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Ecclesiastes 10:1 . Dead flies cause the ointment, of exquisite perfumes, to send forth a stinking savour; a satirical proverb, applicable to characters in all the public walks of life. A general, by an error in war, or a minister by a vice in the sanctuary, has his fault made a crest in his coat of arms. Let us hear that voice: “I will take heed to my ways, that I offend not with my tongue.” The want of calm reflection, of vigour in virtue, and of habitual circumspection, is the ruin of reputation and character.
Ecclesiastes 10:2 . A wise man’s heart is at his right hand. He orders his affairs with discretion; while the fool, the inconsiderate man, blunders at every step. Let us be admonished to regard the cause and the consequence of all our actions, and study propriety of conduct.
Ecclesiastes 10:4 . If the spirit of the ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place. Bow to the tempest, and show thy loyalty by submission; then no mischief will follow. The following sayings are farther illustrations of the preacher’s maxims. It is dangerous to contend with men in power. A man removing an old building may be crushed under the ruins; or breaking through a hedge, he may tread on a slumbering adder, and be bitten; for a serpent when trod upon, will bite without hissing, or the least sibilancy to warn him of danger.
Ecclesiastes 10:12 . The lips of a fool will swallow up himself. Such were the words of the Amalekite that ran with Saul’s crown to David. How often has a less instructed witness lost a good cause, by variations of evidence. The fool is full of words, he involves the simplest facts in a cloud of dust and smoke. He knows not the way to the city, the high road which no man can miss, nor how to set about the common concerns of life.
Ecclesiastes 10:16 . Woe to thee, oh land, when thy king is a child; or whatever be his age, when his life is distinguished by puerility of intellect. In all such cases, the nation has no hope. But happy, when he is wise and temperate. Ancient and military sovereigns were the keystone of happiness to their country.
Ecclesiastes 10:17 . When thy princes eat in due season; that is, in the morning, and in the evening; for these, in the warmer climates, are the two principal meals. In the heat of the day, they enjoyed the shade, and drank a cooling beverage.
Ecclesiastes 10:20 . Curse not the king in thy thought a bird of the air shall carry the voice. He is the father of his people: if he err, let his ministers advise him, as the aged senators advised Rehoboam. Let them cover his errors, and support him in all the high duties of his station. If vigilance be not at the helm of the state, the ship, under the finest breezes, may take the ground. Let prayer and supplication be made for all men, but especially for kings, and for all that are in authority under them. Let the fool keep before his eyes the myriads of men that have fallen, in opposing the government of their country, and shun the snare that the faction would lay for his feet.
If any thing can make a man wise in the regulation and conduct of life, surely it must be counsels and maxims so discreet and salutary. But alas, what can be done, as Lord Bacon says, for the youth “that is bird-witted, or hath not the faculty of attention;” the youth that will not pause for reflection on his own conduct? Alas, bray a fool in a mortar, and it will not make him wise.
The wisdom inculcated here is political wisdom, and prudence in the conduct of life; a wisdom which contributes much to peace of mind, and to raise a character in society to public esteem. If any thing therefore be wise or valuable, this line of public conduct and consistency has its price.
The preacher proceeds: This wisdom is heightened in its worth by a contrast with the thoughts, the words and actions of a fool; the man who will not pause to reflect on his ways. Such a character wearies out all his friends, is isolated and shunned by men of virtue and worth.
Above every worldly consideration, and next to the salvation of a man’s soul, he is required to be loyal to his sovereign, in all the duties of a subject, and the piety of a christian. He who acts a contrary part will bring himself, and probably all his family, to shame and ruin. Men of piety, of wisdom and moral worth, are generally found rallied on this side of the question.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent