IN this Chapter the Wise man proceedeth to demonstrate this Vanity of youth and old age, which quickly run into Death, And then concludeth the whole Book.
He had before by an Emphatical Ironie, deterred Young men from those inordinate passions, and sensual pleasures, which that slippery age is most subject unto, and that by the Consideration of that dreadfull ac∣count which in the last Judgement God will require of them. And because that age of of all other is most apt to put the evil day far from them, and to look on Death and Judge∣ment as at a great distance, (as evil men use to do, Ezek. 12.27. 2 Pet. 3.3, 4. Amos 6.3.) therefore he doth by a Prolepsis pre∣vent that shift; Young men might be apt to say, the things you press us unto are good, but we shall have time enough before Judge∣ment come, to think of them, old age will be a fit season to draw off from the world, and to draw nigh to God. Solomon here perswades from so dangerous a Resolution, shewing the necessity of seeking and serving God in our youth, in regard old age will be very unfit to begin so great a work in.
Whereupon he sheweth, 1. The Vanity Page 375 of Old age, setting it forth by a large and an elegant Allegory, and by other expressions, Vers. 2 —6.
2. He presseth the same duty by another argument: from the approach of death, which taketh away all means of Repentance and conversion, vers. 7. And having thus by an Induction of many particulars shewed the Vanity both of the Creatures here be∣low, and of the Condition of man under the Sun, who, were they never so excellent, could not long enjoy them; He doth con∣clude the whole book, 1. With resuming his first conclusion, vers. 8. 2. By vindica∣ting the truth of his doctrine therein, and in other his Writings, by arguments; 1. From the Pen-man of them, His Piety, he was a penitent Convert; His wisdome: His fide∣lity in teaching the people: His diligence, in seeking out choyce matter to teach them: His success in composing many excellent and profitable Sentences for their furthe∣rance in Piety, Vertue, and Prudence, vers. 9.
2. From the Quality of the doctrine which he taught, which he commendeth, 1. Ab∣solutely, and for it self, in regard, 1. Of the pleasantness. 2. The uprightness. 3. The truth of it, vers. 10. 4. The Efficacy of it, set forth by two similitudes of goads, and of Page 376 nailes. 5. The Authority of it, 1. In re∣gard of the office of those who dispence it, they are Masters of the Assemblies. 2. In regard of the great Shepherd of the sheep, by whose Spirit it was revealed, vers. 11.
2. He commendeth it Comparatively, from the Vanity of all other studies and learning without this; All other Books are made without end or number, and read with∣out Satisfaction or Content; by these a man may be admonished; by others he can be onely wearied, vers. 12.
And having thus demonstrated the Do∣ctrine he had in this book delivered, he clo∣seth the whole with a most grave and solemn conclusion, containing, 1. A summary abridgment of the means of perfect Happi∣ness and Tranquility of mind, in two words, fear and obedience, fear of God in the heart, as the root; Obedience to his Will in the life, as the fruit of that holy fear, vers. 13.
2. A strong Motive thereunto drawn from the future Judgment, upon which and that final sentence of Absolution or Condemna∣tion then to be pronounced, the everlasting Happiness or Misery of Man standeth, vers. 14. He will bring every work to Judgment, therefore keep his Commandements: He will bring every secret thing to judgment, there∣fore Page 377fear him, and sanctifie him in your hearts.
Vers. 1. REmember now thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth, while the evil dayes come not, nor the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them] Remember] We are naturally apt to forget God, and not to retain him in our knowledg, but to live as it were without him, Psal. 10.4, 5. Ephes. 2.12. and this most of all, when Earthly and Sensual objects draw the heart with a stronger attraction; there∣fore the Wise man having disswaded young men from youthful lusts, doth here exhort them as a necessary means thereunto, to Re∣member their Creator, To set the Lord al∣wayes before their eyes, Psal. 16.8. to be in his fear all the day long, Prov. 23.17. To compose themselves unto his service, to keep in memory, to hold fast, to ponder, and stir up the thoughts of him, and desires towards him in their hearts, 1 Cor. 15.2. Tit. 1.9. Prov. 4.4. Luke 8.15. Deut. 11.18. Psal. 119.11. Luke 2.51. This Remembrance im∣ports love, desire, obedience, Verba noti∣tiae connotant affectus, Psal. 119.55. Isa. 26.8, 9.
We find Two Psalms amongst Davids, with this Inscription, To bring to Remem∣brance,Page 378 so careful was he not to forget the dealings of God with him, Psal. 38.1. & 70.1. for this purpose were Sacraments institu∣ted, Exod. 12.42. 1 Cor. 11.24. Feastivals ordained to keep alive the memory of mer∣cies, Esth. 9.27, 28. Stones and Monu∣ments erected for •he remembring of Gods goodnesse, Josh. 4.6, 7. the Law wr•tten on door-posts, fringes, frontlets, to be kept ever in mind, Deut. 6.7, 8, 9. for this purpose God hath appointed his Ordinances, and given his Spirit to his Church, to put them in remembrance, 2 Pet. 1.12. 1 Tim. 4.6. Joh. 14.26.
thy Creator] This word includeth many reasons, why God ought to be remembred and served by us.
1. He made us, and not we our selves, and we owe our service to him from whom we receive our Being, Psal. 100.2, 3. Remem∣ber he made all things for himself, we are of him, therefore we must live to him, Prov. 16.4. Isa. 43.21. Rom. 11.36. & 14.7, 8.
2. He made us after his own Image, to know him, and to have special interest in him, and acquaintance with him; and be∣ing made like him, we are the more obliged unto his service, Eph. 4.23, 24.
