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Bible Commentaries
Ecclesiastes 6

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-6


Ecclesiastes 6:1. Common among men] In the strict meaning of the word, the reference is to the magnitude of the evil, and not to the frequency of it. That which appears to be good is discovered, after all, to be a great evil.

Ecclesiastes 6:3. And also that he have no burial] Through the lack of filial devotion on the part of his posterity, he is denied an honourable burial—one in accordance with his social position.

Ecclesiastes 6:4. For he cometh in with vanity] Lit., Though it—i.e., the abortion (Ecclesiastes 6:3)—falls into nothingness, fails of reaching the dignity of recognised life. And his name shall be covered with darkness] Such receive no name; they are not reckoned with mankind, and sink into mere oblivion.

Ecclesiastes 6:5. Not seen the sun] The sun looks down upon so many scenes of vanity and misery that, in our melancholy mood, we consider that not to have seen it may be accounted a blessing. More rest than the other] Absolute rest from the sufferings and trials of life—they are better off.



Man has two lives: the outward life which he lives, the manner and means of life—all his surroundings in the world. He has also that life by which he lives—the power to taste life—the strong feeling of a deathless existence. No outward conditions of life, however well-favoured, can of themselves secure the true happiness of existence, which is the very life of it. This is illustrated by supposing two cases in which men fail to attain the life of life.

I. They fail to attain it who have abundant sources of Comfort, but without Enjoyment. (Ecclesiastes 6:2.) We have here the case of a man endowed with wealth, and therefore possessing the means of satisfying every desire. He has also what all noble minds earnestly covet—the honour yielded to him by his fellow-men. Yet with these advantages, he fails of the true happiness of life. He lacks the power to enjoy. This may arise—

1. From physical causes. An evil habit of body—some inveterate disease may make life for him a distressing burden, so that he has no power to taste with proper relish the comforts which his riches could provide. This may arise—

2. From mental causes. He may have some unfortunate disposition of mind, a fierce and uncertain temper, or a spirit afflicted with perpetual gloom and melancholy. Thus some defect of mind or temper may mar the enjoyment of the most plentiful provisions. It may arise also—

3. From moral causes. An uneasy conscience, the evil shadow of some great sin, or dark foreboding of the future, may rob the fairest earthly prospect of all its glory. It is not necessary to be pious in order to perceive the vanity of life, and to heave with emotion before the solemn facts of destiny. Of the life of life, we may also affirm—

II. They fail to attain it who have Age and Posterity, but without Respect. (Ecclesiastes 6:3.) The case is here supposed of a man who lives for many years, and has a numerous offspring, that much-desired blessing of the Old Covenant. Yet he has attained to an old age devoid of honour—his own posterity fail to do him reverence. He generated no kindly feelings in the breasts of others, he shed no light of love upon society, and now he feels the terrible retribution. He has the misfortune to live to be neglected and despised. He dies unregretted and unloved, the last offices performed for him scarcely deserving the name of burial—at best but a heartless service. His condition is sad in the extreme. This loss of the affection and good-will of others, giving birth to tender human tokens of reverence, is—

1. An evil which deprives life of some of its sweetest pleasures. To live in the affections and grateful memory of others is pure delight; and a long life, gathering and strengthening human affections around it, has a special loveliness. But he who by his selfishness has deprived himself of friends, and forfeited his title to honour, should he arrive at old age, has but a prolonged misery. It is—

2. An evil indicating poverty of soul. It argues a soul wanting in the higher attributes of moral and spiritual life—a soul not “filled with good.” (Ecclesiastes 6:3.) This destitution in man’s inmost spirit is the saddest of human evils. It is a poverty which has no compensations. The selfish spirit of avarice is a non-conductor interrupting the flow of all kindly influences. It is—

3. An extreme and desperate evil. That complete withering of the soul, that insulation from human love, which are the natural results of a life of selfishness, are evils of immense magnitude—of awful significance. To describe a man who has arrived at this miserable condition, language is used which appears to border upon extravagance.

