Eccles. •2. 1.
IN this last Clause of the Verse, the daies of Old Age are opposed unto the daies of Youth, in these terms, The years wherein 〈◊〉 shalt say, I have no pleasure in them. Hence I note,
Observ. That this short and mortal life may outlast the pleasures and all the con∣tentments of this life. This life is short, yet as short as it is, it many times is longer than the comforts of this life, longer than the de∣lights and pleasures of this world. There 〈◊〉 be years within the compass of this shor•〈◊〉, wherein a man shall find no pleasure, 〈◊〉 shall be weary of himself. Man is bu•Page 116 of short continuance; the longest liver a∣mong men shall quickly go hence; and ye• many a man and woman may, and do out-live the comforts of their lives; survive al• the pleasure and contentment that ever they had here below. And if something remain, wherein they can take delight, yet it is so little in comparison of those things which they have lost, that they think their good daies be gone and past. They have lived to see the pleasures of life vanish away life smoak, and do often look back with 〈◊〉 hearts upon the times wherein they enjoyed such and such things, wherein it was thus and thus with them. So it was with David; he had been a victorious King, and prosper•• exceedingly in his wayes; but in the lat•• part of his life, his Daughter was deflow••• by his Son, and that Son killed by another Son when he was feasting: the same Son re∣belled against his Father, defiled his Concu∣bines, sought his life, and was slain in rebel∣lion. Then Sheba rebelleth, and not long after David lieth bed-rid, and no clothes could keep him warm, 1 Kings 1. Whe•• were now the pleasures of life? might 〈◊〉 he very well have said of these last years 〈◊〉 his life, I have no pleasure in them. It is true he did comfort himself in God, and in 〈◊〉Page 117 assured expectation of a better life, but the pleasures of this life were gone and past: and if he had been one of those that have hope only in this life, what good had all the for∣mer pleasures of this life done him? That which was verified of this good King, was true also of one of his best Subjects, viz. Barzillai the Gileadite, who had so liberally supplied King David, when he was forced to flee from Absalom. The King would now have him to be his Guest at the Court, and to live with him at Jerusalem: But thus he answereth David, 1 Kings 19. 35. I am this day fourscore years old, and can I discern between good and evil? Can I taste what I eat, or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voyce of singing men and singing women? Wherefore then should thy servant be yet a bur∣then to my Lord the King? The pleasures of this life are gone with me, saith Barzillai, I was wont I could relish my Meat and Drink, now I cannot: Musick now is no Musick to me, I have out-lived the delights of this world.
Now if these men did out live the out∣ward comforts and contentments of this life, how much more do many wicked persons? How was it with Saul? He was preferred beyond his expectation before all the men Page 118 of Israel: He overcame the Ammonites and Philistines, and was in a flourishing estate: But for his sin the Lord blasted all the com∣forts of his life, took away those gifts of his Spirit from him, whereby he had fitted him for the Kingdom; suffered an evil Spirit to vex and torment him; gave him over to tor∣ment himself with envy and bitterness of spirit, to vex himself with Davids success▪ answereth him not in his distress; leaveth him to consult with a Witch, and thereupon to receive a sad answer, and to hear his doo•, which soon after was executed upon him▪ Thus ye see in these examples how this sho• mortal life lasteth beyond the pleasures and comforts of this life. We have also a no∣table example in this kind in King Jehora• a wicked Son of a good Father: He had a flourishing Kingdom left by his Father; but after that he had slain his Brethren, and wrought much wickedness, the Kingdom of Edom revolted from him, Ver. 9. 10. So did the City of Libnah. He was severely threatned from Heaven, Ver. 12, 13, 14, 15. which threatnings took effect accordingly. The Philistines and Arabians brake into his Kingdom, entred his Place, took away his Goods, his Wives, his Sons, all save 〈◊〉 youngest, Ver. 16, 17. Then also the Lord Page 119 smote him with an incurable Disease in his Bowels, and after two years torment (as it seemeth) his Body rotted, and his Bowels fell out, so that he died of sore Diseases, and had not that honour at his Funeral which was usually done unto Kings: See how his life out-lasted the comforts of his life, and yet his life was short; he died when he was about forty years old, and reigned eight years.
