IN this Chapter we have, 1. The Inscrip∣tion of the whole Book, ver. 1. wherein the Author thereof is described by his Natu∣ral Relation, the son of David; His Civil Relation, King in Ierusalem; and his Church-Relation, a Preacher; or a Penitent Soul, returning into the bosome of the Church, from whence by many gross miscarriages he had secluded himself. 2. A general Pro∣position, setting forth the utter insufficiency of all things under the Sun to make a man Blessed, and the extream vanity which is in them, in relation unto such an End, (how∣ever otherwise useful and benef•cial they may be, within their own sphere, when san∣ctified, to sweeten and comfort the life of a man, who hath placed his Happiness in God:) insomuch, that all the labour which is taken to extract happiness from the Crea∣ture, will be wholly fruitless, and without Page 7 any profit at all, vers. 2, 3. 3. The proof of this general Proposition;
1. By mans mortality, whereby he is quickly removed from the fruition of them; whereas that which makes a man happy ought for ever to abide with him, vers. 4.
2. By the Instability of all other Crea∣tures, They come and presently they go, and are never in a fixed condition: If come∣ing, they make happy; then departing, they leave miserable again. By which imstabi∣lity of the creatures, being themselves con∣tinually unsatisfied, is implyed, 1. Their weaknesse to minister satisfaction to so noble a creature as man, vers. 5, 6, 7. 2. The rest∣lesse and fruitlesse Labour which is taken in seeking satisfaction f•om things which only affect the sences, since the Eye is not satis∣fied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, vers. 8.
3. By the continual Vicissitudes and re∣turns of the same things, which having failed once, yea often before, are never likely to afford further supplyes, then already they have done (which indeed are none) towards the happinesse of a man. And therefore ex∣cept they can minister some new matter •f satisfact•on to the soul, which was never found in them before, and which indeed they will never do; impossible it is, but the Page 8 same disappointment which others have met with, must likewise befall those, who shall from the same things seek for that, which the wisest of men heretofore were never able to extract from them, vers. 9, 10, 11.
4. By Solomons own experience, who by the dignity of his place, by t•e inclina∣tion of his heart, by the greatness of his wis∣dome and learning, and by the abundance of his wealth, was able to go as far as any other man could in this enquiry after true happi∣nesse; and when he had set himself to make a most Critical and Accurate search into all things here below, doth conclude of them all in general, and of the most excellent of them all in particular, namely of wisdome and knowledge, That they are not onely Vanity, and so unable to satisfie the Soul, but are further Vexation of spirit, as cau∣sing much grief and sorrow to that heart which is immoderately conversant about them.
Vers. 1. THe words of the Preacher, the son of David, King in Ierusalem.] These words are the Inscri∣ption of th•s Book, setting down the Au∣thor thereof by his Parentage, dignity, and design in this writing. The Author is pre∣fixed, Page 9 as owning and avowing the doctrine therein contained: His dignity is added, to set on the drift and scope of the Book the better. A King. Such a King, the son of David, so piously educated, 1 Reg. 2.2, 3. 1 Chron. 28.9. Prov. 31.1. so solemn∣ly by God selected and separated to that Honour, 2 Sam. 7.12—15. 2 Chron. 1.1. so admirably endowed with inward wis∣dome, whereby he was fitted, as in special for the work of Government, 1 Reg. 3.12, 28. so likewise for all natural and moral in∣quiries, 1 Reg. 10.3. 1 Reg. 4.29—34. So rightly furnished with all outward means to further such an inquiry, 2 Chron. 9.22. so fixed and wholly taken up with it, some∣times vitiously taking his fill of outward pleasures, 1 Reg. 11.1. sometimes critical∣ly, purposely setting himself to extract the quintessence of all sublunary perfections, Eccles. 1.17. and lastly, being instructed by God, an inspired person, and called out to publish this as a Preacher of so necessary a truth to Gods people; In all these respects, there is much Authority added to what the Wise man delivers in this Book, and he do•• hereby excite the attention of the people thereunto, as unto the words of a penitent Convert, and of a wise, holy, and potent Prince.
Page 10The words of the Preacher] Some read it as a proper name, the words of Koheleth son of David, and so would have it to be one of the names of Solomon, as Jedidiah, 2 Sam. 12.25. Lemuel, Prov. 31.1. It is usually out of the Greek rendred Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher: as if Solomon had publickly de∣livered it to the Congregation, (as we find sometimes Kings and extraordinary persons have spoken to the people in their Church assemblies, 1 Reg. 8.1.12.) But it seem∣eth chiefly to signifie Solomons repentance, and re-uniting himself to the congregation of Gods people, from whence by his idolatries and other apostasies he had departed: and so the sense is, The words of the soul, or per∣son congregated or gathered unto the Church, or congregation of Saints, Ps. 89.6. viz. of the son of David, King in Jerusalem. Some were not to be admitted into the con∣gregation at all, Deut. 23.3. Nehem. 13.1. and others by idolatry and apostacy, did shut out themselves from the assemblies of the Saints, by joyning themselves to other gods. Now here Solomon doth by solemn and se∣rious repentance return into the bosome of that congregation, from which by his idola∣try he had departed, and turned his heart from the Lord God of Israel, 1 King. 11.9. And doth therein, and thereunto declare the Page 11 vanity of all other waies, save only the fear and worship of the Lord, unto true happiness. And herein he imitateth his father David, whose name is haply here for that cause men∣tioned, that as David being converted did publish his repentance unto the Church, in that solemn penitential Psalm, Psal. 51. So his son, having fallen from his integrity, did take the same course to give glory to God in the great congregation, Psal. 40.10. and to make known his repentance to all the Church, that thereby he might glorifie God, and strengthen his brethren. Whence he frequently in this book giveth himself this title, as of a penitent convert, Chap. 1.12. & 7.29. & 12.8, 9, 10. The word is a Participle or Adjective of the feminine gen∣der, yet joyned here to a verb masculine, as elsewhere to a verb feminine, Chap. 7.27. There, because of the grammatical congruity, Here, with relation to the person thereby signified. They use to supply the sense with the word nephesh, soul, which is mentioned presently after it, Chap. 7.27, 28. and so that word is elsewhere supplyed, 2 Sam. 13.29. so where it is said, Gen. 49.6. My glory be not thou united unto their assembly; the Noun is masculine, the verb feminine, to signifie that by glory, the same was to be understood in that clause, which was ex∣pressed Page 12 by the feminine Noun, the soul, in the former clause: and so glory seems else∣where to signifie the soul of a man, Ps. 30.12. If it be inquired what may be the cause why Solomon doth not prefix his proper name to this Book, as to the other two of the Proverbs and Canticles: Though it be not necessary to be curious in questions of this nature, yet this may be inoffensively con∣jectured; 1. That he seems hereby to in∣timate, That by his former sins he had as it were forfeited his name of Peace, and so we find that by reason of those his sins, God stirred up adversaries against him, 1 King. 11.14, 23. 