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Sunday, June 16th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 12

Mylne's Commentary on EcclesiastesMylne on Ecclesiastes

Verses 1-14

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth." Ecclesiastes 12:1

Remember your Creator! He speaks as if you had known Him, and forgotten. But is it so? Ah no! By nature you know Him not. Forgetfulness was born in you — forgetfulness of God — forgetfulness of utter ignorance — of darkness tenfold dark, because to you, God is invisible. You are born a prodigal, far from your Father’s home — and you continue to wander away from Him. Say, "I will return to my Father, for I have strayed afar."

God deals with Adam’s children, as He dealt with Adam himself. Adam’s sinful nature is yours. God says to you, "Remember! Trace back your wandering steps. Undo your past forgetfulness. Return to holiness. Return to Me!"

But how can you remember? Your memory is gone. Search all the corners of your heart and brain — you will not find it. They will tell you that many things have lodged in them, but God’s remembrance never. Ah, try, and try again! You will find I am right. You never knew the Lord. Then how can you remember whom you have never known? What is to be done?

God must remember you, before you remember Him. He must give you His grace — and pardon all your sins. Then shall you track your way to Adam’s sin, and say, "This sin is mine! In Adam I have sinned. I have forgotten my Creator, and turned from God. I have been a rebel, and a wanderer still." But hark! my friend. What the first Adam lost — the second Adam found. What the first Adam took away — the second has given again.

Am I the Lord’s? In Adam I fell — in Christ I am risen again. In Adam I forgot — in Christ my memory came again. In Adam I am in darkness — in Jesus I have light. Now I remember! Now I live! And by the grace of God I will never forget again.

Reader, may this grace — this light — this memory be yours!

"Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth — before the evil days come." Ecclesiastes 12:1

"Remember your Creator now!" It may be now — or never! What — is your life so sure? Is your soul so little worth? Is time more precious than eternity? What are you waiting for — the time of sickness and the hour of death? Believe me, friend, these are not times for thought. Tell me, do ailments aid your thinking powers? Do you think that mortal maladies will help you come to your senses — the aching head — the burning skin — the throbbing pulse — the sleepless night — the jaded powers? Why do you wait, then, for these? Why do you wait for later years, to sober you? Do not be deceived. Old age does not change the heart. It does not sober the mind. It does not sever the cords which bind you to the world. Old age only deadens — it does not quicken the soul.

Why do you turn you from the truth? Because the effort is greater than you like to make. If youthful powers shun the task — do you think that old age will find it lighter!

"The evil days!" When all the powers of mind are worn out with use; when mental energy begins to flag; when eyes refuse to see, and ears to listen. The limbs can no longer bear you to the house of prayer. You cared not for your soul in youth and strength.

Old age has evil days. Why wait, then, for these? Is it too soon to look to Jesus? Too soon to love the Lord! When do you mean to begin? "Tomorrow," say you? Next week? Next month? Next year?

My Friend, what can the coffin do — the shroud — the graveyard — or the tomb? Say, can the lifeless corpse — the scattered bones — the moldering dust — can these remember their Creator? Can they turn and live?

Oh these are evil days indeed! Why do you wait for these, my friend? Whether or not, you wait for them, they wait for you! Remember your Creator now! Oh seek for grace to find Him — to remember Him. Why do you wait for? To find a better Savior, or a kinder Friend? Hasten! Oh, hasten! While we are speaking, time is hastening on. The evil days are coming! Oh parley not with sin. Away with vain excuses — with unbelieving doubts. God says, "Remember your Creator now." Then tarry not, my friend.

"The clouds return after the rain." Ecclesiastes 12:2

Say, what are tears? What makes them flow? What keeps the reservoir supplied? What keeps it flowing? How does the soul act upon the body? Why does emotion make me weep? What link is there between my feeling, and my tears? Why weep for joy? Why weep for sorrow too? Ask those who weep the most; the fountain of whose tears is seldom dry. They cannot tell you the answer. Within them dwells a mystery they cannot solve.

This world is a valley of tears. There rolls a constant stream of lamentation, mourning, and of woe in this valley. How many a streamlet feeds it in its course! Deep furrowed channels carry the tears. Since Adam’s day they have run and never ceased — and all humanity has fed the stream.

