Charles Simeon Commentary - Ecclesiastes 9:10 - 9:10

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Ecclesiastes 9:10 - 9:10

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Ecc_9:10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither than goest.

THE greater part of mankind imagine, that a continued round of worldliness and pleasure will consist with religion. But their opinion is contradicted by the whole tenour of Scripture, which uniformly enjoins deadness to the world and devotedness to God. There are however some who err on the other side: and who make religion to consist in penances, and pilgrimages, and mortifications, and a total abstinence from all indulgences, however innocent, not excepting even the comforts and endearments of domestic life. In direct opposition to these are the words of Solomon in all the preceding context. He contends, that neither a cheerful use of the bounties of Providence, nor a prudent participation of the elegancies of life, nor a free enjoyment of conjugal affection, will at all interfere with our “acceptance with God,” provided our ardour in the pursuit of heavenly things be not diminished by them [Note: ver. 7–10.]. With this St. Paul also agrees: for he says, that “God hath given us all things richly to enjoy;” and, that “godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, as well as of that which is to come.”

It is not our intention, however, to enter into this general question; but rather to confine ourselves to the direction of Solomon in the text: in which we notice,

I.       His advice—

Industry in temporal concerns is doubtless an important duty; and we may certainly understand the words before us as inculcating, and enforcing this duty. But the advice must relate also to spiritual concerns, in transacting which more especially, the utmost zeal is necessary.

Every man has a work to do for his soul—

[The unconverted have to get a sense of their guilt and danger, to turn unto their God with the deepest penitence and contrition, and to have their souls renewed after the divine image — — — The penitent have also a great work to do. They have only just set out upon their race, and have as yet all the ground before them, over which they are to run. They have to obtain the knowledge of Christ, and get their souls washed in his blood; and, in conformity to his example, to serve God in newness of heart and life — — — The converted too, whatever attainments they may have made, have still much which their “hand findeth to do.” They have many lusts to mortify, many temptations to withstand, many conflicts to sustain, many graces to exercise, many duties to perform: to their latest hour they will be required to “glorify God with their bodies and their spirits, which are his”—-]

This work must be “done with all our might”—

[It must be done speedily, without delay.—None of us have any time to lose. Whatever be our state at present, we know not how long our lives may be continued. The young and healthy are mortal, as well as the old and diseased; and the sturdy oak may be blown down while the bending rush survives. We should therefore imitate David, who says, “I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.”

It must be done heartily, without remissness.—It is not sufficient to enter upon this work with indifference, and to prosecute it in a cold lifeless manner. We must “give all diligence to make our calling sure,” and “to be found of Christ in peace:” we must “strive to enter in at the strait gate, since we may seek, and not be able.” Even “the righteous are scarcely saved,” and with great difficulty. If any dream of salvation as a matter easily to be accomplished, they will “perish in their own delusions.”

It must be done perseveringly, without weariness.—There is no period when we are at liberty to relax our endeavours. While we are in the world, we are still an the field of battle, and surrounded with enemies that are ever ready to take advantage of us. It is not till death that we can “put off the harness:” “till then, there is no discharge in this warfare.” We must “not faint, or be weary in well-doing, if ever we would reap;” but must “be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”]

To impress this salutary advice upon our minds, let us proceed to consider,

II.      The argument with which it is enforced—

We all are dying creatures, and continually hastening to the grave. Whether we be going to our business, or our pleasure, or our rest, wherever we are, and whatever we are doing, we are “going to our grave.” The precise distance of our grave is hid from us: some arrive at it almost as soon as they set out on their journey: multitudes, when thinking of nothing less, drop into it suddenly, and are seen no more. Those who have walked towards it for a considerable time, have stronger and stronger intimations of their approach towards it. Many are seen with one foot already in it: and all, sooner or later, make it their long home.

From hence arise two very powerful arguments for enforcing diligence in the concerns of the soul. In the grave,

1.       There is “no work” to be done—

[This life is the time for work: the next life is the time for recompence. The works needful to be done are, to “repent and believe the Gospel:” but in the eternal world there is no opportunity for performing either.

We cannot repent.—A kind of repentance indeed there will be among those who have perished in their sins: they will “weep, and wail, and gnash their teeth” with anguish: they will be sorry, not that they sinned, but that they subjected themselves to misery: sin will appear formidable to them on account of its consequences, but not hateful on account of its malignity. If they were restored to another state of probation, they would in a little time resume their former courses. As now on a bed of sickness they promise to amend their lives, but, when restored to health, become as careless as ever, so it would be with them if they returned every from hell itself: their hearts are unrenewed, and consequently their deposition to “wallow in the mire” of sin would infallibly lead them into their former habits of worldliness and sensuality. They must for ever remain the same obdurate sinners, because the Spirit of God will never descend into their hearts to renew them unto repentance.

We cannot believe in Christ.—Those who have perished will, it is true, believe many things which now they disbelieve: they will believe that Christ is a Saviour, and that he is the only Saviour of sinful men: but they will never believe in him for salvation, because he will never again be offered to them as a Saviour. No tidings of redemption will ever be heard in those dreary mansions. Never will they hear such words as those, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden.” No promise of acceptance is given them; and therefore there can be no scope for the exercise of faith: nor, if there were an opportunity to believe, would they be able to embrace it; because “faith is the gift of God;” and they who reject his offers of it in this world, will never have it offered to them in the world to come.

