The Preacher has just attained for a moment to higher ground, from which he may get a wider view of life with all its changes and anomalies (vers. 12, 13). His hope revives, his faith comes back. "For a moment he has pierced through the ring which has confined him to the interests of common life, and risen also above his own dark misgivings; and there has flashed across his soul for a moment the certainty that there is a power in the world that 'makes for righteousness,' a Divine and supreme law behind all the puzzles and anomalies of life, which will solve them all. He lays his hand on this, but he cannot grasp it" (Bradley.). The inequalities in human lot, the just suffering as though they had been wicked, the wicked prospering as though they had been righteous, afflict his heart once more (ver. 13). His recurrence so often to this perplexing phenomenon is almost painful; it reveals a distress so deep that no arguments can diminish it, no exercise of faith can charm it away. Nothing but fresh light upon the mysteries of life and death can give relief, and this is denied him. He is one of those of whom the Savior spoke (Luke 10:24
) who desired to see and hear the things seen and heard by those who were privileged to receive a revelation of God in Christ, but whose longings were doomed never to be satisfied on earth. In the mean time to what conclusion did the Preacher come? To that which he has already expressed four times over (Ecclesiastes 2:24
; Ecclesiastes 3:12, 22
; Ecclesiastes 5:18
) - that it is better to enjoy the good things of life than to pine after an impossible ideal; to eat the fruit of one's toil in spite of all that is calculated to sadden and perplex (ver. 14). Yet we must be fair to him. He does not recommend riot and excess, or a life of mere epicurean enjoyment. There is work to be done in life before enjoyment is won; there is a God from whom the blessings come as a gift, and the remembrance of this fact will prevent mere brutish self, indulgence. The fear of God gives a dignity to his counsel which is wanting in the somewhat similar words of heathen poets, in which we have Epicureanism pure and simple - in the songs of Anacreon and Horace and Omar Khayyam. It would indeed be a mistake to imagine that the advice he gives, however often it is repeated, is the best that can be given, or even the best that he has to give. It prescribes but a temporary relief from sorrow and care and perplexity. And even when he makes the most of the satisfaction gained by "eating and drinking and being merry," we remember his own words, that "it is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting" (Ecclesiastes 7:2
). - J.W.
There be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked.
There is doubtless a law for everything in heaven and on earth; a systematic connection between cause and effect, alike in the physical, moral and spiritual existences. Our wise men acknowledge this, and find in the heavens above and the earth beneath, as far as their intellects can penetrate, a sequence and an irrevocable destiny in everything they study. But as for the laws that morally govern the world, that give rise to its convulsions and preserve its peace, that dismay us now and overjoy us then, that frustrate our plans or help us to attain our desires, from the dismemberment of a kingdom to the trivialities of existence — these laws are unwritten. The Almighty has set the machinery of nature in motion, and its action is unchangeable till its destiny is attained. But He sits with the sceptre of His moral government in His hands, and the rules by which He governs, and the ends He means to attain, we know not; and it is this ignorance of the Almighty's plans which baffles our little hopes. It is with this dissimilitude of events as they occur with those we had hoped and striven for, and by probability led ourselves to expect, that our text has to do. It deals with the apparent reversal in many cases of an ordinary law, and shows the utter impossibility of human minds gaining any clue to the moral events which happen, or may happen, around us. Men make use of their limited wisdom to produce a desired effect. If that effect is not gained they abandon their attempts. The initiative is their own, and they abandon it as they please. Far otherwise is it, however, in matters of moral or spiritual import. The initiative is not man's, but the Almighty's. Eternal life is not a bait held out for our greed to clutch at, but rather a spontaneous reward for our obedience and love. That this is clearly a principle, our text teaches, and everyday life verifies. The good man in this world often meets with the treatment, and is placed in the circumstances, which attend the career of the vilest; while the wicked man oft sits in the highest place, and mockingly sways his prostrate courtiers with the arrogant pretentiousness of a usurped power. He thinks his position is the reward of his genius, and scoffs at the idea of anything having to do with his elevation but himself. These reversed positions clearly show that the reward or punishment of the good or wicked does not necessarily begin, and clearly does not end, with this mortal life. This, to a good man, is a source of joy. He forgets his present ignominy in his future hopes: the present calamity he takes as an earnest for his future bliss. The wicked man, however, often has somewhat of his own way in the world. He takes the present as his all, and is satisfied therewith. He wants no future reward: his enjoyment now is ample, and instead of taking warning from the position of the good man as indicative of what his position ought possibly to be, his gratified senses and pampered vanity stifle his reason and destroy his conscience, and he descends to the grave in a false position to open his appalled eyes in the one belonging to him.
