As no man has power over the wind to contain it, so no one has authority over his day of death. As no one can be discharged in wartime, so wickedness will not release those who practice it.
I. OUR POWERLESSNESS IN THE PRESENCE OF DEATH. There are evils from which large resources, or high rank, or exceptional abilities may secure us; but in these death is not included. No man may escape it. Some men have lived so long that "death has seemed to have forgotten them;" but their hour has come at last. Death is a campaign in which there is "no furlough" given. Therefore:
1. Let every man be in readiness for it; let us live "as those who today indeed are on the earth, but who to-morrow may be in heaven." Let not death surprise us with some urgent duty undone, he neglect of which will leave our nearest relatives or dearest friends in difficulty or distress.
2. Let us all measure the limit of our life; and let us feel that since so much is to be done by us if we can, for narrower and for wider circles, and since there is but a brief period in which to do it, let us address ourselves seriously, energetically, patiently, devoutly, to the work which the Divine Husbandman has given us to do. But the statement of the Preacher, reminding us of this familiar truth, may suggest to us, by contrast -
II. OUR PROVINCE AND OUR POWER IN THE PROSPECT OF DEATH. Although it is utterly hopeless that we can avert the stroke of the" last enemy," we may do much in regard to it.
1. We can often defer its coming by the wise regulation of our life; we cannot "retain our spirit" when our hour is come, but we may put that hour much further on by prudence and virtue. Folly will ante-date, but wisdom will post-date it. We cannot, indeed, measure Divine favor by the number of our years - there is a Christian reading of the heathen adage, "Whom the gods love die young" - but it is very often true that "with long life" God will "satisfy" the man who "sets his love upon him" (Psalm 91:14-16).
2. We can gain a spiritual victory over it; we can
"...so live, that we may dread 3. We may find a friend in it when it comes; the friend whose kind hand opens for us the door of immortality, and ushers into the life which is free and full and endless. - C. 2. Man's power over his spirit is not absolute.He has some power over it; power to excite it to action, direct its thoughts, control its impulses, train its faculties, and develop its wonderful resources. Self-government is the duty of every man. But whatever the amount of power he may have over his spirit, he is utterly unable to "retain" it here, to keep it in permanent connection with the body. From this fact I deduce three practical lessons. I. WE SHOULD TAKE PROPER CARE OF THIS "SPIRIT" WHILE WE HAVE IT WITH US. II. WE SHOULD KEEP THIS "SPIRIT" EVER IN READINESS FOR ITS EXIT. It requires to have its errors corrected, its guilt removed, its pollutions cleansed away. III. EFFORTS FOR THE PERMANENT ENTERTAINMENT OF THIS "SPIRIT" HERE ARE TO THE LAST DEGREE UNWISE. What are men doing here? On all hands they are endeavouring to provide for their spirits a permanent entertainment. "Soul, thou hast much goods," etc. "Wherefore do ye spend your labour for that which satisfieth not?" (Homilist.)
3. We may find a friend in it when it comes; the friend whose kind hand opens for us the door of immortality, and ushers into the life which is free and full and endless. - C.
2. Man's power over his spirit is not absolute.He has some power over it; power to excite it to action, direct its thoughts, control its impulses, train its faculties, and develop its wonderful resources. Self-government is the duty of every man. But whatever the amount of power he may have over his spirit, he is utterly unable to "retain" it here, to keep it in permanent connection with the body. From this fact I deduce three practical lessons.
I. WE SHOULD TAKE PROPER CARE OF THIS "SPIRIT" WHILE WE HAVE IT WITH US.
II. WE SHOULD KEEP THIS "SPIRIT" EVER IN READINESS FOR ITS EXIT. It requires to have its errors corrected, its guilt removed, its pollutions cleansed away.
III. EFFORTS FOR THE PERMANENT ENTERTAINMENT OF THIS "SPIRIT" HERE ARE TO THE LAST DEGREE UNWISE. What are men doing here? On all hands they are endeavouring to provide for their spirits a permanent entertainment. "Soul, thou hast much goods," etc. "Wherefore do ye spend your labour for that which satisfieth not?"
(A. WilIiamson, M. A.)
There is no discharge in that war
I. THERE IS NO "CASTING OFF" OF WEAPONS IN THE WAR. In every other war there is, for one or other of the contending parties obtains a return in triumph, a blowing of the trumpet and a beating of the drums, an unharnessing of armour and a laying by of sword and spear and shield, a tide of congratulations flowing in from king or queen, and from a grateful country that has been delivered from impending danger. "But," says the Preacher, "there is no casting off of weapons in that war." It must be fought out to the bitter end, it must be waged till the vanquished combatant at last surrenders at discretion to the Black Prince of death. The struggle begins at birth. What tussles the infants have for life! Have we not seen them from their earliest breath fighting with the dragon that, as it were, waited for their birth? Fight, little stranger, fight! Fight thou must if thou wouldest live at all, for there are, even in thy weakest days, a thousand enemies who fain would drain thy life away! Moreover, the fight is specially fierce at times. When sickness threatens, and disease invades, and when we are called to pass through places specially unwholesome, or to engage in occupations peculiarly perilous, oh, how hot the battle then becomes.