3. By that Power which created us, we are continually preserved; if he withdraw Page 379 it, we presently perish, In him we live, and move, and have our being. The more vigour and strength we have, the more sensible we should be of that Divine supportance, which continueth it unto us, Act. 17.27—30. Psal. 104.28, 29.
4. He who hath power to create, hath power to destroy; and he will shew the same Almighty power, in destroying those, who live not suteably to the ends of their Creati∣on, 1 Sam. 2.6, 8. 2 Thess. 1.9. This creating power of God, should teach us to fear him. Jer. 5.22.
in the dayes of thy youth] The choicest time of thy life, Lam. 3.27. Prov. 22.6. 2 Chron. 34.1, 2, 3. 2 Tim. 3.15. Psal. 119.9. therefore God required, that the first ripe fruits should be dedicated unto him, Exod. 23.19. and the first born, Exod. 22.29. And his sacrifices he would have to be young, Exod. 12.5. & 29.1. Lev. 4.3. We enjoy mercies in our youth, therefore we should do duty in our youth; we expect eternal life from God, therefore we should not withdraw any part of our temporal life from him. He requireth to be served with all our strength, therefore we may not put him off till our strength is gone.
before the evil dayes come, &c.] If thou Page 380 wilt have God to pity and help thee in thy evil dayes, thou must serve him in thy good dayes. The dayes of old age, are called evil dayes, aetas mala, in Plautus, because they bring many pains and troubles along with them: vitae hyems, the W•nter of our life, as Solon called it, nam res plurimas, pessimas cum advenit affert. As the dayes of youth are called, aetas bona, in Cicero, and aetas optima in Seneca: Because then nature is strong and vigorous, and doth most fully en∣joy it self. Thine old age will bring evils enough of its own, Do not thou bring upon it the bitterness and burden of all thy youth∣ful follies; repentance is a hard work, when thy sins are fewer, and thy strength greater: When infirmities bend thy back, do not keep thine iniquities to break it. Since the dayes of old age will be evil dayes, Lay up as many graces as thou canst to sweeten it, as many comforts as thou canst to strengthen thine heart against the evils of it. Gather, in Summer, against such a Winter as this, Prov. 10.5. That old age may not be to thee an evil age, but as it was to Abraham, a good old age, Gen. 25.8.
And the years wherein thou shalt say, I have no pleasure in them] This seems to be added, as an aggravation of the evil of those Page 381 evil dayes, that if they be lengthened into years, yet all that while a man can finde no matter of pleasure or content, whole years together shall be full of weariness and sor∣row. So Job complains of the length of his misery, that he possessed moneths of vanity, Job 7.3. and Ezekiah, Isai. 38.12, 13, 15. The very strength of the years of an old man, is all labour and sorrow, Psal. 90.10.
V. 2. While the Sun, or the light, or the Moon, or the Stars be not darkned: nor the clouds return after the rain] These words may be understood either Literally, or Allegori∣cally, as those that follow. Literally, the meaning is, That unto old men, by reason of the decay of their senses, even the lightest bodies seem to be darkned; they look upon the Sun at noon through the clouds and scales which are over their own eyes. And whereas it is a pleasant thing to behold the Sun, Chap. 11.7. this shall minister no de∣light at all unto them: Light is little worth unto a man that is in misery, Job 3.20, 23. Allegorically, It is by some understood so, as that the Sun, Moon, Stars, Light, may re∣fer unto some parts in man, signified there∣by; (as the other parts of the Allegory en∣suing do) and thus: First, the Chaldee Pa∣raphrase referreth it unto the face, and eyes; Page 382 Before the glory and beauty of thy face be changed, and the light of thine eyes be darkned, and the comeliness of thy cheeks be abated, and the Apples of thine eyes, the Stars of thy countenance be extinguished; and thine eye-lids drop down tears, as Clouds after rain. Secondly, others under∣stand it of the weakning of the inward vigour of the Soul, and rational faculties; Under∣standing, Perspicacy, Memory, Judgment, Fancy; all which in the nature of man, an∣swer to the coelestial Lights. Others, by Sun, Moon, Starrs, and Light, understand the various sorts and degrees of prosperity and joy, which men meet with in their younger years: and so the sense to be, Re∣member thy Creator in the dayes of thy youth, before those evil dayes come; wherein all thy light shall be turned into darknesse, all thy prosperity into sorrow, before greater and lesser comforts do all fail thee, and thy dayes and nights be full of trouble and dark∣ness, one calamity (like storms in the Win∣ter) coming upon the neck of another. Pro∣sperity is usually in Scripture compared unto the Sun, and to light, Judg. 5.31. 2 Sam. 23.4. and in greater prosperity, then usual the light of the Moon is said to be as the light of the Sun, and the light of the Sun se∣ven fold, Isai. 30.26. & 60.20. And on Page 383 the other side, when great afflictions, such as swallow up all former joy and content∣ments, come upon a man; the Scripture ex∣presseth it by the obscurity, blackness, and falling of the Sun, Moon and Stars, Isa. 13.9, 10, 11. & 24.20—23. & 34.3, 4. Jer. 4.23, 24. & 15.9. Ezek. 32.7, 8. Joel 2.10. & 3.15. Amos 8.9. Matth. 24.29. And this sense seemeth most genuine, as expres∣sing the reason, why the days of old age are evil days, and years wherein a man hath no pleasure, because, both day and night, the life of such a man is full of darknesse and trouble. Therefore mention is made of Sunne, and of Moon and Starrs, to note the incessant pains, aches, troubles, weaknesses which this age is afflicted with, Job. 7.4, 13, 14, 18, 19. Psal. 32.4.
nor the clouds return after rain] This like∣wise may be understood generally of the troubles of old age; in the former sense, to no•e the continual returns of them day and night. A proverbial speech, expressing the constant succession of one grief, pain, disease, calamity, after another; as when the Wether is set in to rain, one cloud is no sooner blown over, but another ucceeds and brings more rain. Velut unda supervenit undae. Others, understand it of the Catarrhs, and defluxions, which by reason of natural weaknesse, and Page 384 want of heat to concoct them, do still ascend from the stomack to the head, and from thence fall down upon the breast and lungs; so that the head is ever rainy, never serene.