2. To note his sincerity, who now chose to be known rather by the name of a penitent convert, than of a peaceable Prince, as if he who had troubled Israel by his sins, did no longer deserve his name of peace, as the prodigal said to his father, I am no more worthy to be called thy son. So in Scripture, men have taken new names suitable to a new condition, Gen. 52.28. Ruth. 1.20. Mar. 3.16, 17. Nehem. 9.7. The other additi∣ons likewise to his name of penitence may seem to be looked on by him as aggravations of his sins. 1. That he was the son of David, a godly father, who had given him such holy education, who had provided him materials to build Gods house, and greatly encouraged Page 13 him to advance the worship of the Lord, who had been an example to him to take heed of falling into gross sins, that the son of such a father should fall so souly. 2. That he was a King on his fathers throne, and that not by right of inheritance, but by special designa∣tion from the Lord, who had singled him out above his brethren, and had appeared unto him twice, & gave him wisdome and prince∣ly endowments for so great a place, that he should defile the throne whereunto he had been so graciously advanced, and from thence give to all the people so sad an example of sensuality and apostacy. 3. That he was a King in Jerusalem, an holy City, where was Gods throne as well as the thrones of the house of David, that he should defile the Lords land, and his dwelling place: These were considerations worthy for such a peni∣tent to have his eyes on, for his greater hu∣miliation. Thereby teaching us, 1. That the sins of the child are greatly aggravated by the godliness of the parent, Jer. 22.15, 16, 17. 2. That the sins of the child are greatly ag∣gravated by the falls and miscarriages of the parent, Dan. 5.18—23. 3. That sins are greatly aggravated by the dignities and pri∣viledges of those that commit them, 2 Sam. 12.7, 8, 9. Deut. 32.12—19. Amos 2.9—13.3.2. 4. That the greater the Page 14 person is that sinneth, whereby the scandal to the Church is likewise the greater, the more solemn ought his repentance to be, Numb. 12.14, 15, 16. 2 Chron. 33.12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 19. 5. That the power of grace is exceeding great, which can subdue the hearts of the greatest men unto the hea∣viest yoke of publick and solemn repentance, 2 Cor. 10.4, 5, 6. And further, from the description of the person, and his writi•g of this book, we may observe, 1. That eminen∣cy of wisdome without the continued assi∣stance of grace, cannot keep a man from gross and foul lapses. Never a wiser man than Solomon, and never any Saint fell into more foolish lusts. God is pleased sometimes to suffer men to fall into such sins, the contrary graces whereunto they had most eminently been adorned withal. As David, a most spi∣ritual man, into fleshly l•st; Lot, whose righteous soul had been vexed at the filthy conversation of the Sodomites, into another sort of unnatural impurity by incest of his daughters: Job, into impatience; Moses, the meekest man alive, into great passion of mind, Numb. 20.10. Peter, the boldest Disciple, into base fear and cowardise of spirit in denying his Master. 2. That height of honour, and abundance of wealth, are sore snares and temptations, even to the Page 15 wisest and most excellent men, Mark 10.23, 25. 1 Tim. 6.9. Isa. 39.1, 2. 3. That repentance sets a man most against that evil by which he had most dishonoured God, and been foiled under temptation. Abundance of knowledge and treasures drew Solomons heart too far from the Lord, and being con∣verted, he sets himself most to discern the emptiness and vanity of them. So Zacheus, Luke 19.8. And Mary Magdalen, Luke 7.37, 38. 4. That the Lord maketh the falls of his servants very beneficial unto his Church; Davids fall was an occasion of his penning some excellent Psalms, and Solo∣mons of writing this excellent book, set∣ting forth the vanity of those worldly things, whereby even wise men are many times drawn away from God. 5. That the Saints, after some great offence given by their falls to the Church, make it their business, upon their repentance, to do some more notable and eminent service to the Church: as Peter who had been most fearful in denying Christ, was after most forward in preaching him, and most bold in the profession of him, Act. 1.15. & 2.14. & 3.12. & 4.8. & 5.29.
V. 2. Vanity of vanities, saith the Preach∣er, vanity of vanities, All is vanity.] The scope of the wise man is, to direct us in the right way to true happiness. And this he Page 16 doth, first negatively, assuring us that it is not to be found in any thing under the sun. Secondly, affirmatively, that it is to be found only in God and his service. For the former, this is the last issue and result of all that cu∣rious inquiry which Solomon made into the utmost excellencies of creatures here be∣low. He was furnished above all other men with all variety of requisites for such a work, set himself critically about it, to dissect as it were, and take a thorow view of the crea∣ture, and having so done, this is the upshot, that All is nothing but very vanity. And this he doth in a vehement and pathetical man∣ner, that it may be the more observed. He doth not say, All is vain; but in the ab∣stract, (which is much more emphatical) All is vanity: Not vanity only, but vanity of va∣nities, that is, extreme vanity. The Gene∣tive case of the Noun, according to the use of that tongue, supplying an Adjective of the superlative degree, Gen. 9.25. Cant. 1.1. Hos. 10.15. 1 Tim. 6.15. And this proposition he doubleth and repeateth again; thereby intimating, 1. The unquestionable certainty of it, Gen. 40.32. Isa. 8.9▪ 2. The great consequence of it, as being a truth ne∣cessary to be inculcated, that it might make the deeper impression on the heart, Ezek. 21.27. Psal. 62.11. Rev. 18.2. 3. The na•u∣ral Page 17 unaptness which is in us to give credit to it, or to take notice of it, except it be thus inculcated upon us, Jer. 22.29. 4. The earnest affection of the wise man in pressing this necessary truth, with which he himself in his repentance was so deeply affected. Repetitions argue vehemency of affections, and earnest contending for the things so re∣peated, Ezek. 16.6. Luk. 23.21. Gal. 1.8, 9. Psal. 93.3.
