To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10

Covenanter Worship Service at North Union, PA:

Sabbath, May 8th, 1926.

A Sermon on Ecclesiastes 11:1:

Cast thy bread upon the waters:

for thou shalt find it after many days;

And a Lecture on Revelation 19:1-11.

By T. James Blair. Editor’s Introduction.

Below is a transcription of an original manuscript from T. James Blair prepared for a worship service held at North Union, PA in 1926.  Mr. Blair and the Covenanter society there represented the remnant of Reformed Presbyterians of that time who still upheld the original Covenanter testimony.  At the time, T. James Blair served as a preaching student of the ministry, and he would later fill the role of pastor for the congregation.

Occasional words and expressions have been inserted in parentheses to complete the sense or correct the grammar of the manuscript, which Mr. Blair would have expanded in the actual delivery.  The printed sermons of Mr. Blair from that era all exhibit a more usual length, corresponding to a sermon of 40 to 60 minutes of time.  It is also to be noted that at the head of the manuscript is a reference to “Psalm 54:14 to end” indicating that during the service Mr. Blair delivered a Psalm Meditation for this passage.


Sermon Sabbath May 8. 1926. Ecc. 11:1.    Exp. Ps. 54:15 to end.

We have here one of God’s commands that men generally would denominate a hard saying.  Solomon had once and again urged men to take the comfort and use of the goods God had bestowed upon them.  Here he urges them to charity and bounty to others. A beautiful figure of speech is used to illustrate the point he wishes to establish.


  1. What we are to understand by this expression.
  2. How the duty is to be performed.
  3. The assurance given.
  4. Apply

I. What is to be understood by “casting thy bread upon the waters.”

To our natural senses what would be more unreasonable or unlikely than that bread cast upon the water would be found again; and especially after a lapse of time — many days.  Bread cast upon the face of waters would be speedily borne away by the current or by waves, and it would seem foolish to think that we should find it again after many days; and to the ordinary sense of mankind it would seem just as foolish to expect a return of bread or money or clothes given to the poor.

Charity or liberality is here presented under the figure of a sowing, and then in time expecting a harvest.

It is an exhortation to charity, bounty to others under the figure of casting bread upon the waters.  It might seem lost as that which is cast upon the waters but never fear it shall return to you again.  The Farmer must take of his corn and wheat seed for sowing, even perhaps must take somewhat of the portion needed for food for household in order to have seed for the sowing.

2. It may be understood of the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

(2) The Preaching of the Gospel is like casting bread upon the waters: it often seems no chance of return yet a blessing is pronounced on those [who] perform their duty in teaching men how to fear God. Isaiah says (32:20,) Blessed are ye that sow beside all waters, &c.  Or as our Savior puts it, “a sower went forth to sow.”

[But what is meant by sowing “beside all waters”?  It is this: they are blessed] that sow in every place possible where seed can be cast; all idle ground whether it seems good for producing a crop or not.  It is not the sower that gives the increase: Paul may plant, Apollos water, but God gives the increase.  The husbandman must be industrious and attend to his business — sow beside all waters — cast bread upon the waters; and then corn will come up sufficient for the ox, and ass, and all the cattle.

It is well illustrated by the ministry of the apostles: they preached the word wherever they went.  Water often signifies peoples — multitudes — they cast the word upon the face of the multitudes; and although often the seed seemed borne away on the face of the waters yet it was not all lost, but much of it returned, or was found again after many days.

So this verse may be understood (1) as inculcating charity toward all men in relieving their pecuniary wants, and (2) In relieving their spiritual wants. {}

II. How this duty is to be performed.

II.1. By giving to those we see to be in need.

And giving at the time they are needy.  Some are ready to pretend charity when they are wholly unwilling to perform works of charity when they have opportunity.  Charity or benevolence is an operative principle, and James shows us clearly when discoursing concerning faith, Jas. 2.15,16.  Many are disposed to put off deeds of charity to some future time.  They will not cast their bread upon the waters, lest they see it not again.

