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Ecclesiastes 9:5 . The dead know not any thing. This is explained by the next phrase, the memory of them is forgotten. Elijah went up to heaven, or paradise, as the Jews will have it. John 3:13. Similar are the words of a prophet: “Doubtless thou art our Father, though Abraham be ignorant of us.” The Jews understood that Abraham gathered into his bosom the souls of his children. The soul of a good man returns to God, and enjoys the happiness of separate spirits.
Solomon here returns to a subject often resumed, that all events come alike to all classes. These studies present us with the boundaries which God has placed to the researches of the human mind. In contemplation we are lost in the immensity of glories and beauties which fill the heavens and the earth. The students of nature cannot count the stars, the zoologists cannot number the living beings of the earth, nor the botanist present us with any classification of plants worthy to be compared with the plenitude of God.
It is the same in the study of providence. There we see the wise and the foolish go alike to the grave, the hero and the coward fall in war, the good and the bad share in the afflictions of life. The ocean is sublime, and boundless to the sight. In the study of moral science, even prophets have stumbled in the dark. Psalms 37:1; Psalms 73:1-19.73.2. Ecclesiastes 2:16-21.2.17. But because of clouds, shall we say that there is no light. On a closer view, on the extension of our regards, are we not led to conclude, that God has a plan in his moral government, as well as in his creation? Is there not a care of the ark, and a shield to cover Abraham? Is there not a God to punish the idolatrous Jews, and to set a mark on the faithful ones? Is there not a living Redeemer, to fulfil his faithful word to the holy apostles?
The vulgar or brutish philosopher had praised the dead more than the living; but seeing there is a gracious God, the preacher exhorts the virtuous to rejoice in their works, and keep their white garments, worn at festivals, unspotted from the world. He exhorts the good man to rejoice with the wife of his youth, to love her, to make her his companion and friend, and treat her as a woman should be treated. Then she will study to return love for love, and please her husband in the Lord. We learn farther, that industry in business is a grand resource of augmenting moral happiness. “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” Archbishop Leighton advises us, never to leave any thing till to-morrow which can be conveniently done to-day. The energies of life may be studied in the whole scale of animated nature. Happy for man to lay out his plans of labour, that he may finish some laudable work as the husbandman brings the labours of the seasons to a joyful harvest.
It is remarked further, that all men in the vicissitudes of life are overtaken with disappointments and afflictions. The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong. Homer, describing the races after the fall of Troy, names a chief who was overturned in his car, filled with rage, while his mouth was full of dirt, and his nose bleeding. Evils seen and unseen, overtake us as the fish are enclosed in the net, and as the bird is caught in the snare. Let us learn then to be calm under strokes of adversity; they are common to man, and they may work for good. Let us, like the mariner in the storm, stick close to the helm, for it will soon be calm again. It indicates a noble mind that can trust in a beclouded providence, and bow to the pleasure of a God.
The case of the poor man, who delivered the little city by his wisdom, is put here to encourage us under the afflictions of life. Let no man despair. Prudence and industry, with the blessing of God, can extricate us from many great and sore evils. And he who befriends us in the time of trouble, should not be forgotten in the day of prosperity. Solomon thus closes his scale of argument with a bright thought, and leaves not his reader lost in a chaos of darkness. Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 9". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany