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Nave's Topical Bible - Church; Death; Thompson Chain Reference - Dying; Life-Death; Man; Memory-Oblivion; Oblivion; Wicked, the; The Topic Concordance - Vanity;
Verse Ecclesiastes 8:10. Who had come and gone from the place of the holy — The place of the holy is the sacred office which they held, anointed either as kings or priests to God; and, not having fulfilled the holy office in a holy way, have been carried to their graves without lamentation, and lie among the dead without remembrance.
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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1832.
Compromise, despair and joy (8:1-17)
Wisdom helps people see the underlying meaning of things and teaches them that to act with pleasantness is better than to act with harshness (8:1). If, for example, people work in the king’s palace, they will do what the king says, partly because they have sworn before God to be obedient and partly because they will be punished if they disobey. But if they find the king’s command unreasonable, wisdom will show them a way out. They will wait for a suitable opportunity to act, then act in such a way that, though they do not disobey the king, neither do they sin against their conscience (2-5).
Despite the compromise he recommends, the writer knows that people remain uneasy about the outcome and about the future in general. They know they have no control over life or death. Just as there is no escape from a battle, so there is no guaranteed success to wrongdoers (6-8).
Often there appears to be no principle of justice at work in the world. The wicked go unpunished and, even when they are dead and buried, people still praise them for their achievements in life (9-10). It seems that this lack of punishment encourages people to sin (11-12a). The writer knows what the traditional teachers say: that those who fear God will be rewarded and those who are wicked will be punished (12b-13). But he also knows that often the opposite is true (14). People should not despair over these problems, but rather enjoy whatever God has given them in life (15). They should not spend weary days and sleepless nights puzzling over problems to which only God knows the answer (16-17).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2005.
i. e., “I saw wicked (rulers) buried, who came into the world and went from the Holy place (the seat of authority and justice, Deuteronomy 19:17; 2 Chronicles 19:6), and they were forgotten in the city where they had so ruled to the hurt of their subjects: this - their death and oblivion - shews their lot also to be vanity.” Others interpret the verse: “I have seen wicked men buried; and (others) came into the world, and from the Holy place they went out of the world, and were forgotten in the city where they had done rightly” (compare 2 Kings 7:9).
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Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1870.
Who is as the wise man? and who knows the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom makes his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed. I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the word of the king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What are you doing? ( Ecclesiastes 8:1-4 )
The king stands as the authority. You can't really come to the king and say, "Hey, what are you doing?" And the same is true of God. Paul said, "Who are you to say unto Him that has created you, 'Why hast Thou made me thus?'" ( Romans 9:20 ) The sovereignty of the king, which also speaks to the sovereignty of God.
Whoso keeps the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerns both time and judgment. Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be? ( Ecclesiastes 8:5-7 )
So you don't really know what's going to be, when it's going to be. The future is so uncertain.
There is no man that has power over his spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it ( Ecclesiastes 8:8 ).
No man has any power over the spirit. When the time comes for you to die, you don't have any power over your spirit to retain it, to cause your spirit to remain. No power in death. The only one who really did exercise that kind of power over his spirit was Jesus Christ. When on the cross, it said, "He bowed his head and dismissed His Spirit" ( John 19:30 ). He had earlier said unto them, "No man takes My life from Me, I give My life" ( John 10:18 ). In order to keep with what He said, "No man takes My life," when He was hanging there on the cross after He cried, "It is finished" ( John 19:30 ), "Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit" ( Luke 23:46 ), He bowed His head, and it said, "And He dismissed His Spirit." He said, "Okay, you can go now." And He died. He had power over His Spirit to dismiss it. We don't have that power.
All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man rules over another to his own hurt. And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity ( Ecclesiastes 8:9-10 ).
I see life moving on. People are soon forgotten after they die. Life is empty.
Now because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil ( Ecclesiastes 8:11 ).
One of the common mistakes that people make is that of misinterpreting the nature of God. One aspect of God's nature is His tremendous patience with rebelling man. God is exceedingly long-suffering. God puts up with so much. He doesn't strike immediately, but oftentimes forestalls judgment for months, for years. And thus, it appears that the evil man is getting away with his evil actions, his evil deeds. And people begin to misinterpret the long-suffering of God. Because He doesn't execute His sentence speedily, because He doesn't immediately come down to the fist of judgment upon a man, a man many times thinks he's getting away with his evil. Thinks he has put one over on God. Thinks that he has been clever and has hid his sin from God, or worse yet, thinks that God is condoning what he has done. Because I'm still blessed and I'm prosperous. "I'm a prosperous cheat, so God is condoning my cheating. It doesn't matter to God that I cheat. It doesn't matter to God that I lie or I steal or whatever because look, I'm blessed. It doesn't matter to God that I'm living an immoral life, because look at all that I have." And people begin to misinterpret God's grace and God's long suffering as God's approbation for their actions and for their lives. Not so. That's a fatal mistake to make. God does know. God does see. God does care. God will judge. But because God doesn't judge immediately, because the sentence of God isn't executed speedily, because God is giving you opportunity to turn, God is giving you opportunity to repent, God is giving you the opportunity to come out of your sin and to be saved and He's very patient with you. God's not willing that any should perish but that all should come into repentance. You see, the real delay in the return of Jesus Christ is just God's unwillingness that men should perish.
As Peter is talking about the second coming of the Lord, he said, "Hey, in the last days there are going to be scoffers that are going to come saying, 'Where is the promise of Jesus coming again? They've been talking about that for years. He hasn't come and He's not going to come. Things just continue as they were from the beginning.'" But Peter said, "God isn't slack concerning His promises, as some men count slackness, but He's faithful to usward. But He is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" ( 2 Peter 3:9 ). Therefore, consider ye actually this time as God's patience in order that men might be saved.
