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Bible Commentaries

Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary
Ecclesiastes 5

 

 

Verses 1-3

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Ecc . Thy foot] The outward movement, as showing the tendency of the heart. The sacrifice of fools] Some unworthy satisfaction of the religious idea—an offering whose purpose is merely to please God, and to serve as a salve for the conscience. They consider not that they do evil] Theirs is the error of simple ignorance rather than of any intention to deceive.

Ecc . Rash with thy mouth] Refers to the repetition of unmeaning words—mere babbling.

Ecc . The multitude of business] Lit. of annoyance—the worries of life disturbing the mind, and giving rise to restlessness and dreams.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

THE ETHICS OF DIVINE WORSHIP

The Royal Preacher enters upon a new object of thought. Happiness is only to be found in religion, and the most exalted act of religion is worship. The solemn services of the house of God demand duty from the worshipper.

I. We must avoid an unintelligent worship. God must be acknowledged in His relations to us as communities. Hence to attend His house for the purpose of worship is a solemn duty. Some cautions must be observed, if the service of the sanctuary is to be acceptable. The worship should be intelligent; marked by all the cautiousness, deliberation, and sobriety of thought. There are three principal classes of offenders against this requirement.

1. Those who worship simply from custom. They are not governed by the deep reasons of this sacred duty, but without due reflection follow what is considered to be a common obligation. Hence they go with careless feet, walking in the ruts of custom. They are imitators of others. Their devotion is soulless—mechanical.

2. Those who worship with a pre-occupied mind. The mind being filled with other objects, thought wanders, and the worship is but languidly performed.

3. Those who in the act of worship are not completely possessed with a solemn purpose. One great purpose must carry away the soul of the worshipper. The service of worship demands the concentration of thought and feeling. The soul, like the feet, must not wander in uncertainty, but go straight to her solemn purpose.

II. We must avoid a Barren Worship. The worship is not to end in itself, as if external homage were all that was required of us. It must have issue in quickened spiritual power, and practical duty. No barren or unproductive worship is acceptable.

1. The end of worship is to stimulate to obedience. (Ecc .) "To hear" in the language of the O.T. signifies to obey, i.e., to hear with the inner ear. Thought is awakened that it might lead to action. The sense of the Divine presence summons to duty. Obedience is the proper vesture of the thoughts and feelings roused in the sanctuary.

2. Worship without obedience has no rational ground. The adoration of the Divine Nature implies a respect for those laws of duty which are but an expression of that nature. A sacrifice, therefore, without obedience is but the sacrifice of a fool. It has no solid reason to go upon. Such worship is but a careless effort; without any wise design or sure aim.

3. Worship without obedience is sometimes the result of ignorance. It does not always arise from a pure and unmixed attempt to deceive, or to act the hypocrite. Some deceive themselves. They, being ignorant of the true way of religion, imagine that outward service will atone for many follies and sins—that the whole reckoning with heaven can thus be closed. This is the folly of many religions—they are but a salve for the conscience.

III. We must avoid an Irreverent Worship. Reverence is essential to all true worship. It is the proper attitude of man before the Supreme. In order to secure the spirit of reverence, we must attend to certain rules of duty in worship.

1. Be careful in the employment of words. (Ecc .) Rash and hasty words are here forbidden. This is not meant to check devotion, or to cool the ardour of the soul by some formal and severe requirement. It is opposed

(1) To empty words. These are uttered without solemn reflection—empty phrases, possessing but little meaning for the worshipper. They are mere words, spoken without due consideration—"rash." It is opposed

(2) To superficial words. They do not proceed from the inner depths of the soul. They are quickly uttered, and in any required number, as involving no expense of thought or feeling. Words that are not winged by the soul's desire cannot rise to heaven. It is opposed

(3) To all useless repetitions. It is not a fatal defect in prayer that it is marked by some repetition, for the soul may love to linger upon a thought to make her desire more emphatic, or to express intense emotion. The habit censured is the regarding mere words as possessing merit—that their multitude can atone for sin, and make compromise for the high demands of duty. To avoid irreverence, we must

2. Have a proper sense of the majesty of the object of worship. We have to remember that God dwells in unapproachable glory, far beyond the reaches of our mind; and that we are upon the earth—the scene of ignorance, error, sin, and want. With such a conviction, the language we utter before high heaven will be marked by brevity of expression. A sense of reverence will impose on us a solemn reserve. The employment of few and careful words most befits the sacred act of worship.

(1) Because this is the method of true passion. The most powerful feelings discharge themselves in few, simple, and direct expressions. True passion disdains the long array of words.

(2) Because it suits the nature of the duty. The silent awe and admiration proper to worship must not lose their effect through the intrusion of the multitude of words. When in the presence of a Superior Being, reserve and caution are the most commendable qualities of speech.

(3) Because it is agreeable to the best examples. The prayers recorded in the Bible are brief, and expressed in words of simple majesty. The Lord's Prayer is marked by fulness in little compass.

3. Have a proper sense of the evil of careless speech in devotion. It has a bad effect upon the soul. The language degenerates into weakness and twaddle. Devotion becomes a mere babble of words involving no serious effort of intellect or heart. As dreams often arise from the perplexing cares and business of the day—these, in a confused manner, presenting themselves in sleep—so the multitude of words, though uttered not without some carefulness at first, at length degenerates into confusion and unreality. (Ecc .)

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . The feet translate the dispositions of the mind—they are the outward indicators of purpose.

There is a proper frame and disposition of the soul before engaging in worship. On the way to the house of God, the worshipper should be acquiring a readiness for its solemn services.

The royalty of the Supreme King demands a careful, reverent, and subdued manner in those who approach his Majesty.

Obedience is the most splendid issue of the adoration of the fount of law. Duty is our clearest revelation, and the path to our true honour.

The worship of God is a reasonable service, demanding the best fruit of the intellect and heart. He who does not make it a thoughful and heartfelt exercise presents the sacrifice of a fool.

It is the simplicity of the heart, and not of the head, that is the best indictor of our petitions. That which proceeds from the latter is undoubtedly the sacrifice of fools; and God is never more weary of sacrifice than when a fool is the priest and folly the oblation [South].

The vanity, hollowness, and insincerity of the outward world intrudes even into the temples of religion.

