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out Christ, aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. These last words, ἐλπίδα μὴ ἔχοντες καὶ ἄθεοι ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ, concentrate in a single phrase the sum of human misery, yet how appropriately they would form the motto of Ecclesiastes. From this point of view the interest of the book is almost unique. It stands on a level with the prophetic narrative of Jonah, and fulfils, if we may so speak, an equally indispensable function in the literature of revelation. In this book a pagan worldling, sated, despairing, and weary of life, would find himself not merely described but understood: he would find his own hatred of life 2, his alienation from God, his cynical despondency expressed and interpreted. Thus the presence of the book in the canon may be regarded as a token to the Jew that the Gentiles, wandering in vanity and moral darkness and seeming to be beyond the pale of divine care and covenant grace, were after all not forgotten, not altogether abandoned. The book is a pledge of coming good even for them, and this not only because it describes so truthfully the conflict of passionate moods that might distract the undisciplined Gentile heart, but also because it recognizes the fundamentals of natural religion to which such a heart might half unconsciously still adhere. It speaks of God, the God of Israel's faith, only by titles which the heathen would acknowledge, avoiding the sacred name as was customary in the later period of Judaism, and describing the deity only as 'Creator' and 'Judge.' And in the key-word of the book, All is vanity, the writer seems to cast up the sum-total of man's life and labours apart from God; nay, he expresses the condition of the whole visible creation in its state of alienation from

1 Eph. ii. 11, 12.

2 Eccl. ii. 17, I hated life.' Renan, L'Ecclésiaste, p. 90: 'Le pessimisme de nos jours y trouve sa plus fine expression.' On the relation of the book to modern pessimism see Wright, The Book of Koheleth (Donnellan Lectures), ch. vi.

its Maker; he describes the inherent emptiness and nothingness of all that has not God for its end and object1. Solomon, in whose person the author describes his own experiences, is taken as the type of universal wisdom, which had put to the test all that life had to offer of temporal good-pleasure, wealth, power, knowledge—and had found a restingplace for heart and mind nowhere but in God. But though ascribed to the Hebrew monarch, the book reflects the condition of a paganism that is practically bankrupt 2.

But it is in relation to the problem of suffering that Ecclesiastes marks a moment in the education of humanity. It deals with pain, first, as a difficulty to be discussed on the basis of traditional ideas; secondly, as a disease to be ministered to, and if possible healed. For the pain which it contemplates is not merely that which affects bodily life and wellbeing, but that which arises from contemplation of the anomalies of the world in its totality. The book reflects a spirit of far-reaching scepticism which calls in question not merely the dealings of God with the righteous, but the very existence of any providential plan or government in the universe at all. Consequently, Ecclesiastes may be said to have a twofold aim: philosophic and didactic. First, it contributes something to the philosophical or moral problem of retribution already noticed. We have already observed that its standpoint is that of quiescence. It practically renounces the fruitless effort to comprehend the mystery of God's dealings with

1 Cp. Rom. viii. 20; and see Greg. Nyss. Hom. i. in Eccl. paraιórns ἐστιν ἡ ῥῆμα αδιανόητον ἢ πρᾶγμα ἀνόνητον ἡ βουλὴ ἀνυπόστατος ἢ σπουδὴ πέρας οὐκ ἔχουσα ἢ καθόλου τὸ ἐπὶ παντὶ λυσιτελοῦντι ἀνύπαρκτον. Cp. Hugo de S. Vict., Hom. in Eccl. i.

2 Riehm, ATI. Theologie, p. 33, says: 'Das Heidentum als solches, das sich durch die Trübung jenes Gottesbewusstseins durch das Weltbewusstsein charakterisiert, kann sonst nur negativ auf das Christentum vorbereiten, sofern es mit sich selbst im Widerspruch steht und das religiöse Bedürfniss des menschlichen Herzens unbefriedigt lässt und darum mit Bankerott endet.'

men, in view of the fragmentariness of human knowledge. This, as Cornill remarks, is a signal triumph of Old Testament piety. The writer of Ecclesiastes, he says, is so penetrated and dominated by the spirit. of Hebrew religion that he escapes the apparently inevitable conclusion of his reasoning, viz. that the world is subject to a blind and relentless Fate, and falls back upon the belief in a personal God in whose light the human race will see light1. Besides the voice of pessimism, or 'malism' as Professor Cheyne prefers to calls it 2, we discern tones in the book which contain the germ of a higher optimism'; for it ends with the prediction of a judgment to come-a judgment which will solve the perplexities of the present, and which because it is personal and particular, will be relative to the opportunities of individuals, and will involve the manifestation of every secret thing in its true character.

