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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 8

Mylne's Commentary on EcclesiastesMylne on Ecclesiastes

Verses 1-17

"A man’s wisdom makes his face shine!" Ecclesiastes 8:1

What makes the difference between the well-bred person, and the barbarian? It is education — the being well-versed in wisdom. You see it in the gait, the speech, the manners; the eye expresses it, the very features tell it; you read it in the whole demeanor. Thus a man’s wisdom makes his face to shine.

If thus it be with earthly learning, much more is it the case with heavenly understanding. In giving vigor to the soul, and planting there a godly principle, it sows the seeds of higher bearing. It gives learning superior to the "schools;" it treats of things unseen by mortal eye — of agencies unfelt by mortal man; it brings before the mind a science more profound than all the depths of man’s philosophy. These treat of matter only, or of mind; but this treats of God himself, His nature, attributes, and will. It penetrates the veil which severs God from man. It shares the angels’ thoughts. By faith it sees what they behold more nearly, and, in its heaven-born powers, has deeper notions of the truth than they.

If human learning makes a man the "gentleman," say, who should be as refined as he who learns from God Himself, and gets his wisdom in the school of Christ! If good society improves the manners, who should be as courteous as the man who is daily in the company of Jesus; imbibing from His presence; breathing the atmosphere of Heaven! Have you not seen it in the Church of Christ — the altered deportment; the softened look; the chastened speech, of one who lately was far otherwise? The eye bespeaks a change, and, in its new expression, tells you that Jesus dwells within.

Can it be otherwise? Can God be there — and no one know it! Can the Comforter be there — and not cause the face to shine! Who has not witnessed it in men of low station! Their manners immediately assume a dignity above their station. They have seen the King of kings, and learned true feeling, manners, and politeness. The worldling wonders where they have learned it. He may deny the principle, but cannot deny the fact. His conscience tells him it is something godlike — hence he dislikes it. He sees no charm in godliness. The shining face thus shines in vain for him. It speaks to him of what he neither knows nor loves — the life of God, and principle of Heaven.

"A man’s wisdom makes his face shine, and the boldness of his face is changed." Ecclesiastes 8:1

Reader, what is the meaning of the text? Perhaps it seems to you obscure. Then bear with me a moment, while I tell you my thoughts concerning it. If haply I have found the mind of Solomon — the mind of God in Solomon — this is well. And may it thus be blessed to you, and I!

Boldness is either holy or unholy — either abrasive or honest confidence. True wisdom removes the one, and gives the other.

The Pharisee is bold from ignorance. He is blind alike to God’s requirements, and his own defects — hence he is not afraid, and thinks himself prepared for death and judgment. Such boldness is not safe. I hope it is not yours.

How different is the boldness of the Christian! He is bold (and justly so) because his sins are cancelled, and his pardon is sealed; because, in Christ, he stands complete — trusting in unchangeable promises which are built on faultless grace. Through a sense of the perfect love of God to His redeemed children — he is bold even for the judgment day. (1 John 4:17.) He owns himself to be the least of saints — the chief of sinners — and yet, in Christ he is not afraid. Thus he, who once was bold in ignorance, has now his boldness changed.

The Pharisee fears not the evils of his heart; sees not the danger of temptation — but plunges boldly into sin. How different the child of God! (Proverbs 14:16.) He once was so; but now he dares not tamper with his sins. Knowing how weak he is, he ventures not a step, but in the strength of Jesus. He fears to meet his trials, to combat his infirmities, or face the enemy, unarmed with grace — and, in his helplessness, he throws himself on Him, who is pledged to support him in all his need.

"The boldness of his face" is "changed" in every way — here on earth, changed to filial fear of God — in the day of judgment, changed to boldness once again. What once he feared not — now he has learned to fear — the world, the flesh, and the devil. And, having learned this fear, he has also learned how to be bold in Christ. Armed from God’s armor, and clad with His power, in faith and prayer he runs his daily race. Where duty leads — he feels that it would be wrong to fear. Where grace demands a sacrifice — he is bold. Ever and always he chides his fearful heart, and listens for the voice, "Do not be afraid, it is I!" (John 6:20.) None can prevail — but he who is bold in Christ; and none shall fall — but he who is bold in self. Reader, may you and I be bold aright!

"I counsel you to keep the King’s commandment." Ecclesiastes 8:2

Solomon preached loyalty — that every soul be subject to the higher powers, and "all the ordinances of man" be kept, as unto God. (Romans 13; 1 Peter 2:13.)

But, doubtless, Solomon looked higher than to earthly laws, and, by "the King’s commandment," meant the Law of God. This was the statute book to Israel — their only code, alike for spiritual and earthly rule. But who could keep this holy law? None ever kept it; none keeps it now; and no man ever will. It asks for perfection — which none can yield. It claims a penalty — which all must pay, except they be in Jesus. (Galatians 3:10-11.) "Do this — and you shall live," the precept ran. (Luke 10:28.) Where none could do it — it was plain that none could live. It was but a law of death. It was only given to prove man’s inability — to be a schoolmaster to lead to Christ. (Romans 5:13; Romans 7:13; Galatians 3.) Such was the King’s commandment.