The former sense seems most pertinent, because in this verse, is a general description of the miseries of old age, the particular spe∣cification whereof follows in the rest. For as Usurers, before the whole debt is paid, do fetch away some good parts of it for the loan: so before the debt of death be paid by the whole body, Old age doth by little and little take away sometimes one Sense, some∣times another; this year one Limb; the next another; and causeth a man, as it were, to dye daily. No Sun can dispel the clouds and sorrowes of old age, but Christ, who is the Sun of Righteousness, and the bright Morning Star, Mal. 4.2. Prov. 4.18. Rev. 22.16.
V. 3. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease, be∣cause they are few, and those that look out of the windows shall be darkned] The Body is here compared to an House, or Castle, so elsewhere called, Job. 4.19. 2 Cor. 5.1. 〈…〉watchmen and Keepers, to 〈…〉 being broken open. By these, Page 385 some understand the outward Senses, which observe any danger approaching, and give timely notice of it to have it prevented. Others, the inward Faculties of Memory, Wisdome, Providence, which take speciall care of the common safety. Others, and the most, The Hands and Arms, which are the principal instruments, which the Body useth in repelling any evil from it. Others, un∣derstand the Ribs, whereby the vital parts are fenced and hedged in, that danger may not easily come near them: As the expression is, Job 10.11. Though the Verb, Tremble, seem to carry the sense chiefly unto the Hands and Arms, which are more subject unto palsies, and shakings; yet it is not amiss to take in many of the other: The Head, the seat of the Senses, as the Watchman; the Arms, as the Souldiers in a Castle; the Ribs, as the Walls and Works which serve to de∣fend it: All which are much shaken and weakned in old age.
and the strong men shall bow themselves] The Leggs and Thighs, which were wont to carry the body upright, shall now falter and shrink under their weight, and buckle for feebleness, Isai. 35.3. Or, the Back, which is the strongest part of the body 〈◊〉 bear∣ing burdens, shall bow and stoop under Page 386 its own weight. Symmachus rendreth it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall perish, or be corrupted; the Septuagint, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall be per∣verted, shall, as it were, trip up and sup∣plant one the other with crooked and unstea∣dy motion. The old Wife in the Comedian, excused her slow and faltering pace, because she carried a very heavy burden, the weight of seventy four years. Cajetan understand∣eth it literally, when the strongest men that are do fail, and stoop through weakness.
and the grinders cease because they are few] Dentes molares, the great jaw-teeth, wherewith we grinde our meat, shall cease and be unable to work, because they are di∣minished and made few, or because they do diminish their grinding, being sluggish and dull, both for want of strength in themselves, and of appetite in the stomach.
and those that look out of the windows shall be darkned] The Vulgar, per foramina, through the holes; as Zach. 14.12. It is else∣where rendred, Windows, 2 Reg. 7.19. Isai. 60.8. Gen. 8.2. So it is understood of the dimness of the eyes in old men, Gen. 27.1. & 48.10. Solomon Glassius in his Rhe∣torica Sacra, by Windowes understandeth Spectacles, which for weakness of sight, aged men are necessitated to use: Cajetan apply∣eth Page 387 it to all the Senses; and by foramina, understandeth the holes of the Ears, Nose, Mouth, as well as of the Eyes. All these for want of vital spirits, being blunted and dulled in their exercise. But the words [looking out] and [darkned] plainly limit the meaning unto the sight onely, which through the want of spirits, dryness, and ineptitude of the Organes, hardness of the membranes, defluxion of humours, and other inconveni∣ences, is much weakned in aged men. So that it is noted as a strange thing in Moses, that when he was a hundred and twenty years old his eye was not dim, nor his natu∣ral force abated, Deut. 34.7. and the like we read of Caleb, Josh. 14.10, 11.
By these Infirmities, we should be taught, in our younger years, to provide and lay in comforts against them, and not to trust in the strength of our own Arms, which are so easi∣ly broken, but to make the Lord our Arm, and his Right hand our Keeper, whose Arms are everlasting, Isa. 33.2. Deut. 33.27. Psal. 121.5. Not to rest upon our own bottom, nor stay onely upon our own strength, by which no man shall be established, 1 Sam. 2.9. but to make the Lord our stay and sup∣port, in whom there is everlasting strength: He is eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame, he giveth power to the faint, and to them Page 368 that have no might, he increaseth strength, Psal. 18.18. Isai. 26.4. & 40.29. & 41.10. Psal. 145.14.
