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A certain woman one day showed to a gentleman a fiddle which her grandson had made; she said he made it out of his own head, and had got wood enough left for another. She did not think he was wooden-headed, though. Again: a young woman came home from service; and when a question was asked about her, a third party cried out, “She is no better than she ought to be.” Perhaps not; for we are none of us so good as we ought to be. Again: I informed some people once that a certain boy who came to my school put nails in his shoes every morning before he left his home, and asked what trade they thought his father was ? A lad called out “A shoemaker." Now we see by the foregoing, that where two distinct ideas can be formed of one word, it is best to be plain ; for this boy's father was a baker. Remember, “Reputation is often got without merit, and lost without crime."* It is from ambiguous words that some of our Wits have shown off to most advantagę: a play upon words is sometimes nice amusement, and affords opportunities for young thinkers to make known their ideas: take, for instance the following, and explain what is meant, viz. :-"Mrs. Plumpton's second boy is a beauty; he beats his brother;. “A man was in trouble, and had a large gathering on his side ;” “I know a man who can put his hands into his pocket, and pull out nails whenever he likes.” Always let your speech be honest, plain, and easy to be understood, remembering that genuine virtue will be ready to consult the honour and safety of others by worthy means, and for the noblest purposes.
I must now introduce you to No. 5—THE FOX IN THE WELL:-A fox having fallen into a well, made shift, by sticking his claws into the sides, to keep his head above water. Soon after, a wolf came, and peeped over the brink, to whom the fox applied himself very earnestly for assistance, entreating that he would help him to a rope, or something of that kind, which might favour his escape. The wolf, moved with compassion at his misfortune, could
* See a little book by the Rev. B. Power, price 3d., entitled “Reports; and the Mischief they do." One source of false, and too often painful and mischievous reports, is INUENDO;-a dim hinting at something disparaging to a person, without absolutely saying anything against him.
not forbear expressing his concern. “Ah! poor Reynard,” said he; “I am sorry for you, with all my heart. How could you possibly come into this melancholy condition ?" “Nay, pray thee, friend,” replied the fox, “ if you wish me well, do not stand pitying me, but lend me some succour as far as you can; for pity is but cold comfort when one is up to the chin in water, and within a hair's breadth of starving or drowning.” The first lesson we learn here isCold Pity. Now, the old proverb tells us that “a little help is worth a great deal of pity;" and we all know that pity of itself is but poor comfort at any time, and unless it produces something more substantial than mere words, is rather more troublesome than agreeable. “A favour is doubled by being well timed ; "“ Much cry and little wool.” He is my friend who helps me in my
distress—not he who only condoles with me and says he is sorry for my loss, then walks unconcernedly away; for this may be Cruel Neglect.
Some lads enticed another out of his depth, and when he was drowning they called out for-help. Don't let a person sink, and then help. We should regard the wants and feelings of others, for we are told that “Kindness, like grain, increaseth by sowing.” One day a boy took his Bible to read for half-an-hour to a blind neighbour. Another lad, during a sharp winter, swept the snow away from a poor old woman's door-went to the wood-house for some kindling to make a fire-drew some water from the well to put into the kettle-and what do you think he received for his trouble? I will tell you: the thanks and blessing of a poor but good woman, for praiseworthy actions—the approbation of his own conscience-and the promise of the Word of God, which says (Prov. xix. 17)—“He that hath pity upon the
poor lendeth to the Lord.” The conduct of the Wolf puts us in mind of the “hollow friendship” of the men of the world; theirs is mere companionship-not friendship; for at the first stroke of trouble they are off. “Try your friend before you need him” is another gem for your consideration. King Solomon, in his Proverbs, gives the qualities of a true friend (PROV. xvii. 17)—“A friend loveth, not only in prosperity, but also in adversity.” One that sticketh closer than a brother—“Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." I shall close this
fable with the old adage, which says—“Tell me the company you keep, and I'll tell you what you are.
I shall now introdnce you to the 6th and last fable for this evening—THE WILD BOAR AND THE Fox :-A wild baar was whetting his tusks against a tree, when a fox coming by, asked why he did so? “for," said he, “I see no reason
for it; there is neither hunter nor hound in sight, nor any other danger, that I can see, at hand.” “True," replied the boar; " but when that danger does arise, I shall have something else to do than to sharpen my weapons.” What a beautiful fable is thisma whole volume might be written about it; and there are so many proverbs connected with it I hardly know which to select for your notice. I wish you to bear in mind that it is not the mere hour we spend here together that is to be improved, but those hours of leisure at your own firesides : talk over, muse upon these jewels of the wise men of all ages-make them part and parcel of your every-day life. Remember, “It is too late to whet the sword when the trumpet sounds to draw. it ;' “ Time and tide wait for no man;" “ Take time by the forelock;" “ Procrastination is the thief of time;" “ Never put off till tomorrow what may be done to-day; “Time is a file that wears, and makes no noise;" “A handful of good life is better than a bushel of learning;" “ Timely blossom, timely fruit ;" “Think of ease, but work on;" “A prudent man foreseeth the evil and hideth himself, but the simple pass on and are punished.”. (Prov. xxi. 5.) “He who rises late, never does a good day's work.”
Forethought is the first thing that we are to learn here --laying up something for a rainy day. The thoughts of the diligent tend to plenteousness. (Prov. xxi. 5.) Procrastination seems, unfortunately, to be one of the weaknesses of our poor fallen nature; the young are constantly putting off till to-morrow what ought most certainly to be done to-day ; i. e., they are repeatedly saying by their actions while at school, that there is time enough yet! But, alas ! when it is time to leave school, to do battle with the sturdy world beyond the playground, then they find to their soul's grief the truth of the old proverb, which says—“Life is half spent before we know what it is.” Defer not, then, the necessary and important things of early life, till the alarm and cry of the busy, bustling world comes upon you, but begin at once to add something
to your mental store, for as “Little and often fills the purse," so “Little and often fills the mind ;” and if that little be of the right sort, you need not be afraid to hold up your heads among the sons of men. We often hear people say—“I did not think of it:” now this is considered by many to be an expression unworthy of a wise man's mouth. Take example by that little, frisky, playful animal, the Squirrel, that lays up acorns and beech-nuts in the autumn for winter use; and when rough winds and cold snows beat upon his little dwelling, he cares nothing for them, for he is snug in his quiet retreat, with his savings around-an ample store till spring returns.
Again: how nice it is to see the children of the working man repairing week by week to the Penny Savings Bank, to deposit their little earnings in a place of safety, to be ready for a time of necessity; or, the young man, who is just entering life, entering an account at the same time in the Post-Office Savings Bank: this would denote that he had moral respectability about him, and a manly independence worthy of all commendation. Or, a little higher still, to know that the professional man and man of business think of the future in a proper way, by assuring their lives in the National Provident, or some other equally valuable institution; so that, if an adverse stroke of Providence should arrive in an unexpected hour, the dear ones of the heart may not be suddenly plunged into poverty and want. Oh! think of this, and spend not every farthing of your income upon the passing day, for gewgaws and things of worthless import.
But there is a higher aim still; and as these Fables and Proverbs are selected to moralise upon, it may not be out of place, in conclusion, to remind you of one thing in particular that the fable now under consideration seems to fit well, viz. :-Preparation for a future state of existence. We know that we must die, and we also know that there are some things necessary for us all to transact before we depart from the world-perhaps some little mementos to leave to others ; for, “although you're nothing to the world,” as the poet says, yet you may be “all the world to some one.” Once more, and above all, there is an account to settle with God! Let it be done at once, for a sudden stroke may prevent you from doing it. The other day a servant in London fell down dead at his mistress's feet
without a moment's warning! The late good General Havelock said_“I have lived for the last forty years in the constant preparation for Death, and I am not afraid to face him now !"
Be wise to-day; 'tis madness to defer;
The vast concerns of an eternal scene. &c.
" What is Time?”
The young, the fair, the gay, to heed it well!”
From the cold grave a hollow murmur flowed :-
Of life had left his veins :-"Time !” he replied,
“I've lost it. Ah! the treasure !” and he died. &c. Ponder over the words of the writer who says—“Time is old in its greatness, yet new to thousands ; it has never done with us till it turns us over to Eternity ; it is the only true teacher of wisdom-the interpreter of all things--the miracle of life.” Another thing that suggests itself from this fable is “Self-Improvement,” and every man's first duty is to improve, educate, and elevate himself in the social scale ; because by the improvement of the mind, a young man not only raises himself and promotes his own interest, but he advances the well-being of society, and raises his fellow workmen as a class. And we know that an enlightened people must be an advancing people. We tread on the earth, yet the
earth is but our tent and field, not our everlasting home. Keep therefore the body in subjection to the uses of that conscience which is God's secretary within, that all hearts may beat in sympathy with the heart of humanity, and knowledge be pursued with an ardour proportionate to its intrinsic value,