(1) His condition is described as worse than that of one who has never seen the light. “An untimely birth.” (Ecclesiastes 6:3.) Such have not attained to the distinction and dignity of a name—are not reckoned with the inhabitants of the world—quickly fall away again into the oblivion of darkness. (Ecclesiastes 6:4.) Yet these have more rest (Ecclesiastes 6:5)—absolute freedom from toil and vexation—than the comfortless and unlovely miser whose whole life is a lamentation, whose closing days on earth are desolate, and who is denied honourable burial.

2. His condition would not be improved on the supposition that he were granted more favourable circumstances. (Ecclesiastes 6:6.) Suppose him to live to the years of men before the Flood, yea, that he doubles in age those venerable sons of elder time, yet even then would his condition remain unimproved. His misery would only take a deeper tinge of darkness, if that were possible. A longer life!—this would only bring about the same evils in endless and weary succession. We do not find that men get less attached to the world and self as they grow older—that true wisdom is the necessary and inseparable companion of length of days. (Job 32:9.) “Even to the verge of the churchyard mould” they hug the idol of their heart, and turn away their faces from the charities of life and the consolations of immortal hope.

3. What he has failed to attain in life cannot be recovered beyond the grave. In the land of souls to which he is hastening, all arrive equally poor. No man can there recover his earthly losses. What he has done here is written on the iron page, and laid up for eternity. Acts of unkindness, cruelty, wrong, all the evil he had inflicted upon himself and others by his unloveliness—these remain. He cannot come back to the world again and re-cast the scene of his life anew. “I shall behold man no more with the inhabitants of the world,” is the solemn regret of the dying; and he who has failed to attain the life of life here must await beyond the grave, sad and unprofitable, the solemn judgments of God.


Ecclesiastes 6:1. There is a sad lack of an essential and practical knowledge of some of the greatest and most widely-diffused evils which afflict humanity. It needs a sage to direct attention to them.

It is one end for which God hath filled man’s life with evils, that we seeing them might not mistake our journey for our home. For travellers falling in their way upon some pleasant places, it is not seldom that the pleasure of their journey hindereth their going on, while that it doth delight them. And therefore while we are journeying to heaven, it is needful to see and observe the evils of earth Jermin].

Ecclesiastes 6:2. Riches, wealth, and honour—the Triad of sensual life.

How soon God may destroy the earthly happiness of the most prosperous man by taking away his power of enjoyment, though leaving his riches with him!
Providence teaches some men the truth, that the happiness of a man’s life “consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.”
When the power of enjoyment is gone, the fairest prospects of life are darkened, and the glad profusion of riches becomes but the smile of scorn.
He who has devoted himself entirely to this world will, sooner or later, find life a weary portion, a tasteless thing.
He who ceased to enjoy his own riches may have the misery of seeing some reckless heir taste them with keen relish, thus giving prophetic significance of their rapid dissipation when he himself is parted from them.
The power to enjoy the world often passes away before the world itself. He who has no divine comforts will find that the path of life becomes more comfortless, and at length opens out into a dreary desert, where his fears increase, and sad forebodings.

Ecclesiastes 6:3. A numerous offspring is often made the excuse of a grasping avarice.

A man may make himself so unlovely by his selfishness as to die in the affections of those who should love him most. This social death is the sad penalty that covetousness pays to the offended laws of human nature.
Our value in the scale of true greatness does not depend upon the length of our life, but upon the good thoughts and deeds with which we fill our measure of life. If the soul is not filled with good, the longest life is vain.
He has no honourable burial who dies unregretted, and is followed to the grave only by the pomp of mercenary woe.
Better never to have opened the eyes upon the light of the world than to ruin a fair heritage of life by selfishness and sin.
A long life without rest and peace in God, is nothing but a long martyrdom [Geier].

What the untimely birth loses of natural life without any fault of its own, that the miser wantonly robs himself of in spiritual life. Because his soul has no firm foundation in communion with the good God, it goes to ruin [Lange].

