ASPECT 6, PART 4: A WISE RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD: ECCLESIASTES 11:7-12:7
In this last section of argument before the conclusion, Solomon turns our minds to wisdom toward God. This entails meditation upon our death. Now, there are some, such as the wealthy or the young who especially will not tolerate thoughts of death. For these people, Solomon has particular direction and admonition. Having directed us to consider death, Solomon then provides a beautiful meditation upon death, likening the human body to a decaying house.
The remembrance of our ultimate end will cause us to rightly value our days, cause us to act wisely before God, and thus contribute to our true happiness.
7 Truly the light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun: 8 But if a man live many years, and rejoice in them all; yet let him remember the days of darkness; for they shall be many. All that cometh is vanity. 9 Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth; and let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: but know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment. 10 Therefore remove sorrow from thy heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity.
12. 1 Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them; 2 While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars, be not darkened, nor the clouds return after the rain: 3 In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened, 4 And the doors shall be shut in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low; 5 Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, and fears shall be in the way, and the almond tree shall flourish, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail: because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: 6 Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern. 7 Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
Now follows in the fourth place the part and fruit of wisdom, which directeth us in our carriage.
Wisdom Toward God: Meditations on Death
Towards God, as the upshot and compliment of all the rest. And this stands in the care of religion, and of the worship of God. One principle part and means whereof is the meditation and preparation for death and judgment, an excellent means to begt and a singular trial to discover a man’s care of piety. This therefore Solomon presseth on all, but especially on two sorts of men, to whom the practice of this point is most difficult: These are:
The Wealthy Who Love This Life do not Think of Death
Men that are far in love with the pleasures and profits of this life, to whom the remembrance of death is bitter and unwelcome. Touching this king of men, we have here expressed:
Their affection and too high esteem of the world, set down as in their own words, Truly the light is sweet, a life is sweet, especially with light, i.e., pleasure and contentment, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun, to live in the sunshine of prosperity, abundance, honor and delight. Who would change for uncertainties in another world? It cannot be good that deprives us of such cntents,verse 7.
The remedy to abate this their love, and turn it another way: Which is taken from a three-fold consideration:
1. The certainty of death.
2. The long abode in the grave, above the length of life.
Both these are set down in opposition to the worldlings conceit, But if a man live man years and rejoice in them all, be it so that long life and perpetual pleasures and joys meet together in one man: What is he the better, can he enjoy them always? No. Yet let him remember the days of darkness, of death and the grave, let him for all that bethink himself that he must die at last. And when he is dead, what will become of the comforts of his life, how quickly will the short span of his life be forgotten and swallowed up in the long and many days of his abode in the darkness of the grave for they shall be many.
3. The uncertain continuance of life and deligths none knows how long he shall live, or live merrily. All that cometh is vanity, we know what is present, of future times we are uncertain, verse 8.
The Young Who Love This Life and do not of Death
Young men, who presuming upon their age, put far off ]from[ them the fear of death, and also care of religion and godliness. Here also we have to note:
The usual practice of young men, which Solomon expresseth by an ironical concession, by way of mockage and bitter scorn, premitting them to do what willingly and commonly they practice, which course he take because youth is wilfull, selfconceited and impatient of reproof, wherefore he seems to yield them what they would have, that he may the more sting them afterward. The sum of their practice is an incessant pursuit of thier pleasures, to give satisfaction to their lust and desires without control, Rejoice O young man in thy youth, because thou art young and do it thoroughly too, let thy heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth, walk in the way of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes, i.e., live after thy lusts, and do what thou wilt, a thing which young men love as their lives, verse 9.
How to Get the Young Man’s Attention
The remedy and means to divert young men from such sinful counsels, which are two:
First: Meditation on God’s judgment, whereunto young men must certainly come to give an account and receive censure for their doings as well as any other. But know that for all these things for all the sins of thy youth, God will bring thee though thou be unwilling to come, God will bring thee perforce, to judgment to be examined, condemned and punished, verse 9.
Second: Reformation of life following thereupon: This is two-fold:
1. Forbearance of evils, Therefore, remove sorrow from thine heart. So I do, may the young man say, giving myself to all jollity and carnal pleasure. Nay this is not mirth but sorrow and indigination, stirring up God’s wrath, which will bring heaviness in the end unto thy heart78. So contrary is the judgment of the Spirit touching sinful pleasure, unto the opinion of the flesh. But yet lest he should not be understood, the Holy Ghost expounds himself in plainer terms, and put away evil from thy flesh, avoid sin, fly from fleshly lusts and vain pleasure. Fly sin and escape sorrow, a merry heart and a holy heart go together. This exhortation is confirmed by a reason, from the vanishing and fleeting condition of youth and youthful pleasueres, which crosseth the conceit of young men that imagine their hot blood, lusty bodies, beauty, activeness, will last always, and their pleasures never be at an end. For childhood and youth are vanity, are soon spent and therefore better well than ill-spent: pleasure will soon be past and then sorrow and sting of conscience tarry behind. This morning of man’s age quickly come to noon, and then to night, & c. verse 20.
2. Doing of good in the care of piety and all religious services of God even in youth79, Remember thy Creator, words of knowledge in Scripture imply affection and practice: Remember, i.e, know and fear, love, serve and obey thy God: For why? He is the Creator, and therefore thou owest him all worship and obedience at all times, in youth as well as age, In the days of thy youth while thou art young, strong, lusty, and best able in all faculties of soul and body to perform best service. This exhortation of young men to the study and exercise of godliness, and that betimes is urged upon them by presenting their view and double discommodity, which by delay creeps upon them.
You Will Grow Old
Of old age, the convenience and miseries whereof are here lively described by Solomon, intimating the contary commodity of young years, that men might be the better persuaded to look to religion betimes. This description is
General Description of Old Age
General, the days of old age are evil, and such as take away all our delights and comfort in livign, while the evil days come not, nor the years, verse 1. Wherein the evil and unpleasantness of this age stands, is shewed allegorically in the next verse, While the sun, or the light, or the moon, or the stars be not darkened, i.e., all the comforts and contements which younger years enjoy be turned into discomforts and afflictions, pains, diseases, and aches of the body, poverty and trouble in estate, weakeness and infirmities of the mind, & c., which are here ment by the darkning of the sun, & c. greater and lesser all fail. Nor the clouds return after the rain this is a further burden to old age, especially if it come after lewd and ill spent youth, that there is no ease and relief to its miseries, but a continual succession and multiplication of them. Like the other in Winter, when a shower or two do not clear the air, but though it rain much, yet the sky is still overcast with more clouds. So in old age, the end of one disease is the beginning of another, and one grief follows at anothers believes, & c. verse 2.
Particular Description of Old Age
Particular, reckoning up the infirmities incident to the bodies and minds of old men, which disables them for such exercises of piety as young men put themselves unto: These weaknesses are numbered up severally:
In the day when the keepers of thouse shall tremble, i.e., the arms & hands which are the bodies defence, shall be weak & tremble with the palsy, . And the strong men, the thighs and legs, shall bow themselves, bend and buckle in the knees, scare able for feebleness to bear up the body. And the grinders shall cease, the teeth, because they are few wormeaten, hollow, fallen out, and worn away with age. And those that look out at the windows be darkened, the eyes grow dim and blind, verse 3.
And the doors shall be shut in the streets, he shall keep home, avoiding the company and society of men, at feastings and merry meetings when the sound of the grinders is low, when neither his teeth nor his stomach and appetite serve him for much eating. And he shall rise at the voice of the bird, his sleep shall depart from him, so that the crowing of cock, or other little noise shall awake him and all the daughters of music shall be brought low he shall have neither voice to sing himself, nor ears to hear others, verse 4.
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is high, he shall be very fearful to walk upon high places where there may be any danger of falling, where young men are venturous and bold, or of any thing that bunches up in the way, a stone or clod or the like. And fears shall be in the way as they walk they are very timerous , because unable to avoid danger, they fear lest they fall, be thrust down or crushed by careless people, riding, running and carrying to & fro, & c.
And the almond tree shall flourish, the head grow white and hoary. And the grasshopper shall be a burthen, a samll ything shall be too heavy for him to bear. And desire shall fail, concupiscence and all vehement and strong affections to pleasure shall be taken away. Some expound these words thus, Old men do not affect the pleasures of Spring, whereof the blossoming of the Almond is a sign; nor of the Summer, signified by the grasshopper, or locust, them making herself fat. The pleasures which these seasons afford are not desired nor regarded by old men.
All these infirmities of old and decrepit age are the symptoms and foretokens of death nigh at hand, shewing that man lives with one foot in the grave and draws onward to the end, because man goeth to his home,i.e., whither all men go in like manner as himself, or where he must abide for a long time. How near death is to him when these token are upon him is shewed in the next words, the mourners, his neighbors, friends or hired persons, go about the street, prepare all things ready for his funeral and are expecting when they shall follow the hearse, verse 5.
Next follows those evils which immediately foregoe death itself, viz., the dissolution and perishing of those parts wherein life and strength of nature consists. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or lengthened, i.e., the marrow of the back and sinews of the other parts of the body be grown so weak and withered, that the joints lose their strength: motion and feeling; Or the golden bowel be broken the brain and powers of the head )including the skull, and the meanings as in a cup or bowl( fails and becomes unable to do their office. Of the pitcher be broken at the fountain or the wheel at the cistern, i.e, the instruments that convey nourishment, life, sense and motion from one part to another, as the veins from the liver, the arteries from the heart, & c. lose their drawing and distributing virtue. Whereby the body immediately decays and death follows, the last misery and conclusion of the former, verse 6. So much of the first discommodity of old age, the next follows at the heels of it, viz.,
Of death, which cuts off all means of enjoying pleasures, so of doing good, there being nothing to be done, but to be suffered in the grave. Which appears by the state of man after death. In his body, which is resolved into that whereof it was made. Then shall the dust return to the earth.
In his soul, which upon its seperation must return to God to receive sentence and judgment. And the spirit return to God that gave it. God sent it into the body, he may recall it, and judge it for what it hath done in the body. Thus, death is the night wherein no man works, and old age is the evening and latter part of the day where it is ill working, and therefore it is good to be doing betimes in the morning and in our youth to remember our Creator, verse 7.