The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son makes a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.
The word "heaviness" means, in this connection, sadness, sorrow, dejection of mind, a wounded spirit, a broken heart. "Foolishness" denotes, not merely an intellectual weakness, nor merely a religious want, but in general, any grand moral deficiency in the whole complex economy of character.
I. THE YOUNG MAN NEGLECTFUL OF HIS INTELLECTUAL CULTURE. In all the infinite range of being, after you leave the irrational, until you reach the Divine, there is none whose "education is finished." Every young man ought to be giving diligent heed to his intellectual development and discipline. The word "foolishness" here is the antithesis, not of "learning," but of "wisdom" — two very different things. Learning, in its profoundness, is not possible to all young men. Education, i.e., eduction — a drawing forth, a development. Not a mind infused with erudition, but a mind led forth to think. As thinking is hard work, and most men are lazy, few willingly think. They prefer to buy thought. A true mother's first thought is her child's education. This, however, often errs sadly, in undue forcing, or in undue attention to merely light literature.
II. THE INDOLENT YOUNG MAN.
1. The man who has no regular business. The young man of inherited wealth, or the poor young man who has neither energy nor ambition to rise.
2. The man who, having a business, does not attend to it.
(1) In some cases this results from sheer indolence. The man has no bone or sinew in him, no instinct of effort, no adaptation for work. Among men of strong hands he is simply a mistake.
(2) In other cases this results from a wrong choice of business. The man got into a sphere for which he had no adaptation either mental or physical. Men are everywhere out of place, maladjusted, and so they fail. And by this first failure some men are hopelessly discouraged.
(3) In other cases this results from false theories of success. The man is a believer in good luck and grand chances. He trusts to fortune and waits for opportunity.
(4) In other cases the failure results from divided application and energy. The man attempts too much. Ignoring the principle of a division of labour as the grand law of civilisation, he affects the practical barbarism of attempting to do everything. Every efficient thing God ever made does its own work always, and its own work only. Life is too short for the accomplishment of great tasks with divided energies. Be the reason of the failure what it may, the world is full of men who, with a business to do, never succeed in it. Life swarms with indolent and inefficient men. And all such sons are a heaviness to their mother. Mothers want their sons to be something and to do something.
III. THE YOUNG MAN WHO SELECTS A WRONG BUSINESS OR PURSUES IT WITH A WRONG SPIRIT. The grand aim to-day is to get rich speedily. The practical theory is that all business is honourable in proportion to its revenues; but never was a theory more false. All honest business is equally honourable. The young man should engage in no work requiring the slightest violation of dictate of conscience. Evil work may have large revenues, but such success is simply infamous. The man who wins it thus is a disgrace to his generation. Woman's nature is alive with lofty and chivalrous sentiments. A son's spotless honour is his mother's glory.
IV. THE YOUNG MAN WHO MAKES CHOICE OF UNPRINCIPLED, IMMORAL, IRRELIGIOUS COMPANIONS. Choose your companions as you would if they were to go in daily to your mother's fireside. Beware of the young man of fashion. Beware of the sceptical young man. There are those who think freely and speak freely of human nature and of religion — Freethinkers. Beware of the young man of practical immorality. He is a sharper in business, untruthful, a Sabbath-breaker, a profane swearer, a quarreller; his associations are with fast men; he has no reputation for purity.
V. THE YOUNG MAN WHO HAS BECOME EVIL HIMSELF. It seems impossible that, coming from a happy Christian home, any young man should ever go so widely astray. But alas! the strange thing happens. We see it every day. What a fearful "heaviness" this brings to a mother's heart. Parental love becomes agony when a child turns to evil courses. To save you from this dire moral pestilence a parent would gladly lay down life.
VI. THE YOUNG MAN WHO LIVES IN NEGLECT OF PERSONAL RELIGION. To Solomon "wisdom" in its last analysis is personal piety, and "foolishness " is practical irreligion. You may sneer at religion and think it noble and wise to call yourself infidel. Your mother does not. To her religion is a life and power. Surely an impenitent son is a "heaviness" to his mother.
Parallel VersesKJV: The proverbs of Solomon. A wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother.