MANY are the important truths conveyed to us by the law, by the prophets and by those other writers who have followed them. Israel must be given credit for its own philosophical tradition, suited not only to instruct those who talk its language, but to reach, in spoken or written form, the outside world too, and bring it great enlightenment. No wonder if my own grandfather, Jesus, who had devoted himself to the careful study of the law, the prophets, and our other ancestral records, had a mind to put something in writing himself that should bear on this philosophical tradition, to claim the attention of eager students who had already mastered it, and to encourage their observance of the law.
I must beg its readers to come well-disposed to their task, and to follow me closely, making allowances for me wherever I seem to have failed in the right marshalling of words, as I pass on wisdom at second hand. Hebrew words lose their force when they are translated into another language; moreover, when the Hebrews read out the law, the prophets, and the other books among themselves, they read them out in a greatly different form.
It was in my thirty-eighth year, in the reign of Euergetes, that I went to Egypt and spent some time there. When I found writings preserved there which were of high doctrinal value, it seemed to me right and fitting that I, too, should be at some pains; I would set about translating this book. Learning I gave to the task and long labour, and so brought it to an end; and so I offer the book to all who are ready to apply their minds to it, and learn how a man must frame his conduct if he would live by the divine law.
All wisdom has one source; it dwelt with the Lord God before ever time began. Sand you may count, or the rain-drops, or the days of the world's abiding; heaven-height you may measure, or the wide earth, or the depth of the world beneath, ere God's wisdom you can trace to her origin, that was before all. First she is of all created things; time never was when the riddle of thought went unread. (What is wisdom's fount? God's word above. What is her course? His eternal commandments.) Buried her roots beyond all search, wise her counsels beyond all knowing; too high her teaching to be plainly revealed, too manifold her movements to be understood. There is but one God, high creator of all things; sitting on his throne to govern us, a great king, worthy of all dread; he it was that created her, through his holy Spirit. His eye took in the whole range of her being; and he has so poured her out upon all his creation, upon all living things, upon all the souls that love him, in the measure of his gift to each.
To fear the Lord is man's pride and boast, is joy, is a prize proudly worn; cormfort it brings to the heart, happiness and content and a long life bestows; well it is, at his last hour, for the man who fears the Lord; his day of death shall be a day of blessing. Love of God is wisdom worth the having; welcome the sight when it shews itself, when it gives proof of its wondrous power. Would you be wise, the first step is fear of the Lord; to his chosen servants, a gift connatural from the womb; it goes with holy motherhood, and where his true worshippers are, shews manifest. The fear of the Lord lends wisdom that piety which is hers; such piety as shall keep the heart safe and make it acceptable, bring it joy and content. Well it shall be indeed for the man who fears the Lord; at his last end he shall win blessing. The fear of the Lord is wisdom's fulfilment, yields the deep draught that satisfies; never a nook or cranny in your house but shall be filled with the store of its harvesting. The fear of the Lord is wisdom's crown; with this, peace and health are yours to enjoy; this fear itself is God's gift, no less than the wisdom which is counted out under his eye. Wisdom it is that imparts to us all our knowledge, all our powers of discernment; hold her fast, and she will set you on a pinnacle of renown; root of her is fear of the Lord, and long life the fruit of her.
True insight wisdom has in her treasure-house, and the piety that comes of knowledge; no wonder if sinners hate the name of her. The fear of the Lord drives out sin; soul that feels no fear shall find no pardon, its own wild mood overbalances it. Patience bides her time, and with time, content comes back to her; praise shall be upon every lip for the wise thought that checked, for awhile, her utterance. Hidden in wisdom's treasure-house is the secret of all discernment; and still sinners hate the name of piety. My son, if on wisdom your heart is set, keep the commandments, and God will grant your wish; fear of the Lord is true wisdom, true learning, and his will is to see you loyal and patient; you shalt have no empty coffers then.
Let not your fear of the Lord be overcast with doubt; never come to him with a heart that hesitates.
Do not play false in your dealings with men, nor suffer your own words to ensnare you. Watch those words well, or they may trip you up; you will have compassed your own disgrace, if God should reveal your secret thoughts at last; would you be thrown down, in full sight of all your neighbours assembled, a heart that came to meet the Lord grudgingly, full all the while of treachery and deceit?
My son, if your mind is to enter the Lord's service, wait there in his presence, with honesty of purpose and with awe, and prepare yourself to be put to the test. Submissive be your heart, and ready to bear all; to wise advice lend a ready ear, and be never havey when ill times befall you. Wait for God, cling to God and wait for him; at the end of it, your life shall blossom anew. Accept all that comes to you, patient in sorrow, humiliation long enduring; for gold and silver the crucible, it is in the furnace of humiliation men shew themselves worthy of his acceptance. Trust in him, and he will lift you to your feet again; go straight on your way, and fix in him your hope; hold fast your fear of him, and in that fear to old age come you.
All you that fear the Lord, wait patiently for his mercies; lose sight of him, and you shall fall by the way. Fear him? Ay, and trust him; you shall not miss your reward. Fear him? Ay, and fix your hope in him; his mercy you shall find, and have great joy of it. Fear him? Ay, and love him; your hearts shall be enlightened. My sons, look back on the ages that are past; was ever man yet that trusted in the Lord, and was disappointed? Held fast to his commandments, and was forsaken, prayed to him, and found the prayer unregarded? A gracious God and a merciful; in times of affliction, he assoils us of our guilt, watches over all that with true hearts turn to him.
Out upon the false heart, the cheating lips, the hands busy with ill-doing; upon the sinner that will go two ways at once to enter the land of his desire. Out upon the unresolved will, that trust in God has none, and from him shall have no succour. Out upon the men who have given up hope, forsaking the right path, and to false paths betaking them; what shift will they make when the Lord calls them to account? Fear the Lord, and doubt his is promises? Love him, and not keep true to the way he shews us? Fear the Lord, and not study to know his will? Love him, and not find contentment in his law? Fear God, and not keep the will alert, the heart holy in his sight? Men who fear God keep his commandments, and wait patiently until he comes to relieve them. Be this our thought, they say, that it is God's power we have to reckon with, not man's, if there is no penance done. And he has mercy ever at his side, a God merciful as he is great.
Wherever choice souls are found, wisdom is the mother of them; all submissiveness and love their breed is. Speak we now of a father's rights; do you, sons, give good heed, and follow these counsels, if thrive you would. God will have children honour their fathers; a mother's rights are his own strict ordinance. A lover of God will fall to prayer over his sins and sin no more; so, all his life long, his prayer shall find audience. ...riches he lays up for himself, that gives his mother her due. As you would have joy of your own children, as you would be heard when you fall to praying, honour your father still. A father honoured is long life won; a father well obeyed is a mother's heart comforted. None that fears the Lord but honours the parents who gave him life, slave to master owes no greater service. Your father honour, in deed and in word and in all manner of forbearance; so you shall have his blessing, a blessing that will endure to your life's end. What is the buttress of a man's house? A father's blessing. What tears up the foundations of it? A mother's curse. Never make a boast of your father's ill name; what, should his discredit be your renown? Nay, for a father's good repute or ill, a son must go proudly, or hang his head. My son, when your father grows old, take him to yourself; long as he lives, never be the cause of his repining. Grow he feeble of wit, make allowance for him, nor in your manhood's vigour despise him. The kindness shewn to your father will not go forgotten; favour it shall bring you in acquittal of your mother's guilt. Faithfully it shall be made good to you, nor shall you be forgotten when the time of affliction comes; like ice in summer the record of your sins shall melt away. Tarnished his name, that leaves his father forsaken; God's curse rest on him, that earns a mother's ill-will.
My son, do all you do in lowly fashion; love you shall win, that is worth more than men's praise. The greater you are, the more in all things abase yourself; so you shall win favour with God... Sovereignty belongs to God and no other; they honour him most that most keep humility. Seek not to know what is far above you; search not beyond your range; let your mind ever dwell on the duty God has given you to do, content to be ignorant of all his dealings besides. Need is none your eyes should see what things lie hidden. Leave off, then, your much questioning about such things as little concern you, and be content with your ignorance; more is granted to your view than lies within human ken. By such fancies, many have been led astray, and their thoughts chained to folly.
... Heart that is obstinate shall thrive ill at the last; danger loved is death won. Heart that will try two ways at once shall prosper little; he falls into the snare that goes a-straying. Heart that will not mend shall be weighed down by its own troubles; the simmer is ever ready for one sin more. For one sort of men there is no remedy, the proud; too deep a root the evil has taken, before they knew it. Heart that is wise will prove itself in wise company; ever greedy of wise talk is the ear that knows how to listen. Heart that is wise and discerning will keep clear of wrong, and by honest dealings prosper yet.
No fire burns so high but water may quench it; almsgiving was ever sin's atoning. God marks the grateful eye, and remembers it; here is sure support won against peril of falling.
My son, do not cheat a poor man of the alms he asks, nor pass him by, with averted look, in his need. Would you despise his hungry glance, and add to the burden of his distress? Would you disappoint him in his bitter need by bidding him wait for the gift? Nay, spurn you never the plea of the afflicted; look your suppliant in the face, and of his poverty take good heed; shall his baffled rage curse you behind your back? The curse of an embittered man does not go unheard; his Maker is listening.
To the common sort of men give friendly welcome; before an elder abate your pride; and to a man of eminence bow meekly your head. If a poor man would speak to you, lend him your ear without grudging; give him his due, and let him have patient and friendly answer. If he is wronged by oppression, redress you needs must win him, nor be vexed by his importunity. When you sit in judgement, be a father to the orphans, a husband to the widow that bore them; so the most High an obedient son shall reckon you, and shew you more than a mother's kindness.
New life wisdom breathes into her children, befriends all that have recourse to her, and guides them in the right way. Love her, as you love life; wait early at her doors, if you would win her sweet embrace. Life the prize, if you hold her fast; come she in at the door, God's blessing comes with her; court paid to her, worship paid to the Holy One; love given to her, God's love made yours in return for it! A word from her, and the world is at your feet, a sight of her face, and you shall dwell ever secure; trust her, and she will be your inheritance, settled on the heirs of your body. When first she chooses a man out, she does but make trial of his company; she puts him to the proof, threatening him with her frown, teasing him with her difficult lore, until at last she has proved whether his thoughts are hers, and can trust him perfectly. Then she gives him confidence, coming out openly to meet him; gladdens him with her smile, and tells him all her secrets; makes him rich with store of true knowledge, and enables him to discern the right. Only if he strays away from her does she abandon him, and leave him at the mercy of his foes.
My son, study well what the time needs, ever on your guard against wrong-doing; though life itself were in peril, never be ashamed to speak the truth. Deference, that is the grace and glory of a man, may yet make a sinner of him. Would you hold another man's honour dearer than your own, and swear the lie at your soul's peril? Nay, speak out without shame, though your own neighbour should be threatened with ruin. Withhold not your counsel while safety may yet be won; your wisdom is not to be hidden away like a veiled beauty. Wisdom still needs a tongue to disclose it; no discernment or knowledge or shrewd counsel but waits on the apt word; how else should men be encouraged in well doing? Speak you never against the known truth; and if your ignorance has erred, own your error. Be never ashamed to confess your faults, nor, for your fault, put yourself in any man's power.
Would you defy, and openly, a ruler's authority? You had better swim against the stream's force.
Do battle for the right, all your life long, and with your last breath do battle for the right still; God, in your cause, will overcome your enemies.
A glib tongue, and hands that hang down idle; such be not yours.
Lion if you must be, let not your own house feel the brunt of it, your own servants harried, your own slaves beaten to the earth.
Open hand when the word is Take, shut when the word is Give; such be not yours.
Will you look round at ill-gotten gains, and tell yourself you have enough for all your needs? Trust me, when vengeance finds you out, all this shall nothing avail you. In manhood's vigour, do not follow the whim of your heart, boasting of your strength, and asking who will call you to account for your doings; God will find a way to punish you. Nor ever flatter yourself that you have sinned and come away scot-free; the eternal justice waits its time. Ill it were that sin's pardon should embolden you to sin afresh. Do you tell yourself God's mercies are great, and he will pardon your sins for all they are so many? Bethink you that his vengeance rides swift as his mercy; it is a jealous eye that watches the sinner. Or would you make slow work of turning to the Lord, and put it off from day to day? Swift falls his anger and perilous, when the time for vengeance is ripe. And must your thoughts still dwell on the ill-gotten gains, that shall nothing avail you when vengeance finds you out?
Turn not with every wind, nor walk in every way that offers; that sinners do, till their hypocrisy is found out. Firm let your feet be set on the path the Lord has chosen for you; be true to your own thought and to the knowledge you have, and ever let the counsels of peace and justice guide you on your way.
True answer and wise answer none can give but he who listens patiently, and learns all.
If discernment you have, give your neighbour his answer; if none, tongue held is best, or some ill-advised word will shame you; speech uttered was ever the wiseman's passport to fame, the fool's undoing.
Never win the name of back-biter, by your own tongue entrapped into shame. A thief must blush and do penance, a hypocrite men will mark and avoid; the back-biter earns indignation and enmity and disgrace all at once.
To all alike, high and low, give just award.
Would you rather be your neighbour's enemy than his friend? Would you earn, by ill nature, an ill name, and be despised for such faults as these, envy and hypocrisy?
Will you toss your head, bull-fashion, and glory in your own strength? What if that strength should be brought down by your own folly? Then will you be no better than some dry tree-stump out in the desert, its leaves withered, its hope of fruit all gone. Ill nature brings a man to an ill end, the scorn of his enemies and a prey to iniquity.
Gentleness of speech, how it wins friends everywhere, how it disarms its enemies! Never was a good man wanting for a gracious word. Be on good terms with all, but for your trusted counsellor, choose one in a thousand. Tried friends be the friends you make; do not bestow your confidence lightly; some men are but fair-weather friends, and will not stand the test of adversity. Some will veer from friend to foe, and lay bare old grudges, old quarrels, to reproach you; some will be your boon companions, but desert you when trouble is afoot. Fast and faithful friend there is, that will be even as yourself, and have your servants at his beck and call; let him behave modestly, and rid you of his presence, and there shall be true and tried friendship between you. From enemies you may keep your distance; against friends be on your guard. True friendship, sure protection and rare treasure found; true friendship, a thing beyond compare, its tried loyalty outweighing gold and silver; true friendship, elixir of life, and of life eternal! Only those who fear God will come by it; the fear of God gives friendship evenly shared, friend matched with friend.
My son, learn the lessons of youth, and garner wisdom against your grey hairs; ploughman and sower you must come to the task, and wait patiently for the harvest; how light the toil wisdom claims, the fruits of her how soon enjoyed! Only to undisciplined minds she seems an over-hard task-mistress; not for long will the fool endure her company; here is a weight (says he) that tries my strength too much, and away he casts it. The enlightenment which comes with wisdom is true to its name; known to so few, yet where men are acquainted with it, it waits to light them into the presence of God. My son, give good heed to the warnings of experience, do not spurn this counsel of mine. Yield foot of yours to wisdom's fetters, neck of yours to her collar, shoulder of yours to her yoke; do not chafe at her bonds. Make her your whole heart's quest, follow, as best you can, the path she makes known to you; search, and you will find her, hold fast, and never let her go; in good time, you shall repose in her, and find her all delight. In time, those fetters of hers shall prove a strong protection, a sure support, that halter of hers a badge of honour about your neck; there is life in those trappings, healing virtue in those bonds. Robe is none shall do you more honour, crown is none shall rest more radiant on your brow.
My son, mark well and learn, take heed and be wise; here is true knowledge for the listening, here is wisdom if you will lend an ear. Where older men than you are met, and wiser, take you your place, and give your whole heart to their teaching; old tales of God's wonders you shall hear, and sayings of much renown. A man of discernment if you find, wait on him at daybreak, and wear out his door-step with your frequent visiting. Think ever upon God's commandments, and be constant in the following of his will; be sure he will give you perseverance, and all your desire for wisdom shall be granted you.
Harm if you do none, harm shall none befall you; clear of wrong is clear of mishap. What avails it, my son, to sow in the furrow of mischief, and reap a sevenfold harvest?
