Chapter three may be paraphrased, I think, somewhat in
this way: Yes, life itself emphasizes the truth that nothing is at one
stay here;--all moves. There is naught abiding, like the winds and
waters that he has noted in chapter one; man's life is but a wheel that
turns: death follows birth, and all the experiences between are but ever-varying
shades of good and evil, evil and good. (Let us bear in mind this is not
faith's view, but simply that of human wisdom. Faith sings a song amidst
the whirl of life:
"With mercy and with judgment,
My web of time He wove;
And aye the dews of sorrow
Were lustred with His love.")
But then if nothing thus rests as it is, it becomes a
necessary deduction that, if wisdom has collected, and labored, and built,
folly will follow to possess and scatter, what profit then in toiling?
For he sees that this constant travail is of God who, in wisdom inscrutable,
and not to be penetrated by human reasoning, would have men exercised by
these constant changes, whilst their hearts can be really satisfied with
no one of these things, beautiful as each may be in its time. So boundless
are its desires that he says, "Eternity" has been placed in that heart
of man, and naught in all these "time-changes" can fill it. Still he can
see nothing better for man, than that he should make the best of the present,
for he cannot alter or change what God does or purposes, and everything
he sees, speaks of His purpose to a constant "round," a recurrence of that
which is past (as verse 15 should
But still man's reason can make one more step now, one
further deduction from the law of circuit, as soon as God, even
though He be known only by nature's light, is introduced; and that is,
the present wrong and injustice so evident here, must in some "time" in
God's purposes, be righted; God Himself being the Judge. This seems to
be a gleam of real light, similar to the conclusion of the whole book.
Yes, further, this constant change--is there no reason for it? Has God
no purpose in it? Surely to teach men the very lesson of their own mortality:
that there is naught abiding--men and beasts are, as far as unaided human
wisdom can see, on one level exactly as to that awful exit from this scene.
It is true there may be--and there are strong grounds for inferring that
there is--a wide difference between the spirit of man, and
the spirit of beasts, although the bodies of each are formed of, and return
to the dust; but who can tell this absolutely? Who has seen and told what
is on the other side of that dread portal? None, So then, again says the
wise Preacher, my wisdom sees only good in enjoying the present, for the
future is shrouded in an impenetrable cloud, and none can pierce it.
Precious beyond expression becomes the glorious bright
beam of divine revelation, as against this dense and awful darkness of
man's ignorance on such a question. How deep and terrible the groan here,
"For all is vanity." Yet the pitch-dark background shall serve to throw
into glorious relief, the glory of that light that is not from reason,
or nature; but from Him who is the Father of Lights. Yes, He bids us look
on this picture of the wisest of men, tracing man and beast to one end
and standing before that awful door through which each has disappeared,
confessing his absolute inability to determine if there be any difference
between them. Death surely triumphs here. It is true that there may be
a possible distinction between the "breath," or vital principle of each;
but this uncertainty only adds to the mystery, and increases a thousand
fold the agonizing need for light. God be thanked that He has given it.
The darkest problem that has faced mankind all through the weary ages,
has been triumphantly solved; and the sweetest songs of faith ever resound
about the empty tomb of the Lord Jesus--nay rather, about the glorious
person of that risen Christ Himself, for He is Himself the leader of the
joy. "In the midst of the congregation will I praise Thee."
So then, in sharp and blessed contrast to the wise man
and his groaning, let us lift our eyes up and ever up, past the tombs and
graves of earth; yea, past thrones and principalities, and powers in the
heavens; up and still up, even to the "throne of the Majesty on High"
and look on One sitting even there, a Man--oh mark it well, for
He has been of woman born--a Man,--for of that very One it was once said,
"Is not this the carpenter?"--now crowned with glory and honor; and listen,
for He speaks: "I am He that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive
for evermore." Consider Him! And whilst we look and listen, how does that
word of the Preacher sound, "A man hath no pre-eminence above a beast!"
And this is our portion, beloved reader. He might indeed have had all the
glory of that place, without the agony of the garden, without the suffering
and shame of the cross, had He been content to enjoy it alone. But no--He
must have His own with Him; and now death has been abolished as to its
terror and power, so that the groan of old is replaced by the triumphant
"O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?"
(1Cor. xv. 55.)
The resurrection of Jesus not only makes possible--not
only makes probable--but absolutely assures the glorious triumphant resurrection
of His own who have fallen asleep: "Christ the firstfruits, afterward they
are Christ's at His coming." But further, is this "falling asleep" of the
saint to separate him, for a time, from the conscious enjoyment of his
Saviour's love? Is the trysting of the saved one with his Saviour to be
interrupted for awhile by death? Is his song
"Not all things else are half so dear
As is His blissful presence here"
to be silenced by death? Then were he a strangely conquered
foe, and not stingless, if for one hour he could separate us from the enjoyed
love of Christ. But no, "blessed be the Victor's name," not for a moment.
"Death is ours" and "absent from the body" is only "present with the Lord."
So that we may answer the Preacher's word, "A man hath no pre-eminence
above a beast," with the challenge, To which of the beasts said
He at any time, "This day shalt thou be with Me in paradise"?
Let the Preacher groan, "all is vanity;" the groan is
in perfect--if sorrowful--harmony with the darkness and ignorance of human
"singing" alone accords with light; "Joy cometh
the morning," and if we but receive it, we have in "Jesus Risen" light
enough for perpetual, unending, song.