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go on year after year in quiet prosperity, and be content to offer up, week by week, Agur's wise prayer: 'Give me neither poverty nor riches, but feed me with food sufficient for me.'
They need never complain that they have no time to think of their own souls; that the hurry and bustle of business must needs drive religion out of their minds. Their life passes in a quiet round of labours. Day after day, week after week, season after season, they know beforehand what they have to do, and can arrange their affairs for this world, so as to give them full time to think of the world to come. Every week brings small gains, for which they can thank the God of all plenty; and every week brings, too, small anxieties, for which they can trust the same God who has given them his only-begotten Son, and will with him freely give them all things needful for them ; who has, in mercy to their souls and bodies, put them in the healthiest and usefullest of all pursuits, the one which ought to lead their minds most to God, and the one in which (if they be thoughtful men) they have the deep satisfaction of feeling that they are not working for themselves only, but for their fellow-men; that every sheaf of corn they grow is a blessing not merely to themselves, but to the whole nation.
My friends, think of these things, especially at this rich and blessed harvest-time; and while you thank your God and your Saviour for his unexampled bounty in this year's good harvest, do not forget to thank him for having given the sowing and the reaping of those crops to you ; and for having called you to that business in life in which, I verily believe, you will find it most easy to serve and obey him, and be least tempted to ambition and speculation, and the lust of riches, and the pride which goes before
Think of these things ; and think of the exceeding mercies which God heaps on you as Englishmen,-peace and safety, freedom and just laws, the knowledge of his Bible, the teaching of his Church, and all that man needs for body and soul. Let those who have thanked God already, thank him still more earnestly, and show their thankfulness not only in their lips, but in their lives ; and let those who have not thanked him, awake, and learn, as St. Paul bids them, from God's own witness of himself, in that he has sent them fruitful seasons, filling their hearts with food and gladness :--let them learn, I say, from that, that they have a Father in heaven who has given them his only-begotten Son, and will with him freely give them all things needful: only asking in return that they should obey his laws—to obey which is everlasting life.
(Preached before the Queen, at Clifden, June 3, 1866.)
ECCLESIASTES VII. 10.
Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were
better than these ? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
MHIS text occurs in the Book of Ecclesiastes,
which has been for many centuries generally attributed to Solomon the son of David. I say, generally, because not only among later critics, but even among the ancient Jewish Rabbis, there have been those who doubted or denied that Solomon was its author.
I cannot presume to decide on such a question: but it seems to me most probable, that the old tradition is right, even though the book may have suffered alterations, both in form and in language: but any later author, personating
Solomon, would surely have put into his mouth very different words from those of Ecclesiastes. Solomon was the ideal hero-king of the later Jews. Stories of his superhuman wealth, of magical power, of a fabulous extent of dominion, grew up about his name. He who was said to control, by means of his wondrous seal, the genii of earth and air, would scarcely have been represented as a disappointed and brokenhearted sage, who pronounced all human labour to be vanity and vexation of spirit; who saw but one event for the righteous and the wicked, and the wise man and the fool ; and questioned bitterly whether there was any future state, any pre-eminence in man over the brute.
These, and other startling utterances, made certain of the early Rabbis doubt the authenticity and inspiration of the book Ecclesiastes, as containing things contrary to the Law, and to desire its suppression, till they discovered in it—as we may, if we be wise, a weighty and world-wide meaning.
Be that as it may, it would certainly be a loss to Scripture, and to our knowledge of humanity,