TopicsDeeds, Deserve, Evil, Futility, Happeneth, Happens, Meaningless, Occurs, Ones, Punishment, Purpose, Reward, Righteous, Takes, Vanity, Wicked
Outline1. true wisdom is modest2. Kings are to be respected6. Divine providence is to be observed12. It is better with the godly in adversity, than with the wicked in prosperity16. The work of God is unsearchable
Dictionary of Bible ThemesEcclesiastes 8:14
5360 justice, God
7150 righteous, the
'Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil'--ECCLES. viii. 11. When the Pharaoh of the Exodus saw there was respite, he hardened his heart. Abject in his fear before Moses, he was ready to promise anything; insolent in his pride, he swallows down his promises as soon as fear is eased, his repentance and his retractation of it combined to add new weights about his neck. He was but a conspicuous example of …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Now, you will notice that fear may be yoked into the service of God. True fear, not fearing, but believing, saves the soul; not doubt, but confidence, is the strength and the deliverance of the Christian. Still, fear, as being one of those powers which God hath given us, is not in itself sinful. Fear may be used for the most sinful purposes; at the same time it may be so ennobled by grace, and so used for the service of God, that it may become the very grandest part of man. In fact, Scripture has …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 3: 1857
The Wicked Man's Life, Funeral, and Epitaph
We shall this morning want you, first of all, to walk with a living man; it is said of him that he did "come and go from the place of the holy:" next, I shall want you to attend his funeral, and then, in conclusion I shall ask you to assist in writing his epitaph--"and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this also is vanity." I. In the first place, HERE IS SOME GOOD COMPANY FOR YOU; some with whom you may walk to the house of God, for it is said of them, that they did come and …
Charles Haddon Spurgeon—Spurgeon's Sermons Volume 4: 1858
Whether Christ Should have Been Circumcised?
Objection 1: It would seem that Christ should not have been circumcised. For on the advent of the reality, the figure ceases. But circumcision was prescribed to Abraham as a sign of the covenant concerning his posterity, as may be seen from Gn. 17. Now this covenant was fulfilled in Christ's birth. Therefore circumcision should have ceased at once. Objection 2: Further, "every action of Christ is a lesson to us" [*Innoc. III, Serm. xxii de Temp.]; wherefore it is written (Jn. 3:15): "I have given …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
Whether in Loving God we Ought to Observe any Mode?
Objection 1: It would seem that we ought to observe some mode in loving God. For the notion of good consists in mode, species and order, as Augustine states (De Nat. Boni iii, iv). Now the love of God is the best thing in man, according to Col. 3:14: "Above all . . . things, have charity." Therefore there ought to be a mode of the love of God. Objection 2: Further, Augustine says (De Morib. Eccl. viii): "Prithee, tell me which is the mode of love. For I fear lest I burn with the desire and love of …
Saint Thomas Aquinas—Summa Theologica
i. editions of chrysostom's works. S. Joannis Chrysostomi, archiepiscopi Constantinopolitani, Opera omnia quæ exstant vel quæ ejus nomine circumferuntur, ad mss. codices Gallicos, Vaticanos, Anglicos, Germanicosque castigata, etc. Opera et studio D.Bernardi de Montfaucon, monachi ordinis S. Benedicti e congregatione S. Mauri, opem ferentibus aliis ex codem sodalitio, monachis. Greek and Latin, Paris, 1718-'38, in 13 vols., fol. This is the best edition, and the result of about twenty …
St. Chrysostom—On the Priesthood
Concerning Jonathan, one of the Sicarii, that Stirred up a Sedition in Cyrene, and was a False Accuser [Of the Innocent].
1. And now did the madness of the Sicarii, like a disease, reach as far as the cities of Cyrene; for one Jonathan, a vile person, and by trade a weaver, came thither and prevailed with no small number of the poorer sort to give ear to him; he also led them into the desert, upon promising them that he would show them signs and apparitions. And as for the other Jews of Cyrene, he concealed his knavery from them, and put tricks upon them; but those of the greatest dignity among them informed Catullus, …
Flavius Josephus—The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem
A Few Sighs from Hell;
or, The Groans of the Damned Soul: or, An Exposition of those Words in the Sixteenth of Luke, Concerning the Rich Man and the Beggar WHEREIN IS DISCOVERED THE LAMENTABLE STATE OF THE DAMNED; THEIR CRIES, THEIR DESIRES IN THEIR DISTRESSES, WITH THE DETERMINATION OF GOD UPON THEM. A GOOD WARNING WORD TO SINNERS, BOTH OLD AND YOUNG, TO TAKE INTO CONSIDERATION BETIMES, AND TO SEEK, BY FAITH IN JESUS CHRIST, TO AVOID, LEST THEY COME INTO THE SAME PLACE OF TORMENT. Also, a Brief Discourse touching the …
John Bunyan—The Works of John Bunyan Volumes 1-3
It is not surprising that the book of Ecclesiastes had a struggle to maintain its place in the canon, and it was probably only its reputed Solomonic authorship and the last two verses of the book that permanently secured its position at the synod of Jamnia in 90 A.D. The Jewish scholars of the first century A.D. were struck by the manner in which it contradicted itself: e.g., "I praised the dead more than the living," iv. 2, "A living dog is better than a dead lion," ix. 4; but they were still more …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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