And because it might be thought to be true only of some things, and that some other things which Solomon had not looked so nar∣rowly into, might haply have more excellen∣cy in them, therefore he addeth, to prevent this objection, that All is vanity. All, not simply, but with limitation to the subject matter of which he treateth in this Book; Every thing severally, all things joyntly. Not any one thing alone, not all things col∣lectively and together are able to satisfie the soul, and to make it happy. It is true, the works of God are all good and excellent, sought out of all those that have pleasure in them. But good in their kind and order; of excellent use to set forth the glory, power, wisdome and goodness of God, and of ne∣cessary service for the use of man. 1 Tim. 4.4, 5. Yet withal vain in other respects; 1. Comparatively vain, when put in the bal∣lance Page 18 with God, and heavenly things, Job 15.15. Isa. 40.15, 16, 17. 2. Vain by that super∣induced vanity, whereunto they are subjected by the sin of man, Rom. 8.20. 3. Vain in order unto happiness, the full possession, the most vigorous fruition of them, cannot bring real satisfaction to the soul of a man; Man himself, the noblest of them all, and that at his best estate, being altogether vanity, Psal. 39.5, 6, 11. Psal. 62.9. & 144.3, 4. They are vain. 1. In regard of their unprofitable∣ness unto such an use, Jer. 16.19. 2. In regard of their falseness and deceitfulness to those who lean upon them, Job 15—20. Ps. 31.7. & 62.10. Jon. 2.8. 3. In re∣gard of their instability and impermanency, as being under the bondage of corruption, Rom. 8.20. 1 Cor. 7.30, 31. Ps. 39.11. 2 Cor. 4.18. And in all these respects use∣less unto happiness; for that which makes a man happy, must bear a thorow proportion to all the wants, desires and capacities of the soul, and must withal be of an equal du∣ration and continuance therewith; neither of which is to be found in any worldly thing.
saith the Preacher] Both by inspiration, as a Pen-man of the holy Ghost: and by ex∣perience, as one who had learned it dearly, and to his cost. He sets his name as in the Page 19 inscription to the whole book, so here, a se∣cond time to this, which is the sum of the whole book, confidently owning the truth thereof; as sometimes the Apostle addeth his name emphatically, to set on what he af∣firmeth or desireth, 2 Cor. 10.1. Gal. 5.2. Philem. ver. 9, 19. So 1 Pet. 5.1. 1 Joh. 1.1, 3. They who speak to the Church, should do it experimentally, and from de∣monstration of the truth to their own hearts, that they may be confidently able to own, and to avow what they say.
V. 3. What profit hath a man of all his la∣bour which he taketh under the sun?] Or, what remaineth and abideth with a man of all his labour? What is added to him, or what more hath he by it?
of all his labour] The word imports toyl∣some and troublesome labour, and so rendred by the Septuagint, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; and by Aquila, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.
under the sun] This may relate to either passage of the verse, either, what remaineth to a man under the Sun; that is, nothing un∣der the Sun will tarry or abide with him. Or, of all the labour which he hath laboured un∣der the Sun; or in relation to worldly mat∣ters here below. There is a conversation and a labour in order to things above the Sun, which will remain with a man, and profit him, Page 20 Phil. 3.20. Col. 3.1, 2. Joh. 6.27. But la∣bour in earthly things will not do so. We are said to labour under the Sun, because earthly labour is done by the light of the Sun, Psal. 104.22, 23. Joh. 9.4. and because by that light we are more comforted in the fruition of them, as Eccles. 11.7. and because the be∣nefit we expect from our labours, is wrought instrumentally by the warmth and influence of the Sun, Deut. 33, 14. Here then the wise man proveth his general proposition. Whatsoever is unprofitable and perishing, is very vanity: All things under the Sun, about which the anxious and toylsome labour of man is conversant, are unprofitable and pe∣rishing, for nothing of them will remain un∣to him, or abide with him. Therefore they are all vain. And this he propoundeth by way of interrogation, which makes the ne∣gative more unquestionable, as appealing to the conscience of every man, and chal∣lenging any man to disprove it. The Scrip∣ture usually denies more emphatically by way of interrogation; as Gen. 30.2. 2 Sam. 7.5. compared with 1 Chron. 17.4. Matth. 16.26. Zech. 1.5. And he further insisteth on this point as certain and necessary, Chap. 2.11. & 3.9. & 5.15. The Sum is this; 1. Whatever fruit we have from worldly things, we get it with very hard and toylsome Page 21 labour, either of the mind or body, Gen. 3.17, 19. Job 5.7. 2. However that labour be useful and subservient to our temporal condition, yet it is wholly unprofitable in order unto happiness. 3. The foundation of this unprofitableness, is; 1. It doth not cause a man to excel; it adds nothing of real worth unto him at all, Jam. 2.1—6. Eccl. 9.14, 16. Ps. 49.12, 13, 20. 2. It doth not a∣bide with him; all the comfort it brings, is dying comfort; it stops at the grave, and goes no further. Now nothing is profitable to a man which he cannot transport beyond the grave; which he doth not carry with him into another world, Job. 1.21. & 21.21. Psal. 49.14, 17. Jo• 6.27. 1 Tim. 6.7. Those works are ben••icial which follow a man, Rev. 14.13. therefore we must lay out our labour upon a life that abides and a∣bounds, Joh. 10.10. Isa. 55.2. and not labour in the fire, and for every vanity, Hab. 2.13. Luk. 12.6. Matth. 24.38, 39.
V. 4. One generation goeth, and another generation cometh, but the earth abideth for ever] By Generation is meant the time wherein a Body of men do live and continue together, so we read of this or that Generati∣on, Luk. 21.32. Heb. 3.10. the second, third, tenth generation or ages of men yet to come, Deut. 23.2, 3, 8. A mans own generation, Page 22 or ages of men yet to come, Deut. 23.2, 3, 8. A mans own generation, or the age where∣in he liveth, Acts 12.36. There is a con∣stant succession of men to one another, a fix∣ed time, as the daies of an hireling, Job 7.1.—10. & 14.14. The inward princi∣ples of change and mortality are alwaies working, and life is like a shepherds tent, which doth not continue in one place or stay, Isa. 68.12.
But the earth abideth or standeth for ever] Continueth much longer than the men that are upon it; for ever, noteth often a long time, so long as the present course and order of nature is to continue, Ps. 119.90. so long as such or such an administration lasteth, Gen. 9.12. 1 Sam. 2.30. 1 Sam. 13.13. otherwise we know the earth is to be chan∣ged, and in some sense at the least to pass a∣way, as now the inhabitants thereof do, Matth. 24.35. Psal. 102.25, 27. There seems to be a double sense in the words, both Conso∣nant to the present argument. 1. That man cannot be happy by any thing which is here below, in regard of his transitory condition, fathers going, and children succeeding; a mans labour haply may enrich him, or bring him to honour, but it cannot lengthen out his daies beyond one generation, and then he and all his acquirements must part, and in Page 23 this respect, the earth on which he treads, is in a condition better than himself, for it a∣bideth to the end. 2. Man seeking happi∣ness from the earth and earthly things, must needs be disappointed of his expectation, because he passeth away, and the earth staies behind him. If he could carry the earth a∣long with him, he might haply promise him∣self his wonted contentments, but the earth abides where it was, when he goeth from it, and can enjoy it no more, Job. 7.10. Ps. 49.17. Here then we may observe. First, a determinate time prefixed to the life, states, honours, offices of men, at uttermost they are but for one generation, wherein every man hath his service to do, his warfare to •ccomplish, his race to run, Job 7.1. & 14.5. 1 Cor. 9.24. Phil. 3.14. 2 Tim. 4.7. Act. 13.36. Secondly, the providence of God in continuing the several succeeding •ges of men, that he may still have a seed •o serve him, that one generation may declare •is works to another. That the admirable •ontexture of the works of providence, •arried along by pieces, through various suc∣cessions of men, may at last most gloriously set forth his wisdome, justice and goodness, Psal. 22.30, 31. and 102.18. Isa. 38.19. Eccles. 8.17. Thirdly, a mans labour un∣•er the sun, is for himself and his posterity: Page 24 his labour about heavenly things will abide with, and benefit himself for ever. Fourth∣ly, so long as the generations of men con∣tinue, so long doth the Lord by his de∣cree continue the earth for their suppor∣tance and salvation, because he hath given it to the children of men, Deut, 32.8▪ and when the generations of men are end∣ed, it shall then appear that the whol• Creation was subject to vanity, and 〈◊〉 the bondage of corruption, Rom. 8.20. 2 Pe• 3.5, 7.
V. 5. The sun also ariseth, and th• sun goeth down, and hasteth to the pla•• where he arose] Or, panteth towards th• place. A metaphor from one who run earnestly to some mark, or presseth fo••ward with strong desire to something would attain, Psal. 119.131. Job 7.•• A like expression, Psal. 19.6, 7. an• 104.19. whereby is signified an unwe••ried, yet constant and regular motio• founded in a Covenant or ordinance Heaven, Jer. 31.35, 36, and 33.2• Job 38.33. from which without a sp••cial and extraordinary restraint from 〈◊〉 (as Josh. 10.12. Isa. 38.8. Job 9.7▪ it never varieth. Having thus affirmed all things under the sun that they are 〈◊〉 he here beginneth with the sun it 〈◊〉Page 25 which doth as it were weary it self out of breath with continual motion. 1. If it did bring happiness to a man in its rising, it would remove it again in its setting. 2. Though the earth abideth for ever, and the sun moveth regularly over it with its warmth, and the winds blow on it to refresh the fruits thereof, Cant. 4.16. and the wa∣ters pass through it to make it fruitful, Gen. 2.10, 11. yet all this can benefit a man only in his own generation, but cannot con∣vey any durable happiness unto him. 3. The earth abides alwaies alike, the sun moves, the windes blow, the rivers run after one constant manner in one age as in ano∣ther. If they have never yet made any hap∣•y, they never will, because they do mini∣ster but the same comforts again. 4. Mor∣tality and mutability here is as natural to •an, as standing to the earth, the motions •f the sun, the circuits of the windes, the •owing of the Rivers: so that it is as im∣•ossible for him to be happy by creatures •n earth, as it is to alter the covenant of day 〈◊〉 night: or to stop the regular and inva∣••able courses of the Heavens. 5. The sun 〈◊〉 his course, observes his times of rising 〈◊〉 setting, and though he set, he riseth in 〈◊〉 glory again, but when man goes, he ••turns hither no more, Job 14.7, 12. Page 26 6. Observe the constant and steady obedi∣ence of other creatures to that law of work∣ing, which was primitively implanted in them, they act as it were knowingly, Psal. 104.19. willingly, Rom. 8.20. vigorously with joy and strength, Psal. 19.5. and there∣by shame those who have indeed a principle of light and reason, but act not in confor∣mity unto them.
