Under a great variety of evidences, taken from the circumstances of human life, and everything around, the Preacher fully proves the total inability of all the outward circumstances of nature to constitute happiness.
The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
The book opens very properly with the name, or rather the office and connection of the Author, and the purport of his sermon. Where the mane of Solomon is, there is sure to be found wisdom. How much more with that of Jesus, in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge? Colossians 2:3.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
This may be considered as the one text of Solomon's whole discourse. He takes this for his subject; and all that follows is in confirmation of it. And Reader! I beseech you, as you pass along, to mark with me the opposite to this vanity, which is found in Christ. You will discover, in exact proportion, that as all Solomon advanceth in his subject, so the proof of the vanity of everything out of Christ, tends in confirmation of it, and the contrast will be of the durable riches and righteousness found in Christ.
What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? (4) One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth forever. (5) The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose. (6) The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits. (7) All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again. (8) All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing. (9) The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. (10) Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us. (11) There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.
Nothing can be more beautiful, by way of illustrating the Preacher's text and doctrine, than the representation of the things here chosen. What is the labour of one man, or the indolence of another? To what purpose are the ills of the poor, or the pleasures of the rich? let the different objects of their different pursuits, be looked into, and the ultimate end of all is one and the same; namely, all are directed to make provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof, Romans 13:14. But while the fashions of the world, with all its different pursuits, end in vanity; let the subject be considered as it relates to Christ, and here all things become certain, solid, and substantial. Everlasting profit here will be found in that pursuit, which is directed in labouring for the bread that perisheth not. And let what will of worldly generations pass away, and others of the same kind succeed them; yet the children of Christ shall continue, and their seed shall be established before the Lord. Psalms 102:28.
I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem. (13) And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith. (14) I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. (15) That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered. (16) I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge. (17) And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. (18) For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
In these verses are contained what must ever be considered as the grand part of a sermon, where the doctrine is brought to proof, and where the subject doth not rest upon mere saying a thing is so, but the most undeniable evidences are given of it: Solomon brings forward his witness in proof. Here is a man produced, who lived it all over himself, and proved it to be very vanity. He surly was well qualified to make trial: for he possessed more than any man before him ever did; to make trial of. He had riches, wealth, strength, opulence, servants, and every requisite to make life happy, if happiness could consist in the abundance of the things which a man possessed. And Solomon super-added to all these, an extent of knowledge and wisdom, far superior to every other, to seek and contrive that which might best promise success in the attainment. But what was the result? The Preacher still abides by his text, and in the conclusion declares, that he perceived that this also became vexation of spirit. Reader! do not fail to make your own observations as you go, and if the Spirit of wisdom be your Teacher, the conclusion of Solomon will correspond with your own: and his sentiment will be echoed in your heart, in relation to all earthly pursuits: Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher; all is vanity!
PAUSE, my soul, over this Chapter; and when thou hast gathered together, into one point of view, the several weighty truths contained in it, sit down and sum up the very solemn lessons which it reads to thee. Vanity of vanities, indeed, are all the pursuits of human life, however diversified they may be: for where Christ is not, there can be nothing solid, nothing substantial. And could the world, amidst its numberless avocations and amusements, hear but the voice which speaks loudly and unceasingly in exit, they would hear an echo to Solomon's words in every instance, Though all are in pursuit of happiness; all err in that pursuit. And whether it be the rich, or the great, or the vain, or the noble, the close is the same to all. The deep saith it is not in me: and the sea saith it is not with me. It cannot be gotten for gold; neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.
From all the vanities, and follies, and pursuits of life, do thou, my soul, turn to Jesus. He saith, and the truth is unquestionable, I will cause those that love me to inherit substance, and I will fill their measures. Precious, precious Jesus! be thou my portion; for in thee I shall enjoy all things. And whether men speak well, or speak ill; whether creatures smile, or frown: whether my frames are bright, or dark; lively, or dull; yet Jesus, and his salvation, is a portion to live upon forever. And on thee, Lord, therefore, may my soul fix, and dwell and rejoice in thee, as my only good here, and my everlasting happiness to all eternity hereafter. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter