriage and conjugal fidelity; for nian's ways are before the eyes of the Lord, and he pondereth all his goings.
(4.) Another path of wisdom pointed out in this Sacred Book, is prudence and diligence in temporal and secular
An improvident thoughtlessness, carelessness about the future, is condemned by an allusion to that feeble insect the ant, Prov. vi. 6."Go to the ant, thou sluggard, consider her ways and be wise, which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, provideth her meat in the summer, and gathereth her food in the harvest.” If the feeble insect, without guide, overseer, or ruler, provides for itself, how inexcusable is it in a man to live in a careless, improvident manner, and squander in riot and dissipation, what should afford him support when he is sick or unemployed.
The happy effects of diligence and prudence are strongly expressed in these words, “Seest thou a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings, he shall not stand before mean men." The proof of this is every day seen, in the respectability to which well-principled, industrious men attain; whereas, to the sluggard or dissipated man, poverty and want come upon him as one that travelleth apace, and terribly as the approach of an armed enemy whom he cannot resist.
(5.) A peaceable disposition, and living in harmony with other people, is pointed out as another path of wisdom. He is called a wicked man who soweth discord--but a soft answer turneth away wrath. The beginning of strife is as when one letteth out water; you cannot always stop it when you wish; "therefore leave off contention before it be meddled with.”
(6.) And to this end useful conversation is enjoined, and the avoiding of tale-bearing, and excessive talking. (Prov. x. 19.) “In the multitude of words there wanteth not sin, but he that refraineth his lips is wise. The tongue of the just is as choice silver; the heart of the wicked is little worth; the lips of the righteous feed many; but fools die for want of wisdom. The tongue of the righteous useth knowledge aright, but the mouth of fools poureth out foolishness. A wholesome tongue is a tree of life, but perverseness therein is a breach of the spirit. The lips of the wise disperse knowledge, but the heart of the foolish doth not so.”
A fool's lips enter into contention, and his mouth calleth for strokes. A fool's mouth is his destruction, and his lips are the snare of his soul. The words of a tale-bearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.
“Answer not a fool according to his folly”-i.e. not in the same foolish manner ; but answer him according to his folly, i-e. give him such an answer as his foolish speech -requires to shew its folly, lest he be wise in his own coneeit. Men, who by vicious bad language corrupt each other, and teach vice to young boys, have a great deal
to answer for beside their own sins: if a man cannot say much that is useful, he may at least forbear saying what is vicious and corrupting ; there is no occasion to be eternally muttering and talking. And connected with good conversation
(7.) Truth may be noticed. “ Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord; but they that deal truly are his delight. The lip of truth shall be established for ever ; but a lying tongue is but for a moment. A righteous man hateth lying, but a wicked liar is loathsome, and cometh to shame. The getting of treasures by a lying tongue, is a vanity tossed to and fro of them that seek death. A false witness shall not be unpunished, and he that speaketh lies shall perish.” And with truth must be joined sincerity: “ Faithful are the rebukes or censures of a friend, but the kisses or flatteries of an enemy are deceitful.” 6. He that rebuketh or findeth fault with a man, shall find more favour than he that flat tereth with the tongue.” To truth and sincerity, will honesty be added, for “ divers weights are an abomination to the Lord, and a false balance is not good.”
(8.) Another of wisdom's paths, is the keeping good company. “ He that walketh with wise and good men, shall be wise, but a companion of fools shall be destroyed. Go from the presence of a foolish man when thou perceivest not in him the words of knowledge. Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man thou shalt not go."
(9.) Contentment is also a path of wisdom, for “better is a little with righteousness than great revenues without rights therefore be not envious against evil men (who are prosperous,) neither desire to be with them, for he that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent."
(10.) Finally, the path of wisdom requires sobriety, or the moderate use of inebriating liquors; for “ wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging, and whosoever is deceived thereby, is not wise. Contentions, babbling, wounds without cause, redness of eyes, sorrow and wo," are the consequences intoxication, and the drunkard and glutton shall come to poverty, and be the slaves of lewdness and perverse conduct.
Thus I have noticed ten of those paths which wisdom
pronounces pleasant; docility, firmness, honourable marriage, prudence, diligence, peaceable disposition, truth, useful conversation, good company, contentment, and sobriety. These, added to the fear of God, will render a man's life tolerably pleasant, under any circumstances, much more so than all the pleasures of sin can do under the most prosperous circumstances. The paths of folly, in which so many tread, are the opposite of these, and those who tread in them, are proud, unteachable mockers and scorners, silly dupes of designing men and women, or who themselves seduce and corrupt the innocent, having no real affection for any woman, and beloved by none; and imprudent, idle, and extravagant; and quarrelsome; liars, and deceitful, whose mouths are filled with impious and indecent language; companions of profligate people, discontented and murmuring against Providence, and seeking to drown their mental miseries in habits of intoxication; and who, in the midst of all these hateful and unhappy modes of living, have every reason to fear that misery awaits them after death. Now,
Although an entire deliverance from afflictions, of one kind or another, is not to be expected in this guilty world; it is easy to see, that in comparison of the paths of wicked folly, wisdom's ways are, indeed, ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are comparatively peace. Endeavour, then, O men, to remember the instructions of Divine Wisdom, and pray God, for Christ's sake to grant you the aid of his Holy Spirit, to avoid the broad road that leads to destruction, and to enter in at the strait gate that leads to eternal life. If you would remember these things, whether at sea or on shore, you would find them contribute to your daily comfort, and ensure your lasting happiness.