The Preacher is still following up his favourite discourse of the vanity of human life, through this chapter. Under various images he showeth the disappointments of men, by ways of directing the heart to wisdom.
Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.
The question with which this Chapter opens, cannot fail, I should think, to bring to the gracious Reader's recollection, Him who is indeed Wisdom itself, and in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Precious Jesus! thy face did shine with a lustre infinitely surpassing that of Moses, when in the mount of transfiguration, and before Pilate thou didst witness a good confession. And who shall say what glory beamed from thy countenance, when those who came to apprehend thee, in the garden, fell backward on the ground before thee? Oh! Lord! grant me, like thy disciples, amidst all the darkness concerning thee around, to behold thy glory, which thou dost manifest in grace, that I may be of the happy number that believe in thee to the saving of the soul; Exodus 34:29; Matthew 17:2; 1 Timothy 6:13; John 18:5-6; Joh_2:11.
I counsel thee to keep the king's commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God. (3) Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. (4) Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou? (5) Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judgment. (6) Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him. (7) For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?
I am inclined to believe, that by the King here spoken of, the preacher (who was himself the greatest king among men), meant somewhat more than any earthly king; even Jesus who is King of kings, and Lord of lords. For the word of an earthly monarch is frequently without power. But He, of whom Solomon spake, hath all power in heaven and in earth. Oh! grant, blessed Jesus, that thy word may be always accompanied with power to my heart. Matthew 28:18; Luke 4:32.
There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.
It were devoutly to be prayed for, that the very solemn truth contained in this verse, was so solemnly considered by an unthinking world. As no man dies by proxy, but each for himself, as it is appointed unto men once to die; oh! that the sure judgment that follows, were duly thought of, and as earnestly provided for! Reader! have you solemnly; seriously, deliberately considered this? How are you provided? To die Christless; is to die hopeless. Have you pondered over the awful state of unpardoned sin? Have you considered the preciousness of Christ, and his blood? Think, my brother, solemnly think, of these things. Remember what the wise man here saith, That there is no discharge in that war. Oh! for grace to live Christ, that we may die in Christ. Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord. Revelation 14:13.
All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt. (10) And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.
Reader, have you never seen what Solomon here saith he saw? If not, I have. How many indeed have mine eyes beheld of such men. They lived, they triumphed, they came and went amidst the throng of worshippers; they had their day of sensual enjoyments: and oh! what a day it was! And now, where are they? They are as much forgotten as though they had never been: their very memorial is perished with them. Oh! for grace so to live to Jesus, that in his book of life our names may he had in everlasting remembrance! Reader, pray read that solemn passage, Revelation 19:11-15.
Because 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. (12) Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him: (13) But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God. (14) There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous: I said that this also is vanity. (15) Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun. (16) When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the business that is done upon the earth: (for also there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes:) (17) Then I beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work that is done under the sun: because though a man labour to seek it out, yet he shall not find it ; yea further; though a wise man think to know it, yet shall he not be able to find it.
It is blessed to observe what a beautiful correspondence there is through all the parts of scripture. As here, so everywhere, the children of God are distinguished from the children of the wicked one. The prophet was commanded to tell the righteous, that it should he well with him. And the wicked, that it should be ill with him. Isaiah 3:10-11. And agreeably to this in the general state of things, so should they be marked in particular tokens of each. Behold, saith the Lord God, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty: behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed. Isaiah 65:13-15. And as the wise man here declares, that though a sinner's days be prolonged, yet the end is ruin: so the Prophet was commissioned to say, that the infancy of days, if in grace, was old age before God; while the old age of the sinner, out of grace, was still accursed. Isaiah 65:20. After such decisive testimonies as these, which the preacher here gives of the difference of nature and grace, it will not be difficult to apprehend, what mirth he means to recommend; and what the eating and drinking, which he here speaks of, as the best thing a man hath to do. Not surely the mirth of the profane, nor the gluttony and drunkenness of the sinner; but the sacred joy of gracious souls, and the spiritual feasting of the heart, which is found in the kingdom of God. Not, saith the Apostle, in meat and drink, but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. Romans 14:17. Reader! think, what a rich feast, in gospel times, the people of God are called to, who have the bread of God, even the living bread which came down from heaven for their food; who find the flesh of Christ to be meat indeed, and his blood to be drink indeed. Lord, I would say for myself and every gracious Reader, evermore give us this bread; and it shall put more gladness in our hearts, than sinners feel in the time that their corn and their wine are increased. John 6:5-48; Psalms 4:7.
READER! while the preacher is demanding, who is as the wise man? let us be looking unto Jesus, until that our eyes are enlightened in beholding him as wisdom itself, the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person. And so let our souls look and gaze upon that first fair, first beautiful, first and only Holy One, until that from beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.
And Reader! while thus looking unto Jesus, until brought into some degree of conformity to him in all things; contemplate at the same time the dark, wretched, and deplorable state of those who are ignorant of him. Behold the end of these men. Though sentence against them is not executed speedily; yea, though their days be prolonged to even the dregs of old age; yet, how in the end will the voice of murdered years and days be lifted up against them? Oh! The soul agony of lying down at last in eternal sorrow!
My brother! think of the felicity of souls redeemed by Jesus, and beg of God the Holy Ghost for grace, that you may cast your lot in among them, and with them have one portion. This will be to sit down to a perpetual feast, and never to be cloyed: but the grace of Jesus, yea, Jesus himself shall abide with him, as the wise man speaks, All the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 8". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Sunday after Epiphany