V. 6. The winde goeth towards the South and turneth about unto the North, &c. As the sun, so the windes have their cour∣ses, whereby is noted the uncertainty of out∣ward things, if they please in their coming they must disquiet in their departing, where•as the matter of happiness must be ever pre•sent and permanent. Here we may also not the wise providence of God in the circui• of the windes and other sublunary creature which he bringeth out of his treasure, 〈◊〉 directeth as it pleaseth him for the uses 〈◊〉 men, one while making them helpful to 〈◊〉 part of the earth, and another while to an••ther, Psal. 135.7. Job 37.7. & 38.2▪ Jer. 10.13. Deut. 28.12. Psal. 78.2▪ Gen. 8.1. Exod. 8.1. & 14.21. He see••eth likewise to have respect to those wind• which in some parts of the world, have a 〈◊〉 regular and uniform motion, in 〈◊〉 moneths of the year, blowing constan•Page 27 out of one quarter, and in others, out of another. The words [going, circuiting, whirling about, returning] are used to shew the restless and unquiet nature of these things, their busie and speedy motion, as if they were ever out of their place; all which shew how full of vanity they are, and re∣present the disquiet agitations of the mind of man, till it fix upon him that is immu∣table.
V. 7. All rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.] Though rivers hastily run into the sea, as into their cistern, yet the sea is not filled, so as to swell above the earth, or overflow the bounds within which God hath decreed it to stay, Job 38.8.—11. Psal. 104.8, 9. Jer. 15.22. The reason whereof is, because there is 〈◊〉 perpetual and proportionable return, as fast 〈◊〉 by some channels waters go from their •ountains to the sea, by others they return from the sea into the earth again. Thus, which •ay ever we cast our eyes, we every where meet with evidences of inconstancy and mu∣tability here below, as testimonies of that •anity which all things under the sun are sub∣•ect unto. 1. By the continual motions of these •retures, he seemeth to describe the restlesnes of the mind of man, in enquiring after good. Page 28 2. The dis-satisfaction which it every where meeteth withall, finding no reason to rest or stay there, whither it had formerly hasted with greatest speed. As all rivers cannot fill the sea, so all creatures cannot fill the heart of man. It moves every way, forward and backward, to the South and to the North, from one content unto another for full satis∣faction, but can find none, Psal. 39.6. & 74.11, 19. Prov. 19.21. Luk. 10.41.
V. 8. All things are full of labour, man cannot utter it: The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing] All things, to wit, all these and the like things. This is a close of the former argument. Ha∣ving shewed the unquiet motion of the sun▪ windes, rivers, he here concludeth his In∣duction of particulars, with a general asser∣tion, that as it was in them, so it is in all things else, no man is able with words to ru• over all particulars, but as it is in some, so is 〈◊〉 in the rest which cannot be numbred. They are said to be ful of labour or wearines, because they weary out man in his studies and endea∣vours about them, Gen. 3.17, 19. Psal. 127 2. Here is also another argument provi•• the main proposition, whatever things bring toylsome labour and weariness with them cannot make a man happy, but are altogethe••ai• as to such a purpose: But all things un•der Page 29 the Sun do bring unto him that is con∣versant about them toylsome labour and wea∣riness, therefore they cannot make men happy. This toyl and weariness doth not onely appear in grievous and unpleasing la∣bour, whereunto men are against their wills compelled, Job. 5.7. Lam. 5.5. Jer. 20.18. nor onely in those labours which the Lord is pleased to blast and frustrate of an expected end, when men labour as it were in the fire, and reap no fruit of all their pains, Habak. 2.13. Hag. 1.6. Levit. 26.20. Isa. 17.11. & 55.2. Eccles. 5.16. Luk. 5.5. But it is also true of those labours which a man sets about with greatest delight and willingness, they also have weariness and sa∣tiety attending on them; the very honey∣comb bringing a loathing with it, Prov. 27.7. And this general he proveth by a double in∣stance. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing] and accordingly, it is in all other numberless particulars. A man may cloy and tire out these faculties, before he can at all satisfie them. He seemeth to instance in these rather then others, 1. Be∣cause the exercise of them is easiest, and least labour is spent in the using of them; there is not much force or stress put forth in seeing an amiable and beautifull object, or in hearing some excellent musick. 2 Because they are Page 30 the most curious and inquisitive senses. 3. Be∣cause their delights are sweetest: as being senses which are nearest cognation unto rea∣son, and are principal instruments and hand∣maids to the soul in her noblest operations. Now if the most spiritual, unwearied, ra∣tional senses cannot be satisfied, but that they are pricked with further desires of new objects to delight them, Acts 17.21. or sa∣tiated and glutted with the excess of what did delight them before; how much more is this true in those other faculties, where there is more labour in pursuing their objects, and more loathing in fruition of them, Prov. 27.20. And this is such labour and weariness as no man can utter it; no man can express how many wayes any one faculty may be wearied out, nor recount all those objects, which when they minister some delight, do yet leave no satisfaction behind them. As the happiness which we expect in God, can∣not be uttered, 1 Cor. 2.9. 2 Cor. 12.4. so the labour and weariness which the mind contracteth by excessive search into the crea∣tures, cannot be uttered neither.
V. 9, 10, 11. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done, is that which shall be done: and there is no new •hing under the Sun, &c.] The sub∣stance of these verses is this, If no man hath Page 31 ever hitherto been able to find out happiness in the creature, let no man think now or here∣after to do it, since there is no new thing out of which it may be extracted. All natu∣ral causes and effects continue as they were at the beginning, Gen. 8.22. Jer. 31.35, 36. and all humane and voluntary actions, counsels and studies, having the same prin∣ciples of reason to produce them, and the same objects to draw them out, are in sub∣stance the same now as heretofore. And though some discoveries of new things have been made, as the Mariners Card, the Art of Printing, Gun-powder, &c. of which learn∣ed men have written, yet from defective and insufficient principles of happiness, such as all natural things are, no thing, though new, can be sufficient unto such an End, since the particulars cannot afford that which the ge∣neral hath not comprized within it. As face answereth to face in water, so the courses of natural causes and effects, and the hearts de∣sires, counsels of the men in one age, do an∣swer unto those of another, Matth. 24.38, 39. Prov. 27.19.