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" [Dr. J. Hamilton.]

Ecc . The tongue of the worshipper should not outstrip the fervours of his heart. Unless the words of devotion glow with the inner heat, they are but empty sounds.

It is an affront to the Majesty of Heaven to offer the unripe fruit of our mind and heart.

The multitude of words in prayer does not imply deep thought and fervour of devotion. They are but the tawdry garment that covers the poverty of the soul.

Before Job saw God with the inner eye, he was loquacious, but after sight of the Divine vision, his words "were ended," and afterwards he only opened his mouth to declare how he "abhorred himself."

He who regards the pure splendour in which God dwells, and the humble platform on which he himself stands, will render his devotion in few and careful words.

A heap of unmeaning words only smothers the fires of devotion.

Remember at whose throne you are kneeling; and be not verbose, but let your words be few and emphatic, as of one who is favoured with an audience from Heaven's King.… When the emergencies of life—some perplexity or sorrow, some deliverance or mercy,—at an unwonted season sends us to the Lord, without any lengthened preamble we should give to this originating occasion the fulness of our feelings and the foremost place in our petitions [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The Lord's Prayer begins by reminding the petitioner of the lofty dwelling-place of that Being whom he addresses, yet this august Majesty of heavenly state is tempered by the endearing name of Father.

What a wide application may be made of these words both to teaching and preaching, to prayer and to our ordinary life! How many sermons, hours long, would be expunged by this censorship, though never so skilfully arranged and put together according to the preaching art. And if all sermons and other discourses concerning Divine things were purged from all useless, unedifying, fruitless, offensive, and wrong words, how few would the censorship leave standing! [The Berleburger Bible].

Ecc . Tertullian, expressing the nature of dreams, saith, "Behold a fencer without weapons, a coach-driver without his running chariot, acting and practicing all the postures and feats of his skill. There is fighting, there is stirring, but it is an empty moving and gesturing. Those things are done in the acting of them, but not in the effecting anything by them. So it is in many words; there is often much fencing, but no weapons wherewith the enemy is wounded; there is much running, but no chariot winneth the race; much seemeth to be said, but it is to as much purpose as if nothing were said; all is an empty moving of the tongue [Jermin].

All speech that does not commence upon the solidities of truth is unsubstantial as a dream, the multitude of words only making the disordered mixture more bewildering.

The fool's prayer is composed of—trifles—meaningless and unreal.


Verses 4-7

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Ecc . Before the angel] The representative of God in the Temple, i.e., the priest. Or it may be taken literally, as expressing the early belief of mankind that angels are invisible witnesses to our conduct, especially in God's house. (1Co 11:10).

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

RELIGIOUS TRIFLERS

There are some who do not distinctly oppose religion. They regard it, in some sense, necessary to them, and therefore observe its outward forms. But they are lacking in depth and serious purpose. They are but religious triflers. We have here the chief features of their character.

I. They are Forward in Offers of Service. (Ecc .) Reference is here made to vows, which easily enhance a man's reputation for piety; and which fools, without due consideration, are ever ready to make. Want of seriousness leads to this irreverent trifling. Of these thoughtless religionists, we are taught,

1. That they are ever ready to make promises of stricter and more enlarged service. They would not lag behind the most ardent piety, and therefore declare their willingness to increase the bonds of obligation. In the time of peril, or when they desire some special good, they are ready to make the most solemn vows. But,

2. They fail when the demand of duty is made. In the powerful feelings of the time the largest promises are made, but they fail to fulfil their pious resolutions. They do not pay their vows. This arises

(1) From indolence and lack of spiritual vigour. They have not sufficient moral strength to carry on their purpose to the right issue. They have no abiding principle—hence energy fails. It sometimes arises

(2) From avarice. They soon discover that in an unguarded moment they promised too much, and imagine that God can be put off with less. The strong feeling has cooled, and the sober fact of duty affrights them.

3. They are in a worse moral position than if the offer of service had never been made. (Ecc .) To have omitted to vow at all was no sin. God is satisfied with a steady service, an even, constant devotion. But to over-estimate our moral strength only lands us upon new difficulties.

II. They are the Victims of Unreality.

1. They are deceived by words. (Ecc .) They mistake words for things, the symbol of thought for the substance of it. Words are easily uttered, but when they are unreal, they lead the soul into a snare. How many are the victims of mere phrases!

2. They are morally corrupted by words. (Ecc .) The mouth brings sin upon the flesh. The tongue has corrupted the whole man. Language reacts upon thought and feeling, and the habit of uttering hollow words only deepens the vain shadow in which such are walking.

3. They are altogether the slaves of imagination. (Ecc .) Their words are but the flimsy and vanishing elements of a dream. Men of dreamy minds are unfit for the sober, and often prosaical, duties of life.

III. They are Cunning to Invent Excuses. When the hour arrives for performing the vow, they are ready with plausible excuses.

1. The plea of infirmity. They urge that the vow was, after all, a mistake. It was simply "an error." (Ecc .) The service was never really intended, but thoughtlessly promised in some sudden rush of feeling. Thus they excuse their forwardness and disown the obligation.

2. They are bold enough to urge their plea before the representatives of God. They say it before "the angel." (Ecc .) They enter the place of the holy, and before God's appointed witnesses dare to present the plea of infirmity. They try to pass off a culpable rashness for a mere error.

IV. They are Exposed to the Divine Judgment.

1. They provoke the anger of God. He is the God of truth, and can have no pleasure in those whose words are unreal, and whose whole life is a delusion. The religious trifler misuses the gift of speech, employing it in sophistry and evasion. Hence he provokes eternal justice. God is angry at his voice. (Ecc .)

2. Their conduct brings its own punishment. Such conduct must issue in the complete loss of their work. God will destroy it. (Ecc .) Offended justice will reject their impertinent offers of service, and punishment fall upon those deceivers who profane holy things to serve the base uses of hypocrisy.