Never ask of God high station, or of the king preferment.
Never try to prove your innocence before God, who knows all, nor your subtlety before the king.
Do not sit in judgement, unless you are able to crush the wrong; if you favour the rich, what else is your award but a snare for your own virtue?
Hurt never the public weal; no need to embroil yourself with your own neighbours.
Never tack sin to sin; for the first you are in arrears.
Do not lose confidence in your praying, or leave almsgiving undone.
Do not flatter yourself that God will look favourably on your many offerings, as if he, the most High, could not refuse your gifts.
Taunt never the disconsolate; God, who sees all, casts men down and lifts them up.
Not against your own brother trump up the charge; nor your neighbour either.
Every breath of falsehood avoid in your speech; so ill grows the habit of it.
Idle talk becomes you not, when you sit with the elders in council, nor, when you pray, repetition of your prayer.
At toil repine not; the farmer's trade is of divine appointment.
When sinners abound, be not you of their company; bethink you rather, how swiftly comes vengeance, and so curb your unruly spirits; for sinful flesh, fire and worm.
You have a friend who is over-long in your debt; use no cruelty with him; dear to you as a brother, and shall gold count more? You have a good wife, a thrifty woman that has thrown in her lot, in the fear of the Lord, with yours; do not leave her; that modesty of hers is a grace gold cannot buy. The slave that works for you faithfully, the hireling that is pledged to your service, injure not; a thrifty slave you should love as your own self, not baulking him of liberty or leaving him to starve. Cattle you have; tend them well, nor part with them while they do you good service. You have sons; train them to bear the yoke from their youth up. You have daughters; keep them chaste, and do not spoil them with your smile; a daughter wed is great good done, if a thrifty husband you find her. And your own wife, if you love her, never do you forsake, nor trust your happiness to one who is little to your mind.
And oh, with your whole heart honour your father, nor forget your mother's pangs; bethink you, that without them you had no being, and repay the service they have done you.
With all your soul fear God, and reverence his priests. He made you; will you not devote all your powers to his love? Will you leave his ministers unbefriended? Rather, with all your soul fear God, and to his priests give their due; with gift of the consecrated shoulder clear yourself of what is owing. The priests must have their share, by law prescribed, of first-fruits and of offering for transgression; even if you have committed a fault in ignorance, a little is claimed for your cleansing. The gift of the consecrated shoulder you must make to the Lord, and the offering of all that is dedicated, and the holy first-fruits; moreover, you must open your hand to the poor; so your atonement shall be perfect, and perfect your blessing.
No living man but is thankful for the gift given; and it is ill done to withhold your favours even from the dead. Fail not to comfort the distressed, let the mourner have you for his escort. Never tire of visiting the sick; no surer way of winning your neighbour's love. Remember at all times what you must come to at the last, and you shall never do amiss.
If quarrel you have, let it not be with a prince, that may attach your person; nor with a rich man, that may implead you, with all the power there is in silver and gold to corrupt men, and sway even the hearts of kings; nor with a glib talker; you do but add fuel to his fire.
Be not familiar with a boor; you will hear no good of your ancestry.
Scorn not the sinner that would amend his ways; reproach comes amiss, where all stand in need of correction. Nor, fail in respect for the aged; it is of our stuff grey hairs are made. Rejoice not over your neighbour's death; we all die, and would not have men rejoice over it. Do not be contemptuous of what older and wiser men have to tell you; by their lore live you, if wise you would be, and have the secret of discernment, and live contentedly in the service of the great. Do not let them pass you by, these traditions older men have inherited from their fathers; they will turn you into a man of judgement, that answer can make when answer is needed.
Would you remonstrate with a sinner? Make sure you are not fanning the flame of his passions, yourself in peril of a scorching.
Would you make reply to the railing accuser? Make sure he is not baiting a trap to ensnare you.
Lend to one who can master you? Then lent is lost. Pledge not yourself beyond your means; count ever your pledge forfeit. Dispute not a judge's award; who judges by right rule if not he? Travel not with a rash companion, if you would not shoulder all his misfortune; he will go his own way, and you share the reward of his folly. Quarrel not with a man of quick moods; on a desert road he is no companion for you; he cares nothing for bloodshed, and will lay you in the dust when none is by to aid you. Take not counsel with a fool; he knows none but his own way of it. Share not your secret plans with a stranger; you know not what trouble he may breed. Never open to any man your whole heart; an ill requital he may make, by bringing shame on you.
Never shew yourself a jealous husband to the wife you love; it may prove you have taught her, to your cost, a ruinous lesson. Never give your soul into a woman's power, and let her command the fortress of it, to your shame. Never turn to look at the wanton, that would catch you in her snare, nor spend your attentions upon some dancing woman, that has power to be your undoing; nor let your eyes linger on a maid unwed, whose very beauty may take you unawares. And for harlots, let nothing tempt you to give way to them, as life and patrimony you hold dear; look not round you in the city streets, nor haunt the alley-ways. From a woman bravely decked out turn away; have no eyes for her beauty that is none of yours. Woman's beauty has been the ruin of many ere now, a spark to light the flame of lust. A harlot? Then trample her down like mire in your path. The love of stolen sweets has been the undoing of many; a word with her, and the spark is lit. Sit down never with a wedded wife, nor lean your elbow upon table of hers, nor bandy words with her over the wine; steal she your heart away, your life is forfeit.
An old friend leave not; the new is not his like. New friendship, new wine; it must ripen ere you can love the taste of it.
Envy not the wrong-doer his wealth and state; beyond all expectation of yours it shall come to ruin. Of his ill-gotten gains have neither love nor liking; be sure he will not die unpunished.
From one that has the power of life and death keep your distance; so you shall be free from mortal alarms. If dealings you have with him, keep clear of all offence, or you shall pay for it with your life. Death has become your familiar; pit-falls encompass your path; you are making the rounds of a beleaguered city.
Consider, as best you may, your company; be wise and prudent men your counsellors; honest men your guests.
Be the fear of God all your boast, the thought of God all your thinking, the commandments of the most High all the matter of your discourse.
By skilful handiwork the artist is known, the ruler of a people by the prudence of his counsel, the good sense of the aged by their word spoken.
No such peril to a city as a great talker; for his rash utterance, no man so well hated as he.
A wise ruler, a folk well disciplined; firm sits prudence on the throne. Like king, like court; like ruler, like subjects. Royal folly is a people's ruin; where prudence reigns, there cities thrive most. God's will it is, then, that rules a nation; when the time comes, he will give it the prince it needs, granting prosperity where he will; no scribe bears office but has divine authority stamped on his brow.
Forget the wrong done, nor enrol yourself among the doers of it.
Before God and man alike pride is hateful, and the wrong the Gentiles do is foully done; wrong and crime and outrage and treacherous shift, that he punishes by passing on the sceptre of empire into new hands; but worse sin is none than avarice. See how man, for all his pride, is but dust and ashes! This love of money is of all things the most perverse; what does the miser but sell his own soul? As well be bowelled alive!
Why be tyrannies short-lived? Why, it is a wearisome thing to the physician, a long illness, so he is fain to cut it short, and the king that reigns to-day will be dead to-morrow. And what is the new kingdom he inherits? Creeping things, and carrion beast, and worm.
Pride's beginning is man's revolt from God, when the heart forgets its Maker; and of all sin pride is the root. Leave it, or curses you shall have in full measure, and be ruined at the last. Such humiliation the Lord has in store; vanished utterly is yonder confederacy; proud thrones cast down, to make room for the oppressed, proud nations withered from the root, and humbler rivals planted instead!
Whole nations of the world the Lord has overthrown, rased them to the ground; shrivelled and vanished away, they have left no trace of their passage. The proud forgotten, the humble kept in memory; such was the Lord's will. Pride was never made for man's estate; never child born of woman had anger's mood for its birthright.
There are two breeds of men; one fears God and wins renown, the other passes his commandments by, and is forgotten. Let clansmen honour a chieftain's rank; it is humble fear wins the divine regard. For riches and renown, as for the lowly born, there is one boast worth having, the fear of God. Honest poverty never despise, nor flatter, for all his wealth, the evildoer; prince nor ruler nor nobleman can win any higher title than the fear of God.
Of his master's sons a prudent servant shall yet be master. Only the fool, that is ill trained, takes punishment amiss; and a fool will never rise to greatness.
Do not boast of your fine craftsmanship and then, in time of urgent need, stand idle; better fall to work and have a full belly than keep your pride and go fasting. Abate your pride, keep body and soul together; value your life as it deserves. There is no excusing the man who is his own enemy, no worth in the man who thinks his life worth nothing.
One man, that little wealth has, may boast of his skill and the fear of God, another man of his riches. Grow he rich, the poor man shall boast indeed; that other, grow he poor, has good cause to fear his poverty.
A man may be lowly born, and yet rise high through the wisdom that is in him, till at last he takes his seat among men of rank.
Esteem no man for his good looks, nor for his outward show despise him; yonder bee is an inconsiderable creature, and yet there is a world of sweetness in the harvest she wins. Plume not yourself when you go bravely clad, nor pride yourself in your brief hour of greatness. Of wonder and of praise what else is worthy, but the doings of the most High? And these, how hedged about with secrecy! Kings a many have lost their thrones, to pretenders they never dreamed of; great ones a many have fallen full low, and their glory has passed to others.
Blame not, till you have heard the excuse; more just your reproof shall be when you have learnt all. Listen first, then answer, never breaking in when the tale is half told.
Quarrel not, where you yourself are not concerned; leave judgement of the offender to others.
Do not be entangled, my son, in too many enterprises. The rich man pays forfeit, chasing what overtake he may not, or fleeing what he may not shun.
Some men's lives are all toil and haste and anxiety; yet the more they toil, the less advantage they win, for want of piety. And others are backward folk, that cannot hold their gains, men of little power and much poverty; and yet such a man the Lord will look upon with favour, rescue him from neglect and greatly advance him, to the world's amazement, and the greater honour of God. From God all comes, good fortune and ill, life and death, poverty and riches; in God's keeping are wisdom and temperance and knowledge of the law, charity and the good life.
Error and darkness are sinful man's birthright; it is by making evil their delight that men grow hardened in evil.
No momentary blessing it is, God's largesse to his faithful servants; that seed that bears an eternal crop. No such boast has the man of thrift, that by his own effort wins wealth. Does he tell himself that he has found security at last; nothing remains but to glut, with his own earnings, his own greed? He forgets that time flies, and death draws near; die he must, and leave all he has to another. Be true to your covenant with God; its words to your own ears repeat; to that, and your enjoined duty, inure yourself. Would you stand there gaping at the doings of sinners? Nay, trust in God, and keep to your appointed task. Do you think God finds it hard to enrich the beggar, and in a moment? Swift, swift comes the blessing that rewards faithful service; in one short hour its fruits ripen.
Never tell yourself, need you have none, there is no more good can befall you; never flatter yourself, you are master of your own lot, no harm can touch you now. Rather, bethink yourself of foul weather in fair, of fair weather in foul; on the very day of a man's death God can give him his deserts. One hour of misery, how it can efface in the memory long years of ease! Only a man's death-bed brings the full history of his fortunes to light.
Never call a man happy until he is dead; his true epitaph is written in his children.
Do not keep your house open to every corner; knaves have many shifts. Foul breath lurks in a diseased body; the partridge a hidden lure awaits, a hidden snare the doe; so there be unquiet hearts, ever on the watch for a neighbour's downfall, ready to interpret good things amiss, and cast blame on the innocent. One spark is enough to spread a fire, and one man's treachery may be the cause of bloodshed; such villains as these plot against life itself. Against such a plague be timely on your guard, or it may prove your eternal disgrace. Alien let in is whirlwind let in, that shall alienate from you all you have.
Favour if you grant, look well to whom you grant it; so shall your favours earn abundant gratitude. A good turn done to an honest man is well rewarded; if not he, then the Lord will repay you. It goes ill with the man who spends all his time courting the wicked, and alms gives none; does not the most High himself treat sinners as his enemies, never sparing them till they repent? ...For rebellious sinners he has nothing but punishment, although he may save up the day of their punishing. Keep your favours for the kind-hearted, and let the sinners go without their welcome. The friendless man deserves your alms; to the godless give nothing; nay, prevent food reaching him, or he will have the mastery of you. All his gain will be doubly your loss; and so it is that the most High both hates sinners and will bring retribution on their impiety.
Prosperity will not shew you who are your friends. In bad times, your enemies may triumph openly, that till now were grieved at your good fortune; but it is these bad times will shew you your friends too.
Never trust an enemy; deep as verdigris on copper his malice is ingrained. Lout he never so low, look to it well and be on your guard against him; never let him attend on you, or sit at your right hand. His eyes are on your place; a time will come when he will sit where you sit, when you will recognize the truth of my warning, and be stung by the memory. Who shall pity snake-charmer or beast-tamer if he takes hurt? And he deserves no less, who consorts with rogues and is entangled in their sinful ways. This false friend will be your companion for an hour, then, if you are for altering your course, he will not hear of it; all those honeyed words do but mask a plot to lure you into some ditch. How he weeps for you, this enemy of yours! Yet, if his chance comes, there will be no glutting him with your blood; come you into mischief, he is there already waiting for you. How he weeps for you, this enemy of yours! If he makes to aid you, it is only to trip your heel; then what mopping and mowing, what clapping of the hands and whispering, what a change of mien!
Who handles pitch, with pitch is defiled; who throws in his lot with insolence, of insolence shall have his fill. A heavy burden you are shouldering, if you would consort with your betters; not for you the company of the rich. Pot and kettle are ill matched; it is the pot breaks when they come together; rich man, that has seized all he can, frets and fumes for more; poor man robbed may not so much as speak. If you have favours to bestow, your rich friend will make use of you: if none, he bids you farewell; your guest, he will eat up all you can give, and have no pity to waste on you. Has he need of you? Then, to be sure, he will ply his arts, all smiles and fair speeches, and eagerness to know what your need is; he encumbers you, now, with hospitality. So, twice and three times, he will drain you dry; then he will turn on you with a laugh, and if he meets you again it will be to pass you by with a toss of the head.
Learn to abase yourself before God, and wait for his hand to beckon you, instead of so courting false hopes, that bring their own abasement. For all your wisdom, do not hold yourself too cheap, or you will lower yourself to folly. If a great man bids you come close, keep your distance; he will but bid you the more; do not court a rebuff by wearying him, nor yet withdraw altogether, and be forgotten. Affable though he should be, treat him never familiarly; all his friendly talk is but a lure to drag your secrets out of you. All that you say his pitiless heart will hold against you; never a blow, never a chain the less. Have a care of yourself, give good heed to this warning, you that walk with ruin ever at your side; wake from sleep at the hearing of it, and see your peril. Love God all your days, and pray that he will send you good deliverance.
Every beast consorts with its own kind, and shall not man with his fellow? Like to like is nature's rule, and for man like to like is still the best partnership; as well match wolf with lamb as rogue with honest liver. Consecrated person and prowling dog, what have they in common? And what fellowship can there be between rich man and poor? Poor man is to rich as wild ass is to lion out in the desert, his prey; wealth hates poverty, as the proud heart scorns humble rank. Totters the lordly house, it has friends to sustain it; the poor man in his ruin is driven from familiar doors. Trips the rich man, he has many to keep him in countenance; his insolent talk finds acquittal; trips the poor man, he is called to account for it; even for what he said to the purpose, no allowance is made him. Speaks the rich man, all must listen in silence and afterwards extol his utterance to the skies: speaks the poor man, Why, say all, who is this? And if his words offend, it is the undoing of him. Yet, where there is no sin to smite a man's conscience, a full purse is a blessing, and poverty itself is a great evil when it goes with a blasphemer's tongue. Heart of man changes his mien, for good or ill, but where that pleasant mien is, that comes of a generous heart, no short or easy way there is to discover.
Blessed the man whose lips have never betrayed him into a fault, who has never known the sting of remorse, never felt conscience condemning him, and the hope he lived by, his no more!
