Ecclesiastes 11


Give alms to all, 1-4.

The works of God unknown to man, 5.

Diligence necessary, 6.

Prosperity frequently succeeded by adversity, 7, 8.

There will be a day of judgment, 9, 10.


Verse 1. Cast thy bread upon the waters] An allusion to the

sowing of rice; which was sown upon muddy ground, or ground

covered with water, and trodden in by the feet of cattle: it thus

took root, and grew, and was found after many days in a plentiful

harvest. Give alms to the poor, and it will be as seed sown in

good ground. God will cause thee afterwards to receive it with

abundant increase. The Targum understands it of giving bread to

poor sailors. The Vulgate and my old Bible have the same idea.

Send thi brede upon men passing waters.

Verse 2. Give a portion to seven] Never cease giving while thou

seest a person in distress, and hast wherewithal to relieve him.

Thou knowest not what evil] Such may be the change of times,

that thou mayest yet stand in need of similar help thyself. Do as

thou wouldst be done by.

Verse 3. If the clouds be full of rain.] Act as the clouds; when

they are full they pour out their water indifferently on the field

and on the desert. By giving charity indiscriminately, it may be

that thou wilt often give it to the unworthy: but thou shouldst

ever consider that he is an object of thy charity, who appears to

be in real want; and better relieve or give to a hundred worthless

persons, than pass by one who is in real distress.

Where the tree falleth, there it shall be.] Death is at no great

distance; thou hast but a short time to do good. Acquire a

heavenly disposition while here; for there will be no change after

this life. If thou die in the love of God, and in the love of man,

in that state wilt thou be found in the day of judgment. If a tree

about to fall lean to the north, to the north it will fall; if to

the south, it will fall to that quarter. In whatever disposition

or state of soul thou diest, in that thou wilt be found in the

eternal world. Death refines nothing, purifies nothing, kills no

sin, helps to no glory. Let thy continual bent and inclination be

to God, to holiness, to charity, to mercy, and to heaven: then,

fall when thou mayest, thou wilt fall well.

Verse 4. He that observeth the wind shall not sow] The man that

is too scrupulous is never likely to succeed in any thing. If a

man neither plough nor sow till the weather is entirely to his

mind, the season will in all probability pass before he will have

done any thing: so, if thou be too nice in endeavouring to find

out who are the impostors among those who profess to be in want,

the real object may perish, whom otherwise thou mightest have

relieved, and whose life might have been thereby saved. Those very

punctilious and scrupulous people, who will sift every thing to

the bottom in every case, and, before they will act, must be fully

satisfied on all points, seldom do any good, and are themselves

generally good for nothing. While they are observing the clouds

and the rain, others have joined hands with God, and made a poor

man live.

Verse 5. As thou knowest not-the way of the spirit] Why God

should have permitted such an such persons to fall into want, and

how they came into all their distresses, thou canst not tell, no

more than thou canst how their soul is united to their body, how

it came to inform that body, or how the child was formed in the

womb of its mother. Nor canst thou discern the end which God has

in view in these things. He maketh all, every thing is open to

him; and take heed lest, while pretending motives of scrupulosity

and prudence, in not relieving the distresses of those thou

pretendest to suspect to be unworthy, he does not see that a love

of money is the motive of thy conduct, and a want of the bowels of

mercy the cause why thou drivest this suspected beggar from thy


Verse 6. In the morning sow thy seed] Be ready at all times to

show mercy; begin in the morning, continue till the evening. Thou

knowest not the most worthy object; it is enough that God knoweth;

and if thy motive be good, he will applaud and reward thee; not

according to the worthiness or unworthiness of the object of thy

charity, but according to the motive which induced thee to relieve


Verse 7. Truly the light is sweet] Life is dear to every man as

the light of the sun is to the eye. A man would give all that he

has for his life, and it is particularly dear to him when he is in

ease and affluence: but let each remember that,

Verse 8. If a man live many years] And even have prosperity

through the whole; yet the days of darkness-times of affliction,

weakness, and perhaps old age, will be many. If he die not a

violent death, which no man can wish, he will die a lingering

death; and this is ordinarily attended with many pains, and many

sorrows; therefore let him prepare to meet his God; and to carry

this thought through life, that all must terminate in death. The

writer of Ecclesiasticus, Eccl 7:36, has a good saying, similar to

this: "Whatsoever thou takest in hand, remember thy END; and thou

shalt never do amiss;" ουκαμαρτησεις, thou wilt not sin.

Verse 9. Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth] Youth is devoid of

cares; and, consequently, of many perplexities and distresses.

Were it not so, we should have no old men; nay, perhaps not one

even of middle age. It is in the order of a most gracious God,

that the young should rejoice in their youth; but they should

make such a moderate use of all their enjoyments, that they may

not be confounded in the day of judgment. But, O young man, if

thou wilt follow the propensities of thy own heart, the noisy

mirth of the fool, and the dissipation of the profligate-go on;

take thy full swing; but take this with thee, that "for all these

things, God will judge thee;" and if the righteous are scarcely

saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?

Verse 10. Therefore remove sorrow] caas, anger; every kind

of violent passion, all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.

"Childhood and youth are vanity;" they pass away and come to

nothing. Eternity alone is permanent; live for eternity.

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