Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
ETERNITY IN THE HEART: A KEY TO ECCLESIASTES. Chapter 3:11
Newberry's rendering of this text enables us to see the meaning of this book in a clearer light. "He has set eternity in their heart, without which no man can find out the work that God makes from the beginning to the end." The word translated "world" here only occurs in one other place, where the meaning is ages, or eternity. This book deals with "things under the sun": the mundane things of earth, seen in the light of Nature's revealer. The "Preacher" begins with "Vanity of Vanities," then proceeds to demonstrate the truthfulness of his convictions. He gave "his heart to search out," and to "see all the works that are done under the sun," and to "prove" his heart with every earthly good. He made "great works," and "withheld not his heart from any joy." Yet he pronounced it "all vanity and vexation of spirit." So deeply did he drink of all the waters of the world's pleasures that he said: "What can the man do that comes after the king?" (2:12). What man can have any chance of satisfying his heart with the material things of earth, when he, the richest and wisest man on earth, failed? Why did he fail so miserably after such an earnest, favorable and exhaustive experiment? Here is the answer: "God has set eternity in the heart." That which belongs to eternity cannot find its counterpart in those things which are only temporal. Although there is "a time" to every purpose under the heavens, there is nothing circumscribed by time that is not "vanity and vexation of spirit" to that which is eternal. As God has set eternity in the heart, He means to set eternal things there. Observe—
I.—THE FACT OF IT. "Eternity is in the heart." In its very constitution, as the workmanship of God. The heart, here, may stand for man's essential character, as distinct from the lower animal creation. When Duncan Matheson prayed, "Lord stamp eternity upon my eyeballs," he was uttering words which revealed the most profound characteristic of the human soul. God has set eternity in the heart by setting there the thought of it, the desire after it, kinship to it, and capacity for it.
II.—THE EVIDENCE OF IT. The evidence of this truth is apparent in the universal belief in immortality found among the early Egyptians. Babylonians, Persians, Hebrews, Hindus, Chinese, South Sea Islanders, Druids and Celts. But perhaps one of the most convincing proofs of it may be seen in the universal restlessness of the human heart. Towards the things of this world, like the sea, it is ever crying: "Give, Give," and never fully satisfied therewith. One of the wealthiest men in modern times declared to a friend" I am not to be envied; How can my wealth help me? I would give you my millions if you could give me your youth and health." Youth and health in themselves could only enable him to repeat his own and Solomon's abortive experiment. "Man's life consists not in the abundance of things which he possesses," but in the things which God possesses. Surely the capacity of the human heart for the love and fellowship of the eternal God is an argument of no mean force. The heart's desire, in its truest and best moments, is for the "things which are eternal." Even pagan philosophers have acknowledged this." "The presage of a future life," says Cicero, "is most discoverable in the greatest and most exalted souls." When the glamour of sunny circumstances vanishes in some calamity or domestic affliction, then the deeper and more enduring instincts of the soul assert themselves.
III.—THE PURPOSE OF IT. "Without which no man can find out the work that God makes." It takes the attribute of eternity in the heart to contemplate the character of God and His work Eternity in the heart is—
1. A Witness to the Eternity of God. It has been set there as a testimony to the fact of His eternal Personality, and man's kinship to Him.
2. A Protest against Worldly-mindedness. Just as a man can profit nothing by gaining the world, and losing his life, so the eternity in the heart can only be deceived by loving and resting on the things of time— he lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God (Luke 12:19-21). Those who "mind" earthly things" are enemies of that Cross which stands for heavenly and eternal things.
3. An Incentive to seek eternal things. The fact that God has set eternity in the heart, is surely meant to be a powerful incentive to seek those things which are above. "Like draws to like."
4. An Evidence of God's love. Let the deep in the heart call unto the deep that is in God. God has set that deep there that He might fill it out of the deep of His own infinite fullness.
5. A Warning against the neglect of Salvation. To neglect eternal salvation is to choose eternal death. Eternity is in your heart whether it is found or lost. "Son, daughter, give Me your heart." He who has set eternity in it is best able to meet and satisfy its every need.