Vain is that store the miser cherishes; wasted on his distrustful nature, the bright gold! See how he wrongs himself to hoard up goods for others; to let his heirs keep high revel when he is gone! Whose friend is he, that is his own enemy, and leaves his own cheer untasted? This is the last villainy of all, that a man should grudge himself his own happiness; fit punishment for his poverty of soul that never did good except by oversight, and to his manifest remorse! Diseased eye of the niggard, that will turn away and let hunger go unsatisfied; and restless eye of the covetous man, that craves ever more than his due, till his very nature dries up from continual pining; an eye jaundiced with its own passions, and never a full meal, but always he must sit hungry and pensive at his own table, and ill content!
My son, if wealth you have, regale yourself; and make your offering to God proportionable. Bethink you that death waits not; there is no putting off your tryst with the grave; nothing in this world, but its death-warrant is out already. While life still holds, make your friends good cheer, and to the poor be open-handed as your means allow you; stint not the feast, nor any crumb put by of the blessings granted you; would you have your heirs wrangling over the fruits of your bitter toil? Much give, much take, set your soul at ease; while life still holds, do your duty of almsgiving; feasting there shall be none in the grave. No living thing but fades as the grass fades; as the leaves fade, that burgeon on a growing tree, some sprouting fresh and some a-dying; so it is with flesh and blood, one generation makes room for the next. All the works of man are fugitive, and must perish soon or late, and he, the workman goes the same way as the rest. Yet shall their choicest works win favour, and in his work he, the workman, shall live. Blessed the man that dwells on wise thoughts, musing how to acquit himself well, and remembering the all-seeing eye of God; that can plan out in his heart all wisdom's twists and turns, fathom her secrets! Like a spy he follows her, and lingers in her tracks, peers through her window, listens at her doors, by her house takes up his abode, driving his nail into the walls of it, so as to build his cabin at her very side, cabin that shall remain for ever a home of blessing! Wisdom shall be the shade under which his children find their appointed resting-place; her spreading boughs shall protect them from the noonday heat; wisdom shall be the monument of his glorious repose.
If a man fears the Lord, he will live an upright life. If a man holds fast to innocence, he will find wisdom ready to his embrace, welcoming him as a mother welcomes the son who cherishes her, greeting him like a maiden bride. Long life and good discernment are the bread this mother will provide for him, truth the refreshing draught she will give him to drink. She will take firm hold of him, so that he never wavers, restrain him, so that he is never disgraced. She will raise him to high repute among his neighbours; she will move him to speak before the assembled people, filling him with the spirit of wisdom and discernment, clothing him in magnificent array. Joy and triumph she has in store for him, and will enrich him with a name that shall never be forgotten. Not for the fools her embrace, only apt pupils encounter her; how should the fools catch sight of her, that is so far removed from proud and treacherous ways? Nay, she is beyond the deceiver's ken; true hearts alone are her company, and these shall profit by it till they are fit for God's scrutiny. Praise is but praise deformed when it is uttered by the lips of a sinner; wisdom comes from God only, and on wisdom the praise of God needs must wait. Praise on the lips of one who trusts God is rich in meaning; the Ruler of all inspires it.
This wisdom lack you? Do not blame God for the want of it; learn to shun the deeds God hates. Do not complain that it was he led you into false paths; what need has God, think you, of rebels? No foul misdeed there is but God hates it; there is no loving it and fearing him. When men first came to be, it was God made them, and, making them, left them to the arbitrament of their own wills; yet giving them commandments to be their rule. Those commandments if you will observe, they in their turn shall preserve you, and give you warrant of his favour. It is as though he offered you fire and water, bidding you take which you would; life and death, blessing and curse, man finds set before him, and the gift given you shall be the choice you make; so wise God is, so constraining his power, so incessant the watch he keeps over mankind. The Lord's eye is watching over the men who fear him, no act of ours passes unobserved; upon none does he enjoin disobedience, none has leave from him to commit sin.
A brood of disloyal sons and worthless, how should this be the Lord's desire? A brood of disloyal sons, let not your eye dwell on these with pleasure; the fear of God lacking, let not a multitude of children be your comfort. Not on such lives as these set your hopes, little regard have you for such doings as theirs; better one son who fears God than a thousand who grow up rebellious; better die childless than have rebels to succeed you. Through one man that is well-minded a whole country may thrive, and sinners, a whole race of them, may be extinguished; much proof of this my own eyes have seen, and stronger proof yet are the tales that have come to my hearing, of fire breaking out where sinners were met in company, fires of vengeance to consume a disobedient race. Those giants of long ago who perished in the pride of their strength, did they find pardon of their guilt? Lot's neighbours, did God spare them? Did he not attest his hatred of their insolence, destroying a whole nation without pity, for the sinfulness that defied him? And what of those six hundred thousand that marched out into the desert, men of stubborn heart? Stiff-necked if he had been like the others, Caleb himself should not have had God's pardon. His to pity, his to punish; intercession avails with him, but in full flood comes his vengeance; his severity, no less than his clemency, judges men by their deeds. Never may sinner enjoy his ill-gotten gains in safety, nor the hope of the generous be disappointed. No generous act but shall win God's consideration; he weighs each man's merits, knows how each passed his time on earth.
Never think to hide yourself away from God; never tell yourself, from that great height none shall regard you; that you will pass unnoticed amidst the throng of humanity, your soul a mere speck in the vast fabric of creation. Why, the very heavens, and the heavens that are above the heavens, the great deep, and the whole earth with all it contains, shrink away at the sight of him; mountains and hills and earth's foundations tremble at his glance; all these have a heart, though it be a heart void of reason, and there is no heart but its secrets are known to him. There is no fathoming his ways, no piercing the dark cloud man's eyes have never seen; all but a few of his doings are hidden away. His acts of retribution who can understand, or who can bear? Far, far removed is that covenant of his from some men's thoughts; and yet in the end all shall undergo his scrutiny. Away with these fancies of shallow minds, these fond dreams of error!
Will you but listen to me, my son, you shall learn a wiser lesson. Give me your heart's heeding, and instruction you shall have in full measure, wisdom both profound and clear. Give me your heart's heeding, and you shall share with me knowledge of the wonderful endowments God gave his creatures when first he made them; all the lore I have shall be truly told you. From the first, all God's creatures are at his beck and call; to each, when he first made it, he gave its own turn of service, the principle that determines its own nature. To each, for all time, its own office is assigned, nor lack they, nor tire they, nor cease they from work, nor, for all time, can any of them infringe upon its neighbour's rights; his word there is no gainsaying. This done, on earth he let fall his regard, and filled earth with his blessings; covered the face of it with the living things that breathe there, and into its bosom bade them return.
Man, too, God created out of the earth, fashioning him after his own likeness, and gave him, too, earth to be his burying-place, for all the divine power that clothed him; man, too, should have his allotted toll of years, his season of maturity, and should have power over all else on earth; no living thing, beast or bird, that should not live in awe of him and be subject to his rule. To him and to that partner of his, created like himself and out of himself, God gave will and speech and sight and hearing; gave them a heart to reason with, and filled them with power of discernment; spirit itself should be within their ken, their hearts should be all sagacity. What evil was, what good, he made plain to them; gave them his own eyes to see with, so that they should keep his marvellous acts in view, praise that holy name of his, boast of his wonders, tell the story of his renowned deeds. Warnings, too, he gave them; the law that brings life should be a cherished heirloom; and so he made a covenant with them which should last for ever; claim and award of his he would make known to them. Their eyes should see him in visible majesty, their ears catch the echo of his majestic voice. Keep your hands clear, he told them, of all wrongdoing, and gave each man a duty towards his neighbour.
Ever before his eyes their doings are; nothing is hidden from his scrutiny. To every Gentile people he has given a ruler of its own; Israel alone is exempt, marked down as God's patrimony. Clear as the sun their acts shew under his eye; over their lives, untiring his scrutiny. Sin they as they will, his covenant is still on record; no misdeed of theirs but he is the witness of it.
Alms if you give, you have the sign-manual of his favour; treasured as the apple of his eye is the record of man's deserving
... A day will come when he rouses himself and requites them, one by one, for their misdoing, overwhelms them in the depths of earth. Yet, to such as repent, he grants the means of acquittal, and makes their fainting hearts strong to endure; for them, too, he has a share in his promised reward. Turn back to the Lord, and let your sins be; make your prayer before him, and rid yourself of the peril in your path. Come back to the Lord, from wrong-doing turn away, and your foul deeds hate; in all his decrees and awards own God just, stand in your appointed place to make intercession to him, the most High, and take your part with a race of men sanctified, living men that still give thanks to God. Linger not in the false path of wickedness; give thanks while breath is in you; the dead breathe no more, give thanks no more. Thanks while yet you live, thanks while health and strength are still with you, to praise God and to take pride in all his mercies! The Lord's mercy, that is so abundant, the pardon that is ever theirs who come back to him!
Think not man is the centre of all things; no son of Adam is immortal, for all the delight men take in their sinful follies. Nought brighter than the sun, and yet its brightness shall fail; nought darker than the secret designs of flesh and blood, yet all shall be brought to light. God, that marshals the armies of high heaven, and man, all dust and ashes!
Naught that is, but God made it; he, the source of all right, the king that reigns for ever unconquerable. And would you tell the number of his creatures, trace his marvellous doings to their origin, set forth in words the greatness of his power, or go further yet, and proclaim his mercies? God's wonders you shall learn to understand, when you have learned to increase the number of them, or diminish it. Reach you the end of your reckoning, you must needs begin again; cease you from weariness, you have nothing learnt. Tell me, what is man, what worth is his, what power has he for good or ill? What is his span of life? Like a drop in the ocean, like a pebble on the beach, seem those few years of his, a hundred at the most, matched with eternity. What wonder if God is patient with his human creatures, lavishes mercy on them? If none reads, as he, their proud heart, none knows, as he, the cruelty of their doom; and so he has given his clemency full play, and shewed them an even path to tread. Man's mercy extends only to his neighbour; God has pity on all living things. He is like a shepherd who cares for his sheep, guides and controls all alike; welcome you this merciful discipline of his, run you eagerly to meet his will, and he will shew pity on you.
My son, bestow your favours ungrudgingly, nor ever mar with harsh words the gladness of your giving. Not more welcome the dew, tempering the sun's heat, than the giver's word, that counts for more than the gift. Better the gracious word than the gracious gift; but, would you acquit yourself perfectly, let both be yours. The fool, by his scolding, mars all; never yet did eye brighten over a churl's giving.
First arm yourself with a just cause, then stand your trial; first learn, then speak. Study your health before ever you fall sick, and your own heart examine before judgement overtakes you; so in God's sight you shall find pardon. While health serves you, do penance for your sins, and then, when sickness comes, shew yourself the man you are. From paying your vows let naught ever hinder you; shall death find you still shrinking from acquitting yourself of the task? God's award stands for ever. And before ever you make your petition, count well the cost. Let it not be said of you that you did invite God's anger. When his vengeance is satisfied, bethink you still of his vengeance; of his retribution, when his glance is turned away. When all abounds, bethink you of evil times; of pinching poverty, when you have wealth in store. Between rise and set of sun the face of things alters; swiftly God changes all; and he is wisest who walks timorously, shunning carelessness in a world where sins abound.
They are well advised that master wisdom's secret; much cause for thankfulness she bestows on him who finds her. Wise man that has the gift of utterance does more than wisely live; no stranger to truth and right, he is a fountain of true sayings and of right awards. Do not follow the counsel of appetite; turn your back on your own liking. Pamper those passions of yours, and joy it will bring, but to your enemies. Love not the carouse, though it be with poor men; they will be vying still one with another in wastefulness. And would you grow poor with borrowing to pay your shot, you with your empty coffers? That were to grudge your own life.
Let him toil as he will, the sot's purse is empty; little things despise, and little by little you shall come to ruin. Wine and women, what a trap for the loyalty of the wise, how hard a test of good sense! He will go from bad to worse, that clings to a harlot's love; waste and worm shall have him for their prize; one gibbet the more, one living soul the less.
Rash heart that lightly trusts shall lose all; forfeit your own right to live, and none will pity you. A foul blot it is, to take pride in wrong-doing; a courting of death, to despise reproof; a riddance of much mischief, to forswear chattering. Who forfeits his own right to live, will live to rue it; who loves cruelty, blots his own name.
Malicious word if you hear, or harsh, do not repeat it; never will you be the loser. Speak not out your own thought for friend and foe to hear alike, nor ever, if you have done wrong, discover the secret. He that hears it will be on his guard, and eye you askance, as if to avert fresh fault of yours; such will be all his demeanour to you thenceforward. Have you heard a tale to your neighbour's disadvantage? Take it to the grave with you. Courage, man! it will not burst you. A fool with a secret labours as with child, and groans till he is delivered of it; out it must come like an arrow stuck in a man's thigh, from that reckless heart.
Confront your friend with his fault; it may be he knows nothing of the matter, and can clear himself; if not, there is hope he will amend. Confront him with the word spoken amiss; it may be, he never said it, or if say it he did, never again will he repeat it. Be open with your friend; tongues will still be clattering, and you do well to believe less than is told you. Slips there are of the tongue when mind is innocent; what tongue was ever perfectly guarded? Confront your neighbour with his fault ere you quarrel with him, and let the fear of the most High God do its work.
What is true wisdom? Nothing but the fear of God. And since the fear of God is contained in all true wisdom, it must be directed by his law; wisdom is none in following the maxims of impiety, prudence is none in scheming as the wicked scheme. Cunning rogues they may be, yet altogether abominable; a fool he must ever be called, that lacks the true wisdom. Better a simpleton that wit has none, yet knows fear, than a man of great address, that breaks the law of the most High. Exact and adroit even a rogue may be; it is another thing to utter the plain word that tells the whole truth. Here is one that wears the garb of penance for wicked ends, his heart full of guile; here is one that bows and scrapes, and walks with bent head, feigning not to see what is best left unnoticed, and all because he is powerless to do you a harm; if the chance of villainy comes, he will take it. Yet a man's looks betray him; a man of good sense will make himself known to you at first meeting; the clothes he wears the smile on his lips his gait, will all make you acquainted with a man's character.
Reproof there is that no good brings as the event shews; the mistaken reproof that anger prompts in a quarrel. And a man may shew prudence by holding his tongue.
Better the complaint made than the grudge secretly nursed. When a man confesses his fault, do not cut him short in mid utterance.
Redress sought by violence no more content shall bring you than eunuch's lust for maid. Well it is to be reproved, and to confess your fault, and be rid of all such guilt as you have incurred knowingly.
A man may be the wiser for remaining dumb, where the glib talker grows wearisome; the silent man, has he nothing to say? Or is he waiting for the right time to say it? Wisdom keeps its utterance in reserve, where the fool's vanity cannot wait. The babbler cuts his own throat; claim more than your right, and all men are your enemies.
For a mind ill trained, success is failure, winning is losing. Gift given may bring you nothing in return, or twice its worth. Honour achieved may belittle a man, and modesty bring him renown. What use to make a good bargain, if you must pay for it sevenfold?
Word of wise man endears him; the fool spends his favours in vain. Little will the fool's gift profit you; seven times magnified is all he sees. The paltrier the gift, the longer the admonitions that go with it, and every word of his an incitement to anger. Out upon the man who lends today, and will have the loan restored to-morrow! The fool has no friends, nor can win love by all his favours; they are but parasites that eat at his table; loud and long they will laugh over him; so injudiciously he bestows gifts worth having, and gifts nothing worth.
Slip of a liar's tongue is like slip from roof to ground; a villain's end is not long a-coming.
An ungracious man is no more regarded, than some idle tale that is ever on the lips of the ill-bred.
No weighty saying but offends in a fool's mouth; sure it is that he will bring it out unseasonably.
Some avoid wrong only because they lack the means to do it; idle they remain, yet rest they cannot.
Some for very shame have courted their own ruin, resolved, though that opinion were worthless enough, to sacrifice themselves for another's good opinion. Some, too, for shame, make their friends high-sounding promises, and thereby gain nothing, but lose a friend.
A lie is a foul blot upon a man's name, yet nothing so frequent on ill-guarded lips. Worse than a thief is one who is ever lying, and to no better end may he look forward. He lives without honour that lies without scruple, and shame is at his side continually.
The wise word brings a man to honour; prudence will endear you to the great. Till ground, and fill barn; live uprightly, and attain honour; win prince, and escape harm.
Hospitality here, a gift there, how they blind the eyes of justice! No better gag to silence reproof.
Wisdom hidden is wasted, is treasure that never sees the light of day; silence is rightly used when it masks folly, not when it is the grave of wisdom.
Sinned if you have, my son, be not emboldened to sin further; to prayer betake you, and efface the memory of sins past. Sin dread you not less than the serpent's encounter; its fangs will not miss you, if once you come close. Teeth so sharp no lion ever had, to catch human prey, nor ever two-edged sword gave wound so incurable as the law's defiance. Browbeat and oppress the poor, your own wealth shall dwindle; riches that are grown too great the proud cannot long enjoy; pride shrivels wealth. Swiftly comes their doom, because the poor man's plea reached their ears, but never their hearts.
Where reproof is unregarded, there goes the sinner; no God-fearing man but will come to a better mind.
To the glib speaker, fame comes from far and wide; only the wise man knows the slips of his own heart.
Would you build your fortunes on earnings that are none of yours? As well might you lay in stones for winter fuel.
When knaves come together, it is like heaping up tow; the flame burns all the brighter.
How smoothly paved is the path of sinners! Yet death lies at the end of it, and darkness, and doom.
If you would be master of your own thought, first keep the law; no wisdom or discernment but is the fruit of God's fear. Without shrewdness you will never advance in the school of virtue; yet shrewdness there is that breeds abundance of mischief; where the stream runs foul, there can be no rightness of mind. Where true wisdom is, there discernment flows in full tide, there prudence springs up, an inexhaustible fountain of life.
Heart of fool is leaking bucket, that loses all the wisdom it learns. Truths that wisdom will prize and cherish, the profligate hears no less, but hearing despises, and casts them to the winds. Listening to a fool is like journeying with a heavy pack; there is no pleasing the ear, where sense is none. How they hang on the lips of a wise man, the folk assembled, ay, and ponder in their hearts over the word said! A fool takes refuge in wise talk as a man takes shelter in a ruin; learning without sense, that cannot abide scrutiny. To the fool, instruction seems but a fetter to clog him, gyves that cramp his wrist. A fool laughs loud; smiling, the wise compress their lips. Precious as an ornament of gold, close-fitting as a bracelet to the right arm, is instruction to a wise man. Folly sets foot over every threshold, where the experienced mind stands, as in a royal presence, abashed; folly peeps in at windows, where experience waits patiently without; listens thoughtlessly behind open doors, where prudence hangs back for very shame. Fools break out into rash utterance, where the prudent are at pains to weigh their words; with the one, to think is to speak, with the other, to speak is to think.
Let the sinner curse the foul fiend that spites him, on his own head the curse shall recoil. The tale-bearer is his own enemy, shunned by all; court his friendship, and you will court hatred; shut lips and calm judgement shall bring you a good name.
What ill names shall we hurl at the sluggard? Stone from the sewers, that has no man's good word; dung from the midden, for all to wash their hands of him.
Spoilt son you shall beget to your shame, spoilt daughter to your great loss; bring she to her husband no dower of modesty, her shame shall cost you dear. Shame the father shall have, shame the husband; fit company for sinners, she will have no good word from either of these.
Speech may be out of season, like music in time of mourning; not so the rod, not so chastisement; there lies ever wisdom. Teach a fool, and mend a pot with glue; better audience you shall have from the sleeper you would awake from a deep dream; your wise speech ended, Why, what's to do? ask fool and dreamer alike.
For the dead that lacks light, for the fool that lacks wit, never cease to mourn; yet not for the dead overmuch, since rest is his, but the fool's life is empty beyond the emptiness of death; seven days the dead are mourned, but the fool, the godless fool, all his life long.
Linger never with a fool in talk, nor cast in your lot with his; keep clear of him, as you would keep clear of mischief, and of sin's pollution; go your way, and let him go his; you shall sleep the sounder, for having no folly of his to cloud your spirits. Nought like lead for heaviness? Ay, but its name is fool. With sand or salt or iron bars burden yourself, not with rash and godless company, not with a fool.
Underpin the foundations with timber balks, your house shall withstand all shock; nor less shall he, whose heart stands resolved in the counsels of prudence; no hour of peril can daunt that steadfast heart. Palisade set on high ground, with no better protection against the wind's fury than cheap rubble, is but of short endurance; faint heart that thinks a fool's thoughts will not be proof against sudden terror. Faint heart that thinks a fool's thoughts...
...shall never be afraid; no more shall he, that still keeps true to God's commandments.
Chafed eye will weep, chafed heart will shew resentment. One stone flung, and the birds are all on the wing; one taunt uttered, and the friendship is past repair. Have you drawn sword against your friend? Be comforted; all may be as it was. Have you assailed him with angry words? You may yet be reconciled. But the taunt, the contemptuous reproach, the secret betrayed, the covert attack, all these mean a friend lost.
Keep faith with a friend when his purse is empty, you shall have joy of his good fortune; stand by him when he falls upon evil times, you shall be partner in his prosperity.
Chimney-fumes and smoke rising, of fire forewarn you; curse uttered, and threat, and insult, of bloodshed.
Never will I be ashamed to greet friend of mine, never deny myself to him; let harm befall me for his sake, I care not.
...All that hear of it will keep their distance from him.
Oh for a sentry to guard this mouth of mine, a seal to keep these lips inviolate! From that snare may I be safe, nor ever let my tongue betray me!
Lord, that gave my life and are the ruler of it, never may these lips of mine have me at their mercy, never let them betray me into a fall! Be my thoughts ever under the lash, my heart disciplined by true wisdom; let it never deal gently with their unwitting offences, or gloss over the wrong they do! What if my transgressions should go, all unobserved, from bad to worse, if I should sin ever oftener, and add fault to fault? What humiliation were this, in full view of my enemies; how would my ill-wishers triumph at the sight! Lord, that gave my life and are the divine ruler of it, let them not have me at their mercy; never let haughty looks be mine, never the assaults of passion come near me. Let the itch of gluttony pass me by, nor ever carnal lust overtake me; do not leave me, Lord, at the mercy of a shameless, an unprofitable mind!
Here is the lore, my sons, of the tongue's use; hold fast by it, and your own lips shall never be your undoing, to ensnare you in heinous wrong. What is it but his lying that entraps the sinner, what snare but their own speech catches the proud, the slanderers? That mouth of yours do not inure to oath-taking; therein lie many perils; will you take God's name often on so your lips, and of holy titles make your constant invocation, your word is forfeit to them. Slave that is evermore under the lash cannot escape without bruises a many; your often swearing, your often invoking, shall lead you into guilt at last. Oaths a many, sins a many; punishment shall be still at your doors. Forswear yourself, you shall be held to account for it; forget the oath, it is at your double peril; and though it were lightly taken, you shall find no excuse in that; plague shall light on all you have, in amends for it.
Sin of speech there is, too, that has death for its counterpart; God send it be not found in Jacob's chosen race; from men of tender conscience every such thought is far away, not theirs to wallow in evil-doing.
Beware of habituating your tongue to lewd talk; therein is matter of offence.
Not yours to bring shame on father and mother. There are great ones all around you; what if yourself God should disregard, when you are in their company? Then shall this ill custom of yours strike you dumb and bring you to great dishonour; you will wish you had never been, and rue the day of your birth.
Let a man grow into a habit of railing speech, all his days there is no amending him.
Two sorts of men are sinners above measure, and a third I can name that calls down vengeance. There is a hot temper, all fire and fury, that cannot die down till it has had its fill. A man that is corrupted by the prompting of his own lust will not be content until it bursts into flame. To the fornicator, one pasture-ground is as good as another; there is no wearying him till he has tried all. Out on the man that takes his life in his hands and comes between another's sheets! There is none to witness it, thinks he; darkness all about, and walls to shelter me, and none watching; what have I to fear? Sins like mine the most High will never mark. Of that all-seeing eye no heed takes he; fear of a man has driven the fear of God from his thoughts; of human eyes only he shuns the regard. What, are not God's eyes a thousand times more piercing than the sun's rays? Do they not watch all the doings of men, the depths of earth, and man's heart, every secret open to their scrutiny? God, that knows all he means to make, does he not watch over all he has made?
In full view of the open street the adulterer shall pay the penalty; loud, as for a runaway horse, the hue and cry; where he thought to escape, justice outruns him. All the world shall witness his shame, that left the fear of the Lord unregarded. Nor less guilty is she who plays her husband false, giving him for heir a child that is no son of his. Broken, the law of the most High; her plighted troth forsaken; sons borne to a paramour, has she not thrice played the wanton? Needs must she confront the folk assembled, nor shall those sons of hers be spared; such roots must not burgeon, such boughs never bear fruit; she leaves but the memory of an accursed name, a name for ever dishonoured. Warning she gives to after ages that God's fear is best, nor sweeter lot is any than the divine law well observed. Follow the Lord, and it shall be your renown; a long life is the reward it shall bring you.
Hear now how wisdom speaks in her own regard, of the honour God has given her, of the boast she utters among the nation that is hers. In the court of the most High, in the presence of all his host, she makes her boast aloud, and here, amid the holy gathering of her own people, that high renown of hers is echoed; praise is hers from God's chosen, blessing from blessed lips.
I am that word, she says, that was uttered by the mouth of the most High, the primal birth before ever creation began. Through me light rose in the heavens, inexhaustible; it was I that covered, as with a mist, the earth. In high heaven was my dwelling-place, my throne a pillar of cloud; none but I might span the sky's vault, pierce the depth of the abyss, walk on the sea's waves; no part of earth but gave a resting-place to my feet.
People was none, nor any race of men, but I had dominion there; high and low, my power ruled over men's hearts. Yet is with all these I sought rest in vain; it is among the Lord's people that I mean to dwell. He who fashioned me, he, my own Creator, has found me a dwelling-place; and his command to me was that I should find my home in Jacob, throw in my lot with Israel, take root among his chosen race. From the beginning of time, before the worlds, he had made me, unfailing to all eternity; in his own holy dwelling-place I had waited on his presence; and now, no less faithfully, I made Sion my stronghold, the holy city my resting-place, Jerusalem my throne. My roots spread out among the people that enjoys his favour, my God has granted me a share in his own domain; where his faithful servants are gathered I love to linger.
I grew to my full stature as cedar grows on Lebanon, as cypress on Sion's hill; or a palm tree in Cades, or a rose bush in Jericho; grew like some fair olive in the valley, some plane-tree in a well-watered street. Cinnamon and odorous balm have no scent like mine; the choicest myrrh has no such fragrance. Perfumed is all my dwelling-place with storax, and galbanum, and onycha, and stacte, and frankincense uncrushed; the smell of me is like pure balm. Mastic-tree spread not its branches so wide, as I the hopes I proffer of glory and of grace. No vine ever yielded fruit so fragrant; the enjoyment of honour and riches is the fruit I bear.
It is I that give birth to all noble loving, all reverence, all true knowledge, and the holy gift of hope. From me comes every grace of faithful observance, from me all promise of life and vigour. Hither turn your steps, all you that have learned to long for me; take your fill of the increase I yield. Never was honey so sweet as the influence I inspire, never honey-comb as the gift I bring; mine is a renown that endures, age after age. Eat of this fruit, and you will yet hunger for more; drink of this wine, and your thirst for it is still unquenched. He who listens to me will never be disappointed; he who lives by me will do no wrong; he who reads my lesson aright will find in it life eternal.
What things are these I write of? What but the life-giving book that is the covenant of the most High, and the revelation of all truth? What but the law Moses enjoined, with the duties it prescribes, the inheritance it bestows, the promises it holds out? Solemnly he pledged himself to give his servant David an heir most valiant, that should hold his royal throne for ever. Who but he can make wisdom flow, deep as the stream Phison sends down, or Tigris, in the spring; make the tide of prudence run, strong as Euphrates own, or Jordan's tide in the month of harvest; make obedience rise to its full height, like Nile or Gehon when men gather the vintage? He it was that first attained to wisdom's secret, never since made known to any less than himself; so deep are her thoughts, sea-deep, so dark her counsels, dark as the great abyss.
From me rivers flow, says Wisdom, deep rivers.
And what am I? A conduit that carries off the river's overflow, its channel, the aqueduct that waters a park. I thought to refresh my well-set garden, give drink to the fruits that fringe its border; and all at once my channel overflowed, this stream of mine had nigh turned into a sea! Teaching is here like the dawn for brightness, shedding its rays afar. Nay, I will make my way down to the depths of earth, and visit those who sleep there, and to such as trust in the Lord I will bring light. My teaching shall yet flow on, faithful as prophecy, heirloom to all such as make wisdom their quest, and to their children yet, until the holy days come. See how I have toiled, not for my own sake merely, but for all such as covet wisdom!
Three sights warm my heart; God and man wish them well: peace in the clan, good will among neighbours, man and wife well matched. Three sorts of men move my spleen, so that I am fain to grudge them life itself: poor man that is proud, rich man that is a liar, old man that is fond and foolish.
The store youth never puts by, shall old age enjoy? Good judgement well matches grey hairs, for still the elders must be men of prudence; wisdom for the old, discernment for senators, and the gift of counsel! No crown have old men like their long experience, no ornament like the fear of God.
Nine envious thoughts came suddenly into my mind, and a tenth I will add for good measure. Happy is he that has joy of his children; that lives to see his enemies downfall. Happiness it is to share your home with a faithful wife; to have a tongue that never betrays you; to serve only your betters. Happiness it is to have a true friend... and to speak the right word to an ear that listens. Happy is he that wisdom gains and skill; yet is he no match for one who fears the Lord. The fear of God, is a gift beyond all gifts; blessed the man that receives it, he has no equal. Fear the Lord, and you shall learn to love him; cling close, and you shall learn to trust him.
There is no sadness but what touches the heart, no mischief but what comes from woman. A man will endure any wound but the heart's wound, and any malice but a woman's; just so he will endure any annoyance but from his ill-wishers, any sentence imposed on him but by his enemies. No head so venomous as the viper's, nor any anger like a woman's. Better share your home with lion and serpent both, than with an ill woman's company. A woman's ill will changes the very look of her; grim as a bear's her visage, and she goes like one mourning. See where he sits among his neighbours, that husband of hers, groaning deep and sighing as he listens to them! All other mischief is a slight thing beside the mischief an ill woman does; may she fall to a sinner's lot! Better climb sandy cliff with the feet of old age, than be a peace-loving man mated with a scold. Let not your eye be caught by a woman's beauty; not for her beauty desire her; think of woman's rage, her shamelessness, the dishonour she can do you, how hard it goes with a man if his wife will have the uppermost. Crushed spirits, a clouded brow, a heavy heart, all this is an ill woman's work; faint hand and flagging knee betoken one unblessed in his marriage. Through a woman sin first began; such fault was hers, we all must die for it. Your cistern you would not let leak, ever so little; and would you let a wanton wife roam at large? Leave she once your side, you shall be the laughing-stock of your enemies; best cut away the ill growth from your flesh; she will ever be taking advantage of you.
Happy the man that has a faithful wife; his span of days is doubled. A wife industrious is the joy of her husband, and crowns all his years with peace. He best thrives that best wives; where men fear God, this is the reward of their service, good cheer given to rich and poor alike; day in, day out, never a mournful look.
Three things daunt me somewhat, a fourth I dare not face. Gossip of the streets, the judgement of the rabble, and the false charge preferred, all these make death itself seem a light thing. But there is no affliction wrings the heart like a woman's jealousy; once a woman grows jealous, her tongue is a scourge to all alike. Easier to guide an unsteady team of oxen than an ill woman; easier to hold a snake than to manage her. Woman that is a sot, vexation shall bring you, and great dishonour; there is no hiding her shame. Haughty gaze and lowered eye-lid, there goes a wanton. Headstrong daughter must be held with a tight rein, or she will find opportunity to bestow her favours; beware of that shameless eye, nor think it strange if she defies you. Reckless you will find her as thirsty traveller that puts his mouth to the spring and drinks what water he can get; no stake but she will make fast by it, no arrow comes amiss to her archery, till of dalliance she has had enough.