This argument cannot but have the greatest weight with even considerate mind; and the rather, because it is urged by our Lord himself: “Work while it is day; for the night cometh wherein no man can work [Note: Joh_9:4.].”]

2.       There is no remedy to be devised”—

[While we are in this world, our “knowledge and wisdom” may be applied with effect. There is a “device” for the restoration of God’s banished people [Note: Compare 2Sa_14:14. with Job_33:24.]; and, if we be wise enough to adopt it, we cannot fail of obtaining mercy at the last day. But, if we neglect to use the remedy which is now afforded us, no other will remain for us; nothing can ever be devised whereby we may alter, or avoid, or mitigate, or shorten our doom.

We cannot alter it.—When once the Judge has said, “Go, ye cursed,” we can never prevail on him to reverse the sentence, and say, “Come, ye blessed.” Now, though “we are under condemnation, and the wrath of God abideth on us [Note: Joh_3:18; Joh_3:36.],” yet we may obtain reconciliation through the blood of Jesus, and be made heirs of a heavenly inheritance. But no such change can be effected in the eternal world: “as the tree falleth, so it will lie for ever.”

We cannot avoid it.—We may “call upon the rocks to fall upon us, and the mountains to cover us from the wrath of the Lamb,” but they cannot perform the friendly office. “If we should go up to heaven, or make our bed in hell, or take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, there would God seize us, and thence would he bring us” by his irresistible power, in order that we might suffer the just reward of our deeds.

We cannot mitigate it.—Here men may flee to business or pleasure: they may drown care in intoxication, and obtain some relief from it in sleep: they may shake it off in a measure by infidelity. But in the eternal world they will find no jovial companions to associate with, nothing to divert their thoughts, nothing to alleviate their pains: “wrath will have come upon them to the uttermost,” and their misery will be complete.

We cannot shorten it.—Men in this world have one method (as they think) of terminating their miseries, namely, by suicide. A poor and fatal “device” indeed! yet such as it is, they resort to it for relief. But in the future world even this refuge will fail them: “they shall seek death, but shall not find it; and shall desire to die, but death shall flee from them [Note: Rev_9:6.].” Eternity will be the duration of their woe: “the smoke of their torment will ascend up for ever and ever.”

How forcible then is this argument! If any “device” remained for them, and their “knowledge and wisdom” could be effectual for their relief, then they might be the more indifferent about the improvement of their day of grace. But since “this is the only accepted time, the only day of salvation,” surely they should “work out their salvation instantly with fear and trembling,” and seek “the things belonging to their peace, before they be for ever hid from their eyes.”]


1.       Those who are postponing their work—

[Like those who neglected the rebuilding of the temple, we are apt to say, “The time for this work is not yet come.” Youth look forward to adult age; and they who are grown to manhood think that a more advanced period of life will be more favourable for the exercises of religion: and even the aged put off the work from day to day, hoping for some “more convenient season.” But how many thousands perish by deferring that work which they acknowledge to be necessary! Sickness and death find them in an unconverted state, and hurry them unprepared into the presence of God. O that all of us, whether old or young, would guard against these fatal consequences, and turn to God “this day, while it is called To-day.”J

2.       Those who are trifling with their work—

[There are many who would be offended, if they were thought regardless of religion, who yet by their listlessness and formality shew that they have no real delight in it. They are exact in their attendance on ordinances; but they engage in them with a lukewarm Laodicean spirit: they have “the form of godliness, but not the power.” But what can such persons, think of the representations which the Scripture gives us of the Christian life? It is there described as a race, a wrestling, a combat; all of which imply the strongest possible exertions. Would to God that this matter were duly considered; and that we called upon “our souls, and all that is within us,” to prosecute this great concern. To every thing that might divert our attention from it, we should answer with Nehemiah, “I am doing a great work, and cannot come down [Note: Neh_6:3-4.].” It is in this way only that we shall ever be enabled to adopt the words of our dying Lord, “Father, I have glorified thee on earth. I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.”]

3.       Those who are heartily engaged in their work-

[While the greater part of mankind make their worldly duties an excuse for neglecting religion, there are some who run into a contrary extreme, and make their religious duties an excuse for neglecting their worldly concerns. But this will bring great dishonour on religion. We are placed in the world as social beings, and have civil and social, as well as religious, duties to perform. These must be made to harmonize: and all must be attended to in their order. We must “not be slothful in business, though we must be fervent in spirit; for in both we may serve the Lord.” Indeed our relative duties are, in fact, religious; because they are enjoined by God, and may be performed as unto God: nor are they less acceptable unto him in their place than the more spiritual services of prayer and praise. While therefore we would exhort all to an immediate, earnest, diligent, patient, unremitted attention to the concerns of their souls, and encourage them to disregard all the persecutions which they may endure for righteousness sake, we would entreat them also to “walk wisely in a perfect way;” and to shew by their conduct that religion is as conducive to the interests of society, as it is to the welfare of the soul.]