All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.…
The words of the Preacher painfully remind us of the familiar story of Diogenes and his lantern. Whether we are to ascribe this pitiful conclusion respecting woman to his own infirmity or to the actual condition of Oriental society, we do not know. But there was, no doubt, so much of realism about the picture that we may learn a very practical lesson therefrom. It is twofold.
I. THE AWFUL POSSIBILITIES OF DEGRADATION. That woman, created by God to be a helpmeet for man, and so admirably fitted, as she is at her best, to comfort his heart and to enrich and bless his life - that woman should be spoken of in such terms as these, is sad and strange indeed. It would be unaccountable but for one thing. The explanation is that man, in his physical strength and in his spiritual weakness, has systematically degraded woman; has made a mere tool and instrument of her whom he should have treated as his trusted companion and truest friend. And if you once degrade any being (or any animal) from his or her true and right position, you send that being down an incline, you open the gates to a long and sad descent. You take away self-respect, and in so doing you undermine the foundation of all virtue, of all moral worth. Dishonor any one, man or woman, lad or child, in his (her) own eyes, and you inflict a deadly injury. A very vile woman is probably worse than a very bad man, more inherently foul and more lamentably mischievous; it is the miserable consequence of man's folly in wishing to displace her from the position God meant her to hold, and in making her take a far lower position than she has the faculty to fill. To degrade is to ruin, and to ruin utterly.
II. THE NOBLE POSSIBILITIES OF ELEVATION. How excellent is the impossibility of seriously writing such a sentence as that contained in the twenty-eighth verse, in this age and in this land of ours! Now and here it certainly is not more difficult to find a woman worthy of our admiration than to find such a man. In the Churches of Jesus Christ, in the homes of our country, are women, young and old and in the prime of Their powers, whose character is sound to the center, whose spirit is gracious, whose lives are lovely, whose influence is wholly beneficent, who are the sweetness and strength of the present generation, as they are the hope and promise of the next. And this elevation of woman all comes of treating her as that which God meant her to be - giving to her her rightful position, inviting and enabling her to fill her sphere, to cultivate her powers, to do her work, to take her heritage.
1. It is easy as it is foolish and sinful to degrade; assume the absence of what God has given and deny the opportunity which should be offered, and the work is speedily done.
2. It is quite possible as it is most blessed to elevate; treat men and women, wherever found and at whatever stage in worth or unworthiness they may be taken, as those God meant to be his children, and they will rise to the dignity and partake the inheritance of "the sons and daughters of the living God." - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: All this have I proved by wisdom: I said, I will be wise; but it was far from me.