So, because God has waited so long, because God hasn't speedily executed His sentence against the evil, people begin to assume that God has just withdrawn Himself. That Jesus isn't coming again. That all of the talk of the rapture of the church and the return of Jesus Christ is just piped dreams, a misinterpretation of scriptures. And they begin to make fun of the return of Jesus Christ. They begin to scoff at it, even as Peter said they would. It's because they are misinterpreting the patience of God waiting for men to be saved, because God is not willing that any should perish. So God is very kind. He's very loving. He's very patient. He's very long-suffering. He's giving you chance after chance after chance. But it is tragic when people misinterpret God's patience and God's kindness. And thus, they give their hearts over to evil because they think that God is too remote to care. "It doesn't really matter to God how I live. God doesn't really know." And they give their hearts and their lives over to evil to live an evil life. That is a tragic, fatal mistake of misinterpreting God's grace and God's goodness to you.
Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ),
Remember he was talking about how he saw that the ungodly man was living a long life, the righteous were dying young and the ungodly were living long. So, "Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged,"
yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him ( Ecclesiastes 8:12 ):
Now, in the end the best life is the life of fearing God, walking with God. Fear of the Lord is to depart from evil. So I know that in the long run that life is the best. It's going to be well with the man who has departed from evil.
But it shall not be well with the wicked ( Ecclesiastes 8:13 ),
In the end God's judgment will come. You can't escape it. God's judgment will come, and thus, I surely know it will be well with those that fear God. "But it shall not be well with the wicked."
neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he fears not before God. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happens according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happens according to the work of the righteous: so I said that this also is vanity ( Ecclesiastes 8:13-14 ).
Things happen to both good and evil men. Same kind of experiences to both. A righteous man gets cancer; an unrighteous man gets cancer. A righteous man has prospered; an unrighteous man has prospered. Who makes this observation? What happens to one happens to the other. It's emptiness.
Then I commended merriment, because a man hath no better thing ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 )
And this is his human philosophy and human reasoning coming out again. Hey, it's great to be merry because a man has no better thing under the sun. And it's probably true. Under the sun, man, life is just very shallow and you live life in a very shallow level, and
under the sun the best thing to do is just to eat and drink and be merry ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ):
Because man, that's all she wrote. That's the sum of life for you, so you might as well live it up because you're going to be burning after a while. So you know, live it up now. Life under the sun.
for that shall abide with him of his labor the days of his life, which God gives him under the sun ( Ecclesiastes 8:15 ).
Might as well enjoy what you got now, because man, it's going to be tough later.
When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labor to seek it out, yet he shall not find it; yea farther; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it ( Ecclesiastes 8:16-17 ).
A man cannot find out the work of God though you search it out. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Chuck Smith Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2014.
There are two apparent inequities in Ecclesiastes 8:10. First, the wicked get an honorable burial. Second, people soon forget the godly. These verses provide instances of exceptions to the retribution doctrine.
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.
The limitations of Wisdom 8:10-17
Wisdom can enable a person to avoid the king’s wrath (Ecclesiastes 8:2-9), but it cannot enable him or her to understand fully why God deals with people as He does (Ecclesiastes 8:10-17).
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2012.
And so I saw the wicked buried,.... Or "truly" k, verily, as the Targum, this is matter of fact; or "then I saw", as Aben Ezra and others, upon applying his heart to every work; or when be observed particularly wicked magistrates, he took notice that some of them continued in their power until death, and died in their beds, and were carried to their graves in great pomp and state, and interred in a very magnificent manner, when they deserved no burial at all, but, as King Jeconiah, to be buried with the burial of an ass;
who had come and gone from the place of the holy; which most understand of the same persons, of wicked magistrates buried, who kept their posts of honour and places of power and authority as long as they lived; and went to and came from the courts of judicature and tribunals of justice, in great state and splendour; where they presided as God's vicegerents, and therefore called the place of the holy, Psalms 82:1; or though they were sometimes deposed, yet they were restored again to their former dignity; or though they died and were buried, yet in a sense rose again in their children that succeeded them, so Aben Ezra: but it seems better to understated it of other persons, and render the, words thus, "and they came, and from the place of the holy", or "the holy place they walked" l; that is, multitudes came to attend the funeral of such rich and mighty men, and walked after or followed the corpse; and ever, the priests and Levites from the temple made a part of the funeral procession, and walked in great solemnity from thence to the place of interment, which was usually without the city;
and they were forgotten in the city where they had done; all their evil deeds were forgotten, their acts of oppression and injustice, as if they had never been done by them. The Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions are, "and they were praised in the city"; panegyrics upon them were written and rehearsed, monuments were erected to their honour, with large encomiums of them; and so it may be read by the change of a letter; and Jarchi says, do not read "forgotten", but "praised"; and so he says it is interpreted by their Rabbins. The whole may be considered in a very different view thus "but then I saw", c. such arbitrary rulers die, and laid in the grave, one after another, and their names have been buried in oblivion, and never remembered more in the city where they have exercised so much power and authority. The latter part of the text is by many understood of good men, and rendered thus, "and" or "but [on the contrary] they were forgotten in the city where they had done right" m their persons and their good deeds were remembered no more; but this seems contrary to Psalms 112:6. The Targum paraphrases the whole thus;
"and in truth I have seen sinners that are buried and destroyed out of the world, from the holy place where the righteous dwell, who go to be burned in hell; and they are forgotten among the inhabitants of the city; and as they have done, it is done to them;''
this [is] also vanity; the pompous funeral of such wicked magistrates.
k ובכן "et vere", Vatablus. l יבאו וממקום קדוש יהלכו "et venerunt, immo ex ipso etiam loco sancti itabant", Rambaschius. m So Piscator, Mercerus, Cocceius, Gejerus, Rambachius.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1999.
|The Evil of Oppressive Rulers.|| |
9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt. 10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity. 11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil. 12 Though a sinner do evil a hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: 13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.
Solomon, in the beginning of the chapter, had warned us against having any thing to do with seditious subjects; here, in these verses, he encourages us, in reference to the mischief of tyrannical and oppressive rulers, such as he had complained of before, Ecclesiastes 3:16; Ecclesiastes 4:1.
1. He had observed many such rulers, Ecclesiastes 8:9; Ecclesiastes 8:9. In the serious views and reviews he had taken of the children of men and their state he had observed that many a time one man rules over another to his hurt; that is, (1.) To the hurt of the ruled (many understand it so); whereas they ought to be God's ministers unto their subjects for their good (Romans 13:14), to administer justice, and to preserve the public peace and order, they use their power for their hurt, to invade their property, encroach upon their liberty, and patronise the acts of injustice. It is sad with a people when those that should protect their religion and rights aim at the destruction of both. (2.) To the hurt of the rulers (so we render it), to their own hurt, to the feeling of their pride and covetousness, the gratifying of their passion and revenge, and so to the filling up of the measure of their sins and the hastening and aggravating of their ruin. Agens agendo repatitur--What hurt men do to others will return, in the end, to their own hurt.
2. He had observed them to prosper and flourish in the abuse of their power (Ecclesiastes 8:10; Ecclesiastes 8:10): I saw those wicked rulers come and go from the place of the holy, go in state to and return in pomp from the place of judicature (which is called the place of the Holy One because the judgment is the Lord's,Deuteronomy 1:17, and he judges among the gods,Psalms 82:1, and is with them in the judgment,2 Chronicles 19:6), and they continued all their days in office, were never reckoned with for their mal-administration, but died in honour and were buried magnificently; their commissions were durante vitâ--during life, and not quamdiu se bene gesserint--during good behaviour. And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done; their wicked practices were not remembered against them to their reproach and infamy when they were gone. Or, rather, it denotes the vanity of their dignity and power, for that is his remark upon it in the close of the verse: This is also vanity. They are proud of their wealth, and power, and honour, because they sit in the place of the holy; but all this cannot secure, (1.) Their bodies from being buried in the dust; I saw them laid in the grave; and their pomp, though it attended them thither, could not descend after them,Psalms 49:17. (2.) Nor their names from being buried in oblivion; for they were forgotten, as if they had never been.
3. He had observed that their prosperity hardened them in their wickedness, Ecclesiastes 8:11; Ecclesiastes 8:11. It is true of all sinners in general, and particularly of wicked rulers, that, because sentence against their evil works is not executed speedily, they think it will never be executed, and therefore they set the law at defiance and their hearts are full in them to do evil; they venture to do so much the more mischief, fetch a greater compass in their wicked designs, and are secure and fearless in it, and commit iniquity with a high hand. Observe, (1.) Sentence is passed against evil works and evil workers by the righteous Judge of heaven and earth, even against the evil works of princes and great men, as well as of inferior persons. (2.) The execution of this sentence is often delayed a great while, and the sinner goes on, not only unpunished, but prosperous and successful. (3.) Impunity hardens sinners in impiety, and the patience of God is shamefully abused by many who, instead of being led by it to repentance, are confirmed by it in their impenitence. (4.) Sinners herein deceive themselves, for, though the sentence be not executed speedily, it will be executed the more severely at last. Vengeance comes slowly, but it comes surely, and wrath is in the mean time treasured up against the day of wrath.
4. He foresaw such an end of all these things as would be sufficient to keep us from quarrelling with the divine Providence upon account of them. He supposes a wicked ruler to do an unjust thing a hundred times, and that yet his punishment is deferred, and God's patience towards him is prolonged, much beyond what was expected, and the days of his power are lengthened out, so that he continues to oppress; yet he intimates that we should not be discouraged. (1.) God's people are certainly a happy people, though they be oppressed: "It shall be well with those that fear God, I say with all those, and those only, who fear before him." Note, [1.] It is the character of God's people that they fear God, have an awe of him upon their hearts and make conscience of their duty to him, and this because they see his eye always upon them and they know it is their concern to approve themselves to him. When they lie at the mercy of proud oppressors they fear God more then they fear them. They do not quarrel with the providence of God, but submit to it. [2.] It is the happiness of all that fear God, that in the worst of times it shall be well with them; their happiness in God's favour cannot be prejudiced, nor their communion with God interrupted, by their troubles; they are in a good case, for they are kept in a good frame under their troubles, and in the end they shall have a blessed deliverance from and an abundant recompence for their troubles. And therefore "surely I know, I know it by the promise of God, and the experience of all the saints, that, however it goes with others, it shall go well with them." All is well that ends well. (2.) Wicked people are certainly a miserable people; though they prosper, and prevail, for a time, the curse is as sure to them as the blessing is to the righteous: It shall not be well with the wicked, as others think it is, who judge by outward appearance, and as they themselves expect it will be; nay, woe to the wicked; it shall be ill with them (Isaiah 3:10; Isaiah 3:11); they shall be reckoned with for all the ill they have done; nothing that befals them shall be really well for them. Nihil potest ad malos pervenire quod prosit, imo nihil quod non noceat--No event can occur to the wicked which will do them good, rather no event which will not do them harm. Seneca. Note, [1.] The wicked man's days are as a shadow, not only uncertain and declining, as all men's days are, but altogether unprofitable. A good man's days have some substance in them; he lives to a good purpose. A wicked man's days are all as a shadow, empty and worthless. [2.] These days shall not be prolonged to what he promised himself; he shall not live out half his days,Psalms 55:23. Though they may be prolonged (Ecclesiastes 8:12; Ecclesiastes 8:12) beyond what others expected, yet his day shall come to fall. He shall fall short of everlasting life, and then his long life on earth will be worth little. [3.] God's great quarrel with wicked people is for their not fearing before him; that is at the bottom of their wickedness, and cuts them off from all happiness.
