Click here to join the effort!
by Joseph Parker
The following material appeared at the end of Proverbs in the printed edition:
Pagan Proverbs. I.
There are more proverbs than those which are written in the Bible. But who shall say where God's Bible either begins or ends? We always make a mistake when we shut up God between any four corners. He does not live within that square, he does not visit it. When we make a place for him and say, "Here only shalt thou abide," we may be quite sure he will not accept our partial and bigoted hospitality. God is in all the world; in every human heart that has opened itself to the best influences God has written his name. It was not one man, but Man, that God made in his image and likeness. We shall do the Bible no dishonour by recognising all that is Biblical outside of it. The Bible is not a book only; it is the beginning of books; it is the root out of which all true and progressive literature grows. Some are surprised to find wisdom outside what is distinctively known as the Church. You will find piety everywhere. There is no need for us to repress our surprise, for surprise itself may be an element in religious stimulus and education. No man who was not trained out of himself could look upon a flower in the middle of a great wilderness of snow without being struck by its beauty and without recognising that beauty audibly and thankfully. It should be so when we meet with wise sayings in literature that we have not baptised. If I wanted to establish the unity of man as a doctrine or a fact, I am not sure that I should base my argument upon physiology. All these 'ologies are more or less to be suspected. They are little inventions of little men. They are too clever to be true. Truth is never clever. Cleverness is too small a cage for truth to live in or to sing in; it must have an open firmament of heaven. I should rather refer to the common experience of man: what have men felt, deduced, proved by experience, in every quarter of the world, and in every century of time? Let us hear voices and witnesses from east and west, from north and south, and if there be aught of strong concurrence in the testimony, we shall find in that concurrence an irrefragable proof of the unity of the human race. Great unities are not to be established upon grammatical bases; that is to say, upon words that are discovered as being related to some other words that came from beyond some faraway rivers. Here again we are exposed to the temptation of mere moral agility or cleverness. Unities of the great sort that abide and do good are to be proved by moral experiences: the heart must testify; and if we listen to the heart-testimony from every quarter under heaven, and if that testimony prove to be an unbroken witness, rely upon it there is unity, sympathetic and indestructible.
Hear the Hindu: he, too, has his book of proverbs. He says, "The sugar-cane is sweeter knot after knot." What a Bible upon the development of character is there! The Hindu found that out for himself by experience, by the study of human nature, by taking in a large scope and a distinct purpose of life. Said he, "The sugar-cane is sweeter knot after knot:" the further it grows, the more it grows; the more perfectly it is developed, the sweeter it becomes. It needs no great sagacity to see the practical applications of so beautiful a fact in nature. The one application that may be fixed upon is this, that men as they grow older should grow sweeter. There should be more of real affection in them: their speech should be no longer aspersive, acerb, vinegar-like; it should be charitable, gracious, of the nature of hopeful blessing. When we come away from the older men we should say, They improve with keeping: how very exasperating they used to be; how they could smite and tear and rend in early days, and now all that is aggressive is taken out of their voices, and their whole utterance is like a piece of solemn music. If we are growing bitterer as we grow older I know not who planted us; God can hardly be held responsible for such an irony: but if we are growing sweeter, gentler, purer, fuller of the love that would redeem the world, God is in us of a truth; whether we belong to any sect or no sect, we belong to God.
The Teluguan says about that same sugar-cane, "Because the sugar-cane is sweet you are not to chew it down to the roots." That is a great temptation all the world over. When a man has found honey he is likely to gorge himself with it. Our Book of Proverbs, Solomon's apothegms, supply the same great doctrine: "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee," eat enough only, and stop there. But who can arrest himself when he has once begun to taste sweetness? who can set it down and say, No more; I will come again to thee, I will not feed myself to satiety; I will take a little honey to-day and a little more to-morrow, and even though there be sweetness in the taste, that sweetness is an allurement: get thee behind me! to-morrow I may make some use of thee; meanwhile thou hast placed before me a temptation to lose the true uses of nature, and to abase and carry into licence what was meant as sweet and profitable liberty?
