‘Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.’
This text has a natural and deep connection with Solomon and his times. The former days were better than his days; he could not help seeing that they were. Therefore it was that Solomon hated all his labour that he had wrought under the sun, for all was vanity and vexation of spirit.
I. Of Christian nations these words are not true.—They pronounce the doom of the old world, but the new world has no part in them, unless it copies the sins and follies of the old. And therefore for us it is not only an act of prudence, but a duty—a duty of faith in God, a duty of loyalty to Jesus Christ our Lord—not to ask why the former times were better than these. For they were not better than these. Each age has its own special nobleness, its own special use; but every age has been better than the age which went before it; for the Spirit of God is leading the ages on toward that whereof it is written, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive, the things which God hath prepared for those that love Him.’
II. The inquiry shows disbelief in our Lord’s own words that all dominion is given to Him in heaven and earth, and that He is with us always, even to the end of the world.
‘This is the outcry of every age. Certainly it is a great difficulty in the way of the evolution theory as the one explanation of man and of things. That it plays a very important part there can be no question; but looking at it as the one explanation, it is a fact that the past looms brighter in man’s memory than either the present or the future: there are always rays of glory trailing down the vistas of time. Every movement for reformation is really, when you look into the springs of it, a lament for restoration; what man prays for always is the restoration of the glittering pageant, the golden Saturnine reign.’