"Vanity of vanities, says the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 1:2)
This is recorded as the declaration of one of the wisest, if not the wisest of all the men that recorded history give us an account of: and from what is recorded of him and of his sayings and doings, we have reason to believe that he was so.
And when he was raised and exalted upon the throne of his father, David, he was humbled, no doubt, under a consideration of his incapacity, at that time, to govern and rule so great a people.
And having done some work that was grateful to the Almighty, He made him an offer, to ask of him what good he should choose?
It was not for long life, nor riches, nor honor that he asked, but that the Lord Almighty should endue him with an understanding heart, and wisdom that might qualify him to judge and rule so great a people.
And his request was granted - the Almighty gave him greater wisdom than any other man; and from the account recorded of his wisdom and acts, it seems verified.
Now, there is a good deal to be learned from this account of that great and wise king. By looking to this same Source for wisdom and understanding, we shall gain more true knowledge than we were ever able to arrive at through mere human, rational science.
It is that only which can enable us to fill up our place in creation, agreeably to the design of a great and gracious Creator.
By attention to the manifestations of God’s will, He will certainly give us this same knowledge, for we must know his commandments, and what he requires of us before we can do them: and therefore He has given to every man and woman a measure of His own Spirit.
When we repent, and are sincerely sorry for what we have done, He grants us the gift of forgiveness, and we come to experience remission of sins, and reconciliation with our Heavenly Father.
This is the way in which we can fulfil the first and great commandment, “You shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” (Matt. 22:37)
We give all up for Him, and for His sake; not only all that is dear to us here on earth, but our own lives. This was shown in the example of our great and blessed pattern, Jesus; who, for the love he bore to the truth and the God of truth, readily surrendered his will and life, to the will and mind of his Heavenly Father - such was his love to him.
When we come to love God with all our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength, it becomes the most excellent, and beautiful, of all things.
Therefore, as this comes to be our experience, it fixes and impresses upon our minds a care, that every step we take may be conformable to our duty to God, according to His requirements.
Here, now, when we come to know God, and feel him to be continually with us, an observer of all our works, and watching over us continually for good, it enables us to put in practice the saying of the wise man, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.”
And our duty to our Heavenly Father, and our own best interest, can never be divided: they are one, because Almighty Wisdom has ordained that every act of a man's life shall have its consequent reward, let it be good or evil.
(Adapted from a December, 1826 sermon by Quaker lay preacher Elias Hicks)