By J.R. Miller
"Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him who has it: but the instruction of fools is folly. The heart of the wise teaches his mouth, and adds learning to his lips." Proverbs 16:22-33
Our heart makes us. When we do anything wrong--it is our heart's fault. When a boy doubles up his fist and strikes another boy--it is not the fault of his hand---it is the heart which is to blame. When a girl does gentle, kindly, thoughtful, unselfish things--it is because she has a gentle heart. If our heart is not good, we must try to have it made good. We cannot have the heart made good without wisdom. "Understanding is a wellspring of life unto him who has it" Jesus says that if we believe on Him, He will give us life which shall become a well of water springing up in us. The best way, therefore, to get this wellspring of life in our heart--is to receive Christ.
If we have true wisdom, our words will show it, for "the heart of the wise instructs his mouth." Some people talk a great deal and say nothing worth while--nothing that any one cares to remember or would be any better for remembering. Jesus said something very serious about idle words. Idle words are words which are of no use, which have no sense, no wisdom in them, which make no one any happier or better. They are like chaff. He said that for every idle word, we must give account to God. We ought to try to use our speech so as to do good with it. Paul said that our words were to be such as would minister grace to those who hear them.
Such gracious words are as a honeycomb. Honey is sweet. So are pleasant words to him who listens to them. Pleasant words are good words. Some people are always saying discouraging things. Whenever you meet them, you must listen to discontents and complainings. These are not pleasant words. Some people are fond of repeating idle gossip, saying unpleasant things about others. You never hear them speak a generous word of anyone. They say only critical, unkind things of neighbors and friends. These are not the words that are like a honeycomb. What the wise man means are gentle words, kind words, words of truth. We all need love. Whatever is hard or cruel or unjust or fretful or sharp hurts our hearts. We need tenderness. When one speaks gently, his words are pleasant. Words which give true comfort are pleasant to those who are sorrowing. Words which impart instruction or give cheer are pleasant words to all noble spirits.
But we must not listen to all the words we hear, just because they sound pleasant. Not all words are words of wisdom, and not all apparently honeyed words are words of help. Sometimes such words are spoken to turn us into a path that looks pleasant--but alas! its end is anything but pleasant, for we must always remember that "there is a way which seems right unto a man--but the ends thereof are the ways of death." Things are not always what they seem. There are flowers which look very beautiful--but which have poison in them. Unaware of the danger one gathers his hands full of these flowers, and by-and-by finds himself poisoned. Just so, there are things in life which seem to be beautiful--but which bring only hurt and suffering to him who touches them.
There are kinds of amusement which seem to certain young people to be pleasant--but which start evil thoughts. There are friendships which at first, with their sparkle and attractiveness, seem to be beautiful and good--but which, if accepted, bring evil. A great many wrecks in life come through wrong companionships. Young people should be exceedingly careful whom they accept as their friends. No one but the good can do us good. Some boys and young men think they can take a glass of strong drink now and then without any danger. They think they will never become drunkards. They only laugh at you if you warn them of the danger. But the end of this way is death.
Yet appetite may be a good thing. The appetite of the laboring man drives him to his work, and work is one of the best blessings of this world. Idleness is always cursed. The worst thing that can happen to a boy or young fellow is to have nothing to do. But the next worst thing is to get a position with short hours and large pay. The safest condition for any of us is to be always busy. There is an old saying about somebody finding mischief still for idle hands to do. So hunger is a good thing. It tells that a man is healthy. When one loses appetite there is something seriously wrong with one's condition. When one is always ready for his meals he is pretty sure to be a well man. It is a good thing, too, to have spiritual hunger--the desire for more of goodness and all Christlike things. Jesus said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled."
There are some people whose chief desire seems to be, not goodness--but evil. "An ungodly man digs up evil." It seems very sad that any person should live just to devise mischief. God has given us minds that we may think good thoughts and plan beautiful things for others. But some people never think of doing anything that will be helpful. They plot all sorts of evil and then they go out and do the evil things which they have devised.
There is no meaner act than that of the deviser of evil, who says ill-natured and false things about his acquaintances. The world is full of such people--people who are proving every day the truth of the proverb, "A whisperer separates chief friends." There is a beatitude which says, "Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God." Our aim in life should be not to separate friends--but to cement friendship, to remove misunderstandings which may have risen between friends, and to bring together those who by any cause have been sundered. This is the Christian thing to do. But here we read about a man who separates good friends. He does it by whispering in the ear of one or the other of them, things he has heard about the other. We have no right to carry from one to another the idle things we hear. No baseness is worse than that of the whisperer. His name -- the whisperer -- suggests a spirit which is evil. We should repeat to others only pleasant things. If by any chance we hear any unpleasant things we have no right to repeat them.
Those who live in accordance with the principles laid down by the Wise Man will grow old in peace; they will be valued counselors; for them the hoary head will be a crown of glory. White hair is not dishonorable; it is something to be venerated and respected if the man be a godly man. Old age ought always to be beautiful. The young people who study this lesson may imagine that they have nothing to do with this verse; that it belongs only to the old. But all of us may be old some day, and our old age will depend upon the way we live from our youth up. Old age is the harvest of all the years from childhood. A wasted youth and early manhood, embitter life's advanced years. If we would have a crown of glory for our hoary head, when the hairs whiten on us--we must live a beautiful life, an unselfish life, a holy life, pure, true, useful.
As long as there are those who will speak evil of their acquaintances, there will be need for those who will oppose them, not by anger and malice--but by quietness and calmness. "He that is slow to anger, is better than the mighty; and he who rules his spirit, is better than he who takes a city." The greatest victories are not won upon battle-fields, with roar of cannon and rattle of musketry--but in human breasts, where no one hears the noise of the struggle. It is a nobler thing to conquer one's self--than to conquer any human foe. There are men who can command an army--but cannot command themselves. We should train ourselves to be slow to anger. We must learn self-control. The highest ability in manhood and womanhood is the power of ruling one's own spirit. James tells us that the tongue is the hardest thing in all the world to tame--harder than lions and tigers or other wild beasts. Nevertheless the lesson can be learned. Here is a good chance for everyone to become a hero.