Ecclesiastes 2:17
So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. For everything is futile and a pursuit of the wind.
Sermons
Disgust with LifeJ. Saurin.Ecclesiastes 2:17
Is Life Worth LivingJ. G. James, B. A.Ecclesiastes 2:17
Life with and Without GodG. S. Barrett, D. D.Ecclesiastes 2:17
Pessimism and OptimismA. Crawford, M. A.Ecclesiastes 2:17
Tired of LifeHomilistEcclesiastes 2:17
A Strange ExperimentC. L. Thompson, D. D.Ecclesiastes 2:1-26
The Pleasures of Sin and the Pleasures of Christ's Service ContrastedJ. M. Sherwood, D. D.Ecclesiastes 2:1-26
The Threefold View of Human LifeW. L. Watkinson.Ecclesiastes 2:1-26
The Comparison Between Wisdom and FollyD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 2:12-17
The Value and the Futility of WisdomJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 2:12-17


To the ordinary observer the contrast between men's condition and circumstances is more expressive than that 'between their character. The senses are attracted, the imagination is excited, by the spectacle of wealth side by side with squalid poverty, of grandeur and power side by side with obscurity and helplessness. But to the reflecting and reasonable there is far more interest and instruction in the distinction between the nature and life of the fool, impelled by his passions or by the influence of his associations; and the nature and life of the man who considers, deliberates, and judges, and, as becomes a rational being, acts in accordance with nature and well-weighed convictions. Very noble are the words which the poet puts into the lips of Philip van Artevelde -

"All my life long
Have I beheld with most respect the man
Who knew himself, and knew the ways before him;
And from amongst them chose deliberately,
And with clear foresight, not with blindfold courage;
And having chosen, with a steadfast mind
Pursued his purposes."

I. THE NATURAL CONTRAST BETWEEN WISDOM AND FOLLY.

1. The distinction is one founded in the very nature of things, and is similar to that which, in the physical world, exists between light and darkness. This is as much as to say that God himself is the All-wise, and that reasonable beings, in so far as they participate in his nature and character, are distinguished by true wisdom; whilst, on the other hand, departure from God is the same thing as abandonment to folly.

2. The distinction is brought out by the just exercise or the culpable misuse of human faculty. "The wise man's eyes are in his head," which is a proverbial and figurative way of saying that the wise man uses the powers of observation and judgment with which he is endowed. The position and the endowments of the organs of vision is a plain indication that they were intended to guide the steps; the man who looks before him will not miss his way or fall into danger. Similarly, the faculties of the understanding and reason which are bestowed upon man are intended for the purpose of directing the voluntary actions, which, becoming habitual, constitute man's moral life. The wise man is he who not only possesses such powers, but makes a right use of them, and orders his way aright. The fool, on the contrary, "walketh in darkness;" i.e. he is as one who, having eyes, makes no use of them - shuts his eyes, or walks blindfold. The natural consequence is that he wanders from the path, and probably falls into perils and into destruction.

II. THE APPARENT EQUALITY OF THE LOT OF THE WISE MAN AND THAT OF THE FOOL. The writer of this Book of Ecclesiastes was impressed with the fact that in this world men do not meet with their deserts; that, if there is retribution, it is of a very incomplete character; that the fortune of men is not determined by their moral character. This is a mystery which has oppressed the minds of observant and reflecting men in every age, and has been to some the occasion of falling into skepticism and even atheism.

1. The wise man and the fool in many cases meet with the same fortune here upon earth: "One event happeneth to them all." Wisdom does not always meet with its reward in earthly prosperity, nor does folly always bring down upon the fool the penalty of poverty, suffering, and shame. A man may be ignorant, unthinking, and wicked; yet by the exercise of shrewdness and cunning he may advance himself. A wise man may be indifferent to worldly ends, and may neglect the means by which prosperity may be secured. Moral means secure moral ends; but there may be spiritual prosperity which is not crowned by worldly greatness and wealth.

