The great enquiry which Solomon prosecutes in this book is, What is that good which the sons of men should do? Ecc 2:3. What is the true way to true happiness, the certain means to attain our great end? He had in vain sought it among those things which most men are eager in pursuit of, but here, at length, he has found it, by the help of that discovery which God anciently made to man (Job 28:28), that serious godliness is the only way to true happiness: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter, the return entered upon the writ of enquiry, the result of this diligent search; you shall have all I have been driving at in two words. He does not say, Do you hear it, but Let us hear it; for preachers must themselves be hearers of that word which they preach to others, must hear it as from God; those are teachers by the halves who teach others and not themselves, Rom 2:21. Every word of God is pure and precious, but some words are worthy of more special remark, as this; the Masorites begin it with a capital letter, as that Deu 6:4. Solomon himself puts a nota bene before it, demanding attention in these words, Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter. Observe here,
I. The summary of religion. Setting aside all matters of doubtful disputation, to be religious is to fear God and keep his commandments. 1. The root of religion is fear of God reigning in the heart, and a reverence of his majesty, a deference to his authority, and a dread of his wrath. Fear God, that is, worship God, give him the honour due to his name, in all the instances of true devotion, inward and outward. See Rev 14:7. 2. The rule of religion is the law of God revealed in the scriptures. Our fear towards God must be taught by his commandments (Isa 29:13), and those we must keep and carefully observe. Wherever the fear of God is uppermost in the heart, there will be a respect to all his commandments and care to keep them. In vain do we pretend to fear God if we do not make conscience of our duty to him.
II. The vast importance of it: This is the whole of man; it is all his business and all his blessedness; our whole duty is summed up in this and our whole comfort is bound up in this. It is the concern of every man, and ought to be his chief and continual care; it is the common concern of all men, of their whole time. It is nothing to a man whether he be rich or poor, high or low, but it is the main matter, it is all in all to a man, to fear God and do as he bids him.
III. A powerful inducement to this, Ecc 12:14. We shall see of what vast consequence it is to us that we be religious if we consider the account we must every one of us shortly give of himself to God; thence he argued against a voluptuous and vicious life (Ecc 11:9), and here for a religious life: God shall bring every work into judgment. Note, 1. There is a judgment to come, in which every man's eternal state will be finally determined. 2. God himself will be the Judge, God-man will, not only because he has a right to judge, but because he is perfectly fit for it, infinitely wise and just. 3. Every work will then be brought into judgment, will be enquired into and called over again. It will be a day to bring to remembrance every thing done in the body. 4. The great thing to be then judged of concerning every work is whether it be good or evil, conformable to the will of God or a violation of it. 5. Even secret things, both good and evil, will be brought to light, and brought to account, in the judgment of the great day (Rom 2:16); there is no good work, no bad work, hid, but shall then be made manifest. 6. In consideration of the judgment to come, and the strictness of that judgment, it highly concerns us now to be very strict in our walking with God, that we may give up our account with joy.