IN this Chapter the wise man proceedeth, in discovering the vanity of worldly things, and of all mens toil and labour about them, in regard of the total uncertainty of future e∣vents, as having their whole dependance on the predeterminate purpose of God, & not at all on the anxious care and thoughts of man. And that therefore since man is not able to alter the series and contexture of events, fore∣ordained by God, he ought with contentment Page 95 of heart to enjoy his condition, and to fear the Lord, & depend on his providence, which is not possible for him by all his own sollici∣tude to prevent or escape. And therefore, though he may cheerfully enjoy present bles∣sings, yet he must not have his heart glued to them, nor build his chiefest hope on them, in regard they are so variable, and subject to unavoidable changes and uncertainties. So that the doctrine of the ten first verses of this Chapter seems to be; 1. An argument enforcing the former counsel of the wise man, Chap. 2.24. That since there is a set and prefixed season for all, even the most contin∣gent events, and that it is out of the power of man by all his thoughts, counsels & cares, to break through the limits of Gods provi∣dence in the guidance of them; therefore our wisest way is to yield our selves unto God, to depend on his counsel and provision, to rest contented in that which he gives, and not to disquiet our selves with the cares, fears, hopes of such things, as are wholly with∣out the order of our wisdome or power. 2. A caveat in the use of outward comforts, still to remember that they are changeable, subject to time and providence to wear them out, & deprive us of them: and therefore not to be offended, if we have not alwaies our desires, nor enjoy them so long, and in so constant a tenor of Page 96 success, as we could wish our selves. 3. A further observation of vanity in outward things, in the various actions of other men, as he had before discovered in his own la∣bours.
V. 1. To every thing there is a season] A predeterminate and an appointed time: So it is used, Esth. 9.31. Ezra 10.14. Nehem. 13.31.
to every purpose] To voluntary and con∣tingent things, which seem most in a mans own power; yet these are over-ruled, for their beginning, duration, and ending, by the providence of God. To every purpo∣sed business: Where note; 1. That all e∣vents in the world, both natural and con∣tingent, voluntary, or fortuitous, are all of them limited and bounded for their begin∣ning, duration and ending, by the provi∣dence of God, Psal. 31.15. Job 14.14. Acts 17.26. So we read of a time for wrath, Psal. 37.13. Ezek. 7.7. Hos. 5.7 Isa. 40.2. A time of love, Ezec. 16.8. 2 Cor. 6.2. A time to work in, Joh. 2.4. A time to suffer in, Joh. 7.30. & 8.20. & 13.1. & 17.1. It is great wisdom for men to observe the providences of God in this point, that they may accordingly behave themselves to∣wards him, 1 Chron. 12.32. Luk. 19.42. Eccles. 9.12. Jer. 8.7. 2. That whatever are Page 97 the thoughts or cares of men, yet the pur∣poses of God must stand; no man can by his anxious fears or contrivances, mend or alter his condition. Means we must use in obe∣dience unto God, and expectation of his promised blessing, but events and successes we must wholly leave to him, Isa. 46.10. Prov. 19.21. Psal. 33.10, 11. Matth. 6.27. Jer. 10.23. 3. That all things under the Sun are subject to continual Changes; there are various revolutions and vicissitudes of events, now one thing, and anon the con∣trary, to the intent that men should, neither be wanton in prosperity, nor desperate in adversity, but should alwayes fear before the Lord, and seek for a kingdome which cannot be shaken, 1 Cor. 7.29—31. Prov. 27.1. Jam. 4.13, 14. Dan. 2.21.
V. 2. The Wise man subjoyneth an In∣duction of several particulars, obvious to every mans experience, whereby he demon∣strateth the truth of this general Proposition. Some of these particulars are things natural, and wholly out of the power of man: others humane and voluntary, such as are done and directed by the Skill of man. To teach us, that all the most free and contingent actions are under the Law of Gods providence, di∣rected and limited thereby, as well as those which are most natural and necessary, 1 Page 98 Reg. 22.24. Isa. 10.5, 6, 7. Act. 4, 27, 28.
Some again begin with pleasant instances, and end in sad ones. Others begin with sadness, and end with delight. The Lord as he pleaseth ordering the affairs of men so, as that sometimes they have their good dayes first, and afterwards sorrow: sometimes evil first, and after, deliverance, Luke 16.25. Job 42.12. Joh. 21.18.
Another thing to be remembred here, is, That the Lord doth not by every one of these particulars signifie what is good or lawfull to be done, but only teach us, that not only the good actions of men, but their sins, not only their serious actions, but those which are most Ludicrous and vain, are all of them un∣der the decrees and over-ruling counsels o• God, directing of them and their seasons a• it pleaseth him, Matth. 10.29, 30. Gen. 45 5. & 50.20. Judg. 21.21, 22, 23.
A time to be born, or to bear nd bri•• forth] Called the hour of a woman, Jo•• 16.21.
and a time to die] Called the 〈◊〉 wherein a man must depart, Joh. 13.1. 〈◊〉 though the sentence of death hath sometim•• been revoked, Isa. 38.1, 5. yet the pred••terminate time fore-fixed in the purpose God was not altered.
V. 3. A time to kill] There is a pro•••dence Page 99 of God in the violent deaths of men, directing actions either sinfull or fortuitous, as it pleaseth him, 2 Reg. 10.30. compared with Hos. 1.4. Exod. 21.13. 1 Reg. 22.34. Hos. 6.1. 1 Sam. 2.6. Job. 30.26.
to beat down, and to build] Jer. 1.10. & 18.7. & 31.28. Isa. 5.2, 5.
V. 4. A time to weep] viz. From the Lord; for he speaketh all along of the pro∣vidence of God, in whose hand all our times both of sorrow and of joy are, Psal. 80.5. Ruth 1.20, 21.
and a time to laugh] Psal. 126.1.2. Gen. 21.6.
to mourn] As in Funerals and publick calamities, Chap. 12.5.
to daunce] i. e. greatly to rejoyce, and express joy in the outward behaviour, 2 Sam. 6.14. Act. 3.8.
5. A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather them together] Some by this, un∣derstand the erecting of trophies over con∣quered enemies, as Josh. 8.29. 2 Sam. 18.17, 18. Zach. 9.16. Others, the demo∣lishing or erecting of buildings, all ordered by Gods providence, Luke 13.4. Judg. 9.53. Lam. 2.2, 5, 7, 8, 9. & 4.1. Zach. 5.4. Mic. 1.6. 2 Reg. 3.25. Mar. 13.1, 2.
to embrace, and to abstain from embracing] 1 Cor. 7.5.
Page 100V. 6. to get] Prov. 10.6.
to cast away] Either out of necessity, as Jon. 1.5. Act. 27.18, 38. or out of charity, Prov. 11.24. Eccles. 11.1. or out of spe∣cial duty to God, Heb. 10.34. Matth. 10.37.38, 39. and 19.29.
V. 7. To rent] As the custome was in mourning, Job. 1.20. Joel 2 19.
to speak, to keep silence] According to difference of seasons, Prov. 26.4, 5. & 25.11. Amos 5.13.
V. 8. A time of war] 2 Sam. 11.1.
Thus Solomon by an Induction of divers particulars, and those very various, and each by way of Antithesis with his contrary joyn∣ed to him, some natural actions, some civil, some domestical, some vitious, some vertu∣ous, some serious and solemn, others light and ludicrous, some wise, some passionate; by all these he assureth us, that there is a holy and wise work of God in predefining, ordering, limiting, tempering, disposing of all these and the like affairs of men, and so qualifying in the life of a man one contrary with another, and ballancing prosperity and adversity by each other, that in every con∣dition a good man may find cause of prai∣sing God, and of trusting in him, and of exercising this tranquility and contentment of mind, even in contrary conditions be∣cause Page 101 the holy hand of God is in the one, as well as in the other, Job. 1.21. Phil. 4.11, 12.