Yet it is a wonder, seeing what man is, that man should weep so little, after all; that intervals should be so long between his clouds, and rain; that man should have his sunny days; his summer time, when tears are seldom known. It is of God’s mercy, thus to mitigate the curse; and give a little respite to our tears.

Sorrow is often sanctified. Yet, of itself, it softens not. Like rain, that often descends upon a spot, it hardens. Sorrow unnerves the mind, and thus disables it for action. The more it comes, the more it tells with deadening effect. Thus pressure follows pressure — and the spring recovers not its elasticity. As old age advances, causes of woe increase. Friends are taken, one by one — leaving the soul more desolate. Infirmities increase — painful infirmities — often, of themselves, the source of tears, and rendering the man less able to endure his other sorrows.

Thus weakness, desolation, pain — and strange forebodings of the world to come — harass the aged mind. Cloud follows cloud across their sky; one shower is scarcely gone, before another comes. The mind — unnerved and full of discontent, rejects all comfort. These are the evil days! Oh, wait not for them! Pray that your early tears are sanctified, that later tears may be restrained.

There is only one remedy for sin — one only antidote to sorrow — the cross of Jesus. Shed your tears for sin there; He will wipe away your tears of sorrow. There tears of penitence are turned to tears of joy — and all your tears are written in his book. (Psalms 56:8.)

"And all the daughters of music are brought low" Ecclesiastes 12:4

Once the songs were heard — his soul the very seat of melody. How fine his taste! How exquisite his skill! What rare perception of sweet sounds!

Alas! how changed in old age! And yet the soul of music is there — only the power of hearing is gone. New melody is nothing to him. New melody — the progeny of modern days, the taste of younger souls. No ear is left to take it in. The echo of the past is there, and fills his languid soul. The sons of painting once were there, and filled his mind with imagery. Science, accomplishments, and art, were his — and cast their shadows on him still; while energies, gone by, play with a flickering flame, and light his drooping sensibilities.

His eye — that window of the soul — how keen it was! What floods of light it once admitted; filling the inward parts with rare perceptions; feeding the thoughts; making the soul aware of what was passing; giving to outward things an inward place and habitation; the man thus kept in fellowship with all material things. The soul looked out, as well as light looked in — and spoke unutterable things.

But now the eye is thickened, glazed, and seared. Light enters scantily, and leaves its information lagging far behind. If anything is felt, it is but vacancy — the sense that once it had been otherwise — grasping what once was there, and finding nothing.

The hearing — once so fine — hears now the knell of its departure, and strains to hear — but hearing is no more.

A soul, thus furnished with a fleshly frame was fed and kept in action by material food and drink. Within the house the food was bruised, and ground. The "grinders" did their work in harmony with all the structure. But now the workshop is bare — the mill well near forsaken. As once it told of ability, so now it tells of ability lost and gone. Behold, my friend, what may be your portrait!

"The grasshopper shall be a burden." Ecclesiastes 12:5

Alas, how changed! Is that the man who smiled at danger; who stood the battle’s brunt, and faced a multitude alone? Is that the man, whose brave spirit bore him over the stormy wave; whose brawny arm, and steadfast heart set trouble at defiance? Say, what has changed him? Nothing but the lapse of years! What a change!

None can look within, and trace the process — how boldness turns to fear — rashness to caution — the power of enterprise, to love of rest.

Rest is the luxury of old age — sweet, soothing rest — as much a luxury to old age, as enterprise to youth. But say, what works the change? How strange that vital energy should thus decay! How were the seeds of living dissolution thus planted in the frame?

"The grasshopper is a burden!" Its very chirp a trouble! Its "spring" the subject of alarm! Its shadow terrifies the soul! These are the evil days, when sad decay is the burden of the song — when man feels weakness — bloodless — lifeless; when all his energy is gone — his body a chaos of infirmity; his steps — his breath — his powers — his vision — all bathed in impotency — and weakness seems to start from every pore; when man could cry for very weariness — nothing but the shadow of what he was before!

He dreams of days gone by, uncertain which is true — either the past, or present. The past is a specter — the present is nothing more. The future! Ah! the future! Is that a specter too? It must be so — airy in prospect (but in reality how fearfully substantial!), unless the soul has found the sure realities of faith, and grace — built on the solid rock of Truth. Thus born again, the soul retains its freshness — and though it feels the bodily decay, and pays its tribute to the "fall," it has a principle within — a principle of life — and endless youth; a principle that soars over mind and flesh alike — preserves from fear and pining fretfulness — and new creates the man.