Great content an industrious wife brings to her husband; health to every bone of his body is that good sense of hers. No better gift of God to man than a prudent woman that can hold her tongue; a soul well disciplined is beyond all price. Grace so gracious is none as woman's faithfulness and woman's modesty; woman's continence there is no valuing. Sun dawning in heaven cannot match the lustre a good wife sheds on her home, and that beauty lasts into ripe age, like the glow of lights on the holy lamp-stand. Firm as golden pillar in silver socket rest the feet of steadfast woman on the ground she treads; and firm as foundations built for all time on solid rock is holy woman's loyalty to God's commandments.
Two sad sights my heart knows, and one more that fills it with indignation; warrior left to starve, and wise counsellor unregarded, and a man that leaves right living for ill-doing, ripe for God's vengeance.
Two dangers I see that are hard to overcome. How shall a merchant be cured of careless dealing, or a huckster for his lying talk find pardon? Sin comes often of an empty purse; nothing distorts the eye like the love of riches. Stake that is held between two stones cannot escape; nor may sin be avoided when there is seller on this side, buyer on that. Wrong done shall be undone, and the doer of it as well; hold fast to your fear of the Lord, or your wealth shall soon come to ruin.
The sieve shaken, nothing is left but refuse; so you will find a man's poverty in his thought.
Pottery is tested in the furnace, man in the crucible of suffering.
Good fruit comes from a tree well dressed, and a man will be in word what he is in thought; do not give your opinion of a man till he has spoken; there lies the proof.
Make right-doing your quest, and you will not miss the mark; this shall be a robe of honour to clothe you, a welcome guest in your house, to watch over you continually, and to be your stronghold at the hour when all is made known.
Bird mates with bird, and he that shews faithfulness faithfulness shall meet.
The lion waits in ambush for his prey; leave the right path, and sin shall be ever at your heels.
Unfailing as the sun is the wisdom of a devout mind; moon and fool change continually.
When you have fools for your company, your word can wait; be closeted continually with the wise.
Out upon the wearisome talk of sinners, that of sin and its dalliance makes a jest! Out upon the man that uses oaths lightly; hair stands upright at his blaspheming, and ears are stopped! Out upon the proud, that provoke bloodshed with their quarrelling, and by their cursing offend all who listen!
Betray your friend's secret, and all confidence is lost; never more shall you have friend to comfort you. Use such a man lovingly, and keep faith with him; if once you have betrayed him, court no more his company. Friendship thus killed, your friend is dead to you; bird let go from the hand is not lost more irretrievably; he is gone, like hind released from the snare, gone beyond your pursuit. The wound that hurts a man's soul there is no healing; the bitter taunt may yet be unsaid, but once the secret is out all is misery, all is despair.
Sly glance of the false friend! How shall a man be rid of him? Here in your presence, he smooths his brow, and is all in wonderment at your wise sayings; but ere long he will change his tune, and lend your words an ill colour. Above all else, he earns my hatred; God's hatred too, I doubt not.
None can throw stone in air but at his own head's peril, nor ever was blow struck treacherously, but the traitor must have his share of hurt; a man may fall into the pit he dug, trip on the stone he set in his neighbour's path, perish in the snare he laid for another. Plot ill, and the ill shall recoil on yourself, springing up beyond all your expectation.
For the proud, mockery and shame! Vengeance, like a lion, couches in wait for them.
For all who triumph at the ill fortune of the just, a snare to catch them, and a long remorse before death takes them!
Rancour and rage are detestable things both; and the sinner has both in store.
He that will be avenged brings on himself the Lord's vengeance; watch and ward shall be kept over his sins continually. Forgive your neighbour his fault, and for your own sins your prayer shall win pardon; should man bear man a grudge, and yet look to the Lord for healing? Should he refuse mercy to his fellow-man, yet ask forgiveness, should he think to appease God, while he, a mortal man, is obdurate? Who shall plead for his acquittal? Look to your last end, and leave your quarrelling; with the grave's corruption God's commandments threaten you. Your God fear, your neighbour forgive; the covenant of the most High remember, your neighbour's slip forget.
Keep clear of quarrelling, and sin shall less abound. Quick temper sets feuds a-raging, and wicked men there are that will embroil fast friends, and stir up strife among folk that lived at peace. More fuel, more fire; strong man will rage the more, rich man push his vengeance further.
Heat is gendered by the haste of rivalry, and bloodshed by hot blood; but it is tongue of witness that brings death. Spark blown upon will blaze, spat upon will die out; see how of both the mouth is arbiter! A curse on every tale-bearer and traducer that disturbs the world's peace! Tongue that comes between two friends, how many it has exiled, sent them to wander far away, how many rich cities dismantled, great houses demolished, what armies it has routed, what proud nations brought to ruin, what noble women it has driven out from their homes, and left all their toil unrewarded! Pay heed to it, and you shall never rest more, never find friend in whom you can trust. Whip that lashes does but bruise the skin; tongue that lashes will break bones; the sword has killed many, the tongue more.
Blessed is he that is preserved from the tongue's wickedness, that has never felt its fury, never borne its yoke or worn its chains; that yoke of iron, those chains of bronze! Here is death worse than death itself, here is loss the grave cannot outvie. Not for ever shall its reign persist, but where wicked men go it still follows; the just it cannot consume, but if you forsake God you shall encounter it, a fire that burns you and will not be quenched, an assault more perilous than assault of lion or pard. Fence your ears about with thorns, and give the wicked tongue no hearing; make fast your mouth with bolt and bar. Melt down gold and silver of yours, and get you a balance that shall weigh your words, a bridle that shall be the rule of your mouth; do all that lies in you to keep your tongue from speaking amiss, lest lurking enemies triumph over your ruin, the fatal and final ruin that shall be yours.
Heart full of kindness and hand full of comfort will keep the commandment, Lend to your neighbour. Neighbour must borrow easily when he needs, must repay readily when his need is over. Keep your bond, deal faithfully, and you shall never lack. Out upon the man that treats loan as treasure trove, and is a burden to his benefactor! What, kiss the hand that gives, and make humble promises of repayment; then, when the debt falls due, ask for grace, and complain peevishly of hard times? Pay grudgingly when pay you can, offer but half the sum, and count it a windfall for the lender? Or, if you can not, disown the debt and make an enemy of him, rewarding your benefactor not with due honour, but with angry curse and reproach? What wonder if many refuse to lend, not churlishly but for fear of wilful wrong? Yet I would have you patient with needy folk; do not keep them waiting for your charity; befriend them, as the law commands, nor ever send them away in their misery empty-handed. It is your brother, your friend that asks; better lose your money than leave it to rust in a vault. Lay up store for yourself by obeying the commandments of the most High; more than gold it shall profit you; the good deed treasured in poor men's hearts shall ransom you from all harm, shall more avail than stout shield or lance to ward off your enemies.
Kindness bids you go bail for your neighbour; he has lost all shame if he plays you false. And if another goes bail for you, do not forget the benefit done you; he gave his life for yours. It is right foully done to play a surety false; would you treat his goods as if they were your own? Would you, ungrateful wretch, leave your ransomer to suffer for it? Men have gone bail ere now for shameless friends that so abandoned them. By going bail for scoundrels, men of good fortune have fallen upon ruin and shipwreck; men that held their heads high must now wander far and wide, exiles in strange countries. Leave godless sinners to become sureties to their ruin; men that take rash ventures to fall into the law's clutches. For yourself, relieve your neighbour as your means allow, but never to your own entanglement.
What are man's first needs? Water, and bread, and clothing, and the privacy of a home. Better the poor man's fare under his roof of bare boards, than to be guest at a splendid banquet, and home have none. Make much of the little you have; never be it yours to bear the reproach of a wanderer. A wretched life it is, passing on from house to house to find a welcome; that welcome found, you will lack all confidence, and sit there mumchance. Then, when you have helped to entertain, with food and drink, the guests that owe you no thanks, you will have a poor reward for it: Up, wanderer! Lay me a fresh table, and what lies before you hand to others; I have honoured guests coming, and you must make way for them; a kinsman of mine stands in need of my hospitality! Bitter words for an honest man to hear; shall he owe his bread to one that reviles him as homeless?
Inure your son to the rod, as you love him; so shall you have comfort of him in your later years, nor go about knocking softly at your neighbour's doors. Discipline your son, and you shall take pride in him; he shall be your boast among your familiars. Discipline your son, if you would make your ill-wishers envy you, would hold your head high among your friends. Father that dies lives on, if a worthy son he has begotten; here is a sight to make life joyous for him and death not all unhappiness, and a bold front he keeps before his ill-wishers; such an heir will shew loyalty to his race, its foes warding off, its friends requiting. Let a man pamper his children, binding up every wound, his heart wrung by every cry, and he shall find spoilt son headstrong and stubborn as a horse unbroken. Cosset your son and make a darling of him, it shall be to your own anxiety, your own remorse. Smile at his follies now, and the bitter taste of it shall set your teeth on edge hereafter. You can not afford to give him freedom in his youth, or leave his thoughts unchecked; none is too young to be bent to the yoke, none is too childish to be worth a drubbing, if you would not see him wilful and disobedient, to your heart's unrest. Discipline your son, be at pains with him, or his shameless ways will be your downfall.
Poor man sound and strong of body is better off than rich man enfeebled, and racked with disease. Health of the soul, that lies in duty done faithfully, is more worth having than gold or silver; no treasure so rare that it can match bodily strength. Health is best wealth; no comfort will you find like a merry heart. Better the endless repose of death, than life by lingering sickness made irksome. For mouth that refuses nourishment what use in dainties? They are no better than the banquet left on a tomb, little availing yonder idol, that cannot taste or smell. Once the Lord has laid you by the heels, to do penance for your sins, you shall hanker and sigh for these dainties but as eunuch that fondles maid.
Nor let anxious thoughts fret your life away; a merry heart is the true life of man, is an unfailing store of holiness; length of years is measured by rejoicing. Your own self befriend, doing God's will with endurance, and giving all your heart to the holiness he enjoins, and banish your sad thoughts; sadness has been the death of many, and no good ever came of it. Jealousy and peevishness shorten a man's days; cares bring old age untimely; gay and gallant heart is ever feasting, sets to and makes good cheer.
Will you pine away with care for riches, lose your sleep for thinking of it? These solicitudes breed a madness in the brain, such as only grave sickness can expel. Toils rich man for gain, till he can rest and enjoy what is his; toils poor man to fend off need, and when he ceases he is a poor man still. Love money, and you shall be called to account for it; your quest corruption, of corruption you shall have your fill. Many have given themselves up to the lure of gold, and in its beauty found their ruin; its worship was a snare to catch their feet; alas, poor fools that went searching for it, and themselves were lost!
Blessed is the man who lives, for all his wealth, unreproved, who has no greed for gold and puts no trust in his store of riches! Shew us such a man, and we will be loud in his praise; here is a life to wonder at. A man so tested and found perfect wins eternal honour; he kept clear of sin, when sinful ways were easy, did no wrong, when wrong lay in his power. His treasure is safely preserved in the Lord's keeping and wherever faithful men are met, his alms-deeds will be remembered.
Sit you at a rich man's table, be not quick to remark upon it; it is ill done to cry out, Here is a table well spread! Be sure a covetous eye shall do you no good; eye is a great coveter, and for that, like no other part of your face, condemned to weep. Be not quick to reach out your hand, and be noted, to your shame, for greed; jostling goes ill with a feast. Learn from your own conjecture your neighbour's need; take sparingly the good things set before you, nor court ill-will by your gluttony. For manners' sake, leave off eating betimes, or your greed shall give offence. When there are many about you, do not be quick to stretch out your hand, quick to call for wine. For a man well disciplined a little wine is enough; spare yourself the uneasy sleep, the pains that shall rack you; wakeful nights come of excess, and bile and griping pains. For the temperate man, there is sound sleep; sleep that lasts till morning, and contents his whole being; though you have been constrained to eat beyond your wont, you have but to leave the table and vomit, and you shall find relief, nor come to any bodily harm.
Take good heed, my son, do not belittle this advice of mine; you shall live to prove it true. Put your heart into all you do, and no infirmity of purpose shall hinder you. The generous host is on all men's lips; ever they bear witness to his loyal friendship; the niggard has the ill word of a whole city; men form shrewd judgement of a niggard.
Never challenge hard drinker to a drinking-bout; wine has been the ruin of many. Fire tests the strength of steel; and a proud man fuddled with wine betrays his quality. Easy flow wine, easy flow life, but to men of sober habit; sobriety must drink within measure. To the drunkard, life is no life at all; wine is death, when it so deprives a man of life. Wine was made for mirth, never for drunkenness; drink wisely, and it shall rejoice your heart and your whole being; health it brings to mind and body, wine wisely taken. Wine drunk in excess brings anger and quarrelling and calamities a many; it is the poison of a man's life. What does the false courage of the drunkard? It takes him unawares, and makes him less a man; grievous wounds come of it. When the wine goes round, do not find fault with your neighbour, or think the worse of him for being merry; never taunt him, never press him to repay the debt.
If they will make you master of the feast, do not give yourself airs; bear yourself as an equal. Make good provision for the guests, and so take your place among them; your duty done, recline at ease and in their pleasure rejoice, accepting the crown that marks their favour, the honour bestowed by their gifts. Speak first, as becomes your seniority, but with due choice of words; and do not break in when music is aplaying; no need for your words to flow when none is listening, for your wisdom to be displayed unseasonably. Music and wine, carbuncle set in gold, music and wine, signet ring of gold and emerald, so the wine be good, and taken in due measure.
Keep silence, and give others a hearing; it shall win you a name for modesty; if you are but a young man, be loth to speak even of what concerns you, and if you are pressed for an answer, give it in brief. For the most part keep your knowledge concealed under a mask of silence and enquiry; nor ever be familiar among great men, nor garrulous among the wise. Sure as the lightning is sign of a storm, men's good word is the sign of a modest nature; they will love you all the better for your bashfulness. When the time comes for going, do not linger; get you gone speedily to your home, there to divert yourself, and take your ease, and follow the whim of your own thoughts, yet innocently and with no word proudly said. And for all this give thanks to God your maker, that so contents you with his gifts. If you fear the Lord, you will accept the schooling he gives you, waiting early at his door to win his blessing. In the law, the law's follower finds deep content, the false heart nothing but a snare to catch it. Those who fear the Lord will discover where right lies, the light of truth shall shine from their awards; the sinner fears to have his life reproved, and will ever be finding precedents for gratifying his own whim. A man of prudence will never throw caution to the winds; his proud enemy feels no dread even upon rashly provoking him, but shall live to rue the assault. Do nothing, my son, save with consideration, and your deeds shall not bring you repentance. Take not some ruinous road that shall trip you with its boulders; some road where all journeying is difficult and you may expose your life to sudden dangers. Of your own children beware, be on your watch against your own household; be it yours to trust with all your soul's confidence, and you have kept the commandments. Who trusts in God, keeps well God's command; confidence in him was never disappointed.
If a man fears the Lord, he shall meet with no disaster; God will be watching over him, even when his faith is put to the test, and from such disaster will preserve him. A wise man does not grow weary of the law, and the duties it enjoins, and no shipwreck can befall him. If you are a man of judgement, you have only to trust God's commandment, and it will not fail you; ...giving a true answer to the question asked... you will prepare your plea, and find audience for your prayer; will recollect the teaching given you, and so satisfy your questioner. A fool's heart is but a wheel that turns; his are whirling thoughts. Have you a friend that will ever be mocking? Be comforted; stallion will ever neigh, ride him who will.