Has China anything to say? China says, "When a tree is blown down, it shows that the branches are longer than the roots." It would be difficult to pack more wisdom into a smaller compass than that. Wherever there is great display, there is sure to be a downfall. Be sure about your roots; let the roots go miles into the earth it you like, and then the winds will be gentle to the branches even in rocking them, and what is lost will be comparatively small: the tree itself will abide. We live in our roots, not in our branches. What is your soul? not, What is your talk? What is your quality? not, What is your pretension or profession? How many men there are who are all branch! What shall become of them? Ask the wind. Will the wind blow them down? If it has nothing better to do it may; the wind will despise them, and bestow only odd moments on them. "I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself [all branch] like a green bay tree. Yet he passed away, and, lo, he was not; yea, I sought him, but he could not be found."
Has Africa anything to say about the tree; poor Africa, night-ridden Africa, land of darkness and slavery and barbarism, has God stooped down and written anything in the dust of Africa? Africa says, "He who tries to shake the trunk of a tree shakes only himself." That is good for Africa; it is good for the whole world to learn. You cannot shake down a really well-grown man. You can tear at him, but you are tearing yourselves, you are not tearing the man. You can make no impression upon a grand massive character; it abides after all your inquests and searchings and shakings and malignant assaults. You have sometimes seen people trying to shake a great tree: it was the people who perspired, not the tree. Grand old tree, hospitable old tree; the birds of the air built their nests in it, and there found habitation and security. Is there anything more pitiable than to see a number of hellhounds trying to shake down a noble character? They cannot do it; the laughter of the world will follow their futile attempts, and men who trusted them will trust them no more. There is a spirit in man that rises and says at a given point, You have done enough of this; you are no longer critics, you are persecutors; you are no longer honourable opponents, you are malignant conspirators: shake on if you like, you are only shaking yourselves.
Has Russia anything to say to testify to the commonwealth of nations, the unity of man? We should be glad to hear the hoarse voice of Russia, cruel Russia, awful Russia, the leprous spot of civilisation, the problem of history. Even Russia has something to say: "The devil comes to us whilst crossing the fields." Solomon might have written that; it could be put into the Bible without the Bible feeling that any interpolation of an inharmonious character had been made into its texture and web. What is the meaning? The meaning is that the devil seizes us unawares. A man is walking quietly through the meadows: he does not meet the devil face to face; the devil comes to him from the right hand, from the left, takes cross-courses, and falls upon him unexpectedly, so that the traveller who thought of praying suddenly begins to doubt the very God to whom he was about to pray, so that the soul that was just making a new and tender vow turns to barbarism and forswears the altar of the universe. If the devil sent us notice that he would tempt us the day after to-morrow, we might be prepared for him: he gives no notice, he sleeps not, slumbers not; he is almost God in watchfulness. It is when we sleep that he is most vigilant; when we can no longer protect ourselves he is heaviest upon us. Let the young man know that the devil may not meet him on the broad thoroughfare, but may come out of some side street, arrest him, and damn him before he is aware.
Sometimes the wisdom of the world has run into little rhymes, couplets that children can remember. It would be well to have a Children's Bible; the great book of God run off into couplets that children could sing to themselves, or say as if repeating music. We have some such proverb as this, "Wide will wear, but tight will tear." What a world of human experience! Not relating to garments only, though true in that department, but relating to discipline. Severity outdoes itself: tyranny grows no men. Relating to creed and orthodoxy, so that if we have liberty we have power of wearing, room to grow in; but if we are tightly bound, straitlaced, if we are chained about, foot and leg and neck, our manhood is insulted, dishonoured, or disowned. Trust people if you would get the best out of them. Afford liberty at home if you would make a home of it. You may be so severe as to kill your children without meaning it. Many a murder is done by wicked disciplinarians. They do not know what they are doing; the iron is entering into the young soul, and there will be resentment by-and-by, or a bitter and destructive recollection. So it is with the churches. We have settled everything, so that men have nothing to do but to accept us, bow to our papal command, and find in blind obedience their only liberty. That will not do; that is not the way of God. The Lord gives us scope, room, liberty, opportunity; he says, "Occupy till I come." Every man should make his own theology. Believe me, if there are any theologians at all, you could count every one of them on the fingers of one hand without counting the thumb. What you have to do is to believe in the theology of love, growth, obedience to the Spirit of God, loyalty to the genius of the Christ. Beware of men who have "views," and especially of men who have "clear" views. I never knew any of them do any good in the world. Let your view be that what we have done is nothing as compared to what we have yet to do; what we have is nothing to what has yet to be revealed: we know in part, we teach in part, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away, and the speck shall be forgotten in the infinite. This will be more than speculation, it will be discipline; the man who lives in this spirit controls himself, is animated by the spirit of hope, is always looking for the securing of greater spiritual riches, and is a man who will encourage even dull scholars to persevere because the music is on the next page. He will say, I remember the page you are reading is very hard; I remember when I was just there, and I thought I should surrender because the words were all so long and ugly and unmanageable and unpronounceable; but I will tell you what I discovered, that when I turned over I went, as it were, into a garden of flowers, I went into a paradise of beauty, I went into a house of living trust; now struggle on, fight out that very last line down there, and the moment you turn over you will be in liberty and in joy. "Wide will wear; tight will tear."