V. 9. What profit hath he that worketh, in that wherein he laboureth? As Chap. 1.3. Matth. 6.27. In vain is it for a man by any anxious toyl to go about to effect any thing according to his own will, if the counsel and providence of God be against it. When he builds, God may pull down, or put in some accident and casual event which shall divert, or undo all: Yet he doth not in∣tend to restrain men from needfull Labour in their Callings; but from trusting in or build∣ing on their Labours, and fretting if such fruits follow not thereupon as they intended and expected; but patiently to submit to the holy Will of God, unto whom it be∣longeth to dispose of our persons, of our li∣berties as it pleaseth him. Whence observe, That carking and caring is indeed a striving with the irresistable providence of God, which no labour of ours can alter, or bend to our wills, Isa. 45.9. Jon. 4.1, 8, 9. as on the other side, glorying of our own strength and wisdome, is a robbing him of his honour, Deut. 8.17, 18. Habak, 1.16. Labour is subordinate unto providence, but must ne∣ver strive with it. There is no profit to any m•n in his Labour, without Gods blessing, Page 102 which therefore he must pray for, and re∣joyce in, without fruitless anxiety for the future.
V. 10. I have seen the travel] Chap. 1.13. men might be apt to think when they see so many turns and changes in the world, that all things are carried by a blind and rash disorder, casually and uncertainly, as it falls out, without any beauty or order in them. To this he answers, That it is God who hath given unto men this travel to exercise themselves in various and contrary imploy∣ments, passions, events, and that he doth, though we do not suddenly observe it, direct them all unto a beautifull issue: all these contraries work together for good, Rom. 8.28. Again, men might think on the other hand, If man have indeed no profit of all his labour, but when all is done, God alone orders the Event, then to what end should he weary himself in so fruitless an imploy∣ment? To this also there is an answer in these words; God hath given to man his work, which he is to undertake in obedi∣ence to Gods command: and God doth u∣sually dispense his mercies unto us in the use of means, and by a blessing on our labours, Prov. 10.4, 22. Joh. 21.3, 6. Act. 27.22, 31. And though Labour do not effect what we expected from it, but Gods provi∣dence Page 103 should (as sometimes it doth) act contrary to, or diversly from our endeavours, yet this good there is in honest Labour alone, and this End God hath in requiring it of us, we are Exercised therein, and so kept from idleness, and the evil effects which would follow thereupon. Labour is not only a duty, but in this respect beneficial, (even when it miscarrieth as to the principal end aimed at in it) that the heart is thereby kept in that station and order wherein God did originally set it, Gen. 3.17, 18, 19.
V. 11. He hath made every thing beauti∣full in his time, or in the time and proper season thereof.] This is a further commen∣dation of the wise providence of God in the government of the world, and all the events which happen in it, to the end that men may with more quietness and contentment acquiesce therein. We might be apt to stumble and be offended at the seeming con∣fusions which are in the world, and the great uncertainty of affairs therein. But howsoever it seem so unto us, who are not able to put together all the pieces of Gods providence, nor to foresee that frame and feature which he will form them unto at the last, yet this is certain, that as in the w•rk of Creation all things were very good, Gen. 1.31. So in the work of Gubernation and Page 104 Providence, All things will at last appear to be very beautiful, and those things which seemed but as confused heaps when they lay asunder, will when Gods whole work is done, (Isa. 10.12.) and they are all put together, appear to have been full of order, and de∣corum: as beauty in the body ariseth out of an equal temperament of contraries toge∣ther, and so in a curious piece of hanging various colours wisely mixed, make an ele∣gant piece: and letters which in the Printers boxes seem all confused, and signifie nothing: yet being set together by an exquisite Copy, they afford us a learned and elaborate work; as we see in the History of Joseph and his brethren, of Davids troubles and Kingdom: of Mordecai, Esther, and Haman, of the Jews crucifying of Christ, &c.
Again, God hath made every thing beau∣tifull in its time] As cold, and frost, are as orderly, as necessary, as usefull in the win∣ter, the season for them, as fruits, and flow∣ers, and other delights are in the summer. Sorrow and Affliction is in the season of it as usefull and needfull for men, and in its kind as beautifull, as mirth and joy in another season, 1 Pet. 1.6, 7. Jam. 1.2, 3. & 5.7, 11. Eccles. 7.13, 14. Ps. 104.24.