Why is it that one day which dawns, one year, takes precedence of another, when all come of the same sun? God's wisdom it was that so set them apart when he made the sun, and gave it a law to keep; made a succession of seasons, a succession of feast days, when at stated times men must keep holiday. To some he would assign high dignity; others should be lost in the common rabble of days. So it is that all men are built of the same clay; son of Adam is son of earth; yet the Lord, in the plenitude of his wisdom, has marked them off from one another, not giving the same destiny to each. For some, his blessing; he will advance them, will set them apart and claim them as his own. For some, his ban; he will bring them low, and single them out no more. Clay we are in the potter's hands; it is for him who made us to dispose of us; clay is what potter wills it to be, and we are in our maker's hands, to be dealt with at his pleasure. Evil matched with good, life matched with death, sinner matched with man of piety; so everywhere in God's works you will find pairs matched, one against the other.
Think of me as one that has toiled last of all, and goes about gleaning a fruit here, a fruit there, after the vintagers have done. Yet did I trust that I, too, might have God's blessing, and I, too, have filled the wine-press, a vintager like the rest. See how I have toiled, not for my own sake merely, but for all such as covet wisdom! Words for the hearing of all, high and low; you that hold high place in the assembly, never disdain to listen.
Long as you live, do not put yourself in the power of others, though it be son or wife, kinsman or friend; do not make over your goods to another; it is ill to go a-begging for what is your own. While life and breath is in you, never change places with another; it is for your children to ask you for what they need, not to have yourself for their pensioner. Be at the head of your own affairs, nor ever tarnish your renown, until your days are finished; then, at the hour of your death, make your bequests.
Fodder your ass must have, and the whip, and a pack to bear; your slave, too, needs food and discipline and hard work. Under duress he toils, what marvel if ease should tempt him? Leave his hands idle, and he will seek to be his own master. The stubborn ox yoke and rein will subdue; slave held to his task is slave bowed to your will; keep rack and stocks for one that is bent on mischief. To the task, no hours of leisure! Idleness is a great teacher of ill habit. Toil first assign to him; toiling is his lot; then, if he disobeys you, with the stocks you may tame him. Yet do not burden flesh and blood more than it can bear, nor inflict more than lawful punishment while the plea is still unheard. Faithful slave if you have, make much of him as of your own self; treat him as if he were your brother, as if your own life were the price of his purchase. Wrong him, and he may run away from your service; once he takes to his heels, who can tell you where or in what guise you may discover him?
Fools are cheated by vain hopes, buoyed up with the fancies of a dream. Would you heed such lying visions? Better clutch at shadows, or chase the wind. Nought you see in a dream but symbols; man is but face to face with his own image. As well may foul thing cleanse, as false thing give you a true warning. Out upon the folly of them, pretended divination, and cheating omen, and wizard's dream! Heart of woman in her pangs is not more fanciful. Unless it be some manifestation the most High has sent you, pay no heed to any such; trust in dreams has crazed the wits of many, and brought them to their ruin. Believe rather the law's promises, that cannot miss their fulfilment, the wisdom that trusty counsellors shall make clear to you.
A man will not learn until he is tested by discipline. That experience gained, he will think deeply, and the many lessons he has learned will make him a wise talker. Without experience, a man knows little; yet, if he is too venturesome, he reaps a rich harvest of mischief... A man will not learn until he is tested by discipline... and if he is led astray he will be full of knavery... I myself have seen much in my wanderings, the customs of men more than I can tell. Sometimes, by this means, I have been in danger of death, and only the divine favour has preserved me from it.
The life of such as fear the Lord is held precious, and wins a blessing from his regard; they have a deliverer they can trust in, and God's eye watches over them in return for their love. Fear the Lord, and you shall never hesitate; nothing may daunt you, while such a hope is yours. Blessed souls, that fear the Lord! They know where to look for refuge. Fear the Lord, and his eyes watch over you; here is strong protection, here is firm support; shelter when the hot wind blows, shade at noon-day; here is reassurance when a man stumbles, support when he falls; soul uplifted, eyes enlightened, health and life and blessing bestowed.
Tainted is every sacrifice that comes of goods ill gotten; a mockery, this, of sacrifice, that shall win no favour. For those who wait upon him in loyal duty, the Lord alone is God. Should the most High accept the offerings of sinners, take the gifts of the wrong-doer into his reckoning, and pardon their sins because their sacrifices are many? Who robs the poor and then brings sacrifice, is of their fellowship that would immolate some innocent child before the eyes of his father. Poor man's bread is poor man's life; cheat him of it, and you have slain him; sweat of his brow, or his life's blood, what matters? Disappoint the hireling, and you are own brother to a murderer. Build while another pulls down, and toil is its own reward. Pray while another curses, and which of you shall find audience with God? Cleanse yourself from dead body's contamination, and touch it again, what avails your cleansing? So it is when a man fasts for his sins, yet will not leave his sinning; vain is the fast, the prayer goes unanswered.
Live true to the law, and you have richly endowed the altar. Let this be your welcome-offering, to heed God's word and keep clear of all wickedness; this your sacrifice of amends for wrong done, of atonement for fault, to shun wrong-doing. Bloodless offering would you make, give thanks; victim would you immolate, shew mercy. Wickedness and wrong-doing to shun is to win God's favour, and pardon for your faults.
Yet do not appear in the Lord's presence empty-handed; due observance must be paid, because God has commanded it. If your heart is right, your offering shall enrich the altar; its fragrance shall reach the presence of the most High; a just man's sacrifice the Lord accepts, and will not pass over his claim to be remembered. Generously pay the Lord his due; do not grudge him the first-fruits of your earnings; all you give, give with a smiling face, gladly bring in the tithe. In his own measure God's gift repay; grudge you must not what afford you can; the Lord is a good master, and you shall have sevenfold in return.
But think not to bribe his justice; he will have none of your bribery. Never pin your hopes on the power of wealth ill gotten; the Lord is a true judge, not swayed by partiality, and you can not win him to take your part against the friendless, turn him deaf to the plea of the wronged. Prayer of the orphan, eloquent sigh of the widow, he will not disregard; see the tears on yonder widow's cheeks, that accuse the author of her misery! From her cheeks they rise to heaven, where all prayers are heard, a grievous sight. None but his true worshippers he makes welcome; for their supplication the clouds give passage. Pierce those clouds if you would, you must humble yourself, inconsolable till that prayer finds audience, unwearying till it wins redress.
And will the Lord keep us waiting long? Hearing and redress he will grant to the innocent; strong as of old, patient no longer, he will crush the backs of our oppressors. The Gentiles punished, scattered the hordes of insolence, broken the sceptre of wrong! Men called to account everywhere for their deeds, the harvest of their mortal pride, and his own people vindicated at last, triumphing in his mercy at last! God's mercy, welcome to the afflicted as rain-clouds are welcome in time of drought!
God of all men, have mercy on us; look down, and let us see the smile of your favour. Teach them to fear you, those other nations that have never looked to find you; let them learn to recognize you as the only God, and to acclaim your wonders. Lift up your hand, to shew these aliens your power; let us see them as they have seen us, humbled before you; let them learn, as we have learnt, that there is no other God but you. Shew new marvels, and portents stranger still; win renown for that strength, that valiant arm of yours; rouse yourself to vengeance, give your anger free play; away with the oppressors, down with your enemies! Hasten on the time, do not forget your purpose; make them acclaim your wonders. Let none of them escape their doom, the oppressors of your people; let there be a raging fire ready to devour them; heavy let the blow fall on the heads of those tyrants, that no other power will recognize but their own. Gather anew all the tribes of Jacob; be it theirs to know that you alone are God, to acclaim your wonders; make them your loved possession as of old. Have compassion on the people that is called by your own name, on Israel, owned your first-born; have compassion on Jerusalem, the city you have set apart for your resting-place; fill Sion's walls, fill the hearts of your people, with wonders beyond all telling come true, with your glory made manifest. Vindicate the race that was from the first your chosen; old prophecies uttered in your name, at last fulfil; have we waited for you to no purpose? Shall your prophets be proved false? Listen to your servants plea, that claim the blessing Aaron pronounced over your people; guide us into the right path; let all the world know that you are God, watching us eternally.
Take what food you will, belly is content; yet meat and meat differ. The savour of venison only palate can reach; only wise heart can discern lying tongue.
False heart breeds dismal thoughts; mind well schooled keeps them at bay.
Any woman is a mate for any man; yet maid and maid differ.
Fair wife blithe husband; as no other lure, beauty draws us. What of her tongue? If that, too, has power to charm, if that is soft and gentle, never was man so blessed. Good wife won is life well begun; a comforter you have, of your own breed, a stay to support you. No hedge, no garden; and if wife you have none, you shall wander homeless. Trust him never, that has not found a nest to dwell in, and does but lodge where night overtakes him, cut-purse that travels light from city to city.
Friends every man has that will say, I love him well; yet friends they may be in name only. Death itself cannot match it for sadness, when friend and companion becomes your enemy. Cruel pretence, what mind first conceived you, to turn solid earth into a morass of foul treachery? A companion, how he will enjoy the delights of his friend's prosperity, and turn against him in the hour of need! A companion, how he will share a friend's grief if he may share his bake-meats; use him as a shield against some enemy! Never let friend of yours be far from your thoughts; in your prosperity never forget him.
Never take counsel with one who may be laying a trap for you; from his envy hide your purpose; advice every counsellor will give you, but some will counsel you for their own ends. Be on your guard, then, against him who advises you; how is his own turn best served? What is his secret mind? It may be, he will hide stake in pit so for you, crying, your course lies clear; then stand at a distance to see what becomes of you. Consult, if you will, unbeliever about holiness, knave about justice, woman about her rival, dastard about war, merchant about value, buyer about price, cynic about gratitude, scoffer about piety, rogue about honesty, farm labourer about work to be done, yearman about year's end, idle servant about great undertakings; but all the advice they give you heed you never. Closet yourself rather with some man of holy life, known to you as God's worshipper, some soul well matched with yours, such as would grieve to see you stumbling in darkness. And your own heart enthrone as your best counsellor; nothing may compare with that; there are times when a man of piety sees truth clearer than seven sentinels high in a watch-tower. With all this, entreat the most High to guide your steps in the right path.
For every undertaking, every act of yours let just consideration prepare you, and trustworthy counsel. Ill counsel may make the heart veer round; four points its compass has, good and evil, life and death; and it is ever the tongue that sways it.
Shrewdness there is that can much impart, yet is its own enemy. And there is experience that imparts much to others, and is its own friend besides. There is quibbling talk that will earn you enemies, and an empty belly; no power to win men the Lord has given it, so empty is it of all wisdom. But there is wisdom that befriends the owner of it, earning high meed of praise; if thus you are wise, wisdom you shall impart to your fellows, and shalt not miss your own reward; blessings the wise man reaps from all around, to see him is to praise him. Man's days are numbered, Israel's none can number, and among our people the wise man wins an inheritance of honour, a deathless renown.
Son, as your life goes on, make trial of your appetites, and if harmful they be, give them no liberty; not all things all men suit, nor please. When there is feasting, your greed restrain; do not fall upon all the meats you see; much feasting breeds infirmity, gluttony the bile, and many have died of surfeiting; the temperate live long.
Deny not a physician his due for your need's sake; his task is of divine appointment, since from God all healing comes, and kings themselves must needs bring gifts to him. High rank his skill gives him; of great men he is the honoured guest. Medicines the most High has made for us out of earth's bounty, and shall prudence shrink from the use of them? Were not the waters of Mara made wholesome by the touch of wood? Well for us men, that the secret virtue of such remedies has been revealed; skill the most High would impart to us, and for his marvels win renown. Thus it is that the physician cures our pain, and the apothecary makes, not only perfumes to charm the sense, but unguents remedial; so inexhaustible is God's creation, such health comes of his gift, all the world over.
Son, when you fall sick, do not neglect your own needs; pray to the Lord, and you shall win recovery. Leave off your sinning, your life amend, purge you of all your guilt. With frankincense and rich oil make bloodless offering of meal; and so leave the physician to do his work. His task is of divine appointment, and you have need of him; let him be ever at your side. Needs must, at times, to physicians you should have recourse; and doubt not they will make intercession with the Lord, that they may find a way to bring you ease and remedy, by their often visiting you. Offend you your maker by wrong-doing, much recourse you shall have to physicians.
When a man dies, let your tears flow, and set up a great lamenting, as for your grievous loss; shroud him according to his quality, and grudge him no pomp of funeral; then, to be rid of gossip, bemoan him bitterly for a day's space, ere you will be comforted in your sorrow; one day or two, as his worth claims, bemoan him; no need to win yourself an ill name. But grief will but hasten your own death, will be the grave of your own strength; where heart goes sad, back goes bowed. So long as you withdraw yourself, sad your heart will be; and what patrimony but heart's mirth is left to the poor? Why then, do not give yourself over to regrets; put them away from you, and bethink you rather of your own end. Do not fancy that the dead can return; by torturing yourself you can nothing avail him. Remember, he tells you, this doom of mine; such shall yours be; mine yesterday, yours to-day. Let his memory rest, as he rests, in death; enough for you that you should comfort him in the hour when his spirit leaves him. The wisdom of a learned man is the fruit of leisure; he must starve himself of doing if he is to come by it. How shall he drink full draughts of wisdom that must guide the plough, that walks proud as any spearman while he goads on his team, all his life taken up with their labours, all his talk of oxen? His mind all set on a straight furrow, the feeding of his cows an anxiety to deny him sleep? So it is with every workman and master-workman, that must turn night into day. Here is one that cuts graven seals; how he busies himself with devising some new pattern! How the model he works from claims his attention, while he sits late over his craft! Here is blacksmith sitting by his anvil, intent upon his iron-work, cheeks shrivelled with the smoke, as he battles with the heat of the furnace, ears ringing again with the hammer's clattering, eyes fixed on the design he imitates. All his heart is in the finishing of his task, all his waking thoughts go to the perfect achieving of it. Here is potter at work, treadles flying, anxious continually over the play of his hands, over the rhythm of his craftsmanship; arms straining at the stiff clay, feet matching its strength with theirs. To finish off the glaze is his nearest concern, and long he must wake to keep his furnace clean. All these look to their own hands for a living, skilful each in his own craft; and without them there is no building up a commonwealth. For them no travels abroad, no journeyings from home; they will not pass beyond their bounds to swell the assembly, or to sit in the judgement-seat. Not theirs to understand the law's awards, not theirs to impart learning or to give judgement; they will not be known for uttering wise sayings. Theirs it is to support this unchanging world of God's creation; they ply their craft and ask for nothing better; ...lending themselves freely and making their study in the law of the most High.
But the wise man will be learning the lore of former times; the prophets will be his study. The tradition handed down by famous men will be in his keeping; his to con the niceties of every parable, learn the hidden meaning of every proverb, make himself acquainted with sayings hard to understand. To great men he will render good service, will be summoned to the prince's own council; will go upon his travels in foreign countries, to learn by experience what the world offers of good and of harm. With dedicated heart, he will keep early vigil at the Lord's gates, the Lord that made him, to win audience for his plea from the most High. His lips will be eloquent in prayer, as he entreats pardon for his sins. At the Lord's sovereign pleasure, he will be filled with a spirit of discernment, so that he pours out showers of wise utterance, giving thanks to the Lord in his prayer. His plans and thoughts guided from above, he will have skill in the divine mysteries; will make known to all the tradition of teaching he has received, and take pride in that law which is the Lord's covenant with man. This wisdom of his, extolled on every side, will never fall into oblivion; the memory of him, the renown of him, will be held in honour from age to age. His wise words will become a legend among the nations; where faithful men assemble, his praise will be told. A life that shall leave such is fame as one man wins in a thousand; a death not unrewarded.
And still I have thoughts worth the telling; madman as easily might contain himself. A voice proclaims, Give heed to me, you that are scions of the divine stock; yours to burgeon like a rose-bush that is planted by running water; yours to yield the fragrance of incense; yours to blossom like the lily, and smell sweet, and put forth leaves for your adornment; yours to sing songs of praise, and bless the Lord for all things he has made. His name extol; songs of praise let your lips utter, and let harp's melody mingle with the song. And you shall praise him in these words following.
