Did you ever consider the wise King's praise of Wisdom,
and the beautiful personifications in which he conveys it? "Happy is the
person who finds wisdom and gains understanding. For the profit of wisdom is
better than silver, and her wages are better than gold. Wisdom is more
precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. She offers
you life in her right hand, and riches and honor in her left hand.
She will guide you down delightful paths; all her ways are satisfying.
Wisdom is a tree of life to those who embrace her; happy are those who hold
her tightly." Proverbs 3:13-18
This is one of the sparkling gems of composition which
decorate and enliven the pages of Scripture. Go, young man—to this beautiful
personification, this angel form—she has length of days in her right hand.
True religion will not necessarily insure health and avert disease—but it
will prevent the body and mind from being destroyed or impaired by vice.
Read the description which is given of the consequences of sin in the book
of Job, as exhibited in an aged, worn-out sinner—"His bones are full of the
sin of his youth, which shall lie down with him in the dust." And then add
the language of Solomon, where he says, "at the end of life you will groan
in anguish when disease consumes your body, and you will say—How I hated
discipline! If only I had not demanded my own way! Oh, why didn't I listen
to my teachers? Why didn't I pay attention to those who gave me instruction?
I have come to the brink of utter ruin, and now I must face public
disgrace." Proverbs 5:11-14
Slaves of lust! Victims of drunkenness! You loathsome
spectacles, you living corpses, full of everything that is tormenting to
yourselves and disgusting to others—rise like specters before the
imagination of young men—to deter them from the crimes which have reduced
you to corruption—even on this side of the grave! True religion would have
guarded you from all this! Such men live out not half their days.
But see what is in the 'left hand' of wisdom—"riches and
honor." Not that true religion shields from poverty, and guides all her
subjects to wealth—but still it prevents the crimes which lead to
poverty—and implants the virtues which tend to the wealth. SIN is an
expensive thing, as I have already remarked—it is a constant drain upon
the pocket, and keeps a man poor, or makes him dishonest. While true
piety is frugal, industrious, sober, and prudent—it makes a man
trustworthy and procures for him esteem, preference, and position. Do you
wish to prosper, and get on in the world? (and it is quite lawful for you to
wish it, you ought, indeed—to wish it,) go to wisdom, and take the
blessing—even riches and honor, which she has in her left hand, and which
she holds out to you. Go and pluck the fruit of this tree of life, or catch
the precious produce as the boughs are shaken by the favoring gales of
How many young men have left their native village, and
their father's house, with all the property they had on earth tied up in the
bundle they carried in their hand, and have gone to London poor and almost
friendless lads, who yet, because they became the disciples and admirers of
godly wisdom, have risen to wealth and respectability! What names could I
record, dear to the church of God, and known to the 'friends of man'
throughout the country and the world, who, by the aid of true religion, rose
from obscurity to renown—and from poverty to wealth! Their history is a
striking proof that "godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise
of the life that now is, and of that which is to come."
I could mention, were it proper, the name of one, who
went into an large business in London as a boy to sweep the shop and carry
out goods—who became, at length, possessor of the whole business, died rich,
and his property, in part, became the foundation of a new charitable
institution. I could mention another man, who, from a poor lad, became a
leading man in one of our religious denominations, and the funder of one of
our most useful Christian societies. I could mention a third man, who, from
being a shop-boy in the city, became the possessor of a large fortune, which
at his decease enriched many of the noblest institutions of the present
In these cases, true religion, by rendering them steady,
industrious, and responsible—was the means of their wealth and elevation.
They shunned evil companions, evil places, evil habits, evil amusements—and,
under the influence of piety, entered those paths which lead many from
poverty to wealth, and from obscurity to renown. They sat down as young men
at the feet of wisdom—learned her lessons—and received her rewards!
I do not mean to say that true religion—without
application to business, or talents for it, will succeed. But true religion,
by giving diligence and sharpening the faculties—will promote success. Piety
exerts a favorable influence, not only on the morals—but on the 'secular
habits of life'—and one piece of advice which wisdom delivers, as she holds
out her left hand blessings, is, "Be diligent in business—as well as fervent
in spirit, serving the Lord." It is a lawful and proper ambition to try to
excel in the profession or business to which you have devoted your life. You
ought not to be satisfied with dull mediocrity—much less with creeping,
groveling inferiority. You happily live in a country where the summits of
society are accessible to those who seem, by the circumstances of their
birth—to be placed at the bottom. But it is only talent—united with good
conduct—that can expect to rise. While incompetence, which is more
frequently the result of a lack of industry, than of ability and indolence,
will sink. Piety and a desire to excel in business are helpful to each
other. Piety will give the virtues necessary to the latter—while the latter
will guard the former from being destroyed by many of those evils to which
youth are exposed—and by which they are hindered from getting on in life.
The cultivation of the mind in all useful knowledge
is also auxiliary to elevation in life. A 'religious dolt' may rise in
business—but it is not usual. Besides, admitting that true religion does
sometimes help ignorance up the steep ascent to wealth, it is knowledge
alone that can fit a man for eminent usefulness. Employ your spare time in
reading, and acquiring knowledge. Ignorance was never so inexcusable as it
is now, when the fountains of science are opened all around us, and the
streams of learning are flowing even into the cottages of the poor. True
religion and knowledge agree well together, and are reciprocally helpful.
Let your reading be select and useful. Do not squander the little time
you have to spare, upon trash!
How well is that young man defended from the dangers that
surround him, and how likely to rise in life, who has true religion to
sanctify his heart, application to business to occupy his time, and a taste
for reading to employ his leisure! It is he who receives from wisdom the
blessings she holds forth in both of her hands—length of days in the right
hand—and riches and honor in the left hand—and at the same time it is his to
gather from the tree of life the fruit of glory and immortality!