1. Do not seek whether they will be able to repay.

Our Savior says, “Sinners also lend to sinners to receive as much again. If ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? do good and lend hoping for nothing again.” The same thing is inculcated by Moses in Deut. 15:7-10, “If there be among you a poor man, one of thy brethren in any of thy gates of thy land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thine heart or shut thy hand from thy poor brother: but shalt open thy hand wide unto him and shalt surely lend him sufficient for his need in that which he wanteth.” “Beware that there be not a thought in thy wicked heart saying, the 7th year, the year of release, is at hand, and thine eye be evil against thy poor brother, and thou givest him not.”

Many are ready to give if assured it will be returned with interest, but [yet they] give nothing when [they] think it will be pure charity.  [We] must be ready to distribute [and] willing to communicate.

2. To be done quietly without ostentation.

Our Savior says, “When thou doest thine alms do not sound a trumpet before [thee] as the hypocrites. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”  Multitudes give for show, and to have praise of men.  Christ would have his disciples to be ready to distribute, willing to communicate of the abundance he has given them, but not to make a show of it.

3. To be done thankfully.

Thankful that God has given them sufficient to supply the needs of others, and thankful that they thus had the opportunity of doing good to others.  He that gives aright finds the power of divine grace in his heart.  John Owen says no man is rich or poor merely for himself, but to fill up that divine order of things which God hath designed to his own glory.  [We] should be as thankful for the opportunity and ability to give; and [the] poor should be [thankful] to receive.

Paul tells the Hebrews [13:16] “to do good and to communicate forget not for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

This ευποιια beneficence is the life, salt, and as it were the ligament of human society.

4. Give liberally & willingly.

“The liberal diviseth liberal things, and by liberal things shall he stand.” [Isa. 32:8.]  1 Peter 4:9, “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” {}

Whatever a Christian does by way of charity or hospitality he ought to do it freely and without grudging: “freely ye have received, freely give. [Matth. 10:8.]  2 Cor. 9:6, “He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly, and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.”  “God loveth a cheerful giver.” [2 Cor. 9:7.]

II.2. In those receiving.  This command fulfilled in receiving as well as giving.

1. The poor cast their bread upon the waters in trusting God for the supply of their needs, by obeying his commands. (submissive to his will in whatever he requires.)

[The] Poor widow that cast 2 mites into the treasury cast her bread upon [the] waters.  [The] Widow that gave Elijah a cake before she provided anything for herself and son, [also “cast her bread upon the waters” in so doing.]

2. Not being unduly anxious about supply of wants, saying, “what shall we eat? or what shall we drink? or wherewithal shall we be clothed?”  Anxiousness or carking cares about worldly good things are withholding bread from the waters — a mistrust of God’s power and providence.

III. By love and kindness ministering to the wants of others minds:

[Giving] comfort to the comfortless, and binding up the broken hearted. [Isa. 61:1.]  “Lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet lest that which is lame be turned out of the way. But let it rather be healed.”  Words of kindness and deeds of love may often seem to be wasted or produce no effect on others, but still it is bounden duty to walk in the way of gospel obedience with courage, resolution, and constancy.

IV. Doing [mercy] to the souls of men:

[This] casting the bread-of-life on the face of the waters is the length, the breadth, and fulness of this command.  As it is infinitely more important than attending to their bodily wants so [we] are to have a regard first to this necessary part of doing good to all men.

This duty is to be performed by all in recommending to their fellows God’s truth, grace, & ways, — commending and defending God’s word when it is spoken against.

But especially [it is] to be performed by ministers of the gospel in preaching the word.

1. Diligently and constantly, in season and out of season [2 Tim. 4.2.]; to embrace all opportunities of casting the bread of life to the multitudes; being willing to lay out his strength and abilities for their spiritual advantages.  Paul tells the Corinthians, (2  Cor. 12:15) “I would very gladly spend and be spent for you.”  The word is not to be preached only according to the leisure or inclination of ministers and people.  [The] Character of ministers given by the apostle is “they watch for your souls as they that must give account.” O how little do ministers emulate the exhortation of our Savior in diligently casting bread upon the waters, “I must work the work of him that sent me.” [John 9.4.]

2. Plainly — As the apostle says not in the enticing words of man’s wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power. [1 Cor. 2:4.]  We use great plainness of speech. [2 Cor. 3:12.]  [They must use a] style familiar and adapted to the capacities of [their] hearers.

Lecture Rev. 19:1-11.