Now ye may see by these examples, that there are two wayes in general by which it cometh to pass; that the comforts of this life are shorter than life it self, and that this life out-lasteth them all: and that is, 1. By reason of old age. 2. By reason of crosses & afflictions. 1. In respect of old age: so it was with Da∣vid and Barzillai: So it is expressed at large in this last Chapter of Ecclesiastes; where he sheweth how the daies of old age are such many times that a man hath no pleasure in them; and sheweth at large how the several parts of the body decay, and the powers of nature fail. The Grashopper shall be a burthen] that is, every little thing shall trouble them. And desire shal fail.] They shall have no mind to any thing: There∣fore also it must needs be that delights should fail, they should joy in nothing; all the pleasures of Youth, and the de∣lights Page 120 of Life are gone. Moses saith, Psal. 90. 10. The daies of our years are threescore years and ten, and if by reason of strength they be fourscore, yet is their strength but la∣bour and sorrow. Yea, and some ere they be threescore, do feel the burthen of Old Age, as much as others do at fourscore. 2. In re∣spect of sufferings and afflictions, some do out-live the comforts and pleasures of this life. So did Job: but that afterwards the Lord restored his prosperity to him in an ex∣traordinary manner. So Saul (it seemeth) in respect of age might have enjoyed many a fair year) but all was blasted, and his King∣dom did him little, good. The Lord declared himself against him. So ye see in the example of Jehoram: the Lord may take away those comforts from a man, that the loss of them may drown all the pleasures of this life, em∣bitter all those sweets that this world can af∣ford to us.
THe Reason in general is the sin of man: that hath shortned life, & made it mor∣tal, which (had it not been for sin) should have been imortal. That hath made the comforts of life shorter than life it self, which should have been everlasting, as life it self should have been immortal, had not sin given a dead∣ly Page 121 wound both to the life of man, and to the comforts of this life. Man should have had no thorns nor thistles to have vexed him in Paradise, if he had not let Sin into the Gar∣den; but Sin being let in cast him out into a thorny world ful of miseries, whereby his short life was made bitter to him, and the pleasures of life not so long-lived as life it self.
Many times the special sins of men are the cause of this, and that both of God's Children and of the wicked. The special sins of the Godly, as in David: his sins into which he fell, made the latter part of his life full of bit∣terness: and had not he been able to comfort himself in God, and to have refreshed his heart with his saving love and mercy, how could he have been able to bear up his Spirit under such grievous burthens?
So the Lord doth many times change the outward condition of his Children, and cau∣seth them in stead of many outward comforts formerly enjoyed, to eat the bread and drink the water of afflictions; and causeth sad times to pass over them; insomuch that all the comforts of this life do no way yield them so much content, as their outward af∣flictions do bring bitterness upon them.
On the other side, the special sins of the wicked, do sometimes move the Lord to turn Page 122 their laughter into mourning, and to bring a a dark Cloud on all the Sun-shine of their outward comforts, so that all things in the world shall look sad upon them, and this he seemeth to do for two causes.
1. To bring them home to himself, that being taken off from carnal contentment in outward delights, and brought to deal se∣riously with their own hearts, and to consi∣der their wayes; and finding nothing in the world for their hearts to rest upon, they may be made to turn to the Lord, and to seek peace with him, and comfort in his love. Thus it was with Manasseh, whiles he flourished in his Kingly dignity, and had what his heart could wish, how did he exceed in wicked∣ness? But when the Lord gave him that blow by the hand of the King of Babylon, which struck him down from his Throne, and •aid him in fetters; then in his affliction he be∣sought the Lord his God, and humbled him∣self greatly before the God of his Fathers, and prayed unto him, and he was entreated of him, &c. 2 Chron. 33, 11, 12, 13.
