Ecclesiastes 7:9
Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger settles in the lap of a fool.
Sermons
Patience Under ProvocationJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 7:7-10
The Folly of Pride, Hastiness, and AngerD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 7:8, 9
There are many persons, especially among the young and ardent, who adopt and act upon a principle diametrically opposed to this. Every beginning has for them the charm of novelty; when this charm lades, the work, the enterprise, the relationship, have no longer any interest, and they turn away with disgust from the end as from something "weary, stale, fiat, and unprofitable." But the language of this verse embodies the conviction of the wise and reflecting observer of human affairs.

I. THE REASON OF THIS PRINCIPLE. The beginning is undertaken with a view to the end, and apart from that it would not be. The end is the completion and justification of the beginning. The time-order of events is the expression of their rational order; thus we speak of means and end. Aristotle commences his great work on 'Ethics' by showing that the end is naturally superior to the means, and that the highest end must be that which is not a means to anything beyond itself.

II. THE APPLICATION OF THIS PRINCIPLE.

1. To human works. It is well that the foundation of a house should be laid, but it is better that the top-stone should be placed with rejoicing. So with seed-time and harvest; with a journey and its destination; with a road and its completion, etc.

2. To human life. The beginning may, in the view of men, be neutral; but, in the view of the religious man, the birth of a child is an occasion for gratitude. Yet, if that progress be made which corresponds with the Divine ideal of humanity, if character be matured, and a good life-work be wrought, then the day of death, the end, is better than the day of birth, in which this earthly existence commenced.

3. To the Christian calling. The history of the individual Christian is a progressive history; knowledge, virtue, piety, usefulness, are all developed by degrees, and are brought to perfection by the discipline and culture of the Holy Spirit. The end must therefore be better than the beginning, as the fruit excels the blossoms of the spring.

4. To the Church of Christ. As recorded in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, the beginning of the Church was beautiful, marked by power and promise. But the kingdom of God, the dispensation of the Spirit, has a purpose - high, holy, and glorious. When ignorance, error, and superstition, vice, crime, and sin, are vanquished by the Divine energy accompanying the Church of the living God - when the end cometh, and the kingdom shall be delivered unto the Father - it will be seen that the end is better than the beginning, that the Church was not born in vain, was not launched in vain upon the stormy waters of time.

III. THE LESSONS OF THIS PRINCIPLE.

1. When at the beginning of a good work, look on to the end, that hope may animate and inspire endeavor.

2. During the course of a good work look behind and before; for it is not possible to judge aright without taking a comprehensive and consistent view of things. We may trace the hand of God, and find reason alike for thanksgiving and for trust.

3. Seek that a Divine unity may characterize your work on earth and your life itself. If the end crown not the beginning, then it were better that the beginning had never been made. - T.







Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof.
The text expresses the general principle or doctrine, that by the condition of our existence here, if things go right, a conclusion is better than a beginning. The fruit is better than the blossom; the reaping is better than the sowing; the enjoyment than the reaping; the second stage of a journey to the happy home is better than the first; the home itself than all; the victory is better than the march and the battle; the reward is better than the course of service; the ending in the highest improvement of means is better than being put at first in possession of them. In all this we see it is conditionally, and not absolutely, that "the end is better than the beginning." Now let us consider in a short series of plain particulars what state of the case would authorize us at the end of the year to pronounce this sentence upon it.

1. It will easily occur as a general rule of judgment on the matter, that the sentence may be pronounced if, at the end of the year, we shall be able, after deliberate conscientious reflection, to affirm that the year has been, in the most important respects, better than the preceding.

2. The sentence will be true if, during the progress of the year, we shall effectually avail ourselves of the lessons suggested by a review of the preceding year.

3. At the close of this year, should life be protracted so far, the text will be applicable, if we can then say, "My lessons from reflection on the departed year are much less painful, and much more cheering than at the close of the former": if we can say this without any delusion from insensibility, for the painfulness of reflection may lessen from a wrong cause; but to say it with an enlightened conscience to witness, how delightful! To be then able to recall each particular, and to dwell on it a few moments — "that was, before, a very painful consideration — now,..." "This, again, made me sad, and justly so — now,...!" "What shall I render to God for the mercy of His granting my prayer for all-sufficient aid? I will render to Him, by His help, a still better year next." And let us observe, as the chief test of the true application of the text, that it will be a true sentence if then we shall have good evidence that we are become really more devoted to God.

4. If we shall have acquired a more effectual sense of the worth of time, the sentence, "Better is the end of a thing than the beginning," will be true. Being intent on the noblest purposes of life will itself in a great degree create this "effectual sense." But there may require, too, a special thought of time itself — a habit of noting it — because it is so transient, silent, and invisible a thing. There may be a want of faith to "see this invisible," and of a sense of its flight. For want of this, and the sense, too, of its vast worth, what quantities reflection may tell us we have wasted in past years — in the last year! How important to have a powerful habitual impression of all this! And if, this year, we shall acquire much more of this strong habitual sense — if we become more covetous of time — if we cannot waste it without much greater pain — if we shall, therefore, lose and misspend much lees — then the text is true.

5. It will again be true if, with regard to fellow-mortals, we can conscientiously feel that we have been to them more what Christians ought — than in the preceding year. "I am become more solicitous to act toward you in the fear of God. I am become more conscientiously regardful of what is due to you, and set a higher importance on your welfare. I have exerted myself more for your good. On the whole, therefore, I stand more acquitted towards you than I have at the conclusion of any former season."

6. Another point of superiority we should hope the end may have over the beginning of the year, is that of our being in a better state of preparation for all that is to follow. Who was ever too well prepared for sudden emergencies of trial? — too well prepared for duty, temptation, or affliction? — too well prepared for the last thing that is to be encountered on earth?

7. It will be a great advantage and advancement to end the year with, if we shall then have acquired more of a rational and Christian indifference to life itself. "My property in life is now less by almost, 400 days; so much less to cultivate and reap from. If they were of value, the value of the remainder is less after they are withdrawn. As to temporal good, I have but learnt the more experimentally that that cannot make me happy. I have, therefore, less of a delusive hope on this ground as to the future. The spiritual good of so much time expended I regard as transferred t,o eternity; so much, therefore, thrown into the scale of another life against this. Besides, the remaining portion will probably be, in a natural sense, of a much worse quality. Therefore, as the effect of all this, my attachment to this life is loosening, and the attraction of another is augmenting."

(John Foster.)

Homilist.
I. AT THE END OF HIS LIFE HE IS INTRODUCED INTO A BETTER STATE.

1. He begins his life amidst impurity. The first air he breathes, the first word he hears, the first impression he receives, are tainted with sin; but at its end he is introduced to purity, saints, angels, Christ, God!

2. He begins his life on trial. It is a race — shall he win? It is a voyage — shall he reach the haven? The end determines all.

3. He begins his life amidst suffering "Man is born to trouble."

II. AT THE END OF HIS LIFE HE IS INTRODUCED INTO BETTER OCCUPATIONS. Our occupations here are threefold — physical, intellectual, moral. All these are more or less of a painful kind. But in the state into which death introduces us, the engagements will be congenial to the tastes, invigorating to the frame, delightful to the soul and honouring to God.

III. AT THE END OF HIS LIFE HE IS INTRODUCED INTO BETTER SOCIETY. We are made for society. But society here is frequently insincere, non-intelligent, unaffectionate. But how delightful the society into which death will introduce us! We shall mingle with enlightened, genuine, warm-hearted souls, rising in teeming numbers, grade above grade, up to the Eternal God Himself.

(Homilist.)

The patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit
The lion was caught in the toils of the hunter. The more he tugged, the more his feet got entangled; when a little mouse heard his roaring, and said that if his majesty would not hurt him, he thought he could release him. At first the king of beasts took no notice of such a contemptible ally; but at last, like other proud spirits in trouble, he allowed his tiny friend to do as he pleased. So one by one the mouse nibbled through the cords till he had set free first one foot and then another, and then all the four, and with a growl of hearty gratitude the king of the forest acknowledged that the patient in spirit is sometimes stronger than the proud in spirit. And it is beautiful to see how, when some sturdy nature is involved in perplexity, and by its violence and vociferation is only wasting its strength without forwarding its escape, there will come in some timely sympathizer, mild and gentle, and will suggest the simple extrication, or by soothing vehemence down into his own tranquillity, will set him on the way to effect his self-deliverance. Even so, all through the range of philanthropy, patience is power. It is not the water-spout but the nightly dew which freshens vegetation. They are not the flashes of the lightning which mature our harvests, but the daily sunbeams, and that quiet electricity which thrills in atoms and which flushes in every ripening ear. Niagara in all its thunder fetches no fertility; but the Nile, coming without observation, with noiseless fatness overflows, and from under the retiring flood Egypt looks up again, a garner of golden corn. The world is the better for its moral cataracts and its spiritual thunderbolts; but the influences which do the world's great work — which freshen and fertilize it, and which are maturing its harvests for the garner of glory, are not the proud and potent spirits, but the patient and the persevering; they are not the noisy and startling phenomena, but the steady and silent operations.

(J. Hamilton, D. D.)

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