also he hath set the world in their heart, &c.] These words are in this place very Page 105 difficult, and variously both rendred, and understood. Some read them thus, Quam∣diu seculum est, as long as the world, or worldly things continue, the Lord doth put into the mind of man the work which God doth from the beginning to the end, except∣ing only that which man cannot find out, or attain unto: and so the sense to be, That God hath in the book of the world, and of his pro∣vidence in the Government of all things therein, so legibly represented to the mind of man his righteous and beautifull ordering of them all, that man may if he set himself about it, easily discover Gods wonderfull wisdom therein; as Act. 14.17. Rom. 1.19, 20. onely indeed some things are un∣searchable to humane reason, which he is to admire and adore, waiting till the time of the revelation of Gods righteous Judgements for the full and distinct understanding of them, Rom. 11.33, 34. Job. 9.10. & 11.7, 8, 9. Others, by putting the world in mens hearts, understand according to one of the usual ac∣ceptions of the word, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a desire im∣planted in man of eternity and perpetuity, and so the sense to be, That albeit God doth make every thing good and beautifull, yet the heart of man is so set upon immorta∣lity, that he cannot provide amongst any of Gods works here which have a beginning Page 106 and an end, or are measured by time, any thing wherein his heart may fully and finally rest.
But that which seems most agreeable to the scope of the place, and grammar of the words, is this; God hath indeed made eve∣ry thing beautifull in his time, and there∣upon men ought with quiet and cheerfull hearts to observe Gods providence in all things, and therein to rest, without anxiety or discruciating care: but man cannot find out the work of God, nor observe the beau∣ty thereof so exactly as he should, which is the reason that he doth not so patiently a∣quiesce therein. Of this defect he giveth two reasons:
1. That they have the world in their hearts, they are so taken up with the thoughts and cares of worldly things, and are so exer∣cised in the sore travel belonging unto them, that they do not naturally look up to the wise and holy disposition of God, so as to rest therein. This duty is the remedy of such cares, Matth. 6.26, 30, 32. and such cares as are the hindrance of this duty.
2. They cannot find out the work which God doth from the beginning to the end] Man being of short continuance doth not many times live to observe a full point in the works of God. Their beginning may be in Page 107 one age, and their end in another. That part which I see in my dayes, may appear to me full of disorder and confusion, as heaps of stone and lime, and other provisions to∣wards a goodly building: whereas if I did live to see the end of God in such works, it would appear, that in their time, or matu∣rity they would be full of beauty: that fruit which is most sweet and delicate in its sea∣son, is sour and unpleasant while it is yet green. It is the End of Gods work which sets forth its beauty. Works of Providence, as works of Creation, may begin in a Chaos, and seem without form and void, Gen. 1.2. but they end in admirable order and beauty, Chap. 8.17. Psal. 37.37, 38. Jam. 5.11. Hab. 2.3. So here is the doctrine of the excellent beauty which is in Gods Provi∣dence. The reason why man is not thereby perswaded unto contentment and patience in all estates, namely, his natural impo∣tency to observe the same. The grounds of that Impotency, 1. His worldly-minded∣ness. 2. His short continuance: yet he ought by faith, and by the evidence of Gods dealings in other ages, to rectifie this de∣fect, and upon that ground to build his cheerfull enjoyment of blessing while God bestows them upon him. So it follows,
V. 12. I know that there is no good in them: Page 108 but for, &c.] I know by my tryal and expe∣rience, that there is no good in or for them, i. e. for men; but only with contentment of heart to rejoyce in Gods blessings, and to do good in his life, i. e. to live in the fear of God; as Chap. 2.24, 25. or to do good unto themselves in a liberal enjoyment of their life and labours, as Psal. 49.18. or to do good to others in the time of their joy, as Neh. 8.10, 12.
V. 13. And also that every man should eat, &c.] Here are the parts of this con∣tentment, to eat, drink, enjoy our labours, and to rejoyce in them. Whereby is meant not a gluttonous, luxurious, and intempe∣rate use of these things, as they, 1 Cor. 15.32. Matth. 44.49. but a free and comfor∣table use, without anxious thoughts for the future, moderated by the fear of God, as be∣fore, Chap. 2.24.