V. 10. Is there any new thing whereof it may be said, See this, It is new?] This is a challenge to any man to procure any new thing if he can, with a peremptory repeat∣ing of the former assertion, and denying the Page 32 success of any such attempt. He speaketh of such new things as may far surpass the things which had been discovered before, as to be able to satisfie the heart, and make it truly blessed. And this he confidently de∣nyeth, that any thing can further be extracted out of the womb of nature in order unto hu∣mane happiness more then had been already discovered. Men may haply flatter them∣selves in their inventions, as if they had in∣vented new things which were not before, and such as may afford more matter of con∣tent and satisfaction then other men in for∣mer ages have found. But he shews that this is but a mistake, for It hath been already of old time which was before us.] The dis∣coveries of former ages have been as preg∣nant towards satisfaction of the heart, as any of after ages can be.
V. 11. There is no remembrance of former things, neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.] If new things be found out, as many old things are forgotten, so that still the stock of nature is as defective to∣wards happiness in our age, as in another. Shortness of life, and narrowness of expe∣rience, causeth us to forget the things which have been before us, which were they all in our distinct view, no one thing would occur Page 33 without it's pattern and parallel, at least something as excellent as it in former ages: and as things past are forgotten by us, so things present will be forgotten by those that shall come after us.
Here then we see, 1. The aptness which is in man to nauseate and grow weary of the things which he is used unto, though they be otherwise never so excellent, Num. 11.6. 2. The wantonness of our hearts in having an itching desire after new things, and such as former ages were unacquainted with, Acts 17.21. 3. That it is Ignorance and inexperience which maketh things appear new, which indeed are old. 4. That the vanity which our forefathers have found in things here below, is an infallible argument that we shall find the same, and shall cer∣tainly miscarry, if we think to get more sa∣tisfaction out of the Creatures, then others have gotten before us, Job. 8.8, 9. & 15.18. 5. That new things are not to be look∣ed for under the Sun, or in the course of natural causes and effects: But in a spiritual and heavenly conversation all things are new, durable, excellent. In the study of Gods Word and wayes, there are ever new and wonderfull things to be discovered, Psal. 119.18. 2 Cor. 5.17. 2 Pet. 3.13. Rev. 21.5. Gods mercies and judgements are wonder∣full, Page 34 and he doth many times strange things, which neither we nor our fathers have known, Deut. 432—36. 1 Cor. 2.9.
V. 12, 13. I the Preacher was King over Israel in Ierusalem. And I gave mine heart to seek and search out by wisdom, concerning all things that are done under heaven: This sore travel hath God given to the sons of men, to be exercised therewith.] Having shewed the vanity of things under the Sun in gene∣ral: He now proceedeth unto some special and principal things, wherein men might be apt to place felicity. And he begins with the knowledge of things natural and humane: shewing, that if any man could in that re∣spect make himself Happy, he himself had more means to do it then any other man. And the better to gain belief to what he should deliver, He gives it them upon the word and experience of a Convert, a King, an Inspired King, a most wise and Active King, a King in Ierusalem, the seat of God; provoked unto this inqu•ry by the strong in∣clination of his own heart, by the special Call and direction of God, by the eye and help of that habitual wisdome which by prayer he had obtained of God in a more eminent manner then any other man; and by his zeal towards the people of God, and towards h•s house at Jerusalem. I, being such a per∣son, Page 35 so compleatly furnished with all inter∣nal and external advantages, do testifie the truth which I have delivered upon mine own most exact and accurate tryal, That All is Vanity.
I the Preacher] Or the Convert, who am returned by repentance unto the Commu∣nion of Saints, from whence by my sins I had formerly wandred, am able now by sad experience to seal the truth which I have so dearly bought, touching the vanity of all out∣ward things. So this Book was the fruit of Solomons Conversion and returning to the bosome of the Church.
was King over Israel] This Book there∣fore was written when he was on his throne, furnished with wisdom from God to manage his Royal Office, and with abundance of wealth to prosecute this inquiry after true happiness, 1 Reg. 3.7.—13.
ever Israel] Gods peculiar people, a wise and understanding people, Deut. 4.6, 7. for whose good Solomon had sought his wisdom, and out of the care of whose welfare in soul and estate, he had made this sollicitous search.
In Ierusalem] This being expressed thus twice, in this, and in the first verse, hath some emphasis in it. In Jerusalem was the House of the Lord, and the Testimony of Israel, Psal. 122.1, 2, 3. Here God was in a spe∣cial Page 36 manner present, and might most com∣fortably be sought, Psal. 132.13, 14. There were continual attendances of the Priests, officers, and wise men about the Temple, 1 Chron. 25.26. There were the thrones of Justice, and publick conventions of State, Psal. 122.5. There were the Masters of the Assemblies, or a Colledge and Senate of the most learned men of the Nation, Eccles. 12.11. 2 Reg. 21.14. so that there he met with all the furtherances which a learned and wise man could desire in the prosecution of such a design.
And I gave my heart] I did cheerfully and purposely set my self about it, and made it my business and delight, 2 Chron. 11.16. 1 Chro. 22.19. 2 Cor. 8.5.
to seek and search out] Searching is more then seeking, and denotes an orderly and accurate exploration, such as merchants use, who with great diligence procure rarest com∣modities out of several Countries, Eccl. 7.25. Ezek. 20.6.
by wisdome] An excellent instrument in such an inquiry.
all things done under the Sun] All natural causes and effects, all humane counsels and events: this phrase is much used by Solomon in this Book, whereby is limited the subject matter about which he inquires.
Page 37this sore travel] Or, afflicting labour; as Chap. 2.23. and 4.8.
hath given to the sons of man] It is his ordinance, he hath called them to search his works and wayes.
to be exercised] Or afflicted and distract∣ed therein, therefore not at all to be made blessed thereby.
From hence we may observe: First, That the best way of teaching is out of our own experience, and exact disquisition, Psal. 66.16, 17. Gal. 1.16.
2. That sound repentance doth notably fit a man to know and search out the Will of God, and to discover and teach the vanity of all other things, 2 Tim. 2.25. Jam. 1.21. Luke 22.32. Psal. 51.12, 13.
3. That men in highest authority are by their studies as well as their power to seek the welfare of those over whom they are set, and to endeavour with all their hearts to fit themselves with wisdome and abilities for discharge of their office, 1 Reg. 3.7, 8, 9. Luke 2.52. Act. 6.4. 1 Tim. 4.13, 14, 15.