II. Another rendering of this remarkable expression will give us this idea, THERE IS NO "CASTING OFF" WEAPONS IN THAT WAR. By this, I understand that there is not in any mortal hand a weapon, of whatsoever a description, that is likely to avail against this king of fears. You know how it is in the present day with the art of war, as some are pleased to call it. If one man invents a gun of special calibre, or a bullet of peculiarly penetrating powers, another forthwith invents an armour that resists them both; this has no parallel in the matter of life and death. There can be found for death's shot and shell no armour that can resist it. Goliath's spear, though it be like a weaver's beam, will not defend him from the stroke of death; Saul's javelin, though he aim it better than when he cast it at active David, is not likely to pin death to the wall; and the gilded sword of bribery, with its jewelled hilt, is vain against this adversary. Elizabeth exclaimed, "All my possessions for a moment of time!" but there was no casting of the weapons in that war, even for the virgin queen. We are virtually defence-less. "It is appointed unto man to die."
III. Yet, again, there is this rendering of the passage. "THERE IS NO SENDING OF A SUBSTITUTE IN THAT WAR," I believe that the conscription, where it obtains, allows for substitution; that one may, at least on certain conditions, send another in his place to serve his country; but there is no such provision here. There is, indeed, the possibility of one taking another's place temporarily. A brave miner, for instance, has said to another in equal peril with himself, "Only one of us can get out of this: you may go, and I will die." "Death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned." If this be true, is it not very marvellous how unconcerned most are! It was enjoined upon the ancient Thebans that before they erected a house they should build a sepulchre in its neighbourhood, and the Egyptians were wise enough to bring round at their feasts an image of death, that the guests might be reminded of their mortality. "Ponder, O man, eternity," for "there is no sending of a substitute in that war."
IV. THERE IS NO EXEMPTION FROM FIGHTING IN THIS BATTLE — no excuse from joining in this campaign. We all are hastening to the bourne from which no traveller returns. You know that in the days of Moses there were certain exemptions and excuses in connection with the military service. Such was the mercy of God that He arranged that, if a man had built a new house, he was not called to take up arms, he must go and dedicate it. After the house-warming he might go to the battle, but not before. Or if one had planted a vineyard, he should wait till he had eaten of it: lest another should reap the result of his labours. 'Twas the same with the newly-married man; and for the faint-hearted there was this kind provision made, that they should go back to their homes; not, indeed, so much for their own sakes, aa lest their brethren should become faint-hearted too. There are no such considerations in this case: there cannot be. I heard only last week of one who was married for two short days, and was taken under heartrending circumstances from his bride. We sometimes talk about sudden death, and it is awfully sudden for those who are looking on and living still, but I believe there should be no such thing as sudden death to any who know the power of death and the certainty of it.
I. SO RUNS THE SUMMONS. Now, this Book of God is full of sentences which bind the conscience of every believer, and compel an irrevocable self-consecration. But, aside from all the direct expressions of Scripture, is the spirit of the Christ life to which we are conformed, commanding in the consecration which it exhibits and influences. Oh, how soon the soldier comes to mirror his captain! There was somewhat of Napoleon in every member of the Old Guard — somewhat of his fortitude, his steadfastness, his untiring perseverance, whatsoever might be the harassing or hindering circumstances of the march. Even so does he who has given his pledge to Christ, and who persistently avows his relationship to Him, come to receive somewhat of the spirit of Christ and His constancy of devotion. There are no vacations, there are no furloughs, there are no personal interests. "If any man will come after Me, let him take up his cross and follow Me" — day by day, year by year, even unto the end — saith the Lord who hath redeemed us.
II. But beyond the summons, "There is no discharge in that war," so GLADLY RESPONDS THE SOLDIER. There is no joy like that of those who go forth to those daily battles against sin in the name of the God of Israel. Their battle songs would befit a banquet, and their triumph of spirit is a presage and earnest of their triumph of possession.
1. Gratitude inspires consecration. "There is no discharge in that war," responds the soldier gladly. "What shall I render unto the Lord?" is the constant self-inquiry. Such a grateful soul is covetous most of all of opportunities. He does not check the calls upon him for exertion. He seeks everywhere for occasions to manifest the love which swells and rules within him.
2. But hope expects coronation! It is the mainspring of the wheel. It is the life-preserver on the tide. It is the double wing of the soul in its effort to rise above the things restraining and hindering it. And every believer responds, "There is no discharge in that war": I want none; for hope expects coronation. It is not presumptuous hope, because it is founded upon the purposes of the Word of God.
III. SO REQUIRES THE SERVICE. Thus does our Divine Saviour sum up the work He does for us, in us, and by us. That which He makes the great impulse of our hearts is also a necessity of our work.
1. We have the conflict with evil about us. John Wesley's old motto is the grand talisman of success: "We are all at it; we are always at it." Such steadfastness in Christian example and influence is that for which the times most imperatively cry.
2. But beyond that there is the conquest of sin in thine own soul to which thou art called; for "better is he that ruleth his own spirit than he that taketh a city." Time after time God's people are tempted to return to the city from which they have set out, and there is that within them which is constantly hinting, suggesting, constraining them to return. .Now, if thou art to meet this, thou must battle by little and by little. Character is not built up in a day; it is a very slow process, even as God changes the contour of the earth. .No volcanic action in the sudden manifestation of power is to be expected. .No man grows instantly very good or very bad. By steps we descend, and by steps we ascend in our tendency towards God. But there is never a time when we outgrow this necessity of conflict in this world.
(S. H. Tyng, D. D.)
TopicsAuthority, Battle, Contain, Control, Death, Deliver, Delivereth, Discharge, Discharged, Evil, Free, Man's, Possessors, Power, Practice, Release, Restrain, Retain, Ruler, Ruling, Safe, Sinner, Spirit, War, Wickedness, Wind
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 8:8
6182 ignorance, human situation
'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
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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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