Ecclesiastes 6:4. Into this darkness therefore it is that the soul of a covetous wretch goeth, when the life into which he came is vanished away. And when his soul thus lieth in the darkness of horror, when his body lieth in the darkness of the grave, then is his name also covered, either with the darkness of silence, abhorring to mention it; or if it be mentioned, with the darkness of reproaches that are cast upon it [Jermin].

The natural vanity of life is most manifest in the sordid children of avarice. They have utterly failed to attain any true and noble life. The darkness which hides the glory of the world, and but reveals awful forms, at once describes their unlovely existence, and the rapid oblivion into which they fall.
When the soul is not filled with that good which God alone can bestow, a man’s life is but a dark spot upon the map of time.
It is just with God to deprive men of a name after they are gone, who minded never the glory of His Name [Nisbet].

Unrighteousness is the death of the soul, and darkness is the shroud with which Divine Justice wraps it.
The light of God’s favour alone can give to names an immortal fame. Where that light shines not, no earthly power, or care of human remembrance, can lift the gloom from the soul.

Ecclesiastes 6:6. Human life, though short, is long enough for the purposes of probation. Those who have failed to learn the lessons of experience, and the knowledge of the holy, in the few years appointed to man, would remain in their sin and folly were life prolonged even to the years of men before the Flood, twice told.

In this present world, there is no substantial and abiding good which a man may hope at length to discover through the long years of time.
Length of days for the righteous affords time for ripening their graces, and fitting them for the vision of God; but for the sinner, they only serve to increase the sense of false security.
However long life may be, it leads to the dark house where man must await God.
Death will open the faithless eyes of men to look upon those awful realities which they failed to see here through their selfishness and sin.

Ecclesiastes 6:5. They who have (as it were) thrust from them the gift of life, have indeed failed of the light and comfort it bestows, and remain but a dull negation. Yet these have more rest than those miserable men who would gladly invite the rush of darkness upon their souls, if haply they might find relief from the intolerable burden of themselves.

The soul that has no internal satisfaction must be ever restless and uneasy.
All the favours that wicked men enjoy are aggravations of their guilt, and so do increase their misery. Even this, that they have seen the sun, or have known anything at all, makes their case more sad than theirs who have not [Nisbet].

The consideration that in a short time we shall all meet in one place, namely, the grave, or the state of the dead, should keep men from magnifying themselves for those temporary things wherein they excel others; and when men account others for the want of those things miserable in comparison of themselves, they forget the meeting place, death, which will equal all [Nisbet].



Man strives to remove the vanity from life—to gain some solid satisfaction here, or what appears to him to be such. But there are false and true ways of seeking this desired good.

I. It cannot be gained by the Indulgence of the Senses. Human life is full of care and trouble. Some try to escape the burden of it by indulging the sensual appetites, or by a merry behaviour seek to hide the thought of it in forgetfulness. Yet the deep and essential appetites of the soul cannot hereby be satisfied. (Ecclesiastes 6:7.)

1. Because the appetites become blunted by indulgence. As the several appetites are fed by their natural objects, they become less discriminating, and their power to taste grows less exquisite. Custom steals away the charms of novelty, and the more the sensual appetites are indulged, the earlier does the season of weariness and disgust of life set in.

2. Because man has wants which the indulgence of the senses cannot satisfy. Wants of the intellect—conscience—affections.—These will make their voices heard amidst the most exciting pleasures of the senses. Strange pangs of hunger can afflict the soul when the body is ministered unto by all that profusion of pleasures which riches can secure.

3. Because the saddest truths of life will, at some time, force themselves upon the attention. The most devoted children of pleasure, by the changes of human things, are brought face to face with the tremendous realities of existence. By their own afflictions and those of others; by the tortures of pain, and the anxieties of the last sickness, they are made to face the dread solemnities. There are great truths that command silence, and enforce a hearing from the most thoughtless. A man feels that he requires a higher good than this world can afford, and a more imperishable defence than wealth and pleasure.