3. Their punishment can only be averted by the fear of God. (Ecc .) This is the very soul of reverence. The fools—the solemn triflers in the sanctuary of God—must learn this fear, which is "the beginning of wisdom." They must return to seriousness, truth, and reality. They must learn to respect the morality of words—the sacred proprieties of speech. All falsehood and unreality must be destroyed before life can be placed upon a permanent and safe foundation.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . 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. The man who vows to offer a certain prayer at a given hour for all his remaining life, may find it perfectly convenient for the next six months, but not for the next six years. The man who vows to pious uses half the income of the year may be safe, whereas the Jephthah who rashly devotes contingencies over which he has no control may pierce himself through with many sorrows. And 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 his parents, not so much in the stringent precision of a legal document as in the daily forthgoings of a filial mind [Dr. J. Hamilton].

Promises to God should be prudently made, sincerely intended, and speedily fulfilled.

It is safest to allow the standing motives for duty their full operation. The seeking after a new stimulus may expose our piety to peril.

The contemplation of human folly, by the wise, raises the most loathsome images in the mind; how much more with him who is Infinite Wisdom!

Seek to maintain thy baptismal vows, wherein thou hast vows enough [Lange].

Frames of feeling and good words are but, at best, rudimentary virtue, until they are consummated in accomplished duty.

Ecc . It is better to be slow in vowing than to be slow in paying. It is better to deliberate, and to hold long in suspense our doubtful resolution, than to be free and easy in our words, but hard and difficult in our works [Jermin].

By insincerity, or by some rash attempt to attain superior virtue, a man but injures his moral strength, and lowers himself to a position of less advantage.

Better to be satisfied with the ordinary lines of duty, than to run the risk of failure by attempting a more ambitious virtue.

The want of prudence is dangerous to every degree of goodness. Sobriety of mind and sincerity are the only solid foundations for a true life.

Some men cannot be restrained from placing themselves in positions where their folly is rendered conspicuous.

The Lord Jesus has often some severe tests for hasty disciples. How many does the profession of His religion place in a most serious spiritual position; showing them the rising path, yet exposing them to the risk of falling into the greatest depths! Better to remain in darkness, than to neglect to perform our day's-work while we have the light.

Ecc . The mouth causeth the flesh to sin when it promises what the flesh neither can nor will perform [Hansen].

A rash and ungovernable tongue can bring the whole body into bondage.

If we are not careful, our own words may become to us a delusion and a snare.

The tongue so far controls the whole man that, when it is tamed, he may be considered to have well nigh attained perfection.

Some are bold enough to utter the most hollow excuses before the messengers of God, as if they could thus compound for sin.

We must be careful what we reckon as sins of ignorance, lest our sin should remain and we be exposed to judgment.

Nothing in the religious character but what is based upon sincerity and truth can abide. All else shall be swept away by the Divine judgments, as the mountain torrent destroys the foundations of sand.

Ecc . The fear of God is the best remedy against rashness. It instructs us in the lessons of prudence, and keeps alive in us a sense of the danger of insincerity.

The abuse of language has diversified sadly the vanities of life. "Dreams and many words" have led to serious evils. The interests of religious truth have suffered much from the vain imaginations of men—dreamy speculations, and from mere wordy disputes.

The fear of God imparts true sobriety to the religious life, delivering it from vain and fruitless distractions, and empty efforts. The Great Teacher was frequent in censuring those who took up religion too lightly, and who made promises which they were likely to break.


Verse 8-9

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Ecc . In a province] Such being far distant from the seat of government it was more likely that there oppression would be practised by subordinate rulers. Higher than the highest, and there be higher than they. The king is over the oppressive ruler, and over him there is the Supreme and Infinite Power, the King of Kings. They. Principalities and Powers all along the scale, at the summit of which is God.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

THE OPPRESSORS OF MANKIND WAITING FOR THE JUDGMENT

IF man would enjoy true happiness, he must study his duty to society; and abstain from deeds of violence and oppression. Though the dark pages of history, stained with tyranny and injustice, must fill him with sorrow, yet he may be comforted by the conviction that God will, in the end, interfere and redress all wrongs.

I. The Existence of Human Wrongs calls for such an Interference. There have ever been, and still are, social wrongs in the world of appalling magnitude. There is,

1. The tyranny of class over class. The natural temptations of pomp and power are haughty indifference to the evils of those beneath them, and the spirit of cruelty and oppression. Men take advantage of the accidents of position to inflict misery upon others. The power of wealth has been often used to crush the poor. And not alone to the great in high places is this vice to be imputed. Smaller communities, and almost every parish, has its little tyrant. There is,

2. The perversion of Justice. (Ecc .) Under the pretence of administering justice many wrongs have been inflicted. Even laws themselves have often been partial to the more favoured classes, but cruel in their general tendency and effect. The sacred name of justice has been prostituted to serve the basest ends. Tyrants have proceeded to their cruel work with the hypocrisy of loud professions of virtue. There is,

3. The indulgence of the wild passions of human nature. Extreme depravity may, for a time, be held in check by circumstances; but when the occasion arises, the envious flood bursts the bonds which held it, and spreads desolation far and wide. How many fair lands have been despoiled, and unutterable cruelties inflicted, when the loose rein has been given to the depraved passions of human nature!

II. That these Sad Facts of Human History need not excite Surprise. "Marvel not at the matter." (Ecc .) And why?

1. Because the facts of human nature lead us to expect such a condition of things. The evil taint clings to our nature still, however disguised by the outward proprieties of life, or held in check by righteous power. The violence of temptation, conflicting interests—the impulse of ambition and of savage cruelty, still exist, in spite of civilization and the restraints of religion. The facts of human nature remaining, the wise man cannot expect otherwise than that some wrongs shall always exist: history having a tendency to repeat itself in the same sad and weary round.

2. Because the best ordering of human society cannot put an end to every social wrong. Laws may be improved, and the most laudable endeavours made to reduce, and even banish, all the evils that afflict society; still there will be room for much social injustice and oppression. Society can never be made good from the outside. While our natural corruption remains, and the prevalent evil of selfishness, there must be tyranny, oppression, and wrong. The most ardent dreamer of a social millennium must make up his mind to accept the facts of human nature; and the true prophet, gifted with sight into futurity, can, at best, have but a melancholy burden.

III. That during the course of History, God uses Human Authority to mitigate this Condition. There are gradations in human authority—one rank above another. There are high, higher, and highest. (Ecc .) The case is here supposed of an oppressor in a "province," remote from the central and chief authority. This subordinate governor takes advantage of his position to oppress his subjects. But above him there are superior authorities, and the "king" over all. (Ecc 5:9.) Hence those who are wronged may obtain redress, and tardy justice at length come to their aid.