2. The Lord seemeth to do this many times to manifest his Justice, and to let the wicked know what they are to look for in an∣other world. Thus he seemeth to have dealt with Pharaoh, Saul, and many others. This Page 123 I am perswaded, the Lord doth often aim at even in those changes which are brought with Old Age. Many which have been flou∣rishing in their daies, and abused their pro∣sperity, their bodies decay with old age, and their outward means wither together with them, and they are set before the world for spectacles, wherein men may read the va∣nity of all things under the Sun, together with the fading and uncertain condition of all the comforts of this life. I mean of such, who after Youth and riper years spent in sin and impenitency, do afterwards go creep∣ing under the burden of Old Age, and have no heart to seek the Lord in sincerity; but their hearts die within them, and become like Nabals, having lost the content which they took before in the pleasures of sin, and wanting grace to raise their hearts to the Lord, that they might delight their Souls in him. Many such examples may be observed in the world.
3. Sometimes the Lord doth this to exer∣cise the graces of his Children, and to make them examples unto others of patience and stedfastness in his ways: as it was with Job, who continued in his integrity after that those great changes were brought upon him.
Use. I. HEnce we may be brought to a consideration of the shortness and uncertainty of all the contentments of this present life. How short is life it self? And yet the pleasures of life are shorter than life, Psal. 39. 5. Behold thou hast made my daies as an hand-breadth, saith David. There is the life of man measured by a span: it is but an handfull long; not an Inch long com∣pared to eternity: for so it followeth; Mine age is as nothing before thee. Compare it to eternity, and it is nothing. The daies of a man's life are not worth the reckoning, not worth numbring. Nay, compare it not only to the eternity of God, who is from everlast∣ing to everlasting; but make the comparison between the time of this life, and the im∣mortality and everlasting continuance of the Soul of man in another world either in mise∣ry or blessedness, and it is as nothing. What then are all the pleasures and contentments which this life can afford, which usually are expired before life it self? The year is but short, and quickly turned about in its seve∣ral seasons: how soon is the Spring gone? How soon the Summer? The Autumn is quickly spent, and the Winter is not long Page 125 ere it be ended: but the pleasures of the year last not so long as the year it self. When once Winter appeareth, we may say, where are all the flowers and Rose-buds of the Spring? They are long since dead and wi∣thered, yet the year is not ended: within a few weeks what will become of all the green leaves that have beautified the Trees: they will fall and die. Within a few months what will become of all the green grass that cloatheth the Earth? It will be dead, and lose its beauty and sweetness. Now unto the year ye may compare this present life: to the flowers, blossomes, leaves, grass, you may compare the pleasures, delights and contentments of this life: The year is short, and quickly gone; yet the flowers, blossoms, leaves, &c. are gone before it. So life is short, and soon spent, yet the pleasures and contentments of this life are spent before it. In the eleventh verse of the same Psalm, Da∣vid saith, When thou with rebukes dost cor∣rect man for iniquity, thou makest his beauty to consume away like a moth: surely every man is vanity. Thou makest his beauty, and all those delights, and that prosperity wherein he flourished, and took contentment, to con∣sume and wither like corn that is blasted: surely every man is vanity. At the end of Page 126 the fifth verse he saith; Verily, every man at his best estate is altogether vanity. Take him at his best estate, when he hath the most of those things which belong to this life, strength and health, wit and understanding, wealth, worldly honours, credit with the world, and respect from worldly men, yet even then this holy Prophet guided by the spirit of truth, doubteth not to pronounce or proclaim him meer vanity; an empty thing, a bubble, a bladder swoln big, but filled with wind. Take him as he is a meer man, not renued by the Spirit of God, not having Christ dwelling in him: and take him at his best with all those things with which this mortal life is capable of, and wherewith this lower world wherein we live, can furnish him, and he is but vanity; there is nothing sound, nothing solid nor substantial in him: his life and the pleasures of this life are but for a moment, and of the two the pleasures of this life u∣sually are the shorter, and sooner ended than life it self. The Apostle saith, 1 Pet. 1. 24. All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass; the grass withereth, and the flower thereof fadeth away. Man and his mor∣tal life are like the grass: the glory and pro∣sperity of man's life is as the flower of the grass. The grass it self is not long-lived, Page 127 but the flower of the grass is dead before the grass it self. Life is not long, but the flower of life, the pleasure and prosperity of life is shorter than life it self, Jam. 4. 