So I commended the enjoyment of life, because there is nothing better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be merry. For this joy will accompany him in his labor during the days of his life that God gives him under the sun.
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.
Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry.
Viewed by itself, and apart from its context and from the rest of the argument of the wise king, this sentiment might seem to partake very much of the spirit of the Epicureans, so strongly condemned by St. Paul — "Let us eat and drink, for to-morrow we die": but when we come to look closely into it, we find that it would be a manifest perversion of the whole passage to apply it in any such Epicurean sense. The man to whom he refers, as the one who is encouraged "to eat and to drink and to be merry," is not the idle drone whose whole life is spent in self-indulgence, or in the pursuit of pleasure; not the Dives who fares sumptuously every day while so many around have scarcely wherewithal to purchase the scanty meal — but he, whose whole attention has been hitherto absorbed in some toilsome and laborious pursuit; he who has, so to speak, been the slave of wealth, or ambition, or pleasure, or business — the seeker after worldly wisdom — or, in fine, the man so filled with anxiety and care about the objects of his desire, as to need this salutary warning how better to employ his days. Thus, if we might venture to paraphrase the passage, we should assume it to bear some such an import as the following: — "Be not so wrapt up in the cares or concerns of this life, oh! ye foolish sons of men, as to forget the grand end and aim of your being. There are, indeed, many things well worthy of your attainment, but none of so solid and enduring a character as to justify your total absorption in the pursuit of them. Lose not the real enjoyment of life by devoting it thus unremittingly to any earthly end. While thus toiling to secure some fancied good, you are really allowing to escape those fleeting moments which should be devoted to some loftier purpose. Aim first and chiefly to attain the heavenly wisdom, for 'this alone will bring peace at the last.' And then, with regard to all earthly schemes of happiness, let not your pursuit of the problematic future deprive you of the lawful enjoyment of present good, but 'having food and raiment be therewith content.' 'Eat, drink and be merry.' Cultivate a cheerful and a happy frame of mind, as opposed to that gloomy, over-anxious, ever-toiling disposition, which you now possess — as is the cold, cheerless mantle of night to the glow and warmth of the midday sun — for this calm and tranquil state shall abide with you, and give you enjoyment in the midst of your labour all the days of your life which God giveth you under the sun." And who does not perceive the consonance of this advice with the more plain and direct teaching of our Lord and His inspired apostles? Who does not recognize in this Old Testament warning the foreshadowing of those deep and wholesome truths which Christ announced in tits famous sermon from the Mount? "Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" But rather "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Who does not trace in the language of Solomon the workings of that same Spirit which inspired St. Paul to say, "Whether therefore ye eat or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God" — "Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice"? Not, then, in antagonism to the spirit of the New Testament, but in perfect accordance with it, does Solomon, in the words of my text, recommend the rational enjoyment of the good things of this life. In what, then, does rational enjoyment or recreation consist? I think we may safely answer this question by the obvious reply — "In the moderate use of all the gifts of God's good providence, and in the healthful cultivation of all these faculties the improvement of which can tend to His honour or glory." Under this head, then, as you will perceive, so far as bodily refection is concerned, we should include the temperate use of all healthful articles, whether of food or of drink. "Not that which entereth into the mouth defileth a man." God makes no distinction either of meats or drinks, provided we use all lawfully, to the just refreshment and strengthening of the body, not to its undue pampering, or mere carnal gratification. And so, also, with regard to questions of bodily or mental recreation. Healthful exercise, whether for the body or mind, may allowably be included under the Preacher's commendation of rational "mirth." The Scriptures have net prescribed to us what species of mirth to select, nor what to avoid. They have evidently left it as a matter of conscience, to the feelings and experience of every Christian, to choose his own most appropriate mode of rejoicing, provided, as in the former case, that even allowable mirth be not carried beyond the limits of moderation, and degenerate into senseless hilarity. It is true that St. James exhorts, "Is any merry? let him sing psalms": but this advice is more of the nature of a permission than a command; and it is clearly evident, that with very many the literal interpretation of this precept, if it be correctly translated, would be impracticable, seeing that they are altogether devoid of musical tendencies. This passage, then, so far from limiting, as it has been supposed to do, the exhibition of our cheerful tendencies to psalm-singing alone, seems to me to make quite for the opposite view, and would apparently sanction the employment of any musical agency, and, by a parity of reasoning, of any other equally harmless and humanizing source of amusement as a justifiable mode of exhibiting a mirthful spirit before the Lord.
TopicsAbide, Accompany, Better, Commend, Commended, Drink, Eat, Enjoy, Enjoyment, Except, Gives, Giveth, Glad, Happy, Joy, Joyful, Labor, Labour, Meat, Merry, Mirth, Nothing, Pleasure, Praise, Praised, Rejoice, Stand, Throughout, Toil, Toils
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 8:15
4966 present, 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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