Then what did Solomon mean, by telling us to keep what never could be kept? By faith he pointed to the types — the dying goat, the bleeding lamb; through them he pointed to the Savior, the Lamb of God. Jesus on Sinai sat (Acts 7:38; compare verses 30-32). from thence He gave the law, "Do this, and you shall live." (Leviticus 18:5.) But from the Cross — a new commandment came, "Believe, and live!" Henceforth this was to be the law of life and death. Believe — and live! believe not, you shall die. (John 3:18-19; John 3:36; xvi. 9; Mark xvi. 16.) The Jews had asked, "What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? " (John vi. 28.) They wished to find some royal road to keep the law, and thus to save their souls. Jesus replied, "Believe on Him whom He has sent." (Verse 29.)

The reason is plain. Christ kept the law; Christ paid the penalty. Believe on Christ, and then you are one with Him; your sins are His; His righteousness is yours. Christ kept the law. Not for Himself He kept it, but for you; that you, in faith, might say, "I have kept it too — in Christ I have paid the penalty." And thus the two commandments meet in one. Am I in Christ, I have kept them both. "Do this, and live!" In Christ I’ve kept it. "Believe, and live!" Through grace I’ve kept it too.

The new command includes the old; hence all its virtue; it destroys not, but fulfills. (Matthew 5:17.) Yet know, my friend, it is not in you to keep even this new commandment. This would be harder to fulfill than the old. To us it is "given to believe," faith is the gift of God. (Philippians 1:29; Ephesians 2:8.) Could you believe of yourself, grace would no longer be grace. Obedience to the faith must come from God, that He be all in all.

"Obey the King’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God" Ecclesiastes 8:2

The old command was binding. Israel had pledged themselves to keep it. (Exodus 19:8.) It was as binding as an oath; it was sealed by blood, a covenant between God and man. God bound to recompense obedience, and to punish sin. Man bound to keep the law, or suffer the penalty for it. Thus man had bound upon himself his own destruction; for who could keep the covenant he had made? No formal oath had been expressed either by God or man, but virtually both had sworn. The better covenant, the new command, had better promises. With it man, in his sinfulness, had nothing to do but believe.

God in His unity (Galatians 3:20) — the Three in One — devised, contracted, and performed the New Covenant. The parties were the Father and the Son; God the eternal Father; and God in man — Immanuel — the man Christ Jesus. Each party pledged; each able to perform; each qualified to covenant with each other, since each alike incapable of change. The Spirit heard. (John 16:13.) The covenant was His, in common with the Father and the Son. He pledged Himself, as well as They, to call, to nourish, and to keep, all the heirs of glory.

This covenant was ratified by oath. God swore to Abraham. (Genesis 22:16.) He swore to David. (Psalms 89:35.) Before the worlds, He swore to Abraham’s seed, and David’s Son (Psalms 84:4), "whose goings forth" had been "from everlasting." (Micah 5:2.) This oath was made to assure "the heirs of promise," that they might know God’s certainty of purpose (Hebrews 6:17), and, through the comfort of the Scriptures, might have hope. (Romans 15:4.)

God’s word is passed, His oath is given, that all His Church shall live. To Christ, He gave His chosen ones. (John 17:6.) By oath they are His. By oath He calls them, by oath He keeps them; by oath He promises to give them saving grace; by oath He is pledged to give them eternal glory.

With men "an oath for confirmation" ends the strife. (Hebrews 6:16.) When God has sworn — Who shall doubt His word? He says, "Believe, and live!"-God swore in promise; yet once He were in wrath, that sinners should not see His rest. (Psalms 95:11.) And why? Because of "unbelief." (Hebrews 3:19.) This oath is still in force; the King’s command is doubly fenced; salvation pledged by oath to all the redeemed saints; and eternal death denounced by oath on unbelievers. Believe — and live; believe not — and be damned. (John 3:36; Mark 16:16.) God’s word is fixed; His oath is passed; forever sure, in Heaven, in earth, in Hell. The Lord has spoken. Who will not fear? The Lord has sworn. Who will not be afraid? Hear His command: Believe and live! His oath inspires no terror. It will be the ground of all your hopes, and the comfort of your soul!

"Do not be in a hurry to leave the King’s presence." Ecclesiastes 8:3

If earthly monarchs claim respect, and courtly manners are required of those who serve them — then much more is kingly honor due to Him who made the world and rules it!

That man should have fellowship with God! Oh, what a mystery! The mystery, however, is scarcely less, that, with the privilege, man should forget the majesty of Him with whom he has to do. One courtly rule for earthly kings, is to retire backwards from the throne — ever to turn the face to him that sits upon it, and not to go unbidden from the kingly presence.

Shall lesser deference be paid to God, the King of kings? If reverence is due on coming to His presence — is it not due on leaving it? Should we not wait the beck of His dismissal? If He has more to say — shall we be reluctant to hear, or slight the honor of His condescension? Can time be better spent? Can we so soon exhaust the royal bounty? Before you rise, let it be told you by the Spirit, "It is time for you to leave." He will not let you be a loser, if you thus confide in Him.

