Faith and Duty
Ecclesiastes 11:1
Cast your bread on the waters: for you shall find it after many days.

There are in this book aspects of truth that we are very apt to forget, an emphasis put upon certain out-of-the-way duties that are as essential to a proper, natural, and religious life as those doctrines and principles that we bring to the forefront of our evangelical preaching. Prudence is a virtue, but a man may be too prudent. Economy is an excellent habit, but a man may by penuriousness spoil his fortunes as much as if he were a spendthrift. There is a certain audacity in business, in love, and in religion that is essential to success. There is a certain scattering that brings increase, and there is a withholding more than is meet that tends to poverty. It is true of the world, it is true of the Church; true of your body, true of your fortune, true of your soul. Cast thy bread upon the water. Put your money into a number of ventures; do not be too timid, do not be too cautious; use a large-hearted, statesmanlike breadth and liberality in your enterprise and in your activity, and in the end your bread will come back to you — it will come back in large and wide profit. Again, in your benevolence, in your readiness to help a partner or a client, or even to do a good turn to a poor neighbour, do not be calculating just. whether you must do it or whether you must not. Ecclesiastes says, "Give to the seventh, do a good turn to the eighth." And it appeals to common sense. Do not call it unevangelical, do not call it selfish. There is a reasonable recognition of the law that connects causes and effects, results and those forces and actions that lead to them, that is of the very essence of nature, and it is perfectly justifiable that a man should look to it. Says Ecclesiastes: If you go always looking at the clouds, if you are always peering out to see where the cat's-paw wind is coming, you will never sow your field, and you will never reap. You had better sow every year. Sow when the spring looks black; sow when the early summer seems to forecast a stormy autumn; sow year by year — that is the right thing to do. Some years you will lose, but at the end, when your life is done, you will have made a large gain, a great profit. Yes; there is a looking at that part and side of the world that is out of our control, that God holds in His own hands, that paralyzes human endeavour; and the Book of Ecclesiastes warns us, as men of the world, as men of religion, against concerning ourselves with God's share in the transaction. Send your ships there and there, send them far and wide over the world, and in the end — that is your wisdom — leave the results to God. Do your duty at God's bidding. Strike out into the world; sow on all waters, cast your bread far and wide; do good deeds here, do them there, and in the end you will reap a rich harvest. It is not difficult to gel people to make up their minds to be good; the real difficulty is to get them to carry it out. Nothing more easy than to stir men and women to start well in life; the job is to keep them going on. It is not just the first volley of cannon-balls against the fortification that will break the wall down; it is keeping at it day after day till the breach is made and the stronghold can be taken. You know what momentum is. Aye, a man has got to be good; he has to speak the truth to-day, to-morrow, the day after, the week after that, and on and on, if he is going to form within himself such a mass of light and honourableness that men may speak as if some great and noble monument had fallen: "That man's word was better than his bond; that man never spoke a dishonest, untruthful word." Oh, the power of momentum! the thinness, the weakness, and the poverty-stricken character of that goodness that comes in gushes, and then steps in fragments, in shreds and patches! What is it that makes our goodness so broken, so interrupted, so parenthetical? I think the commonest and chief cause is that we do good upon impulse, not upon principle. We set out to do right, riding upon a great wave of ardent emotion, not upon a serious, calm; earnest determination of will. A great many of us make another mistake. We misunderstand a wise principle; we say to ourselves that we ought to calculate profit, that we ought to look out for results; and so, mistaking this fact that we ought to choose to do our goodness in the wisest and likeliest way, we mistake that wise habit of prudence, judgment, and we turn it into a petty trafficking attempt to secure certainty that every little thing we niggardly do is going to bring us a definite and special return. Now, you cannot do that in business. Fancy a farmer aa he goes across the field sowing corn, taking it out grain by grain, and saying, "I wonder whether this grain will be eaten up by a bird, whether this will rot in the ground; I do not know, and therefore I will not sow it." That would be about as silly as to be always calculating whether the penny you put into the plate is going to convert a heathen, or whether that Bible is going to convert a sinner, or whether going to that meeting will do any definite good. My friend, you have got to sow in faith, with a great prodigal generosity. Blessed those busy lives that are always at it, always working — working when it promises well, working when it promises ill, standing in the pathway of duty, of Divine service, in the pathway of blessing to others, in the pathway of certain blessing to themselves! It is not easy to be good; it is terribly hard to keep on doing right; you get awfully tired of it, and then you wonder and think that you cannot be really good when you are so sick of being so self-sacrificing, so sick of forgiving that brother or sister that always irritates you, and you feel that you really ought to get a little rest from it, to take an interval of not being good; and then you turn upon yourself and upbraid yourself. Not a bit of it, my friend. There is nothing more fatiguing and wearisome than being good. It is a crucifying of oneself to be good. How could it be but that you should be weary many a day? St. Paul says, "Be not weary," because he knows you will feel it, — "Be not weary in well doing; if you are weary keep on doing right; if you faint not, in the end you shall reap." Lift up thy heart and do not faint. In the morning sow thy seed and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou canst not tell whether shall prosper, this or that, or whether, since all rests at last with the great, big-hearted, loving God, both alike, beyond your very utmost dreams and hopes, shall be prosperous.

(Prof. Elmslie.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

WEB: Cast your bread on the waters; for you shall find it after many days.

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