Jesus Christ taught very plainly that there were two kinds of knowledge. And in that wonderful parable of His both are shown up. There we see the wise man, who when he knows a thing, at once puts it into action, uses it, so to speak, and makes it stronger and better for the use. And contrasted with Him we see the feeble hesitating man who is content with mere surface knowledge, and allows the precious time to pass away without having used and tested what he knows. The end of the one—strength, permanence and confidence; the end of the other—ruin!
The lessons of this parable are illustrated every day in life. A man knows in a hazy sort of way that a calamity is impending, that temptations are crowding upon him. If he is wise he goes into the sanctuary of his soul and issues forth strong to meet or evade the dangers. If he is weak he shrugs his shoulders and guesses he'll worry through somehow. Floods of business treachery or hard times, or illness find him still guessing, and they sweep him away remorselessly to the shore where guessers find their home.
The tragedy of this sort of thing lies in the fact that good intentions may underlie all this weak-kneed temporising. People of good nature and undoubted sincerity are sometimes victims of this fatal tendency to passivity. They forget in quoting Wordworths words that the passiveness he recommends is a "wise passiveness." There are times in life when to be passive is man's highest duty, when knowledge of how to be still and listen to the Voice of the Highest is the knowledge he must seek above all others. At the same time, this listening requires of a man his best faculties ripened and sharpened by use; and there are no words of Jesus that are so full of practical meaning for us, His followers, as those which declare that if a man would know the doctrine he must do the right thing.
A dear little boy during his first week or two at school was asked how he liked his lessons. The answer was satisfactory except in respect of writing. He thought it so unfair that directly he could do strokes nicely, he should be asked to do pot-hooks! It would have been so much nicer to go on doing strokes when he had learned to do them well. This is the natural, ease-loving attitude of the learning human mind. How many of us grown-up children would like to go on doing the simple duties we have learnt instead of learning new ones!
But the school of life is well-disciplined, and we may not stand still. The soul of man is carried forward from room to room of the great Temple of Wisdom. There is no going back. Each room has its lessons and opportunities. Learnt and used they lead to happiness, well-being, promotion. Neglected and overlooked, they bring upon the hapless pupil their own inevitable penalties. For in the great Law of the Universe there is the spirit of Justice and Truth and Peace. These three are inseparable: the same law that in its stability metes out deserved punishment gives to the faithful a sense of infinite rest and comfort.
To know the right, then, is not enough. It must be done. Of immature knowledge Tennyson truly says—
"Half-grown as yet, a child and vain—
She cannot fight the fear of death.
What is she, cut from love and faith,
But some wild Pallas from the brain
Of Demons, fiery hot to burst
All barriers in her onward race
Combined with love (which is the intelligent activity of the soul) and faith which is the sublime secret of the soul's best strength, Knowledge becomes Wisdom, that priceless goal of the highest human efforts that in proportion to the degree in which it is possessed makes the ways of the possessor ways of pleasantness "and his paths "paths of peace."
Weary, I turned to Duty's path, and Happiness sought me,
Saying "I walk this road today; I'll bear thee company."