Whoever keeps his command will come to no harm, and a wise heart knows the right time and procedure.
I. CIVIL AUTHORITY IS IN ITSELF OF DIVINE ORIGIN, AND POSSESSES DIVINE SANCTIONS. The king, the king's word, commandment, and pleasure, are all significant of order in society, of that great reality and power in human affairs - the state. "Order is Heaven's first law." Right does not, indeed, grow out of civil authority, but it is its Divine basis. That kingship has often become tyranny, and democracy mob-rule, that every form of government may be abused, is known to every student of history, to every reader of the newspapers. But law in itself is good, and its maintenance is the only security for public liberty. One of the first duties of a religious teacher is to impress upon the people the sacredness of civil authority, to inculcate reverence for law, to encourage to good citizenship. He is not called upon to flatter the great and powerful, to repress discussion, to enjoin servility. But that freedom which is the condition of the true development of national life, and which can only be preserved by reverence for rightful authority, for constitutional government, should be dear to every Christian, and should be held in honor by every Christian teacher and preacher. "The powers that be are ordained of God."
II. WISE PATRIOTISM LEADS TO CHEERFUL OBEDIENCE AND SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY. Law for the most part is designed to repress crime, to maintain peace and tranquility, to afford protection to the honest, industrious, and law-abiding. Therefore to commit wrong of any kind, whether theft, or slander, or violence, is both evil in itself and is transgression of the law. A man who simply contents himself with breaking no civil law may indeed be a villain, for civil law is not all; there is a Divine Law which the civil ruler is not bound to enforce. But the bad citizen cannot be a good Christian; to break the laws of the state is not likely to lead to obedience to the commandments of the King of kings. It is, indeed, not to be expected that a man should approve of every command of the king, of every law which is enforced in his country. But if every man were to refuse to obey every statute of which he disapproved, how could government be carried on? The wonderful word of Christ is decisive, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's." Where no Divine ordinance is violated by conforming to civil law, the duty of the subject, the citizen, is plain; be should obey. He is, of course, at liberty under a constitutional government to use means of an honorable kind to secure a change of law. It is a grand word of the Preacher, "Whoso keepeth the commandment shall know no evil thing."
III. LOYALTY TO EARTHLY, HUMAN AUTHORITY IS SUGGESTIVE OF LOYALTY TO GOD. When submission is enjoined, it is supported by a religious motive - "and that in regard of the oath of God." It is evident that the authority of a parent or a ruler, the subjection of a child or a citizen, are intended to symbolize the even higher facts of the spiritual kingdom - the empire of the "King, eternal, immortal, and invisible," and the loyalty of those who by the new birth have entered "the kingdom of heaven." - T.
A wise man's heart disoerneth both time and judgment.
I. A MAN WHO IS NOT UTTERLY UNWISE WILL SEE THAT THIS IS A TIME FOR REVIEW. It is said of the Emperor Titus that he used to review each day as it drew to its close, and if he could not recall anything which he had done for the good of others he set it down in his note-book that he had lost a day. It was not a bad rule for a heathen king, but hardly good enough for a Christian man. And yet some of us who live in the mid-day of the Gospel do not aim so high, with the poor result that we hit something very much lower than the mark set before us. We come short of the glory of doing the Divine will. It is bad enough to lose one day, but how about losing three hundred and sixty-five? Yes, unless it has been lived in God, consciously in Him and for Him, we may set it down as lost. Let us all find opportunity for a quiet, earnest talk with the hours of the year that has gone. Look well at the old before you greet the new. It will make the new all the better, and when in its turn it becomes old the task of reviewing it will not be so unpleasant.
II. A MAN OF WISDOM WILL SEE THAT THIS IS AN APPROPRIATE TIME FOR RECONCILIATIONS. Has there been a little rift in friendship's lute? Now is a good time for mending the instrument and bringing back the harmony, music for the King of kings. Take the tide of good feeling at the flood, and be reconciled to those whom for a while thou mayest have been alienated. "When death, the great reconciler, has come, it is never our tenderness we repent of, but our severity." Let us see to it that we enter the new year at peace with God. He is reconciled in Christ to us. Why should we stand out?