Do not leave the throne too suddenly. Slide not at once from prayer — to earthly things. Resume not hastily the thread of occupation. Be slow to act upon a worldly thought which struck you as you went to prayer — while in the very act of kneeling down; this would encourage unworthy thought to come again unseasonably.

If you have left the family circle, that you may pray, beware lest fond excitement flutter you while you pray, or tempt you to hurry your devotions, and mar your fellowship with God.

If interrupted in your prayer, and called away to do some needful thing — go cheerfully. Do not be provoked with him who thus, unwittingly disturbed you. If able to resume your prayers, you will find it has not suffered by the shock. If not, God knows your heart. Be still. He will give you a loving audience at another time.

In social worship, it is unedifying to engage in secular discourse the moment you are risen from your knees; forthwith to take a public journal, or other reading of the kind; or make engagements for the day. Better allow a space to intervene (be it however short) while you retire backwards from the throne. And, before you leave the royal throne-room, have time to say, "Lord, look upon your servant, he is going now to meet the world; be with him still. Pardon his lack of reverence, and, as he leaves the throne, be with him still!"

Such rules are needful. They seem the "little things" of grace, but they are great indeed. If followed out, they keep the mind more able for devotion, and make it taste "the powers of the world to come." (Hebrews 6:5.)

The closer company you have kept with Jesus — the more you have prayed in spirit — the slower you will be to turn to worldly things; the more devoutly will you retire from the throne. Just as the more the eye has gazed upon the sun — the more the earth will be a blank to look upon. Such tests are wholesome. By these we try the tone of our devotions, and the nature of our fellowship with God.

"Do not stand in an evil thing, for He will do whatever He pleases." Ecclesiastes 8:3

Had Lot remained in Sodom, or lingered in the plain — he must have perished in his folly. Then "stand not," sinner, in your evil ways. The Lord is almighty. He does whatever He pleases. He can even take you away at a stroke, or give you over to a hardened heart.

And you, Believer, were you not in the Preacher’s mind, when thus he spoke? "The wise man fears — and departs from evil." (Proverbs 14:16.) This is the wisdom of the saints. Tarry not in temptation — flee quickly from it. Think of "Lot’s wife," nor look behind you. You find yourself in front of some forbidden thing; it comes invitingly — unasked — unsought for. You seem almost privileged to look, to hear, to dwell upon it. Flesh pleads entreatingly, and hints that "Providence" has put it in your way. And so it did; yet not to tempt you into sin.

As a minister of God said, long since departed, the door was opened — that you might shut it; not to invite your entrance! God permits these trials of your faith, to prove your faithfulness. Be stern, then, with yourself. Sin cannot lose its sinfulness, however plausible it is. Flesh is still flesh, and must be crucified. Grace is still grace, and grace must have its way.

Again, some duty presses, and time is short; a hurried step carries you swiftly on. You see a crowd. What is that crowd to you? But vain curiosity comes in; you stop to see, and slight the secret warning, "What are you doing here?"

Or else some novelty attracts you — some book or print, set there on purpose to entrap the passers-by. How charming to the enemy to see you stop; to find you "standing in an evil thing;" to catch you mixing with the multitude, wasting the time in vanity!

It is dangerous to walk abroad in scenes of vanity, with nothing to do. You are sure to meet with evil — something to look at, which you should not see; something to hear, to which you should not listen. On principle, it is well to hurry on, steadily, if you cannot go rapidly. Loungers are ever wrong; for them mischief is much in store. Life is a journey through a land of foes. "Hasten for your life!" must still your motto be. Hasten for your holiness! Hasten for your purity! Hasten for your peace! To tarry is to go astray. Forward in grace! Forward in thought! Forward in occupation! Forward even in your daily walks! You have no time to tarry — no time to waste — no time to stand. Then, Christian, forward — yes, forward go!

"Where the word of a King is, there is power! Who may say to Him: What are You doing?" Ecclesiastes 8:4

What word, what power, are like the Lord’s? With earthly kings words may be loud — and power small. Days, months, or years, may intervene before the power fulfills the word, and makes it sure. Not so with God. His purpose knows no hindrance. His Word can never fail. Who can resist His power? With God, purpose, and word, and power are but one.

Who, then, may say to God: "What are You doing?" To hinder His purpose, you must be able to overcome Omnipotence! Infinite, unchangeable, almighty — with God to will, is to perform; to speak — is to proclaim His past eternal purpose, and His endless might. Who can arrest His hand, or thwart His providence? Who can? That is not the word. Rather, who ought to wish it? Who ought to quarrel with His will, or say, either with bold or fretful opposition, "What are You doing?"

Your child has died; or perhaps a shipwreck has bereft you, at one stroke, of all your family; or other ills untold, unspeakable, have made you drink the wine of desperation. My friend, these things were ordained by God "before the world began." In God’s eternal mind it was written — it was settled long ago. How vain to say, "What are You doing?" And when the time was come, God sent His messengers — noiseless, unseen, invisible — to do His righteous will. Could you have said, "What are You doing with my child? What are You doing with the winds and waves? Forbear!"