Some good sweet old souls have said in their quaint homely way this little bit of rhyme,
"Be still, and have thy will."
And has Spain anything to say, proud, vain, fiery Spain? Has it no word of wisdom? A curious word; yet it has worked its way into the proverbs of the world, and should be quoted: it is, if not divine, most sadly human: "Let that which is lost be for God." The tale on which this is founded is a tale in a sentence. A man makes his will in Spain, and after having allotted everything, he says, "There is a cow, but that cow was lost; if it be found it is for so and so, but if it is never found it is for God." Did I say that proverb was Spanish? It is literally, but it is not merely Spanish morally, suggestively, in all its wider meanings. We have left God thousands of lost cows, he may have them all; if we find them we will bring them home, but if we do not find them the Lord may have them. We have made over all our bad debts to him, but as to the actual money we have in hand, that is another matter. We are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made. A member of Parliament said to a friend of mine some time ago, that he could not respond to his appeal because that very day he had had nineteen similar applications. My friend said, "It you treated them all as you treat me you might have had nine hundred and been none the worse for it." We are fearfully and wonderfully made. We have a gift of evasion; the heart is deceitful above all things: it is here and there; it is there when we want it, it is here when we have little occasion for it; it doubles upon itself, forgets its mother tongue, has no memory for names, events, obligations; can assume a look of stupor when righteousness makes its appeal.
Let me recur to our opening sentence: it is in such experiences that we discover a marvellous unity in human nature. The nations now cited may not have heard of one another at the time of the creation of these proverbs; the nations represented by these apothegms may have had no literature in common, no intercommunion as between one another; each nation may have been left to work out its own practical philosophy; and yet when all the books are brought together the language is one, the testimony is one. Men could not have thought so, and come to such community of conclusion, without there being a secret behind all, explaining the action of the human mind, and claiming the unity of the human race. There has been light everywhere. Every man has his own gleam. God hath not left himself without witness anywhere. If a man will not have the proverbs of the Bible we ask him to write down his own proverbs, What have you found out in life? and it will be curious to watch how he, it may be in plainer language, writes what China has written, and Spain and Africa and Russia and old Jerusalem. We want men to write their own Bibles if they are not content with the Bible that is written. We beseech them to keep an abundance of blank paper with them and plenty of pens and ink, and write down what they find in life. Keep a diary; sum up your experience, and let us read your writing. The nations have never agreed upon any really comprehensive philosophy of life without lying upon the very lines of the Bible.
What then is the difference between the Biblical proverbs and the proverbs of philosophy and of common experience? Largely this, that in the Bible we find the great religious element, every proverb trying to lift itself up into a higher philosophy; every aphorism struggling to express some kindred and developed truth; every witty, quaint, wise, experimental saying indicating that it is only beginning to say what it wants to tell: and largely this also, that the motive is Christian, the motive is profoundly spiritual; and the proverb never says, Rest in me. Every Biblical proverb says, I am but a vestibule; the temple is beyond: I am but a hint; what I came from you will see if you proceed along the line of this indication. And thus we are brought face to face with him who spake as never man spake. All the beatitudes are proverbs. We may not think of them as such, but they are all based on human experience. We have again and again asserted that the proverbs of Solomon are not simply sharply-cut sayings, but they are the verdicts of history, the testimonies of experience, they are the award of long-continued, ardent, urgent, comprehensive thinking. So the beatitudes are the upper side of the best experience. "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God;" change the grammar, Blessed are the pure in heart: for they must see God, they have seen God, they alone see God. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy; Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God; Blessed are men who look anything but blessed; Blessed be they who are persecuted, torn limb from limb, for righteousness' sake: it is a successful rending, it is the violence that precedes the ineffable calm.
