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I. God, who is present at all times and everywhere, has nevertheless appointed particular seasons and especial places in which He has promised to manifest Himself more clearly, more powerfully, and more graciously to men. The pious heart finds a temple of God everywhere. It is itself a temple of God. Yet even hence the need of other temples does appear, for what one good man considered by himself is, that God commands us all as a body to be. In order that we may all be thus united together as one man, we must have public assemblies, we must have visible temples, in which God, angels, and men may together meet.
II. From the consideration of the dignity and blessedness of men regarded in their relations to one another and to the holy angels, and as united for the performance of that work wherein their highest dignity and blessedness consists namely, intercourse with God the necessity which thence arises for the existence of holy places is clearly evident. (1) God commanded Moses to frame a tabernacle in which He might dwell among His people Israel. (2) The constant attendance of our blessed Lord at the public worship of the synagogue and that of the Apostles at the Temple afford sufficient proof of their opinion concerning this matter.
III. To keep our feet diligently is to order devoutly not merely our thoughts, but our words, looks, and gestures, lest we be guilty not only of irreverence towards God, but of folly towards ourselves and of sin towards our brethren.
C. Wordsworth, Sermons Preached at Harrow School, p. 22.
References: Ecclesiastes 5:1 . J. G. Deirs, Penny Pulpit, No. 904; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 253; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 191; J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 252.Ecclesiastes 5:1 , Ecclesiastes 5:2 . C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 358.
A thoughtless resorting to the sanctuary, inattention and indevotion there, and precipitancy in religious vows and promises are still as common as in the days of Solomon. And for these evils the only remedy is that which he prescribes: a heartfelt and abiding reverence.
I. There is a preparation for the sanctuary. Not only should there be prayer beforehand for God's blessing there, but a studious effort to concentrate on its services all our faculties. In the spirit of that significant Oriental usage which drops its sandals at the palace door, the devout worshipper will put off his travel-tarnished shoes will try to divest himself of secular anxieties and worldly projects when the place where he stands is converted into holy ground by the words, "Let us worship God."
II. In devotional exercises be intent and deliberate (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3 ). Like a dream which is a medley from the waking day, which into its own warp of delirium weaves a shred from all the day's engagements, so, could a fool's prayer be exactly reproduced, it would be a tissue of trifles intermingled with vain repetitions. For such vain repetitions the remedy still is reverence.
III. Be not rash with vows and religious promises (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7 ). If Christians make voluntary vows at all, it should be with clear warrant from the word, for purposes obviously attainable, and for limited periods of time. Whilst every believer feels it his reasonable service to present himself to God a living sacrifice, those who wish to walk in the liberty of sonship will seek to make their dedication, as a child is devoted to its parents, not so much in the stringent precision of a legal document as in the daily forthgoings of a filial mind.
J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture X.
References: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 . J. H. Cooke, The Preacher's Pilgrimage, p. 66. Ecclesiastes 5:1-9 . T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 125.Ecclesiastes 5:2 . Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 12; Plain Sermons by Contributors to " Tracts for the Times, " vol. vii., p. 201.Ecclesiastes 5:2-6 . J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 270. Ecclesiastes 5:4 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 100. Ecclesiastes 5:7-12 . J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 217. Ecclesiastes 5:8-13 . Ibid., p. 280. Ecclesiastes 5:8-20 . J. H. Cooke, The Preacher's Pilgrimage, p. 79.
A profound gloom rests on the second act or section of this drama. It teaches us that we are helpless in the iron grip of laws which we had no voice in making; that we often lie at the mercy of men whose mercy is but a caprice; that in our origin and end, in body and spirit, in faculty and prospect, in our lives and pleasures, we are no better than the beasts that perish; that the avocations into which we plunge, amid which we seek to forget our sad estate, spring from our jealousy the one of the other, and tend to a lonely miserliness, without a use or a charm.
I. The Preacher's handling of this subject is very thorough and complete. According to him, men's excessive devotion to affairs springs from "a jealous rivalry the one with the other;" it tends to form in them a grasping, covetous temper which can never be satisfied, to produce a materialistic scepticism of all that is noble and spiritual in thought and action, to render their worship formal and insincere, and in general to incapacitate them for any quiet, happy enjoyment of their life. This is his diagnosis of their disease.
II. But what checks, what correctives, what remedies, would the Preacher have us apply to the diseased tendencies of the time? How shall men of business save themselves from that excessive devotion to its affairs which breeds so many portentous evils? (1) The very sense of the danger to which they are exposed a danger so insidious, so profound, so fatal should surely induce caution and a wary self-control. (2) The Preacher gives us at least three serviceable maxims. To all men of business conscious of their special dangers and anxious to avoid them he says, ( a ) Replace the competition which springs from your jealous rivalry with the co-operation which is born of sympathy and breeds goodwill. ( b ) Replace the formality of your worship with a reverent and steadfast sincerity. ( c ) Replace your grasping self-sufficiency with a constant holy trust in the fatherly providence of God.
