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The Preacher openeth this Chapter with a strong proof of vanity in one man laying up for another; and the fruit of all his labours enjoyed by a stranger. He shows that the longest life spent in vanity, is spent but in vexation of spirit. And he arrives, at the close of the Chapter, to the same conclusion as before.
There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: (2) A man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it: this is vanity, and it is an evil disease.
I beg the Reader to observe with me, that in the gifts here spoken of, no mention is made of grace. Riches, wealth, and honour; that is, the world's honour, may be given to the most worthless of men; but these are left-hand gifts in the common providences of God. It is grace which is of the upper-spring blessings. Never would the Lord have marked the path of his children in the suffering way, if his glory, and their happiness, had not been highly interested thereby. Reader! I take this occasion to remark to you, what can never be too frequently, nor too strongly impressed upon the mind, that among the mistakes of the carnal, the misinterpreting God's providences is a very principal one, to quiet and still their consciences. Thousands conclude, that if they prosper in their worldly concerns, this is a proof of divine love towards them; and that therefore they are high in his favour. May the Lord deliver the Reader from this delusion, if he should be at this time under it. And though the reverse of this is not always the case, for sometimes God's dear children may be blessed in their honourable and honest callings, yet so much to the contrary is the case, that prosperity is always to be suspected. Who so poor, so wretched, so great a man of sorrows as Christ? What servant, what apostle of his, eminent for labours, but hath been eminent for suffering also? Let the serious Reader consult those two scriptures only upon the subject, without adding more, and I will then leave him to his own comment upon them: Job 21:0 and Psalms 73:0 .
If a man beget an hundred children, and live many years, so that the days of his years be many, and his soul be not filled with good, and also that he have no burial; I say, that an untimely birth is better than he. (4) For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness. (5) Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known anything: this hath more rest than the other. (6) Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
The Preacher here proves, that prosperity, without grace, though lengthened to the greatest period, still only tends to swell the vanity and vexation of it, as the years are lengthened. And what a melancholy thought is it, that the continuance of those carnal powers, for the gratification of the flesh, only serve to lead the heart further from God, rather than bring the heart to God. Reader! nothing short of grace can accomplish this; and therefore, it must undeniably follow, that without grace, nothing can constitute happiness.
All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. (8) For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living? (9) Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit. (10) That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he. (11) Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? (12) For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?
What a solemn consideration it is, that such and so clamorous are the demands of the body, that the whole of men's labours is directed to satisfy them. Though the whole world appear to be directed in different pursuits, yet in reality the object proposed is but one and the same; all is swallowed up in this one, how to please the flesh! And so insatiable, and imperious are its demands, that the appetite is never filled. Solomon's question, therefore, in the close, is truly striking; who knoweth what is good for man in such a life of vanity and fleeting as a shadow! Reader! pause over the thought! Is life so truly vain? Is it no better than a shadow? And is there nothing to discover of certain good, whereby to counteract the evils of our fallen state? Precious Jesus! it is thou alone, who by thy great redemption, hast opened a source of real, solid, and substantial good: and taught thy people that happy lesson, how to improve the vanities of the present life in the pursuits of a better. Lord! impress all thy saving truths, both upon the Writer's and the header's heart, that in thee we may find that supreme good, which is liable neither to disappoint, nor to pass away. Be thou thyself our happiness, and our portion forever!
READER! let us not turn hastily away from this chapter. There are many important improvements to be gathered from it under grace. What Solomon saw as a sore evil in his days, you and I may behold the same in our day. The instances are not a few, and in almost every rank of men, where possessions bring no comfort, no sanctification, but are kept by the owners of them to their hurt. The carnal mind indeed, is never to be satisfied in its attainments. Nothing can come up to the expectation: for where the divine blessing is not upon a man's fulness, it matters not what the surrounding circumstances then are, for there can be no enjoyment of any. It is a melancholy fact, but the experience of all ages leave no room to dispute it. What scripture hath said, all find to be true: man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain: he heapeth up riches, and knoweth not who shall gather them.
Reader! shall we not from the conviction of this undoubted truth look up for grace, and the teachings of the Holy Spirit, that we may learn how to convert such evils into good; and since life, in all earthy pursuits is vain; seek in Jesus what cannot disappoint. Oh! for grace, to walk through a world of sin, and sorrow, and vanity, and vexation, with such wise indifference, as those who seek a better country. Is the Son of God indeed calling his people to the present and everlasting enjoyment of himself? Doth he say, come unto me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest? Doth he graciously propose himself for our portion, our happiness, and joy? And shall we be so low minded and earthly in our affections, as to prefer those shadows; to be in love with our chains; to pursue phantoms; and reject everlasting realities! Blessed, gracious, condescending Lord! do thou not only invite, but allure us with thy grace. And since thou hast begotten us to such a lively hope by thy glorious resurrection from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away; do thou lead us by the restraining influences of thy Holy Spirit, that we may set our affections on things above, not on things of the earth.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 6". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany