ECCLESIASTES CHAPTER 11.
The Way to True Happiness.
PRACTICING BENEVOLENCE. ó V. 1. Cast thy bread upon the waters, in practicing benevolence freely, without the hope of profit or immediate return, Matt. 5, 46. 47; Luke 6, 35-38; for thou shalt find it after many days, God will return a rich harvest at the time appointed by Him, Gal. 6, 9. 10; 2 Cor. 9, 6-9; 1 Tim. 6, 18. 19. V.2. Give a portion to seven and also to eight, ready to dispense charity to many; for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth, when the tables may be turned by some misfortune, and the giver himself may find himself in need of help. V. 3. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth, when periods of misfortune are due to happen, evil will come in full measure; and if the tree fall toward the south or toward the north, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be. Just so it is with gifts of benevolence: their fruit is not lost, although they do not always come to light in the manner intended. Or, as Luther says, man is like a tree which is bound to fall one way or the other, and will be judged according to the way he falls in death. V. 4. He that observeth the wind, in timid anxiety and hesitation, shall not sow, for while he waits for favorable weather, he misses the proper period for action; and he that regardeth the clouds, with the same over-anxious watchfulness, shall not reap. The Christian must sow the seed of good works regardless of the promise of returns. V. 5. As thou knowest not what is the way of the spirit, or of the wind, concerning whose various vagaries men are just as puzzled as ever, in spite of the progress made by the science of meteorology, cp., John 3, 8, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with child, in the mystery of creation or generation, Ps. 139, 14. 15, even so thou knowest not the works of God, who maketh all, the works of His almighty power are unfathomable by the mind of finite men. V. 6. In the morning sow thy seed, in all the works of oneís regular occupation, but especially in acts of benevolence and charity, and in the evening withhold not thine hand, not growing weary in the appointed tasks and in well-doing, Gal. 6, 9. 10, for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, the blessing may rest upon the early or upon the late labor, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good, both producing substantial and enduring good. The conduct advised by the author, therefore, is that of steady faithfulness in the appointed tasks.
REJOICING WITH TREMBLING. ó V. 7. Truly, the light is sweet, life is most agreeable and beautiful if spent in the manner urged by the author in the first part of this chapter, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun, if one is engaged in godly pursuits; v. 8. but if a man live many years and rejoice in them all, in the manner set forth in Holy Writ, Phil. 4, 4, yet let him remember the days of darkness, the long night of death; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity, this world, with all it offers, is empty and futile in comparison with the eternal realities which await the true believers. V. 9. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, the general admonition of the preceding verses being addressed to young people in particular, as living in that period of life which is especially favorable to cheerful enjoyment, and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, with the proper happiness in the midst of the turmoil and troubles of this present world, and walk in the ways of thine heart, in seeking enjoyment of the right kind, such as is acceptable to the Lord, and in the sight of thine eyes, in innocent pleasures and pastimes, the eyes being trained for proper observance of Godís rules of conduct; but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into Judgment, wherefore a most careful and circumspect conduct, a most godly caution, is required at all times. It is necessary to serve the Lord with fear and to rejoice with trembling, Ps. 2, 11; Phil. 2, 12. V. 10. Therefore remove sorrow, a false sorrow, a gloomy sanctimoniousness, from thy heart and put away evil from thy flesh, namely, in the form of a melancholy asceticism which is not in agreement with the cheerfulness required by the Christian religion; for childhood and youth are vanity, both early infancy and the dawn of the days, that is, adolescence, are in themselves futile and empty without the cheering presence of the Word of God.