1. Constituted authority stands in the place of God. He reserves the complete and final adjustment of human affairs for Himself; but for the present He makes use of human authority in the government of mankind. Every representative of that authority is "the minister of God." (Rom .) The special form of government is a human ordinance, but government itself is of divine appointment.

2. The gradations of rank in human authority tend to secure the proper carriage of justice. The lesser ruler is responsible to the greater, so that the dread of censure often serves to check those who are inclined to be tyrannical. Divine Providence thus uses the complications of human government to lessen the sum total of social wrongs.

3. The protection of earthly kings is of immense benefit. By the administration of wise laws, they protect the people and maintain peace; they secure for us the fruits of the earth by preserving our fields from invasion. The produce of the land is the source of the real wealth of the nation. It is for the advantage of the authorities themselves to promote the general wealth, for "the king himself is served by the field." (Ecc .) Mankind are bound together by the ties of a common interest, and attain to the best social condition under the protection of wise laws. Hence though there is a heavenly King, the benefits derived from earthly governors are not to be despised.

IV. That when Human History closes, God Himself will Interfere. There will be a personal manifestation of the King who is over all. If earthly authorities will not come to the aid of the oppressed and redress their wrongs, there is One above who will do it.

1. There is a Supreme Authority. Of the highest earthly rulers, it may be said that "there be higher than they." (Ecc .) There is One who has absolute dominion and power, whose throne of justice is raised on eternal foundations, the highest resource of troubled souls, and the ultimate appeal of the oppressed. An earthly king, after all, is but a symbol. His power really resides with his subjects. He is merely clothed with power and authority. But the Heavenly King has power in Himself. Hence his dominion is the only reality of government—the only "everlasting kingdom."

2. Though God promotes the welfare of society by means of earthly governors, yet He has reserved the final adjustment of human affairs for Himself. The best human governments cannot prevent the essential evils of our present state. They can only reach the outward conduct as far as it affects the happiness of society. Human laws cannot touch the question of sin. They cannot enforce the kinder and milder graces of life—those which have the greatest potency to aid human necessity and assuage sorrow. Human justice, in its best estate, is cold and severe; which, though it may command admiration, has no power to melt the heart, or touch the springs of human tenderness. This imperfection cannot go on for ever—the Divine governor must interfere to usher in His perfect kingdom. There are duties of piety and religion with which the Supreme Judge alone can deal. There are moral discrepancies requiring such an adjustment. Here, vice is often prosperous, enjoying the magnificence and splendour of life, while virtue is condemned to the grief of apparent failure. The happiness and misery of this world are not distributed according to the laws of eternal reason and high justice; the wise, the true, and the good, do not in the present state stand in their proper lot. There must be for these a better and a higher place, the lofty vindication of Eternal Justice, a perpetual reward. The oppressors of mankind will have to come to reckoning with the Righteous Judge, and for all the down-trodden and persecuted the Avenger will arise. Lessons,—

1. Be patient under the evils of the present.

2. Have confidence in the justice of the Eternal King.

3. Beware lest thou oppress any: if thou hast done so, seek reconciliation: lest they take their cause to the Supreme Court. (Mat .)

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . In this small province of God's dominions, the good have been persecuted, and justice, at best, but imperfectly rendered. The complaints of the oppressed have passed on from one human governor to another—many still standing to their account. But He who is "higher than they" will interfere, and redress the wrongs of His people, "redeeming their souls from deceit and violence."

Deep knowledge of human nature and history blunts the sense of wonder. He who has the widest experience of mankind comes at length to marvel at nothing.

The nature of evil men is to hate and to oppress. Their deeds need not excite astonishment. The righteous must not think it strange that they have to pass through fiery trials.

Why dost thou marvel that good men are shaken that they may be settled? A tree is not firm in the ground unless the wind do often beat upon it; the very shaking of it doth fasten the root more surely. They are weak that do grow in the warm valley [Seneca].

The righteous soul, who sees the oppression of the poor, and the perverting of justice, opens another eye, fixing it upon one bright spot in the future where the majesty of Eternal Justice will be asserted.

The Heavenly King waits long through the slow rolling of the ages: meantime the world's burden of oppression and wrong grows larger! But the avenger is afoot, and will at length overtake all tyrants.

The Highest is the strong refuge of the persecuted.

Let every man, according to his rank and God's command, do his work with the best industry; other things let him commend to God. Let him be patient and wait for Him who is able to find out and judge the ungodly and unjust. He who cannot lift a great stone, let him leave it lying and lift what he can. Wherefore, when thou seest that kings, princes, and lords misuse their power, that judges and advocates take bribes and allow causes to sink or swim as they can, being wise and sensible, thou wilt think within thyself, God will sometime bring about a better state [Luther].

Ecc . In all grades of society, human subsistence is very much the same. "The profit of the earth is for all; the king himself is served by the field." "What hath the wise man more than the fool?" Even princes are not fed with ambrosia, nor do poets subsist on asphodel. Bread and water, the produce of the flocks and herds, and a few homely vegetables, form the staple of his food who can lay the globe under tribute; and these essentials of healthful existence are within the attainment of ordinary industry [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The great Roman poet has said that, "The Father of mankind Himself hath willed it that the way of cultivating the ground should not be easy." Hence the ingenuity of man has been stimulated to invent the means of subduing the soil. A wise king will, therefore, encourage agriculture and the arts and sciences.

The first of all human occupations is still the foundation of wealth, and the chief promoter of the industrial arts.

Mutual dependence is the law of society. The tiller of the soil spreads the benefits of his labour to all ranks, to the very highest. They, in turn, secure for him the protection of Government.


Verses 10-12

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

THE IMPOTENCE OF WEALTH

Wealth, though it confers great social influence and power, has yet some elements of weakness, and fails when the severest tests are applied.

