A

Proverbs and Quaint Sayings

A bad bank-note is sure to come back.

Some say, "A bad penny comes home." Anything evil will come back to the man who sent it out.

A bad book is a big thief,

For it robs a man of his time, and of his good principles. Many young people have been ruined by the vile literature which is now so common. A German writer says, "Such books rob the public of time, money, and the attention which ought properly to belong to good literature with noble aims. Of bad books we can never read too little; of the good never too much."


Books should to one of these four ends conduce:

For wisdom, piety, delight, or use.

A bad dog does not see the thief.

We have plenty of such dogs nowadays. Ministers will not see the error which abounds; statesmen wink hard at vice; and religious people sleep while Satan plunders the church,

A bad dog may get a good bone.

Often very unworthy men gain fortunes, offices, and honours. This world is not the place of rewards and punishments, and so it happens that Satan's bullocks often feed in the fattest pastured.

A bad excuse is worse than none.

A bad horse eats as much as a good one.

A reason for keeping good cattle, and employing efficient persons.

A bad husband cannot be a good man.

He fails in the tenderest duties, and must be bad at heart.

A bad motive makes a good action bad.

What appeared good enough in itself has often been polluted by the motive. It might be well to kiss the Lord Jesus, but the motive of Judas made his kiss a crime.

A bad padlock invites a picklock.

Carelessness on the part of owners may prove a temptation to servants and others. We should not put theft into their minds by want of proper care.

A bad reaper blames the sickle.

Every bad workman finds fault with his tools. The Chinese say:—


"All unskilful fools

Quarrel with their tools."

A bad servant will not make a good master.

Observation proves this. He who does not shine in one position will not shine in another. Yet a good servant does not always make a good master; for he may not have brain enough to go first, though he may have all the virtues which enable him to be a good second.

A bad wife likes her husband's heel to be towards home.

She is very different from her who so sweetly sang—


"Sae sweet his voice, sae smooth his tongue,

His breath's like caller air;

His very foot has music in't

As he comes up the stair.

"There's nae luck about the house,

There's nae luck at a';

There's little pleasure in the house

When our gudeman's awa'."

A bargain is a bargain.

See what is said of the just man in Ps. 15:4: "He sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not."

A bird in hand is better far Than two which in the bushes are.

This proverb turns up in several forms, but it always means that we are to prefer that which we have to that which we only expect. It is a proverb of this world only, and is not true on the broad field of eternal things. There our bird in the bush is worth all the birds that ever were in mortal hand.

A bird is known by his note, and a man by his talk.

"By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."

—Matt. 12:37.

A bird that cannot be shot may be snared.

Dispositions vary, and Satan knows how to fit his temptation to our temperament. He who will not fall into open sin may be seduced into secret unbelief or pride.

A bitten child is afraid of a stuffed dog.

The same sense as "A burnt child dreads the fire," or "A scalded cat dreads cold water." It were well if more who have suffered from sin would have a solemn fear of it, and henceforth shun it.

A black hen lays a white egg.

Black sorrows bring us joyous results.

A blind man does not see himself in a looking-glass.

Neither do the spiritually blind see themselves in the Word of God, although it is a perfect mirror of truth and character.

A blind man gets small good of a lantern.

All the illumination in the world will not make a man see spiritual things unless the Holy Spirit opens his eyes. Miss Cobbe asks, "What shall it profit a man if he finds the origin of species, and knows exactly how earthworms and sun-dews conduct themselves, if all the while he grows blind to the loveliness of nature, and is as unable to lift his soul to the Divine and Eternal as were the primæval apes?"

A blind man is no judge of colours.

When persons profess to criticize things which they know nothing about, this proverb may be applied to them.