Ecclesiastes 7:29
Only this have I found: I have discovered that God made men upright, but they have sought out many schemes."
Man in His Original and in His Lapsed StageE. Payson, D. D.Ecclesiastes 7:29
Man's Creation in a Holy, But Mutable, StateJohn Howe, M. A.Ecclesiastes 7:29
Man's FallHomilistEcclesiastes 7:29
The FallH. Melvill, B. D.Ecclesiastes 7:29
The Original State of Man, and the Covenant of WorksJ. Guyse, D. DEcclesiastes 7:29
The State of InnocenceT. Boston, D. D.Ecclesiastes 7:29
Perfection is not on EarthD. Thomas Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29
WomanJ. Willcock Ecclesiastes 7:23-29
It is generally considered that in this language we have the conclusion reached by Solomon, End that his polygamy was largely the explanation of the very unfavorable opinion which he formed of the other sex. A monarch who takes to himself hundreds of wives and concubines is scarcely likely to see much of the best side of woman's nature and life. And if marriage is divinely intended to draw out the unselfish, affectionate, and devoted qualities of feminine nature, such a purpose could not be more effectually frustrated than by an arrangement which assigns to a so-called wife an infinitesimal portion of a husband's time, attention, interest, and love. For this reason it is not fair to take the sweeping statement of this passage as expressing a universal End unquestionable truth. What is said of the bitterness of the wicked woman, and of the mischief she does in society, remains for ever true; but there are states of society in which good women are as numerous as are good men, and in which their influence is equally beneficial.





God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.
I. GOD MADE MAN UPRIGHT. Our text, then, teaches us that man was made in a state of perfect conformity to some rule. If it is asked, what rule? I answer, the law of God, for this is the only perfect, immutable and eternal rule to which God requires His creatures to be conformed, and in conformity to which rectitude or uprightness consists.

1. A state of perfect conformity to the Divine law implies the possession of an understanding perfectly acquainted with that law.

2. A state of perfect uprightness, or conformity to the Divine law, implies a memory which faithfully retains all its precept.

3. A state of perfect conformity to the Divine law implies a conscience which always faithfully applies it.

4. A state of perfect conformity to the Divine law implies a heart which perfectly loves that law.

5. A state of perfect conformity to the law of God implies a will perfectly obedient and submissive to that law; or, in other words, to the Divine government and authority.

6. There still remains one faculty possessed by man, which it is necessary to consider — that which is usually called the imagination. When man left the forming hand of his Maker, this faculty, like the others which we have mentioned, was entirely free from moral imperfection. Instead of filling the mind, as it now does, with vain thoughts, waking dreams, and worthless or sinful fancies, it presented nothing but holy images of spiritual and heavenly objects.


1. Men have sought out or invented many new ways in which to walk, forsaking the good old way in which God originally placed them.

2. Men have forsaken the one living and true God, in whom they live, and move, and are, and sought out or invented innumerable false gods and created idols, to which they give that homage and attention which are due to Him alone.

3. Men have ceased to be conformed to the Divine law, and have sought out many other rules — rules more agreeable to their present sinful inclinations — by which to regulate and try their conduct. Some adopt for this purpose the laws of their country; others the opinion of some human teacher; while a third and more numerous class govern themselves by the maxims which pass currently in the society of which they happen to be members. Thus, in various ways, men measure themselves by themselves, and compare themselves among themselves, and therefore are net wise; for while they follow these rules of human invention, they have lost all that uprightness, that conformity to the Divine law, which has been described.

4. Notice, among the inventions of sinful man the innumerable excuses, pleas and apologies which he has sought out to justify his conduct, and to make himself appear unfortunate, rather than criminal.

(E. Payson, D. D.)

I. THE NATURAL FORM OR CONSTITUTION OF MAN, AS MAN. The primitive bodies of our first parents were not subject to the deformities and infirmities, the fatigues of labour, and the injuries of climates, or seasons, nor to distempers, violence and death which we are now exposed to; and no doubt but they. were built with various beauties of due proportions, colour and form vastly superior to all that now appear in the ruins of human nature. But the chief glory of the natural form of man lies in his soul, which is an incorporeal, invisible and immortal, intelligent, free and active being, and so bears the natural image of God, as He is a Spirit. The bands of union between soul and body, and the way of their influencing and impressing one ,another, lie among the unsearchable mysteries of nature of which we have no ideas. But this we know, that by their union with each other to constitute a human person, the glories of the upper and lower worlds are in a sort epitomized and shadowed out in man.


1. With respect to his rectitude.(1) His understanding was full of light.(2) His will was perfectly holy and free.(3) His affections and appetites were all pure and regular.

2. With respect to his happiness.(1) He was a happy creature in the very constitution of his being as an innocent, upright man.(2) He was a happy creature in his communion with God and sense of His favour.(3) He was a happy creature in the pleasure of his situation, with the free use and government of all the creatures round about him.

