Then too, I saw the burial of the wicked who used to go in and out of the holy place, and they were praised in the city where they had done so. This too is futile.
I. INJURIOUS TO THE PEOPLE. "A man ruleth over men to their hurt" (Cox). The evils of misrule are obvious, for they have been only too often illustrated; they are these: the infliction of grave injustice; the encouragement of iniquity and discouragement of righteousness; disturbance and unsettlement, and consequent reduction in various spheres of useful industry; decline of activity, morality, worship.
II. HURTFUL TO THE HOLDER HIMSELF. "One man hath power over another to his own hurt" (Revised Version marginal reading). It is certainly and most profoundly true, whether here stated or not, that the holding of power by a bad man is hurtful to himself. It elevates him in his own eyes when he needs to be humbled therein; it gives him the opportunity of indulgence, and indulgence is certain to feed an evil inclination, or to foster an unholy habit; it makes injurious flattery the probable, and a beneficial remonstrance the unlikely, thing in his experience.
III. OF BRIEF DURATION. If we only wait awhile we shall "see the wicked buried." It is probable enough that sin in power will be guilty of serious excesses, and will therefore bring down upon itself those human resentments or those Divine judgments which end in death. But, apart from this, an evil course must end at death. God has put a limit to our human lives which, though it sometimes takes from the field a brave and powerful champion, on the other hand relieves society of the impure and the unjust. Sin in power is bound fast by the tether which it is quite unable to snap (see Psalm 37:35, 36).
IV. CONTRACTING GUILT. They "had come and gone from the place of the holy." They had either
(1) been professing to administer justice, and had done injustice; or
(2) attended the place of privilege, and had despised their opportunity. Either way, they bad been "laying up for themselves wrath against the day of wrath."
V. GOING DOWN INTO OBLIVION. The sense may be that this happens too often to the righteous; but it is certainly appropriate to the wicked. And is it not more applicable to them? For no man tries to remember them. No one proposes to erect monuments or institute memorials of them. There is a tacit understanding, if nothing more, that their name shall be dropped, that their memory shall perish. The only kind thing that can be done concerning them is to leave their name unspoken.
1. Be content with the exercise of a holy and benignant influence. It is well to be powerful if God wills it. But most men have to live without it, and a human life may be destitute of it, and yet be truly happy, and be of real service to a great many souls.
2. Resolve to leave a holy influence and a fragrant memory behind. We may have to content ourselves with a very simple memorial stone, but if we leave kindly memories and good influences in many hearts, so that in our case" the memory of the just is blessed," we shall not have lived in vain. - C.
And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanityI. In the first place, HERE IS SOME GOOD COMPANY FOR YOU; some with whom you may walk to the house of God, for it is said of them that they did come and go from the place of the holy. By this, I think we may understand the place where the righteous meet to worship God. God's house may be called "the place of the holy." Still, if we confine ourselves strictly to the Hebrew, and to the connection, it appears that by the "place of the holy" is intended the judgment-seat — the place where the magistrate dispenses justice; and, alas I there be some wicked who come and go even to the place of judgment to judge their fellow-sinners. And we may with equal propriety consider it in a third sense to represent the pulpit, which should be "the place of the holy": but we have seen the wicked come and go even from the pulpit, though God has never commanded them to declare his statutes. Happy the day when all such persons shall be purged from the pulpit; then shall it stand forth "clear as the sun, fair as the moon, and terrible as an army with banners." "I have seen the wicked come and go from the place of the holy."
II. And now WE ARE GOING TO HIS FUNERAL. I shall want you to attend it. There is a man who has come and gone from the place of the holy. He has made a very blazing profession. He has been a county magistrate. Now, do you see what a stir is made about his poor bones? There is the hearse covered with plumes, and there follows a long string of carriages. The country people stare to see such a long train of carriages coming to follow one poor worm to its resting-place. What pomp! what grandeur! Will you just think of it, and who are they mourning for? A hypocrite! Who is all this pomp for? For one who was a wicked man; a man who made a pretension of religion; a man who judged others, and who ought to have been condemned himself. But possibly I may have seen the wicked man buried in a more quiet way. He is taken quietly to his tomb with as little pomp as possible, and he is with all decency and solemnity interred in the grave. And now listen to the minister. If he is a man of God, when he buries such a man as he ought to be buried, you do not hear a solitary word about the character of the deceased; you hear nothing at all about any hopes of everlasting life. He is put into his grave. As for the pompous funeral, that was ludicrous. A man might almost laugh to see the folly of honouring the man who deserved to be dishonoured, but as for the still and silent and truthful funeral, how sad it is! We ought to judge ourselves very much in the light of our funerals. That is the way we judge other things. Look at your fields to-morrow. There is the flaunting poppy, and there by the hedge-rows are many flowers that lift their heads to the sun. Judging them by their leaf, you might prefer them to the sober-coloured wheat. But wait until the funeral when the poppy shall be gathered and the weeds shall be bound up in a bundle to be burned — gathered into a heap in the field to be consumed, to be made into manure for the soil. But see the funeral of the wheat. What a magnificent