III. THE WISE MAN WHO OBSERVETH TIME AND JUDGMENT WILL HEAR A VOICE AT THIS PARTICULAR TIME APPEALING TO HIS GENEROSITY. Yea, there is more than one voice speaking to us on this behalf. There is the very voice of poverty itself speaking in plaintive tones to those who have the sympathetic ear. There is the voice of our own joys and comforts reminding us of the distress of those who are devoid of these things.
IV. THIS IS A TIME FOR CONSECRATION. To consecrate ourselves to God is to recognize the supreme fact of our existence and to act upon it. This is the time of all times for consecration, while the goodness of God is passing before us. As the mercies of the year marshal past us in grand and swift review let us listen to their pleading and present ourselves to God.
1. The wise man marks with a discerning eye the successive developments which time has made of God's gracious purposes towards our guilty race.
2. The man who is spiritually "wise," and divinely taught, solemnly ponders the devastations of time. And how fearful have been his ravages! He has overturned the mightiest empires, sapped the loftiest towers, and laid low the proudest cities. But above all, time has with irresistible flood swept away in succession the countless millions of our race. Tamerlane the Tartar reared a vast pyramid, formed of the skulls of those victims whom he had slain in battle; but death wages a more fatal contest over a wider field; and for us "there is no discharge from that war." Diseases in all their sad variety are his ministers; and were a pyramid to be erected by him of human bones, it would pierce the clouds of heaven.
3. The Christian marks and ponders the shortness of time. What are six, or ten, or a hundred thousand years? They are but units in eternity's countless reckoning; they are but drops in eternity's unfathomable and shoreless ocean. But when we reckon time by the period of man's life, "the days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength" in some "they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for we are soon cut off, and we flee away." Life is truly like the bridge which the moralist describes; a mighty multitude presses to cross it, but it is filled with openings through which the passengers are continually dropping into a dark and rapid river beneath, and but a few are left; and as these approach the other side they, too, fall through and perish. The Christian, "knowing the time," learns to die daily; he cherishes more and more of the pilgrim spirit, and in all his plans and prospects he acts continually under the practical influence of the apostle's appeal (James 4:13-15). Ye merchants and busy tradesmen, I ask, is it thus in your case? Is such wise discernment of the shortness of time yours?
4. The wise man's heart also discerneth the swiftness of time. And thus it is that human life is compared to "a tale that is told," to "the weaver's shuttle" flying rapidly across the web.
5. Finally, the Christian discerns that time is a precious talent for which he must give an account.
II. THE LESSONS AND DUTIES SUGGESTED BY THE YEAR THAT IS PAST, AND THAT WHICH HAS NOW BEGUN.
1. In a public and national sense this has been a truly memorable year.
2. The past year is memorable in the review of it, in your history as families.
3. How solemn and affecting to you as a congregation is the review of the past year!
III. IN REFERENCE TO THE YEAR ON WHICH WE HAVE NOW ENTERED, WHAT IMPORTANT DUTIES DEVOLVE UPON US!
1. Let us never forget that as we live in a world of change, it becomes us to expect changes and trials, and to calculate upon the probability of being called away by death, ere the year has closed.
2. Let the disciples of the Lord Jesus remember their solemn responsibility to live for the glory of God.
3. Finally, let us unite our prayers with those of the people of God of every name who are met at this season to supplicate, with one accord, the outpouring of the Holy Ghost on the Church and the world.
TopicsCommand, Commandment, Decision, Discerneth, Evil, Experiences, Feel, Harm, Heart, Judgment, Keepeth, Keeping, Keeps, Knoweth, Law, Manner, Man's, Meet, Mind, Obeys, Procedure, Proper, Royal, Trouble, Wise
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 8:5
5362 justice, believers' lives
'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 …
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