4. That the piety, age, dignity, authority, experience of a person, though it add no∣thing to the truth it self, yet hath a great power to perswade and prepare the hearts of hearers to the entertainment of it, Philem. vers. 9. 2 Cor. 10.7, 8. & 11.5, 6, 22 23. Page 38 & 12.1, 2, 3, 4, 5.11. 1 Cor. 9.1, 2. & 15.8, 9, 10.
5. That largeness of Gifts and Helps from God, should quicken us unto a more cheer∣full and vigorous study of our duties, Matth. 15.16, 17.
6. That largeness of heart in knowledge of things natural, moral, Humane, Divine, are Royal Endowments, and things fit for a King to set his heart upon, Prov. 31.4. The greater our place, power, wealth is, the more noble and serious should our thoughts and imployments be.
7. The more men abound with worldly things, the looser should they keep their hearts from them, and the more should they study the vanity of them, lest otherwise they steal away their hearts from God, Psal. 62.10.
8. The dignity, wisdome, piety of a people being duly considered, doth whet and add vigour to the studies and cares of those who are set over them for their good, 2 Reg. 3.8, 5. Mar. 6.5, 6.
9. We should improve the benefit of places and persons amongst whom we con∣verse, to fit our selves thereby for the ser∣vice of the Church. It is not only a comfort, but a furtherance unto wise and learned men, to live in places where wisdom and learning is professed, Act. 1.4.
Page 3910. It is a great comfort when men have helps and encouragements answerable to their imployments, and having such, when they have hearts to use them, Prov, 17.16.
11. Here are the right principles of suc∣cessfull diligence in our places; 1. A wil∣ling heart, when a man goes about his work with all his strength, Eccles. 9.10. 2. At∣tendance on the Call of God, and for that reason submitting unto travel and pains, Act. 26.19. Gal. 1.15. 3. Stirring up the gifts which God hath given us as furtherances unto duty, 2. Tim. 1.6. 4. Exquisite in∣spection into the businesses about which we are imployed, that we may not through our own negligence come behind in any gift, 1 Cor. 13.31. & 14.12.
12. It is the will of God, that even our honourable and our necessary imployments should be accompanied with sore travel, that we may be kept humble in our selves, weaned from the creature, and made the more thank∣full for any assistance the Lord giveth us in our Labours, and for any blessing upon them, Job. 5.7. Gen. 3.19.
13. The study of the Creatures is of ex∣cellent use to lead us to the knowledge of the Creator, Rom. 1.19. Ps. 111.2.
V. 14. I have seen all the works that are done under the Sun, and behold all is vanity Page 40 and vexation of spirit.] The former words shewed the exactness of Solomons search into natural and humane things. That it was the labour of an aged Convert, (for So∣lomon was drawn away from God in his old age, 1 Reg. 11.4.) of a wise King, furnished with all Helps for such an inquiry: That it was an accurate and deep search, not loose or superficial. That it was undertaken with great impulsion of heart, and with a special Call of God: and now after all this, he con∣cludes,
1. That he had seen] That is, diligently heeded, and fully understood, as to the issue of this inquiry, all the works done under the Sun, Exod. 3.3. Eccles. 2.13, 14.
all the things] That is, the several kinds of them, 1 Reg. 4.33. He had gotten as large and as intuitive a knowledge as humane cu∣riosity or industry, with all manner of furthe∣rances could attain unto. Which appears not to be an arrogant boast, but a true account of the fruit of his studies, the Holy Ghost testifying the same thing of him, 1 Reg. 4. 29—34. & 10.23.
2. That he found all to be vanity and ve∣xation of spirit.] Not only vain and inef∣fectual to confer Happiness, but which is worse, apt to bring much affliction and tro•ble upon the heart of him who is too earnestly Page 41 conversant about them. From several origi∣nal Roots, there are by Interpreters given several explications of this word, Evil, or Affliction of Spirit. Breach, contrition, tor∣ment of Spirit; feeding upon, or consuming of the spirit; or vanity and feeding upon wind, as fruitless labour is expressed, Hos. 12.1. 1 Cor. 9.26. Thus he applyes his general conclusion particularly unto all kind of knowledge, Natural and Moral. There is sore travel in the getting, danger of forget∣ing it again, discovery thereby of more Igno∣rance then a man observed in himself before▪ insufficiency and impossibility of perfecting the understanding, and satiating the desires thereof. Such and many other Considera∣tions make Knowledge it self, as to the pro∣curing of true Happiness, altogether Vain.
V. 15. That which is crooked cannot be made strait] This is the Reason of the vani∣ty of Knowledge, because it cannot rectifie any thing in us which is amiss, nor supply any thing which we want to make us happy, Eccles. 7.13. The wisest and wealthiest King with all his power and knowledge was not able to remedy all the evils which he saw, or to supply all the defects which he could discover.
The words may be understood two wayes; 1. In relation to Knowledge it self, to shew Page 42 the vanity and vexation thereof: For, 1. Much of it is exceeding tortuous, intricate, and abstruse, there are many knots and dif∣ficulties, Dan. 5.12. So it cannot be clearly and plainly demo•strated, but in the inqui∣ries thereinto the mind will be left dark and unsatisfied; there are 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, not only in the Scripture, 2 Pet. 3.16. but in the book of nature too, Job. 28.20, 21. & 37.14, 15, 16. & 38.16-23.2. the defects of this kind are innumerable, the things which a man knoweth not, are infinitely more then those which he knoweth, Job 11.6.—9.
2. In relation unto the efficacy of know∣ledge. The heart and life of man is natural∣ly crooked and perverse, very tortuous, wic∣ked, and deceitfull, Jer. 17.9. Psal. 12▪5.5. and it is exceeding defective both in prin∣ciples, and in power to do good as it ought, Rom. 3.23. 2. Cor. 3.5. Now all the most exquisite natural knowledge is not able to rectifie these things, either to restore man to his original integrity, or supply his manifold defects. Such knowledge will puff up, 1. Cor. 8.1. but it will not sanctifie, Rom. 1. 20, 21, 32. Jude. vers. 20. The Lord in∣deed by his grace and spirit doth both, Luk. 3.5. Psal. 84.11. 1 Thess. 3.10. Eph. 3.19. 1 Cor. 1.5. but no natural or acquired knowledge is able to do it.
Page 433. As it cannot rectifie that which is amiss in man, so neither in any other thing. Sin hath brought much disorder, corruption, con∣fusion upon the whole Creation, Rom. 8.20. infinite are the defects and failings every where. And none of this can all the wis∣dom of man be able to correct, but he must still leave it as he found it, vain and imper∣fect. So it will be till the time of the resti∣tution of all things, when God will make a new earth and a new heaven, and deliver the Creature from the bondage of corruption, into a glorious liberty, Act. 1.21. 2 Pet. 3.13. And all this he affirms of the most ex∣cellent natural knowledge; how much more vain and unprofitable are the perverse and impertinent studies of many men, which have nothing of solidity or usefullness in them, Col. 2.8. 1 Tim. 6.4, 5. Rom. 1.22. 1 Cor. 1.20.
V. 16, 17. I communed with mine own, &c.] This is a Prolepsis wherein he meeteth with an objection, viz. That the knowledge of the creatures might make a man happy, though he had not attained unto it, not for any de∣fect in them, but in the narrowness of his own understanding. To which he answereth, That if any man could have found it out in them, he should, in regard of the greatness of his parts, and exquisite industry; as Chap. 2.12.
Page 44I communed with my heart] I cast up my accounts, and exactly viewed the fruit and sum of all my lab•urs in getting knowledge. I did seriously deliberate, and take a view of mine own heart, Psal. 4.5. True wisdome makes a man thoughtfull and discursive within himself.
I am come to great estate, and have gotten, or added, more wisdome] Or, I have got∣ten great estate and wisdome, and a•ded to it, I have exceeded and increased in wisdome. So the word seems elsewhere to import, 1 Sam. 20▪ 41. Esay 9.3. Amos 8.5. Or, I have come to be a great man, Joel 2.20. to do great things. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.
then all they that have been before me] 1 King. 4.30. & 10.27. yea all that come after him too, Christ only excepted, 1 King. 3.12.
in Ierusalem] Where the study of wis∣dom was, more then in other places.
my heart had great experience. Had seen much wisdome and knowledge] Wisdome seems to note the general knowledge of things Divine and humane; Knowledge, the experimental: or wisdom the Habit and instrument; knowledge, the acquired per∣fection gotten by the help of that habitual wisdome. Here, 1. He seems to have magni∣fied Page 45 wisdom in his choice, which also may be implyed in the word 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, 1 Reg. 3.9.11. 2. To have increased it. 3. To have carried it into his heart, it was inward and experi∣mental knowledge. 4. To have delighted in it, & gone seriously & with full pupose about it.
gave my heart] See vers. 13. The more wise any man is, the more he laboureth to grow in wisdom.
to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly] Chap. 7.25. Hereby he under∣stands moral, political, and practical know∣ledge, in order to its better government, to observe the difference between wise and vertuous, and between foolish and wicked actions: the word rendred folly, is in this onely place written with the letter 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Sin, in all others with the letter 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉Samech, and so may be here rendred either folly, or pru∣dence. And this he found to be vexation of spirit, or feeding on wind; observing how short men came of the one, and how much the other did abound. Or finding by his own experience, that neither the perfection of moral wisdome, so far as it is acquirable by humane diligence, nor yet the pleasures and delights of vitious and foolish could quiet and settle the heart of man, 1 Cor. 1.20. Eccles. 11.8, 9. A bare speculative knowledge of good, and an experimental Page 46 presumptuous knowledge of evil, such as Adams was in eating the forbidden fruit, are so far from making men happy, that they in∣crease their misery.
But here Solomon may seem to have com∣mitted an errour against the moral wisdome which he here professed to enquire after, namely, in speaking of much so his own eminency in gifts beyond other men, Joh. 8.13. He doth it not falsly, arrogantly, nor proudly and vain-gloriously, to magnifie him∣self, but humbly, in acknowledging Gods gifts, and necessarily to discover thereby the truth of that doctrine he was now teaching the Church by his own experience: and so it is lawful to make mention of Gods gifts and graces bestowed on us, as the Apostle doth, 1 Cor. 14.18. & 15.10. 2 Cor. 11, 5, 6.
V. 18. in much wisdome] Or, in the abun∣dance of wisdome, as Psal. 72.7. & 51.1. Prov. 20.6, 15. Hos. 8.12. Or in the man who is much in wisdome, or who hath much wisdome, Job 11.2. The sense is every way the same.
is much grief] Or, anger, or indignation. Whence the Chaldee Paraphrase, The more knowledge any man hath, without repen∣tance, the more wrath is upon him from the Lord, as Luke 12.47. But the meaning, ac∣cording Page 47 to the scope of the context, is, That abundance of wisdome is alwaies accompa∣nied with a proportion of trouble and per∣turbation of mind; as indignation, to see how little fruit, and how much disappointment a man doth meet with in it, and how little ac∣compt is made of it in the World, as Eccles. 9. Grief and discontent, when the more wisdom a man hath, the more ignorance he doth discover in himself, and the more pains he must take to go on unto more knowledge yet unattained; and yet still find his croo∣kedness of mind, and manifold defects un∣corrected, unsupplyed; fear of losing, and forgetting what with so great pains had been gotten. Some begin the next Chapter with these words, and so make them a transition to the next endeavour of Solomon, to finde out happiness in some other thing; and so the sense runs thus; Forasmuch as in much wisdome there is much grief, &c. and this was not the way to attain true happinesse and content to toyl and weary out my self with pain, sorrow of mind and body in the attain∣ing of wisdome: Therefore I said in my heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, &c. Yet the purpose of the Wise man is not to deter men from so noble a labour as the study of wisdome and learning, but to raise up to the study of heavenly Wisdome, and Page 48 the fear of God, whereby their other know∣ledge would be sanctified, sweetned, and made excellently useful and comfortable to them.