V. 4. And the doors shall be shu• in the streets, when the sound of the grinding is low, and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird, and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low] Various interpretations are gi∣ven of these particulars. Some understand the first clause, literally, The doors of the house, by which he was wont to go into the streets, to visit his friends, to walk up and down about his business, shall be now shut up; He shall, by reason of his many infirmities, keep within doors, and abstain from all publick meetings, wherein, in his younger years, he was wont greatly to delight. Others, refer it allegorically to the Body, here compared to an House, the doors whereof towards the street, are, in old age, shut up, and made useless. Whereby many things are under∣stood, First, The two Lips, which are the doors of the mouth outwardly, Psal. 141.3. The word is in the dual number. Or, The Mouth, which is the door of the heart: This may be applyed, both unto eating, and unto speech, unto the Oesophagus, and the Arteria, the passages for the meat to go down to the stomach, and for the breath to go to the Page 389 lungs, called fistula cibaria, and fistula spi∣ritalis. These pipes are haply here compa∣red unto the street, or passage down into se∣veral parts within the body, which have doors or covers, that open one way, and shut an∣other way when we eat and drink, that our food may go right to the stomach, and not away to the lungs. These doors in old age are, through weakness, shut up, and as it were off from their hinges, do not so pliant∣ly and readily do their proper office, as they were wont to do. Whence difficulty of swallowing, and difficulty of speaking; unto which two, most of the interpretations of this place may be referred. Some by these two d••rs, understand the Eye-lids, when they are weak, and hang down over the eyes. Others, All the Senses, which are the out∣ward doors, by which objects enter, and are admitted to the Soul. All which, in old age, are so weakned, and unuseful, that they do very little service.
The next Clause, seems most to favour that sense, which, by Doors, understands the passages of the meat down into the stomach, and of the voice from the lungs, unto both which uses, the Teeth are greatly subser∣vient.
when the sound of the grinding is low] This some apply unto Hearing, when that growe Page 390 weak. Others, unto the Concoction of the stomach, when that is decayed: but the most probable interpretation, is that which applies it to the Teeth, which being few, and weak, cannot readily crush and break harder meats, and so make a lesser sound in eating, then young men do; frangendus misero gingiva panis inermi. When the Teeth are gone, the lips are compressed, the mouth falls down, the organs of feeding and speaking are much disabled. They who take the for∣mer clauses literally, joyn the senses thus to∣gether, Old men stay within doores, and walk little abroad, because the weakness of their appetite and digestion doth cause them to eat little, whereby their strength is much abated, neither do they for this reason care to go to feasts, or merry meetings, all desires and delights being in them wholly decayed and broken.
and he shall rise up at the voice of the bird] At the chirping or singing of any little bird] An expression of the little sleep which old men have, by reason of the coldness of the stomach, and difficulty of Concoction, send∣ing up fewer vapours to the brain, or lesse benigne, so that they are easily awakened with every little noise. It may also be un∣derstood of his weariness to lye long in his bed, by reason of leannesse and aches, so that Page 391 he is willing to rise as early as the birds leave their nests.
and all the daughters of musick shall be brought low.] By daughters of musick, we may understand, First, Some organs of the body tending unto musick, either to sing our selves, as the arterie for speaking, those fibra vocales which are bended and inflected in singing; or the ear which judgeth of sounds, as the palate of meats, when we hear others sing; or secondly, All kind of musical con∣sort and harmony, vocal or instrumental, which young men greatly delight in, as So∣lomon did, Eccl. 2.8. but to old men are little delightful, they can neither sing them∣selves, nor are greatly pleased with the mu∣sick of others, 2 Sam. 19.34, 35. By these defects we are instructed in the daies of our youth, to open all the doors of our heart to let Christ in, that in old age he may be with us, and when our appetite faileth us, he may sup with us, Rev. 3.20. and when our sleep faileth us, he may give us rest; and when all other delights are worn out, a good consci∣ence may be a continual feast, Prov. 15.15▪ and may give songs in the night, Job 35.10. Eph. 5.19.
V. 5. Also when they shall be afraid of that which is High, and fears shall be in the Page 392 way, and the Almond-tree shall flourish, and the grashopper shall be a burden, and desire shall fail; because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets.] These are further degrees of the infirmities of old age when it grows now more decrepit, and neer unto the grave.
Also when they shall be afraid of that which is High] Either to go up to any high place, for fear of weariness, or want of breath, or giddiness of brain, or disability to hold out, or danger of falling from it; or lest any thing that is over them should fall down upon them and hurt them.
and fears shall be in the way] They shall go slowly and timorously, lest they stumble at every stone or little bunch that is before them, lest they be thrust, and bruized by any that pass by them, lest weariness, sickness, or some other infirmity come upon them, and hinder them in their Journey, lest any thing run against them, and cast them down, no way is so smooth and easie, wherein there will not be something to afright them.
and the Almond-tree shall flourish,] This some take literally, when the Almond flou∣risheth, in the beginning of the spring, when the grashopper is fat in the middle of the Summer, then shall the desires and delights (which in those seasons young men were Page 393 wont to take) fail them, they shall find no pleasure in the most beautiful seasons of the year. And so they make the spring to be de∣scribed by the flowring of the Almond-tree, which doth first bring forth blossoms, Jer. 1.11. and the Summer, by the fatness of the grashopper, which then is most busie. Others understand it of Aversation from sensual de∣sires, and from pleasant fruits, as we find in Vatablus and Caietan, Omnis Cibus suavis reprobabitur: flocci faciet coitum ob multam debilitatem. But he seemeth to carry on the Allegory, and to compare the speed which old age makes to overtake a man, unto the Almond-tree, which thrusts out her blossoms before any other tree. And as the flowers of the Almond are evident fore-runners of ap∣proaching Summer, so is old age of death, The most agreed sense is, of Gray hairs, which are here compared to the white flow∣ers of an Almond-tree, and are called flores Caemiterii. So 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, in Sophocles, a white hoary head.
and the grashopper shall be a burthen] The lightest hop of so little a creature shall be burthensome to him, he is impatient of any the smallest weight. Allegorically may be understood, either the bowing down of his Page 394 back, and the sticking out of the vertebrae and bones thereof, which shall be a heavy weight unto him. Or, the legs which in a young man were as nimble as the legs of a grashopper, shall now be heavy and swell'd with gowts and evil humours, so the Chaldee Paraphrase, the former sense is most gene∣ral.
