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Fences and Serpents
Any attempt to transgress the laws of life which God has enjoined is sure to bring out the hissing snake with its poison.
I. All life is given us rigidly walled up. The walls are blessings, like the parapet on a mountain road, that keeps the traveller from toppling over the face of the cliff.
II. Every attempt to break down these limitations brings poison into the life. Some serpents' bites inflame, some paralyse; and either an inflamed or a palsied conscience is the result of all wrongdoing.
III. All the poison may be got out of your veins if you like. When Moses lifted up the serpent the people had but to look upon it to be cured.
A. Maclaren, The Freeman, 13 April, 1888.
References. X. 8. G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p 345. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Ecclesiastes, p. 372.
No world, or thing here below, ever fell into misery without having first fallen into folly.
The incendiary and his kindling combustibles had been already sketched by Solomon with the rapid yet faithful outline of a master in the art: The beginning of the words of his mouth is foolishness and the end of his talk mischievous madness. If in the spirit of prophecy the wise ruler had been present to our own times and their procedures; if while he sojourned in the valley of vision he had actually heard the very harangues of our reigning demagogues to the convened populace; could he have more faithfully characterized either the speakers or the speeches? Whether in spoken or in printed addresses, whether in periodical journals or in yet cheaper implements of irritation, the ends are the same, the process is the same, and the same is their general line of conduct. On all occasions, but most of all and with a more bustling malignity whenever any public distress inclines the lower classes to turbulence and renders them more apt to be alienated from the government of their country in all places and at every opportunity pleading to the poor and ignorant, nowhere and at no time are they found actually pleading for them.
I have seen wicked men and fools, a great many of both; and I believe they both get paid in the end, but the fools first.
R. L. Stevenson.
A large number of people seem to be conscious of existence only when they are making a noise.
Reference. X. 15. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Ecclesiastes, p. 381.
At Siena I was tabled in the house of one Alberto Scipioni, an old Roman courtier, in dangerous times.... At my departure for Home I had won confidence enough to beg his advice how I might carry myself securely there, without offence of others, or of mine own conscience. 'Signor Arrigo mio,' says he, ' pensieri stretti ed il viso sciolto (thoughts close, countenance open) will go safely over the whole world.'
Sir Henry Wotton to Milton.
In The Life of a Scottish Probationer (p. 114) there is an extract from a sermon preached by Thomas Davidson to the troops at Aldershot, which opens thus: 'Over the entrance of a very old house in an ancient Scottish town, I read, not long ago, the following inscription:
Since word is thrall and thought is free,
Keep well thy tongue, I counsel thee;
that is to say, "Speech is liable to criticism, and may bring you into trouble; be wise and careful, therefore, in the exercise of it". The inscription, however, gathers additional significance from the fact that the house in question stands within a hundred yards of a royal residence, and must have been built at a time when a more stringent law of treason rendered it very dangerous to make very free, even in the most private of conversations, with anything appertaining to constituted authority.'
Reference. XI. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxviii. No. 2264.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany