Charles Bridges.

An exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes online

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But here lies the grand responsibility — that the su-
avity of the mode be never witliout the boldness of the

^ See 1 Cor. ii. 14. Comp. Isa. xxx. 10.

' See his Utmains — a rich storehouse of practical wisdom.

• Author's Ciristian Ministry^ Part iv. chap. vi. sect. ii.


matter. Let the Preacher be sure that his dcceptoMe
words — whether written or spoken — are upright^ —
even words of truth. Great indeed is the danger of
adulterating the Grospel in the well-intentioned at-
tempt to commend it more widely. A self-deceiving
delusion indeed ! — to deprive it of its saving power.
And happy, indeed, is it for ministers to have the
humble "rejoicing testimony of their consciences" —
" We are not as many, which corrupt the word of
Grod ; but as of sincerity ; but as of Glod, in the sight
of God speak we in Christ. By manifestation of the
truth, commending ourselves to every man's conscience
in the sight of God." (2 Cor. ii. 17 ; iv. 2.)

But let us look to it in our familiar Christian in-
tercourse. Oh ! we have great need of unceasing godly
exercise. Be sure that tJie luords of truth — not of man's
wisdom — are the weapons for conviction. Beware
lest Christian accommodation descend to rational con-
trivance. Zeal for the souls of our fellow-men must
be " according to knowledge," holy simplicity, and up-
rightness — not colouring but truth — not disputing, but
leaving upon the conscience the plain testimony. To
live near to God, while we are walking before men, is
a Divine reality. Hence flows the power to deal out
tvords of delight (marg.) — in singleness of aim and ob-
ject. Think of the power and weight of a kind word,
as one of old — a Great Master of these words — could
testify — " Even as I please all men in all things — not
seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that
they may be saved." (1 Cor. x. 33.)

See Prov. viii. 8.


11. Tlie words of the wise are as goads, and as tiails
fastened by the masters of assemblies, lohich are giv-
en from one shepherd.

What are these loords of the wise? They are no
liglit words. They cannot be the maxims of human wis-
dom, because — unlike these multifarious tossings — they
are given from One Source. This Source is He, ' on
whom all of us ought to depend and stay — the Ever-
lasting Son of God — the Church's Chief and Supreme
Shepherd.^ ^ They must therefore be his words — 'Here-
by then is marked the Divine Inspiration of the Holy
Scriptures delivered by Inspiration unto the penmen
thereof for the use of the Church— the Spirit of God
being in those that wrote them.' ^ They are his words,
and they come from him. They are not therefore only
'partly Inspired — and therefore only partly the word of
God. But it is the SJiepherd breathing his own mind
into the mind of his several penmen ; thus preserving
the Revelation contained therein from all possibility
of error ; — and bringing out for our repose an unfal-
tering testimony and an infallible appeal.

Though the Masters, through whom the word is given,
are many, the authority is the One Shepherd. The
Prophets — Apostles — Preachers — Ministers of all ages
— of all degrees — are separated as the Masters of as-
semblies directing the service, and stirring up the aifec-
tions of the assemblies, and upholding the visible glory
of the Great Head and King in his Church. And
how striking is the sight — each of these blasters re-

• Serran and Diodati. ^ Bp. Reynolds.


ceiviiig his Authority from the One Shepherd — all act-
ing by his Authority — all, serving in dependence upon
his promised grace and blessing.^

Solomon illustrates the power of the tuords of the
wise by goads — so needful to urge on the sluggish
oxen in their forward pace — turning neither to the
right hand nor to the left. And who of us does not
need the goad ? Slumbering as we are in cold formal-
ity — hearing the word, as if we heard it not — what a
mercy is it to feel the piercing point of the goad^' ex-
perimentally to know the " Scripture as profitable for
reproof" (2Tim. iii. 16) — awakening — alarming — stir-
ring up the cry of anxious distress, " What shall we
do ? " (Acts, ii. 37.) Is it not fearful to be under the
power of the word, and yet to continue so insensible ?
as if the goad just touched the skin, and did not pene-
trate the heart ?

* Tlicre is some difficulty in the translation of the words— Masters
of assemblies. Our own version has warranted authority. But we may
advert to Holdeu's translation — 7'//e Masters of CuUecliom (an Hebraism
for collectors), those who collected and set in order the words of the wise
— the sayings of men divinely inspired, (/iym//-ow One Source. See Prov.
XXV. 1. This gives some idea of the mode, in which the sacred canon
was gradually formed. Whitaker gives a curious discussion with the
Jesuit — who produced the text in proof of the Pope's authority in
matters of faith as 'the Priest of the New Testament.' — Disputations on
Scripture., pp. 422, 423. See also Lorin in loco.

^ ' This'— as an annotator on Bp. Lowth remarks— * is one of the
germinate proverbs (or those that contain a double image), and re-
quires a different mode of interpretation for tlie two images, as having
nothing coalescent in their nature. It is the property of a proverb to
2) rick sharply, and hold firmly. The first idea is included in the image
of a. goad, the latter in the nazZ— deeply, and therefore firmly, • driven.'
— Lect. on Hebrew Poetry, xxiv. note S. H (Henley).


The nails also form the Shepherd's furniture io fast-
en his tent to the ground, and to make the sheepfold
thoroughly secure, not less are they needed by us. If
the smart of the goad is felt ; yet how slight and tran-
sient ! We want the fastenincj impression — the nails
driven home to the conscience — a steady Divine influ-
ence fixing our hearts in the ways and service of God.
We want such truth as is commonly found in affliction
— or in the exercise of deep mental conflict — such as.
maintains an enduring impression to the very end of
life. This is truth fixed — not as a sound of words, but
as an instrument of life. Christian ! Do not you real-
ize the immense moment and value of this fixing work ?
Every atom of truth is worth a mountain of gold. If
from want of care it slips away,' how eagerly does the
ever-watchful enemy fill up the vacuum with his seven-
fold deadly poison I (Matt. xii. 45.) Truth slightingly
valued is easily lost, and unspeakably fearful is the
loss ! When we cease to value truth, we are already
in the atmosphere of error. my God I bind upon
my heart these words of the ivise. Let me bow to
their authority with the reverence of undisputing faith,
and with the grateful acknowledgment of ready and
unreserved obedience. Let the Bible satisfy me in all
my disputations.

12. And further, hy these, my son, he admonished; of
making many books there is no end ; and much study is
a iveariness of the flesh.

* See the same idea under a different figure, Heb. IL 1, water run-
ning out.


One more last word, ere tlie Preacher sums up — ad-
dressing tlic reader as his own son, and pouring out to
him the yearnings of an affectionate heart, like the
aged apostle in his many loving exhortations to the
Christian disciples — My little children^ — ^By these words
of the wise, spoken by the Holy Ghost ' ^ — By these, my
son, he odraonished. Take them as thy most valuable
monitors — " the men of thy counsel " (Ps. cxix. 24,
marg.) given from the one SJiepherd, " that the man of
God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all
good works." (2 Tim. iii. 17.) To be wise without
this light is to be altogether foolish. I might have
written more. The subject is inexhaustible. — Of mak-
ing hooks there is no end. — Let this suffice.

The mass of books accumulating is the best com-
ment upon this verse. How many of them are utterly
worthless ! How small a proportion even of what is
valuable can be read by one man ! How many, writ-
ten with much labour, are, probably, never read at all !

"No end is there of maMng,^^ and often " wearisometo
the flesh is the study of themJ^ ' Weariness to the body
without any satisfaction to the soul. Therefore let
these words, so few, and yet so full, be thy counsellors.
He that will not be admonished by these, shall never
be satisfied with any others. He that refuseth the wheat
will be but choked by the chaff. — Well may we say to
this one Shepherd, as Peter did — " Lord ! to whom shall
we go ? thou hast the words of eternal life." (John, vi.
68.) Other writings are useful in their order. These
only are the rule of faith and life.' '

^ 1 John, ii. I, et alia. " Diodati.

^ Bp. Reynolds.


Very thankful ought we to be, tliat the Book — the
Book of God — is a portable Book — containing all
tliat is necessary to " make wise unto salvation " (2
Tim. iii. 15) in so small a compass. There is wisdom
in the limitation as well as in the fulness. — Each of
its weighty sayings is more valuable " than thousands
of gold and silver." (Ps. cxix. 72.) Oh, that we might
come to its study with a more vigorous appetite and a
more fervent love ! The more we live in the word,
the deeper will be the impression — the more glowing
the warmth, the more fruitful the result. — There will
be little sense of lueariness of the flesh, when the spirit
is engaged in real communion with the Lord.

13. Let us Jtear the conclusion of the lohole matter. Fear
God and keep his commandments; for this is the
whole (duty) of man.'