And Desire shall fail] The Desires of meat, drink, marriage, other pleasures, whatever is delightful to the eyes, ears, pa∣late, other senses, shall all fail: A man shall abhor those things which in youth his nature did greatly incline unto. Symmachus rendreth 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall be dissolved, so some under∣stand it of the mutual Confederation be∣tween the soul and the body which will be loosned and broken. The Septuagint read it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; which word the Vulgar Latin retaineth, being a shrub, whose fruit, Galen saith, is good for a weak appe∣tite; and Avicen, ad irritandam Venerem: consonant whereunto is the Chaldee Para∣phrase. Athenaeus numbreth Capparis a∣mongst other hot and salacious herbs.
Because man goeth to his long home] Ad Dom•m Mundi sui, hic enim mundus non est Page 395 suus. So Caietan wittily, though imperti∣nently, Domus Saeculi, The Long Home is the Grave, whence men are never more to return into this world any more. It is called a mans own and proper house, Isa. 14.18. They promise themselves Houses for ever here, Ps. 49.12. but they have no abiding home but in the grave, Job 7.10. The bo∣dy is domus pernoctavionis, but the Grave Domus aeternitatis.
and the mourners go about the streets.] Accompany the Herse unto the Grave, Jer. 9.17. Or his friends that visit him, go from him mourning, and expecting his funeral. So we read of wailing in all Streets, Amos, 5.16. Those hired mourners who with mu∣sick were wont to praise the party deceased, (whereunto alludeth the Evangelist, Matth. 9.23.) we read of in Varro, lib. 6. de lin∣gua latin. vid. Scalig. ib.
Now from these Infirmities we may be instructed to take care, that amidst our own fears we may be guarded by Angels, and led in our way, and upheld by the Lords right hand, who hath promised to give his Angels a charge to keep us in our waies, and to make his way plain before our eyes, that we may Page 396 have plain paths for our feet to walk in, and every high thing may be taken down, Ps. 34.7. Gen. 48.16. Ps. 91.11. Ps. 37.24. Prov. 15.19. Ps. 27.11. Ps. 5.8. Heb. 12.13. Isa. 40.4. Luke 3.4, 5, 6. 2 Cor. 10.5. to be trees of Righteousness, and then we shall bring forth fruit, and flourish in old age, Ps. 92.12, 13, 14. When we can bear no burthen our selves, If the Lord be ours, we may cast all our burthens on him who careth for us, and will sustain us, Ps. 55.22. And when All other desires fail, Let us labour to be in such a preparation for death, as that we may say with Old Simeon, Lord now letrest thou thy servant depart in peace; and with Paul, I desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is best of all, Phil. 1.23. And since the grave is our longest home, let our greatest care be to have that a House of Rest and of Hope unto us; Christ by his lying in it hath sweetned it unto Believers. Lastly, let us so live, as that we may dye without fear, and they who bewail us, may not mourn as they who have no Hope, 1 Thess. 4.13.
V. 6. Or ever the silver Cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the Cistern.] Some understand this verse li∣terally.Page 397 1. Of the ornaments. 2. Of the more needful instruments of life, whether they be more obvious and easie to come by, as to draw water out of a Fountain with a pitcher; or more remote, which are not gotten without labour and cost, as the draw∣ing of water out of a deep Well with a wheel and a chain. And so the meaning runs thus, Remember thy Creator in the daies of thy Youth, before God strip thee of thine orna∣ments wherein thou now rejoycest, Thy plate, chains, rings, jewels, bracelets, which will then be too heavy for thee to wear, nec sufferre potes majoris pondera g•mmae: 2. Before he spoyl thee of the other Helps and Commodities of life, and make both thine extraordinary ornaments, and thine ordinary utensils all useless unto thee: or haply in this sense the former clause may relate unto rich men, Let not thy silver and gold bewitch thee: the later unto meaner men, Let not thy pitcher and thy wheel take thee off from minding the things of another and a better life. Others carry on the Allegory, making these things figurative and elegant expressi∣ons of death, and of those evils which im∣mediately forego it, to wit, the dissolution of those parts which are most vital: for death, as in the storming or battering of a Page 398 Garrison, doth first break and weaken the out-works, the bodily limbs, and outward senses, and and after that sets upon the in-works, and the Vitals. He here compareth Life unto a Fountain, or Well, out of which men draw water with a Cord, a bowl, or bucket, a pitcher, and a wheel. And as when these are broken we can draw water no more, so when the Vital parts are decayed, there is no hope longer to draw life into the body which is the Cistern. This Life he compares, for the pretiousness of it, unto silver and gold, for the weakness and fragility of it, unto a pitcher, and for the in∣••ability and unsetledness of it, unto a wheel.
Now besides this general proportion be∣tween life and these things as the figures of it, Interpreters do make the particulars here mentioned to answer unto some particulars in the vital parts of the body.
1. By the silver Cord, they understand the marrow or pith of the back, continued from the brain as it were in a cord or string unto the bottom of the back-bones, and for the white colour of it, compared unto silver. It may also be applyed unto all the other Sinews and Ligaments of the body, which from the head, Page 399 as the Fountain, convey sense and motion upon the other parts. Hereby also may not unfitly be understood the chain and sweet harmony of the Elements and humors in the body, which being preserved in its due pro∣portion, the body doth receive life from the Soul which is the Spring thereof, but being once dissolved, life presently faileth.
2. By the Golden bowl, they understand the Meninx or skin wherein the brain and vital powers thereof are contained as in a bowl. Others understand the blood which is in the heart, as in the pretious Fountain of life. Schindler rendreth it, Scaturigo Auri or aurea, & would have us thereby to under∣stand the Law of God, which is compared unto Gold: but the word is elsewhere used to signifie a vessel, Zach. 4.2, 3.
3. By the fountain, we may understand those principal parts from whence vital sup∣plyes are drawn into the body, as from the Head, Sense, and motion; from the Heart, spirits, and heat; from the liver, blood.
4. By the pitch•r, and the wheel, those In∣strumental and subservient parts, which from these convey those supplyes into the several Page 400 vessels of the body, as into a Cistern, as the veins blood from the Liver, the arteries spi∣rits from the heart, the Sinews motion and sense from the brain. By all which we should learn to draw water of life out of the Wells of Salvation, that out of our belly may flow rivers of living water, through the con∣tinual supplyes of the Spirit of grace, that all our springs may be in Christ, and our life hidden with him in God, Isa. 14.3. & 66.11, 12. Zach. 13. 1. John 4.14. & 7.38, 39.
In the second Chapter Solomon had shewed us, The many choice varieties of pleasure, riches, and other excellent out∣ward blessings, in which he had sought for contentment: and in this Chapter he hath in a most elegant Allegory shewed us how quickly old age doth break them all, and take away the comfort of them.
V. 7. Then shall the Dust return to the Earth, as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.] The Dust, that is, The body, to shew the Original of it, Gen. 2.7. The weakness of it, dust is the weakest part of earth, Ps. 103.14. The baseness and vileness of it, Job 4.19. Phil. 3.21. Gen. 18.17. Job 30.19. Our Original from the Page 401 dust, Our Return unto the dust, should humble us, and make us vile in our own eyes, and should warn us to make haste to secure a better life before this be ended, and not to put off the endeavours towards it unto old age, which haply we may never attain unto, and if we do, will bring it self work enough for us to do. Death is swift, and uncertain: Sin, the longer lived in, doth the more har∣den: Repentance is not in our Call or com∣mand when we please: and it is a work of the whole man, and the vvhole life: The vvork deferred vvill be greater, the time to do it in vvill be shorter, the strength to do it by vvill be less, bodily infirmities vvill dis∣able spiritual actions. God vvill have less honour and service from us, and vve shall have more sorrovv, and less comfort. There∣fore remember thy Creator, before the Dust return to the Earth vvhence it came.
And the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.] The Soul is called a Spirit, to note the Immaterial substance of it, and its original, It came from him who is the Fa∣ther of Spirits, Heb. 12.9. Gen. 2.7.
shall return unto God that gave it] Ut stet Iudicio ante Deum? That it may appear before his Tribunal to be judged: as the Chaldee well paraphraseth the place. As Page 402 certainly as the body goes unto the dust, so certainly the Soul returneth unto God to be judged. The godly are translated into Pa∣radise, into Abrahams bosome, into the con∣dition of Just men made perfect, Luke 16.22. and 23.34. Heb. 12.23. The wicked into the prison of disobedient spirits, reser∣ved there in Hell unto the Judgement of the great day, Luke 16.23. 1 Pet. 3.19.
V. 8. Vanity of Vanities, saith the Preacher: All is Vanity.] As Mathema∣ticians having made their demonstration, do then resume their principal conclusion with a quod erat demonstrandum: so here the Wise man having made a large and distinct demonstration, That the Happiness of man doth not stand in Any, or in All the Con∣tents which the World can afford, both in re∣gard of their disproportion unto him, and their discontinuance with him, He doth hereby conclude his discourse, 1. With a confident affirming what he had in the be∣ginning undertaken to prove.
2. With a strong and solid vindication thereof from any Cavils which might yet arise in the minds of men against it.
3. With a positive Conclusion containing the sum of the whole Book, and the right Page 403 means unto true Happiness indeed.
V. 9. And moreover, because the Preach∣er was wise, he still taught the people know∣ledge: yea he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many Proverbs. V. 10. The Preacher sought to find out Acceptable words; and that which was written was upright, even words of truth.] Here Solomon commen∣deth the doctrine taught in this Book.
1. Because it was the doctrine of a peni∣tent Convert: for Repentance is an excel∣lent means to discern and acknowledge spi∣ritual truth, 2 Tim. 2.25. James 1.21.
2. Because he was indued with wisdome from God, so that they came and sent from remote Countreys to hear him, 1 Reg. 4.30, 31.
3. He used this wisdome aright, he did not hide his talent in a napkin, but being taught of God himself, he also taught the people; and being converted himself, he sought to convert others, and hereby shewed himself to be wise, and a penitent indeed, Ps. 51.12, 13. John 4, 28, 29. Joh. 1.41, 45. Luke 2.17. & 24.33, 34, 35. Prov. 11.30.
4. Because he was exceeding considerate in the doctrine he taught, he gave good heed unto it, and weighed it in the ballance of Page 404 wisdome. He was exceeding diligent to learn of others, and to study himself. He was very perspicacious and judicious, to se∣lect choice matter to teach the people, 1 Pet. 1.10.