One of two things I challenge all men to: accept these Biblical proverbs, or provide better. Do not spend your time in contradicting the Bible, but in writing another. Then we shall examine what are its riches, what are its motives, how much space does it touch. Is it the little invention of a little mind? or is it the mystery of love, the mystery of light? Some men have made up their minds to keep the old Bible until the new one is written. I always advise men who come for my counsel not to resign their present chair until they know where they are going to sit down. Any fool can resign. It ministers to immediate vanity, "I shall resign!" more fool thou. Do not resign the old Bible until you have examined the new one. Do examine it, read it right through, prove all things, test them, probe them, and then hold fast to that which is good and true. We are simply waiting for the new proverbs. Meanwhile, the old ones are very quaint, wonderfully profound, far-reaching in their suggestions, and not without comfort to the souls that are looking for the further coming of the kingdom of God.
We have endeavoured to show that the unity of human nature is not proved exclusively by what are called ethnic arguments or race illustrations; that the unity of humanity is established by community of sentiment. In the previous discourse, we tried to escape morality, common-sense, prudence, and the like; and we went all round the world and found no rest for the sole of our foot: the genius of right, the genius of common-sense, found us in every language and in every land. We said, Whither shall I go from thy presence? whither shall I flee from thine obligations, O thou subtle imperious law, law of right, law of truth, law of practical philosophy? And we could find no escape. We went to Spain, to Italy, to Russia, to Africa, and there the genius looked upon us and said, This is none other than the house of God. When men who have never seen one another or heard of one another come to the same conclusions of a practical kind concerning the scope, the uses, and the destiny of life, the argument of a united race, come whence it may, is established and cannot be shaken.
It has been difficult to do justice to Italy in this matter, for the Italian proverbs, taken as a whole, are bad. It needed some searching to find in Italy, fair beautiful Italy, in danger of exhausting itself in the poetry of its own name, proverbs that go right down into eternal morality. There are plenty of proverbs about the uses of poison and dagger, but to find in Italy, garden of the world, real, simple, frank morality, or sense of right, in its proverbs, has not been easy. Still Italy is not without proofs that the spirit of right has been operating even amid all its fantasies and sentiments and schemes of living.
The Italian proverb says, "Friends tie their purses with a spider's web." That is more befitting what we have heard of Italy. There is a sweetness in that sentence. What is the meaning of it? That what one friend has belongs to the other, as between friends purses are not tied with iron chains; while there is real friendship there is real sympathy, real helpfulness, as brother might love brother, and loving heart help heart that was loved. Verily this is a strong and searching test of friendship; it may easily be presumed upon; it offers continual and serious temptation to nefarious natures. Man might make an investment of friendship, but even this is not to spoil the music or the poetry of the proverb. Is there nothing in our book the Bible to compare with this for sweet and dewy loveliness? "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ." "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." "Whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?" That is not ethical neatness, that is not epigrammatic power: in such sentences there is the roll of eternal music, because the swell of infinite love. The Bible likes to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the findings of the extra-mural world; the Bible is never ashamed to wait until the world has stated all its philosophies and moralities and theories, and then it says, Compare us fairly, justly, and the God that answereth by fire let him be God. Still, let us do justice to pagan thought, and to what is more or less of the nature of barbaric progress, and in the spirit of this just concession we will recognise the beauty of the Italian proverb, "Friends tie their purses with a spider's web," so that there is no difficulty in opening them when a needy friend, a trusted comrade, requires some practical expression of sympathy and helpfulness.
Italy can be almost religious in its proverbs, notwithstanding the presence of the Pope. Even in Italy there are some little glints of a true religion. That true religion, however, is tinged with what the Holy Father would call heresy. What would the world be without good healthy heresy, that singular genius that asks questions, that tries theological weights and balances; that spirit that will not be laid until honest questions are honestly handled? Take this as a specimen of Italian progress, "With the Gospel one becomes a heretic." What is the meaning of that Italian proverb? It is that as soon as the common people are trusted with the Bible itself they dispute priest and prelate and pope, they put away from them all intermediary ministries that assert their necessity as the medium through which God can be approached. As soon as the people get the Bible they leave oppressive authority; they read for themselves; they say, "Here is the Master, let us listen to him:" and when the priest would say, "Now I must explain all this to you, or you cannot understand it," they say, "Get thee behind me! I will speak face to face with the Master himself." That is the heresy we want. We want to put down all arbitrary and foolish authority and interpretation, and we want to hear only the man who will tell us that as a brother man he has discovered such and such phases or aspects of truth, and he wants us in a kindred spirit to look at them, and see whether they commend themselves to our best imagination and our most solid understanding. We want fellow-students. The more we have of such comradeship the better. Let every man be a Biblical annotator. Do not stop him even when he is pouring forth his rude ignorance: he will chasten himself by listening to his own folly; he will be the better for having that folly replied to by an experience larger than his own, and by a wisdom compared with which his little knowledge is but as a rill to an ocean. Every heart can find something in Christ that no other heart can find. But these peculiar findings may set him at heretical angles, and indicate on their part alien positions. No matter. In God's kingdom there is room enough for individuality. God's great sovereignty can roll all eccentricity into globular completeness and restfulness. Do not be eccentric merely for the sake of being eccentric; do not play that little trick of heresy; do not suppose that you are marked out as a genius because you hate the Pope or the priest or the minister; do not believe that you are necessarily the very incarnation of wisdom because you do not read the Bible: be honest; read the book right through for yourself, and whatsoever you find there that is likely to lift up the life and open the hand in generous beneficence, interpret for yourself, and apply with fearless modesty.