"Man goes to his long home." Ecclesiastes 12:5

The grave is his "long home," but not his final home — there is another home beyond. For some this "long home" is long indeed — yes very long. To some it has been a home more than five thousand years — as with righteous Abel. Others have tenanted the "long home" for centuries. How long their lease will last, is known to no man.

How many have we seen borne to this "long home!" Others will see us carried to our home. Reader, they will see both you and I go to our "long home". And, if that home receives us, who knows how long it will detain us? It may be but an hour, a day, a month, a year. For anything we know, it may be twice as long as Adam now has filled it.

Known unto God are times and seasons. Can we do more than leave them in His hand? Can we do better than love to have it so? At present all is secret. In due time it shall be known to men and angels.

My friend, you have a home beyond the grave — a home prepared and furnished. You look at the country church-yard, and the peaceful sod — and call it peaceful. But what peace for you, if this is all your expectation? Yes, there is a "home" for all — a final and eternal home. Once there, you are there forever. Tell me, my friend — what eternal home do you expect to go to? Has it ever crossed your mind, or formed the subject of your serious thought?

Christ has prepared a home for those who love Him. Say, will your home be there?

Another home is prepared for the devil and the unbelieving. You know its name. Oh! will your home be there? You say, "Who knows?"

Hearken, and I will tell you. Where is your present home? Are you at home with Jesus? Do you ever lean your head upon His bosom by faith and prayer? Say, are your brightest moments spent with Jesus? Is He your confidant, your choicest friend. If so, He will be your home forever. In Him you will live. In Him you will rest. In Him you will sing your song of glory.

Perhaps you say, "Oh! my heart desires to lean upon Him, to find Him all my treasure and my home, though still I mourn my unbelief and fears." Fear not, my friend! Jesus despises not your small beginnings — He will be your home at last.

But if you are not at home with Jesus, nor seek to be so — what home have you, my friend? What home do you hope for? Unless you repent, you will have no comfort of your final home! "If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire!" Revelation 20:15

"Remember Him — before the silver cord is severed." Ecclesiastes 12:6

Was our body, this wondrous building made — just to be taken down? These members knit together — only to be dismembered? These organs tuned — only to be disorganized?

Is the bony frame, with all its powers — the force that moves, the pillar that sustains the man, the center of movement — to be taken down?

Is the head, so rich with golden influences; the seat of thought; the throne of intellect; the habitation of the brain, that mystery which none has understood nor yet explained — to be taken down?

Is the heart, with all its vessels; sending its life, with continual force, to each extremity; suffusing all with warmth, and circulating, as it flows, with healthful energy — to be taken down?

Are the lungs, supplying breath and vigor to the frame; sweeping the inner chambers with wondrous ventilation; discharging all that’s foul — inhaling all that is pure! Must these be broken up?

Must all their beauty fade? Must all their power cease? Their very life be turned to death? Why is man’s frame thus fading? Why does the essence of decay lurk within it? Because of sin!

But does this undo the mystery? It was not corruptible at first. But now, for ages, the life has been but threescore years and ten, neither increasing nor diminishing. Why is it thus? God wills it so. He has fixed the term of strength, the period of decay. They wax and wane, obedient to His will.

It seems a mystery why such an intricate contrivance as man, should be lost, and perish thus. Each day — each hour — each moment, thousands of souls departs — and leave thousands of wrecks behind. Each body thus deserted, even in life’s lowest dregs, formed of such exquisite machinery, as none but God could make.

But it is not lost — far from lost. Had Adam’s race produced one saint alone, it were not lost. Man’s withering frame has been the nursery of countless saints. Their faith, their grace, and hope, first found them in a fallen world. Their house is taken down, only to be built again — to last, to be inhabited, forever! Oh, happy they, who have "a house not built with hands, eternal in the heavens!" (2 Corinthians 5:1.)

"Then and the dust returns to the ground it came from; and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:7

Dust shall be dust once more — simply dust again, just as it was before. The spirit shall return to God — to God who gave it; to God, who breathed it into man at first. Thus spirit goes to spirit, and dust returns to dust — creation’s work undone, to all appearance, as though it had not been; the union disunited; the harmony made harmony more.