Good, wondrously good, is all the Lord has made. Piled high the waters stand at his command, shut in by cisterns of his appointing. All-sufficient is his will, unfailing his power to save; open to his view are all deeds of mortal men, nothing can escape that scrutiny. On every age of time his glance rests; marvel is none beyond his compass. Not for man to ask what this or that may be, each shall be needed in its turn. His blessings flow like a stream in full flood, like rain pouring down to refresh the parched earth. But the nations that never look to find him, shall be the prey of his vengeance; did he not turn the waters into firm ground, and dry up the floor of them, so that it made a path for the passage of his own people, and yet a trap to punish the wicked?
From the first, good things were made for good men to enjoy; for sinners, they are good and evil at once. What are the first needs of man's life? Water, fire, iron, salt, milk, wheat-meal, honey, the grape-cluster, oil and clothing. Thereby, for just men, nought but good is intended, yet for sinners they turn to evil. Some powers there be that are created for wreaking of vengeance, and sternly they wield the lash in their raging; when the time for reckoning comes, they will put out all their force, until their Maker's anger is appeased. Fire, hail, hunger and death, all these were made for wreaking of vengeance; ravening beasts too, and scorpions, and serpents, and the sword that punishes the wicked till there are none left. All these hold high revel as they perform his will; ready they stand till earth has need of them, and when the need comes, they will obey. From the first, all my questioning and all my thought confirms me in what I have written, all things God has made are good, and each of them serves its turn; nor ever must we complain things have happened for the worse, since each has its own occasion to justify it. With full hearts, then, and full voice, praise we and bless the Lord's name.
Great is the anxiety all men are doomed to, heavy the yoke each son of Adam must bear, from the day when he leaves his mother's womb to the day when he is buried in the earth, that is mother of all. What solicitude is his, what fears catch at his heart; how quick his mind runs out to meet coming events! And the term of it all is death. What matter, whether a man sit on a throne, or grovel in dust and ashes; whether he goes clad in purple and wears a crown, or has but coarse linen to wear? Anger he shall know, and jealousy, and concern and bewilderment, and the fear of death, and the grudge that rankles, and rivalry. Rest he on his bed at night, sleep comes to fashion his thinking anew; even there, the rest he wins is but little or none at all, and thereupon, in his dreams, he is anxious as sentry waiting to be relieved, his are such whirling thoughts as fugitive has, just escaped from the battle. Then, at the moment of deliverance, comes waking; and he marvels to find his fears all vain. This lot he shares with all living things; beast has it as well as man, but for the sinner it is multiplied sevenfold. There is more besides, mortal sickness, bloodshed, quarrelling, the sword, oppression, famine, devastation and plague; all such things are designed for the punishing of the wicked; was it not from wickedness the flood came?
All that is of earth, to earth must needs return, and all waters find their way back to the sea; what shall become of bribery and oppression? The memory of them shall vanish; faithfulness will endure for ever. All the riches of the wrong-doer will disappear, like stream that runs dry, will die away, like roll of thunder in a storm-cloud; open-handed is merry-hearted, the sinners it is that shall pine away at the last. Never a branch will the posterity of the wicked put forth; dead roots they are that rattle on the wind-swept rock. How green yonder rushes grow by the river's bank! But they shall be plucked up before hay-harvest. But kindliness, like the garden trees, lasts on, remembered in blessing; charity remains unforgotten.
Sweet is his lot, that toils and is contented; here is hidden treasure for your finding.
Children born, and a city founded, will bring you a great name; best of all, a woman without spot. Wine and music make heart glad; best of all, the love of wisdom. Flute and harp make sweet melody; best of all a kindly tongue. Grace and beauty charm the eye; best of all, the green wheat. Friend and friend, gossip and gossip, are well met; best of all, man and wife. Kinsmen ...will help you in hard times; best of all your alms-deeds to deliver you. Gold and silver give you sure vantage-ground; best of all, right counsel. Riches and strength make the heart beat high; best of all, the fear of the Lord.
Fear the Lord, lack you shall have none, help need none; the fear of the Lord is a garden that yields blessing... and in splendour above all splendour they have clothed him. Long as you live, my son, never turn beggar; die is better than beg. Look you for your meat to another's table, I count your life no life at all; what, owe your very being to another man's larder? From such a chance, good teaching and good training shall keep you safe. Poverty, on a fool's lips, will pass for a thing desirable; but trust me, he has a fire raging within.
Out upon you, death, how bitter is the thought of you to a man that lives at ease in his own home, a man untroubled by care, no difficulties in his path, that his food still relishes! Hail, death! Welcome is your doom to a man that is in need, and lacks vigour; worn out with age and full of anxieties, that has no confidence left in him, no strength to endure. Never fear death's doom; bethink you of the years that went before you, and must come after you. One sentence the Lord has for all living things. What the will of the most High has in store for you, none can tell; what matter, whether it be ten years, or a hundred, or a thousand? Once you are dead, you will take no grudging count of the years.
The children wicked men beget are born under a curse, familiars of a godless home; all they inherit is soon lost to them; reproach dogs the footsteps of their posterity. How bitter their complaints against the father who is the author of their ill fame! Woe to you, rebels, that have forsaken the law of the Lord, the most High, born of an unholy birth, an unholy death your destiny! All that is of earth, to earth must needs return; from ban to bale is the cycle of a life ill lived.
Man sighs over his body's loss; what of his name? The wicked are lost to memory. Of your good name heed take you; it shall remain yours longer than a thousand heaps of rare treasure. Life is good, but its days are numbered; a good name lasts for ever.
My sons, here is wholesome teaching. Wisdom hidden, I told you, is wasted, is treasure that never sees the light of day; silence is rightly used when it masks folly, not when it is the grave of wisdom. Yet sometimes bashfulness is no fault, as I will now make known to you. It is ill done to be abashed on every occasion; but yet neither is self-confidence for all and every use. Of these things, then be ashamed; that your parents should find you a fornicator, ruler or prince a liar, magistrate or judge a wrong-doer, assembly of the people a law-breaker, partner or friend a knave, or your neighbour a thief. ...concerning the faithfulness of God, and his covenant; concerning your sitting over meat... Ashamed be of belittling the gift received, of leaving the greeting unreturned, of letting your eyes stray after harlots, of denying yourself to kinsman that has a near claim on your regard, of property fraudulently shared. Let not your eye fall on woman wed to another, nor ever exchange secrets with handmaid of hers, nor come between her sheets. Be ashamed of uttering reproach against your friends, nor insult the receiver of your gift.
Nor ever do you repeat gossip to the betraying of another's secret. If of such things you are ashamed, shame you shall never feel, and you shall have all men's good word besides. And other dealings there are over which you must never be abashed, nor, through respect for any human person consent to wrong. Such are, the law of the most High and his covenant; and right award, that gives the godless his due; a matter between some partner of yours and strangers from far off, the apportioning of an inheritance among your friends, the trueness of weight and balance, profit overmuch or too little, the exchange between buyer and seller, the strict punishing of children, the cudgelling of a wicked slave till he bleeds... Thriftless wife if you have, seal is best. Where many hands are at work, lock all away; part with nothing, till it be measured and weighed, and of all your spending and receiving, written record kept... Nor be you abashed, when there is question of chastising reckless folly, and the complaints of old men against the young. So you shall shew prudence in all your dealings, and win the good word of all.
Daughter to her father is ever hidden anxiety, a care that banishes sleep. Is she young? Then how if age creep on too soon? Is she wed? Then how if her husband should tire of her? Is she maid? Then how if she were disgraced, and in her own father's house brought to bed? Once more, is she wed? Then how if she were false to her husband? How if she prove barren? Over wanton daughter of yours you can not keep watch too strict; else she will make you the scorn of your enemies, the talk of the city; strangers will point the finger at you, and all the rabble know your shame. Gaze not on the beauty of human kind, nor occupy yourself much with women; garment breeds moth, and woman wickedness in man. Man's wickedness is too strong for woman at her best; and a woman that plays you false brings you only disgrace.
Recount we now what things the Lord has made; his visible creation be our theme; nothing he has fashioned but hangs on his word. Just as yonder sun that looks down on all gives light to all, so the glory of the Lord shines through all his creation; how should his faithful servants herald them enough, these marvels of his, enabled by divine omnipotence in that glory to endure? Nothing is hidden from him, the deepest depths of earth or of man's heart; he knows our most secret designs. All knowledge is his; does he not hold the clue of eternity, making plain what has been and what is yet to be, laying bare the track of hidden things? No thought of ours escapes him, never a whisper goes unheard. How great the wisdom that so ordered all things, his wisdom who has neither beginning nor end; nothing may be added, nothing taken away from them, nor needs he any man's counsel. How lovely is all he has made, how dazzling to look upon! Changeless through the ages, all of it lives on, responsive to his calls. All things he has made in pairs, balanced against one another; never a fault of symmetry; to each one its own well-being assured. His glory contemplating, you shalt never have your fill.
Like a jewel the vault of heaven is set above us; the sight of it is glory made visible. Plain to our view is the sun's passage as it shines out, a very masterpiece of his workmanship, who is the most High. How it burns up the earth at noon-day! How fierce its glow, beyond all endurance! Tend you the furnace, heat is your daily portion; yet three times hotter the sun, as it burns up the hill-side scorching all with its fiery breath, blinding men's eyes with its glare. Swiftly it speeds on its course, to do the bidding of the Lord, its glorious maker. The moon, too, that keeps tryst so faithfully, ever marking how the seasons change, and giving the signal when feast days come round! The moon, whose light must decrease till it vanishes, and then increase to the full circle, the month its name-child; cresset of a watch-fire that lights up the high vault of heaven with its radiant glow. And the stars that deck the sky with their splendour, a beacon-light the Lord kindles high above us; the summons of his holy word answering so loyally, watching so patiently at their post!
Look up at the rainbow, and bless the maker of it; how fair are those bright colours that span heaven with a ring of splendour, traced by an almighty hand. Swift comes the snow at his word, swift flashes the fire that executes his vengeance; he has but to unlock his store-house, and the clouds hover, bird-fashion, arsenals of his might, from where the pounded hail-stones fall. How his glance makes the hills tremble! Blows the south wind at his bidding, earth echoes with the crash of his thunder; blows the north wind, and there is whirling storm. Soft as roosting bird falls the snow, spread all around; not more silently comes locust-swarm to earth; what eye is but captivated by its pale beauty, what heart but is filled with terror at the dark cloud that brings it? He it is pours out the frost, that lies white as salt on the earth, the frozen earth that seems covered with thistle-down.
Cold blows the north wind, and ice forms on the water; no pool but it rests there, arming the water as with a breastplate; frost gnaws at the mountain-side, parches the open plains, strips them, as fire might have stripped them, of their green. Remedy for all these is none, but the speedy coming of the mist; frost shall be overmastered by the showers the sirocco drives before it, and at the Lord's word the chill blast dies away.
What else but divine wisdom tamed the rising of the seas, and planted the islands there? Hear we what perils in the deep mariners have to tell of, and wonder at the tale; of the great marvels it contains, living things a many, both fierce and harmless, and monstrous creatures besides. Who but the Lord brought the venture to a happy issue? His word gives all things their pattern.
Say we much as we will, of what needs to be said our words come short; be this the sum of all our saying, He is in all things. To what end is all our boasting? He, the Almighty, is high above all that he has made; he, the Lord, is terrible, and great beyond compare and his power is wonderful. Glorify him as best you may, glory is still lacking, such is the marvel of his greatness; praise him and extol him as you will, he is beyond all praising; summon all your strength, the better to exalt his name, untiring still, and you shall not reach your goal. Who can tell us what he is from sight seen of him? Who can magnify his eternal being? Much more lies beyond our ken; only the fringe of creation meets our view; and of all things the Lord is maker. Yet, live you in the worship of him, wisdom you shall have for your reward.
Speak we now in honour of famous men that were our fathers, long ago. What high achievements the Lord has made known in them, ever since time began! Here were men that had power and bore rule, men that excelled in strength, or in the wisdom that dowered them; prophets that worthily upheld the name of prophecy, issuing to the people the commands their times needed, uttering, through their foresight, a sacred charge to the nations. Here were men that had skill to devise melodies, to make songs and set them down in writing. Here were men rich in ability, noble of aim, that dwelt peacefully in their homes. These were the glories of their race, the ornament of their times; and the sons they begot have left a memory that adds to the recital of their praise. Not like those others, who are forgotten in death as if they had never been; nameless, they and their children, as if they had never lived; no, these were men of tender conscience; their deeds of charity will never be forgotten. Blessings abide with their posterity; their descendants are a race set apart for God, the pledged heirs of his promises. For their sakes this line of theirs will endure for all time; their stock, their name, will never be allowed to die out. Their bodies lie in peace; their name lasts on, age after age. Their wisdom is yet a legend among the people; wherever faithful men assemble, their story is told.
Enoch there was, that did God's will, and was taken away to Paradise, repentance his gift to mankind. Noe, too, blameless lived and faithful proved; when the day of retribution came, he made amends for all; so it was that earth had a remnant left when the flood came; with him God's covenant was made, never again should all living things be drowned together. What greatness was Abraham's, to be the father of so many nations! Where shall we find another that can boast he kept the law of the most High as Abraham kept it? He, too, entered into a covenant with God, and was bidden to bear on his own body the record of it. Once he had put him to the test and found him obedient, God took an oath that this should be the father of a renowned posterity; their numbers should rival the dust on the ground, should match the stars in heaven, stretching from southern to western sea, from Euphrates to the ends of earth. Isaac, the son of such a father, fared no worse; to him the Lord gave that blessing which should extend to all nations. In Jacob's person, too, the covenant should be revived; the blessings Jacob uttered should be ratified, and the lands promised him should be divided among twelve tribes of his own begetting.
Him a posterity of famous sons awaited, men of tender conscience, that had the good word of all their fellows.
Well loved by God, well loved among men, on the name of Moses a benediction rests. The Lord gave him such honour as he gives to his holy ones; gave him renown by striking terror into his enemies, and then, at his word, abated the prodigies that had befallen them. He made him great in the eyes of kings, entrusted commandments to him in full view of the chosen people, made a revelation to him of the divine glory. The Lord set him apart, chosen out from the rest of mankind, so loyal he was and so gentle; answered his prayer by taking him up into a cloud, and there, face to face, imparting commandments to him, the law that gives life and wisdom; here, Jacob, was your covenant, here Israel, the rule you were to live by.
Of Levite blood, too, sprang another renowned as Moses himself, his brother Aaron. To Aaron the Lord gave high office, making an eternal covenant with him, investing him with the priesthood of the chosen race, enriching him with his own glory. Bright was the cincture that girded him, bright the robe that clothed him; no ornament he wore but spoke of majesty. The long tunic, the breeches, the sacred mantle, and golden bells a many compassing him about, that tinkled still as he walked, echoing through the temple to keep Israel's name unforgotten! The hallowed robe, all gold and blue and purple, work of a master weaver, that lacked neither skill nor faithfulness! What craftsmanship of twisted thread dyed scarlet, of rare stones in a gold setting, engraved with all the gem-cutter's are, twelve of them to commemorate the twelve tribes of Israel! The gold finishing, too, of his mitre, engraved with the legend, Holiness; so proud an adornment, so noble a work of art, such a lure for men's eyes in its ordered beauty! Never vesture till then was seen so fair; and, from time immemorial, no other might put it on, only the sons of Aaron's line, in undying succession.
Day in, day out the fire should consume his sacrifice; when Moses consecrated him with the holy oil's anointing, this was a right granted in perpetuity, long as the heavens should last. His to perform the priest's office, to echo God's praise, to bless the people in his name. Alone of living men, he was chosen out to offer sacrifice, and the sweet-smelling incense that is a people's plea for remembrance, a people's atonement. Power was his to administer the divine decrees, a justiciary by right, handing on to Jacob its tradition, giving Israel the law's light to guide it. Once, out in the desert, that right was challenged; with envious cries, men of another clan surrounded him, Dathan and Abiron for their leaders, espousing Core's quarrel. Ill-content was the Lord God at the sight of it; his vengeance swept them away; by no common doom, a raging flame devoured them. Fresh privileges for Aaron were kept in store; he must share in the conquest by receiving all the land's first-fruits; his clan first of all must have bread enough and to spare, his children should inherit the eating of the Lord's own sacrifice. But he must have no lands in the conquered territory, no share like the rest of his race; the Lord should be his wealth, the Lord his portion.
