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In other words God created men for an existence of integrity and uprightness; but they have yielded themselves to many vain and wicked cogitations, totally foreign from the end for which they were created. Probably Solomon was thinking of himself, and of his own vain imaginings, when he uttered the above aphorism. But when individuals become from time to time, sensible of the fact that they are in the track of error, they are not, for that reason, led to abandon it. A strange infatuation seizes the mind, under such circumstances. It seems to have lost the power to emancipate itself, though at times, especially, distinctly conscious that it is being led in the direction of darkness, error, misery and death. Such was the state of our author. He occasionally asserts his own vain delusions, and then goes on to repeat them as before.
The principles of interpretation elucidated in this and the preceding article on this book, will enable the reader, very readily to explain the various aphorisms found in these chapters. So that particular explanations from us, are not necessary. Not a few of the sentiments embodied in these chapters are a mere repetition of thoughts previously uttered. Others are in themselves true and important, while others present the same spirit of dissatisfaction with providence previously manifested. As is ever the case with the reflections of a mind that has wickedly departed from the source of life, truth and error are so blended as to present a striking exemplification of the truth of the declaration of inspired wisdom, the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.” One passage we cite as containing a truth as real and important now, as it was in the days of Solomon.
" Déad flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking evor: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honor."
How often is a character, otherwise " without spot or wrinkle or any such thing,” strangely marred by some blemish which a little folly in some one department of thought, has fixed upon it. How often is a discourse, otherwise fully realizing our ideas of beauty and perfection, almost totally spoiled by some outlandish thought or illustration thrown in, as if for no other purpose than to shock us with a revelation of the want of a sense of fitness on the part of the speaker. To be great in wisdom on some subjects, and as pre-eminent in folly on others, is one of the oft occurring painful develop
ments of humanity. “Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed, lest he fall."
The reader of the book before us, can hardly have falled to notice, that the first chapters of it are pervaded by a thick and impenetrable gloom of doubt, scepticism and dissatisfaction with providence, a gloom intercepted by no rays of light and consolation. As we advance, however, rays of light occasionally intervene, indicating a tendency to a return to a better state of thought and feeling. Such illuminations increase in frequency, till in the last chapter the mind of our author, long tempest-tost on a sea of ubt and darkness,
" Where his wrecked, ponding thought,
At random drove, her beim of reason lost," at length found its resting face again—the only resting place for mind—in the bosom of religion. In the commencement of chapter 11, we have the first decisive indication of permanent return to that blissful spot. It is quite interesting, and may not be unprofitable also to notice the idea, or principle, in the embrace and announcement of which, this return took place. In the preceding chapters we do not recollect to have noticed a solitary sentiment embodying the spirit of benevolence, the idea of going out of self for he accomplishment of the ends pure
and enlarged phila hrophy. "The cordial adoption and annunciation of such pciples as are expressed in verses 1, 2, mark the era of Solomon's return to peace and truth, and to God.
“Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth."
So 6 the Lord turned the captivity of Joh, when he prayed for his friends." 66 We are saved by hope," and the moment the mind begins to breathe the spirit of true benevolence, hope beams upon it. Such was the experience of Solomon. "Cast thy bread upon the waters; for thou shalt find it after
many days.” The phrase "cast thy bread upon the waters," &c., was then a commercial phrase, referring to the act of the mer chantman embarking his wealth upon the ocean, and then after long intervals receiving it again, with vast accumulations. So our author teaches us to cast abroad our substance, in the spirit of enlarged philanthropy, being assured at the same time, that in coming years we shall receive again the fruits of.
our beneficence, with infinite accumulations through the riches of divine grace. The phrase, “Give a portion to seven, and also to eight,” is a form of expression, meaning that our benefactions should be uninterrupted, enlarged, and liberal.
Two reasons are assigned, verse 3 why benevolence should be the ruling principle of our existence. The first is that this is the end for which we were created. The clouds are raised to water the earth, and when filled with rain, they fail not to pour out their treasures upon it. So man was made for benevolence, and should not fail to fulfil his mission. As the tree also, in whatever direction it falls, ever after remains where it fell, and never rises to bear fruit again, so when man dies, all opportunity to perform acts of charity are gone forever. He should therefore “work while it is day.”
* If the clouds be full of rain; they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall towards the south, or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be.”