Dust claims its dust, and spirit claims its spirit. The two were made to dwell together — but sin has sundered them, and, for a time, impressed on each a separate existence. God gathers to Himself man’s spirit and his breath (Job 34:14).

The soul returns to God — into the world of spirits — the world invisible to man, yet visible to God. The soul returns to God — to God as Savior — or to God as Judge; in either case to God. But what a difference!

Listen, my friend, oh, listen to the truth; it is solemn, and, oh, how sure! Is God distasteful to you? Is His presence dreaded? And well you may, if now you know Him not. But think — What will it be at last! Now you can seem to hide yourself from God — and God hides Himself from you — and so you are satisfied. But when your naked soul flies shivering away, unclothed by flesh, with nothing to shield you from the living God — ah! who can tell the anguish felt by spirit, when thus exposed to the holy Deity! Ah! who can tell the pain inflicted by God’s all-seeing eye upon the spirit, thus laid bare!

And who can tell the bliss, the joy, the rapture of the soul — the happy soul — the sainted soul — the spirit of the just made perfect! It breathes at last its native air — unmixed with sin — unsullied by temptation. It bathes itself in seas of glory — the glory of the Savior’s presence. It wings its way into the inmost regions of His love, and sees His face forever!

"The words of the wise are like goads, their collected sayings like firmly embedded nails — given by one Shepherd." Ecclesiastes 12:11

Words spoken by the ministers of truth — words of salvation — messages of grace — brought home with power to the soul! Such are the "nails" here spoken of — lasting impressions; truths fastened in the inner man.

Christian, do you remember the time, when the Lord first saved you? Can you ever forget it? The time — the place — the circumstances — the friend who spoke to you of Jesus — what can efface them from your memory? What can pluck them from your heart? Who can draw out the "nails" thus fastened in your soul?

And in the after days of grace — -in all the workings of experience — in all the growth of knowledge, and exercise of faith, is it not still the same?

Look at your Bible! How many texts start up before you, written in type of gold! Why is it thus? Each tells you of a season, when first it sensibly impressed your soul. Each is a "nail," well fastened there. Some pastor fastened it — some brother warrior — some fellow sinner. One taught you that — another taught you this. One planted you — another watered — many have helped you on your way; and yet "one Shepherd" sent them all — one Master Shepherd, even Jesus! He fixed the "nails." His hand has sent them home.

What Jesus does, shall never be undone. He drives the "nails," and immediately they are clenched; each fastened by the power of His eternal will. He first renews the soul; implants the substance of His grace — something to hold the "nails," when once they are driven in. God’s nature in the soul retains the Word, and will not part with it. Hence, the perseverance of the saints: God loved them — chose them — called them — beget them by His word — and keeps them fast. Each "nail" is firm embedded in the soul, keeping the whole in place, and makes it sure.

"Of making many books there is no end." Ecclesiastes 12:12

And was it so, even in the days of Solomon, before modern printing was known, and books were multiplied as now they are? Oh! what would Solomon have said, had he but seen a street in our metropolis, where books by thousands issue from the press? Could he have seen our libraries — shelf upon shelf, groaning with endless tomes — each day bringing its contribution to the former store!

We live in days when reading must be had. The march of intellect prefers its claims. Science advances with such giant strides, that works of yesterday are obsolete today, and soon give place to others. What is true of science — is doubly true of lighter reading. Book chases book across the field of novelty, in ever-changing form. Woe to the man who lags behind, and talks of what was new a year ago!

Religion, too, has taken up her pen, and works her types unceasingly. Essays and sermons — works of deep doctrine, experience, and fiction — commentaries, history, and prophetic views — all claim their authors by the score, and fill the eye. In such a day we need discretion, wisdom that is useful to direct, how much, and what to read.

The Word of God is overlaid amid the multitude, and suffers loss, even among Christian men. Perhaps it ill becomes the man, who is adding to the store, to make remarks like these! Yet he would make his chapters shorter, and his pages few, that they may interfere the less with Bible hours — and strive that what he writes may point you back to Truth, and make you search the Word of God more closely.

