Charles Simeon Commentary - Ecclesiastes 7:29 - 7:29

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ecclesiastes 7:29 - 7:29


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MAN’S ORIGINAL AND PRESENT STATE

Ecc_7:29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.

THE whole scope of this book is, to shew the vanity of the world, and all things in it. As in the earth itself there is a visible proof that some great convulsion has taken place; so, in every thing that is passing upon the earth, there is the clearest evidence imaginable that some great moral change has been effected: for it cannot possibly be, that the world, which still bears such innumerable traces of wisdom and goodness in its first creation, should have proceeded from its Maker’s hands in such a state as it now appears. In fact, the whole world is out of course. The very elements are, on many occasions, hostile to man; and man, in ten thousand instances, is an enemy to himself, to his species, and to his God. And “what is thus crooked, who can make straight [Note: ver. 13.]?” Who can ward off the effects of all this disorder from his own person or estate? A monarch is the victim of it, no less than the meanest of his subjects; and the saint, no less than the contemner of all true religion. To what, then, or to whom, shall we ascribe this state of things? The wisest philosophers of Greece and Rome were unable to account for it. But the Holy Scriptures inform us, that the whole creation, as originally formed, was perfect; but sin, entering into the world, effected both a natural and a moral change upon it: so that the man who looks into the Holy Scriptures can solve every difficulty at once, by saying, “Lo, this have I found, that God made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions,” and thereby reduced the world, and every thing in it, to the state of disorganization in which it now appears.

In illustration of my text, I shall be led to notice both the primitive and the present state of man, and to shew,

I.       His uprightness, as formed by God—

We are expressly told, that “God created man after his own image [Note: Gen_1:26-27.].” When, therefore, man came from his Creator’s hands, he was perfect.

1.       In his intellectual faculties—

[His mind was light: and in him was no darkness at all, in reference to any thing which he was concerned to know. He had a clear knowledge of God, and of his perfections, so far as those perfections were stamped upon the visible creation. The wisdom, the goodness, the power of God, were all apprehended by him, and duly appreciated. He was acquainted also with his own nature, and his obligations to God: seeing the full extent of his duty towards him, as well as all the motives and inducements which he had for the performance of it. Moreover, he saw all these things intuitively, and not by long consideration or rational deduction. They were all stamped upon his very soul, and constantly before his eyes: and he had the same consciousness of them as he had of his own existence.]

2.       In his moral dispositions—

[The Law of God was written upon his heart, that he might know it: and, at the same time, the love of it also was engraven there, so that he had not the slightest inclination to violate it in any one particular. It was no difficulty to him to love God with all his heart and mind and soul and strength: it was the very element in which he breathed: the bent of his soul was wholly towards it. Flame did not more naturally ascend in the atmosphere than did his soul, with all its powers, ascend to God. Dear as Eve was to him, she did not rival God in his affections. Every thing was subordinated to his Maker; nor was even a thought entertained in his mind, which had not a direct and immediate tendency to honour him. In a word, he was to God as the impression to the seal: nor was there found one lineament upon his heart which had not been stamped there by God himself.]

Had man continued thus, the whole creation would have retained its original constitution. But man fell; and brought a curse upon the whole world [Note: Gen_3:17.]: every thing more or less participating in,

II.      His obliquity, as deformed by sin—

Man, through the instigation of Satan, desired to be wise as God himself. Not contented with knowing “good,” he would know “evil” also [Note: Gen_3:5-6.]; little thinking how impossible it was for light and darkness to exist together. Since that first device, whereby he fell, he has “sought out many inventions;” whereby to remedy, if possible, the first evil which he brought upon himself. Thus his descendants seek,

1.       How to rid themselves of all restraint from God—

[They conceive of God, as resident in heaven; and as so remote from this vain world, as scarcely to take any notice of it, or concern himself about it. Besides, from a pretended regard for his glorious Majesty, they conceive it far beneath him to notice the affairs of men: so that the language of their hearts is, “The Lord shall not see, neither will the Almighty regard it [Note: Psa_94:7.].” But, as they cannot be certain but that he does inspect their ways, they endeavour to get at as great a distance from him as possible. If at any time, by means of the preached word, or by any remarkable providence, he is brought nigh to them, they endeavour to shut their eyes, and to flee to any thing which may assist them in banishing him from their thoughts. To himself they say in effect, “Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways [Note: Job_21:14-15.]:” and to his servants they say, “Make the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us [Note: Isa_30:11.].” It was thus that our first parents acted, when they strove to “hide themselves from God in the midst of the garden:” and thus do sinners of the present day act, fleeing to business and pleasure and company, and any thing that may serve to drive the remembrance of him from their minds. And he who could contrive any fresh amusement or employ that should have this effect upon their minds, would be accounted one of the greatest benefactors of the human race. That which is, in fact, their heaviest curse, is sought by them as the richest blessing; namely, “to be without God in the world [Note: Eph_2:12.],” and “not to have him in all their thoughts [Note: Psa_10:4.].”]

2.       How to make to themselves gods more suited to their taste—

[Men feel that they must, of necessity, depend on something without them for their happiness, since they have no perennial source of it within themselves. But Jehovah is not one in whom they can find delight: hence, as the Israelites made a golden calf, and worshipped it, so these make to themselves objects of supreme regard, to which in heart and mind they cleave, as sources of satisfaction to their souls. Some, like the ignorant heathen, bow down to stocks and stones, “and say, Ye are our gods [Note: Hos_14:3.]:” others, with equal, though less palpable, absurdity, set their affections on the pleasures, riches, and honours of this life, making “a god of their belly [Note: Php_3:19.],” or putting their confidence in gold [Note: Col_3:5. Job_31:24-25.], or “seeking the honour of man, rather than that which cometh of God only [Note: Joh_5:44.].” These all, in fact, “forsake the fountain of living waters, and hew out to themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water [Note: Jer_2:13.],” All, indeed, have not the same pursuit: but all have some “idol in their hearts [Note: Eze_14:4.],” which is to them a god: and all “will walk in the name of that god [Note: Mic_4:5.],” looking to it for happiness, and confiding in it for support. This is an “invention,” not peculiar to any age or place: it is “sought out,” and carried into effect, by every child of man; there not being a natural man upon the face of the whole earth who does not, in one shape or other, “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator; who is blessed for evermore [Note: Rom_1:25.].”]

3.       How to hide from themselves their own deformity—

[One would suppose that the impiety of this conduct should appear at once to every man who is capable of the least reflection. But men contrive, by various arts, to hide it from themselves. They, in the first place, determinately “call evil good, and good evil: they put darkness for light, and light for darkness; bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter [Note: Isa_5:20.].” Then, not being able to conceal from themselves that they have committed some iniquity, they compare themselves, not with the word of God or with the saints of old, but with persons all around them: of these, however, they will select for the purpose those only whom they think not better than themselves: and thus will they satisfy themselves that they are as good as others. If there be some particular evils, of which their consciences accuse them, they will endeavour to find out some good deeds to put into the opposite scale, and to neutralize the effect of them upon their minds: or, if they cannot easily do this, they will satisfy themselves, that, though their actions have been evil, their intentions have been good: they have injured nobody but themselves; they have good hearts: and what they have done amiss, was not so much their own fault, as the fault of human-nature in general, and of the temptations to which they were exposed, and of the persons who were their associates in iniquity. Thus, as our first parents sought “to hide their nakedness by fig-leaves [Note: Gen_3:7.],” so do all men by nature strive, by every device they can think of, to hide from themselves, and from each other, their real state.]

4.       How to persuade themselves that all will issue well with them at the last—

[They will not believe that eternal punishment can ever be inflicted on persons for such offences as theirs. God is too merciful to proceed in such a way. And, if he did, what must become of the whole world? All who die, are considered as having gone to their rest; and no one ever once thinks of them as in a state of misery. Why then should not they, when they die, go to their rest? or what reason can they have to apprehend that any misery awaits them? But, supposing that God’s threatenings were true, they intend to repent at some convenient season; and have no doubt but that a gracious God will avert his displeasure from them, in answer to their prayer It is possible, indeed, that they may be called away suddenly (as many are), and not have time to realize their good intentions: but then the suddenness of their removal will plead their excuse, and their purposes be accepted as though they had been performed.

Thus, by means of these inventions which men have sought out, they are kept in a constant state of delusion; wearying themselves in the pursuit of vanities which elude their grasp, and filling with vexation both themselves and all around them.]

We may see from hence,

1.       What is the true intent of the Gospel—

[The Gospel is to remedy all this evil, and to restore man to the state of holiness and happiness from which he is fallen. It is to rectify our views of God, and make us see what a great and holy and gracious God he is. It is to make him known to us in the person of his Son, and to fill our souls with admiring and adoring thoughts of his love. It is to bring us also to the knowledge of ourselves, as lost and utterly undone; and to engage our whole souls in the service of our God, as his rightful property, his purchased possession.

Beloved Brethren, this is an invention of God; sought out by him; planned in his eternal counsels; and carried into effect on Mount Calvary: and, if duly received, it will be effectual to dissipate at once all our “inventions.” It will not indeed remove all the evils that abound in the world: there will yet remain much that is “crooked, and that cannot be made straight;” but it will sanctify those evils, and overrule them for our greater good: its operations, however, will be gradual, especially as far as relates to the restoration of the divine image on our souls. We shall be “renewed in knowledge, after the image of Him that created us [Note: Col_3:10.]:” we shall also be “created, after God’s image, in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Eph_4:24.]:” but then, in both respects, our light will be progressive, advancing like that of the sun, from its earliest dawn to its meridian height [Note: Pro_4:18.]. This is the change which the Gospel has wrought on millions of the human race: and that Gospel shall yet be found, by every true Believer, “the power of God to the salvation of his soul.”]

2.       How we may know whether it has produced its due effect upon us—

[You have heard what it was intended to do; namely, to remove all the obliquity of our fallen nature, and to restore the uprightness in which we were at first created. These are therefore the points for you to inquire into, in order to form a just estimate of your state. Can you say, “I have found this?” And can you further say, that the delusions, by which the devil has formerly led you captive, are now dissipated and dispelled? Can you declare yet further, that the intellectual and moral qualities, which man originally possessed, are forming progressively within your souls? Here are marks which may easily be discerned; and which will with great accuracy determine, not only the truth, but also the measure, of the change that has taken place within you. Alas! alas! on far the greater part of us, it is to be feared, no such change as this has ever taken place at all. The greater part of us still live far from God; still have our affections fixed on things below; still are unhumbled before God; and buoying ourselves up with the vain hopes of future happiness, though there is no one lineament of the divine image formed upon our souls. If this be the case with you, my Brethren, deceive yourselves no longer; but “to-day, while it is called to-day, cease to harden your hearts;” and begin to seek the mercy which God has offered you in the Son of his love — — — If however, after careful self-examination, you have an evidence of a work of grace upon your souls, then press forward for the attainment of more grace, and for a more perfect restoration to the divine image. If you do this in earnest, then even this present world will be less a scene of confusion to you than it was in your unconverted state; and, in the world to come, the glories of Paradise shall be for ever yours. You shall be admitted into the sweetest intercourse with your God; and “be fully like him, because you shall see him as he is [Note: 1Jn_3:2.].”]