Next to these two, Phinees the son of Eleazar won high renown; like Aaron, with the fear of God to guide him, he stood firm while the people shrank away; a loyal and a willing heart that made amends for Israel. For his reward, he received assurance of the divine favour; command he should have of sanctuary and of people both, and the high priesthood that was his should descend to his heirs for ever. David the son of Jesse, of Juda's tribe, should bequeath to his children a legacy of kingship...
.. with wise hearts endowing us, to preserve justice among his people, and keep safe the blessings he has given to it; and this pre-eminence over his people he has settled on them in perpetuity.
Next to Moses in the line of prophets comes Josue the son of Nave, that fought so well. With him, name and renown are one; who is more renowned for the deliverance he brought to God's chosen people, beating down the enemies that defied him until Israel made their land its own? What fame he won by those valiant blows he dealt, hurling his armed strength at city after city! What chieftain had ever stood his ground so manfully? And still the Lord brought enemies to confront him. On his fierce resolve the sun itself must wait, and a whole day's length be doubled. Let enemies attack him on every side, he would invoke the most High, to whom all strength belongs, the great God, the holy God, and his prayer was answered. Hail-stones came down in a storm of wondrous violence, that fell on the opposing army and shattered the menace of it, there on the hill-side. So the Gentiles should feel God's power, and learn that it is a hard matter to fight against him. Ever had Josue followed in that Prince's retinue, since the days when Moses yet lived; he it was, and Caleb the son of Jephone, that took a generous part together; they would have engaged the enemy, and saved their own people from guilt by hushing the murmurs of rebellion. These two alone, out of six hundred thousand warriors, survived the perils of the journey; these two were appointed to lead Israel into the land, all milk and honey, that was its promised home.
On Caleb, too, the Lord bestowed such vigour, that in his old age he was a warrior still, and made his way up into the hill-country, where his descendants held their lands after him; no doubt should Israel have that he is well rewarded who serves so holy a God. The judges, too, have their glorious muster-roll, men of resolute heart, that God's cause never forsook; be their names, too, remembered in blessing, and may life spring from their bones, where they lie buried; undying be their memory, in their own posterity continued, undying be the sacred record of their renown.
Dearly the Lord God loved his prophet Samuel, that restored Israel's fortunes and anointed kings to rule over it. Well was the divine law kept, when he ruled our commonwealth, and the God of Jacob was gracious to it; here was a prophet of proved loyalty, and ever his word came true, such vision had he of the God that gives light. With foes about him on every side, he invoked the Lord, the Almighty, with an unblemished lamb for sacrifice; and therewith came thunder, sent from heaven, loud echo of the divine voice, that overthrew all the princes of the sea-coast, all the captains of the Philistines. There must be an end at last to his life, and to the age he lived in; but first he would make profession, with the Lord and the new-anointed king for his witnesses, bribe he had never taken from any living man, though it were but a gift of shoe-leather; and none might gainsay him. Even when he had gone to his rest, he had a revelation for the king's ear, and gave warning of the death that awaited him; a prophet, even in the tomb, while there was yet guilt among his people to be effaced.
Among prophets, Nathan was the next to arise, and it was then the reign of David began. Only the fat from the sacrifice, only David out of all Israel; the Lord must have ever the best! Here was one that would use lion or bear as playthings for his sport, tussle with them as if they had been yearling lambs. Such was his boyhood; and who but he should save the honour of his people, by slaying the giant? He had but to lift his hand, and the stone aimed from his sling brought low the pride of Goliath; prayer to the Lord, the Almighty, gave him the mastery over a great warrior, and retrieved the fortunes of his race. Ere long, they had given him the title, Slayer of ten thousand, and sang his praises, blessing the Lord's name; kingly honours they accorded him. He it was that laid their enemies low all about them, extirpating, to this day, the malice of the Philistines, shattering their power for ever. Yet there was no feat of David's but made him thank the most High, the most Holy, and to him give the glory; still with all his heart he praised the Master he loved so well, the God who had created him and endowed him with strength to meet his enemies. He would have musicians wait around the altar, and rouse sweet echoes with their chant; feast-days should be kept with splendour, times and seasons duly observed, all his life long; morning after morning the Lord's holy name should be praised, God should receive his full tribute of worship. So it was that the Lord pardoned his sins, and bade him carry his head high evermore; his by right was the kingship, and the proud throne of Israel.
To a wise son of his that throne passed; for David's sake all the threats of the enemy were stilled, and Solomon might reign undisturbed. If God gave him mastery all around, it was because he would have a temple built in his honour, to be his sanctuary for all time. Ah, Solomon, how well schooled in your youth! Deep as a river flowed your wisdom; your ambition it was to lay bare all the secrets of earth; full scope you would have for riddle and proverb. Even to the distant isles your renown spread, and everywhere your peaceful reign made you beloved. The whole earth stood in awe of song and proverb and parable and interpretation of yours; in awe, too, of the name of the Lord God, who is known among men as the God of Israel. Gold you did amass in such plenty, as it had been only bronze; silver was abundant in your domains as lead. Yet women bowed you to their will; of body's appetites you would brook no restraint, and thus your renown was tarnished with the gendering of a breed unhallowed. So it was that vengeance fell upon your children, that must rue your folly in after times; the kingdom divided, and in Ephraim a rebel dynasty exercising dominion, through your fault.
Yet God is ever merciful; his own design he will not mar fruitlessly, nor undo; should he destroy it root and branch, the posterity of his chosen servant? Should the man that so loved him have begotten sons in vain? Jacob must have a stock to breed from; the root of David should burgeon yet. Solomon once laid to rest with his fathers, what heirs left he? A man of his own blood, born to infatuate a nation, insensate Roboam, whose ill counsel drove the people to rebellion; and that other, Jeroboam son of Nabat, who taught Israel to sin. All Ephraim followed the example of his misdoing; high rose the tide of their sins, till it swept them away altogether from their own country.
For all this wickedness of theirs God held them to account, waiting till the time should come for punishing them, and purging them of their guilt.
And now another prophet arose, Elias, a man of flame; blazed, like a fire-brand, his message. This man it was brought down a famine to punish them, till few were left of the enemies that bore him a grudge, and found the Lord's commandment too hard for them. At the Lord's word, he laid a ban on heaven itself, and three times brought fire down from it; such was the fame of Elias' miracles. Who else could boast, as you, of calling back the dead from the tomb, by the power of the Lord God, and to life restoring them; of kings brought to ruin and all their power lightly shattered, proud kings, that might leave their sick-beds no more? Sinai should tell you, Horeb should tell you, of award made, and doom pronounced; kings you should anoint, to be the redressers of wrong, and prophets to come after you; then, amidst a flaming whirlwind, in a chariot drawn by horses of fire, you were taken up into heaven. Of you it was written that in time of judgement to come you would appease the divine anger, by reconciling heart of father to heart of son, and restore the tribes of Israel as they were. Ah, blessed souls that saw you, and were honoured with your friendship! We live only for a life-time; and when death comes, we shall have no such renown as yours.
In that whirlwind Elias was lost to view, bequeathing his spirit of prophecy in full measure to Eliseus. Here was a man that in all his life never held prince in awe, never made way for human greatness. For him no task too difficult; was not his dead body prophetic still, to prove him a wonder-worker in death, that in life was marvellous? Yet the nation for whom all this was done would not amend, nor leave its sinning, until all the inhabitants of the land were driven out, and scattered. through the world; only that little kingdom remained that was ruled by the heirs of David, and of these rulers, though some did God's will, there were some that had sins a many to answer for.
Well did Ezechias fortify his city, and brought a running stream into the midst of it, breaking through the rock with tools of iron, and building a cistern for the water. In his reign Sennacherib marched against the country, and sent Rabsaces to threaten it; Sion itself he threatened with attack, so proudly he trusted in his own strength. Heart and hand were unnerved at his coming; worse anguish woman in labour never knew. Yet they cried out upon God for pity, with hands outstretched heavenwards; and he, the holy One, he the Lord God, was not slow to answer them. Their sins he would remember no more; he would not leave them at the mercy of their enemies; by means of his holy prophet Isaias they should find release. With that, the Lord's angel fell on the camp of Assyria, and brought its armies to nothing. So faithfully Ezechias did the Lord's will, following boldly the example of his father, king David; so well he obeyed Isaias, a great prophet and a faithful interpreter of the vision the Lord gave him. In Isaias' days it was that the sun went back, in token that the royal life should be prolonged; Isaias it was that saw things far distant, by the power of inspiration, and comforted mourning hearts in Sion. Without end or limit future things he foretold, that still lay hidden in the womb of time.
Josias, too, is still remembered; a memory grateful as some mingled scent, pride of the perfumer's art, or the honey that tastes sweet in all men's mouths, or music over the wine. A king divinely ordained to make a nation's amends, how he swept away all the foul idols of the law-breakers; how true he kept his heart to the Lord's bidding, what comfort he gave to piety, when wickedness abounded! David, Ezechias, Josias, these three only were exempt from the guilt of their line; the other kings of Juda forsook the law of the most High, and counted the fear of God a light matter. What wonder if they were doomed to bequeath all the glories of their kingdom to strangers, to princes of an alien race, who set fire to the city that was God's chosen sanctuary, and left the ways unfrequented?
...By means of Jeremias; so ill they used him, that was set apart to be a prophet when he was yet in his mother's womb, empowered to overthrow to uproot, to destroy, then to rebuild and to plant anew. And next Ezechiel, to whose eyes God shewed the vision of glory, by wheeling cherubs borne aloft...
And in storm he remembered the enemy... to reward all such as pointed men to the right path. May life spring from the bones of the twelve prophets, where they lie buried; men that put heart into the sons of Jacob, and by trusting in God's power won deliverance.
The fame of Zorobabel what words of ours shall enhance? The jewel God wore on his right hand for signet-ring; he, with Josue son of Josedec, rebuilt God's house that then lay ruined; raised up a holy temple, of the divine glory the eternal dwelling-place. Nor shall Nehemias be soon forgotten, that mended these ruined walls of ours, our gates built and barred, our homes restored to us.
Enoch no man born on earth can match, that from earth was taken away; nor Joseph, that was born to be his brethren's master, and the bulwark of a great nation. Lord of his brethren, stay of a people, he left his bones to await the day of God's deliverance, in death prophetic still. Seth and Sem are among the heroes of their race, and Adam, too, that when earth began was made Lord of all living creatures.
A great priest was Simon, son of Onias; in his day the house of God was repaired, to make the temple strong was his life's task. The high part of the temple, where the building was of double thickness, and the towering walls about it, he underpinned; in his day, too, the cisterns received their full flow of water, rose beyond all measuring, sea-deep. So well he cared for his fellow-citizens; no enemy should be able to compass our ruin; nor lacked he means to enlarge the city's span. See in what state he comes out to meet the people; entrance of temple and of temple-court lifted high above him! Bright he shone as the daystar amid the clouds, as the full moon in her season; nor sun ever shed on our own temple such generous rays as he. What shall be compared with him? Rainbow that lights up the clouds with sudden glory, rose in spring-time, lilies by the water-side, scent of olibanum on the summer air? Fire that glows brightly, and glow of incense on the fire? Ornament of pure gold, set with whatever stones are rarest; olive-tree that burgeons, tall cypress pointing to the sky? Such was he when he put on his robe of office, clad himself with the full majesty of his array; sacred the garments in which he went up to the sacred altar, yet were they ennobled by the man that wore them.
There he stood, by the altar, with the priests handing him their portions, every one, for sacrifice; and all these standing about him were but Lebanon cedars standing about Lebanon, were but as palm branches growing from their parent stem, all these sons of Aaron in the splendour of their attire. Theirs to hold out, before is assembled Israel, the offerings made to the Lord; and he, completing his task at the altar, for the due observance of the great King's sacrifice, would reach out his hand for the cup, and with the grape's blood offer libation. And as he poured out at the altar's foot its consecrated fragrance, loud shouted the sons of Aaron, loud the silver trumpets blew; great was the cry raised to win God's audience. And with that, down fell all the people, face to earth, worshipping the Lord their God and pouring out their prayers to him, the Almighty, to him, the most High. The singers, too, broke out into chants of praise; sweetly their voices echoed through the wide courts; nor would the people leave off their praying to the Lord, the most High, till the divine praise was completed, and all their duty done. And then Simon would come down, his hand outstretched over the assembly of Israel, a blessing on his lips, and his heart proud to serve such a Master; and so fell to prayer again, for the better manifesting of God's power.
Bless we now his name who is God over all; wide as earth is his wondrous power, the God that has granted us life since first we were borne in the womb, and most mercifully used us. Gladness of heart may he give us, and send Israel in our time peace that shall last for ever; and still may it be Israel's faith that God's mercy is with us, ready, when his time comes, to grant us deliverance.
Two nations with all my heart I loathe; and a third I can name, that nation indeed is none; the hill-tribes of Edom, and the Philistines, and the miscreant folk that dwell at Sichem.
The lessons of discernment and of true knowledge in this book contained were written down by Jesus, the son of Sirach, of Jerusalem; his heart ever a fountain of true wisdom. Blessed is he who lingers in these pleasant haunts, and treasures the memory of them; wisdom he shall never lack; and if by these precepts he live, nothing shall avail to daunt him; God's beacon-light shews the track he shall tread.
A prayer uttered by Jesus, son of Sirach. O Lord, my king, I give you thanks, O God, my deliverer, I praise you; I extol your name, for all the succour and protection you have given me, saving my life from deadly peril, when calumny lay in wait, and lying tongues assailed me. In full sight of all that stood by you did come to my rescue; roaring lions stood ready to devour me, and you in that great mercy, that renowned mercy of yours, did deliver me. I was in the hands of my mortal enemies, shut in on every side by misfortune; there were stifling flames all round me, and I stood in the heart of the fire uninjured. I looked down into the deep womb of the grave, when foul lips brought lying accusations, and cruel king gave unjust sentence. And still I would praise the Lord, long as I had breath to praise him, though death's abyss yawned. At my very feet, though I was cut off on every side, with none to aid me. Man's help I looked for and could not find; yet I bethought me, Lord, of your mercy, your deeds of long ago; if men will but wait for you patiently, you, Lord, do deliver them, do rescue them from the power of the heathen. It was you who had prospered my life on earth, and now, death ready to overwhelm me, to the Lord, Father of the Master I serve, I made my plea. Would he leave me unaided when I was in distress, when my enemies were triumphing over me? I will extol your name unceasingly, with grateful praise; my prayer did not go unregarded. You did rescue me from deadly peril, did save me in the hour of defeat; shall I not give thanks, shall I not praise and bless your name?
A young man still, ere ever my wanderings began, I made my prayer for wisdom. Before the temple I asked for this, my life's quest to the end. Came early the ripening of those grapes, and my heart rejoiced at it. Down a straight path I sped, the ardour of youth to aid my search. Ear that little listens shall yet hear; much wisdom that little listening gave. Further and further yet I travelled, thanks be to the God that all wisdom bestows. Good use to make of her was all my love and longing; never was that hope disappointed. Hardily I strove to win her, put force on myself to keep her rule; I stretched out my hands towards heaven, and grieved for the want of her. Kept I but true to the search for her, I found and recognized her still. Long since trained by her discipline, I shall never be left forsaken. Much heart-burning I had in the quest for her, but a rich dowry she brought me. Never shall this tongue, with utterance divinely rewarded, be negligent of praise. O hearts untutored, come near, and frequent the school of learning! Parley at the gates no more, complaining of thirst ever unsatisfied. Rather, to my proclamation give heed; win the treasure that is to be had without price paid. Suffice it that you bow your necks to her yoke, are content to accept her schooling. To find her, needs no distant travel... Unlaborious days, as all can testify, what a harvest they have won me of repose! Would you grudge free expense of silver in the search for wisdom, that shall make you ample returns in gold? Your hearts shall yet triumph in his mercy, nor ever rue the day when you learned to praise him.
Do, while time serves, what needs doing; when the time comes, he will reward you.