Your will was not consulted — your permission was not asked. Do not say, "What have you done?" Be silent before the omnipotent Disposer! "I was silent; I would not open my mouth, for You are the one who has done this!" (Psalms 39:9.) "But what can I say? He has spoken to me, and He Himself has done this. I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul." (Isaiah 38:15.) Go softly all your years — yet not "in anguish of soul." If you have faith in Christ, you are better taught than this. Go softly — yet in faith, in patience. Looking to Jesus; let your language be, "It is the Lord! Let my Lord do what seems good in His eyes." (1 Samuel 3:18.)

"A wise man’s heart discerns both time and judgment." Ecclesiastes 8:6

There is a book more difficult to read than all human books, however hard they are. There is a language harder to decipher than all the dialects of human speech. It is the book of "time and judgment" — the volume of God’s providential dealings with men; to read His doings and observe His ways. (Psalms 107:43.)

In times of public trouble, or domestic woe, it is easy to "afflict the soul," and, as a bulrush in the wind, to bow the head; to wear the garb of sorrow. All this is done, and yet the soul discerns not "time and judgment." Outward distress it sees; it feels the chastening; yet it cannot see the call to penitence, and faith, and prayer. It does not think of judgment, and the world to come. Blind is man — hopelessly blind, until grace enlightens him. "Lord, when your hand is lifted up — they will not see." Thus spoke the prophet — thus speaks the prophet still. (Isaiah 26:11.)

Nor is it mere acquaintance with prophetic lore; to know the dates and systems of interpreters; to say "The times are threatening; the end is approaching; the Lord is at hand!" My friend, is Jesus precious to your soul? Do you expect His coming, because "you love His cross!" Do you in righteousness, soberness, and godliness — in deep conviction of your sin — in heartfelt yearning for the souls of men, look "for that blessed hope?" (Titus 2:12-13.) Oh, this is wisdom! Oh, this is to discern "both time and judgment;" to read God’s dealings, as He means them; of every lifting of His hand to feel your soul aware; your heart responding to His providence, as pulse to pulse! If so, you are like the men of Issachar, "men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do." (1 Chronicles 12:32.)

It is well to read God’s dealings with yourself. You may have found, by past experience, that He has a special method with you; that some events bespeak a certain train of providence concerning you; that certain workings of the Spirit foretell a certain state of soul; that certain throbs of conscience, before this, were calls to listen to the Spirit for some especial purpose; that certain risings in the inner man have told of coming conflict, and fierce temptation, near at hand; that sudden softenings of heart have been the sure forerunners of contrition — deep, solemn, and refreshing; that godly yearnings have been but drops before a shower of prayerful influences, long continued.

If so, in this discern "both time and judgment." Let not experience be lost upon you, but make the present profit by the past.

"Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?" Ecclesiastes 8:7

God’s purposes have all their seasons of fulfillment. His judgments each have their time of visitation. Mapped out in clear perspective, your every dispensation was fixed from everlasting in the eternal mind of God. Your sunny seasons, and your cloudy days; sorrow and pain, anxiety and lack, your every loss of property or friends — all was designed before you ever saw the light. Trials may be in store for you, the thoughts of which would harrow up your soul — if you knew they were coming.

All this is ordained and known by God. What it may be, or when it is to come — He tells not to His creatures. As lightning strikes — for quickness, as wave comes after wave — for frequency; so may trials visit you. They are as uncertain as the wind. Yet fixed in divine purpose, and in performance sure — they come. From day to day, from hour to hour, who can foretell his future?

"Therefore," the Preacher says, "the misery of man is great upon him!" (verse 6.) Reader, is this your feeling? Is "therefore" misery great on you? Does it make you brood over possibilities — alarmed at the contingency of woes? Would you rather, that all were known before, that you might be prepared for what may trials and tribulations come?

Rather, thank God that He has veiled the future, and deals out His dispensations one by one. The time, the way, the kind, the circumstance — are all fixed by unerring wisdom, and by boundless love. It is thus God is glorified; His power felt; His sovereignty known, free from the trammels of His creatures’ will. Matchless in skill; unfailing in resource — He thus proclaims His sovereign Godhead.

Known to His children are the ways of God. The world may murmur — but the saints submit. The world may tremble — but the saints are glad. In all their woes, they see a Father’s hand, and a Savior’s sympathy. They would not alter it. They meekly leave the future to their God.

The times and seasons;
the "what;"
the "when;"
the "how;"
the "why" —
they would not, dare not, know!

But these things they do know:
that as their days — so their strength shall be;
that He, who counts the stars, and calls them by their names — will heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds;
that divine comforts shall keep pace with worldly sorrows, and
that God’s grace will be sufficient for every time of need!

"No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; and no one has power in the day of death." Ecclesiastes 8:8

Man, for six thousand years, has tried to understand his spirit — yet knows as little of it as he did at first. What is the soul of man? Whence did it come? Where does it go? He can’t explain how spirit dwells with flesh — what binds the two together, for a time, in perfect unity. He has never seen, as little can he feel, the links that knit them to each other. It is all within him — his flesh, his spirit, his life, his being — all the machinery of soul and body, thus closely interlaced. Yet is it as foreign to his grasp, as that which happens in another world!

