So I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun.
I. CONSIDER WHAT OPPRESSION IS, AND THE MOST STRIKING INSTANCES IN WHICH MEN ARE GUILTY OF IT.
1. It is dealing unjustly or unkindly by a person over whose time, goods, trade, or business the oppressor hath power. It is principally the vice of rich men and superiors, who have power over their workmen, servants, tenants, and other inferiors. But it is not confined to them. The poor often meet with very bad, if not the worst, treatment from those who in station and fortune are very little above them. It is oppression, when men impose what terms they please upon others in commerce and dealings, without regarding what is just and right; when they oblige others to sell their goods under their real value, because they are in necessity; or to give more for a commodity than it is worth, because they cannot do without it. Selling bad and damaged goods to persons who dare not refuse to take them, and yet must lose by them, or not sell them again for a reasonable profit, is another instance of this vice. If a person makes a relation, a neighbour, or dependant, pay dearer for what he buys than his other customers, because he is under particular obligations to buy of him, he is an oppressor. Taking exorbitant interest for money lent, or exchange of bills and cash, on account of men's necessities, is extortion and oppression. Where a person, or a combination of persons, engross the whole of any commodity which is to be sold, in order to make an excessive gain of it, or to injure other tradesmen in the same way of business, this is oppression. Again, to be rigorous in exacting debts or other rights to the very utmost farthing, where poverty, sickness, losses, dear seasons, or a large family render men incapable of paying what they owe; to allow them no time to satisfy their creditors; or to strip them of their all; this is cruelly oppressive. Obliging persons, over whom men have power, to vote or act against their consciences; persecuting, reviling, or even bantering, men for their religious sentiments and worship, is dreadful oppression. In the black list of oppressors must likewise be ranged parents, masters and mistresses of families and schools, who behave cruelly and severely to their children, servants, and scholars. There is likewise great oppression in a haughty, insolent, overbearing way of speaking to inferiors, which is very grating and hurtful to any sensible mind.
II. THE GREAT EVIL AND WICKEDNESS OF IT.
1. It proceeds from a very bad disposition of mind. The principal source of it is covetousness; an inordinate love of the world (Jeremiah 22:17). In some persons the practice of this sin proceeds from pride; to show their authority over others, and to keep them in awe. Hence they treat their inferiors as if they were of a lower species, and not worthy of common justice. This chows a base, ignoble mind (Psalm 63:6-8). In some, it is owing to luxury and extravagance. They are dressed with the spoils of the poor; and their fine houses, equipages, and entertainments are supported by the properties and comforts of others. It is sometimes owing to sloth; because, like drones in the hive, they will not work, they prey upon the labours of the industrious. It is very often owing to resentment, malice, and ill-nature.
2. Oppression is a high ingratitude and affront to the righteous God. It is ingratitude to Him, because He giveth men all their wealth and power over others, and He doth this, not that they may oppress, but protect, relieve, and serve others, and be a blessing to them. It must, therefore, be horrid ingratitude to abuse and pervert these favours to their injury. But what renders it worse is, that He hath bestowed upon men spiritual blessings and Christian privileges, and, therefore, to oppress and injure them must be proportionably wicked. Further, He hath placed men in different circumstances in life; "made both the rich and the poor." He hath allotted to men such conditions here that they need one another's assistance. The rich want the labour of the poor, as the poor want the money of the rich; and God expects that they should help one another, and so contribute to the general happiness. To oppress the poor, then, is defeating the wise and kind design of God's providence.
3. It is detestable inhumanity and cruelty to the oppressed. "A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast." What then must we think of those who are oppressive and cruel to their fellow-men, but that they are utterly void of justice, goodness, and humanity, that they are monsters and not men?
4. It is directly contrary to the design of the Gospel; which is to promote righteousness, love, peace, and happiness upon earth, as well as to secure the eternal salvation of mankind.
5. It will sink men into everlasting ruin. God is a just and righteous Being, and at the judgment-day "He will render to every one according to his works." The Lord seeth and remembereth all the oppression that is done under the sun, and He will at length reckon with those who have done it.APPLICATION.
