“Ye have forgotten the exhortation that reasoneth with you as with sons.” In these words, the New Testament calls our at­tention to the book of Proverbs, from which it· quotes. (Heb. 12: 5). That old book with its simple homely wisdom is not worn out nor antiquated. The living word of God can never become a dead letter. Its teaching is still to be remembered by the Chris­ tian today and has a close application to his walk and daily af­fairs. In fact, the writer of Hebrews regards this portion of Proverbs as, peculiarly applicable because it “reasoneth with you as with sons’’; just as though it had looked beyond its own times to speak to us who are “sons of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” —

The part of Proverbs in which God reasons with us as a father with a son—the “my son” section—embraces about nine chapters; and this portion contains connected discourses and in­ spired poems, rather than the kind of short sentences we call proverbs. As we enter upon this teaching shall we not take a son-like attitude toward Him who speaks, and hearken to Him as unto all an infinitely good and gracious Father?

“MY son!”

God’s very first word of instruction to His son here is to hearken and submit to the teaching and admonition of father and mother. “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother.” There have, of course, al­ ways been parents who would lead their children astray—fath­ers who by example if not by precept, would teach their children to lie, to defraud, to follow after drink, to walk in selfishness and covetousness; mothers who would teach their children vanity, worldliness, pursuit of pleasure, and trained them unto pride, idleness, false pretense, selfish ambition, and moral laxness. A double retribution awaits such parents; for it had been better for them that a great millstone had been hanged about their neck and they had been sunk into the depth of the sea, rather than that they should cause those little ones whose souls and lives God entrusted to their care, to stumble unto ruin. It is not of such parents that He speaks here. But if (as is more often the case) you have a father and a mother who are concerned for

your welfare, lend your ear to their counsel and follow their teaching. They have more real interest in you than anyone else in the world, and their counsel and direction is your safety and advantage. *

To some young men nothing seems more terrible than to lay

*He is speaking of the parents teaching concerning daily life and moral conduct. If in religious teaching the parent’s doctrine is not supported by the Word of God, the latter must be followed, for it alone is the light of our feet and the lamp of our path. (Acts 5:29; Matt. 10:37).

Themselves open to the charge of being “tied to mother’s apron string.” And many of that cowardly, backboneless tribe, whose boasted manhood cannot stand up before the sneer of some worthless companions come to see the day when they have to ad­mit that after all mother’s apron-string was a great string to be tied to. There are some, I think, who would give all to have mother come back once again from the echoless shore, that they might open1their hearts to her in humble penitence, and once more hear her words of sympathy and admonition. But too late is too late. Better listen to mother while you have her; and fol­low her counsel ere you break her heart and ruin your own life. Her teaching may seem too tame and homely to a young fellow bursting with the wild power of life; but, ah! there are much harder yokes and bonds met with in life than mother’s gentle re­ straining hand had been!

You have always heard that “handsome is that handsome does.” Every boy and girl (even those who affect not to care) would like to be a bit handsome No, it is not all in looks; nor most of it. A beautiful countenance is not to be despised; but its real value is far below the estimate most people put on it. There is a better charm. People soon get used to faces, whether pretty or homely, and begin to look for something deeper. A fair face that hides a foul or foolish heart will be all the more hated. But even the homely countenance is transfigured by the glory of a noble soul within. Children who have learned at home the priceless virtues of obedience, modesty, truthfulness, honesty, purity, industry, unselfishness, prudence, and good sense, will find that a father’s instruction and a mother’s law have become the fairest of adornments: “They shall be a chaplet of grace un­ to thy head, and chains about thy neck.” In all their afterlife they will find themselves strangely well liked, attractive and be­ loved wherever they go. And that is an asset.


“My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not.” There is that set of bold, dashing, reckless young fellows, whom you se­cretly or openly admire. For youth loves to dream of a wild, unbounded liberty that defies law and restriction, and would have no control beyond its own will.

That spirit of lawlessness and rebellion, clothed in deceit­ful glamor of romance and adventure, comes appealing to the hot young blood. Perhaps it has tugged at all of us sometimes. Home seems dull and prosy, with its monotonous peace and rou­tine of uninteresting work. Father is so slow—he is getting old and does not understand me. Dear mother is good, but she has extreme and old-fashioned ideas, and then—she is a woman. But Jack and Bill and the riff-raff gang around the corner are kin­dred souls: they are brave and valiant and up-to-date, and feel as I feel, and they want what I want. “Come,” they say, “let us leave home together, and we’ll go here and there, and we’ll make the world sit up and take notice.” They are full of unbounded confidence and enterprise. Their outlook on life is persuasive. Their plans seem more than feasible. They snort at the very suggestion of failure or disaster. They are not afraid. It is a distinction to belong to such a crowd of red-blooded fellows, an honor even to be asked in with them. Oh, it is alluring enough —but, alas for the poor young man that listens to such a call! ‘’My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path. For their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed blood”—their own blood as often as not, and certainly their own in the end. Have courage, my boy, to say No. It takes more real manhood and good sense to say No than to drift away with the current. No bird is so silly as to fly into a snare that is set before his eyes. Look about you. See the old wrecks strewn along the Shores. Among the tragedies of prisons, of gallows, of insane asylums, of hospitals, of poorhouses, and penal institu­tions; yea among the hopeless, untimely, unwept graves, and among the doting, dawdling, tobacco-spitting, foul-mouthed worthless old derelicts that hang around the streets and corners and stores and drink stands, out of whose eyes all light has died long years since, and all semblance of God’s image from their bleared faces—among those might-have-beens you will find that dashing company of scoffers of a generation back. None of the men that are truly great, that have accomplished a real good in the world and wrought a blessing, went with that company. Therefore, say No! Have you heard of the engineer who defied his orders and followed the lure of freedom?