I. Wealth cannot Satisfy the Desire it Raises. Wealth stimulates desire, and when attained feeds that desire; but not to satisfaction. (Ecc .) The appetite only increases by what it feeds on. The fever of gain only rages the more with the increase of possessions. This insatiable desire of wealth is,

1. Irrational. Reason would teach us that as our wants are satisfied, desire ought to abate. When we have abundance, there should be the repose of contentment. Yet those who have gained great wealth desire more, not because it is wanted, but only to satisfy a restless craving. The undue pursuit of wealth is an infatuation—an untamed passion which has broken away from the control of reason.

2. It shows that the soul is on some wrong track of happiness. That which is a real good to man gives him a pure and a permanent joy. But when the pursuit of an object ends in an unsatisfying result and the rage of tortured desire, the soul has missed the path of true happiness. Riches do not satisfy, and cannot therefore be our chief good.

3. It shows that man is greater than wealth. He may yield himself to the absorbing passion, and worship the assumed majesty of wealth; yet in the lucid intervals of his better reason, he feels that the greatness of his nature refuses thus to be satisfied. And whether he understands the eternal truths of the soul or not, they have nevertheless their operation. He cannot go against the great facts of man's essential life.

II. Wealth has Certain Evils Inseparable from it. (Ecc .)

1. As it increases, fresh channels are opened for its dispersion. The rich man surrounds himself with a numerous train of attendants; who, though they minister to his comfort and ease, multiply his cares and eat up his stores. There are always plenty to spend the most carefully hoarded treasures.

2. Increasing wealth creates artificial wants. Luxury attaches new burdens to a man. He comes more and more under the tyranny of habit. The increased comforts and luxuries that riches procure become at last a necessity of nature. He who lords it over many thus becomes himself a slave. The artificial wants that are created have the force and impetuosity of nature.

3. Wealth, however great, cannot be incorporated with the human soul. A man cannot make his treasures the garniture of his soul. They are altogether outside of him. The owner of great riches, and of all that riches procure, can enjoy no superior advantage than the beholding of them with his eyes. (Ecc .) A man really has only what is within him; all else is uncertain and transitory.

III. Wealth is often gained at the Expense of Real Comfort. The rich man frequently but purchases his state and grandeur by the loss of solid comforts. The many cares of his great riches deprive him of the full benefit of some of nature's most important gifts.

1. He is often deprived of the blessing of sound slumber. (Ecc .) The multitude of cares, with which increased riches fill him, make his mind uneasy and banish sleep. All his riches cannot purchase this blessed gift.

2. He has reason to envy his poorer neighbour. Though he has power to multiply comforts, yet there are simple but important gifts of nature which are beyond his reach. These are often bestowed in abundance upon his humbler brethren. Relieved from complicated cares and anxieties, and prepared by the fatigue of labour, the poor man enjoys sweet sleep. His diet may be precarious; now a liberal, and again a scanty fare, yet his severe duty in the battle of life brings him repose. He may well be envied by pampered wealth seeking refreshing slumber in vain. The blest enjoyment of life is greater than any earthly treasure, and he who depends upon wealth for true happiness must miserably fail.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . When a man begins to amass money, he begins to feed an appetite which nothing can appease, and which his proper food will only render fiercer. To greed there may be "increase," but no increase can ever be "abundance." … Could you transmute the solid earth into a single lump of gold, and drop it into the gaping mouth of Mammon, it would only be a crumb of transient comfort, a restorative enabling him to cry a little louder, Give, give [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The love that burns in holy souls delights to rest in its object in calm and contented repose. But the base love of gain is a torturing passion, for ever uneasy and unsatisfied.

The feverish thirst for gain only rages the more its demand is answered; but all healthful desires are easily satisfied, and give repose and enjoyment to life.

The toils of covetousness know no Sabbath—no healthful relaxation of the strain of life. They hurry their victim onward to some illusive goal which recedes, as they approach it, into a land of vain shadows.

The soul has a capacity altogether infinite, and refuses to be satisfied with the vanishing good of this life.

What is a miser but a poor, tortured, uneasy soul and heart that is always looking after that which it does not possess; it is therefore vanity and wretchedness. If now God gives thee riches, use thy share as thou usest thy share of water, and let the rest flow by thee; if thou dost not do so, thy gathering will be all in vain [Luther].

Ecc . The strongest chain, if it has sufficient length, will snap under the pressure of its own weight. Great riches may become so unwieldy as to ruin the happiness of their possessor.

The menial service and attendance which are at the command of wealth, introduce many complexities into life, and increase the burden of care and vexation.

It is wisely ordered that rank and wealth cannot be entirely selfish. They give employment and the means of subsistence to others.

The river that flows through the estate of the wealthy man cannot be pent up there, but must flow on to enrich other districts.

Great riches and multiplied sources of pleasure do not necessarily give increased capacity for enjoyment. If their owner lacks exquisite taste, and an answering mind, their effective power to raise his happiness is but small.

The spectator of the outward signs of grandeur often derives more real enjoyment than the possessor.

Let a man consider how little he is bettered by prosperity as to those perfections which are chiefly valuable. All the wealth of both the Indies cannot add one cubit to the stature, either of his body or his mind. It can neither better his health, advance his intellectuals, or refine his morals. We see those languish and die, who command the physic and physicians of a whole kingdom. And some are dunces in the midst of libraries, dull and sottish in the very bosom of Athens; and far from wisdom, though they lord it over the wise [South].

A rich man buys a picture or a statue, and he is proud to think that his mansion is adorned with such a famous masterpiece. But a poor man comes and looks at it, and, because he has the æsthetic insight, in a few minutes he is conscious of more astonishment and pleasure than the dull proprietor has experienced in half a century. Or, a rich man lays out a park or a garden, and, except the diversion of planning and remodelling, he has derived from it little enjoyment, but some bright morning a holiday student or a town-pent tourist comes, and when he leaves, he carries with him a freight of life-long recollections.… Such sight-seers, though they leave the canvas on the walls, and the marble in the gallery—though they leave the flowers in the vases, and the trees in the forest; they have carried off the glory and the gladness; their bibulous eyes have drunk a delectation, and all their senses have absorbed a joy for which the owner vainly pays his heavy annual ransom [Dr. J. Hamilton].

Ecc . The refreshing repose which labour brings is often denied to the children of soft indulgence. Hence learn,

1. The limited power of wealth. It cannot purchase what is of the highest value.

2. The humbler conditions of life have some counterbalancing advantages. To the poor man is given that healthy refreshment and repose which his rich neighbour often seeks in vain.