Here is the nail, which the great Master and Proph-
et of his Church would fasten " as in a sure place."
The Preacher summons us, and summons himself with
us — to hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Two
short sentences sum up the Avhole — Fear God, and keep
his commandments. The sentences are in the right
order. The fear of God is the hidden principle of
obedience — not of nature's growth. It is the work of
the Spirit in the lieart of the regenerate. It is the
covenant promise, securing the faithfulness of the chil-
dren of God. (Jor. xxxii. 40.) — It is not a legal prin-

* This verse begins with a large letter —(as Deut. vi. 4) — as Buxtorf
remarks, to excite the more attention.


ciple of terror or bondage, but the genuine spirit of
confidence — the delicate expression of filial love in
the heart of the child of God — the holy fruit of for-
giveness.' Here we walk with our Father, humbly,
acceptably, securely — looking at an offended God with
terror — but at a reconciled God with reverential love.
All the gracious influences on the soul — cherished un-
der the power of the Spirit — all flow out in godly /ear
towards him.

This true evangelical principle is fruitful in all
practical results. Take it away ; and what remains,
but unbridled license to " walk in the way of our own
hearts ? " The habit of godly obedience is the test of
the principle. For " The man, that feareth the Lord.
deligliteth greatly in his commandments." (Ps. cxii. 1.)
The inner principle produces the outward manifesta-
tion. If the religion is not expressed in the literal
terms of the gospel, it fully implies them. The hecj^-
ing of the commandments — at least in the case of the
disciples of the Lord — primarily regards the great
commandment — " to believe in the name of his Son
Jesus Christ."^ The gospel, therefore, is not obscured,
even when the terms of it are not expressly given : so
that — rightly understood, we fully identify the free
grace and spiritual obedience of the gospel with the
more legal exhortation to fear God, and heep his com-
riumdments. ' By faith in God the heart is purified to
fear and love God ; and by that fear and love it is
inclined to obey his commandment.' '

» See Ps. cxxx. 4. ^ See I John, iii. 23.

^ Bp. Reynolds.


' Quitting tlierefore the world Avitli all its vanities,
we betake ourselves to that, which alone is free from
vanity — the fear and service of God.' ^ These two
points — the Preacher pronounces to contain the ivhole
of man — not his duty only,'^ but his loliole happiness
and business — the total sum of all that concerns him
— all that God requires of him — all that the Saviour
enjoins — all that the Holy Spirit teaches and works in

We cannot here do better than give Abp. Leigh-
ton's beautiful summary of tlie matter — ' After Solo-
mon had made his discoveries of all things besides
under the sun, gone the whole circuit, and ' made an
exact valuation, he found all beside this to amount
to notliing but vanity and vexation of spirit. The
account he gives of all other things was only for
this purpose, to illustrate and establish this truth the
more, and to make it the more acceptable ; to be a re-
pose after so much weariness, and such a tedious jour-
ney, and so, as he speaks there (v. 10, marg.) a word
of delight as well as a word of truth ; that the mind
might sit down, and quiet itself in this from the tur-
moil and pursuit of vanity, that keeps it busy to no
purpose in all other things. But whereas there was
emptiness and vanity, that is just nothing in all things ;
there was not only something to be found, but all in
this one — the fear of God, and that keeping of his com-
mandments, which is the proper fruit of that fear J ^

'Bp. Sanderson on chap vii. 1.

' The word duty, interpolated by our translation, is a needless exple-
tive, and cramps the emphatic comprehensiveness of the phrase.
'Abp. Leighton on 1 Pet, ii. 17.


The same track of inquiry had been traversed by
the Patriarch ages before, and substantially with the
same result. Successive disappointments had given
their voice — " It is not in me." Where then is the
precious treasure to be found, but in the ways of God !
" Unto man he saith — Behold ! the fear of the Lord,
that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understand-
ing." (Job, xxviii. 12-28.) Here is our portion — our
centre of rest. The more heart we give to this inter-
esting research, the more pleasure we shall find in it.

14. For Ood shall bring every work into judgment, with
every secret thing^ whether it he good or ivhether it he
evil. '

The Book naturally ends with the winding up of
our eventful history — the eternal destiny of every child
of man. How solemn the stamp that it will give to
the conclusion of the matter — the blessedness of the fear
and service of God ! The day will unmask all. All
things — now so inexplicable — shall be made plain.

* Coverdale's versiom of the conclusion of the Book, v. 9-14, is beau-
tiful for its simplicity. • 'i he same Preacher was not wyse alone ; but
taught the people knowledge also. He gave good hede, sought out
the grounde, and set forth many parables. His diligence was to fynde
out acceptable wordes, right Scriptures, and the wordes of truetli.
For the wordes of the wyse are like pricks, and nales, that go thorow,
wherewith men are kept together; for tliey are geveu of One Shepherd
onely. Therefore be warre, my son, that above these things thou
make thee not many and innumerable bookes, nor take dyverse doc-
trines in hande, to weery thy body with. Let us hearo the conclusion
of all things Fear God, and kepe his commandments, for that toucheth
all men ; for God shall judge all workes, and secrete things, whether
they be good or evill.'