14. What is your life? it is even a vapour that appear∣eth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. Where the Apostle meeteth with the fond thoughts of our fleshly hearts: for when a man is strong and healthy, and in prosperity, and enjoyeth the pleasures of this life, he thinketh he hath gotten a jewel, and his heart resteth in these things, he thinketh it is well with him: Oh this life, and that which be∣longeth to it, is a thing which he doth highly prize, and setteth a great rate upon it. Now saith St. James, What is your life? Ye think ye have a great treasure of it, I pray what is it? What is that life which ye do so highly esteem? I will tell you saith he, it is even a vapour that appeareth: it hath rather an ap∣pearance than a being. It maketh some shew in the eyes of the world, but it is nothing in a manner; and that shew and appearance which it maketh, is but for a time, & when the time is gone, it is as if it had never been; it is all lost, man is never the better for it; for those things which are limited within the compass of time, and measured by a term of daies or years, both in respect of themselves Page 128 and their fruit, all the good of them weareth out with that time, and he that enjoyed them, is never the better for them, no more than if he had never had them. I speak of those things which in themselves and in their fruit are measured by time; for some things in re∣spect of themselves, and their continuance, are but for a time; but the fruit of them is everla∣sting to those that use them in an holy & san∣ctified manner, to those who receive the truth in love into honest and good hearts, in whom it becometh an immortal seed, enlivened and actuated with the Spirit of life and holiness; yea, there are some principal graces, which end with time in respect of themselves, but in respect of their fruit are everlasting, as Faith and Hope which cease with this life, but in their fruit are perpetua and immor∣tal. Nay, even many outward things in the possession of a Child of God, being sanctified to him, and improved by him to the glory of God, though they are mortal and temporal in themselves, yet they have an everlasting fruit; so that a Child of God that is rich in good works, may be the better for his wealth for ever. The Psalmist speaking of him that feareth the Lord, and delighteth greatly in his Commandements, speaketh of his wealth and riches, Psal. 112. 3. and ver. 9. of the Page 129 good use of them. He hath dispersed, he hath given to the poor: and then of the ever∣lasting fruit of wealth so employed with such an heart; he saith, His righteousness endureth for ever. So Matth. 6. 20 saith our Saviour: Lay up for your selves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break thorow, nor steal. But now to an unregenerate man, both his life it self, and all the good he enjoyeth in this life, and all the fruit of that life, and that good is temporal, and limited by time. All his pleasures, and prosperity, and all the fruit of these end with time; and so when the time is past, and these do him no good, he is never the better for them, no more than if he had •ever possessed them. Take two natural men living and dying in that estate; the one •ich, and the other a stark beggar: the rich man's case is not a jot better, when the time of this life is worn out, than the others; it may be worse because of his unthankfulness, and the abuse of his wealth. So take a na∣tural man that hath enjoyed abundance of pleasures, and another that hath scarce seen any good daies all his life long; if both of them live and die in their natural estate, they are both alike: the pleasures that the one hath had, do him no more good, than if he Page 130 had never had any more than the other: It may be they have encreased his condemna∣tion exceedingly. Now St. James saith, that life is but for a time, or rather it appear∣eth but for a time: so the pleasures of life are but for a time; nay, it followeth there, life appeareth but for a little time; and the pleasures of life are shorter than life; and therefore their time is less than life, and the• saith he, life vanisheth away, and the pleasures of life must needs vanish with it, 〈◊〉 they be gone before it, as many times 〈◊〉 are: for as ye see in the Text, a man may l•ve such years, whereof he may say and think, I have no pleasure in them: wherein he may say, in his heart, Alas! I breath yet, I keep above ground, I yet live, but I have out-lived all the comforts of my life, they are as it were dead and buried; I shall ne∣ver en•oy them any more: so that he can look back upon his former comforts and pro∣sperity with a sad heart, and weeping-eye, comparing it with his present sorrows, as 〈◊〉 did, as ye may read at large in the 29th. and 30th. Chapters of that Book. In the 29th he expresseth his former prosperity, in the 30th his present affliction. In Chap. 29. 2. 〈◊〉 saith▪ Oh that I were as in moneths past, as 〈◊〉 the daies wherein God preserved me; 〈◊〉Page 131 his candle shined upon mine head, and when by his light, I walked through darkness! So he goeth on. Even so man liveth to that day, when he can reckon up a great many com∣forts as so many los•es: things once enjoyed, now gone, and can compare them with ma∣ny crosses now lying upon them: for some∣times the Lord taketh away mens wealth, so that those who have lived plentifully, are brought to a poor and hard condition: some∣times their health, that men are afflicted with languishing or painful diseases, that their wealth doth them little good; they cannot enjoy it. Sometimes he leaveth them health and wealth, but taketh away those friends that are dearer to them than either: the loss of whom embitte•eth all those things that are left them. Sometimes he depriveth them of liberty, and these things come alike to all; sometimes he prolongeth their lives un∣to old age, and burtheneth their old age with so many infirmities and grievances, that their life is but a ling•ing death unto them. Some∣times he taketh away their sight, some∣times their hearing &c. and sometimes he leaveth them to the g•awings and gripings of a guilty conscience, not cleansed and washed by the blood of Christ. Thus many wayes, and in many respects ye see, that the Page 132 pleasures and prosperity of life may be made shorter than this short life it self.