3. How little does our true happiness depend upon the outward!

The walls of gold that keep out famine cannot bar the passage of the tormenting spirits of restlessness and anxious care.

The unequal distribution of human happiness is more apparent than real. The humblest plodder in the obscurest condition of life has his special advantages and consolations. Providence has wonderful compensations.

If the poor could get a taste of opulence, it would reveal to them strange luxuries in lowliness. Fevered with late hours and false excitement, or scared by visions, the righteous recompense of gluttonous excess, or with breath suppressed and palpitating heart listing the fancied footsteps of the robber, grandeur often pays a nightly penance for the triumph of the day [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The most precious things of life are beyond the power of wealth to purchase. Like wisdom, sleep is the gift of God.

The worshippers of Mammon must submit to a most heartless tyranny—worn down by severe and restless service, and no solid reward to crown the end.

He who takes a thoughtful and sober view of human life will strengthen his sense of contentment, and abate the fires of envy.


Verses 13-17

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Ecc . To their hurt] Inasmuch as they, at length, lose those possessions (Ecc 5:14). The owner is more unhappy than if he had never possessed at all.

Ecc . Eateth in darkness] A spirit of melancholy darkening the whole life.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

THE MISERIES OF HIM WHO SURVIVES THE WRECK OF HIS FORTUNES

"There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. But those riches perish by evil travail, and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand. As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness."—Ecc .

In these reflections upon the vanity of riches, the Royal Preacher is supposing the case of one who has no internal consolations. When riches are flown, how is it with such a man?

I. He is placed in a Worse Position than if He had never been Prosperous. (Ecc .)

1. There is the painful sense of failure. He rejoiced in his treasures, made them his stronghold and boast; but now they have perished, and he is left without defence. The results of his labour and anxieties are lost. What he had lived for is now vanished from him. He is oppressed with the distress of failure.

2. There are the sorrows of memory. The remembrance of the past deepens the gloom of the present and turns it into pain. It is an unspeakable sorrow for a man to be forced to look at his greatness and prosperity only through the aid of memory and long reflections. Riches, when they have departed, are not absolutely hidden in the buried past. The memory of them arises to hurt and afflict the mind. How can a man in the land of poverty, where he is a stranger and an exile, sing the song of prosperity? He must hang his harp upon the willows, and weep the tears of memory.

3. There is the oppressive feeling of impotency to satisfy his ambitious desires. When he possessed wealth, he formed bright designs for the future which that wealth could accomplish. Reckoning upon the stability of his riches, he thought to build up his house; and, through the flourishing generations of his family, transmit his splendour and magnificence to posterity. But now the time has come when his favourite child is there, but no splendid mansion is for him. The heir is present, but the heritage has gone. (Ecc .) There is a sense of departed power which is altogether overwhelming, and which is unknown to those who never possessed it. To be unable to perform what was once easily within our power is vexation and sorrow.

II. He is brought Face to Face with the most Solemn Aspects of Life. If we direct our attention to the two extremes of human life, we are made to front facts of dread solemnity. Our utter nakedness, both upon our arrival here and our departure hence, is one of the saddest facts of existence. (Ecc .) Death strips us of all our time-garments, and we go naked into eternity. Thus the grandeur of the world is but a vain show—the passing shadow of a cloud! This solemn truth is forgotten in the excitement of pleasure, quite inaudible amidst the tumult of the passions. But when a man is stripped of his fortune, the solemn facts of life assert themselves and he is forced to listen to their voice.

1. How near are the fountains of sorrow! In the midst of worldly enjoyments, if men only reflected deeply upon the solemn aspects of existence, how soon would the heart heave with emotion! The fairest pleasures of the world are but hastily snatched from the borders of misery and pain.

2. What a teacher is adversity—imparting a due solemnity to the mind! Affliction gains audience for truths which failed to secure a hearing in the time of prosperity. Death is indeed the great teacher, opening the eyes of man upon the higher mysteries; yet death is only the completion of that entire stripping of all earthly possessions which process adversity had begun.

3. How great the folly of trusting in wealth! It may depart long before us, thus afflicting us with the memory of joys now no longer ours. Or, if it stays, yet we must be rudely torn from it, and go into eternity with nothing in our hand. (Ecc .) It is unwise to put our entire trust in that which must fail us it the last necessity.

III. He becomes a Prey to Melancholy. (Ecc .) All what he trusted and delighted in is gone, and having no inward sources of comfort, a thick gloom settles upon his soul. It may be said of this inward condition,

1. That it darkens for him the scenes of life. There is light on every side, yet the darkness within him spreads itself over the whole scene of his life. The outward world takes the mood of our soul, be it merry or sad. In the gloomy seasons of our temper, it is in vain that nature strives to please. The darkness of the soul can overwhelm the light and glory of the world.

2. That it is moral disease. It is a sorrowful portion—the sickness of the soul. In health, all the bodily organs work together in harmony, and we are not directly conscious of the process. The man is said to be whole. But in disease, one or more organs, by becoming a seat of pain, assert their separate existence. Thus disease is disorder—a want of wholeness. This fact holds strict analogy with moral unsoundness. When some painful truths are forced upon the soul without any countervailing good, it indicates moral disease. In this soul-sickness, there is "sorrow and wrath." There can be no health in the soul when there is no peace.

3. It forebodes the last gloomy days of one who is entirely devoted to the present life. For the soul without the comforts of religion, this darkness is but the shadow of death. Without God, there cannot be the light of joy, truth, and love.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . Wealth is often the ruin of its possessor. Like that king of Cyprus who made himself so rich that he became a tempting spoil, and who, rather than lose his treasures, embarked them in perforated ships; but, wanting courage to draw the plugs, ventured back to land and lost both his money and his life. So a fortune is a great perplexity to its owner, and is no defence in times of danger. And very often, by enabling him to procure all that heart can wish, it pierces him through with many sorrows [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The base love of gain, when long indulged by success, multiplies the snares that will entrap and even fatally injure the soul.

The worshipper of Mammon will in the end be crushed beneath the fall of his idol.

Continued prosperity exposes a man to the vices of luxurious indulgence, neglect of religion, and a foolish confidence in his own greatness.

