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Than that thou shouldest be put lower in the presence of the
prince, Whom thine eyes have seen.
“When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room, lest a more honorable man than thou be bidden of him. And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place ; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher ; then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee.” 2 Or again compare the ethical instruction of Paul with that of the Book of Proverbs from which he quotes it :
“If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat;
And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink:
Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath : for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will
repay, saith the Lord. Therefore, if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink : for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” 4
1 Prov. XXV.
2 Luke xiv. 8-10. 4 Rom. xii. 20.
The counsel is the same; but the Wise Man in the Proverbs promises a reward to those who follow it; Paul promises nothing; and Christ who calls to his followers to give a like treatment to their enemies, summons to love as well as to service, and for motive appeals to the highest aspiration of the soul: “ That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” 1
God speaks to us with many voices. To men whose conscience is alert he speaks through law, saying: “I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt have no other gods before me ; " to the men whose imagination is receptive he speaks through poetry, declaring that in his temple everything saith “Glory;" to the man of broad observation he speaks in history, showing in the course of Israel's history how Jehovah is revealed in his dealing with the sons of men ; to the man who is a cere
! monialist he speaks through the Levitical code, pointing out justice on the one hand and mercy on the other; and to the man whose horizon is limited by this world, who has no clear hope beyond the grave and no clear vision of the Eternal Father, he speaks through the Book of Proverbs, saying in effect: If there were no God, and if there were no life to come, still sin would be folly and virtue would be wisdom.
1 Matt. v. 43-48.
A SCHOOL OF ETHICAL PHILOSOPHY
THE Book of Ecclesiastes is like the Book of Proverbs in that it is an interpretation of life from the point of view of experience ; 1 it differs from the Book of Proverbs in that it is by a single author, who interprets life chiefly from the point of view of a single experience, that of King Solomon.
1 The difficulties which attend the interpretation of the Book of Ecclesiastes are illustrated by the following summary of opinions which have been expressed respecting it by different scholars : We
e are positively assured that the book contains the holy lamentations of Solomon, together with a prophetic vision of the splitting up of the royal house of David, the destruction of the temple, and the captivity ; and we are equally assured that it is a discussion between a refined sensualist and a sober sage. Solomon publishes it in his repentance, to glorify God and to strengthen his brethren; he wrote it when he was irreligious and skeptical during his amours and idolatry. The Messiah, the true Solomon, who was known by the title of son of David, addresses this book to the saints; a profligate who wanted to disseminate his infamous sentiments palmed it upon Solomon. It teaches us to despise the world with all its pleasures and flee to monasteries ; it shows that sensual gratifications are men's greatest blessing upon earth. It is a philosophic lecture delivered to a literary society upon topics of the greatest moment; it is a medley of heterogeneous fragments belonging to various authors and different ages. It describes the beautiful order of God's moral government, showing that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord; it proves that all is disorder and confusion and that the world is the sport of chance. It is a treatise on the summum bonum; it is a chronicle of the lives of the kings of the house of David from Solomon down to Zedekiah. Its object is to prove the immortality of the soul; its design is to deny a future exist
All modern or literary students of the Bible are agreed that Solomon is not the author of the book. The fact that in its title-page 2 authorship is attributed to "the Preacher, the Son of David, King in Jerusalem,” is not conclusive. That certainly means Solomon ; but in all ages it has been customary for men to write in the name of some other character, real or fictitious. Such writing is not fraudulent, unless the object of the writer is to palm off a false name upon his readers in order to secure for his writing a false authority. In this case there certainly is no such endeavor by the author to secure divine authority for his book, for the experience portrayed is anything but a divine experience. No one charges Robert Browning with fraud because in the “Death in the Desert" he puts his own sentiments into the mouth of the dying Apostle John. In some such manner a poet, probably of the fourth century before Christ, took Solomon as a vehicle for the expression of a certain interpretation of life. But though Solomon did not write this prose-poem, in interpreting it we may make use of our knowledge of Solomon, as our understanding of the character of King John will help us to understand Shakespeare's play of that name. What sort of character, then, was Solomon, and what sort of experience of life would a poet attribute to him?
Its aim is to comfort the unhappy Jews in their misfortunes; and its sole purport is to pour forth the gloomy imaginations of a melancholy misanthrope. It is intended to " open Nathan's speech (1 Chron. xviii.) touching the eternal throne of David,' and it propounds by anticipation the modern discoveries of anatomy and the Harveian theory of the circulation of the blood. It foretells what will become of man or angels to eternity, and, according to one of the latest and greatest authorities, it is a keen satire on Herod, written 8 B. C., when the king cast his son Alexander into prison.” C. D. Ginsburg: Encyclopedia Britannica, article Ecclesiastes. The student will find the material for a careful study of the Book of Ecclesiastes in Dr. Samuel Cox's Commentary on Ecclesiastes, Expositor's Bible; in Dean Plumptre on Ecclesiastes, The Cambridge Bible ; in Professor Moulton's view of Ecclesiastes as given in the Modern Reader's Bible ; and in Dean Stanley's interpretation of Ecclesiastes in his Lectures on the Jewish Church, vol. ii. pp. 282–287.
1 For a clear statement of the grounds on which this consideration is based see Professor Moulton's Modern Reader's Bible, Ecclesiastes, Introduction, $ 1; Plumptre's Commentary on Ecclesiastes, The Cambridge Bible, Introduction, pp. 19–34; Driver's Introduction to the Literature of the Old Testament, pp. 465–478. The arguments are chiefly two: first, that the language and style are not those of the Solomonic era ; second, that Solomon's reign was one of great material prosperity, while the Book of Ecclesiastes assumes a condition of national adversity under cruel foreign oppression.
2 Eccles. i. 1.
Solomon, more than any other man in Old Testament history, represents that complexity of character which Paul has so graphically described in the seventh chapter of Romans. He was brought up by religious parents; had a religious training; was familiar with the law of God and with the ritual of the Temple ; his conscience was educated by the law, his reverence by the ritual. But when