S. Cox, The Quest of the Chief Good, p. 140.
References: Ecclesiastes 3:2 . G. Dawson, Sermons on Daily Life and Duty, p. 277; J. M. Neale, Sermons in Sackville College, vol. i., p. 57. Ecclesiastes 3:4 . J. H. Newman, Parochial and Plain Sermons, vol. iv., p. 334; W. Braden, Christian World Pulpit, vol. ix., p. 81; G. Rogers, Ibid., vol. xxviii., p. 91.Ecclesiastes 3:6 . S. Baring-Gould, One Hundred Sermon Sketches, p. 107. Ecclesiastes 3:7 . A. A. Bonar, Contemporary Pulpit, vol. i., p. 123.Ecclesiastes 3:9-22 . R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes: its Meaning and Lessons, p. 107.
I. We left Koheleth in the act of exhorting us to fear God. The fear of God, of course, implies a belief in the Divine superintendence of human affairs. This belief Koheleth now proceeds to justify. (1) Do not be alarmed, he says, when you see the injustice of oppressors. There are limits beyond which this injustice cannot go. God is the Author of this system of restriction and punishment. (2) The Divine government may be seen in the law of compensation. Pleasure does not increase, but, on the contrary, rather diminishes, with the increase of wealth. The rich man has little to do but to watch others devouring his wealth. (3) The excessive desire for wealth often over-reaches itself, and ends in poverty.
II. Koheleth asserts (Ecclesiastes 6:7 ) that no one ever extracts enjoyment out of life. "The labour of man is for his mouth " that is, for enjoyment but he is never satisfied. His very wishes give him not his wish. The fact is, says Koheleth, returning to a former thought, everything has been predetermined for us; we are hemmed in by limits and fatalities to which we can but submit. It is useless trying to contend with One mightier than ourselves.
III. He now takes a new departure. He inquires whether true happiness is to be found in a life of social respectability or popularity. In chap. vii. and the first part of chap. viii. he gives us some of the maxims by which such a life would be guided. The thoughts are very loosely connected, but the underlying idea is this: the popular man, the successful man, the man whom society delights to honour, is always characterised by prudence, discretion, moderation, self-control, and by a certain savoir-faire an instinct which teaches him what to do and when to do nothing. (1) The wise man is ready to receive instruction not only from the silent teaching of the dead, but also from the advice of the living if they are wiser than himself. (2) The prudent man of the world is distinguished by a cheerful, easy-going, happy temperament. Instead of longing for the past, he makes the best of the present. (3) Koheleth now propounds another maxim of worldly policy a maxim in which we see him at his worst. A prudent man of the world will not trouble himself too much about righteousness. He cannot be quite sure that it will pay, though a certain amount of it is likely to help him on. And what is true of righteousness is true of wisdom. Poor Koheleth in his present mood has fallen into deep moral degradation. Policy has taken the place of duty. In the long run the policy of expediency, which he here calls wisdom, will turn out to be but folly.
A. W. Momerie, Agnosticism, p. 219.
Ecclesiastes 5:9-20 ; Ecclesiastes 6:1-9
I. In all grades of society human subsistence is very much the same. Even princes are not fed with ambrosia, nor do poets subsist on asphodel. The profit of the earth is for all.
II. When a man begins to amass money, he begins to feed an appetite which nothing can appease, and which its proper food will only render fiercer. Therefore happy they who have never got enough to awaken the accumulating passion!
III. It is another consideration which should reconcile us to the want of wealth that as abundance grows, so grow the consumers, and of riches less perishable the proprietor enjoys no more than the mere spectator.
IV. Among the pleasures of obscurity, the next noticed is sound slumber. If the poor could get a taste of opulence, it would reveal to them strange luxuries in lowliness.
V. Wealth is often the ruin of its possessor. It is "kept for the owner to his hurt."
VI. Last of all are the infirmity and fretfulness which are the frequent companions of wealth.
VII. Whether your possessions be, great or small, think only of the joys at God's right hand as your eternal treasure. Lead a life disentangled and expedite, setting your affections on things above and never so clinging to the things temporal as to lose the things eternal. The true disciple will value wealth chiefly as he can spend it on objects dear to his dear Lord.
J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture XI.
References: 5:10-6:12. T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 137. Ecclesiastes 5:13-20 . R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes: its Meaning and Lessons, p. 191.Ecclesiastes 5:14-17 . J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 310. Ecclesiastes 6:2 . J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 66.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19