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Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1706.
The Wicked Man's Life, Funeral, and Epitaph June 13, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity." Ecclesiastes 8:10 .
It is quite certain that there are immense benefits attending our present mode of burial in extra mural cemeteries. It was high time that the dead should be removed from the midst of the living that we should not worship in the midst of corpses, and sit in the Lord's house on the Sabbath, breathing the noxious effluvia of decaying bodies. But when we have said this, we must remember that there are some advantages which we have lost by the removal of the dead, and more especially by the wholesale mode of burial which now seems very likely to become general. We are not so often met by the array of dead. In the midst of our crowded cities we sometimes see the sable hearse bearing the relics of men to their last homes, but the funeral ceremonies are now mostly confined to those sweet sleeping places beyond our walks, where rest the bodies of those who are very dear to us. Now, I believe the sight of a funeral is a very healthful thing for the soul. Whatever harm may come to the body by walking through the vault and the catacomb, the soul can there find much food for contemplation, and much excitement for thought. In the great villages, where some of us were wont to dwell, we remember how when the funeral came now and then, the tolling of the bell preached to all the villagers a better sermon than they had heard in the church for many a day, and we recollect, how as children, we used to cluster around the grave, and look at that which was not so frequent an occurrence in the midst of a rare and spare population; and we remember the solemn thoughts which used to arise even in our young hearts when we heard the words uttered, "Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust." The solemn falling of the few grains of ashes upon the coffin-lid was the sowing of good seed in our hearts. And afterwards, when we have in our childish play climbed over those nettle-bound graves, and seated ourselves upon those mossgrown tombstones, we have had many a lesson preached to us by the dull cold tongue of death, more eloquent than aught we have heard from the lip of living man and more likely to abide with us in after years, but now we see little of death. We have fulfilled Abraham's wish beyond what he desired we "bury the dead out of our sight;" it is rarely that we see them, and a stranger passing through our streets might say, "Do these live always? for I see no funerals amongst the millions of this city, I see no signs of death." We shall this morning want you, first of all, to walk with a living man; it is said of him that he did "come and go from the place of the holy:" next, I shall want you to attend his funeral, and then, in conclusion I shall ask you to assist in writing his epitaph "and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this also is vanity." I. In the first place, HERE IS SOME GOOD COMPANY FOR YOU; some with whom you may walk to the house of God, for it is said of them, that they did come and go from the place of the holy. By this, I think we may understand the place where the righteous meet to worship God. God's house may be called "the place of the holy." Still, if we confine ourselves strictly to the Hebrew, and to the connection, it appears that by the "place of the holy" is intended the judgment-seat the place where the magistrate dispenses justice; and alas! there be some wicked who and go even to the place of judgment, to judge their fellow sinners. And we may with equal propriety consider it in a third sense to represent the pulpit which should be "the place of the holy but we have seen the wicked come and go even from the pulpit, though God had never commanded them to declare his, statutes. In the first place we will take this as representing the house of God. What a sight it is to see the great crowds coming up to the sanctuary of the Lord. I am sure, as we saw the multitudes coming up to the house of God, there must have been a peculiar thrill of joy pass through our hearts. It reminds us of the ancient gathering in Zion's temple when thither the tribes went up, the tribes of the Lord, to worship at the sanctuary of God. Oh! it is a noble sight when with joy and gladness we see the young and the old, the gray-headed and the children, all of them pressing forward in one eager throng to worship the Lord of Hosts, and listen to the voice of his sacred oracle. But your pleasure must have a great deal of alloy if you stop for a moment and dissect the congregation. Pull the goodly mass in sunder: in a heap it sparkles like gold;, pull aside the threads, and alas! you will see that there are some not made of the precious metal, for "we have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy." Gathered in this throng this morning we have here men who almost profane the spot in which they are found. Last night's revel has left its impress upon their countenances. We have others who will, ere this day is closed, be cursing God in the house of Satan. There be many to be found here who have during this week been spending their time in lying, cheating, and swindling in the midst of their business. I doubt not there are some here who have taken every advantage that was possible of their fellow men, and if they have not come within the clutches of the law it certainly has not been their fault. We have too, I doubt not, in such a multitude yea, I may speak with confidence we have men here who have, during the past week, and at other times defiled themselves with sins that we will not mention, for it were a shame for us to speak of the things which are done of them in secret. Little do we know when we look here from this pulpit it looks like one great field of flowers, fair to look upon how many a root of deadly henbane and noxious nightshade groweth here, and though you all look fair and goodly, yet "I have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy." Shall we just take the wicked man's arm and walk with him to the house of God? When he begins to go, if he be one who has neglected going in his childhood, which perhaps is not extremely likely, when he begins to go even in his childhood, or whenever you choose to mention, you will notice that he is not often affected by the sound of the ministry. He goes up to the chapel with flippancy and mirth. He goeth to it as he would to a theater or any other place of amusement, as a means of passing away his Sabbath and killing time. Merrily he trippeth in there, but I have seen the wicked man when he went away look far differently from what he did when he entered. His plumes had been trailed in the dust. As he walks home there is no more flippancy and lightness, for he says, "Surely the Lord God has been in that place and I have been compelled to tremble. I went to scoff but I am obliged, in coming away, to confess that there is a power in religion, and the services of God s house are not all dulness after all." Perhaps you have hoped good of this man. But, alas! he forgot it all, and cast away all his impressions. And he came again the next Sunday, and that time he felt again. Again the arrow of the Lord seemed to stick fast in his heart. But, alas! it was like the