1. I shall address oppressors; those whose consciences tell them, as in the sight of God, that they have been guilty of this sin in the instances above mentioned or any other. I exhort you, sirs, to hearken to the voice of conscience as the voice of God; to submit to its reproofs; and to be humbled deeply before God for your injustice and cruelty to men.
2. Let me address the oppressed. It may perhaps be the ease of some of you, and I would endeavour to be your comforter. Acknowledge the justice of the Lord in what you suffer from the hand of men. Though they are unrighteous, He is righteous, for you have sinned; and He may choose this method of afflicting you, to lead you to repentance, to exercise your virtues, and make your hearts better. Let me exhort you to guard against a spirit of malice and revenge. Remember that their oppressing you will be no excuse for injustice to them. That "it is no harm to bite the biter" is a very wicked maxim. It is better to suffer many wrongs than to do one. Yea, it is our duty to render good for evil.
3. I would address those who can appeal to a heart-searching God that they are guiltless of this sin. I would exhort you to guard against the love of money, which is the chief root of this evil. To prevent your becoming oppressors, go not to the utmost bounds of things lawful. Keep on the safe side. Be not only just, but honourable, generous, and charitable, and "abstain from the very appearance of evil." Let me exhort you, likewise, to be comforters of the oppressed.
(Job Orton, D. D.)
(T. DeWilt Talmage.)
They had no comforter
I. THE LATENT PAIN. This pain does not leap forth at once. It is a kind of hidden fire: a sort of slumbering force. Students of life should think deeply on this, that pain lies hidden in pleasure. The strangest fact in life is that the measure of joy is often the measure of sorrow. The height of gain is the length of the shadow of loss. The keener our affection, the more bitter our anguish when bereavement comes. The more ardent our pursuit, the more depressing the disappointment in missing the goal. In Jesus Christ our Lord He has offered us a renewed nature and a restful heart. He has given us a Saviour and a Comforter. We need no more. If the latent pain leaps forth, we have an anodyne for sorrow, a perfect absolution for sin, a balm for broken hearts, a brother born for adversity, and beyond the present the glories of immortal life. At our peril we put Christ away. Out in the wide fields of human search we come upon no footprints of another Saviour.
II. THE CHARLATAN COMFORTERS. Yes! there are comforters. We find that men will put the poppy in the pillow when there is no peace in the heart. They seek comfort. Sometimes in quiet retreats, where the scenes of the city life do not haunt them, Nature's floral groves and woodland shadows constitute a veil to hide the weird forms of guilt and shame and sorrow to be met with in crowded centres of life. But past life will there come back to memory, and unforgiven sin will there send its sharp dagger to the heart. Or it may be that freedom from necessity brings comfort, and that superfluity has made the old days of care and struggle only a memory! Now at all events there are no sleepless nights, no battles amid daily anxiety for daily bread, and we sit under the restful shadow of trees planted long ago! Then, too, much looks like comfort, which comes from ease of circumstance, when the couch is of down, and no spectre of anxiety crosses the earthly threshold. But even then there are deep necessities of the soul, if we are dead to things divine.
III. THE FULNESS OF CHRIST. I do not mean merely Divine perfectness in the quantity of sympathy, but, if I may say so, in the quality of it. Nothing is more wonderful than the way in which the weary soul finds sympathy in the Saviour. There is a revelation of grace in Christ which makes Him the complement of each man's nature. Sorrows differ; doubts differ; needs differ; tastes differ; and even the wounds inflicted by bereavement differ. But Christ searches us, and knows us all. And what sweet response comes from hearts that have trusted in Him, as they unite in testifying, "His grace is sufficient for us!" How patiently Christians suffer! How trustfully they rest! How cheerfully they live! How hopefully they die!