Thus flesh and spirit dwell together. Who could suppose they ever would part again! Who can explain how soul and body part, or how the links of union are undone — what makes the spirit fly away, or how the flesh gives up its hold! God wills it. God does it. God does not explain why. God tells not how. He speaks, unheard; and immediately it is done — the spirit returns to Him who made it.

Man may detain the body — but he cannot keep the soul, nor say, "You shall not go!" God says, "Return to Me!" The word must be obeyed. Neither youth, nor wit, nor beauty, nor strength, nor money, can delay His omnipotent hand.

How mysterious is death! At times how violent! At times how stealthy! At times He takes your darling from your side — and robs you unblushingly before your face. At other times, days, months, and years may intervene before you know it. The spirit fled — and you knew it not. You thought it still on earth; but it was gone. You think of him, prepare for him, and write to invite him to your home. But alas! the spirit is gone; and had you known it, what could you have done!

Oh, vanity of vanities! What pain, what misery, man’s sin has brought to pass! And yet how astonishing is the ignorance, the recklessness of sinful man! Dead in spiritual death, he neither knows nor seeks a remedy, but binds his misery around him with thoughtless energy. And yet there is a remedy — a remedy in Jesus — a remedy for those who look to Jesus!

Say, reader, can you look around you, can you look backward or forward and be happy — unless you find this remedy for all the misery and uncertainty of this poor, passing world?

"For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!" Romans 6:23

"No one has power over the spirit to retain the spirit; and no one has power in the day of death. There is no discharge in that war!" Ecclesiastes 8:8

Oh, what a war it is! Since Adam’s day, the war is carried on; no respite granted, no peace, no armistice, and no exchange of prisoners. Each moment of the day, thousands are slain! Each one is carried off in turn, but none ever come back again. "There is no discharge in that war!" Some have been prisoners for centuries, and tens of centuries, fast bound in chains of DEATH. As yet there is no discharge!

Parents have seen their children snatched away — and none have returned again! Wives have been torn from husbands, husbands from wives, and friends from friends. There is no exception, "no discharge."

Oh, DEATH, you are the conqueror now! Some fear you; others brave you; most forget you — but all alike fall under you! You take some when life is scarcely begun. Even for them, "there is no discharge!" Some are removed in bloom of youth — in beauty’s prime — in midst of usefulness. Death, are you not mistaken? Was not your stroke intended for another? Oh, give them back! Alas! "There is no discharge in that war!"

We have seen one while still young — and loved to think how long and useful he would live. We gave him many years and hopes. But no! He is taken away! "There is no discharge in that war!" What anguish in the thought, "He will never return!" Imagination can hardly take it in. Each meal you think to see his well-known face. Each opening door, seems opened for his form to enter! Alas! "there is no discharge!"

As YET there is none. But will there never be? "There is no discharge!" Death, do not say so! One day you will see it. As all have gone — all will return; as all have died — so all will live again. Oh, death, you are doomed! "The lake of fire" is reserved for you. (Revelation 20:14.) You will be totally conquered!

The wicked are even taken from your grasp. They rise again — to misery, it is true; yet still they live. Oh, death! they are not yours.

But, for those who have died in faith, it is not death — they sleep in Jesus. They wait the appointed time. Their "change" will come. He will not forget them, nor leave them in the dust of death. (Job 14:14-15.)

Where, then, is your sting, O Death? Where O Grave, where then, is your victory! O Death, your war is at an end; not now, but then. And then, O Death, "there is no discharge" for you!

"There is a time in which one man rules over another to his own hurt." Ecclesiastes 8:9

Authority is sweet — but dangerous! Misrule is hurtful, not only to the ruled, but to the ruler. History is full of it. But, reader, what have you and I, just now, to do with history? There is something that concerns us all more nearly.

Are you a parent in a family? Do you rule your children for your profit — or your hurt? Do you mark their tempers, and their dispositions? Are your instructions suited to their characters? Are your chastenings well adjusted to their sensibilities? In their sins and infirmities — do you see your own reflected? What they are now, in youth and childhood — such were you. Do you remember that they derive their sinful nature all from you!

Are love and firmness mingled in your rule: love tempered by discretion, and firmness joined to love? How many Christian parents err — well-meaning parents! They forget the Bible rule — they spare the rod! "He who spares his rod hates his son — but he who loves him, disciplines him promptly!" (Proverbs 13:24.)

God rules His sons by chastening. He sends what makes them feel pain, in mind and body too. Can you do better with your child, than God with His children?

Are children different now? Is the Scripture’s discipline grown out of date?

In infancy a thousand lectures, loving though they be — fall short of physical correction, wisely administered in season, and degree. Chastening is what the child can feel and understand. This is the simplest mode of teaching — this is the end in view.

