‘Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.’
I. There must be reality in our knowledge.—It must be the real knowledge of real things. We must be sure that we, in the first instance, take it in as accurately as possible. We must not bridge over to ourselves difficulties, whether little or great, or take a leap over them, leaving a part behind us that is not sound or solid.
II. There is no such thing as useless knowledge, and the knowledge of theory is a greater thing than the knowledge of practice.—To express it otherwise, the knowledge of principles is beyond, and greater than, and more important than, the doing of things however well without understanding them. However real may be the knowledge that you gain of any number of details, it is only by understanding principles that you can hope to make any use of details which shall advance or strengthen any single good cause.
III. The power to use knowledge must come from something outside the knowledge itself.—The mind may be stored with facts, and with true theories and with many a wise observation; but after all it is only by considering, reflecting, observing, that we can turn what we have already acquired to good account for ourselves or for others. Such wisdom is ‘above and beyond our studies.’ For it is beyond all that wisdom which is from above, which the Father gives to them that ask Him.
‘A story is told of a whale-ship stove-in on the South Seas. She was fast filling. The boats were lowered, provisioned, manned, began to pull off, when, suddenly, two men sprang overboard, swam hurriedly to the sinking ship, caught up a box, leaped over again to make for the waiting boat; but the ship sank, and they were carried down in the whirl of waters. But they re-emerge, still clinging to the box, and, at last, are drawn, exhausted, but with the precious box, aboard the waiting boat. The box held the compass, which in the hurry had been forgotten. The compass was their only possible guide to safety out of those lonely seas. Therefore, at all hazards, it must be had. So precious and inexorably necessary is the “instruction” to the keeping fast hold of which we are charged here. It is religion; it is the compass of the life. Without it life is but haphazard guessing and ultimate ruin. He can only steer straight, and for the port, who keeps with himself and follows the compass of loyalty to God, conscience, duty.’