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Ecclesiastes (Geneva Series of Commentaries) Library Binding – September 1, 1960
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About the Author
Charles Bridges (1794-1869) was one of the leaders of the Evangelical party in the Church of England in the nineteenth century. He was the vicar of Old Newton, Suffolk, from 1823 to 1849, and later of Weymouth and Hinton Martell in Dorset.
Educated at Queen's College, Cambridge, Bridges was ordained in 1817. As a preacher he was called upon for such important occasions as the Clerical Conference at Weston-super-Mare in 1858 (when he preached along with J. C. Ryle) and the consecration of the Bishop of Carlisle in York Minster in l860.
Renowned though he was in his own day for his pulpit ministry, his subsequent fame rests in the books which came from his pen An Exposition of Psalm CXIX (1827), Forty-eight Scriptural Studies (5th ed. 1833), Fifty-four Scriptural Studies</o> (1837), An Exposition of the Book of Proverbs (1846), a Manual for the Young (1849), and An Exposition of the Book of Ecclesiastes (1860). His The Christian Ministry went through nine editions within 20 years of its appearance in 1829 and has probably remained unequalled in its field. These works earned high commendation from many, including C. H. Spurgeon, who described all Bridge's writings as 'very suggestive to ministers.'
After his death a small selection of his correspondence was published in book form in 1870 and it reveals a man of deep Christian piety. 'I never remember anyone,' says the writer of the Foreword to The Christian Ministry, 'in whose presence it was more difficult to be irreligious, or even frivolous.'
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Nevertheless, I have come to appreciate again and again with a sincere gratitude to God the value of godly and able teachers in the church such as Charles Bridges. The reason here specifically is that I see two dangers in misinterpreting texts like Ecclesiastes. It might lead to either gloomy despondency or ruinous extravagance. The former might come in a sense of hopelessness since everything is worthless. So what's the point of getting married, raising a family, going to school, getting a job, pursuing a hobby if all of these are vanities? The latter might display itself in an attitude of "let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die," (1 Cor 15:32, cf. Eccl 8:15). Bridges is aware of this, so while affirming and expounding beautifully on the warnings issued to the young and old (ch.12), the thoughtless and careless hedonists (ch.2), the idles (e.g., 8:18, 9:10 and 10:10), the rich (ch.5), the babblers (ch. 10) and the penurious (ch.11), as well as the commendation to the wise and generous, he is careful to pick up evangelical messages in them, though they might not be so obvious. "When one sight after another fades away from your darkened eyes, look much more to Jesus. For if He be your joy, your hope, your life; the faster you are clothed with the snows of age, the sooner will you renew your youth in the realms of immortality... The golden chain, which binds the believer's heart to heaven, is waxing stronger. Its links are growing more firm and massive. All the powers of hell will not prevail to break them" (on ch. 12:6, p. 295).
The subject I love dearly and also covered in Ecclesiastes is the beauty of the hidden decrees of God; His providence, His overruling power and exhaustive control over all. "Works of providence, as works of creation, may begin in chaos, and seem without form and void (Gen 1:2), but they end in admirable order and beauty" (on ch.3:11, p. 67). Again, on ch. 7:13, Bridges writes, "Most profitable therefore is it carefully to ponder the dealings of God with us. Let us command our judgment and reason to stand by, that we may with reverence, submission and faith, consider the work of God" (p. 155). Bridges also aptly comments on ch. 8:9-10, "So wide of the sphere of the mighty striving of self-will must be the peril - a pinnacle of fearful danger. Thus was Pharaoh raised up to a throne, only that his fall might be more tremendous. Especial mercy is it to be kept upon the humble ground; not seeking to mount, but thankful to be kept watchful in godly fear" (p. 195).
I haven't read many expositions and commentaries by Anglican theologians. In fact, this work by Bridges is only the second one, after J.C. Ryle's "Expository Thoughts on the Gospels". Yet afterwards I went away soberly happy, better informed, better exposed to, and humbly satisfied by the majesty of the Divine words in Ecclesiastes; a mixture of poetry and proverbs; full of sobering eye-opening realities and gracious God-given counsels on life in this fallen world.