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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 3

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 3.—What Solomon, in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Says Regarding the Things Which Happen Alike to Good and Wicked Men.

Solomon, the wisest king of Israel, who reigned in Jerusalem, thus commences the book called Ecclesiastes, which the Jews number among their canonical Scriptures:  “Vanity of vanities, said Ecclesiastes, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.  What profit hath a man of all his labor which he hath taken under the sun?” 1317   And after going on to enumerate, with this as his text, the calamities and delusions of this life, and the shifting nature of the present time, in which there is nothing substantial, nothing lasting, he bewails, among the other vanities that are under the sun, this p. 423 also, that though wisdom excelleth folly as light excelleth darkness, and though the eyes of the wise man are in his head, while the fool walketh in darkness, 1318 yet one event happeneth to them all, that is to say, in this life under the sun, unquestionably alluding to those evils which we see befall good and bad men alike.  He says, further, that the good suffer the ills of life as if they were evil doers, and the bad enjoy the good of life as if they were good.  “There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men unto whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked:  again, there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous.  I said, that this also is vanity.” 1319   This wisest man devoted this whole book to a full exposure of this vanity, evidently with no other object than that we might long for that life in which there is no vanity under the sun, but verity under Him who made the sun.  In this vanity, then, was it not by the just and righteous judgment of God that man, made like to vanity, was destined to pass away?  But in these days of vanity it makes an important difference whether he resists or yields to the truth, and whether he is destitute of true piety or a partaker of it,—important not so far as regards the acquirement of the blessings or the evasion of the calamities of this transitory and vain life, but in connection with the future judgment which shall make over to good men good things, and to bad men bad things, in permanent, inalienable possession.  In fine, this wise man concludes this book of his by saying, “Fear God, and keep His commandments:  for this is every man.  For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every despised person, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” 1320   What truer, terser, more salutary enouncement could be made?  “Fear God, he says, and keep His commandments:  for this is every man.”  For whosoever has real existence, is this, is a keeper of God’s commandments; and he who is not this, is nothing.  For so long as he remains in the likeness of vanity, he is not renewed in the image of the truth.  “For God shall bring into judgment every work,”—that is, whatever man does in this life,—“whether it be good or whether it be evil, with every despised person,”—that is, with every man who here seems despicable, and is therefore not considered; for God sees even him and does not despise him nor pass him over in His judgment.


Footnotes

422:1317

Eccl. 1:2, 3.

423:1318

Eccl. 2:13, 14.

423:1319

Eccles. 8.14.

423:1320

Eccl. 12:13, 14.


Next: Chapter 4

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