II. It cannot be gained by Ordinary Thoughtfulness and Prudence in Behaviour. There are those who are not spiritual men, and yet they are convinced that a life devoted to sensual indulgence is folly—that there are nobler aims and satisfactions for man. They have enough light and moral strength to discard the common forms of human folly, and to guide their conduct in life by moderation and prudence. These go very far towards true wisdom, and even closely imitate the graces of religion. There is a wisdom and prudence of great use in guiding a man’s way through life, yet divorced from piety in the strict sense. Of such a character, we may affirm:

1. He has modest views of himself. He has no high notions of himself, but is content to be poor and lowly in his own eyes. (Ecclesiastes 6:8.) He has too much wisdom—sees too far and clearly around and above him to indulge in the swellings of pride.

2. His outward life is upright in the sight of men. He knows “how to walk before the living.” He observes his duty to others, is correct in his behaviour, and does not waste himself in the ways of vice and folly.

3. He makes the best maxims of prudence the rule of his life. He sees the folly of avarice, and is content to enjoy the present with moderation. He prefers indulging in what is before him to the passionate, uncertain, and unhealthy pursuits of ambition. (Ecclesiastes 6:9.) Yet all this does not remove vanity from life. The prudence of the children of this world may go very far towards beautifying and adorning human life, yet it does not bring a man solid satisfaction. Without some higher principle of life, and a larger view than the present affords, we may ask, what advantage has the wise man after all? (Ecclesiastes 6:8.)

III. It can only be gained by a Pious Submission to the Supreme. He who is truly wise knows that God is great, that he himself is weak and helpless, and that to submit to the guidance of the Infinite One is the highest prudence for man. (Ecclesiastes 6:10.) This includes:

1. A practical recognition of the Divine Plan. Whatever has been, and is, was named and appointed long ago. In the ways of Providence there is no rude chance, nothing irregular, nothing uncertain, on God’s side of it: with Him, all is fixed and determined. The future is already known and named. Submission to the plan of God is true wisdom, because for the truly wise and good He will mark out a safe and prosperous way through all the apparent confusion and disorder—yea, even through the rigidity of destiny itself. It must be well, in the end, with all those who are “partakers of the Divine Nature.”

2. A sense of the frailty of our nature, and the need for Divine help. “It is known that it is man.” (Ecclesiastes 6:10.) His very name, Adam, expresses the idea of frailty. Hence his absolute appendence upon Divine help. It is only when we are conscious of the aid of the Supreme and Infinite Power that we can have solid satisfaction. He who has the strength of God on his side is secured against all defeat, fears no foe, and has within him a perpetual joy.

3. A sense of the folly of persistent opposition to God. (Ecclesiastes 6:10.) It is in vain for a man to contend with his Maker—a madness to imagine that he can bend Omnipotence to his purpose. Our wisdom is to submit to the will of the Highest. In doing and suffering the Divine will, we have the charter of our freedom, the true conditions of our peace, and the best education for the land of the happy where that will is perfectly obeyed.


Ecclesiastes 6:7. The necessity for food is the spur of all human industry. Hunger is the taskmaster of humanity.

By his powers of sensation, man stands connected with the present toiling, suffering world; but by his spiritual nature, he forms part of a larger fellowship, and claims a loftier home.
However plentiful the satisfaction of the fleshly appetites, and the desire for grandeur and display, there is a longing for something which is not here. Men seek it vaguely and blindly, or with clear vision and hope. There is a hunger of the soul which allows no man to rest till it be satisfied.
Some souls are conscious of a deep spiritual want, as an infant is conscious of the pain of hunger. It feels, but knows not how the sensation may be satisfied. In other souls, where reason and conscience are active, there is at the same time with the perception of the distress, the apprehension of the remedy and the purpose of attaining it.
They are strangely deluded who think that if they had more of things worldly their desires would then be satisfied. Till the soul of man close with, and rest upon, that infinite soul-satisfying good, God reconciled to them in Christ, give it never so much of other things, the appetite will still cry, give, give; the consideration whereof should convince men that they are miserable who seek satisfaction in those things wherein it is impossible to find it [Nisbet].

Ecclesiastes 6:8. The highest human prudence, when divorced from deep religion, is only for this life. The difference between it and folly is indeed great when seen from the stand-point of time; but when looked upon from the heights of immortality, the difference vanishes.

Of what avail is that wisdom which does not make the immortal nature supremely happy!
He who has climbed to the top of the mountain has reached a higher elevation than the man who remains at its base. But for the purpose of reaching the stars, both situations are equally ineffectual. Human prudence and folly are alike impotent to secure that supreme good which can only be attained through our spiritual nature illumined by the distant light of eternity.
Man stands in certain relations to God, as well as to society; therefore, to honesty and integrity towards men, there must be added piety towards God. The Gospel religion includes morality, but also much more. It raises a man to a nobler citizenship than any earthly nationality can bestow, and therefore imposes a superior code of duty, and requires a corresponding elevation and nobility of character.
The Christian religion furnishes the best forms of what is good in this world. It refines upon the best ideas of the unaided mind of man—giving us graces for virtues. By the culture afforded by wisdom and prudence, a man may go very far towards attaining the beauty of the Christian character.

What doth it profit to go after Christ unless we come unto Him? Do thou, O Christian, there set down an end to thy course, where Christ did set down an end to His [St. Bernard].

Ecclesiastes 6:9. To cool the fever of our desires, and remain contented with our lot, is better than restless ambition—the unhealthy stimulus of wild adventure, seeking to explore some unknown fancied happiness. Yet if there be for man no higher destiny than this life, we mournfully ask, for what end is all this wisdom?

The wisdom and prudence of the children of this world cannot abide the fiercest storms. There they are shattered, and nothing is left but the poor remains—“vanity and vexation of spirit.”
Solomon means that we make use of the present, thank God for it, and not think of anything else—like the dog in Æsop, which snapped at the shadow and let the flesh fall … He forbids the soul running to and fro, as it is said in the Hebrew, that is, we are not to be always weaving our thoughts together into plans [Luther].

Ecclesiastes 6:10. In the roll of ages, no new element in the problem of human destiny arises. The old questions and difficulties return. All was named and determined long ago.

In the confessed impotence of successive philosophies, the awful lessons of history, and the vanity of all human effort, the helplessness of man is revealed.
By the name of the first man we are reminded of our earthliness, dependance upon our Maker, and our frailty.
As God’s cause is always just, it is vain to contend with Him; seeing that He has power to maintain His honour, and vanquish His foes.

1. Fate is fixed. All the past was the result of a previous destiny, and so shall be all the future … It depends upon our point of view whether the fixed succession of events shall appear as a sublime arrangement or a dire necessity. It depends on whether we recognise ourselves as foundlings in the universe, or the children of God by faith in Jesus Christ—it depends on this, whether in the mighty maze we discern the decrees of fate, or the presiding wisdom of our Heavenly Father. It depends on whether we are still skulking in the obscure corner, aliens, intruders, outlaws; or walking in liberty, with filial spirit and filial security—whether our emotion towards the Divine foreknowledge and sovereignty be, “O fate, I fear thee,” or “O Father, I thank thee.”
2. Man is feeble. And Christless humanity is a very feeble thing. His bodily frame is feeble. A punctured nerve or a particle of sand will sometimes occasion it exquisite anguish; a grape seed or an insects’ sting has been known to consign it to dissolution. And man’s intellect is feeble, or rather it is a strange mixture of strength and weakness.… Insane when contending with one that is mightier, man is irresistible when in faith and coincidence of holy affection he fights the battles of the Most High, and when by prayer and uplooking affiance, he imports into his own imbecility the might of Jehovah [Dr. J. Hamilton].

Verses 11-12


Ecclesiastes 6:6. Do not all go to one place?] All go to School—“the house of assembly of all living” (Job 30:23). There all arrive equally poor; nor is the chance afforded them to regain what they have failed to enjoy on earth.

Ecclesiastes 6:7. The appetite is not filled] The deep wants of the inner man are not satisfied, though the sensual part of him may lack nothing of indulgence.

Ecclesiastes 6:8. Knoweth to walk before the living] Knows how to walk accurately by the proper rule of life. Thus St. Paul—“See that ye walk circumspectly, i.e., accurately, Ephesians 5:15.

Ecclesiastes 6:9. Better is the sight of the eyes] The enjoyment of what is before us—our eyes resting contentedly on our lot.

Ecclesiastes 6:10. That which hath been is named already] Whatever happens has happened before, and long ago received its name; i.e., the nature of it was accurately described and known in the plan of God. And it is known that it is man] Lit., Adam. There is a play upon the name. Man is known to be what he really is, Adam, i.e., man from earth. Mightier than he] He cannot contend with the All Powerful One.

Ecclesiastes 6:11. Increase vanity] All that tends to strengthen the impression of vanity.

Ecclesiastes 6:12. What is good for man in this life] What kind of lot is the best; seeing that all is uncertain, and the future is concealed. After him] The meaning is—not after his death, but after his present condition. The force of the question is—who can tell what is the next thing that will happen to him, or through what changes of fortune he may be called to pass?



I. The Oppression of fruitless Toil after Happiness. (Ecclesiastes 6:11.) Some fancied good ever lies before us, but we are doomed—if we have no resource but earthly wisdom or contrivance—to toil after it in vain.

1. Every advance we make only increases the sources of annoyance. As we pass from the possession of one seeming good to another, in this life, our brief happiness receives successive impulses; and we indulge the hope of enjoying in peace the rewards of endurance and conflict. But when we have gained what we sought after, and the gifts of life are multiplied, and the objects of our ambition secured, we find that at the same time there is generated for us an increase of vanity and vexation—a more complicated misery. Riches bring cares; honour and fame set a man up as a mark for envy, and make him feel more keenly the pain of wounded pride.

2. In the best conditions of earthly happiness, there is a craving for some unpossessed good. Men never attain to the end of their desires—never reach a state of satisfaction and repose—the goal ever lies beyond them. There is no anchor to stay the soul on the troubled sea of life but immortal hope, and those who have it not drift in danger and in fear. They have no safe harbour where they can be sheltered till the indignation be overpast. This fruitless toil after happiness is one of the oppressions of man. It is that burden of vanity under which the creation groans, and which only God himself can lift from the soul.

II. The Oppression of Ignorance. (Ecclesiastes 6:12.) The empire of human knowledge expands from age to age, but the great problems of existence still remain unsolved. All our investigation, all our labour of speculative thought only pushes the mystery further back into the darkness. The unknown is ever the terrible; and darkness is not only the deprivation of light, but also the region of fear and terror. The imagination paints horrid forms where the eye can no longer see. This ignorance is considered here under two forms.

1. Ignorance of the best conditions of happiness. If we have only the wisdom of this world to direct us, it is hard to tell what state of life, on the whole, is the best. Every condition has some disadvantage, and it is difficult to strike the balance. Humanity without the light and comfort of religion must remain in ignorance of that most concerning question, how can the soul be happy in all the scenes and changes through which it is called to pass? Even spiritual men must feel that there are aspects of human life, the contemplation of which, for the present, is not without pain. They also must wait for the clearing up of mystery. This burden of ignorance presses upon all; some are sustained under it by faith and hope, to the rest it is an intolerable load—a weariness and vexation.

2. Ignorance of the future. A man “cannot tell what shall be after him.” He knows not what shall occur in his own immediate circle, or in the broader field of history. The intellect is equal to the task of framing principles which future history will be certain to illustrate. The spiritual man knows that certain great moral truths will be vindicated through all the events of the future. But what those events shall be in their number, variety, and special issues, no human sagacity can foresee. That part of the roll of history which is still to be unfolded by time, is hidden from us, and our keenest vision cannot read the writing there. In front of the darkness and uncertainty lying before us, we can only utter the cry, “Who can tell?”