Italy shall give us one more, for we have been so suspicious of Italy with its powder of succession and with its hidden dagger that we owe Italy something. Let us hear her sweet voice in one other statement, then she shall sit down: "For an honest man half his wits are enough: the whole are too little for a knave." Illustrations of this we have seen. When a man is thoroughly honest we may examine him and cross-examine him from sunrise to sunset, and he may contradict himself in fifty particulars, but he will come right at last. We can easily detect an honest contradiction, and trace it to lapse of memory, momentary infirmity of intellectual sight. Candour cannot be put down. The cross-examiner is only a great cross-examiner and a marvellously skilful man when he has to crush a rotten egg. He knows the case, and it does not require an infinite genius to expose a man that can be proved to be bad in every hair of his head and in every bone of his body and in every drop of his blood. That man cannot tell the truth; when he gets right it is by chance, and he is sorry for it. No man is as surprised as the rogue is when he has told the truth. He begs to be forgiven. He loves the lie, but with all his wit and keenness and shrewdness he cannot escape. The universe is against him; there is not a little star that twinkles in all the night that will afford him shelter from the deserved tempest. "Though hand join in hand, the wicked shall not be unpunished." "Be sure your sin will find you out." When the evangelists and apostles make their statements they apparently contradict one another in many matters of detail, but it is the contradiction of downright honesty, the candour that has suffered through crucifixion rather than tell a lie. So, as time passes on, as history is evolved, as ancient story is better understood, as old manners and customs come up, everything helps to reinstate the men who have for a moment been suspected. The universe is on the side of truth. Geometry and honesty go together. There is a spirit in the universe that brings out judgment like light, and righteousness like noonday, however deep may have been the momentary obscuration. Let us not deny to ourselves that there is nothing easier than to bring men under suspicion. Any villain can accuse you of committing any crime he may choose to name. It is not easy to repel the charge. When you deny it, people say, "Of course; what could you expect?" They judge you by themselves. When your wife stands up and states her utter disbelief in the infamous imputation, they say, "What could you expect? it is all in the family: what else could the poor creature say?" They judge her by themselves. If you are resentful they say, "Let the galled jade wince: if he were really true he would be much quieter than he is." If you are profoundly quiet, silent, restful, they say, "Why didn't he come out then, and say so?" Do not trouble yourselves about such people: they are tormented by an evil genius, and hell itself cannot disinfect their impurity. There should be room in a healthy civilisation for the charity which rightly considers the nature of mistake, contradiction, imperfection of statement, and the like. Be honest, and you cannot long be puzzled; have a clear brain, a self-releasing, self-commending heart, and no man can do you permanent harm: the enemy may strike at your reputation, but he cannot injure your character. Italy, thou hast well said, "For an honest man half his wits are enough: but the whole are too little for a knave." He breaks down somewhere; the very cleverness he has displayed in the maintenance of his imposition is but an aggravation of the violence with which an honest community justly treats him. Distinguish always, however, between that which is mistaken and that which is malicious. If you want to find a verdict against a man, the witness who can tell the most lies is the witness you want; and you will gladly secure him: you want your victim to be wrong. On the other hand, if your spirit be honest, fearless, chivalrous, just, you will instantaneously take the position that every man is innocent until he is proved guilty, and all your mental action will move in that sacred and magnanimous direction. We are glad, therefore, to have found in Italy some proverbs that must have grown in the garden of honesty.