V. 14. I know that whatsoever God doth it shall be for ever, &c.] Here from the un∣changeableness of Gods providence, the permanent and irrecoverable course of his counsels, the Absolute perfection of his works, wherein there is nothing defective, which requires addition, nothing superfluous, or to be taken from them; he doth further teach us with willingness and contentment to submit to God, whose Counsels we are Page 109 no•able by all our cares to alter or disanul.
shall be for ever] The w•••s themselves may alter and vanish, but the Counsel of God is constant and immutable, and he doth in a stable and fixed way dispose of all things to holy ends, beyond the power of any Creature, either to alter or evade it, Mal. 3.6. His decrees are like chariots pro∣ceeding out of mountains of brass to note fir∣mitude and immutability, Zach. 6.1.2. which no power can shake or remove, Isa. 38.10. Job 38.31—35. & 40.8. & 42.2. Job 9.12. Isa. 14.27. & 46.10.
and God doth it, that men should fear be∣fore him] Gods decrees and immutable pro∣vidence should not drive us either into de∣spair and a wilfull neglect of all means, in the use whereof God expecteth that we should wait upon him, and in which as in the way of his providence, he useth to work good for his people: nor do they allow us to lean on our own wisdome, and to deifie our own councels, or burn incense to our own nets; but by them we are taught, in considera∣tion of the Soveraignty, power, and wisdom of God in all things, to stand in awe of him, to submit unto him; in blessings to be thankfull, in sufferings to be patient, be∣cause still it is the Lord that decrees, orders, disposeth and over-ruleth all, Job 1.21. 1 Page 110 Sam. 3.18. 2 Sam. 15.25, 26. Psal. 37.5▪ 7.
V. 15. That which hath been, is now, and that which is to, &c.] Chap. 1.9. This is an explication of what was last said, V. 14. to shew how what God doth, is for ever: The things themselves pass, and others succeed in their places, but this series of things is carried on regularly and uniformly by a stand∣ing Law and fixed decree, appointing a perpetual and proportionable Succession of things one after another, as it hath been from the beginning, Gen. 8.22. Jer. 31.35, 36. Job 38.10, 33.
and God requireth that which is past.] That which time thrusteth forward, and so maketh to be past, God restores and brings it back again. And this is also an excellent argument of contentment in our estate, be it what it will: 1. Because God dealeth not in a strange and unusual manner with us, o∣therwise then with others before us; that which now is our Case, hath been the case of other good men, and will be the case of others when we are gone, 1 Cor. 10.13. A humame Temptation there, is that which God doth usually exercise men withall, as elsewhere the rod of a man, 2 Sam. 7.14. 2. Because God tempereth our lives, and doth not keep us alwayes in one and the same estate. In trouble he bringeth back Page 111 and restoreth comfort to those that wait on on him, Psal. 126.1, 4. as to Job, Chap. 42.12. In abundance, he can shake our mountain which we thought immovable, and bring back our sorrows again, Psal. 30.6, 7. so that in both respects we ought to carry an awfull, reverend, and humble heart towards God in all conditions, quietly referring our selves in every estate unto his Fatherly dis∣posal, who best knoweth what is good for us.
V. 16. And moreover I saw under the Sun the place of Iudgement, &c.] I saw an∣other Vanity under the Sun. Having for∣merly shewed the vanity of knowledge, and of pleasures, and of humane Labours, in re∣gard of the internal anxiety & travel of mind that doth accompany them, and of the ex∣ternal changes they are subject unto, and manifold miscarriages and disappointments which are incident unto them, together with the remedy hereof, a free and cheerfull en∣joyment of Gods blessings with piety towards him for the present; and a comfortable de∣pendance on his holy providence, with godly fear for the future: upon a visible ob∣jection which might be made against the pro∣vidence of God, (which he had so much commended) with which Temptation ma∣ny good men have been shaken, to wit, the prosperous impiety and oppressions of wic∣ked Page 112 men, and the sad condition of the in∣nocent and oppressed, Job 21.3.—13. Psal. 7.2.—5. Jer. 12.1. Habak. 1.13, 14. he proceedeth to vindicate the doctrine of providence, and to shew the vanity of men in honour and great place without the fear of God: (for all the vanities in this book are still to be understood in that sense, the fear of God being the remedy of it, and that which maketh all other outward good things sweet and comfortable to us,) The greatest honour without a holy use of it, is so far from making a man happy, that it is an oc∣casion of much wickedness amongst men, one man proving a devil and wolf unto another, and making no other use of power, then lyons or bears do, to mischief others by. This wickedness is aggravated, in that it was com∣mitted under the pretence of Gods Ordi∣nance; Magistracy and Courts of Justice were erected by Gods appointment to be Sanctuaries and places of refuge for wronged innocency to repair unto for succour and re∣lief: now then, for those who were ordained to comfort and help poor and oppressed per∣sons, to be themselves through bribery, par∣tiality, and injustice, the greatest oppressors, and that with so high a hand, as to make the very tribunals of judgement, to be slaughter∣houses, and shops of cruelty, This was a Page 113 great vanity amongst men, and a great Tem∣ptation whereby a poor mans comfortably waiting on the providence of God is in dan∣ger to be shaken.
