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Ecclesiastes 11:1 . Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after many days. The root לחם lechem, designates bread, corn, and all kinds of meat which sustain life. It refers also to what is sown. Psalms 104:14. “That he may bring forth food out of the earth.” In all tropical climates, where the rains are periodical, the husbandman wades into the retiring rivers, where they have overflowed the country, and sows his corn on the waters, which sinks into the muddy depositions of the inundations, and thus procures an earlier vegetation. Then, after a hundred days, he finds his barley ripe, and other grain in due proportion of time. Therefore in all good works, let us sow in hope; for we shall rejoice in the day of harvest, and receive abundance of encrease.
Ecclesiastes 11:2 . Give a portion to seven, and also to eight. When widows, orphans, and strangers in distress ask bread, forget all fears that thou thyself mayest want. We must all learn to trust in providence; therefore learn to be liberal. There is a God who will repay; and with an abundant blessing on thy cattle, and on thy lands. When God visits the land with short harvests, as he did England in the years 1795, 1799, and 1800, men are then particularly required to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked poor, and in a manner beyond our ordinary means.
The excellence of religion is charity, and charity that exceeds what is called worldly prudence, that we must be just before we are generous. Certainly the widow that has but a cup of cold water is not required to give more; but this maxim ill becomes a man with his barns full of corn, and his warehouse full of goods. The poor expect benevolence from the professors of benevolence.
Sow thy seed without regarding the course of the winds, or the appearance of a cloud; the first dictates of the heart are the purest. As thou knowest not how the child is formed and grows in the secrets of nature, so ask not the particular causes of the calamities of the hungry; they may be visitations to check the prodigalities of a dissipated age. In charities, do not lay too much stress on known cases of family depression. The cry of hunger can only be answered by bread: thou knowest not the work of God, who maketh all those things. He does not choose to expose the bulk of mankind to the temptations of affluence and wine. He humbles men for their sins, that in the day of trouble they may seek the Lord, and return to their father’s house.
Truly light is sweet; it is health, and joy, and affluence. But though we may have enjoyed these favours for many years, let us not forget that the days of darkness may soon come. The life of man is full of vicissitudes. Our flower must fade, and our leaf must fall; and then it will be a consolation to say as Job did: I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. I was a husband to the widow, and a father to the orphan; the cause which I knew not, I searched out.
It is true, our young people, looking solely at the gaieties of life, think but little of the days of darkness, youth being a time of pleasure; when we talk of deaths to them, among the circle of their acquaintance, they are armed with evasions; the deceased, they say, was aged, or in a sickly state. They see no danger for themselves, and therefore no need of our untimely sermons.
Well, then let the preacher take another text, and preach another sermon. Let him join in harmony with passion, and say, Rejoice, oh young man, in thy youth. Remove sorrow from thy heart, and be all for life and pleasure; go to balls, and be introduced to the world, as in the gayer circles. Study to please, and be devoted to the life of a courtier. But remember, Philip, said the page every morning, remember that thou must die. Remember also, that after death cometh the judgment. Hebrews 9:27. Shut then thine eyes, oh young man, for a moment, and learn to study all the just relations of mortals to the tomb, to their conscience, and to their God. Seek regeneration for thy giddy and unconscious heart, keep thy flesh as the temple of God, and thy soul as the seat of pure religion; for God will grant this grace to all that ask.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 11". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26