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antiquity-the way-marks which our ancestors have set up, and which have served to guide the steps aright of all who have cared to mark them. In them you have an authentic, absolute, imperative statement of things, as they are, on an authority which, though impersonal, is indisputable. I am thankful they are of unknown and untraceable origin. Much cant has been used about anonymous writing, but I would have statements taken for what they are worth, without heeding their authors. In some cases, the knowledge of the utterer would destroy the power of the truth. How many, for instance, would shut up Paradise Lost, if John Milton were alive and moving among us, known as the Puritan and roundhead, who had written some equivocal things about divorce, and some uncourtly and intolerable things about royalty and republicanism?
Proverbs must come from afar, and be of unknown parentage and of catholic application, or they will be rejected. Their anonymousness is an element of their efficiency. As to their form, they might be characterised as the wisdom of many and the wit of one. No proverb is of any private interpretation-it must be universal. The best poets, teachers, and preachers are those who say the very things you have all thought and felt, but which you were too stammering and dumb to utter-it is their mission and glory to put into admirable phrase your own sentiments and emotions. We don't go to hear from preachers and moralists what is new. In chemistry, geology, &c. we expect novelties, and to be able to expound them is to take honourable rank as discoverers; but there is nothing new in theology and morals. Whatever bears this stamp is bad. The heart is old, human nature is old, our duties are only a blessed monotony, they are what have always been and always shall be. There is no new passion, no new rule of life-no one can chronicle a new sorrow or new aspiration-man is always man, and divinity and morals, if they apply to him, must just be the same thing as they were at first. And the best proverb authors are
those who have been schooled, not by books, but by experience and study of themselves and their species. Shakspere may be taken as a specimen, and innumerable proverbial quotations may be made from his racy, solidified, oracular sentences. Brevity is the soul of wit," is so felicitous that to amend is to spoil it. It is full but unmixed-the dross has been run off the definition; it has been purified of all that was extraneous; it has been cast into the mould of his own wit, and the master mind has then issued it stamped with his own royal superscription.
All proverbs are the utterance of things as they are, and not as the theorizers say they ought to be. They belong to no sect, either of philosophy or religion-to neither church nor chapel-to no age or country—to no exclusive class. They have also this peculiarity: they are never afraid of being charged with inconsistency. Consistency, as generally taken, is one of the most paltry things that ever set up for a virtue. It is the bugbear to frighten cowards and fools-those whose minds are as small, and vacant, and undisciplined as when they were lads, or who are too proud or too fraudulent to own a change. It is a man's glory to change and to avow it. Growth characterises all that is living and excellent; and adherence to juvenile, to former opinions, is very oft the sign, not of virtuous consistency, but of persistence in error. What we love, and what is worth the name of consistency, is the accord of a man's thoughts and belief with his doings and life. The common consistency of life is a hollow one, deceptive and disgraceful, and is therefore an inconsistency to be hated and loathed. Whenever there is room for change, change should be gloried in. Proverbs are inconsistent. They utter down things as they are, for they were all made in the field of action. "Do the duty which lies nearest to thee, and which thy soul knows to be a duty," is a fine moral proverb, full of exalted wisdom. Observance of this will solve many casuistical difficulties, and quicken indolence to ener
getic action. Sometimes truths, by reason of long familiarity, become bed-ridden, and so cease to have any effect; but when condensed and brought out sharply in a proverb, they become full of life, and cannot be heard without rousing up the soul. Truth, thus galvanized, rises up on its feet and walks again. Proverbs are special as well as catholic; they individualise, and admit of no shouldering off upon another. All moral truths should be thus pointed and imperative. What fits India and China alike is worth nothing. Sermons should be local, personal, and specific. Certain paintings in the chambers at Pompeii have grown dead with age, but if you can bribe the guide to throw a little water upon them, they become bright and distinct as at first. It is desirable to have truth very clear and forcible in its presentations, and it is the exce lency of proverbs that they have this effect. Take a few examples ::-"Harm watch, harm catch." "What you look for, you receive." The Delphic oracle was famed for giving responses answering to the views of the inquirer; and observation teaches that what we wish to find we do generally meet with. He who regards the world as wholly made up of rogues, will hardly fail of discovering that he has been robbed on all hands. The streets are full of such laws and aphori sms, never written down, and never quoted by your respec table people, but of infallible truth. The London upholsterer who, having visited Benlomond, wrote home it was "well got up," was a type of his class. He asked the mountain an upholsterer's question, and got his own answer. Every man judges of things according to his trade, his associations, his habits of mind. Very different would the Ayrshire ploughman have written. Like to like, is a law of proportions universally obtaining.
Another proverb, "Curses come home to roost," is very significant and admonitory. You do more for children by the exhibition of your character than all the catechisms and creeds and ceremonies to which you may subject them. Mind must take the colour of i's
surroundings. Another proverb, "What comes easy goes easy," teaches a necessary but painful lesson. It is another form for "What costs little is worth little." There is no royal road to learning. He who would acquire intellectual or any other sort of superiority must win it. True, the proverb tells what you know; but though you know it, it is something different to feel deeply and do heartily what you confess to. There is no aristocracy in the republic of letters; nothing passes in that country but industry-head work. The results of a thing are in proportion to the efforts of mind to attain them. Often the process involved in some acquisition is more valuable than the thing itself. The hot hand of enjoyment withers the bloom of that which has been won with so much difficulty. So in field sports, it is not the thing hunted but the hunting that is so attractive: the object of the hunt is merely the occasion, the excuse for hunting. Things of real worth are in proportion to the process they involve. In merchandise, bargains are generally cheats-great lies. I only once bought a bargain, and I am resolved never to repeat the experiment. Tricks of the shop begin in tricks of the buyer, for were there no demand there would be no supply.
"A watched pot never boils," is a quaint phrase, and certainly not very polite, but it is full of wisdom. It is suggestive of unlimited instruction. Of course, our watching does not really prevent the pot boiling, but describes our feelings. The scale of time has no real absolute existence, it only shows the relation of things, and the state of our minds greatly quickens or retards its course, and sets aside the measurements of the dial. Growth is always invisible. God will not reward men for merit, but he always rewards them for their labour, and if we are too effeminate and impatient to labour and wait, we lose our reward. It is a part of the market of this world to recompense men solely for what they have got, but eternity rewards men for what they have aimed at. This tends to connect age
with age, and man with his fellow, to keep up the continuity of the race, and bind all together. The law of life is that each one must work without looking at the progress made. Of all mournful things, to strike work is the worst, it is never allowed us in divinity. "Cat in gloves catches no mice," or as Benjamin Franklin renders it, "Never handle your tools with mittens on." Nature abhors anything coming in between the workman and his tools. Many things are left undone because people are afraid of lowering themselves in the world's eyes. This mitten fastidiousness and finicalness is the most wretched thing on earth, because it disables from work, and leads to the ignoring of real worth under pretext of an unseemly exterior. A lady once sent her daughter to instruct a cottager's children; she was to go to the house and teach, but not to sit down-that would be quite beneath her. She might mean well, but her restriction more than neutralised her kindness, for it created false shame and hostility, and destroyed the character of the service rendered. It taught more evil than her daughter could teach good, however she had tried. I would rather have the hearty free squeeze of the hand of an unpolished countryman, though I felt the gripe for a week after, than the soft, imperceptible touch of artificial life. "With cost, you may make soup of the leg of a stool." No circumstances are so unfavourable but, if you put cost upon them, you may get good out of them. Circumstances test character: to the manly they give energy and stimulus; only to the fool they prove terrifying and paralyzing. When all is easy, manliness has no room for development. But when the hill is steep and the burden heavy, what glory to climb the one, and to bear the other! Never let difficulty deter you. Put cost upon it, and you will convert it into an auxiliary and an occasion of honour.
Some proverbs, although admirably truthful when rightly applied, are mischievous when used at random. "Let the cobbler stick to his last," is a favourite one