Solomon had propounded many dark sayings in this
book — many things, which he could not comprehend ^
— much that seemed inconsistent with the holy and just
character of the Divine Government — goodness op-
pressed, wickedness triumphing. All these '' hidden
things of darkness will be " fully " brought to light "
(1 Cor. iv. 5), when " the Lord — the righteous Judge'^
shall bring every work k> judgment^ and good and evil
shall be separated for ever.

The brighter displays of the Gospel Revelation
bring the Judge before us in all his glorious and un-
speakable majesty. God is the Judge in the person
of the Divine Mediator. (John, v. 22. Acts, x. 42 ;
xvii. 31.) "The Great White throne" is raised up.
The Judge of the world sits thereon. " Before his face
tlie earth and the heaven flee away, and no place is
found for them." The dead — small and great — stand
before God. The books are opened ; and anotlier
book is opened, which is the book of life. The dead
are judged of those things, which are written in the
books according to their works. (Rev. xx. 11, 12.)

Such is the scene of majesty unveiled, and shutting
up the Revelation of God. With this view before us
— can it be a matter of indifference — whether or not
we be the true servants of God — that is whether or no
we shall spend our eternity in heaven or in hell?
This will be no judgment, from which any child of
man can hide himself. " We must all appear before
the judgment-seat of Christ. Every one of us shall

- Sucli asch.vii.28, 24; viii. 16, 17; ix. 1-6; etalia.


give an account of himself unto Glod." (2 Cor. v. 10 ;
Rom. xiv. 10-12.)

Every work — tlie most minute or the most important
— from the first movement of conscience to the last
breath of life — all the hidden world of thought in
every man's bosom — hitherto secret — known only to
himself and to his Grod — all the principles and colour-
ings of action — every secret thing of every sort — whether
it he good or ivhether it he evil — whether it be restrained
or indulged — sins of childhood or youth, that have
passed away without consciousness — every moment —
every atom of our sad sorrows — of our defiled services
— all will be found there — at that day — safely stored
— nothing missing. If this picture be a reality — Oh I
let it be realized with a deep sense of our immense inter-
est in it ! What a restraint would it bring upon our
words in the recollection, " that every idle word that
men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the
day of judgment ! " (Matt. xii. 36.) What a stimulus
to self-denying consecration is the thought of the
" stewardship " with which we are invested — the " ac-
count to be given of it" — and the awful guilt of
"having wasted our Lord's goods" in the indolent
delusion that they were our own! (Luke, xvi. 1, 2.)
Whatever refinement may be mixed with selfish indul-
gence, it will be found to have carried with it a mass
of neglected personal responsibility. The day will
declare it, — when conviction and repentance will have
been too late — for truly this is the day of the reve-
lation of God's righteous judgment. (Rom. ii. 5.)
Hypocrisy shall be disclosed, sincerity shall be reward-
ed, because nothing is hidden from him. All other


things arc vain. But it is not vain to fear the Lord.
" Tlicy that do good " — their works will follow them
to heaven ; " and they that have done evil " — their
works will hunt and pursue them to hell. '

The acceptance in that day will be proclaimed in strict
accordance with the Preacher's admonition— /earm^
Oodj and keeping his commandments. The line of de-
marcation will be sent at that day — drawn for eternity
— Ah ! sinner — There will be no covering — no middle
— doubtful place— no difficulty in " discerning between
the righteous and the wicked — between him that
serveth God, and him that serveth him not." (Mai.
iii. 18.) The boldness of delusion will melt away into
deep, dark despair. — " The ungodly shall not stand in
the judgment ; nor sinners in the congregation of the
righteous." (Ps. i. 5.)

And yet — while men's hearts are failing them for
fear, and for looking after those things that are
coming — Now — Christian — it is your time to "look
up, and lift up your head." (Luke, xxi. 26-28.) The
indescribable solemnity of this day has no fear for you
— It is your day of unshaken and joyous confidence.
Those secret sins which are set before your God " in
the light of his countenance " (Ps. xc. 8) are screened
from the claims of his justice. If the Omniscient God
lays them open — '' the Great Iligh-Priest " covers them
for ever, or manifests them sprinkled with atoning
blood. ' — And when he cometh sitting on the " Great
AVhite Throne," fear will find no place there. For he

^ Bp Reynolds with John, v. 28, 29. 1 Cor. iv. 5,
" See this balance as the stay of the Christian profession, Heb. iv.
13. 14.


that will sit upon the throne is no other than he that
hung upon the cross — and will not the sunshine of the
cross sweep away the terror of the throne? Yes —
Christian, the Saviour will be the Judge. — We fear
not — we faint not — In the assurance of his " coming
quickly " — we respond with our hearty " Amen." — So
it is in thy promise — so let it be to our joy. So shall
it be to thy glory !

" Even So, come. Lord Jesus." (Rev. xxii. 20.)


Abercrombie, Dr. quoted, 233, 293

Acceptable words, 370. 373

Adam's Fall. 223, 224 238

Adversity, day of, 201, 202

Affliction, 70, 81, 85, 86, 170-179

Ahab referred to, 298 n.

Anjjelo, Michael, Life ofj Pref. xiii.

Anger, 187-189

Anonymous Exposition, 93, 120

Antoninus, 350 n.

Apostacy, danger of, 317

Archimedes, 285

Arnold, Dr. 114

Auaustine, 3, 3, 68, 59 n. 164, 223


Babbler described, 303-^05
Bacon, Lord, Pref. iv. 3, 3, 4, 46,

58, 87 n. 97 n. 113. 121, 125,

129, 199, 207, 216, 230, 231,258,

296, 297, 299, 320
Barrow, Dr. 2, 117, 217, 315, 316
Bateman's Sermons, 334
Baxter, 368
Beasts, life of, 106
Beveridge, Bp. 214 n.
Beza. 24, 30, 57, 115 n. 171. 225,

304 n.
Birth, day of, 7 >, 78, 173
Blunted tools, 301-303
Body, resurrection of, 362
Bonar's Hymns, 170, 280
Boston, 197

Bradley's Sermons, 364

Brentius, 59, 153, 208

Bunyan, 154, 166

Burnet, Bp. 321 n.

Bonaparte, Napoleon, 107

Burns' Life, 29 n.

But er, Bp. 45 n. 87, 110 u. 146,

188, 259, 260, 294, 536
Buxtorf, 377 n.

• C

Calcutta, Bp. of; 94

Calvin, 65, 219, 225 n.

Carpzov, Pref. xi. n.

Cartwr-ghl, 45, 47, 228, 244, 311 n.

Caryl on Job. 335, 363,

Cecil, 59, 61, 112, 153, 157, 202,
288, 371

Chalmers. Dr. 97 n. 126, 151, 29G,

Chance, 283

Character, weight oi; 289-291

Charity, incitement to, See Liber-

Charnock, 73, 183

Cheerfulness, 98. 101, 108

Chesterfield, Lord, 24, 25 n. 65,

Childhood, vanity of, 346

Choheleth, 94, 95 n. 185, 186 n.
245 n.

Christian baitings, 332, 333

Cicero, 353. 360

Clark, Dr. A 234 n. 320

Coleridge, 314




Coming of the Lord, 334
Corruption of nature, 213-215, 265

Cosmo de Medici, Pre£ xiii.
Cotton, Pref. vii. 48, 72 n. 99, 115,

123 n. 248, 257 n. 327,357 n.
Coverdale, 226, 380 n.
Covetousness, 118, 144-162, 159-

Cowper, 24, 112
Creation of man, 222, 248
Cromwell, 321 n.


Dancing, time for, 81 n,
Darli days, 340-342, 359-360
Dath^'s Notes, Pref vii. 23 n. 121,

254, n.-256 n.
D'Aubigne's Reformation, 307
Davy, Sir Humphry, 46, 47, 335,

Death, victory over, 242

time for, 77, 78, 241

Desvoeux's Dissert. 69
Difficulties of Scripture, Pref. iii-vi.

Diodati, 158, 165, 171, 336, 373, 375
Doway Bible, 226 n.
Durham, 185


Ecclesiastes, Author of the Book,
Pref. vii.

authority of, ib. xi.

difficulties of, ib. vi. vii.

— — scope and end of, ib.


Edward II. 298 n.
VI. 311 n.

Elwes, John, 152 n.

Envy, 113-115

Eternity, work for,76, 160-163, 167

Evans', Archdeacon, Scriptural Bi-
ography, 297 n.

Faithfulness of promises, 323-326
Faith, exercise of, 74, 75, 90
Fear of God, 211, 257, 377, 379
Ferguson's Persepolis, 56 n.
Fletcher, 95
Fool, description of, 121. 307-309

in honour, 297-299

Former days, 190j
Foster, John, 135, 139
Friendship, 125
Frost, Rev. H. 163, 325
Froude's History of England, 321 n.
Fuller's Church History, 321 n.
Good Thoughts, 115

Fulness of time, 74


Garrick, 152

Geier, Pref. iii. n. 64 n. 69 n. 100,

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Online LibraryCharles BridgesAn exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes → online text (page 26 of 27)