If you rule our child in anger, you teach him to be angry in return. One day his anger will recoil on you! The same with peevishness, and fretful speech; it will only make them fretful with yourself — you rule them to your hurt. If you, a parent, deceive your partner, and thus screen the child from chastening, your child one day will practice fraud on you. You rule him to your hurt!

Never strike a child in haste. Is he to be chastened? Then go to prayer, that you be kept from anger, and that God would teach your child, and nurture him with grace. I knew a father once — I never shall forget his way of chastening. He was a tender parent, and keenly felt his children’s failings. He never overlooked their faults, and when he chastened them, it was always done in love. I well remember the anguish of his look. He showed his children that it tore his heart to chasten them. Thus, in the father’s grief, the children read their faults, and saw how bitter, and how evil it was to disobey!

"There is a time when one man rules over another to his own hurt." Ecclesiastes 8:9

Are you the Master of a household? Do you rule your servants well? What wisdom do you show — what sense of justice, in your family? Do you respect the covenant you made! It was as much implied, that you should rule with meekness and forbearance — as that they should serve you well. Do you bear in mind that they are flesh and blood, as well as you? No difference in this respect between them and you. They have feelings to work upon; failings to be studied; affections to be pleased or wounded — all this they have in common with yourself. How much is this forgotten in the stern realities of service!

Yet God, who made the one, has made the other, too. With Him there is no respect of persons. Will He not mark your lack of feeling?

Do you choose the season well for telling them their faults? How much depends on this! How often we rule them to our injury — by correcting them in the wrong manner! If faults come thickly — yet reprove them not in quick succession; they will not bear it, and you will thus defeat your end. One fault corrected at a time, goes further than twenty told at once. If one reproof is taken meekly, the next may overstrain the patience, and the third produce a storm! On whom recoils the blow? Who feels it most? The master, or the servant? You know full well.

Let not reproof follow the fault too quickly. The sense of having erred, ruffles the mind. It is then less open to reproof, when fresh from erring. Forbear a while. You will find your opportunity. Their hearts, like yours, are in the hand of God. Commit your cause to Him, and lean not on yourself, your warnings and expostulations.

Does your servant answer you in rudeness? You are justly grieved. This tries the patience, and grates upon the feelings, most severely. "To think that he so far forgets himself! Had an equal thus insulted me — it would be more easily endured; but from a servant, it is intolerable!"

But is not this a cause to bear with him more patiently? Inferior station argues an inferior sensibility — inferior knowledge of what is right or wrong — coarse or befitting — vulgar or refined. Your station makes you doubly sensitive, while he is tenfold liable to err. Judge of his fault with calmness, remembering yourself, your failings, your advantages. Perhaps you have erred yourself, as he has done. (Ecclesiastes 7:21-22.) Never let not his anger, anger you, nor tempt you to exceed propriety in correcting him. It is bad enough in him; it were tenfold worse in you.

What do you for the souls of those who serve you? Do you speak to them of Jesus, and the world to come? If not, how can you rule them well? Church privilege is good; so is domestic worship; but let not these supplant your personal faithfulness. Speak to them for yourself — nothing can excuse you; tell them yourself of what concerns their peace. Servants have eyes and ears. They mark your words, observe your ways, and see your inconsistencies. How can you rule them to your profit, if your deeds belie your principles!

Would you make them punctual — be punctual yourself. Example teaches more than precept. With all your care, your patience will be tried; but how much more, if you neglect to rule them well!

"So I saw the wicked buried." Ecclesiastes 8:10

Oh, what a leveler is death! All die, and all are buried — the grave has no respect of persons. Some rest in hope of glory: After the worms destroy their body, yet their Redeemer lives; in time they will see Him face to face. (Psalms 16:9; Job 19:25-27.) With other some how different. They lived in sin; in sin they died. Their sins lie with them in the dust, and rest upon their bones. (Job 20:11; Ezekiel 32:27.) And yet they seemed to die in peace. Because their face looked pleasantly in death, it is said that all was well. Oh, what a broken reed! Rest not upon it. It will only pierce the hand that leans upon it.

You, too, may have a smile upon your lifeless corpse. What then? Do you think that this will cancel sin, and save your soul? The only safety is in Jesus and His cross. Nothing else will serve you in a dying day.

And then the funeral, with all its circumstance of woe! The sable hearse; the nodding plumes; horses dressed with studied care; attendants numerous — some heralding in front, some following — the coronet on the bier — the mausoleum cold in its marbled symmetry; with all (or high or low) the service solemnly performed, "ashes to ashes," "dust to dust," so reverently given!

How hard to think that any, thus interred, have failed of Heaven! Nature repels the thought. "It cannot be! It were sacrilege to doubt their safety." Thus man takes refuge from unpleasant truth in dark solemnities; and clothes the trappings of mortality — the crowning emblems of his sin and shame — with thoughts of universal safety. How vain the pomp, how false the pride, often shown on such occasions!

Look at that funeral! You knew him well by sight; you often met him, exchanged a nod, or passing word, or stopped to speak to him. Then he passed on, unnoticed, unattended — no show, or vain display had marked his doings. You see him now; at least you see his pageant. More horses draw him to the tomb than he was accustomed to sit behind, when living. Had you not seen the like before, you would ask what noble, or man of note he was. Thus men are borne as princes to the grave, who, in their life, had nothing princely.

