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GENERAL BAPTIST MAGAZINE.
NO FUEL, NO FIRE.
BY THE REV. s. cox.
“Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out.”—Prov. xxvi. 20.
PROVERBS are the oracles of common sense. They express in a homely yet authoritative form the results of popular thought and experience, They are very commonly the work of some poet who, seizing the popular thought, has expressed it in a simile so happy that it at once stamps itself on the public memory and becomes a “standing form” of speech. Such a poet I take King Solomon to have been. We are told that “ he spake three thousand proverbs :" which does not mean, I apprehend, that he invented so many wise and beautiful sayings, that he brought them out of his private stores of thought; but that having the insight of a poet into the general Hebrew heart, knowing to a nicety its various currents of thought and feeling, he cut appropriate channels for them; that he drew from the public stores the garnered results of long manifold experience, and expressed them once for all in the fittest and most striking words. Or, to change the figure, he found the golden ore of wisdom hidden in the
Vol. LXX.–NEW SERIES, No. 13.
mines of Hebrew tradition, smelted it, purged it from its soils, put his image and superscription upon it, and made it current coin.
One of these coins, a coin of no little value if only we can get change for it, lies before us: “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out." This is one of the hoarded results of Jewish thought expressed in Solomon's perfect words. And if, as Tholuck affirms, “ A proverb is valuable in proportion as it is on all sides rich in applications,” this Hebrew proverb has a very high value; it must be well worth our while to put it into our mental sc).
Observe the exact force of t 3 proverb, and its primary applicatio . - Where no wood is, there the fiz! goeth out," i.e., you need not put it out, need not rake its embers apart, or throw cold water over it; only cease to feed it, and out the fire goes. This is the simile, the natural fact that Solomon employs to convey the moral which he has taken in hand to express. And what is that moral ? There can be no doubt that
it is a caution to scandal-mongers fire, a fire which must be fed, a fire and tale-bearers, to that very large which may be extinguished simply class of persons who obey the royal by neglecting it. Food is the fuel law of charity only in the sense of the physical fire, the wood with that they look upon their neigh- which, if it is to be kept burning, it bours' things rather than their own. must be fed. To kill a man, you “ Where no wood is, there the fire need not thrust him through with a goeth out; so,” adds the wise King, dart, nor hang him from a beam, nor “ where there is no whisperer, the inject poison into his veins. Cease strife ceaseth.” For “ as wood is to to feed him, and he will die. To fire,” so is a carping suspicious spirit starve him is just as effectually to 66 to kindle strife." Taken in its murder him as though you knocked original sense, the Proverb suggests him on the head or shot him through some such picture as this :—There the heart: for 6 where no wood is, lies an expiring fire of scandal which there the fire goeth out ;” and to let has done no great harm as yet, its it out is quite as bad as to put it embers slowly smouldering away out, if at least it be your business to But, lo! here come all the gossips of keep it in. the neighbourhood, each with his or Again : the Proverb holds good of her fagot of half-rotten sticks-his. our mental life. The mind requires or her little contribution of winks, food and exercise no less than the nods, guesses, hearsays, daresays, body. It lives only as it assimilates suspicions, half lies, half truths, the facts of social and commercial which they fling on the lessening life, or the truths of speculative pile. Forthwith the smouldering thought, or the discoveries of science. embers kindle into a flame, which Unless it be fairly occupied in handgoes smoking and stinking up to ling the practical facts of domestic heaven, offending all innocent nos- or business economy, or in acquainttrils, scathing and blackening the ing itself with the meaning and uses green undergrowths, burning up the of the objects around it, or in arrangvery seeds of after good. And that, ing and applying its stores of acmy brethren, is a picture which each quired knowledge, it soon loses elasof us will do well to hang up in ticity and vigour. The man who 66 the study of his imagination,"look- does not learn and think and reflect, ing at it, and taking its rebuke, so sinks to the level of an animal,-a often as we are tempted to repeat a superior animal perhaps, as for inscandal, or to put the worst inter- stance a beaver or an ant; like the pretation on actions which have, or beaver, he may be a cunning builder, may have, many better meanings. or like the ant, he may provide meat Let us keep our tongues from evil, in the summer and gather food in our lips from speaking guile, and the harvest; but, like them, he acts many a fire of scandal, kindled by from instinct rather than reason : malicious tongues, will, for want of the distinctive mental life of man wood, go out. No fuel, no fire! has departed from him. For want
This I suppose to be the original of wood the fire has gone out. If application of our Proverb. But it an inquest of angels were held on is capable of many other applications his dead intellect, their verdict would of equal or superior moment, some probably be, “ Clemmed to death : of which are more germane to my died for want of food.” present purpose.
Nor, once more, is it otherwise It holds good, for instance, of with man's spiritual life. Of that man's physical life. For here, in a it is true that “where no wood is, yery literal and obvious sense, is a there the fire goeth out." Cease to
feed it, and there is no need that and not a laborious endeavour to the Great Adversary should spread absorb the meaning and spirit of a his snares or strike his blows; no discourse, or an epistle or a book. need that the man should stray into In short, they do not object to fatal heresies, or fall into open and pick up a few slender sticks, and notorious sins. He dies from sim- the lighter they are the better ; but ple lack of food. For want of fuel, they will neither hew nor carry the flames, which once burned hotly away any substantial log: and so enough, sink into dull glowing em- their fire is, at the best, only just bers, the embers grow cold and kept burning, and often altogether black; till, at length, the last spark goes out. of genuine vital heat departs, and
But all this is very general, and only the bare ashes are left to tell of the fire which once carried warmth
if I would reach your consciences
and my own, we must come to parand pleasure through all the courts
ticulars. Do we, then, admit and of the soul.
seriously maintain that the spiritual Now this, my brethren, is a truth
life, that in us which is of God and so generally admitted, and yet so
abideth for ever, is the supreme life generally neglected, that I have chosen my text mainly that I may
of man; and that we should take say a few honest friendly words
even more pains to supply it with
its proper nutriment and exercise about it. You know as well as I do that, for all practical purposes, many
than we should take for any other
form our life assumes ? If we do, religious persons believe that the fire of spiritual life, once kindled in
as I am very sure that at our best them, will burn on, pretty nearly
moments we all do, let me also ask: unted, for ever. At all events they
Do we really and honestly take even take very little pains to feed it;
as much pains about our spiritual
life as we do about our physical or their shoulders do not ache with carrying fagots to the fire, nor do
social life? It cannot be denied they put themselves to much ex
that worship, the common worship
of the public sanctuary, is one, and pense for wood. “ But,” it may be asked, “ do not
the study of God's holy Word another these persons read their Bibles, fre
great source of nourishment for this quent places of Worship, listen to
inward life of ours. Well, do we
eagerly and wisely avail ourselves of sermons, engage in prayer ?” O yes, brethren, they do all that at least,
them? in some sense they do it. They go On what principle, for instance, to their place of worship; but how do we select our Place of Worship? often they worship the Divine Spirit In what spirit do we join in its serin spirit and truth is quite another vices? Do we attach ourselves to question. They engage in prayer ; one congregation of faithful men but to engage in prayer is not always rather than another simply, or to pray. They listen to sermons, mainly, with a view to our spiritual but they do not care to have any tax culture and progress? Do we make laid on their mental energies, and it our chief aim to be instructed in the shorter the sermon is the better the truth, to become familiar with it is. Nor do they fail to read the phases and applications of truth Scriptures, if by that phrase you which as yet are strange to us, to mean only taking in for a few mo- find companions whose worship has ments the superficial sense of brief in it the ring of a holy sincerity and detached passages of Holy Writ, charity ? Assuredly this is not the leading motive of all who attend our ing an old tie, rather than be at the places of worship. There are some trouble of forming a new habit, they who, so far from going up to the are content to let the fire of spiritual house of God to be taught what as life die down, if not die out! yet they know not, take offence at There are some, again, who go any new thought, new, I mean, to to a place of worship because the them, though in itself as old as the “miserable sinners” who worship Gospel. These choose a place where there are of wealthier or a more they can hear in eternal repetition fashionable caste; because they hope the few limited truths with which to get into better society by going they are familiar set forth in equally or to mend their business prospects ; familiar phrases. For them the pul- and there are others who stay away pit should be like the church-bells, because they are not “noticed," i.e., and only ring changes on a few made much of, or because they have well-known notes instead of ranging a prejudice against some other attenthrough the whole scale of truth. dant at the place, or because some They try to keep their fire in, not minor arrangement of the service with fresh wood cut from the great crosses their preference, or even beliving forest of Truth, but with often cause they don't like the singing. burned ashes from the grate,—the My dear brethren, I am not forgetscanty ashes of the few sticks which ting the warning to scandal-mongers they take to be the only fuel. There with which I began. I am not bearare others who go where they have ing false witness against my neighbeen used to go, to what they call bour ; I am simply repeating what 66 their own place," although they my neighbour himself has told me often lament that they learn very what, I dare say, he has told you little, and get hardly any impulse to too. Quite à curious essay, indeed, lead a higher or nobler life. Do might be written on the motives these, then, give as much thought or which lead people to go, and to leave take as much pains for their spiritual off going, to their several places of as they would for their commercial worship; and the conclusion,one conor physical life? What! would clusion to which I fear the Essayist, they go on eating a food they could if he were honest, would come, is not digest, or living in a house they that there is hardly any motive so found injurious to health, simply be- selfish or mean or trivial but that cause they were used to it? Would some Christian persons suffer it to they carry on dealings with a firm stand in the way of their spiritual whose bills were protested, or con- good. For their health's sake, or tinue a manufacture which found no their business' sake, they will put up market, simply because they had with inconveniences, waive prefergrown accustomed to the one or ences, make sacrifices a thousandthe other ? Surely not. No words fold more irksome than they care to would be too strong to express their make where only the prosperity of sense of the folly of letting mere their souls are in question. “After use and wont thus injure either all it does not greatly matter whether their fortune or their health. But I go here or there” is the thought of when it is only their souls which are their heart,-a thought which it at stake, not their health or their would be simply impossible for them purse, they let mere custom rule to entertain if the question were, them, and often pride themselves on “ To which physician shall I go ?” or being so staunch to their cause! “ With which firm shall I deal ?”! In Rather than be at the pain of break- a word, they take infinitely more