IV. THE MISSING GOOD. No comforter! Then who will show us any good? For we cannot unmake ourselves. There is the connection of comfort with conscience. Divine redemption still, as of old, is a necessity of the human heart. Then there is the connection of comfort with character. We are made new creatures in Christ Jesus. We have new motives, new aims, new desires, new sympathies, new relationship to God. Our life is hid with Christ in God — the blessed God: and then peace flows like a river through the heart. This is life eternal. Then there is the connection of comfort with influence. That man has no comforter who realizes that the influence of his life is an infection of evil, an impulse to the lower life. Even if he possess genius, it may be but an added force for harm. But the Christian has this comfort, though no minstrel sings the story of his chivalry, though no sculptured marble tells the tale of his renown — yet he liveth to the Lord, he dieth to the Lord. The world of holy influence will be the richer for his being!
(W. M. Statham.)
Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead more than the living which are yet alive.
I. It must be QUALIFIED.
1. We are not to praise the dead with indiscriminate eulogy; for there is such a thing as confounding moral distinctions, as smiling alike on vice and virtue.
2. We are not to praise the dead with exaggerated panegyric. For it should never be forgotten, that however the grace of God has formed the subject of it to excellence, he was still the possessor of remaining moral infirmities.
3. We are not to praise the dead in a spirit of discontent with life.
4. We are not to praise the dead in the exercise of gratified envy.
5. We ought not to praise the dead in the spirit of relative pride.
6. In one word — we should not praise the dead without a humble and grateful recollection that all their gifts and virtues proceeded from God. Let the survivor not glory in the erudition, in the riches, in the wealth or virtue of the deceased, but let him glory only in the Lord.
II. This eulogy is to be JUSTIFIED. It may be so by a variety of reasons.
1. There is that of Scripture precedent. It speaks, in high terms, of the distinguished faith of Abraham, the patience of Job, the meekness of Moses, the devotion of the man after God's own heart, the wisdom of a Solomon, the magnanimity of a Daniel, the fortitude of a Stephen, the humanity of a Dorcas.
2. This procedure may also be sanctioned on the ground of utility. How often does the perusal of the memoirs of eminent persons excite desires in the hearts of survivors to imbibe their sentiments, to catch their spirit, and to imitate their example.
3. The principal grounds on which we are justified in praising the pious dead are connected with themselves, as —
(1) (2) (3) III. The sentiment in the text is to be IMPROVED. If the question be asked — in what way shall I praise departed ministers? I answer — 1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive. 2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry. 3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed. 4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God. 5. By a devout application to the great Head of the Church to raise up men of similar and surpassing qualifications to carry on the interests of religion in the Church and in the world. (J. Clayton.)
(2) (3) III. The sentiment in the text is to be IMPROVED. If the question be asked — in what way shall I praise departed ministers? I answer — 1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive. 2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry. 3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed. 4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God. 5. By a devout application to the great Head of the Church to raise up men of similar and surpassing qualifications to carry on the interests of religion in the Church and in the world. (J. Clayton.)
(3) III. The sentiment in the text is to be IMPROVED. If the question be asked — in what way shall I praise departed ministers? I answer — 1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive. 2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry. 3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed. 4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God. 5. By a devout application to the great Head of the Church to raise up men of similar and surpassing qualifications to carry on the interests of religion in the Church and in the world. (J. Clayton.)
1. By repenting of the treatment you often showed them while they were alive.
2. By recalling to serious reflection the important subjects of their ministry.
3. By an imitation of the excellencies with which they were clothed.
4. By meditating on your joint responsibility with them at the bar of God.
Homilist.I. It is COMMON. We see it in the political, ecclesiastical, and domestic sphere. So it has become a proverb, that the best men must die ever to have their virtues recognized. Why is this?
1. The dead are no longer competitors.
2. Social love buries their defects. In all, the great Father of Love has put a deep fountain of sympathy. Death unseals it, melts it, and causes it to flow forth in such copious streams as drown all the imperfections of the departed.
II. It is IMMORAL.
1. It is not right. Virtue should be recognized and honoured wherever seen; and more so in the duties and struggles of life than in the reminiscenees of departed worth.
2. It is not generous. That husband is mean and despicable who ignores the virtues of a noble wife while living.
3. It is unreal. To praise virtues in a man when dead, which were ever unnoticed when living, is hypocritical.
Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour.
Homilist.Here is a portrait, drawn by a man who lived thousands of years ago, of three distinct types of character that you find everywhere about you.
I. Here is a man WORKING FOR THE GOOD of society (ver. 4). Thank God! there have ever been such men — generous, disinterested, broad-hearted, God-inspired men — men who are doing the "right work." They are the "salt" of the State; remove them, and all is putrescence. How are these men treated by society? Here is the answer. "For this a man is envied of his neighbour." It has ever been so. Cain envied Abel, Korah envied Moses, Saul envied David, the Sanhedrim envied Christ, the Judaic teachers envied Paul. To see society envying such men is a sore "vexation" to all true hearts. What do the existence and treatment of these men show?
1. The great kindness of Heaven in sending such men into every age. What would become of an age without such men in it? The ignorant would have no schools, the afflicted no hospitals, the indigent no poor-laws and charities, the people no righteous laws and no temples for worship.
2. The rightful acknowledgments of most useful services are not to be expected on earth. How did the world treat Moses, Jeremiah, the apostles, and the Holy Christ? Yonder, not here, is the reward for truly right labour.
3. The moral state of society is both unwise and unrighteous. How unwise to treat men who do the "right work" amongst them with envy I For its own good it should cheer them on in their philanthropic efforts. How unrighteous too! These men have a claim to its gratitude, sympathy, and co-operation.
II. Here is a man UTTERLY WORTHLESS in society (vers. 5, 6).
1. He exhausts his own property. The indolent man evermore "eats his own flesh": that is, exhausts his own personal strength, mental, moral, physical, for the want of proper exertion.
2. He wrongly estimates his own happiness. "Better is an handful with quietness than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit." In one sense this is true (Proverbs 15:16). But this is not the sense in which the lazy man regards it. By quietness he meant quiescence, non-exertion, lounging, folding the hands, and sleeping life away. Now, this character abounds in our age and land. These characters are not only a curse to themselves, dying with ennui, but a curse to society; they are clogs upon the wheel of industry; they are social thieves; they eat what others have produced.
III. Here is a man AVARICIOUSLY MAKING USE of society (ver. 8).
1. The man he sketches worked entirely for himself. Selfgratification, self-aggrandizement, self the centre and circumference of all his activities.
2. The man he sketches worked unremittingly for himself. "Yet is there no end of all his labour." Always at it — morning, noon, and night; it was the one thing he did.
3. The man he sketches worked insatiably for himself. "Neither is his eye satisfied with riches." The passion of avarice has been called the great sepulchre of all the passions. Unlike other tombs, however, it is enlarged by repletion and strengthened by age. An avaricious man is like Tantalus, up to the chin in water, yet always thirsty. Avarice seems to me to be the ruling passion of the age.
(H. E. Nolloth, B. D.)
Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with travail and vexation of spirit.
(T. C. Finlayson.)
Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their labour.I. PROVE THE TRUTH OF THE WISE MAN'S ASSERTION, that, "two are better than one, and that in reference to society in general, and religious societies in particular." And how can this be done better than by showing that it is absolutely necessary for the welfare both of the bodies and souls of men? Indeed, if we look upon man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, we imagine him to be perfect, entire, lacking nothing. But God, whose thoughts are not as our thoughts, saw something still wanting to make Adam happy. And what was that? Why, an help meet for him. And if this were the case of man before the fall; if a help was meet for him in a state of perfection; surely since the fall, when we come naked and helpless out of our mother's womb, when our wants increase with our years, and we can scarcely subsist a day without the mutual assistance of each other, well may we say, "It is not good for man to be alone." Society, then, we see, is absolutely necessary in respect to our bodily and personal wants. If we carry our view farther, and consider mankind as divided into different cities, countries, and nations, the necessity of it will appear yet more evident. For how can communities be kept up, or commerce carried on, with our society? Many other instances might be given of the necessity of society in reference to our bodily, personal, and national wants. But what are all these when weighed in the balance of the sanctuary, in comparison of the infinite greater need of it with respect to the soul? Let us suppose ourselves in some degree to have tasted the good word of life, and to have felt the powers of the world to come, influencing and moulding our souls into a religious frame; to be fully and heartily convinced that we are soldiers listed under the banner of Christ, and to have proclaimed open war, at our baptism, against the world, the flesh, and the devil; and have, perhaps, frequently renewed our obligations so to do by partaking of the Lord's Supper; that we are surrounded with millions of foes without, and infested with a legion of enemies within; that we are commanded to shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation; that we are travelling to a long eternity, and need all imaginable helps to show, and encourage us in, our way thither. Let us, I say, reflect on all this, and then how shall each of us cry out, "Brethren, what a necessary thing it is to meet together in religious societies!" The primitive Christians were fully sensible of this, and therefore we find them continually keeping up communion with each other (Acts 2:42; Acts 4:23; Acts 9:19; Acts 12:12). And it is reported of the Christians in after ages that they used to assemble together before daylight to sing a psalm to Christ as God. So precious was the communion of saints in those days.