Reader, Whatever you read, I beg you, make the Word of God your chief study. Take it to God Himself in prayer. He wrote it. Who can interpret it like Him? May God Himself be your teacher. Read it with thought, and prayer. All that you gather thus will stay with you, as nothing else will stay. None teaches like the Lord the Spirit. Believe that He can teach you, and He will. The more you trust Him for His teaching — the more He will teach you. The more He teaches you — the less you will care for other teaching. The more your senses thus are exercised, the more you are qualified to judge of other books — to separate the precious from the vile, and thus do honor to the Truth.

"Much study wearies the body." Ecclesiastes 12:12

Study is weariness to flesh; and yet it is not flesh that studies, but the mind. The body is mostly still in times of study — yet flesh is wearied; so closely are the soul and body joined. Where study is followed to excess, self lies beneath it: self-love — self-pleasing — self-aggrandizement. Where do you find more selfishness, than in the "study" with its book and easy chair?

Even in studying the Word, it is wrong to over do it. Self-seeking meets you here. Look back and see. Have you ever found the Spirit work, when weariness came on? He acts in unison with providential laws. These plainly tell you it is wrong to over-tax your powers, and ask of them what they can never yield. When aching head, and smarting eyes warned you to cease — was it not selfishness that urged you on? Wiser than God you have been — He bade you stop. Self said, "I must go on." The Spirit said, "I am not with you." Self said, "I will go along."

Excess of study is to spirit, as gluttony is to flesh. Who thrives by over-feeding? Who gains by over-study? Who can retain knowledge, acquired thus? The sickened mind disgorges it — it is emptier than before. We over do it from lack of faith. We cannot trust the Spirit, either to help our memory, or supply our lack of reading — and so we play the fool by over study.

My friend, are you preparing for the ministry? Coupled with this, you have before you a field of literary fame. Why is your strength expended for this latter end? Is it to help you for the cure of souls — in preaching Christ — or visiting the poor? Is it for these, you over-work your energies? Ah, search again; you will find that self is working here. What has the Cross to do with literary fame, and what are "honors" to the Cross? Has Jesus asked it at your hand? Such carnal weapons are unknown to Christ.

You hear it said that fame for learning will aid His cause, and glorify His grace; that men are predisposed to hear a scholar, and cease their prejudices, when Christian men have taken high "degrees." Do not believe it! Grace is the only weapon. What other do you find in Scripture? When Christ is lifted up, all men are drawn to Him. (John 12:32.) If learning is lifted up, then self is lifted up — not Christ. Then trust it not, my friend; it will only hinder you, and draw no souls to Jesus.

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." Ecclesiastes 12:13

And so it always was, and so will it ever be. So was it in Paradise. It has been so since Adam fell. Man’s duty shifted not with Adam’s innocence. God varied not His law, to suit his rebel, man. The Gospel made no difference in this. Man’s duty must continue still the same.

This is the reason why he needs a Savior — his duty beats him; he never could perform his duty, and he never will; he needed One to do it for him. This is what Christ has done. Believe in Christ, His doings, then, are yours!

"Fear God!" My friend, do you know what this contains? Who ever feared Him perfectly? Have you, or I? None but a sinless being can accomplish this. Your sinful heart can never fear the Lord.

"Keep his commandments!" Who ever kept them? One, only One. It is neither you, nor I. It was Christ, and He alone.

"Keep His commandments?" Which have you kept? Rather, which have you not transgressed? Which day, which hour, have you kept them all? Which moment have you fully honored one? "Keep his commandments?"

Yes, you may, when you are perfect. Say, will this ever be? Perfect in self — ah, never! Perfect in Christ! Ah, that is another thing. "Keep His commandments!" Believe in Christ, and then you have kept them all. None kept in self; not one commandment unkept in Christ. All sin is in self; all righteousness is in Christ. In self, God is neither loved, nor feared. God is honored, feared, and loved, in Christ. Oh, wondrous scheme! Man saved! God honored! The Law observed! Atonement made! Man’s fall undone by Man! Man’s penalty discharged by Man — the God-man, Christ Jesus! Thus man is justified, and lives again. Not only so, he is also willing made; willing to fear the Lord; willing to keep His law — a willingness he did not feel before.

The internal principle is now there. The Spirit is there; and hence the change of principle — the principle of fear, and strict obedience; the principle of faith; the principle of divine love! He looks for righteousness in Christ, even here on earth; he looks for perfectness in Heaven!

Bibliographical Information
Mylne, George. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 12". Mylne's Commentary on Ecclesiastes. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mce/ecclesiastes-12.html. 1858.
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