We have said nothing yet about Scotland. Have we in this roughly outlined argument cited one instance from Scotland's wit and practical genius? Take instances now: "A crow is no whiter for being washed." Who will say that Scotland is out in the cold in the matter of real pith and honest wisdom and downright good experience? Poor crow! we tried to wash it, and it is as black as ever. That is true. There are some men that never can be washed clean, morally, spiritually, internally, by any skill of human hands. Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? then may they who are accustomed to do evil do that which is good and sweet and right. O thou poor black bird, why dost thou try to wash thyself white? It cannot be done. The washing must be done in the heart. Make the heart right, and the external manners will be right also; make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. Why do men pay so much attention to outsides? why are we anxious to appear to be what we are not? Why not sit down in the school of Christ and learn of him that by the miracle of the Holy Ghost working in us there is no man so foul that he may not be made fit companion for an angel? The worst need not despair. But there must be no self-washing, self-trimming, self-adaptation, self-handling; there must be direct, immediate, complete surrender. Say, Almighty Spirit of the living God, create in me a clean heart; regenerate me: I fall into the hands of grace.
Has Scotland another proverb as good as that? It has a thousand proverbs quite as good. Here is one of them: "Better keep the devil out than have to turn him out." Are the English quick enough to see the meaning of that? Take it in the English form: "Prevention is better than cure." So, saith the Scotch wit, it is better to keep the devil out than have to turn him out. The devil is a proverbist; he says when he gets in, "Possession is nine points of the law," and when was the devil short of law? Keep him out! That is the motto. The devil of envy, the devil of covetousness, the devil of selfishness, the devil of jealousy, the devil of self-indulgence, the devil of prejudice, keep him out; shut the door, shut the window, and even at great momentary inconvenience shut up the chimney, for if there is one inlet into your house he will avail himself of it Watch him; resist him, and he will flee from you; be vigilant, be sober, for your adversary the devil goeth about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. He is an early riser, and at night he is as young and strong as he was in the morning. He looks for your unguarded hours. O Lord, how dreadful is life. It is wanted by two worlds; thou, O Christ, dost want the soul, and the devil wants it, and the poor soul is torn to pieces: sweet Saviour, see to it that the soul be not won from thy keeping; into thy hands we commend our spirits. Do not toy with the devil; do not hobnob with him on the threshold. There are those, I am told, who come to the back door and appeal to it, and the moment it is opened they put in their foot quite accidentally so that the servant cannot close it again. There could be no intention in that, but there the huckster talks, tells his lies or tells his truth, pleads his case and offers his wares, and when the busy maid would bid him go, and shut the door in his face, there is the foot. The devil works just so. You should have a transparent pane of glass in your door, so that you can see him from the inside and shake your head at him. I have been obliged to do that at home, just one little pane, and the money and the time that one pane saves abundantly compensates for the expenditure incurred. But what is thus simply domestic should be largely and intensely spiritual. Look ahead, be vigilant; do not open the door or the black foot will be there. And oh, what a tongue the enemy has! how seductive, how honeyed in tone, how musical! How he can drop into the minor key so dear to the heart in certain moods of softness and expectancy! But once let him get in, and who can turn the devil out?
Scotland shall give us one more, and thus be equal to Italy in number: "A thread will tie an honest man better than a rope will do a rogue." Are there rogues then out of Italy? Does Scotland as well as England know something about the ways of a rogue? Why, if we wanted to establish the real unity of the race, the rogue would do it. You need not go further than the rogue. He speaks all languages; he was born in every zone, under every sky, in every season of the year. The honest man feels restraint, and responds to it; the rogue feels the restraint, and defies it. A word is enough from an honest man; an oath will do nothing in the case of a thief or a rogue. If a man will not speak the truth without an oath, no oath that religious imagination ever conceived can make him speak the truth. Do not suppose that you have your friend or your partner or your companion safe because he has sworn a thousand oaths, or attested his friendship by a thousand protestations. A thread is enough where the heart is sound. Brethren, we may know the right, and not do it. Proverb-making is not proverb-keeping. Are we wiser than the pagans? We shall never be kept right by proverbs, though they may help us in many a moment of danger and difficulty. Only one thing can keep us right, and that is the living Spirit of the Eternal God. Have in you the spirit of wisdom, the spirit of truth, the spirit of honesty, and though you be not wise in the world's philosophy there shall be about you and all your conduct a sagacity which the wisest cannot gainsay. Pray that ye may become the temples of God the Holy Ghost Amen.
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30