We have here a description of a time far different from what the world has ever seen.  A time of quietness, of peace, of joy.  What has brought this about?  “After these things.”  What things?  The fall of Babylon described in the former chapter.  [This is] Accomplished in the pouring out of the 7th vial, and sounding of the 7th Trumpet.

Babylon is no more — utterly and irretrievably ruined: she shall rise no more at all.  The angel taking a stone like a great millstone, and casting it into the sea, describes very vividly the violent and complete destruction and desolation of mystical Babylon.  Her sorceries wherewith she bewitched the nations shall never be practiced any more.  Her statuary, music, and paintings, which attracted multitudes to her idolatry, superstition, and wickedness are gone never to return.

And in verse 20, God’s people were exhorted to rejoice over her.  [The Psalmist David] says, Psalm 101, “I will sing of mercy and judgment.”  [In the second verse of our present chapter, God’s people are told,] “God hath avenged you on her.”  [And so,] here they gladly answer the call, and rejoice with thanksgiving.

Notice the form of their thanksgiving: Alleluia! — with this they begin and end.

Mr. Steele says that the frequent repetition of the Hebrew word Alleluia may perhaps be an intimation of something that especially relates to the Jews.  And what can that be but the fulfilling of the Covenant promises.  Nothing is more clearly taught in Scripture than the perpetuity of [the] Covenant made with Abraham, [and] renewed to Isaac, and given to Jacob for an everlasting Covenant. [Psalm 105:10]

So the covenant promises will all be fulfilled, and one [of these] was the restoration of [the] Jews to covenant standing and covenant privileges.  They were to be gathered from all the countries where they had been scattered, and made to dwell in their own land; and “David my servant shall be king over them.” [Jer. 32.37; Ezek. 37.24.]

Now [in this place in the Revelation John records for us, we] seem to have this joyful consummation.  In chapter 11:15, [it] is said at the sounding of [the] 7th Trumpet there were voices in heaven saying, “the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and He shall reign for ever and ever.”

Now Heaven signifies the Visible Church, and “much people” denotes a great increase in the membership of [the] Church.  [The] Jews being brought in, and with them the greater fulness of [the] Gentile nations, [evidently accounts for this great increase.]

2. The matter of their praise.

They thank God for the truth of his word and accomplishment of his providential dispensations.  “True and righteous are thy judgments” [verse 2.]  They illustrate the truth of his promises and threatenings.

1. Of promises.  “When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.” [Psalm 9:2.] {}  “Precious shall their blood be in his sight.”  In [the] last verse of [the] former chapter, [we are] told [of Babylon] that “in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth.”  So [we] see the justice of God’s dealing with these awful sinners.  Where could we find a heavier accusation and charge than this: On Antichristian Rome and her harlot daughters — the weight of the righteous blood shed during Antichrist’s domination or 1260 years.

All the blood shed by Pagan Rome, Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon was equalled and exceeded by so-called Christian Rome, and her harlot daughters.  Then the children of Zion here rejoice in the retributive equity of the Most High.  God has answered the cry of [the] souls under the altar. [Rev. 6:9-10.]  They were exhorted to “rest yet for a little season until their fellow servants also and brethren [that] should be killed as they were, should be accomplished.” [Verse 11.]

To the suffering saints it seemed a long time before the cup of Babylon’s transgressions [was] filled to the brim.  But now at length God’s time came for punishment: the line of her impiety which he had marked out with unerring precision had come to an end, and just judgment was visited upon her, just as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon filled up the cup of their iniquity and were overthrown.  So mystical Babylon’s time had come, and utter destruction from the presence of the Lord had overtaken her. [2 Thess 1:9.]

This rejoicing of the saints is not at all at variance with the charity of the Gospel.  The Lord Jesus Christ reigns — Justice and Judgment are the habitation of his throne, [Psalm 89:14,] and none who rebel against his righteous precepts can or need think to escape punishment.  Babylon’s sins had reached unto heaven, and God had remembered her iniquities; and visited her according to her iniquities.

God had proved himself holy and true by avenging the blood of his saints upon her.  She had blood given her to drink, for she richly deserved it. [Rev. 16:6]  Then, not to rejoice in God’s righteous judgments would be to disobey his command. [Rev. 19:7; 18:20.]  Rejoice!