rushing of water. There was a mark for a moment, but his heart was soon healed, he felt not the blow; and as for persuading him to salvation, he we, like the deaf adder, "charm we never so wisely," he would not regard us so as to turn from his ways. And I have seen him come and go till years have rolled over his head, and he has still filled his seat, and the minister is still preaching, but in his case preaching in vain. Still are the tears of mercy flowing for him; still are the thunders of justice launched against him; but he abideth just as he was. In him there is no change except this, that now he groweth hard and callous. You do not now hear him say that he trembles under the Word not he. He is like a horse that hath been in the battle, he feareth not the noise of the drum nor the rolling of the smoke, and careth not for the din of the cannon. He cometh up, he heareth a faithfill warning, and he saith, "What of it? this is for the wicked." He heareth an affectionate invitation, and he saith, "Go thy way, when I have a more convenient season I will send for thee." And so he comes and goes up to the house of God and back again. Like the door upon its hinges he turns into the sanctuary to-day, and out of it to-morrow. "He comes and goes from the place of the holy." It may be, however, he goes even further. Almost persuaded to be a Christian by some sermon from a Paul, he trembles at his feet. He thinks he really repents; he unites himself with the Christian church: he makes a profession of religion; but, alas! his heart has never been changed. The sow is washed, but it is the sow still. The dog has been driven from its vomit, but its doggish nature is there the same. The Ethiopian is clothed in a white garment, but he hath not changed his skin. The leopard hath been covered all over, but he hath not washed his spots away. He is the same as ever he was. He goes to the baptismal pool a black sinner, and he comes out of it the same. He goes to the table of the Lord a deceiver; he eats the bread and drinks the wine, and he returns the same. Sacrament after Sacrament passes away. The Holy Eucharist is broken in his presence, he receives it, but he comes and he goes, for he receives it not in the love of it. He is a stranger to vital godliness, and as a wicked man "he comes and he goes from the place of the holy." But is it not a marvellous thing that men should be able to do this? I have sometimes heard a preacher so earnestly put the matter of salvation before men, that I have said, "Surely they must see this." I have heard him plead as though he pleaded for his own life, and I have said, "Surely they must feel this." And I have turned round, and I have seen the handkerchief used to brush away the tear, and I have said, "Good must follow this." You have brought your own friends under the sound of the Word, and you have prayed the whole sermon through that the arrow may reach the white and penetrate the center of the mark, and you said to yourself, "What an appropriate discourse." Still you kept on praying, and you were pleased to see that there was some emotion. You said "Oh, it will touch his heart at last." But is it not strange that, though wooed by love divine, man will not melt; though thundered at by Sinai's own terrific thunderbolts they will not tremble; yea, though Christ himself incarnate in the flesh should preach again, yet would they not regard him, and mayhap would treat him to-day as their parent did but yesterday, when they dragged him out of the city and would have cast him headlong from the summit of the mount on which the city was builded. I have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy till his conscience was seared, as with a hot iron. I have seen him come and go from the place of the holy till he had become harder than the nether millstone, till he was past feeling, given up "to work all manner of uncleanness with greediness." But now we are going to change our journey. Instead of going to the house of God we will go another way. I have seen the wicked go to the place of the holy, that is to the judgment bench. We have had glaring instances even in the criminal calendar of men who have been seen sitting on a judgment bench one day, and in a short time they have been standing at the dock themselves. I have wondered what must be the peculiar feelings of a man who officiates as a judge, knowing that he who judges has been a law-breaker himself. A wicked man, a greedy, lustful, drunken man you know such are to be discovered among petty magistrates. We have known these sit and condemn the drunkard, when, had the world known how they went to bed the night before, they would have said of them, "thou that judgest another doest the same things thyself." There have been instances known of men who have condemned a poor wretch for shooting a rabbit or stealing a few pheasants' eggs, or some enormous crime like that, and they themselves have been robbing the coffers of the bank, embezzling funds to an immense extent, and cheating everybody. How singular they must feel. One would think it must be a very strange emotion that passes over a man when he executes the law upon one which he knows ought to be executed upon himself. And yet, I have seen the wicked come and go from the holy place, until he came to think that his sins were no sins, that the poor must be severely upbraided for their iniquities, that what he called the lower classes must be kept in check, not thinking that there are none so low as those who condemn others whilst they do the same things themselves speaking about checks and barriers, when neither check nor barrier were of any use to himself, talking of curbing others and of judging righteous judgment, when had righteous judgment been carried out to the letter, he would himself have been the prisoner, and not have been honored with a commission from government. Ah! is it not a sight that we may well look at, when we see justice perverted and the law turned upside down by men who "come and go from the place of the holy." But the third case is worse still. "I have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy" that is, the pulpit. If there be a place under high heaven more holy than another, it is the pulpit whence the gospel is preached. This is the Thermophylae of Christendom; here must the great battle be fought between Christ's church and the invading hosts of a wicked world. This is the last vestige of anything sacred that is left to us. We have no altars now; Christ is our altar: but we have a pulpit still left, a place which, when a man entereth, he might well put off his shoes from his feet, for the place whereon he standeth is holy. Consecrated by a Saviour's presence, established by the clearness and the force of an apostle's eloquence, maintained and upheld by the faithfulness and fervor of a succession of Evangelists who, like stars, have marked the era in which they lived, and stamped it with their names, the pulpit is handed down to those of us who occupy it now with a prestige of everything that is great and holy. Yet I have seen the wicked come and go from it. Alas! if there be a sinner that is hardened, it is the man that sins and occupies his pulpit. We have heard of such a man living in the commission of the foulest sins, and at length has been discovered; and yet such is the filthiness of mankind, that when he began to preach to the people again, they clustered round the beast for the mere sake of hearing what he would say to them. We have known cases, too, where men, when convicted to their own forehead, have unblushingly persevered in proclaiming a gospel which their lives denied. And perhaps these are the hardest of all sinners to deal with!. But if the garment be once defiled, away with all thoughts of the pulpit then. He must be clean who ministers at the altar. Every saint must be holy, but he, holiest of all, who seeks to serve his God. Yet, we must mourn to say it, the church of God every now and then has had a sun that was black instead of white, and a moon that was as a clot of blood, instead of being full of fairness and beauty. Happy the church when God gives her holy ministers; but unhappy the church where wicked men preside. I know ministers to this day, however, who know more about fishing rods than they do about chapters in the Bible; more about fox-hounds than about hunting after men's souls; who understand a great deal more of the spring and the net than they do of the net for catching souls, or earnest exhortations for men to flee from the wrath to come. We know such even now: still uproarious at a farmer's dinner, still the very loudest to give the toast and clash the glass, still mightiest among the mighty found, of the gay, the wild, and the dissolute. Pity on the church that still allows it! Happy the day when all such persons shall be purged from the pulpit; then shall it stand forth "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners." "I have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy." II. And now WE ARE GOING TO HIS FUNERAL. I shall want you to attend it. You need not be particular about having on a hat band, or being arrayed in garments of mourning It does not signify for the wretch we are going to bury. There is no need for any very great outward signs of mourning, for he will be forgotten even in the city where he hath done this: therefore we need not particularly mourn for him. Let us first go to the funeral and look at the outward ceremonial. We will suppose one or two cases. There is a man who has come and gone from the place of the holy. He has made a very blazing profession. He has been a county magistrate. Now, do you see what a stir is made about his poor bones? There is the hearse covered with plumes, and there follows a long string of carriages. The country people stare to see such a long train of carriages coming to follow one poor worm to its resting-place. What pomp! what grandeur! See how the place of worship is hung with black. There seems to be intense mourning made over this man. Will you just think of it for a minute, and who are they mourning for? A hypocrite! Whom is all this pomp for? For one who was a wicked man, a man who made a pretension of religion, a man who judged others, and who ought to have been condemned himself. All this pomp for putrid clay; and what is it more or better than that? When such a man dies, ought he not to be buried with the burial of an ass? Let him be drawn and dragged from the gates of the city. What has he to do with pomp? At the head of the mournful cavalcade is Beelzebub, leading the procession, and, looking back with twinkling eye, and leer of malicious joy, says, "Here is fine pomp to conduct a soul to hell with!" Ah! plumes and hearse for the man who is being conducted to his last abode in Tophet! A string of carriages to do honor to the man whom God hath cursed in life and cursed in death, for the hope of the hypocrite is evermore an accursed one. And a bell is ringing, and the clergyman is reading the funeral service, and is burying the man "in sure and certain hope." Oh! what a laugh rings up from somewhere a little lower down than the grave! "In sure and certain hope," says Satan, "ha! ha! your sure and certain hope is folly indeed. Trust to a bubble, and hope to fly to the stars; trust to the wild winds, that they shall conduct you safely to heaven, but trust to such a hope as that, and thou art a madman indeed." Oh! if we judged rightly, when a hypocrite died, we should do him no honor. If men could but see a little deeper than the skin, and read the thoughts of the heart, they would not patronize this great, black lie, and lead a long string of carriages through the streets; they would say, "No, the man was good for nothing, he was the outward skin without the life, he professed to be what he was not, he lived the scornful life of a deceiver; let him have the burial of Jeconiah; let him not have a funeral at all; let him be cast away as loathsome carrion, for that is all he is." Ah! when a godly man dies, ye may make lamentation over him, ye may well carry him with solemn pomp unto his grave, for there is an odour in his bones, there is a sweet savor about him that even God delighteth in, for "precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." But the gilded hypocrite, the varnished deceiver, the well accoutred wolf in sheeps' clothing away with pomp for him! Why should men bewail him? They do not do it, why should they pretend to do so, then, and give the outward semblance of a grief, where they feel none? But possibly I may have seen the wicked man buried in a more quiet way. He is taken quietly to his tomb with as little pomp as possible, and he is with all decency and solemnity interred in the grave. And now listen to the minister. If he is a man of God, when he buries such a man as he ought to be buried, you do not hear a solitary word about the character of the deceased; you hear nothing at all about any hopes of everlasting life. He is put into his grave. The minister well remembers how he did "come and go from the place of the holy," he recollects full well how he used to sit in the gallery and listen to his discourse. And there is one who weeps; and the minister stands there and weeps too, to think how all his labor has been lost, and one of his hearers has been destroyed, and that without hope. But note how cautiously he speaks, even to the wife. He would give her all the hope he could, poor widow as she is, and he speaks very gentle. She says, "I hope my husband is in heaven." He holds his tongue; he is very silent; if he is of a sympathetic nature he will be quiet. And when he speaks about the deceased in his next Sunday's sermon, if he mentions him at all he refers to him as a doubtful case, he uses him rather as a beacon than as an example, and bids other men beware how they presume to waste their opportunities, and let the golden hours of their Sabbath-day roll by disregarded. "I have seen the wicked buried who have come and gone from the place of the holy." As for the pompous funeral, that was ludicrous. A man might almost laugh to see the folly of honoring the man who deserved to be dishonored, but as for the still and silent and truthful funeral, how sad it is! But brethren, after all, we ought to judge ourselves very much in the light of our funerals. That is the way we judge other things. Look at your fields to-morrow. There is the flaunting poppy, and there by the hedge-rows are many flowers that lift their heads to the sun. Judging them by their leaf you might prefer them to the sober coloured wheat. But wait until the funeral. Then the poppy shall be gathered and the weeds shall be bound up in a bundle to be burned gathered into