It is well to reverence the dead, and solemnly commit them to the tomb; yet not to make it an excuse for vanity. Think what it is to die! Think of the great realities that follow death. Think of the moldering dust; how little it can feel the empty honors thus bestowed upon it! Think of the parted spirit; how is it bettered by the pomp and show? Think of the lowly Jesus, and let your pride be buried in your brother’s grave.

"They were forgotten." Ecclesiastes 8:10

How well we knew his person, both in the haunts of business, and the house of prayer! It was a shock to hear that he was gone. It brought him to our mind more forcibly than ever. Slight friendship swelled at once to feelings of intensity. Each person seemed as though he had lost an intimate acquaintance. Excitement lingered for a day, or two. Before his burial it seemed to wane; then suddenly shot up again; flared for a little season, and then — expired! How soon he was forgotten!

Even thus it fares with men of great renown — statesmen, nobles, or public benefactors. As long as they lived, the nation watched their doings. They could not walk abroad, or reach their country seat, but it was read by thousands. What mourning when they died! And yet how soon were they forgotten! Ah! when we hear the sobs of parents suddenly bereft; of widows, orphans, brothers, sisters, friends — disconsolate in woe, we say, can they forget! Ah yes, they may and do! Like writing in the sand, memory pays tribute to the lapse of time, and parts with all its tracery. Yet it is not always so. In some, memory is made of stronger stuff; the stream of retrospective love flows deep, though silently. Absent from sight, their cherished ones are often in their mind. We men of fainter feelings must stand abashed before them, and own them greater than ourselves.

What makes the difference between memory and memory; between man and man? Wherein consists the framework of the mind? How is it put together? What makes affection strong, or weak? What causes the predominance of judgment, feeling, frailty, or of power? Known unto God are all His works; He has not told us why.

Man’s memory has shared the fate of all that is human; it is now degraded by infirmity, and spoiled by sin! But this we know, God never forgets His people! Even living saints forget departed ones; but Jesus forgets them not. Amidst sin and imperfection, they never lose His love, His thought, His care; and when they leave this mortal scene, and fade from human memory, they are not a whit more present to His mind than formerly. His memory knows no change.

"Because the 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." Ecclesiastes 8:11

"In the day that you eat thereof, you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:17.) Thus spoke the Lord to Adam. Yet Adam ate, and Adam did not die. It is true that moral death ensued at once, in strict fulfillment — yet physical death was still delayed. Year followed year, and age followed age — yet Adam died not. Nine centuries had passed — still Adam lived! How slowly judgment came! Yet Adam died at last. (Genesis 5:5.) With God it was but a day. With Him a thousand years are but as yesterday gone by, or as an evening watch. (Psalms 90:4.)

For 120 years the flood descended not; for 120 years the world defied the sentence; for 120 years God’s patience waited, while the ark was made; yet judgment came at last. (Genesis 6:3; 1 Peter 3:20.) Since then, all things continue as they were; yet judgment only tarries, it is not gone by. Christ says, "I will come again!" Yet still it is said, "Where is the promise of His coming?" God’s promise is not slack; He is very patient, that men may turn and live. Yet still they scorn His grace; and man is wayward, since the Lord is kind. (2 Peter 3:3-9; Romans 2:4.)

Of all God’s attributes, methinks, patience is the chief. Perfect holiness looking on continuous evil — with infinite forbearance! How astonishing! The mystery of divine power (Numbers 14:17-18), thus set forth, is quite unsearchable by mortal minds.

But why is God so patient? Willing to show His wrath, and make His avenging power known — why does He yet forbear? The cause is plain — to show the riches of His glory on the vessels of His grace! (Romans 9:22-23.) The Book of Life unfolds the mystery. Traced on its page — written indelibly in truth and love — God reads the chosen names. The time is noted for their birth and effectual calling. The world must last, and judgment tarry, until the last name is called — the whole family of God made up — the whole redeemed flock completed.

My soul, how wonderful that God has borne with you! That you should know His grace! And share His love! You have tried His patience by manifold transgressions. Say, with how many sinners has He borne, that you, the chief of sinners, might become the least of saints? Then hide your head, and call yourself the chief of sinners still.

"Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time — I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God. Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow." Ecclesiastes 8:12-13

Men live and die. They call it life and death, and so it is. But yet this life and death are purely physical — breath dwelling in the man, or breath departed. True life is something more than this. Its source and center is in God. It is an emanation from Himself — a streamlet from the fount of self-existence. The life of God is, like Himself, holy, and just, and good. No other life but this could God impart. While life retains this character, it is life itself; what it was meant to be; containing in itself the impress of the Holy One, Himself the sole epitome of life. True life infers God’s presence and His love; the pure enjoyment of His favor. Peace, holiness, and purity, are but the breath of such existence.