II. IN the second place this should serve to wean us from the love of this world, and the things of this life, whether it be wealth, or pleasure, or wordly credit, or health or strength, or friends or children that we set our hearts upon, or take content in: how soon may all, or any of these be taken from us? or how soon may some such heavy blow from the hand of the Lord fall upon us, as may strike dead all the delight and comfort which we took in these? There∣fore as the Prophet saith, Isai. 2. 22. Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils, for wherein is he to be accounted of? Cease to put your trust, or place your content in man, whether men of high degree, or of low de∣gree, for he is a mortal creature, soon gone. When that fading flee•ing breath that issu∣eth in and out at his nostrils, is stopped by death, he is gone: and wherein is he to be ac∣counted of? What reckoning should be made of so frail a creature? So in this case I say, cease ye from the things of this life, for they have their breath in their nostrils (as it were) they are frail, short-lived comforts; and wherein are they to be accounted of? Here Page 133 then is Christian wisdom to have the heart crucified to these things when they are at best, and when a man hath most of them: then to die to the world, and to look upon the best things of the world, and the greatest outward comforts of this life as upon so ma∣ny dead things: to affect them, and make ac∣count of them as so many shadows and empty vanities to use them as dying things. I am crucified to the world (saith the Apostle) and the world is crucified to me. This is Chri∣stian wisdom when a man can so carry his af∣fections towards the greatest comforts of this life, as he would to a thing that is crucified, to a thing already nailed to the cross, and dying. It were a vain thing to take a few flowers and blossoms in the Spring, and to lock them up safe in a Cabinet, like so many precious Stones, or Pearls of great value, meaning to keep them many years: whereas if he look upon them the next week, he shall find them dead and withered, their beauty is gone. And is it not yet a far greater •olly to lock up the fading comforts of this life in that precious Cabinet of thy Heart and Soul, as as if they were everlasting treasures, as if they were some enduring substance? such a heart is poorly furnished. For an immortal Soul that must live for ever, to be stuffed and Page 134 filled with perishing trash, it is as if a rich Cabinet of Gold, beset with Pearls, should be fill'd with dust and dross; yea, it is far worse, such a soul is miserably furnished; when the Soul wherein Christ should dwell, the Sould which should be a Temple of the Holy Ghost, the Soul that should be stored and furnished with heavenly graces, shall be stuffed and filled with such rubbish and •rash as men gather from the dunghill of this world, with the things of this life, that are shorter than life it self. So St. Paul, 1 Cor. 7. 29, 3•, 31. This I say Brethren, the time is short, it remaineth, that both they that have Wives, be as though they had none: and they that weep, as though they wept not: and they that rejoyce, as though they rejoyced not: and they that buy, a• though they possessed not: and they that use this world, as not abusing it: for the fashion of this world passeth away. It is alwayes in fluxu, still in passage, ever flee•∣ing, going, vanishing. Therefore go not a∣bout to keep that in thine immortal Soul, which will not be kept, which will not abide with thee, but will suddenly be gone, and is already going, and sliding from thee: but we shall never be beaten from this, unless we take possession of better things, and lay hold 〈◊〉 the enduring s•bstance.