II. SOME REASONS WHY "TWO ARE BETTER THAN ONE," ESPECIALLY IN RELIGIOUS SOCIETY.
1. As man in his present condition cannot always stand upright, but by reason of the frailty of his nature cannot but fall; one eminent reason why two are better than one, or, in other words, one great advantage of religious society is, "that when they fall, the one will lift up his fellow."
2. It is an observation no less true than common, that kindled coals if placed asunder soon go out, but if heaped together quicken and enliven each other, and afford a lasting heat. The same will hold good in the case now before us. If Christians kindled by the grace of God unite, they will quicken and enliven each other; but if they separate and keep asunder, no marvel if they soon grow cool or tepid. If two or three meet together in Christ's name, they will have heat: but how can one be warm alone?
3. Hitherto we have considered the advantages of religious societies as a great preservative against falling into sin and lukewarmness, and that too from our own corruptions. But what says the wise son of Sirach? "My son, when thou goest to serve the Lord, prepare thy soul for temptation;" and that not only from inward, but outward foes; particularly from those two grand adversaries, the world and the devil: for no sooner will thine eye be bent heavenward, but the former will be immediately diverting it another way, telling thee thou needest not be singular in order to be religious; that you may be a Christian without going so much out of the common road. But see here the advantage of religious company; for supposing thou findest thyself thus surrounded on every side, and unable to withstand such horrid (though seemingly friendly) counsels, haste away to thy companions, and they will teach thee a truer and better lesson; they will tell thee that thou must be singular if thou wilt be religious; and that it is as impossible for a Christian, as for a city set upon a hill, to be hidden: that if thou wilt be an almost Christian (and as good be none at all) thou mayest live in the same idle, indifferent manner as thou seest most other people do; but if thou wilt be not only almost, but altogether a Christian, they will inform thee thou must go a great deal farther: that thou must not only faintly seek, but "earnestly strive to enter in at the strait gate": that there is but one way now to heaven, as formerly, even through the narrow passage of a sound conversion: and that in order to bring about this mighty work, thou must undergo a constant but necessary discipline of fasting, watching, and prayer. And, therefore, the only reason why those friends give thee such advice is, because they are not willing to take so much pains themselves; or, as our Saviour told Peter on a like occasion, because they savour not the things that be of God, but the things that be of men.
III. THE SEVERAL DUTIES INCUMBENT ON EVERY MEMBER OF A RELIGIOUS SOCIETY AS SUCH.
1. Mutual reproof.
2. Mutual exhortation.
3. Mutual assisting and defending each other.
( G. Whitefield, M. A.)
(C. R. Barnes.)
A threefold cord is not quickly broken.