5. Because he had been exceeding suc∣cesful in that disquisition, and had composed many excellent and wise parables for in∣struction in piety, vertue, and prudence, 1 Reg. 4.32.
Whereupon he doth, sixthly, commend the doctrine he taught from the nature and quality of it, 1. They were Verba desiderii, pleasant, delightful, acceptable words, such as would be worthy of all entertainment, and minister solid comfort and refreshment to the hearers, Psal. 19.10. 1 Tim. 1.13.
2. They were Verba Rectitudinis, equal and right words, not loose, fabulous, amorous, impertinent, which should satisfie the itch of the ear, or tickle only a wanton fancy; but they were profitable and wholsome words; he did so seek to please men, as that it might be unto edification, and for their pro∣fit, 1 Cor. 10.33. 2 Tim. 3.16. words written to make men sound and upright, Prov. 8.8. to make their paths direct and straight, without falsen•sse or hypocrisie.
Page 4053. They were Verba veritatis, words of truth and infallible certainty, which would not deceive or misguide those that should yield up themselves to the direction of them, Psal. 19.9. Joh. 17.17. A truth which is sanctifying and saving, Ephes. 1.13. and in these respects most worthy of our Atten∣tion and belief. Many other books Solo∣mon wrote, besides those which we now have mentioned, 1 Reg. 4.32, 33. 2 Chron. 35.4. See Josephus Antiquit. lib. 8. cap. 2. Pineda de Rebus Solomonis, lib. 3. Six∣tus Senensis Biblioth, lib. 2.
V. 11. The words of the wise are as goads, and as nailes fastened by the Masters of As∣semblies, which are given from one shepherd.] Before, he shewed the Internal Quality of the doctrine taught in the Church; here, he sheweth the use, vertue, Efficacy and Au∣thority thereof, and that by Two excellent Similitudes.
First, Of Goades, sententious and concise parables and wise Sayings, have a notable a∣•umen in them to stirre up the heart unto at∣tention, and to urge our sluggish affections forward unto obedience, as the goad quick∣ens the Oxe unto labour. This is the nature of sound and spiritual doctrine, it Page 406 searcheth, pricketh, and extimulateth the hearers of it unto Duty, doth not flatter any in their sins, or security, but rouzeth them up, and awakeneth them, Psal. 45 5. Isa. 49.2. Act. 2.37. Heb. 4.12. Shamgar with an Oxe goad slew sixe hundred Phili∣stines, Judg. 3.31. Such is the power of the word to mortifie our lusts and corrupti∣on.
Secondly, Of nayles or stakes, by which we are fastened and confirmed in our duties; a Metaphor either from Smiths and Carpen∣ters, who fasten their work together with nailes; or from Shepherds, who fasten their hurdles and sheep-pens together with stakes fixed in the ground, as likewise Tents were wont with cords and pins or stakes to be pit∣ched, Isa. 33.20. & 54.2. Isa. 22.23. else∣where the word is compared unto an Ham∣mer, where•y these nailes are thus fastened, Jer 23.20.
fastened by the masters of Assemblies] Or, planted and fixed; so the Apostle compa∣reth preaching unto planting, 1 Cor. 3.6. and the Word is called 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, an implanted, or ingrafted word, James 1.21. Some read the words thus, The words of the wise are as goades, and as nayles fastned, They are the Masters of Collections, or the Page 407 choycest and most principal Collections, un∣to which no other writing is to be compa∣red, unto which all other learning is to be an handmaid, to wait upon it, & to be subservient unto it: & thus they are a further commenda∣tion of the Scripture, from the excellency and preeminency of them above all other writings. Others thus; As goads, and as nails fixed, qui∣bus fiunt Coagmentationes or Collections, so that the nails are the Masters of the Collections, according to the former sense; They who for∣sake the Word, have scatter'd, broken, dis∣joynted, discomposed minds and affections; But the Word is of a knitting, and uniting vertue, Ephes. 4.12.13, 14, 15, 16. Col. 2.19. Others, by this expression, understand those who did collect the doctrine of the Holy men of God, and compose them in brief Summaries for the use of the Church: such as were the servants of Hezekiah, Prov. 25.1. like unto that Colledg of wise and learned men, whom Justinian the Emperour imployed in gathering into one Body or Pan∣dect the Abridgment of the civil Laws: and likewise those Doctors and Pastours of the Church, whose work it is to fasten these nails in the hearts of the people by their Ministery; as Peter did in theirs to whom he preached, Act. 21.37. These are all very sound & mutual consistent senses, which for substance agree Page 408 in one end to shew the efficacy of the word. The Authority whereof is confirmed by the next clause,
Which are given from one Shepherd] Though the Collectors, Expounders, & publishers of the word be many, some Prophets, some Apo∣stles, some Evangelists, some Pastors & Tea∣chers; yet the word it self hath its original from One principal Shepherd, the great Shep∣herd of the sheep, and Master of the house, He by his Spirit inspired it, and by the same Spirit assisteth his Ministers in the dispensa∣tion of it; It is he that speaketh in them & by them, so long as they keep to their commissi∣on, and deliver nothing to the people but the counsel of God, and that which they have first received. Christ is here, as elsewhere, called a Shepheard, in pursuance of the Me∣taphor of goads and stakes, whereby herdsmen drive their oxen, and shepherds pitch their caules, John. 10.11. Heb. 13.20. 1 Pet. 5.4. Hereby then is noted, The Divine Authority of the holy Scriptures delivered by Inspirati∣on unto the Pen-man thereof for the use of Church. The Spirit of Christ being in those that wrote them, 1 Pet. 1.11. 2 Pet. 1.21▪ 2 Tim. 3.16. 2 Cor. 13.3. Heb. 1.1, 2. & 2▪ 3, 4. & 12.25. And also the duty of Pastors, to deliver nothing to the sheep of Christ, but that which is his, and which cometh from Page 409 himself, Jer. 23.22. Isai. 21.10. 1 Reg. 22.14. Ezek. 2.7. Acts 5.20. & 20.27. 1 Cor. Ezek. 3.4. 1 Pet. 4.11. 1 Joh. 1.1.