a heap in the field to be consumed, to be made into manure for the soil. But see the funeral of the wheat. What a magnificent funeral has the wheat-sheaf "Harvest home" is shouted as it is carried to the garner, for it is a precious thing. Even so let each of us so live, as considering that we must die. Oh! I would desire to live that when I leave this mortal state, men may say, "There is one gone who sought to make the world better. However rough his efforts might have been, he was an honest man; he sought to serve God, and there lies he that feared not the face of man." I would have every Christian seek to win such a funeral as this a funeral like Stephen's: "And devout men carried him to his sepulcher, and made great lamentation over him." I remember the funeral of one pastor I attended it. Many ministers of the gospel walked behind the coffin to attend their brother, and pay honor to him. And then came a ton of the church, every one of whom wept as if they had lost a father. And I remember the solemn sermon that was preached in the chapel all hung with black, when all of us wept because a great man had fallen that day in Israel. We felt that a prince had been taken from us and we all said, like Elijah's servant, "My father, my father, the horses of Israel and the chariots thereof." But I have seen the wicked buried that have come and gone from the place of the holy, and I saw nothing of this sort. I saw a flickering kind of sorrow, like the dying of a wick that is almost consumed. I saw that those who paid a decent respect to the corpse did it for the widow's sake, and for the sake of them that were left behind; but if they could have dealt with the corpse as their nature seemed to dictate, they ought to have dealt with the man when living, they would have said, "Let him be buried at the dead of night; let him have some unhallowed corner in the churchyard where the nettle long has grown; let the frog croak o'er his tomb; let the owl make her resting-place o'er his sepulcher, and let her hoot all night long, for hooted he well deserves to be; let no laurel and no cypress grow upon his grave, and let no rose twine itself as a sweet bower around the place where he sleeps; let no cowslip and no lily of the valley deck the grass that covereth him; there let him lie; let not the green sward grow, but let the place be accursed where sleeps the hypocrite, for he deserves it, and even so let it be." "I have seen the wicked buried who have come and gone from the place of the holy." But there is a sad thing yet to come. We must look a little deeper than the mere ceremonial of the burial and we shall see that there is a great deal more in some people's coffins besides their corpses. When old Robert Flockart was buried a few weeks ago in Edinburgh, he was buried as I think a Christian minister should be, for his old Bible and hymn book were placed upon the top of the coffin. Had he been a soldier, I suppose he would have had his sword put there; but he had been a Christian soldier, and so they buried with him his Bible and hymn book as his trophies. It was well that such a trophy should be on that coffin; but there is a great deal, as I have said, inside some people's coffins. If we had eyes to see invisible things, and we could break the lid of the hypocrite's coffin, we should see a great deal there. There lie all his hopes. The wicked man may come and go from the place of the holy, but he has no hope of being saved. He thought, because he had attended the place of the holy regularly, therefore he was safe for another world. There lie his hopes, and they are to be buried with him. Of all the frightful things that a man can look upon, the face of a dead hope is the most horrible. A dead child is a pang indeed to a mother's heart; a dead wife or a dead husband, to the heart of the bereaved must be sorrowful indeed; but a coffin full of dead hopes did you ever see such a load of misery carried to the grave as that? Wrapt in the same shroud, there lie all his dead pretensions. When he was here he made a pretension of being respectable; there lies his respect, he shall be a hissing and a reproach for ever. He made a pretension of being sanctified, but the mask is off now, and he stands in all his native blackness. He made pretensions about being God's elect, but his election is discovered now to be a rejection. He thought himself to be clothed in the Saviour's righteousness, but he finds that he justified himself: Christ had never given him his imputed righteousness. And so he sleeps. The tongue that prattled once so pleasantly concerning godliness is now silent. That hypocritical eye that once flashed with the pretended fire of joy it is all now dark, dark. That brain that thought of inventions to deceive the worm shall feed on it. And that heart of his that once throbbed beneath ribs that were scarcely thick enough to hide the transparency of his hypocrisy shall now be devoured by demons. There are dead pretensions inside that rotting skeleton, and dead hopes too. But there is one thing that sleeps with him in his coffin that he had set his heart upon. He had set his heart upon being known after he was gone. He thought surely after he had departed this life, he would be handed down to posterity and be remembered. Now read the text "And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done." There is his hope of fame. Every man likes to live a little longer than his life Englishmen especially for there is scarcely to be found a rock in all England up which even a goat might scarcely climb where there may not be discovered the initials of the names of men, who never had any other mode of attaining to fame, and therefore thought they would inscribe their names there. Go where you will, you find men attempting to be known; and this is the reason why many people write in newspapers, else they never would be known. A hundred little inventions we all of us have for keeping our names going after we are dead. But with the wicked man it is all in vain; he shall be forgotten. He has done nothing to make anybody remember him. Ask the poor; "Do you remember So-and-so?" "Hard master, sir, very. He always cut us down to the last sixpence; and we do not wish to recollect him." Their children won't hear his name; they will forget him entirely. Ask the church, "Do you remember So-and-so? he was a member." "Well," says one, "I remember him certainly, his name was on the books, but we never had his heart. He used to come and go, but I never could talk with him. There was nothing spiritual in him. There was a great deal of sounding bell-metal and brass, but no gold. I never could discover that he had the "root of the matter in him." No one thinks of him, and he will soon be forgotten. The chapel grows old, there comes up another congregation, and somehow or other they talk about the odd deacons that used to be there, who were good and holy men and about the old lady, that used to be so eminently useful in visiting the sick, about the young man who rose out of that church, who was so useful in the cause of God; but you never hear mention made of his name; he is quite forgotten. When he died his name was struck out of the books, he was reported as being dead, and all remembrance of him died with him. I have often noticed how soon wicked things die when the man dies who originated them. Look at