A posing question, put by the wise man, viz. Solomon, to the wisest men concerning making a judgment of the temporal conditions : wherein you have the ignorance of man (in knowing, what is good, or evil, for man in this life) discovered, together, with the mistakes that flow from it : and the great question resolved, viz. whether the knowledg of, what is good for a man in this life, be so hid from man, that no man can attain it
Baxter, Benjamin, Preacher of the Gospel., Baxter, Richard, 1615-1691.

Thus I have examined the Grounds, upon which many go, in making a Judgment of a Prosperous Condition. And from all that hath been said, their Mistakes will appear, by considering of these fol∣lowing Queries.

Page  72 1. Who knoweth, or can say, That those things are good for a man in this life, that bad men have had, as well as good; and for the most part, the greatest portion of them? Upon this ground, the very Heathens were drawn to a contempt of those things, because they saw, that for the most part, they were in the hands of those, that were the worst of men. Seneca could say, Who would esteem of Riches and Honours, when he seeth them cast, in hoc coenum in has sordes, upon such Dung-hills; speak∣ing of Honours conferred upon Sylla. Who would esteem of Beauty, (saith another) which a Whore may have, as well as an honest Woman? Jer. 12. 1. The Prophet observed, That the way of the Wicked did Prosper. And Psal. 73. That the worst of Men, had waters of a full Cup wrung out to them, and had what heart could wish.

2. Who knoweth, or can say, That is good for a man in this life, that never made a man Good? Where is the man that can come forth and say, That his Riches and Honours, did ever change his heart or reform his life?

3. Who knoweth, or can say, That those things are good for a man in this life, that have made many men worse, through their Abuse of them? To how many have they become a Trap, and Snare, and occasions of Sin? How many men hath pro∣sperity undone? Nehem. 13. 20. Did not Solomon, King of Israel, sin by those things? yet among many Nations there was none like him, Beloved of his God. How Conscientious was David, when he was David the Persecuted? but how careless, when he was David the King? It is observed of Rome, That it was never more Wicked, then when Page  73 it was most Flourishing. And it is observed of the Church, That it had least Purity, when it had most outward Prosperity.

4. Who knoweth, or can say, That those things are good for a man in this life, that are things so uncertain? They come and go, pass and run, like a River. The Apostle calls them uncertain Riches, 1 Tim. 6. 17. Solomon telleth us, They make them∣selves Wings, and fly away. Prov. 23. 5. Yea, their being is so short, that they are said not to be; for so saith Solomon in the same Vers. Why wilt thou set thy heart upon that which is not?

5. Who knoweth, or can say, That is good for a man in this life, that cannot in the least cure a mans vanity, or adde any thing of worth, or excel∣lency to him? When he hath all the things of the world, yet he is still but vain and empty Man; he is still Adam, weak, frail, fleshly, and still vain. Hence it is, that Solomon sheweth, that Riches can∣not be a mans happiness, Eccles. 6. 10. That which hath been, is named already, and it is known that it is Man: (i. e.) Call him what you will, Great, or Rich, or Honourable, yet he is Man still, (i. e.) crazy, frail, mortal man; outward things do not amend his nature and constitution. This the Psal∣mist telleth us, Psal. 39. 5. Surely, every man at his best estate, is altogether vanity. At his best estate, let him be never so happy, in respect of worldly estate, yet it doth not cure his vanity, he is still but vanity.

6. Who knoweth, or can say, That that is good for a man in this life, that will do a man no good in the time of his greatest need, and straits, and exigencies? Prov. 11. 4. Riches profit not in the day Page  74 of Wrath. And we have seen this made true in the former dayes of common Calamity. In all Changes, we have seen, The Greatest, were the greatest Suffer∣ers. Great Winds, shake most the tallest Cedars, and throw down the strongest Oakes. We read, 2 Kings 24. In that Captivity, the Richer Jews were carried away, when the poorer sort were left to till the land.

7. Who knoweth, or can say, That that is good for a man in this life, that fills the life with so many cares, and exposeth to so many dangers, and troubles, and disquietments? How many are there, whose wealth hath cost them their lives? It had bin good for Naboth, he had had no Vineyard. And it was said of the Roman Emperours, That they got nothing by their Advancement, but ut citius in∣terficerentur, That they might be killed the sooner. How many men are there, that had been happy, had not their prosperity destroyed them? And this is another Argument, that Solomon useth to prove, that a mans happiness lyeth not in Riches. As you may see Eccles. 6. 11. Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? So, How can those things, that increase cares and troubles, make Man the better? Psal. 39. 6. Man disquiets himself in vain; he heapeth up Riches, and cannot tell, who shall gather them. Nay, Solomon tells us, Eccles. 5. 3. That he had seen Riches laid up for the owners, to their hurt. Antigonus said of his Crown, That if a man knew what cares were wrapt up in it, he would not think it worth taking up. Nay, one saith of life it self, Nemo vitam acciperet si daretur scientibus.

8. Who can say, That is good for a man in this Page  75 life, that makes the entrance into Eternal Life so difficult? This our Saviour sheweth, Luk. 18. 24, 25. That it is hard for a Rich man to enter into Heaven. Nay, he makes it not only hard, but in a manner Impossible; When he saith, It is easier for a Camel to go through the eye of a Needle. Our Saviour meaneth it, of those that have Riches, and trust in them.

Thus for the first sort of persons, who think, It is good for them in this life to have Prosperity.