Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil.
I. God, who is present at all times and everywhere, has nevertheless appointed particular seasons and especial places in which He has promised to manifest Himself more clearly, more powerfully, and more graciously to men. The pious heart finds a temple of God everywhere. It is itself a temple of God. Yet even hence the need of other temples does appear, for what one good man considered by himself is, that God commands us all as a body to be. In order that we may all be thus united together as one man, we must have public assemblies, we must have visible temples, in which God, angels, and men may together meet.
II. From the consideration of the dignity and blessedness of men regarded in their relations to one another and to the holy angels, and as united for the performance of that work wherein their highest dignity and blessedness consists—namely, intercourse with God—the necessity which thence arises for the existence of holy places is clearly evident. (1) God commanded Moses to frame a tabernacle in which He might dwell among His people Israel. (2) The constant attendance of our blessed Lord at the public worship of the synagogue and that of the Apostles at the Temple afford sufficient proof of their opinion concerning this matter.
III. To keep our feet diligently is to order devoutly not merely our thoughts, but our words, looks, and gestures, lest we be guilty not only of irreverence towards God, but of folly towards ourselves and of sin towards our brethren.
C. Wordsworth, Sermons Preached at Harrow School, p. 22.
References: Ecclesiastes 5:1.—J. G. Deirs, Penny Pulpit, No. 904; G. Brooks, Outlines of Sermons, p. 253; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 191; J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 252. Ecclesiastes 5:1, Ecclesiastes 5:2.—C. J. Vaughan, Harrow Sermons, 1st series, p. 358.
Ecclesiastes 5:1-7A thoughtless resorting to the sanctuary, inattention and indevotion there, and precipitancy in religious vows and promises are still as common as in the days of Solomon. And for these evils the only remedy is that which he prescribes: a heartfelt and abiding reverence.
I. There is a preparation for the sanctuary. Not only should there be prayer beforehand for God's blessing there, but a studious effort to concentrate on its services all our faculties. In the spirit of that significant Oriental usage which drops its sandals at the palace door, the devout worshipper will put off his travel-tarnished shoes—will try to divest himself of secular anxieties and worldly projects—when the place where he stands is converted into holy ground by the words, "Let us worship God."
II. In devotional exercises be intent and deliberate (Ecclesiastes 5:2-3). Like a dream which is a medley from the waking day, which into its own warp of delirium weaves a shred from all the day's engagements, so, could a fool's prayer be exactly reproduced, it would be a tissue of trifles intermingled with vain repetitions. For such vain repetitions the remedy still is reverence.
III. Be not rash with vows and religious promises (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7). If Christians make voluntary vows at all, it should be with clear warrant from the word, for purposes obviously attainable, and for limited periods of time. Whilst every believer feels it his reasonable service to present himself to God a living sacrifice, those who wish to walk in the liberty of sonship will seek to make their dedication, as a child is devoted to its parents, not so much in the stringent precision of a legal document as in the daily forthgoings of a filial mind.
J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture X.
References: Ecclesiastes 5:1-7.—J. H. Cooke, The Preacher's Pilgrimage, p. 66. Ecclesiastes 5:1-9.—T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 125. Ecclesiastes 5:2.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. iii., p. 12; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. vii., p. 201. Ecclesiastes 5:2-6.—J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 270. Ecclesiastes 5:4.—Homiletic Quarterly, vol. i., p. 100. Ecclesiastes 5:7-12.—J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 217. Ecclesiastes 5:8-13.—Ibid., p. 280. Ecclesiastes 5:8-20.—J. H. Cooke, The Preacher's Pilgrimage, p. 79.
I. We left Koheleth in the act of exhorting us to fear God. The fear of God, of course, implies a belief in the Divine superintendence of human affairs. This belief Koheleth now proceeds to justify. (1) Do not be alarmed, he says, when you see the injustice of oppressors. There are limits beyond which this injustice cannot go. God is the Author of this system of restriction and punishment. (2) The Divine government may be seen in the law of compensation. Pleasure does not increase, but, on the contrary, rather diminishes, with the increase of wealth. The rich man has little to do but to watch others devouring his wealth. (3) The excessive desire for wealth often over-reaches itself, and ends in poverty.