He whose heart has been bound up with his wealth can ill bear the loss of it. Having no inward resources, his condition is poor indeed. He is cast into the roaring tide of adversity; and he has no courage, strength, or skill, to stem the danger and gain a place of safety.

It is the highest wisdom to seek the true riches, which place a man above the accidents of life.

Ecc . The Lord hath many ways to blast covetous men's idols. He can make use of the injustice and avarice of spoilers and oppressors, the deceitfulness of friends, and the prodigality of children to make their riches perish [Nisbet].

The memory of vanished joys is a bitter draught to those who have no spring of heavenly life and consolation within.

All earthly supports of the heart may soon fail us, and they must fail in the last extremity.

Virtue and knowledge are the best heritage we can leave to our children. In all things else, they may be but the heirs of misery and disappointment.

Riches give a man power to command the service of many, and to summon the ministers of comfort. But how soon may the sceptre be snatched from his hand. His necessities and ambitious desires continue, but the power is gone.

Ecc . At both ends of human life, all social distinctions are levelled.

The hand of death rends away our time-garments. We must leave here, on these shores of life, all the outward circumstances of wealth, and the soul be stripped for her last voyage.

He who by the stroke of adversity is denuded of his fortune, is hereby reminded of that utter desolation to which he shall be brought by the rifling hands of death.

Mental wealth, spiritual character—all that is truly within us, we can take away when we part for ever from the world. But our environment of wealth and grandeur must be left behind.

Alexander the Great is said to have ordered that, as he was carried forth to burial, his hands should "be exposed, that all mankind might see how empty they were."

Adversity clears a man's view of the most solemn and saddest facts of our nature. It is well if we lay them to heart, so that we may be rich in the wealth of immortality when death robs us of the passing treasures of this life.

Seeing that we go away naked, and can carry nothing hence with us, we should look upon nothing as our own; we should be careful to go away clothed with Christ's righteousness, and adorned with His grace, which is the durable riches, which whosoever hath shall not be found naked in death nor after it [Nisbet].

Here, we walk beneath appearances; but in eternity, we must stand forth in our true reality.

Ecc . The thought of the preceding verse is here repeated, but with greater emphasis. The spiritual teachers of mankind find it necessary to repeat great truths.

The covetous man when life is ended is reduced to his first condition; he possesses absolutely nothing.

The riches of selfish and covetous men,

1. Give them anxiety and vexation in life;

2. Forsake them in death;

3. Accuse them before the bar of God.

The labours of man without God have no solid worth—no lasting profit. When at the close of life he looks upon them, he finds that they vanish into thin air. They were but appearances under the hollow image of a form.

If covetous worldlings would commune often with their own hearts, they could not but see their way to be no less unreasonable and unprofitable for attaining to happiness, than if a man would make it the business of his life to gather wind, which cannot be held though it be among his hands, nor can satisfy him though he could hold it [Nisbet].

Ecc . When the power to enjoy is gone, and increasing infirmities produce fretfulness and inward misery, how vain are all the circumstances of wealth and grandeur!

Through the medium of our melancholy feelings, the fairest scenes of life appear to be overspread with gloom, True joy is within. The sun only shines for the happy.

As years roll on, the present world does not grow brighter and more joyous to him who lives entirely for it. Days of darkness await him.

You pass a staiely mansion, and as the powdered menials are closing the shutters of the brilliant room, and you see the sumptuous table spread and the fire-light flashing on vessels of gold and silver, perhaps no pang of envy pricks your bosom, but a glow of gratulation for a moment fills it. Happy people who tread carpets so soft, and who swim through halls so splendid! But, some future day, when the candles are lighted and the curtains drawn in that self-same apartment, it is your lot to be within; and as the invalid owner is wheeled to his place at the table, and as dainties are handed round of which he dares not taste, and as the guests interchange cold courtesy, and all is stiff magnificence and conventional inanity—your fancy cannot help flying off to some humbler spot with which you are more familiar, and "where quiet with contentment makes her home" [Dr. J. Hamilton].

Fretfulness and vexation wait on avarice.


Verses 18-20

CRITICAL NOTES.—

Ecc . He shall not much remember the days of his life] An even joy is diffused through them—they pass smoothly and pleasantly along. Answereth him in the joy of his heart. Answers him by satisfying his desire, and thus prolonging his joy.

MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Ecc

THE GIFTS OF PROVIDENCE—A SOURCE OF SPIRITUAL CULTURE

The plentiful gifts of Providence only serve to develop the depravity of some. They give loose reins to the passions, lead to forgetfulness of God, to fretfulness and despair. But, to the wise, they are a source of spiritual culture. They learn,

I. To Use Them with Cheerfulness. (Ecc .) They do not insult the Creator and Preserver of men by spurning His gifts, or by the voluntary humility of self-inflicted austerities. Their cheerfulness is not the transient rapture of the children of worldly pleasure, but a habit of the soul. It is,

1. The cheerfulness of pious gratitude. The wise and good accept the bounties of this life as from the hands of God. Admiration for the source of all good awakens gratitude, and gratitude becomes a luxury. The joy of pious breasts is thankful, it is a deep and perpetual spring. It is,

2. The cheerfulness of conscious integrity. The wise and good follow the path of duty. They work diligently at the tasks of life, not turned from their calm and steady purpose by a restless ambition, or by grasping avarice. Their joy is not the intemperate sallies of worldly mirth; it is controlled by wisdom, it is generated by the consciousness of duty performed. Conscious rectitude alone gives true and abiding cheerfulness. The world's joy is a vanishing and unsubstantial thing. It is but gilding over a surface of misery which time will soon wear off. It is,

3. The cheerfulness arising from the possession of a high purpose. No man can have any deep and essential joy who is not conscious of possessing some high purpose in life. To him who can live above and beyond the world, who has higher aims than men around him, life becomes a sacred thing. The joy of his soul is invigorated by the imperial air of a better country. Feeling that his purpose is true and sublime, he has a sense of kinship with the most exalted ranks of God's servants. They learn,

II. To Enjoy Them with Contentment. (Ecc .) Whether their lot in life be poor and humble, or wealthy and distinguished, they take it as their portion, and rejoice in it as the gift of God. (Ecc 5:19.) They are content with the appointments of Providence.