funeral has the wheat-sheaf. "Harvest home" is shouted as it is carried to the garner, for it is a precious thing. Even so let each of us so live, as considering that we must die. But there is a sad thing yet to come. We must look a little deeper than the mere ceremonial of the burial, and we shall see that there is a great deal more in some people's coffins besides their corpses. If we had eyes to see invisible things, and we could break the lid of the hypocrite's coffin, we should see a great deal there. There lie all his hopes. The wicked man may come and go from the place of the holy, but he has no hope of being saved. He thought, because he had attended the place of the holy regularly, therefore he was safe for another world. There lie his hopes, and they are to be buried with him. Of all the frightful things that a man can look upon, the face of a dead hope is the most horrible. Wrapt in the same shroud, there lie all his dead pretensions. When he was here he made a pretension of being respectable; there lies his respect, he shall be a hissing and a reproach lev ever. But there is one thing that sleeps with him in his coffin that he had set his heart upon. He had set his heart upon being known after he was gone. He thought surely after he had departed this life he would be handed down to posterity and be remembered. Now read the text — "And they were forgotten in the city where they had so done." There is his hope of fame. I have often noticed how soon wicked things die when the man dies who originated them. Look at Voltaire's philosophy; with all the noise it made in his time — where is it now? There is just a little of it lingering, but it seems to have gone. And there was Tom Paine, who did his best to write his name in letters of damnation, and one would think he might have been remembered. Butt who cares for him now? Except amongst a few, here and there, his name has passed away. And all the names of error, and heresy, and schism, where do they go? You hear about St. Austin to this day, but you never hear about the heretics he attacked. Everybody knows about , and how he stood up for the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ; but we have almost forgotten the life of , and scarcely ever think of those men who aided and abetted him in his folly. Bad men die out quickly, for the world feels it is a good thing to be rid of them; they are not worth remembering. But the death of a good man, the man who was sincerely a Christian — how different is that! And when you see the body of a saint, if he has served God with all his might, how sweet it is to look upon him — ah, and to look upon his coffin too, or upon his tomb in after years!
III. We are to WRITE HIS EPITAPH; and his epitaph is contained in these short words: "this also is vanity." And now in a few words I will endeavour to show that it is vanity for a man to come and go from the house of God, and yet have no true religion. Why, although you must deplore a wicked man's wickedness as a fearful crime, yet there is some kind of respect to be paid to the man who is downright honest in it; but not an atom of respect to the man who wants to be a cant and a hypocrite.
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
Homilist.I. WICKED MEN BURIED.
1. A truly sad scene. Wicked men going to their graves, their probation over, the means of improvement ended.
2. A common scene. Death does not wait for a man's repentance.
II. WHO WERE ONCE IN CONNECTION WITH RELIGIOUS ORDINANCES. "Who had come and gone from the place of the holy." This suggests: —
1. The religious craving of human nature. The soul everywhere is restless for a God. All feel the want, whatever their character.
2. The power of man to resist Divine impressions.
3. The surest way to contract guilt. "it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrha," etc.
4. There is no necessary power in religious means to improve men.
III. PASSING FROM THE MEMORY OF THE LIVING. There is a greater tendency in the living to forget the wicked than the good. It is true that some giants of depravity have stamped their impress on the heart of ages; such as Nero, Caligula, Napoleon, etc.; but the great mass of wicked men sink into oblivion, whilst the "righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance." What are the powers of mind that prompt men to remember the departed?
1. Gratitude is a commemorative power. Men instinctively remember the good, but what benefits have the wicked wrought?
2. Love is a commemorative power. Those who have had power to draw out the esteem and admiration of the soul will not easily, if ever, fade from the memory. The mystic hand of love will hold them close to the heart. But who can love in a moral sense the wicked?
3. Hope is a commemorative power. Those from whom we anticipate good we do not easily forget. What good can be anticipated from the wicked? Future meetings, should they ever take place, will be very fearful things.
TopicsActed, Buried, Entered, Evil, Forgotten, Futility, Grave, Holiness, Holy, Indeed, Meaningless, Praise, Praised, Purpose, Receive, Rest, Rightly, Thus, Town, Vanity, Whether, Wicked
Outline1. true wisdom is modest
2. Kings are to be respected
6. Divine providence is to be observed
12. It is better with the godly in adversity, than with the wicked in prosperity
16. The work of God is unsearchable
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEcclesiastes 8:10
'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil'--ECCLES. viii. 11. When the Pharaoh of the Exodus saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Abject in his fear before Moses, he was ready to promise anything; insolent in his pride, he swallows down his promises as soon as fear is eased, his repentance and his retractation of it combined to add new weights about his neck. He was but a conspicuous example of …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
The Wicked Man's Life, Funeral, and Epitaph
Whether Christ Should have Been Circumcised?
Whether in Loving God we Ought to Observe any Mode?
Concerning Jonathan, one of the Sicarii, that Stirred up a Sedition in Cyrene, and was a False Accuser [Of the Innocent].
A Few Sighs from Hell;
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