III. THE TENURE BY WHICH OR THE TERMS UPON WHICH HE WAS TO HOLD THIS MORAL STATE. It was not entailed upon him by any absolute promise that he should continue in it; nor was it put upon a mere act of Divine sovereignty whether he should hold or lose it; the first would have left no room for a trial of his obedience, and the last would have taken away a grand article of his encouragement to that obedience and of his pleasure in it. But he was to hold it by a covenant of works, upon condition of perfect obedience to the end of that state of probation in which it became the wisdom of God to place him.

IV. THE CONCERN THAT ALL MANKIND HAD THEREIN. He whom God created after His own image is to be considered as a public person, who was to hold or lose that happy state, not only for himself, but for all his natural offspring. Had he creed, we had all been blessed and confirmed in blessedness with him, as upon his fall, Scripture and experience assure us, we lost it with him. Use: —

1. This shows what dreadful work sin has made in the world.

2. This shows that all good is from God, and all evil from ourselves.

3. Let us be deeply affected with the present state of human nature.

4. Let us turn our eyes to the better covenant and the better Head which God has provided for our recovery.

(J. Guyse, D. D)


1. This supposes a law to which he was conformed in his creation; as when anything is made regular, or according to rule, of necessity the rule itself is presupposed. Whence we may gather that this law was no other than the eternal, indispensable law of righteousness observed in all points by the second Adam, opposed by the carnal mind, and some notions of which remain yet among the Pagans, who, "having not the law, are a law unto themselves" (Romans 2:14).(1) Man's understanding was a lamp of light. He had perfect knowledge of the lay, and of his duty accordingly: he was made after God's image, and consequently could not want knowledge, which is a part thereof (Colossians 3:10).(2) His will in all things was agreeable with the will of God (Ephesians 4:42).(3) His affections were orderly, pure and holy.

2. From what has been said it may be gathered that the original righteousness explained was universal and natural, yet mutable.(1) It was universal, both with respect to the subject of it, the whole man, and the object of it, the whole law. There was nothing in the law but what was agreeable to his reason and will, as God made him, though sin hath now set him at odds with it; his soul was shapen out in length and breadth to the commandment, though exceeding broad; so that his original righteousness was not only perfect in its parts, but in degrees.(2) As it was universal, so it was natural to him, and not supernatural in that state. Not that it was essential to man, as man, for then he could not have lost it without the loss of his very being, but it was natural to him; he was created with it, and it was necessary to the perfection of man, as he came out of the hand of God, necessary to his being placed in a state of integrity.

3. It was mutable; it was a righteousness that might he lost, as is manifested by the doleful event. Let no man quarrel with God's works in this; for if Adam had been unchangeably righteous, he must have been so either by nature or by free gift: by nature he could not be so, for that is proper to God, and incommunicable to any creature; if by free gift, then no wrong was done to him in withholding what he could not crave.

II. SOME OF THOSE THINGS WHICH ACCOMPANIED OR FLOWED FROM THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF MAN'S PRIMITIVE STATE. Happiness is the result of holiness; and as this was a holy, so it was a happy state.

1. Man was then a very glorious creature. There was no impurity to be seen without; no squint look in the eyes, after any unclean thing; the tongue spoke nothing but the language of heaven; and, in a word, "the King's son was all-glorious within," and his "clothing of wrought gold."

2. He was the favourite of Heaven. While he was alone in the world he was not alone, for God was with him. His communion and fellowship were with his Creator, and that immediately; for as yet there was nothing to turn away the face of God from the work of His own hands, seeing sin had not as yet entered, which alone could make the breach.

3. God made him lord of the world, prince of the inferior creatures, universal lord and emperor of the whole earth. The Lord dealt most liberally and bountifully with him — "put all things under his feet": only He kept one thing, one tree in the garden, out of his hands, even the tree of knowledge of good and evil. But you may say, and did He grudge him this? I answer, Nay; but when He had made him thus holy and happy, He graciously gave him this restriction, which was in its own nature a prop and stay to keep him from falling. And this I say upon these three grounds: —(1) As it was most proper for the honour of God, who had made man lord of the lower world, to assert His sovereign dominion over all, by some particular visible sign, so it was proper for man's safety.(2) This was a memorial of his mutable state given to him from heaven, to be laid up by him for his greater caution.(3) God made man upright, directed towards God as his chief end. This fair tree, of which he was forbidden to eat, taught him that his happiness lay not in enjoyment of the creatures, for there was a want even in paradise: so that the forbidden tree was, in effect, the hand of all the creatures pointing man away from themselves to God for happiness. It was a sign of emptiness hung before the door of the creation, with the inscription, "This is not your rest."

