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wolves in sheep's clothing, Matt. vii. 15. See also Acts xx. 29; Phil. iii. 2.
What now are usually described as public amusements are mentioned among the Jews. Among the heathens there were many, and to them there are some references in Scripture. The Olympic Games were the most famous public amusements. On those occasions people came from all parts of the world to see the contests, which were principally racing or wrestling. Only persons of good character, and of respectable families, were allowed to contend for the prizes, which were merely crowns of leaves and palm branches; but the honour of being a conqueror at these contests was reckoned very great : even kings sometimes engaged in the games. In the races, the runners threw aside all their garments, and on an appointed signal rushed forward, in the sight of many thousand spectators. The
rewards were presented to their view at the end of the course, which was kept clear from every obstruction. This illustrates that beautiful passage, Heb. xii. 1-3, 12, 13, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” The word which is translated “beset" means also entangle; as long garments, such as were then worn, might entangle and throw down the runner if he did not throw them off. This is recorded as having happened once, and afterwards the racers threw aside all their garments. How desirable it is, that a Christian should throw aside and be freed from the sins which beset or entangle him in his Christian course !
St. Paul, in another place, alludes to these contests. “ Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.—Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown ; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air : but I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection : lest that by any means, when I have preached (the gospel) to others, I myself should be a castaway," ì Cor. ix. 24–27.
The racers and others who contended for the prizes, fasted, or lived upon a particular diet, for some time before the day of the contest : the apostle strongly urges the followers of Christ to consider the pains and privations which the heathens endured for a poor, fading, worldly honour. He shows how much more in earnest they should be, since a reward infinitely greater was offered to them. This passage is in one of St. Paul's epistles to the inhabitants of Corinth: the games to which the apostle alludes were cele. brated near that city. The words of the apostle have often been recollected by Christian travellers when in that neighbourhood. Wilson, the missionary in Greece, especially noticed this when passing the Isthmus of Corinth.
The same circumstances explain two other beautiful passages in the Epistles : one is Phil. iii. 13, 14, “Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” The other, 2 Tim. iv. 7, 8, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith : henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day : and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his
appearing." Let not the readers suppose that the apostle, by referring to the games and customs of those times, meant to encourage or approve of Christians engaging therein. And let them not suppose that the games and races practised at wakes and fairs in the present day are countenanced thereby. The ancient games were conducted with much order and solemnity by the heathens; the greatest and best characters among them engaged therein, and they were in their view religious ceremonies. But we live in a better day, and in the light of the gospel : we do not offer such things for worship, and no one can suppose that the riotous and wicked practices, so prevalent at our wakes and fairs, are pleasing to God, or approved by his word. They are “the revellings, and such like,” Gal. v. 21, of which the apostle expressly declares, that “ they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” It is also to be remarked, that most of our wakes are the continuance of heathen revellings, which were practised by our forefathers, when pagans, many centuries ago ; for when the Romish missionaries were sent to this country by pope Gregory, about the year 600, they allowed these revels to be continued, that they might the more easily persuade the heathen Saxons, who then ruled the greater part of England, to profess themselves Christians. Let us earnestly pray for grace, that we may be enabled to run the race which is set before us, and to wrestle with the corruptions of our hearts, seeking for strength from the Lord.
SCHOOLS AND EDUCATION. The Jews do not appear to have had regular public schools, either boarding or day schools, nor schools like those now established by our missionaries. The schools of the sons of the prophets, if they are to be called schools, were very different. The way of life of the ancient Jews was laborious, and that constantly; so that they needed the help of their children, and brought them up to work from their childhood. Thus Gideon, Saul, David and his brothers, and Elisha, all engaged at an early age in the labours of a country life. In the cases just named, as well as those of Amos and others, God chose persons engaged in the duties of their callings, to perform services for him.
It was much the same in other nations: the word "school" is originally Greek, and signifies leisure, as denoting the place where people met who had no particular business to do, so that they had time to amuse themselves. There are, however, many references in the Bible to instruction : Prov. i. 7, “Fools despise wisdom and instruction ; a wise person
“ will hear, and will increase learning,” verse 5; and that “when wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul, discretion shall preserve thee, and understanding shall keep thee; to deliver thee from the way of evil,” Prov. ii. 10–12. And let it always be remembered, that “ the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,” Prov. i. 7. No learning can be really good, if contrary to God's word.
The learning of the Jewish children, therefore, chiefly depended upon the instruction they received from their parents, whom they accompanied as they went about their employments.
Even king Solomon speaks of having been taught by his father, and tells us, in the book of Proverbs, what that instruction was : see Prov. iv. 449. If king David, amidst his wars and the cares of government, could instruct his son, it should remind parents amongst us of their duty, and encourage them to undertake it : children also should be more attentive than in general they are, to the instructions of those parents who give up many pleasures and pursuits to teach them. Especially let them remember what David said, “ And thou Solomon, my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind," 1 Chron. xxviii. 9.
This method of instruction was plainly commanded in the law of Moses, Deut. vi. 6, 7: “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children.” This instruction was given rather by conversation than by regular lessons : “And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up,” Deut. xi. 19. Instruction so continually given doubtless produced considerable effect: but, alas ! men forgot the words of the Lord in this as in other things. It is too much the same in our day, and we should be very thankful that there are persons who come forward to give this instruction, for “ that the soul be without knowledge it is not good,” Prov. xix. 2.
Thus the greater part of the Israelites were made acquainted with whatever was necessary for them, both as to general knowledge and their own particular occupations. There were, however, some who applied themselves more particularly to study: we read of men of the tribe of Issachar who “had understanding of the times," 1 Chron.