III. The Oppression of Weakness. Man’s life is “vain,” and he spends it “as a shadow.” There is no enduring substance in it—no power of defence against the terrible forces which threaten, and will in the end overwhelm it.

1. This weakness is felt in our utter helplessness before the great troubles and disasters of life. In the time of prosperity, when the love of life is strong, and the enjoyment of it keen, we may glory in the conscious possession of power. But our triumph is short and when a great trouble arises, we feel how weak we are. All our science and skill can raise no permanent defence against disease, nor hold us back from going down one of the many paths to death. Wealth and grandeur are no defence in the day of trouble. The grim realities of existence mock at our poor refuges and sweep them ruthlessly away.

2. This weakness is a cause of sadness and misery to humanity. To feel ourselves strong is a happiness—a grateful assurance for the mind. While we have plentiful reserves of strength, there is a consciousness of security which is pure enjoyment. But to be weak is to be miserable—to feel ourselves the sport of every unfriendly power. The weakness of man revealed to him by misfortune, suffering, and death is one of the saddest burdens of the race. The Gospel makes a gracious provision for humanity oppressed by these three burdens.

1. Christ offers rest to those who weary themselves for very vanity.

2. Christ promises to dispel the darkness of this present state. He makes duty the condition of the higher revelation; through goodness, man reaches that splendour where all is clear.

3. Christ arms the soul with His own strength. That soul whom He strengthens can fear no foe. He who is joined to the highest is as secure as the throne of God.


Ecclesiastes 6:11. What the better is man of that reputation which only makes him more envied? What the better is he of that wealth which only makes him obnoxious to plots and dangers? What the better of that philosophy which, like a taper on the face of a midnight cliff, only shows how beetling is the brow above him, and how profound the gulf below, whilst he himself is crawling a wingless reptile on the ever-narrowing ledge? What the better is acquirement, when, after all, man’s intellect, man’s conscience, man’s affections, must remain a vast and unappeasable vacuity? [Dr. J. Hamilton.]

In our anxiety to get rid of the burden of vanity by new diversions, pursuits, and acquirements, we only make that burden the heavier, and condemn ourselves to the grief of failure.
The boasted improvements of reason, while they enlarge our view and refine our taste, at the same time serve to render the sense of misery more acute.
No imagined change in the external conditions of a man’s life can make any radical improvement of his real self.
The diseases of the human spirit are inveterate. Not only are we not healed by the physicians who undertake our case, but we grow worse under their hands. We can only be healed by a miracle of grace.

Ecclesiastes 6:12. What we often looked forward to as a source of great good has turned out to be a great evil. The sages have failed so often in the experiment of determining the best conditions of happiness, that there can be no certain knowledge except by Revelation. Faith alone can heal the sorrows of the mind.

The voice of complaint and distress is heard from every position in the social scale. In the face of this fact, who can tell, on merely human principles, what is best for man?
It is a “vain life,” and all its days a “shadow.” A shadow is the nearest thing to a nullity. It is seldom noticed. Even a “vapour” in the firmament—a cloud, may catch the eye, and in watching its changing hues or figure, you may find the amusement of a moment; and if that cloud condense into a shower, a few fields may thank it for its timely refreshment. But a shadow—the shadow of a vapour! who notes it? Who records it?.… But Jesus Christ hath brought immortality to light. This fleeting life He has rendered important as “a shadow from the rock eternity.” In His own teaching, and in the teaching of His Apostles, the present existence acquires a fearful consequence as the germ, or rather as the outset of one which is never ending. To their view, this existence is both everything and nothing. As the commencement of eternity, and as giving complexion to all the changeless future, it is everything; as the competitor of that eternity, or the counterpoise to its joys and sorrows, it is nothing [Dr. J. Hamilton].

The mysterious depths of the future are hidden from human eye, but nothing shall be found there which can hurt or alarm the righteous. In the upshot of things, there will be seen the triumph of great moral principles, and the vindication of goodness wherever it is found.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/ecclesiastes-6.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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