4. As he had a perfect tranquillity within his own breast, so he had a perfect calm without. His heart had nothing to reproach him with; conscience, then, had nothing to do but to direct, approve, and feast him; and, without, there was nothing to annoy him.

5. Man had a life of pure delight and unalloyed pleasure in this state. God placed him, not in a common place of the earth; but in Eden, a place eminent for pleasantness, as the name of it imports; nay, not only in Eden, but in the Garden of Eden; the mast pleasant spot of that pleasant place; a garden planted by God Himself, to be the mansion-house of this His favourite.

6. tie was immortal. He would never have died if he had not sinned; it was in case of sin that death was threatened (Genesis 2:17), which shows it to be the consequence of sin, and not of the sinless human nature.


1. For information.(1) Not God, but man himself was the cause of his ruin.(2) God may most justly require of men perfect obedience to His law, and condemn them for their not obeying it perfectly, though now they have no ability to keep it. In so doing, He gathers but where He has sown.(3) Behold here the infinite obligation we lie under to Jesus Christ the second Adam, who, with His own precious blood has bought our freedom, and freely makes offer of it again to us (Hosea 13:9), and that with the advantage of everlasting security, and that it can never be altogether lost any more (John 10:28, 29). Free grace will fix those whom free will shook down into the gulf of misery.

2. This conveys a reproof to three sorts of persons.(1) To those who hate religion in the power of it, wherever it appears; and can take pleasure in nothing but in the world and in their lusts.(2) It reproves those who put religion to shame, and those who are ashamed of religion, before a graceless world.(3) It reproves the proud, self-conceited professor, who admires himself in a garment of rags which he has patched together.

3. Of lamentation. Here was a stately building; man carved like a fair palace, but now lying in ashes: let us stand and look on the ruins, and drop a tear. Ah, may we not now say, "0 that we were as in months past!" when there was no stain in our nature, no cloud on our minds, no pollution in our hearts! Had we never been in better case, the matter had been less; but they that were brought up in scarlet do now embrace dunghills. Where is our primitive glory now?

(T. Boston, D. D.)


1. All created rectitude consists in conformity to some rule or law.

2. The highest rule of all created rectitude is the will of God, considered as including most intrinsically an eternal and immutable reason, justice and goodness.

3. Any sufficient signification of this will, touching the reasonable creature's duty, is a law, indispensably obliging such a creature.

4. The law given to Adam at his creation was partly natural, given by way of internal impression upon his soul; partly positive, given (as is probable) by some more external discovery or revelation.

5. Adam was endued in his creation with a sufficient ability and habitude to conform to this whole law, both natural and positive; in which ability and habitude his original rectitude did consist.


1. The nature of man is now become universally depraved and sinful. This Scripture is full of (1 Kings 8:46; Psalm 14:1; Romans 3:10-19, 23; Romans 5:12, 13, 17-19; 1 John 5:19, etc.), and experience and common observation put it beyond dispute.

2. The pure and holy nature of God could never be the original of man's sin. This is evident in itself. God disclaims it; nor can any affirm it of Him without denying His very being (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4 3John 11).

3. It is blasphemous and absurd to talk of two principles (as the Manichees of old); the one good, and the cause of all good; the other evil, and the cause of all evil.(1) This would suppose two Gods, two independent beings.(2) It would suppose an evil God.

4. It was not possible that either external objects, or the temptation of the devil, should necessitate the will of man to sin.

5. The whole nature of sin consisting only in a defect, no other cause need be assigned of it than a defective; that is, an understanding, will, and inferior powers, however originally good, yet mutably and defectively so.

6. Man, being created mutable as to his holiness, must needs be so as to his happiness too. And that both upon a legal account (for the law had determined that if he did sin he must die), and also upon a natural; for it was not possible that, his soul being once depraved by sin, the powers of it vitiated, their order each to other and toward their objects broken and interrupted, there should remain a disposition and aptitude to converse with the Highest Good.

(John Howe, M. A.)



1. It is striking to observe that "many inventions" is in the plural. Righteousness is spoken of as oneness, singleness of heart. But the ways of sin are many.

2. These ways are of man's seeking — sought out. All men have followed the example of Adam, seeking ways of happiness beyond what God has prescribed for them. True happiness is only to be found in His service, and if man seeks it elsewhere he will be disappointed.


1. The folly of palliating our condition, or assuming a character we do not possess. A man's character may possess much that is lovely, but the best are fallen creatures.

2. The folly of casting the blame of our sinfulness on God. God originally made man upright.

3. The folly of supposing that we can recover ourselves from the fall.

4. The blessedness of comparing our own folly with the wisdom of God, and our present wretched condition with that which He has provided. He can restore and recover us through the sacrifice of Christ, and His vicarious atonement on our behalf.