Without these properties, physical life is death, however long it lasts. Long life, in fallen beings, is but a death prolonged — no mark of blessing or of God’s delight. By heavenly rules, how can a fallen state, a lifeless life — a covert death — be a blessing? The only blessing it boasts, is that the sinner still is spared, if, by God’s blessing, he may learn to count his life but death; and come to know the principle of true life, and taste the power of life from Heaven.

Men deem long life a blessing. They hug their days, and count their opportunities of sin; each moment added to their life is hailed with joy, a respite from the dreaded and unknown future. But what is our life? It is simply the prelude to eternity — the first beginning of an endless end. What is eternity, but time prolonged — the after links of one unbroken chain! Our mortal life, without the heavenly birth, is but the spring of eternal death. But with the life of grace implanted in the soul, is the first breathing of eternal day. Die soon, die late — it is surely well with those who fear the Lord, who look to Jesus, and revere His name. Die late, die early — can it be well with them, who only live to die eternally, because they live without the Lord? May God give us grace to see aright — to call things by their proper names — and thus to find death but the door of life and gate of Heaven.

"There is something else meaningless that occurs on earth: righteous men who get what the wicked deserve — and wicked men who get what the righteous deserve." Ecclesiastes 8:14

So it has always been. God chastens those whom He loves. Can His love be better shown? God chastens us to bring us to the Cross, and keep us there; to show us the vanity of earthly things, and nourish our graces!

Say, Christian sufferer, does your heart rebel to see the wicked prosper — and yourself in woe? Say, would you change with the wicked? Is he better off than you? Are his earthly blessings better than your grace? What do you envy? His health, his wealth, his strength, his aptitude for thought, his friends, his intellect, his fine home? Is Jesus, then, unequal to your needs, or unable to provide for your cares? Are your miseries, then, greater than your mercies? Your comforts — are they gone? What do you think of the blessings:
that Jesus makes your bed in all your sickness,
that He knows your pains,
that He counts your restless nights, your tossings to and fro,
that He never leaves you;
that He nurses you with tender care.

Is health unsanctified a greater blessing? Sickness with Jesus — or health without Jesus; which is the greater blessing?

Perhaps your family is thinned by death. What then? Does not the Savior fill the void? Is He not better than father, mother, husband, wife, or friend? Then do not envy the circle where death has been unknown. You have better friends and relatives than they.

Perhaps your means are low, and changed from what they were. But what is Jesus? Is he not more than gold and silver? Is He not more to you? Are the ways of God unequal, because . . .
He gives you Jesus,
He gives you His grace, His love, His presence,
He gives you Himself besides?

Have you the lesser portion, because you have the Lord? Then how can you complain? Complaint would suit the worldling more than you: that he has only time — and you eternity; that he has this poor earth alone — while you inherit eternal glory in Heaven. Then envy not the rich, the strong, the prosperous; the man who knows nothing but pleasure from morn to night, and from night to morning. You see not their hearts; you know not their cares; ofttimes their happiness is nothing but restlessness; they dare not think; they hurry on, because they dare not stop. They know not God, they know not Christ. What is their health — or what their happiness, to you!

"When I applied my heart to know wisdom and to see the business that is done on earth . . . then I saw all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun. For though a man labors to discover it, yet he will not find it; moreover, though a wise man attempts to know it, he will not be able to find it." Ecclesiastes 8:16-17

READER, consider well this passage of the Word.

"The work of God!" What is it? God’s works in Heaven. Angels behold His Majesty. Departed saints feed upon his glory. In Heaven (with reverence I speak) God’s work is simple, uniform in kind, and in degree. It is the maintenance of holiness in sinless beings; the outgoing of His wisdom, love, and power, in one continuous, unresisted stream; glorious in itself, and not less glorious in the glory thus imparted to saints, and angels.

But oh, "the business that is done on the earth!" "The work of God!" The business of His hand in this poor, fallen world — how great, how intricate, how various!

Think of the workings of His power even in the outward world; the guidance of the seasons, and all the dispensations of the winds and waves; now sent in mercy, now in wrath — or to supply the needs, or chide the failings, of His creatures.

Think of His dealings with the hearts of men; the strivings of the Spirit; the calls of Providence; His actings on the conscience in all its prickings, throes, and sensibilities! Think of the work of God in guiding, keeping, chastening, His people; each want considered; each failing studied — grace, comfort, and experience supplied in kind, and season, and degree, fitted to every case — each soul as much the subject of His care, as though the only object of His love. And yet the entire body, the universal Church, maintained in order and relation; all knit together and compact, as if it were a single soul; its government complete; its life secure; its members numbered by unerring love; none to be lost — none to be overlooked — none ever removed from the heart, or mind of Jesus!

Oh! what a work it is — the work of God! Say, who has known His mind, or been His counselor! Who taught Him wisdom, that God should be his debtor! (Romans 11:33-34.) The Preacher tried to find it out, to trace its workings, to mark its purpose, to calculate its doings — but all in vain; it baffled all his skill. Even Solomon might study it by night, by day, determined to pursue his search — but none, not even Solomon, could find out God, or understand His ways.

Bibliographical Information
Mylne, George. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". Mylne's Commentary on Ecclesiastes. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/mce/ecclesiastes-8.html. 1858.
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