Why gad you about so much to change your way? you also shall be ashamed of Egypt, as you were ashamed of Assyria.
I. THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING AN OBJECT IN LIFE. There is a vast difference between the state of a man when running a race, and when sauntering about to kill time. There is an equal difference between the men who pass through this city on business, and those who come to the metropolis merely to see sights. Plant yourself upon London Bridge, the city side, about nine o'clock in the morning, and look into the faces of the men who are crossing that bridge. Go into the National Gallery, or into the British Museum, any day when these places are thronged, and look into the faces of the persons who are there. A very different state of thought and feeling you will find revealed by those faces. Now in this difference we see the importance of a well-defined and all-commanding object. An object in life sufficient for a man, brings him out, educates him. The prize calls out the school boy who contends for it; the honours of the university elicit the mind, and the scholarship of the man who wrangles for them — and any object has a similar effect, the pursuit of which fully calls out a man's powers. This is education. Instruction is not education. Education, as the very word implies, is the calling forth of what is within a man; and the objects and subjects of pursuit do more in our education than the mere reading and study of books. Desiring a particular end, and determining to obtain it, the man asks, What have I that I can use in order to reach this end? An object calls out a man. And an object keeps the man out. It calls him out, and maintains the manifestation and the development. He is not like the snail, but is like the bee, or as the ant. His powers are never withdrawn — in all working time they are outstretched. Neither is there incessant and useless change in his operations. He who gads about to change his way, having no fixed and definite object, but changing his object almost with the change from month to month, and from season to season, never lays hold of anything that is worth securing. But a man with a good object, with a commanding object, and a sufficient object, cannot afford to be unstable. Now, if a man's powers he called out, and kept out amid obstacles and conflicting circumstances, the education of the man is yet further advanced. He is opposed, say, in the pursuit of his object. Well, this opposition keeps the earnestness and the seriousness alive within him. It is a great advantage to be opposed in the pursuit of our object. If men will only take opposition with good temper, and be quiet, and of a meek and patient spirit, they will always be the better for it. Annoyances arise — he feels that if he yields to them he shall be unfitted for his pursuit. What does he? He keeps down his susceptibilities to fretfulness, and he learns quietness of heart. How soon the man learns this, who is in constant intercourse with the Saviour about all the objects of his pursuit, and who tells Him everything that dwells on his mind about everybody, and about every circumstance! He can see the invisible; he can assure his heart of what his hand does not now grasp — and thus he is educated by his object.
II. WHILE IT IS IMPORTANT THAT EVERY MAN SHOULD HAVE SOME OBJECT, IT IS MORE IMPORTANT THAT THE OBJECT OF PURSUIT TO EVERY MAN SHOULD BE GOOD. Say that a man sets out with fame as his end. He means to be known; he means to get into every newspaper. Such a one does everything to be seen and to be spoken of. That which will not tell upon his reputation he will not do. He wishes the trumpet to call attention to everything which he executes; he wishes to be called the best scholar, or the noblest patriot, or the richest merchant, or the most devoted philanthropist of his day. He wishes to be called first; and he pursues that end. Now, such an end will make a man proud and vain. In all matters of morality and religion such a man will be most unsteady. Consider wealth a man's object. He plans and labours to get money — to get it for spending or for hoarding; and money is the man's goal. This will make him narrow-minded, and selfish in heart. Men will rise and fall in his estimation according to their possessions, and objects will be pursued as they secure to him money. Perhaps this was the goal of Judas; and see what effect it produced upon him. He lost his soul in running to it. Consider power a man's end. He lives and toils to subdue others to himself. This makes a man ungenerous, cruel, unjust, and often impious. Admit pleasure to be a man's object. This destroys the proportions of the human constitution, and throws out of their right and proper place the several parts of our human nature. Now, put in contrast with fame, money, power, as the chief end of man, the good of others. Say that men are living to effect some object in connection with the well-being of their fellows; then you have such a character as that of John Howard, Wilberforce, Elizabeth Fry, Buxton. Howard's object, as you know, was the release and the relief of the prisoner; and while John Howard's disposition led to the choice of this pursuit, that disposition to do good grew marvellously under the training influence of his object. Wilberforce was naturally sympathetic, but his efforts for the slave marvellously enlarged his heart. Buxton would have been a noble man anywhere, but his pursuit of the extinction of slavery made him grow like the palm tree, and flourish like the cedar in Lebanon. Many a female culprit would confess their obligations to Mrs. Fry; but Newgate was a school of grace to the prisoners' friend and teacher: and if she could hear us talking of her now, she would say to us, "Speak not of anything I did, but rather tell what all this did for me. It was far more blessed for me to communicate, and to give, and to strive in that prison to do good, than it ever was simply to receive."
(S. Martin, M. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Why gaddest thou about so much to change thy way? thou also shalt be ashamed of Egypt, as thou wast ashamed of Assyria.