At first sight it would seem almost incredible that a being endowed and circumstanced as was Adam, probably informed that not only his own happiness, but that of an unnumbered posterity, depended on his obedience to a single command, should have signally failed in his probation, and provoked a curse which the least steadfastness might have averted. Our only business now, however, in examining this matter, is with the truth that "God made man upright," and that in making him upright He had done enough for His creature. You may, indeed, say that God might have so constituted Adam that he should have been incapable of falling, and you may ask, "Why was he not thus constituted?" If you mean that human nature might have been such that to sin would have been impossible, we believe you to assert what is altogether incorrect. An incapacity of sinning is the property of no finite nature. The archangel, sublime in his prowess, is nevertheless finite — and what is finite may be measured and matched by temptation; add you must pass from the created to the uncreated, and bow down before Him who is every way infinite, ere you can find a being of whom to declare that he cannot sin because by nature inaccessible to evil. But then you will say, "If not by nature, undoubtedly by grace, our first parents might have been prevented from yielding; grace in sufficient measure to maintain them in their obedience had been granted to many angels, and might, if God had seen fit, have been granted to man." Yes, it might; but grace, from its very nature, must be altogether free; God may give it or withhold it, according to His pleasure; and if there was no flaw in the original constitution of Adam, his powers having all that perfectness which consisted with creatureship, it could not have been at variance with any attribute of God to withhold that grace which should have kept him from falling. That God should have placed His creature in a share of probation, the trial being quite within the strength, and the reward of obedience unspeakably magnificent, you can imagine nothing more equitable, nothing more worthy every way of Deity; but there can be no probation where there is that prevention which you think might have been extended to Adam; if you allow it worthy of God to place His creature on trial, you make it indispensable that He should suffer him to fall. But if there still lurk a feeling in your minds — a feeling not to be met by argu-ment-that it was unlike a merciful God to permit His creature to work out for himself a heritage of woe and of shame, why, then, we call upon you to remember that, whilst allowing the evil, God had determined the antidote. I doubt not the glory of an unfallen man, I question not the splendour and loveliness of an unblighted paradise; very noble must Adam have been, and beautiful amidst the surrounding creation, when God conversed familiarly with man, and earth was as the shrine of its Maker; and sublime, indeed, would have been the spectacle, and majestic our inheritance, had each of us been born in the image of God, and secured against losing the resemblance; but I would not exchange what I am, if linked by faith with the Mediator Christ, for what I should have been bad Adam never transgressed. I know not what place would then have belonged to our nature amongst the orders of creation, but this I know, that now it is associated with the Divine, and imagination itself fails to measure its dignity. I know that by occupying my place, suffering and obeying in my stead, the Son of God has done vastly more than reinstate me in my forfeited possession: He has set me "far above principalities and powers": He has opened to me happiness which is not to be reached by aught else created; He has brought me into a relationship with Deity, which could not have resulted from creation. Oh! then, to murmur because Adam was allowed to destroy us by his apostasy is to forget or deny that Christ redeemed us by His agony; to make it matter of complaint that we were suffered to fall is to repine at being placed unspeakably higher than we originally stood. It was not through any fault in his original constitution that Adam fell away. That constitution was, indeed, mutable, because Adam was a creature, and no created nature, not the very highest, can in itself be immutable. But there was no defect in Adam, unless you choose to reckon it a defect that he was finite. The understanding could immediately distinguish truth from error; the will was prompt to follow the verdict of the understanding; and the passions were all held in thorough subordination; so that, comparing the circumstances and the endowments of Adam, you may see that he possessed sufficient power for passing successfully through his probation, and that, having been created, he might, had he chosen, have continued in uprightness. Just, then, and true, and merciful was God in His dealings with the father of our race, for man could not have fallen had he not of his own will "sought out inventions." This brief description has been applicable from the first. It was that they might "be as gods," that they might "know good and evil," that they might advance themselves in the scale of intelligence, for this it was that Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit and set at nought the positive command. They tried the experiment, and, with all the consequences of failure, bequeathed to their children the fatal wish to invent good for themselves rather than seek it in God. The many inventions which we seek out; the schemes, even where there is the light of revelation, for being ourselves the authors, either in whole or in part, of our own deliverance, these are continued evidences that we are the children of those who even in paradise planned their own exaltation and thought to be wiser than God. We imitate our forefather, resolving to be ourselves the architects of our greatness, and therefore building on the quicksand; neglecting, as he did, the simple declarations of revelation, we take our own way of acquiring knowledge and learn it by being lost. Oh! for the spirit of St. Paul — "I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." I read the history of human transgression and ruin. I read it in the pages of Scripture; I read it in the throes and the convulsions of a disorganized world. I then turn to the record of redemption. I find that God has graciously taken into His own hands the work of my salvation. I learn that, though fallen, He is ready to exalt me; though corrupted, He is willing to purify, though worthy of condemnation, He offers me forgiveness and pardon.

(H. Melvill, B. D.).

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