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The wisdom of all ages, from the highest antiquity, has chosen to compress and communicate its lessons in short, compendious sentences, and in poetic language, which were readily conceived and easily retained, and circulated in society as useful principles, to be unfolded as occasion required. Indeed, such short maxims, comprehending much instruction in a few words, and carrying their own evidence with them, are admirably adapted to direct the conduct, without overburdening the memory, or perplexing the mind with abstract reasonings; and hence there are, in all countries and in all languages, old proverbs, or common sayings, which have great authority and influence on the opinions and actions of mankind. Such maxims, however, want their proper basis, the sanction of a Divine Original; and being generally the mere result of worldly prudence, are often calculated to impose on the judgment, and to mislead those who are directed by them. But the proverbs in this book not only are far more ancient than any others extant in the world, and infinitely surpass all the ethical sayings of the ancient sages; but have also received a Divine imprimatur, and are infallible rules to direct our conduct in every circumstance of human life. They are so justly founded on the principles of human nature, and so adapted to the permanent interests of man, that they agree with the manners of every age; and are adapted to every period, condition, or rank in life, however varied in its complexion or diversified by circumstance. Kings and subjects, rich and poor, wise and foolish, old and young, fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, masters and servants, may here learn their respective duties, and read lessons of instruction for the regulation of their conduct in their various circumstances; while the most powerful motives, derived from honour, interest, love, fear, natural affection, and piety, are exhibited to inspire an ardent love of wisdom and virtue, and the greatest detestation of ignorance and vice. These maxims are laid down so clearly, copiously, impressively, and in such variety, that every man who wishes to be instructed may take what he chooses, and, among multitudes, those which he likes best. “He is wise,” say St. Basil, “not only who hath arrived at a complete habit of wisdom, but who hath made some progress towards it; nay, who doth as yet but love it, or desire it, and listen to it. Such as these, by reading this book, shall be made wiser; for they shall be instructed in much divine, and in no less human learning....It bridles the injurious tongue, corrects the wanton eye, and ties the unjust hand in chains. It persecutes sloth, chastises all absurd desires, teaches prudence, raises man’s courage, and represents temperance and chastity after such a fashion that one cannot but have them in veneration.”
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18