V. 12. And further, by these, my sonne, be admonished: of making many books there is no end, and much study is a wearinesse of the flesh] And further, The Learned do by this word, joyn this verse unto the three former, as an inference from them. And some render it thus. Quod reliqum est, that which remains as is the result of all this inquiry is this, That since the Preacher was wise and faithful, to seek out such acceptable words, words of truth, consonant to the doctrine of other wise men, effectual, as goads and nails, deliver∣ed from the great and chief shepherd of the flock: That I say which hereupon remains is this, That thou my son be admonished by these words. Others begin the ninth Verse thus, And rather, because the Preacher was wise, &c. and then here repeat it, And ra∣ther, I say, by these be admonished, rather by these doctrines of mine, then by any other humane and vain writings. Amplius his, cave, quaeras, so Vatablus: and quod plus est istis, cave ab isto; so Cajetan. Whatever others say, If they speak not according unto these words, there is no wisdom in them, and therefore no heed to be given unto them, Isa. 8.20. These are the most excellent Page 410 Monitors thou canst have; from these thou maist most richly be informed, and warned how to live, Psal. 19.11.
of making many books there is no end, &c.] An argument to enforce the exhortation, from the fruitlessness and vanity of other studies.
First, There is no end of writing them; one refutes what another wrote, another vin∣dicates what his adversary disliked. If hap∣piness were to be sought for in humane wri∣tings; The Volums are so infinite, the opi∣nions so endless and various, that it would be impossible for any man to find it out of them; when a man had with much curiosity, and continual reading, wearied himself, and pined his flesh away, he would find it all an unprofitable, and impertinent labour, weari∣ness to the body, without any satisfaction to the mind. Therefore let these words, so few, and yet so full, be thy counsellors: He that will not be admonished by those, shall never be satisfied with any others: He that refuseth the Wheat, will be but choaked with the Chaff. Well may we say unto this one Shepherd, as Peter did, Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life, Joh. 6.68. These only are the Wri∣tings which make us wise unto salvation, and do furnish us throughly unto all good works, 2 Tim. 3.15, 17. others are usefull in Page 411 their order: These only are the Rule of faith and life.
V. 13. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter; Fear God and keep his com∣mandements: for this is the whole duty of a man] Or, the whole end of the matter, or the Summe and substance of the whole mat∣ter is heard; The discourse of mans happi∣ness, which in this Book I have undertaken, is at an end, no more need be said of it; The summe of all is comprized in these two words, Fear God, keep his Commandements; this is all man needs, to lead an happy life.
Let us hear the conclusion of the whole mat∣ter] This is an Exordium to stir up atten∣tion; I will in two words give you an A∣bridgement of all that can be said; there∣fore take special heed to remember them. The Verse begins with a great Letter in the Original, which is as Buxtorf, in his Tiberius notes, to excite the more heed and attention, the whole sum of the duty of man, being con∣tained in this short saying, wherein he ob∣serveth the right order; for first, he begins with the internal root of all obedience and worship, which is, a filial, reverend, awful, and loving fear of God and his goodness in Page 412 the heart, Hos. 3.5. Prov. 1.7. Second∣ly, He proceedeth unto the fruit, which groweth out of this root of filial fear & love, shed abroad in the heart, which is an equal, uniform, constant, universal observing of his Commandements; of all of them with∣out partiality; of all of them, as his, in obe∣dience to his authority, in the acknow∣ledgement of His Holiness in them, and of his Dominion and Soveraignty over us: keep His Commandements out of fear to displease him; out of conscience to approve your selves unto him; out of care to bring glory to his Name, to testifie your thank∣fulness for his mercies, and your conformity to his Will.
Thus to fear God, and to keep his Com∣mandements, is the whole of man; About this should he spend all the strength of his thoughts and cares; This is the summe of all, which man can, after all his writing, reading, studying, inquiring, in order unto happiness, attain unto; This is the whole happiness of man, or, all the means which man can use to come unto happiness at the last: This is the basis, and bottom of all that perfection which man is capable of; It is the whole duty of man, and the duty of all men that will be happy, Job 28.28.
Page 413This necessarily, takes in the Doctrine of faith in Christ, because without him we can do nothing; by faith in him, the heart is purified to fear and love God; and by that fear and love, it is inclined to obey his Com∣mandements, 1 Joh. 3.5. Joh. 14.22.
V. 14. For God shall bring every work into judgement, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil] This is a strong motive unto fear and obedience: If the Excellency of the Doctrine do not perswade, let the Terrour of Gods Judge∣ment drive unto duty, Because he hath appointed a day wherein he will judge the world in righteousness, Act. 17.31. 2 Cor. 5.9, 10. Rom. 2.16. & 14.10.
with every secret thing] It is the day of the Revelation of Gods righteous Judge∣ment. Hypocrisie shall be disclosed, Sin∣cerity shall be rewarded, because nothing is hidden from him, Heb. 4.13. All other things are vain, but it is not vain to fear the Lord. They that do good, their works will follow them into Heaven; and they that do evil, their works will hunt and pursue them into Hell.