II. Koheleth asserts (Ecclesiastes 6:7) that no one ever extracts enjoyment out of life. "The labour of man is for his mouth "—that is, for enjoyment—but he is never satisfied. His very wishes give him not his wish. The fact is, says Koheleth, returning to a former thought, everything has been predetermined for us; we are hemmed in by limits and fatalities to which we can but submit. It is useless trying to contend with One mightier than ourselves.
III. He now takes a new departure. He inquires whether true happiness is to be found in a life of social respectability or popularity. In chap. vii. and the first part of chap. viii. he gives us some of the maxims by which such a life would be guided. The thoughts are very loosely connected, but the underlying idea is this: the popular man, the successful man, the man whom society delights to honour, is always characterised by prudence, discretion, moderation, self-control, and by a certain savoir-faire—an instinct which teaches him what to do and when to do nothing. (1) The wise man is ready to receive instruction not only from the silent teaching of the dead, but also from the advice of the living if they are wiser than himself. (2) The prudent man of the world is distinguished by a cheerful, easy-going, happy temperament. Instead of longing for the past, he makes the best of the present. (3) Koheleth now propounds another maxim of worldly policy—a maxim in which we see him at his worst. A prudent man of the world will not trouble himself too much about righteousness. He cannot be quite sure that it will pay, though a certain amount of it is likely to help him on. And what is true of righteousness is true of wisdom. Poor Koheleth in his present mood has fallen into deep moral degradation. Policy has taken the place of duty. In the long run the policy of expediency, which he here calls wisdom, will turn out to be but folly.
A. W. Momerie, Agnosticism, p. 219.
Ecclesiastes 5:9-20; Ecclesiastes 6:1-9I. In all grades of society human subsistence is very much the same. Even princes are not fed with ambrosia, nor do poets subsist on asphodel. The profit of the earth is for all.
II. When a man begins to amass money, he begins to feed an appetite which nothing can appease, and which its proper food will only render fiercer. Therefore happy they who have never got enough to awaken the accumulating passion!
III. It is another consideration which should reconcile us to the want of wealth that as abundance grows, so grow the consumers, and of riches less perishable the proprietor enjoys no more than the mere spectator.
IV. Among the pleasures of obscurity, the next noticed is sound slumber. If the poor could get a taste of opulence, it would reveal to them strange luxuries in lowliness.
V. Wealth is often the ruin of its possessor. It is "kept for the owner to his hurt."
VI. Last of all are the infirmity and fretfulness which are the frequent companions of wealth.
VII. Whether your possessions be, great or small, think only of the joys at God's right hand as your eternal treasure. Lead a life disentangled and expedite, setting your affections on things above and never so clinging to the things temporal as to lose the things eternal. The true disciple will value wealth chiefly as he can spend it on objects dear to his dear Lord.
J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, Lecture XI.
References: 5:10-6:12.— T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 137. Ecclesiastes 5:13-20.— R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes: its Meaning and Lessons, p. 191. Ecclesiastes 5:14-17.— J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 310. Ecclesiastes 6:2.— J. N. Norton, The King's Ferry Boat, p. 66.
Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.
For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice is known by multitude of words.
When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed.
Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay.
Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands?
For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.
If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.
Moreover the profit of the earth is for all: the king himself is served by the field.
He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.
When goods increase, they are increased that eat them: and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes?
The sleep of a labouring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much: but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep.
There is a sore evil which I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt.
But those riches perish by evil travail: and he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand.
As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand.
And this also is a sore evil, that in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?
All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness.
Behold that which I have seen: it is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion.
Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath given him power to eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this is the gift of God.
For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth him in the joy of his heart.