A very important principle is announced in verses 4–6, to wit, that the individual who simply regards things visible, as the wordly man does, will never find substantial good. Here also we notice a total change of sentiment in respect to the use we should make of the fact that the ways of God are inscrutible to us. Formerly we were urged in view of this fact, to busy ourselves in the present, irrespective of the future. Now we are exhorted in view of the same fact, the author having returned to better views, to a diligent performance of duty under all circumstances, and that with the peaceful hope of good, as the final result.
“He that observeth the winds shall not sow; and he that regardeth the clouds shall not reap. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child; even so thou knowest not the works of God who maketh all. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thine hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good."'.
The aspect of universal nature around us will be to us as the state of our hearts. To the pure in heart, the face of creation, instead of wearing, as it does to a selfish, doubting, sceptical mind, the aspect of universal gloom, beams forth in beauty, gladness, and deep joy. So the mind of our author, emerged from the darkness of selfishness and unbelief, to the light and joy of faith and love, rises with the exclamation, verse 7, "Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is to behold the sun."
16 How beauteous nature now;
How dark and sad before."
But the mind seldom emancipates itself at once from doubt and gloom, such as had settled upon the mind of our author, to light and peace, with the assurance of permanency in that state. It almost involuntarily anticipates a return of the preceding darkness. Hence our author adds, verse 8.
“But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all, yet let him remem. ber the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity,"
Two different explanations have been given of verse 9, “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment."
According to the first explanation, the first part of the verse should be understood ironically; while the last is thrown in to show the absurdity and wickedness of thus living. According to the second, youth are advised to live in conformity to the maxims here stated; while they should remember their final accountability, and so direct and modify their pleasures, that they may finally render their account with joy and not with grief. For ourselves, we are not perfectly satisfied with either of these explanations. In the first part of the verse, we suppose the author to refer to sentiments which he had previously uttered, for the purpose of reminding the young of a solemn truth which he had then denied. His meaning as we suppose, may be thus expressed: I have in darkness and delusion advised the young to surrender themselves, without restraint, to present gratification, irrespective of the future, but now in a better state of mind, and with better views I would remind them of the solemn truth, that for such things "God will bring them into judgment." I would therefore now, advise them not to busy themselves thoughtlessly in present gratification, but to order all their conduct with a wise reference to that great event.
In a course of virtue, and avoidance of sinful indulgence, he therefore advises them verse 10, to remove from their minds all causes of sorrow and regret, and from their bodies all causes of pain. This advice, he urges upon their regard from the fact, that childhood and youth are inclined to pursuits profitless and vain.
• Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy feshe for childhood and youth are vanity."
Chapter 12 may properly be regarded as the bright oasis of
this very singular book. After its long wanderings amid the wild chaos of doubt and moral darkness, and consequent spiritual desolations, the wearied spirit has at length found again its resting place in the ark of truth. The author therefore proceeds, verses 1–7 to urge upon the young an early and settled faith in the truths and principles of religion, confirmed obedience to the will of God, and the assured possession of his friendship and favor. The reasons urged, in these verses, for compliance with such counsels, are drawn mainly from the evils of old age, old age of course, unsupported by the consolations of religion.
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them."
Old age, as the author draws it from his own experience, is a state of unmingled gloom, unrelieved wholly by real bappiness of any kind. The fixed gloom of this state, the author proceeds to disclose by various striking illustrations.
The first illustration is drawn from the gloom and despondency which comes over the mind when men, for long periods are shut in by the storm and tempest which are raging with fearful violence and desolation without. All their possessions are fast going to destruction. Still the darkness and terror continue, and they can not go out to prevent the destruction from going on to its full consummation. For a period which seems almost interminable the light of the sun, of the moon, and of the stars, are darkened, while the clouds seem to wrap the earth in a funeral pall. An occasional opening through the gloom excites the momentary hope, that the storm is about to subside. But instantly the darkness thickens again, the clouds returning after the interval of rain, and the gloom becomes more deep and impenetrable than before. Dwellers in ceiled houses, with farms and possessions little liable to destruction from the “overflowing of the waters," can hardly appreciate the full force of such an illustration. An orientalist however, would feel its power. "While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain."
The next image, or illustration, verses 3, 4, is that of misery endured by individuals in a besieged city or fortress. Many of the defenders have already perished. The enemy is urging forward the siege without, and dire famine is making ravages scarcely less terrible within. All is suspense anxiety and alarm. The watchmen are in a state of perpet