The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Ecclesiasticus
Lord, that gavest my life and art the ruler of it, never may these lips of mine have me at their mercy, never let them betray me into a fall!
Be my thoughts ever under the lash, my heart disciplined by true wisdom; let it never deal gently with their unwitting offences, or gloss over the wrong they do!
What if my transgressions should go, all unobserved, from bad to worse, if I should sin ever oftener, and add fault to fault? What humiliation were this, in full view of my enemies; how would my ill-wishers triumph at the sight!
Lord, that gavest my life and art the divine ruler of it, let them not have me at their mercy;
never let haughty looks be mine, never the assaults of passion come near me.
Let the itch of gluttony pass me by, nor ever carnal lust overtake me; do not leave me, Lord, at the mercy of a shameless, an unprofitable mind!
Here is the lore, my sons, of the tongue’s use; hold fast by it, and thy own lips shall never be thy undoing, to ensnare thee in heinous wrong.
What is it but his lying that entraps the sinner, what snare but their own speech catches the proud, the slanderers?
That mouth of thine do not inure to oath-taking; therein lie many perils;
wilt thou take God’s name often on thy lips, and of holy titles make thy constant invocation, thy word is forfeit to them.
Slave that is evermore under the lash cannot escape without bruises a many; thy often swearing, thy often invoking, shall lead thee into guilt at last.
Oaths a many, sins a many; punishment shall be still at thy doors.
Forswear thyself, thou shalt be held to account for it; forget the oath, it is at thy double peril;
and though it were lightly taken, thou shalt find no excuse in that; plague shall light on all thou hast, in amends for it.
Sin of speech there is, too, that has death for its counterpart; God send it be not found in Jacob’s chosen race;✻
from men of tender conscience every such thought is far away, not theirs to wallow in evil-doing.
Beware of habituating thy tongue to lewd talk; therein is matter of offence.
Not thine to bring shame on father and mother. There are great ones all around thee;
what if thyself God should disregard, when thou art in their company? Then shall this ill custom of thine strike thee dumb✻ and bring thee to great dishonour; thou wilt wish thou hadst never been, and rue the day of thy birth.
Let a man grow into a habit of railing speech, all his days there is no amending him.
Two sorts of men are sinners above measure, and a third I can name that calls down vengeance.
There is a hot temper, all fire and fury, that cannot die down till it has had its fill.
A man that is corrupted by the prompting of his own lust✻ will not be content until it bursts into flame.
To the fornicator, one pasture-ground is as good as another; there is no wearying him till he has tried all.
Out on the man that takes his life in his hands and comes between another’s sheets! There is none to witness it, thinks he;
darkness all about, and walls to shelter me, and none watching; what have I to fear? Sins like mine the most High will never mark.
Of that all-seeing eye no heed takes he; fear of a man has driven the fear of God from his thoughts; of human eyes only he shuns the regard.✻
What, are not God’s eyes a thousand times more piercing than the sun’s rays? Do they not watch all the doings of men, the depths of earth, and man’s heart, every secret open to their scrutiny?
God, that knows all he means to make, does he not watch over all he has made?
In full view of the open street the adulterer shall pay the penalty; loud, as for a runaway horse, the hue and cry; where he thought to escape, justice outruns him.
All the world shall witness his shame, that left the fear of the Lord unregarded.
Nor less guilty is she who plays her husband false, giving him for heir a child that is no son of his.
Broken, the law of the most High; her plighted troth forsaken; sons borne to a paramour, has she not thrice played the wanton?
Needs must she confront the folk assembled, nor shall those sons of hers be spared;
such roots must not burgeon, such boughs never bear fruit;
she leaves but the memory of an accursed name, a name for ever dishonoured.
Warning she gives to after ages that God’s fear is best, nor sweeter lot is any than the divine law well observed.
Follow the Lord, and it shall be thy renown; a long life is the reward it shall bring thee.
The Holy Bible