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Bible Commentaries

Mylne's Commentary on Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes 4

Verses 1-16

"But they had no comforter." Ecclesiastes 4:1

Poor sufferers! And was there none to comfort them? Not one of all their brothers of the human race! Were they not brothers? Sprung from one father; by the same God created; bound by the tie of blood! O sin, what havoc you have made of all that is brotherly!

"They had no comforter!" Such are there still. Some have no comforter, because they are friendless. Some, because none can understand their sorrows. Others, because no human sympathy can reach their woes. Others, again, because they are wild with sorrow. As far as comfort goes, they have nothing between them and suicide, madness, or a broken heart.

Reader, have you no comforter? Are you too poor, too humble, too retiring, too little like the world — that men should care for you? Or are your trials, conflicts, and temptations — what few can understand? Are you thus solitary in your sensibility? Are you tempted to despair? Ah, my friend, is there, indeed, no comforter? None to pity! What! none to love! And none to comfort you!

Where then is Jesus? Do you not know Him? Where is God’s Holy Spirit? Does He not dwell with you, abide in you? If not, no wonder you have "no comforter."

"Miserable comforters" are all earthly things. They play upon the surface; they cannot reach the heart. They cannot take the poison from affliction, or draw the arrow from the wounded soul. Such comfort you must seek, where alone it is found — with Jesus! He came expressly as a Comforter. When upon earth, He comforted his friends; and when He left them, whom did He say He would send? Another Comforter! (John 14:16.)

Oh, my friend, what comfort do you need? Comfort for your sense of sin? Comfort for sharp temptation? Comfort for warring conflict? Comfort for darkness in the soul? Is it comfort for sickness, poverty, or sorrow? For loss of friends? For loss of character? Oh! if you love the Lord, say not, "I have no comforter!" The Lord is your comforter!

"No comforter!" Is there no comfort, then, in Jesus — in leaning on His bosom — in telling Him your griefs? No comfort in His grace? No comfort in His love? Ah! think again; and say not, "I have no comforter!"

And you disconsolate! You who know not Jesus! You who seek for earthly comforters alone! What shall I say to you? Why, bid you also look to Jesus! Bring all your sins to Jesus! Seek for a comforter in Jesus! If so, He will not dismiss you in your misery; but comfort you indeed.

"The fool folds his hands and ruins himself!" Ecclesiastes 4:5

Simply on worldly principles, idleness is bad. In spiritual things it’s worse by far. In earthly goods a man may have a store, and live upon it, while it lasts. Not so in grace. There we can have no store — no stock to go to, laid up within the soul for many days. The Christian’s glory is to live from day to day — to know that in himself is emptiness — that all his "fresh springs" are in Jesus. The Christian must daily to take his pitcher to the well of living waters; daily to gather heavenly manna for his daily needs; nay, every moment to receive out of Christ’s fullness, grace upon grace," (John 1:16.)

Living upon Jesus! The food is to be found, not in us — but in Jesus alone. If it were in us, what need, then, to obtain more? Why does the laborer toil from day to day? Because he cannot live upon himself. Food must be obtained; and for it he must work. "No work — no food; no food — no life" is his daily rule.

So is it with the soul. Its only food is Jesus; and this from hour to hour, from day to day, is always the same. Of itself, the soul is ever lean — ever in need of food. It knows no plenty, but in Jesus; and every morsel of its sustenance is drawn from Him! Oh! it is a miserable time when Christians live, or try to live, upon their own resources; to treasure up the days gone by, and feed upon their past experience.

The man may be perfect in doctrine, rich in experience, versed in the knowledge of the ways of God. But what is this? Neither doctrine, knowledge, nor experience feeds the soul. They are but finger-posts pointing to Jesus — to tell the pilgrim where to have a meal. The man who feeds on Christ, can feed on nothing else but His sin-atoning work; His person; His love; His presence; His words; His visits to the soul. He says, "Jesus is with me. With Him I am happy — without Him I am undone. Health, strength, and peace, and comfort, I have none, except in Jesus!"

It is thus, and only thus, that the soul is fed. Oh, then, my soul, fold not your hands in indolence; feed not upon yourself. Seek daily strength for daily needs in Christ, and Christ alone.

"Better one handful with tranquility — than two handfuls with toil and chasing after the wind!" Ecclesiastes 4:6

TRANQUILITY! To many a weary plodder, how sweet the thought! Tranquility! Many pursue you as a phantom — and few find you in the end, because, though love of tranquility is great, the love of gain is greater. "Could I not increase my business — enlarge my warehouse, or have a second business in another street? True, my business is large enough already; my time and strength are already largely taxed; but, then, my fortune will be sooner made; and I shall soon have tranquility!" Thus often speaks the tradesmen.

How many more "join house to house," "lay field to field" (Isaiah 5:8) — all meaning to have tranquility at last! Alas! at such a rate, will tranquility ever come?

But, what is "tranquility!" Is it a cottage in a woods? A villa with a pleasure-ground, and nothing to do! Ah! tranquility like this, is far from tranquility. What weariness, what fretting emptiness! Time, in its very course, becomes a labor; and listlessness corrodes the soul.

Then, there is the quiet of a large inheritance, with literary ease, or country occupations — the farm, the chase, the garden, or the fond pursuit of nature’s science. There is tranquility in these, it is true; but will it stand the test of time? It is quiet on the surface — but is there tranquility within? The soul, the conscience — is it quiet there? Does it disturb the tranquility to think of death, and judgment, and eternity? If tranquility is thus destroyed, does it deserve the name?

True tranquility consists in having peace with God — a quiet conscience — Christ in the soul — the sense of sin forgiven. With tranquility like this, a handful is enough; a pittance grows to plenty, and poverty to wealth. Oh! it is a blessing to have enough to live upon; to have neither poverty nor riches; to be fed with "food convenient" for our use. (Proverbs 30:8.)

While others are oppressed with wealth, and travail, and vexation — may true tranquility be our lot! All this, and Jesus too! This tranquility! My needs supplied! And comforts too! All this, and Jesus! My lonely dwelling lighted with His presence! Each frugal meal made sweeter by His love! My walks, my works, my solitude, my social moments — all graced with Jesus, and His company! Is not this tranquility indeed!

My soul, if greater wealth were yours, might not this tranquility be in danger — and your ease be turned to travail? Know, then, your true riches in Jesus — and be content.

"A threefold cord is not quickly broken." Ecclesiastes 4:12

Union is strength, whether with two or three, or more. Thus man was never meant to be alone; and God provided him "a helper." (Genesis 2:18.) In Heaven, no solitude exists; neither would earth have known it, had man continued holy. Sin is the cause of all the desolation which pervades mankind. It needs an effort now to escape it. To make friends, and to keep them; to float within the current of society, and not be stranded by some eddy on the lonely shore — all this is done by dint of effort. Without it few would have anything but solitude at last.

Our corporations, our societies, our friendly unions all say, "Union is strength, and we must work to have it."

But in communing with God, man must be solitary. This is another consequence of sin. True, there is social prayer; but in the heart prayer, there must be solitude. No blending there can be of soul with soul, but for a season, and by an effort too. Sin has thrown up its barriers between man and man. Each sinful body, each fallen mind, presents an obstacle to union. The sense of union with the saints, must be an act of faith, an effort — a flash of light, of more or less recurrence — and then it is dark again. Unbroken union is reserved for eternity, when sin, with all its barriers, gives way to glory.

Union is strength. A twofold cord is something; "a threefold cord is better." Though union here on earth is faulty, yet, even here, much may be done by union. If two or three agree together in the name of Jesus, their prayers are mighty. How strong is this "threefold cord!" When those who live together, strive jointly to resist and conquer sin, each knowing his own infirmities, each trying to improve the rest — each practicing the grace of meek forbearance, and humility — they weave a cord of many folds, and strong endurance. But if one or other ceases to pray, to watch, to strive, and to forbear, how can the cord maintain its unity, or keep its substance?

"A threefold cord!" But where can it be found in perfectness? Only in God — in God, distinct in three persons, but in essence One — divers in office, yet in purpose undivided — one God, one Lord, Jehovah; one, in Father, Son, and Spirit; each, in the covenant of grace, before time began, pledged to redeem His people; each bound by covenant to love, to keep, to bless, to perfect, them; all, in the unity of wisdom, majesty, and power, acting in holy concert. The Three-in-One — the One-in-Three — in mercy, grace, and truth — say, who can break the threefold cord of Deity?

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Bibliographical Information
Mylne, George. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 4". Mylne's Commentary on Ecclesiastes. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mce/ecclesiastes-4.html. 1858.