“I have thrown the throttle open, and I’m tearing down His track. I have thrown it out to full-speed, and no hand shall hold me back. ’Tis my arm controls the engine, though Another owns the rail: But for once I’m in the open, and the yard-lights pass and pale.

“Green lights— red lights! He has hung His signals out: ‘Caution here!’ and ‘Danger ho!’ and—what’s the man about? ’Tis true he owns the engine, to do as he has done,
But what about-the final word, when he ends the run?

“So, from siding on to junction-point—-now I shall have my day! I have stopped to read no orders, but I take the right of way: Down the open grade I thunder, and around the curve I swing— For my hand is on the throttle, and my heart shall have its fling!

“Light lost—life lost! Flag, oh flag the others back! Ditch the wreck, and switch the wreck! Who shall dare to block His track? There creeps into the Terminal the man who had his day— But I winder, O my soul, just what his God will say!”*

In every age and clime this has been the peculiar danger of youth from immemorial times. It is as old as humanity, a tragedy endlessly repeated in every generation. And every young generation thinks it a brand-new idea, up-to-date and unheard of. So, they must needs try it for themselves. But thou, my son, hearken to the wisdom of God! The way of happiness lies in the fear of God; in obedience, and faithfulness, and the glory of a strong and unselfish character—even as our Lord Jesus quietly stood at His post and lived in humble Nazareth, subject to His parents, and earned His living in the carpenter-shop all the gold­en years of His young manhood through, until the will of His Father called Him out into the larger ministry of His life.

Wisdom, as God Himself, is never far away, though too often unknown, and unperceived. In the public squares, in the gates and places of assembly, in the populous city, she cries, and utters her words to those who have ears to hear. “How long?” she says—how long your foolish ones will you go on in folly? How long you scoffers will you delight in scoffing? How long will fools hate knowledge, and prefer darkness to light? Her re­ proofs and admonition, her calls to repentance and to a new and better life are ever with us. The pain and shame that comes to us in the path of disobedience; a sorrow or a sore bereave­ment; sometimes a gracious mercy, or a joy and happiness that in our deepest heart we feel to be undeserved; sometimes a spell of sickness that brings us helpless to death’s door, or the strange deliverance from some terrible accident; the ways and doings of others good and bad—in all these sounds Wisdom’s earnest voice, pleading and reproving. “Turn you at my reproof; behold I will pour out my spirit upon you.’’ 2 There is no man that goes to ruin unhindered. If you knew the secret history of the lost you would see that he ruthlessly stepped athwart full many a kind rebuke and reminder; and ignored many a call, many an opportunity; and that he trampled under-foot appeals, and stifled his own longings and resolves made in his better moments. Yes, Wisdom has called him, not once or twice. But the more he re­ fused to see, the blinder he got; and the more he turned away his ear the duller of hearing. Then comes the inevitable. “He that being often reproved hardeneth his heart, shall suddenly be de­stroyed, and that without remedy.” (Prov. 29:1). Then Wisdom herself will turn to be his enemy. She that once entreated, now seems as one that laughs him to scorn and mocks at the self- deserved woe and the cries of him who had spurned her cry of warning and tender invitation. Henceforth they shall but eat of the fruit of their own sin—a fate from which they might have been saved, had they hearkened in time. —Alas, have we not seen them all about us, the men and women who despised Wis­dom’s call, and have fallen into irretrievable, irremediable evil? Unto the upright there ariseth a light in the darkness; but the night which settles upon the heedless sinner knows no star nor morning-dawn.

“For the backsliding of the simple shall slay them and the careless ease of fools shall destroy them but whoso hearkeneth unto me shall dwell securely and shall be quiet without fear of evil.”

So ends the first chapter of Proverbs. And if you have read these poor words, and have opened your book and read it again and better in the word of God itself, and have let your  heart be stirred—then wait for no better time, but now and here turn to Wisdom’s call—yea, turn now and with all your heart unto Him who was “made unto us wisdom from God and right­eousness, and sanctification and redemption,” our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor. 1:30).

-R. H. Boll (1875-1956) was Editor of Word and Work (1916-1956)