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if it denoted a degrading feeling;-like a child being afraid in the dark, or a coward being afraid of another man, or of some danger that threatened him: but this is not fair; it seems to suppose that the Almighty is an imaginary being, or that he is our equal, or that he is a bad being, all of which are very shocking suppositions. For a child to fear, as well as to love, a good parent, is a very proper feeling: for a man to be afraid of an earthquake, which makes the mountains tremble, is not cowardice. Since a good parent will not be angry with, nor chastise or punish a child, without just cause, a child should always be afraid of incurring such a parent's displeasure; for this is the same as being afraid to do wrong; and to be afraid of incurring the divine displeasure is the beginning of wisdom. The fear of the Lord implies a knowledge of the Almighty's greatness, and goodness, and justice, and a desire never to do any thing undutiful, or bad, or unjust; and he who does not desire to possess this fear is a bad man by his own confession; and he who curses and swears, and pretends not to be afraid of the divine punishments, is as great a fool as the man who defies the lightning or the earthquake. Boys sometimes think that swearing and bad language makes them look manly, but it only shews that they are fools. Our Saviour said, “Fear not them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do; but I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear. Fear Him, who, when he hath killed, hath power to cast both soul and body into hell. Yea, I say unto you, fear Him.” Any of you who have a reverence for God, and a dread of wicked language and conduct, be not afraid when your comrades swear at you, and treat you with contempt and ridicule, and call you Methodists; these sneers are all trifles, compared with the cruel mockings, and tortures, and deaths, which many confessors and martyrs have endured, without fear, and without impatience. Never be ashamed to own that you fear God, and then you need fear none else. It was a proper answer given by a soldierofficer, * who refused a challenge, “I am not afraid to fight, but I am afraid to sin.” Man may mock me, and call me a coward; but as I think duelling sinful, I fear God and not man. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; it lies at the foundation of all true religion and morality. It checks and puts a stop to all profane thoughts, and language, and conduct. Hence the Bible describes the wicked man as one who has cast off the fear of God, and as one who has no fear of God before his eyes.” He who truly fears God is a religious and holy man, or, in other words, a pious and moral man. Now, since this reverence for the Divine Being is the beginning of wisdom's ways, it follows, that some modern notions about leaving religion out of the education of children is a foolish method. A regard to the Almighty in the human heart, is the main-spring of all that is good : without it, all the machinery of education will not work, nor produce a good man. Every body knows that reading and writing, known by a man of bad principles, only makes him more mischievous than he could well be without them. And the same is true of the higher branches of education; although they polish the surface of society, they may exist together with the utmost depravity, cruelty, and injustice, and therefore the utmost folly. Yes! religion is the beginning of wisdom! If you ask me, “What religion ?” I answer, “The fear of the Lord.” That is true religion; and if a man is not afraid of sinning against God Almighty—if you hear him make a jest of what is sinful— he is evidently not possessed of the true religion. He must still be numbered with the fools, as the Bible calls those who make a mock at sin, and who in vain pretend to belong to any church; but he who is afraid of offending Heaven has certainly begun to be wise, and has commenced the true religion; has entered the porch of the true church, and will advance as he increases in knowledge. Having now ascertained the right way of setting out in the pursuit of wisdom, let us, in the
* Colonel Gardiner,
* Deut. xxviii. 5.8. “If thou wilt not—fear this glorious and fearful (**"ful) name,” the Lord thy God, “the Lord will make thy plagues wonderful.”
II. Next place, enquire concerning her paths, said to be pleasant and peaceful. And, (1.) A humble, teachable disposition, and a desire and strenuous endeavour to learn, is declared to be one of the paths of wisdom; in confirmation of which, I shall quote some of the paragraphs in the Book of Proverbs. (Prov. i. 8.) “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” The advice and admonitions of good parents, next to the instructions derived from Heaven, should be carefully listened to and remembered by those who mean to do well; for parents have most right to direct, and they feel a deeper interest in their children than any other persons. Orphans should attend to the good advice given by teachers and the ministers of religion, or by older people and superiors, who themselves set a good example. The churches and chapels at home afford the means of instruction to all who, instead of wandering about the streets and fields, choose to attend them. And there are many small cheap books and tracts, containing excellent instruction, which those that can read may easily avail themselves of. (Prov. xiii. 1.) “A wise son heareth his father's instructions, but a scorner heareth not rebuke.” And there is a promise annexed to a diligent study of what is good. (Chap. ii. ver. 2.) “If thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thy heart to understanding ; if thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God; for the Lord giveth wisdom, out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.” The Divine Wisdom condescends to entreat and persuade thoughtless man, and says, (Prov. i. 22.) “How long, ye simple ones, will ye love simplicity and the scorners delight in their scorning, and fools hate knowledge? Turn ye at my reproof: behold, I will pour out my spirit unto you; I will make known my words unto you.” And, finally, against those who will not listen to the divine instruction a threatening is denounced. Heaven says to proud and untractable, unteachable men, “Because K
I have called, and ye refused; I have stretched out my hand, and no man regarded; but ye have set at nought all my eounsel, 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 hell;” 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 cruel— lest 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 man'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 concerns. 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.