Voltaire's philosophy; with all the noise it made in his time where is it now? There is just a little of it lingering, but it seems to have gone. And there was Tom Paine, who did his best to write his name in letters of damnation, and one would think he might have been remembered. But who cares for him now? Except amongst a few, here and there, his name has passed away. And all the names of error, and heresy, and schism, where do they go? You hear about St. Austin to this day, but you never hear about the heretics he attacked. Everybody knows about Athanasius, and how he stood up for the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; but we have almost forgotten the life of Arius, and scarcely ever think of those men who aided and abetted him in his folly. Bad men die out quickly, for the world feels it is a good thing to be rid of them; they are not worth remembering. But the death of a good man, the man who was sincerely a Christian how different is that! And when you see the body of a saint, if he has served God with all his might, how sweet it is to look upon him ah, and to look upon his coffin too, or upon his tomb in after years! Go into Bunhill-fields, and stand by the memorial of John Bunyan, and you will say, "Ah! there lies the head that contained the brain which thought out that wondrous dream of the Pilgrim's Progress from the City of Destruction to the Better land. There lies the finger that wrote those wondrous lines which depict the story of him who came at last to the land Beulah, and waded through the flood, and entered into the celestial city. And there are the eyelids which he once spoke of, when he said, "If I lie in prison until the moss grows on my eyelids, I will never make a promise to withhold from preaching." And there is that bold eye that penetrated the judge, when he said, "If you will let me out of prison to-day, I will preach again to-morrow, by the help of God." And there lies that loving hand that was ever ready to receive into communion all them that loved the Lord Jesus Christ: I love the hand that wrote the book, "Water Baptism no Bar to Christian Communion." I love him for that sake alone, and if he had written nothing else but that, I would say, "John Bunyan, be honored for ever." And there lies the foot that carried him up Snow Hill to go and make peace between a father and a son, in that cold day, which cost him his life. Peace to his ashes Wait, O John Bunyan, till thy Master sends his angel to blow the trumpet and methinks, when the archangel sounds it, he will almost think of thee, and this shall be a part of his joy, that honest John Bunyan, the greatest of all Englishmen, shall rise from his tomb at the blowing of that great trump. You cannot say so of the wicked. What is a wicked man's body but a rotten piece of noisomeness? Put it away, and thank God there are worms to eat such a thing up, and thank him still more, that there is a worm called Time, to eat up the evil influence and the accursed memory, which such a man leaves behind him. All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done." III. We are to WRITE HIS EPITAPH, and his epitaph is contained in these short words: "this also is vanity" And now in a few words I will endeavor to show that it is vanity for a man to come and go from the house of God, and yet have no true religion. If I made up my mind to hate God, to sin against him, and to be lost at last, I would do it thoroughly, out and out. If I had determined to be damned, and had calculated the chances, and made up my mind that it would be better to be cast away for ever, I know there is one thing I would not do, I would not go to the house of God. Why, if I made up my mind to be lost, what is the good of going there to be teared about it? Because, if the man is faithful, he will prick my conscience and wake me up. If I am determined and have made up my mind to be lost, let me go to hell as easily as I can, what need is there that my conscience should be pricked, and this great stone laid in my way to keep me from going there? Besides, I hold that, for a man who has no love for the house of God, regularly to attend because he thinks it is respectable, is just one of the most pitiful kinds of drudgery that can be met with. If I did not love the house of God, I would not go there. If it were not a delight to me to be found in the sanctuary of God, singing of his praise, and hearing of his word, I would stop away. To be seen going to chapel twice on the Sabbath, sitting as God's people sit, rising when they rise, and singing about what you do not feel; hearing that which pricks your conscience, and listening to the reading of promises that do not belong to you; hearing about heaven, that is not yours, being frightened with hell, which is to be yours for ever why, the man is just a born fool that goes to the house of God, except he has got an interest in it. We may commend him for going; it is a respectable thing, perhaps, and right that it should be so but I submit it is an intolerable drudgery to go always to the house of God, if you have made up your mind to be lost. Now, on this man's tomb must be written at last "there was a men who would not serve God, but who had not courage enough to stand out against God. There is a man so silly that he pretended to be religious, and so wicked that he was a hypocrite to his pretensions." Why, although you must deplore a wicked man's wickedness as a fearful crime, yet there is some kind of respect to be paid to the man who is downright honest in it; but not an atom of respect to the man who wants to be a cant and a hypocrite. He wishes, if he can, just to save his neck at last; just as he thinks, to do enough to let him get off free when he comes to lay a-dying; enough to keep his conscience quiet, enough to look respectable; enough as he thinks, when he dies to give him a little chance of entering heaven, though it be, as it were, neck or nothing. Ah, poor thing! Well may we write over him, "This also is vanity!" But, sir, you will be more laughed at for your pretensions than if you had made none. Having professed to be religious, and having pretended to carry it out, you shall have more scorn than if you had came out in your right colors, and have said, "Who is the Lord, that I should fear him? Who is Jehovah, that I should obey his voice?" And now, are there any here who are so wicked as to choose eternal wrath? Have I any here so besotted as to choose destruction? Yes, yes, many; for if to-day, my hearer, thou art choosing sin; if thou art choosing self-righteousness, if thou art choosing pride, or lust, or the pleasures of this world, remember, thou art choosing damnation, for the two things cannot but go together. Sin is the guilt, and hell is the bread beneath it. If you choose sin, you have virtually chosen perdition. Think of this, I beseech you.
"O Lord! do thou the sinner turn! Now rouse him from his senseless state; O let him not thy counsel spurn, Nor rue his fatal choice too late."
May the Lord lead you to Jesus Christ, who is the way, the truth and the life! And when ye are buried, may ye be buried with the righteous, and may your last end be like his!
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8:10". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/spe/ecclesiastes-8.html. 2011.
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29