Again, the book of Ecclesiastes has a didactic import. Just as it seems to indicate the care and compassion of God for the seemingly unregarded millions of heathendom, so it is a welcome token of divine. sympathy with the mental perplexities and spiritual sorrows of individual men. From this standpoint we can even ascribe to the book an evangelical function. It is an instance of the simple law that in order to minister effectually to perplexity, we must show that we understand it. Here, as occasionally in the Psalter and in the book of Job, Scripture addresses itself to an abnormal mood-perhaps the very darkest which the human soul is capable of entertaining; in order to give a proof of its complete power of understanding and even sympathizing in some degree with every phase in the life of the human spirit. But Scripture only depicts the dark mood

1 Einleitung, p. 251.

2 Job and Solomon, p. 20.

3 So Augustine says of Ps. xciv that it speaks comfortably to the perplexed soul, Enarr. in Psalm. xciii. 9: 'Compatitur tibi et Psalmus, quaerit tecum, non quia nescit, sed ideo tecum quaerit quod scit, ut in illo invenias quod nesciebas. Quomodo qui vult aliquem consolari, nisi

in order that the soul may be educated out of it and lifted into the light of faith. Ecclesiastes ends by pointing to the certainty of judgment, and to the life of obedience. In these lies the only hope of attaining to further light in regard to the problems of existence. Thus while the Old Testament finds a place for the cry of perplexity, and shows its compassion for the agony of doubt, it teaches that a remedy or alleviation is to be found only in fidelity to known moral duty. Our Lord practically endorses the admonition with which the book of Ecclesiastes concludes when He plainly says, If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself1.

We have reason then to be thankful that, owing apparently to the liberal and large-hearted spirit that prevailed in the school of Hillel, Ecclesiastes was allowed to find a place in the Hebrew Canon 2. For it is undoubtedly a book of peculiar value to those who have to deal with the mental ailments, often so subtle and so complex, that are peculiar to the present bewildering stage of modern civilization. It illustrates the manner in which the temper of paralyzing scepticism may be most efficiently treated, and it points to a simple creed as the best antidote to hopelessness, aimlessness, and heedless oblivion. Its characteristic lesson is the need of strenuousness in the life of the soul-a lesson concisely summed up in the words of St. Peter: Gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. The last word of the Old Testament Wisdom is a warning that human life must be ennobled by moral purpose, condoleat cum illo, non illum erigit. Prius cum illo dolet, et sic eum reficit sermone consolatorio.' Cp. Enarr. ii. in Psalm, xxi. 4: ‘Intelligat homo medicum esse Deum, et tribulationem medicamentum esse ad salutem, non poenam ad damnationem.'

1 John vii. 17.

2 See Cheyne, Job and Solomon; and Ryle, Canon of the O. T. PP. 195 foll.


1 Pet. i. 13.

B b

brightened by hope, and sobered by perpetual recollection of the end.

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I have endeavoured to show that the Hagiographa are pervaded by certain ideas which bear directly upon the spiritual life in man. These ideas were suggested by the actual experience of Israel's history; they were developed and confirmed by the discipline of the Law, and they have been transmitted to Christianity as permanent elements in the religious character. It is a remarkable characteristic of the Hebrew genius that it clings closely to concrete facts and historical traditions, without apparently possessing the plastic power to create, as the Greek and Teutonic spirit created, a purely imaginative literature. The mind,' it has been said, 'which feeds eagerly on the evidences of an actual Providence will not care to live in a world of its own creation 1.' The Jew stood alone in his persistent sense of a vocation to the life of communion with God. The thought possessed him and absorbed him; it awakened memories, it quickened imagination, it roused emotion, it trained the faculty of spiritual insight. A passionate conviction of the divinely-ordained dignity of human nature stirred him to self-consecration. He recognized that man was in nature only a little lower than the angels, that dominion over the creatures was his birthright, that God had verily put all things under his feet.

From the sense of human worth and dignity the Jew advanced slowly and tentatively to a presage of his own immortality. A being so favoured, so aspiring, so richly endowed, so precious in the sight of God, could not be made for naught, could not be destined to pass into nothingness. But the longings and intuitions of the devout Israelite were not left to exhaust themselves in vain speculations: they rested upon the solid basis supplied by an historical revelation. The R. H. Hutton, Essays Literary and Theological, vol. ii. p. 211. 2 Ps. lxxxix. 47.

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