I. IT WAS BY SUCH CORDS AS THESE THAT WE WERE ORIGINALLY HELD IN BONDAGE. I do not know how many threads were in them, how many strands they contained. Not three, perhaps, but thirty, nay, thirty thousand evil influences were dragging us down and holding us fast. All I do know is that they were not quickly broken. It took God's dear Son to break them, the Father's love, and the Spirit's power, and our own faith and repentance, begotten in our hearts from above. Satan knows the power of unity if we do not. "The world, the flesh, and the devil," a terrible trio, were in league against us. It was the cords of this triple enemy that held us fast. They were threefold cords, and they were not easily broken. Sin is of various shapes and sorts. There are three words in God's Book descriptive of sin, and I think I may apply them to the threefold cord. There is iniquity, that which is out of plumb, or off the line, or out of the level. There is sin, the missing of the mark, the going beyond by the arrow, or the falling short of the target. There is also transgression, breaking through God's settled rules, passing beyond the bounds that He has fixed, making landmarks of our own instead of regarding God's. Each of these may be regarded as a strand in the cord of sin, and all of us were held thereby. "A threefold cord is not quickly broken." It took years of straining, and tugging, and pulling by a hand Omnipotent to break these cords in pieces. Thank God! it is done, and that they can never be spliced again, nor ever cast about us as they were originally.
II. IT WAS BY SUCH CORDS AS THESE — cords that are not quickly broken, threefold cords, THAT WE WERE DELIVERED FROM THE POWER OF SIN. The form of the metaphor changes a little as we use it now. We were in a horrible pit by reason of sin. Sin always sinks us, and we were dropping deeper and deeper into it, and into the mire that was at the bottom of it. How have we got up? There was no ladder placed for us to climb; we did not cut notches in the pit-side by our own unaided strength, and so help ourselves up to light and liberty. No; God had pity on us. He, in the person of His Son, came to the pit's mouth and looked down with the eyes of love upon us. Christ's love, Christ's death, resurrection and ascension into heaven — these are as another threefold cord. As soon as our eyes were opened and we saw this rope swinging, as it were, in front of us, God gave us strength to leap to it, and He did the rest; nay, He did that, for we had not believed unless the Spirit had prompted faith. He drew us with the cords of love, and with the bands of a man.
III. IT IS BY SUCH CORDS AS THESE, threefold cords, cords that are not quickly broken, THAT WE ARE NOW HELD CAPTIVE. By creation, the claim of which we understand better than ever now; by regeneration, into the mystery of which they and we are being daily further led; by consecration, both on God's part and our own, we are His and His for ever. These cords bind us to the horns of the altar. "And now abideth faith, hope, love, these three, but the greatest of these is love." I think this is another threefold cord by which we are bound; bound to one another, bound to the cross of Christ, bound to this blessed book, and bound to heaven.
I. HAVE A THREEFOLD CORD IN YOUR RELIGION. Religion for young folks as well as old. Is yours twofold or threefold? Let us see. There is God — one. And you — two. Is that all? Explain how some people have no more. This not a nice religion. Can't get near God. Can't know Him. Bring in Christ, and you have the threefold cord. Then this cord will stand the strain. That is a strong religion. When temptations come down hard on you, it will hold and save you.
II. HAVE A THREEFOLD CORD IN YOUR DIFFICULTIES AND DANGERS. Story of youth at sea. Ordered, during a storm, to go up and put the rigging right. Momentary hesitation of boy, and then darted down to his cabin. Appeared again immediately, ascended mast, put rigging right, and came down. Asked by an officer, "What made you run below? For prayer, sir: father always told me no time was ever lost in prayer." "And what is that under your jacket?... My Bible, sir. My mother gave it to me when leaving home. I thought if I were drowned, I would like to have it with me." Now here was a nice threefold cord — Prayer, the Bible, and Courage. I wish you had it. You may have, likely will have, many a hard bit in your life. But if you weave these three together into a cord, and hold on by it, you are safe.
III. HAVE A THREEFOLD CORD IN YOUR FRIENDSHIPS. There is an old saying among folks, that "Two are good company, but three are none." And they expect us to believe that! We want no friendship that is only twofold. Have you any friendship without Jesus? He is the third strand of the cord. If there be anybody who wants you to go roads where Jesus can't go with you, give up that company at once. We should want no friendship where our Saviour can't; be one.
(J. F. Dempster.)
Better is a poor and a wise child than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished.
(T. Chalmers, D. D.)
III. And, indeed, the career of many a man who has been borne along into high position on the wave of popular enthusiasm furnishes a most salutary lesson as to the real value of mere earthly fame and greatness.
(T. C. Finlayson.).