There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men:
I. Fate is fixed. All the past was the result of a previous destiny, and so shall be all the future. Such is the sentiment of the third chapter, and such appears to be the import of this passage. It must be conceded that the Saviour assumes a preordination in all events. But then what sort of preordination was it which the Saviour recognised? Was it mechanical or moral? Was it blind destiny or wise decree? Was it fate, or was it providence? As interpreted by "the only begotten Son from the bosom of the Father," that pre-arrangement of events which the theologian calls predestination, and the philosopher necessity, and which the old heathenism called fate, is nothing more than the will of the Father—the good pleasure of that blessed and only Potentate whose omniscience foresaw all possibilities, and from out of all these possibilities whose benevolent wisdom selected the best and gave it being. It depends on whether we are spectators or sons, whether our emotion towards the Divine foreknowledge and sovereignty be, "O Fate, I fear thee," or "O Father, I thank Thee."
II. Man is feeble. Christless humanity is a very feeble thing. Redeemed and regenerate humanity is only a little lower than the angels.
III. Every joy is futile. "Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?" Enter into Christ's peace, and learn to delight in His perfections; and thus, while sinful pleasures lose their relish, lawful joys will acquire a flavour of sacredness and the zest of a sweet security. Or should the cistern break, and the creature fail, the infinite joy is Jehovah; and the soul cannot wither whose roots are replenished from that fountain unfailing.
IV. Life is fleeting. It is a "vain life," and all its days a "shadow." But Jesus Christ hath brought immortality to light. This fleeting life He hath rendered important as a "shadow from the rock Eternity."
V. The future is a dark enigma. "Who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" It may quiet all the Christian's anxiety to know that when he himself is gone to be for ever with the Lord Christ's kingdom will be spreading in the world. "Then said I, O my Lord, what shall be the end of these things? And He said, Go thou thy way till the end be, for thou shalt rest and stand in thy lot at the end of the days."
J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, p. 146.
References: Ecclesiastes 5:12.—Clergyman's Magazine, vol. ii., p. 189. 5—C. Bridges, An Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 96.
I. Throughout this sixth chapter the Preacher is speaking of the lover of riches, not simply of the rich man; not against wealth, but against mistaking wealth for the chief good. The man who trusts in riches is placed before us; and, that we may see him at his best, he has the riches in which he trusts. Yet because he does not accept his abundance as the gift of God, and hold the Giver better than His gift, he cannot enjoy it. "All the labour of this man is for his mouth;" that is to say, his wealth, with all that it commands, appeals to sense and appetite: it feeds the lust of the eye, or the lust of the flesh, or the pride of life; and therefore "his soul cannot be satisfied therewith." That craves a higher nutriment, a more enduring good. God has put eternity into it; and how can that which is immortal be contented with the lucky haps and comfortable conditions of time? Unless some immortal provision be made for the immortal spirit, it will pine, and protest, and crave till all power of happily enjoying outward good be lost.
II. Look at your means and possessions. Multiply them as you will, yet there are many reasons why, if you seek your chief good in them, they should prove vanity and breed vexation of spirit. (1) One is that beyond a certain point you cannot use or enjoy them. (2) Another reason is that it is hard, so hard as to be impossible, for you to know "what it is good" for you to have. That on which you had set your heart may prove to be an evil rather than a good when at last you get it. (3) A third reason is that the more you acquire, the more you must dispose of when you are called away from this life; and who can tell what shall be after him?
These are the Preacher's arguments against love of riches. If we can trust in God to give us all that it will be really good for us to have, the arguments of the Preacher are full of comfort and hope for us, whether we be rich or whether we be poor.
S. Cox, The Quest of the Chief Good, p. 181.
References: 6—C. Bridges, An Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 122; J. H. Cooke, The Preacher's Pilgrimage, p. 89. 6-8:15.—G. G. Bradley, Lectures on Ecclesiastes, p. 93. Ecclesiastes 7:1.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii., No. 1588; J. Hamilton, The Royal Preacher, p. 159; H. W. Beecher, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxi., p. 204. Ecclesiastes 7:1-4.—W. Simpson, Ibid., vol. x., p. 286. Ecclesiastes 7:1-10.—R. Buchanan, Ecclesiastes: its Meaning and Lessons, p. 221. Ecclesiastes 7:1-14.—T. C. Finlayson, A Practical Exposition of Ecclesiastes, p. 151. Ecclesiastes 7:2.—J. Morgan, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xix., p. 379. Ecclesiastes 7:2-5.—J. Bennet, The Wisdom of the King, p. 336.
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.
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.
For he cometh in with vanity, and departeth in darkness, and his name shall be covered with darkness.
Moreover he hath not seen the sun, nor known any thing: this hath more rest than the other.
Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told, yet hath he seen no good: do not all go to one place?
All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled.
For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
Better is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire: this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
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.
Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
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?