2. The wise man and the fool are alike forgotten after death. "All shall be forgotten;" "There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever." All men have some sensitiveness to the reputation which shall survive them: the writer of this book seems to have been particularly sensitive upon this point. He was impressed by the fact that no sooner has a wise and good man departed this life than straightway men proceed to forget him. A few years past, and the memory of the dead itself dies, and good and bad alike are forgotten by a generation interested only in its own affairs. A common oblivion overtakes us all such considerations led the author of this book into distress and disheartenment. He was tempted to hate life; it was grievous unto him, and all was vanity and vexation of spirit. A voice within, plausible and seductive, urges - Why trouble as to the moral principles by which you are guided? Whether you are wise or foolish, will it not soon be all the same? Nay, is it not all the same even now?

III. THE REAL SUPERIORITY OF WISDOM OVER POLLY, If we were to look at some verses of this book only, we might infer that the author's mind was quite unhinged by the spectacle of human-life; that he really doubted the superintendence of Divine providence; that he did not care to make aright for truth, righteousness, and goodness. But although he had doubts, and difficulties, though he passed through moods of a pessimistic character, it appears plain that when he came to state his deliberate and reasoned convictions, he showed himself to be a believer in God, and not in fate; in resolute and self-denying virtue, and not in self-indulgence and cynicism. In this passage are brought together facts which occasion most men perplexity, which bring some men into skepticism. Yet the deliberate conclusion to which the author comes is this: "I saw that wisdom excelleth folly." He had, as we all should have, a better and higher standard of judgment, and a better and higher law of conduct, than the phenomena of this world can supply. It is not by temporal and earthly results that we are to form our judgments upon morality and religion; we have a nobler and a truer standard, even our own reason and conscience, the voice of Heaven to which to listen, the candle of the Lord by which to guide our steps. Judged as God judges, judged by the Law and the Word of God, "wisdom excelleth folly." Let the wise and good man be afflicted in his body, let him be plunged into adversity, let him be deserted by his friends, let him be calumniated or forgotten; still he has chosen the better part, and need not envy the good fortune of the fool. Even the ancient Stoics maintained this. How much more the followers of Christ, who himself incurred the malice and derision of men; who was despised and rejected and crucified, but who, nevertheless, was approved and accepted of God the All-wise, and was exalted to everlasting dominion! Wisdom is justified of her children." The wise man is not to be shaken either by the storms of adversity or by the taunts of the foolish. His is the right path, and ha will persevere in it; and he is not only sustained by the approbation of his conscience, he is satisfied with the fellowship of his Master, Christ. - T.









Therefore I hated life.
? — "Is life worth living?" is a question that is continually coming before the public mind in one form or another. When Mr. Maddock's book appeared, as many of you may remember, there was an attempt to make light of it by the pun contained in the supposed doctor's answer, "It depends on the liver. This has been capped by Punch's" clergyman, who replies, "It depends on the living." One must, however, approach the matter with the utmost seriousness, as it touches upon the deep basal truths and principles of existence, and is too solemn a subject to admit of any flippancy in our treatment of it. The problem would be met by an unqualified affirmative wherever life is young, healthy, and active, and the environment favourable to a rich, varied, and exuberant form of existence. In some respects, therefore, the doctor is right; it does depend upon the state of the health and the physical condition. I wonder what a happy schoolboy, rushing out with the football under his arm, would say if he were asked, "Is life worth living?" His expression would be a curious study as he gave his reply, and would itself convey deep significance. What a happy thing it would be if that schoolboy aspect of life were only exchanged for a deeper conviction of its fuller value and noble possibilities, and that it should never occur to us to ask whether this breath of life might not as well cease, and that perhaps the whole had been a hideous mistake! The words of the Koheleth express the sentiment of those who thus pass an adverse sentence upon the value of life, condemning both the career of the wise man and the fool, and who have come to hate life, for "all is vanity and vexation of spirit" or "a striving after wind." The grand old Greeks, with their highly-refined conditions of life, and life itself full of richness and variety, end ennobled by the splendid idealism of the fine arts, now and then fell into this sad vein. Even the ancient poet, the "sunny-brewed" Homer, sang —

"For there is nothing whatever more wretched than man

Of all things that breathe and that move o'er the earth."We have, further, in Theognis, "It would be best for the children of the earth not to be born... next best for them, when born, to pass through the gates of Hades as soon as possible." Can anything be more touching than the words of Cassandra in "Agamemnon" by AEschylus: "Alas for the conditions of mortals! When prosperous, a shadow may overturn them; if, however, they be in adversity, a moistened sponge blots out the picture." Then we find Seneca, one of the best of the Roman Stoics, whose maxims came so near to many of the sayings of St. Paul, praising death as the "best invention of nature," and Marcus Aurelius, "a seeker after God," expressing his disgust at human life, with the apostrophe, "O death, delay not thy coming." There is much the same in the literature of Persia, and in the sphere of the religion of "the light." The pure-souled and seraphic considers that "True wisdom is a desire to be nothing, to be blown out, to enter into Nirvana, i.e. extinction." Coming to modern times we find in French literature of the Pompadour period the same strain of melancholy. Diderot wrote, "To be, amid pain and weeping, the plaything of uncertainty, of error, of want, of sickness, and of passions — every step, from the moment when we learn to lisp, to the time of departure, when our voice falters — this is called the most important gift of our parents and of nature — life." This is more than equalled by the words of Sehelling, "The death's head never fails behind the ogling mask, and life is only the cap and bells which the nonentity has donned just to make a jingle, and afterwards to tear it to pieces and east it away." These instances will suffice to indicate the strongly marked pessimistic tendency amongst some of the finest thinkers, and would lead those who are predisposed to this kind of philosophizing to the inevitable conviction that, on the whole, life is not worth living.

1. The value of life, if judged from the point of view of happiness, depends upon the sum of its functional activities and interests. Our pessimistic views concerning life are largely the result of our mistaken ideas of happiness. We are apt to imagine that health, leisure, and a splendid income are absolutely necessary to our happiness; and when there is a prospect of losing these permanently, life is no longer desirable. No man is really unhappy who realizes that he has work to do and sets himself in earnest to do it. The utmost of pain and sorrow can be borne if only one has an object in life. Men who throw up all for lost are those who have abandoned, if they ever had it, their object in life. Let a person once set his mind upon some worthy aim, and allow his interest to centre in that, and let it absorb his energies, and never will he think of laying violent hands upon himself. When the Christians assembled in the catacombs we discover none of those traces of pessimism that are so characteristic of the poems of Horace. Their interest was centred in their Lord and Master, and His royal will. We can understand, then, how a truly Christian man, following in the experiences of the Apostle Paul, would apprehend Christ to be the true object of existence. "To live is Christ," to learn about Christ, to live for Christ, to gain Christ, and to realize the life and character of Christ within oneself, so that the very principle of the within, is Christ. Such realization gives life its value.

2. The value of life further depends upon its extrinsic utilities in the service of our fellows. We owe a debt of gratitude to the past, which can only be paid to the future, for this, and it is a point of honour, that every man should acknowledge, to make his life valuable to others to those who shall come after him. It would be ignoble to slight that which has cost so much to develop, and especially since every life is capable of being made useful in a greater or less degree.

3. If we are men of faith we shall value life for the sake of its higher development beyond the grave. Even though this life were spent in a purgatory of torture, or a hell of pain, which life need never be, no one who believes in the Christ can deny that the great hereafter will more than obliterate the traces of this sorrowful world in the glorious activities of the heavenly state and all its grand developments. Cheer up, brothers, and brace yourselves for manly effort. There are no sorrows or difficulties that a brave-hearted man, who trusts in Cod, need fear to encounter. Whatever straits one may find oneself in, there is no lot so painful, so bitter, or so trying that it may not be sweetened and ennobled by effort — and that effort will be our joy.

(J. G. James, B. A.)

(with Psalm 27:1): — We all of us are by turns followers of the laughing philosopher and of the weeping philosopher. Life sometimes appears full of joy, at other times full of sorrow. Hence the folly of labelling the souls of our fellow-men is manifest, of calling one man an optimist and another a pessimist. Deep souls are both at different periods of their development. We are all .pilgrims; and so we pass through many widely different countries during our journey. And it is much to be wished that men would not be so precipitate in guessing at the goal or terminus, to which the spirits of their brethren are going. To all of us that really think, there has been given a new commandment: and it is this, Thou shalt not label thy brother's soul. Pessimism is often like the moulting of birds, a thing not pleasing in itself, but still a necessary process. A moulting eagle is grander far than a well-conditioned sparrow. Pessimism is often only a sort of prolonged moulting of the divine eagle wings of the most soaring faith and the noblest compassion and love.

1. Christianity has obviously very much in common with pessimism. It has nothing in common with the fantastic optimism of Emerson, which deliberately chooses to ignore the darker side of human life. It plainly teaches that the present condition of the world is abnormal, and in many respects evil. Our religion fully recognizes the fact that we are pilgrims and strangers here, and that our life is essentially a warfare. It does not require us to be always in a triumphant mood. It knows that many of the very greatest of the elect are destined to pass long years in the dark valley of the shadow of death. It blesses those that mourn.

2. Christianity nowhere teaches that pleasure, or even happiness, is the end or object of life. On the contrary, our religion teaches that progress through suffering is the real end and object of our life. The doctrine of the Cross, with its divine amplitude of meaning. is to use a precious rock-hewn path of safety between the deceptive quagmire of a flimsy Emersonian optimism and the hideous abysses of a despairing pessimism. The very fact that God has brought the human race so far in its spiritual pilgrimage forbids any reasonable despair. The old, sacred, guiding fire of the Eternal still leads us on. The burning and unearthly splendours of the mighty Ideal from time to time disperse the thick clouds of the actual. The far-off goal of the human race gleams fitfully on our worn eyes; even amidst the heartbreaking sorrow of prolonged moral failure, an angel of the Divine pity sometimes "carries us away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shows us that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God." There, in God's nearer presence, the ailing soul knows that it shall one day grow well and strong.

(A. Crawford, M. A.)

Homilist.
What are the causes of suicide? The general impression is, insanity: this is for the most part the verdict of juries over the corpse of the self-slain man. But insanity is not always the cause. In most cases of suicide there have been displayed on the part of the perpetrator forethought, deliberation, plan. What then can prompt a man who is not actually mad to this terrible deed?

I. SEVERE TRIALS. The feeling that Solomon had, rushes into the soul of not a few at times. The children of Israel in the wilderness had it when they said, "Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt." Elijah had it when he said, "It is enough now, O Lord! take away my life." Job had it when he said, "I loathe it: I would not live alway."

II. SICKENING SATIETY. The men of leisure and affluence, who are freed from the necessity of work, enterprise, and business, who fare sumptuously every day, and run the round of fashionable life and sensuous enjoyment, have always shown the greatest susceptibility to this disgust with life. Over-indulgence in worldly pleasures seldom fails to produce a moral nausea. There is what the French call the ennui that comes out of it, "that awful yawn," says Byron, "that sleep cannot abate." As a proof of this, in the countries where luxuries most abound, suicides are the most numerous. Whilst in Sweden there is only one suicide to every ninety-two thousand people, in Paris there is one to every three thousand.

III. SPIRITUAL DISGUST. Men whose moral susceptibilities are exquisitely tender, whose intellectual eye is keen and strong enough to penetrate into the motives that govern society, and whose sympathies run strongly with the right, the true, and the divine, often experience such an inexpressible revulsion at certain popular developments of character and phases of society, as to lead them to say with Solomon, "I hated life; because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me."

IV. TEMPERAMENTAL MELANCHOLY. So oppressive does the dark atmosphere of their irritable tempers become, that they are ready to seize the rope or the razor, or to plunge into the river.

V. INORDINATE EMOTIONALITY. There are those whose emotional natures seem stronger than their intellectual force. The winds and the waves of passion are too strong for the helmsman. Their emotional nature is like a deep and tumultuous sea, whose billows are ever breaking over the walls of their understanding. Sometimes, for example, revenge is a passion that prompts the deed. Samson was an example of this. Sometimes humiliation prompts the deed. Something occurs which overwhelms the man with shame. Ahithophel is an example of this. Sometimes desperation prompts the deed. Sometimes fear overwhelms the man, and prompts the deed. It was thus with the Philippian jailor. Sometimes remorse prompts the self-destroying deed. No passion that can seize the soul is so unbearable as this; "A wounded spirit, who can bear?" Thus Judas, when he saw that Christ, whom he had betrayed, was condemned to death, his guilty conscience made life so intolerable that he went out and hanged himself. Other passions may be mentioned, such as jealousy, which perhaps is the most prolific parent of suicides of all the passions. I learn from this subject —

1. That the poor need not envy the condition of the rich.

2. That all men have not an equal love of life.

3. That confidence in the redemptive Providence that is over us is the only security for a happy life.The voice of Providence to every man is, not only "Do thyself no harm": but free thyself from all anxious cares, and trust in the love and guidance of the great Father King.

(Homilist.)

The connection of our text with preceding and following verses, and its perfect harmony with the design of the wise man, which was to decry the world and its pleasures, and by his own experience to undeceive such as made idols of them, authorize us to consider the words as proceeding from the mouth of Solomon himself, expressive of his own sentiments and not those of others, and what he thought after his reconversion, and not what his opinion was during his dissipation.

I. On this principle we will first RID THE TEXT OF SEVERAL FALSE MEANINGS, WHICH IT MAY SEEM AT FIRST SIGHT TO COUNTENANCE; for as there is a disgust with the world, and a contempt of life, which wisdom inspires, so there is a hatred of the world, that ariseth from evil dispositions.

1. We may hate life because we are melancholy. Only he whose ideas are disconcerted by a dark and gloomy temper can say fully and without qualification, "I hate life." To attribute such a disposition to the wise man is to insult the Holy Spirit who animated him.

2. Some are disgusted with life from a principle of misanthropy. What is a misanthrope, or a hater of mankind? lie is a man who avoids society only to free himself from the trouble of being useful to it. He is a man who considers his neighbours only on the side of their defects, not knowing the art of combining their virtues with their vices, and of rendering the imperfections of other people tolerable by reflecting on his own. What a society would that be which should be composed of people without charity, without patience, without condescension! My text doth not inculcate such sentiments as these. The wise man had met with a great many disagreeable events in society which had given him a great deal of pain, but, far from being driven out of it, he continued to reside in the world, and to amend and improve it by his wise counsel and good example.

3. Sometimes a spirit of discontent produces disgust with the world, and contempt of life. To hear the people I mean, one would think it was impossible that this world should be governed by a wise being, because, forsooth, they are doomed with the rest of mankind to live in a valley of trouble. But who art thou, thou miserable man, to conceive ideas so false, and to form opinions so rash!

4. We are sometimes disgusted with the world through an excess of fondness for the world, and hate life through an over-valuation of it. Man enters the world as an enchanted place. While the charm lasts, the man I speak of is in raptures, and thinks he hath found the supreme good. He imagines that riches have no wings, that splendid fortune hath no reverse, that the great have no caprice, that friends have no levity, that health and youth are eternal; but as it is not long before he recovers his senses, he becomes disgusted with the world in the same proportion as he had been infatuated with it, and his hatred of life is exactly as extravagant as his love of it had been.

5. It is not in any of these senses that the wise man saith, "I hated life." He would have us understand that the earth hath more thorns than flowers — that our condition here, though incomparably better than we deserve, is, however, inadequate to our just and constitutional desires — that our inconveniences in this life would seem intolerable unless we were wise enough to direct them to the same end that God proposed by exposing us to suffer them — in a word, that nothing but hope in a future state formed on another plan can render the disorders of this world tolerable. So much may serve to explain the meaning of the wise man.

II. LET US NOW PROCEED TO JUSTIFY THE SENSE GIVEN. The phantoms that seduced Solomon during his dissipation may be reduced to two classes. The first suppose in the dissipated man very little knowledge, and very little taste; and it is astonishing that a man so eminently endowed with knowledge could set his heart upon them. The second may more easily impose on an enlightened and generous mind. I put these into three classes. In the first I put the advantages of science — in the second the pleasures of friendship — in the third the privileges, I mean the temporal privileges, of virtue and heroism. I will endeavour to unmask these three figures, and to prove that the very dispositions which should contribute most to the pleasure of life, mental abilities, tenderness of heart, rectitude and delicacy of conscience, are actually dispositions which contribute most of all to embitter life.

1. If ever possessions could make man happy, Solomon must certainly have been the happiest of mankind. Imagine the most proper and the most effectual means of acquiring knowledge, joined to an avidity to obtain it, both were united in the person of this prince. Now what saith this great man concerning science? He acknowledgeth indeed that it was preferable to ignorance, the wise man's eyes, saith he, are in his head, that is, a man of education is in possession of some prudential maxims to regulate his life, whereas an illiterate man walketh in darkness; but yet saith he, "it happeneth even to me, as it happeneth to the fool, and why was I then wise?"(1) Observe first, the little progress made in science by those who pursue it to the highest pitch. As they advance in this immense field they discover, shall I say new extents, or new abysses, which they can never fathom. The more they nourish themselves with this rich pasture, the more keen do their appetites become.(2) Remark next the little justice done in the world to such as excel most in science.

2. The second disposition, which seems as if it would contribute much to the pleasure of life, but which often embitters it, is tenderness of heart. It is clear by the writings of Solomon, and more so by the history of his life, that his heart was very accessible to this kind of pleasure. How often doth he write encomiums on faithful friends (Proverbs 17:17; Proverbs 18:24). But where is this friend who sticketh closer than a brother? Where is this friend who loveth at all times? What an airy phantom is human friendship!

3. If anything seem capable to render life agreeable, and if anything in general render it disagreeable, it is rectitude, and delicacy of conscience. I know Solomon seems here to contradict himself, and the author of the Book of Proverbs seems to refute the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes informs us that virtue is generally useless and sometimes hurtful in this world; but according to the author of the Book of Proverbs virtue is most useful in this world. How shall we reconcile these things? To say, as some do, that the author of Proverbs speaks of the spiritual rewards of virtue, and the author of Ecclesiastes of the temporal state of it, is to cut the knot instead of untying it. Of many solutions there is one that bids fair to remove the difficulty; that is, that when the author of the Book of Proverbs makes temporal advantages of the rewards of virtue, he speaks of some rare periods of society, whereas the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes describes the common general state of things. Perhaps the former refers to the happy time in which the example of the piety of David being yet recent, and the prosperity of his successor not having then infected either the heart of the king or the morals of his subjects, reputation, riches and honours were bestowed on good men; but the second, probably, speaks of what came to pass soon after. In the first period life was amiable, and living in the world delicious; but of the second the wise man saith, "I hated life because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me." To which of the two periods doth the age in which we live belong? Judge by the description given by the Preacher, as he calls himself. Then mankind were ungrateful, the public did not remember the benefits conferred on them by individuals, and their services were unrewarded (Ecclesiastes 9:14, 15). Then courtiers mean and ungrateful basely forsook their old master, and paid their court to the heir apparent (Ecclesiastes 4:15). Then the strong oppressed the weak (Ecclesiastes 4:1). Then the courts of justice were corrupt (Ecclesiastes 3:16). Such is the idea the wise man gives us of the world. Yet these vain and precarious objects, this world so proper to inspire a rational mind with disgust, this life so proper to excite hatred in such as know what is worthy of esteem, this is that` which hath always fascinated, and which yet continues to fascinate the bulk of mankind.

(J. Saurin.)

Contrast this verdict of the Preacher with that calm, clear, victorious utterance of the great apostle, ringing like a clarion, as he urges the words, "Lay hold on the life that is life indeed," and you will have the subject of my sermon — life without God, and life with God — the misery and disappointment of the one, the fulness and satisfaction of the other; the one vanity and vexation of spirit, the other life which is life indeed.

I. Let us look at LIFE WITHOUT GOD. Let me frankly acknowledge that there are some things in life even without God which are pleasant, and delightful and beautiful. First of all we begin life as "little children, and to children the next` pleasure is quite enough to make life worth living; their little hearts are not troubled with the deep problems of life, and God forbid they should be. And then I do not deny that there is some real satisfaction and pleasure, as every one knows, in all healthy activity. Then, too, no one can doubt that there is very much that is very beautiful in human love. Some young people in the golden days of their early married life, when love is very beautiful, and real, and fresh, bright as a spring morning, may be tempted to think that is enough. "We want no other life, this satisfies us." Now, I admit of this freely and frankly; but oh, it does not settle the question. The question comes back, "Does it satisfy?" There are very many indications in this present day that the world is finding out what this old preacher found out, that life without God is vanity and vexation of the spirit. Let me just give you one of them. Have you ever noticed the very remarkable fact that much of our higher poetry is unutterably sad? Take, for example, the poems of Matthew Arnold: they are Greek in perfection of form and in their faultless beauty, but how sad they are! That deep sadness that lay over the world of which he so pathetically sings broods like a cloud over his own poetry. And when you come to examine the reason why he so depresses you, the answer is because there is no living personal God in it — it is the loss of God which explains it all. Do not misunderstand me. I am not imagining that life is to be lived solely with religious aims and religious objects. I do not take a narrow view, I trust, of human life. God has given us various and ample powers, and each one of them has to find its own appropriate satisfaction. I do not condemn any of the generous ambitions of youth. I would not oven forbid the loss noble ambitions of life so long as they are kept subordinate to the will of God. Let a man earn knowledge or fame, or distinction, or wealth, or influence, and if he earn them honestly, well; but I do desire to impress upon you this one lesson — that it does not matter what the end you set before yourselves in life may be, whether it be pleasure, or intellectual eminence, or wealth, if you leave God out it will so disappoint you, miserably disappoint you, and you will have a time, in your own experience, when you will turn from it with the muttered curse, "All is vanity and vexation of spirit."

II. LET US ASK WHAT LIFE WITH GOD MEANS. "Lay hold on the life which is life indeed." Shall I tell you what it is? "This is life eternal to know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent." Those are the words of Jesus: that is Christ's own definition of the life indeed — to know God, the true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He hath sent. No man requires demonstration that this is life indeed. It needs none: the mere statement of the truth is its proof. If there be an eternal and infinite God on whom I depend for all things, if He has created me and loves me with unspeakable love, if He has spent all the riches of His love to redeem me from sin, if I am to live with Him through eternity a life removed from all the conditions of time and space — then, of all the self-evident propositions you can put into words, this is the most self-evident and certain, that I am created and redeemed solely to find my life in God, I am too great to find my life in anything less than God. Ah, "He that hath the Son hath life, he that hath not the Son hath not life." This is the life indeed. And now you see the meaning of what we are so apt to call the mystery of sorrow, the mystery of pain. The other day I was reading the diary of a life which in many respects is most instructive and pathetic. It was the story of a man who had had unusual prosperity, and in looking through this diary I came across these words: "God has broken silence with me." Great crushing sorrow had fallen on him, and that man who had lived many years in the sunshine of prosperity without God, without ever speaking of God or hearing God speaking to him, suddenly in the darkness awoke to the fact that God was near to him, and that God had come to him in the great trouble of his life; and then he wrote these words, "God has broken silence with me." Ah, life indeed! That is its designation. I do not say it will not have its troubles, its disappointments, perhaps even its failures; but the troubles and disappointments of that life as little affect it as the storms that sweep across the Atlantic touch the deep Calm of the ocean beneath. It is life indeed! Nothing disturbs its central peace, for it is founded upon God. And then, when the end comes — as it will come to us all — and friends stand round the bed, and the last farewells are spoken, and the eyes are closed in death, and we make the last journey to that "bourne from which no traveller returns," and our feet touch the waters of the cold river — in that supreme and awful hour will the life indeed fill us then? Listen! The man who wrote these words, "Lay hold of the life which is life indeed," tells us what he felt on the verge of eternity: "I am now ready to be offered."

(G. S. Barrett, D. D.)

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Ecclesiastes 2:17 NIV
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