1. Because they are marked by Supreme wisdom. It is impotent and vain to rebel against our appointed portion in life, and to challenge the wisdom of Divine Providence. We are not proper judges of what is best for us, and our highest wisdom is to do our duty in that state to which we are called. The belief that the plan of our life is a Divine idea is the soul of contentment.

2. Because there are evils attendant on every condition of life. Both poverty and riches have their own peculiar evils and temptations. It is difficult to say what, on the balance, is the social condition most to be desired. Without Divine help, any condition of life must lead to fretfulness, vexation, and misery. But if God is acknowledged, and His gifts received with thankfulness, poverty is sweetened, and riches are enjoyed with moderation and prevented from becoming a vain confidence for the soul. When God is served with a willing mind, the evils of every condition are mitigated.

3. Because the present arrangements of Providence are not final. The outward conditions of men are not in accordance with their mental or spiritual characters. Great souls here are not always surrounded by the trappings of wealth, nor invested with the importance of station. But though the good man may feel that his present state is out of frame with Eternal Justice, he accepts the allotment of Providence with resignation, does his duty, and waits for the end. He who can look beyond the present life, and see the ultimate triumph of goodness and truth, easily learns the lesson of contentment with his portion in this world. The heir of immortality can wait in patience and hope for his full investiture and recognition. They learn,

III. That Piety is the Secret of True Happiness. (Ecc .) Human life has many miseries for the poor, the rich have many cares; all have to bear some portion of the load of trouble. But there are Divine consolations. There is a way of happiness whose secret must be caught from Heaven.

1. Help granted in answer to prayer. The godly man feels that he has no native ability to do the work of life well, to overcome its temptations, and to bear its trials. Weak and helpless, he goes to prayer, and rises strong and full of hope. He draws a joy from above which abides with him through all the changes of life.

2. A life of inward peace is the gift of God to the good. They only have peace who have righteousness. He who is conscious that he has well discharged his duty by Divine help, and with a sublime motive, inherits the blessing of a deep and settled peace. He does "not much remember the days of his life," it flows so smoothly on. A constant joy in the breast alleviates the sorrows of memory, and the impressions of the sharpest trials are worn down by a sense of the infinite goodness of God, and of the precious hopes inspired by religion.

3. God alone can satisfy man's deepest want. That deepest want is not happiness merely, but peace. We want a refuge from the upbraidings of the past, and the evil forebodings of the future. We want all thoughts and feelings resolved in one direction, and made to minister to one great aim and purpose of life. Then the soul rests truly in God. Peace gives the hand to true contentment, dwelling in the same breast. Then there is no discord between our desires and our outward lot; no discord between our affections and our mind; no painful doubts of the rectitude of God's dealings. The scenes of life, however diversified by joy or sorrow, are turned for the pious into the school of religion where the spirit of man is fitted to be advanced to immortality.

SUGGESTIVE COMMENTS ON THE VERSES

Ecc . The good things of this life should be the means of rational enjoyment, not the object of a grasping avarice.

There are some who rest in the present world, making it their chief end, and the highest object of the mind and heart. But the wise have made a better choice, passing through the world with higher aims and aspirations, yet tasting with gratitude the pleasures provided by the way.

The practical recognition of God imparts a beauty to the most common actions of human life.

The covetous man pursues wealth with such insane devotion that he shuts out all true happiness. It is folly to allow our labour to degenerate into a heartless slavery so as to leave no room for the wise enjoyment of the fruits of it.

Thankfully to use and enjoy the portion appointed by Providence is the easiest recompense we can render to heaven.

It was a sultry day, and an avaricious old man who had hoarded up a large amount, was toiling away and wasting his little remaining strength, when a heavenly apparition stood before him. "I am Solomon," it said, with a friendly voice; "what are you doing?" "If you are Solomon," answered the old man, "how can you ask? When I was young you sent me to the ant, and told me to consider her ways; and from her I learned to be industrious and gather stores." "You have only half learned your lesson," replied the spirit; "go once more to the ant, and learn to rest the winter of your years and enjoy your collected treasures" [Lessing's Fables].

Ecc . Religion does not prohibit the acquirement of wealth, but teaches how it may best be enjoyed and bestowed.

He who has wisdom with his riches guides himself between the two extremes of avarice and prodigality.

The acknowledgment of God in the plentiful gifts of His Providence prevents them from becoming a snare.

The adoration of the Highest—the spiritual vision of the Supremely Good One, preserves the soul from all degrading worship. He who acknowledges the Giver will not make His gifts the occasion of idolatry.

As men's wealth and riches are God's gifts, so the power to use these for strengthening them in His service is a second gift; and wisdom to take their own due portion, neither depriving themselves of their own allowance, nor others to whom they are bound to give a part of theirs, is a third gift. And the grace to comfort themselves in so doing is a fourth. And so the Lord should be acknowledged and depended upon for our daily bread, for our appetite after it, for the heart to take and use it, for wisdom and grace to take neither more nor less than our allowance of it, and to take that cheerfully [Nisbet].

A wise man enjoys wealth by a thankful use of it himself—by making it a channel of good to others—by turning it into a means of self culture and improvement. It is a great favour of Providence when God gives both wealth and large-heartedness.

Ecc . The way to sweeten man's short and sorrowful life, to banish the sad thoughts of by-past crosses, and the fearful forecasting of future, is much correspondence with God, frequent prayer for refreshment from Heaven, and taking every comfortable passage of Scripture or Providence, which cheers the heart in God's service, for a joyful answer from God [Nisbet].

Prayer heals the sorrows of memory, lays the ruggedness of life even, and draws down from heaven a perpetual joy.

The attention of the wise man is not directed too much towards himself. He looks to God and to duty, not fretting nor worrying himself concerning the rest. No man can be healthy who is always thinking about his own health.

The sorrows of the past are perpetuated by handing them over to the care of memory. All our philosophy cannot banish them. But when a superior joy takes possession of our breast, they cease to torment. The old feeling is overwhelmed by the new.

The joy of God in the heart is a light which transfigures the whole scene of life, and makes it a more blessed and diviner thing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 5:4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/phc/ecclesiastes-5.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.

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Thursday, December 5th, 2019
the First Week of Advent
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