We here note, 1. That power without Piety, is very apt to degenerate into cruelty and oppression. It is an unweildy and a wilfull thing, that wants much ballance of humility and self-denyal to temper and allay it, Isa. 1.21, 22, 23. & 10.13, 14. Jer. 22.14, 17. Mic. 3.9, 10, 11. Habak. 1.13, 14. Ezek. 22.25.
2. That it is the height of impiety, to fetch power and advantage from any ordi∣nance of God, to commit it, Isa. 5.20. 1. Sam. 2.17. Jer. 23.25, 38. Jer. 14.14, 15. 1 Reg. 22.11, 12, 24. Joh. 19.10. Isa. 36.10. Mal. 2.8.
3. That wickedness is many times grosly aggravated by the circumstance of place where it is committed, Hos. 6.8. Ezek. 8.6, 9, 17. Isa. 27.10. Mal. 1.7. Matth. 21.12, 13.
and the place of righteousness, that iniqui∣ty was there] This is the same thing repeat∣ed, as the use of that tongue, and of the Scripture is, whereby may be signified, How usual a thing it was in places of Judgement, here and there, one as well as another, to find this corruption, Jer. 5.5. Isa. 5.7.
Page 114V. 17. I said in my heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked, &c. This is the censure Solomon passeth upon this vanity, that though power do oppress, and the poor be oppressed, yet this ought not to discourage good men from contented waiting on the providence of God, nor to encourage or embolden wicked men in their wayes of tyranny or oppression, because the Lord will in due time review all again, and pass a righteous judgement upon the one and the other.
I said in mine heart] I comforted my heart against this vanity by the consideration of the righteous Judgement of God.
God will judge the righteous] By a sen∣tence of absolution.
and the wicked] By a sentence of con∣demnation.
for there is a time there] (i. e.) With God, in the judgement to come. The ante∣cedent is to be understood in the relative, as Num. 7.89. Him, for, God, Esth. 9.25. She, for Esther, Psal. 114.2. His Sanctua∣ry, for, Gods Sanctuary, Job 1.2•. naked shall I return thither; namely to the earth.
Here we see, 1. That faith can look on the pride and power of wicked men as a ve∣ry vain thing, even when they are in the height of their greatness, Job. 5.3. Psal. 92. Page 115 7. & 39.5, 37. & 10.20. & 35.36. Hab∣bak. 2.7. Luk. 12.20.
2. That it is matter of comfort to men oppressed, that the Lord will judge their cause over again, and right them against their oppressours. Therefore they ought patiently to wait on him, and to expect what issue he will give them out of their troubles, Eccles. 5.8. Jam. 5.7. Psal. 7.6, 7, 8, 9, 11. & 9.4, 9.
3. There is a prefixed time beyond which God will no longer suffer innocency to be oppressed, nor tyranny to prevail, and we are patiently to wait for Gods time, who will certainly come when wicked men have filled up their measure, Act. 17.31. Jam. 5.7, 8. Job. 21.30. Psal. 37.13. Habbak. 2.3. Zach. 5.5—7.
V. 18. I said in my heart concerning the estate of the sons of men] The order, condition, manner of men, or concerning men themselves, as Psal. 110.4. Eccles. 8.2. or concerning the degrees of men, supe∣riours and inferiours.
That God might manifest them] I saw that man being in power, did not, could not rightly consider his own frail condition, and therefore that God must manifest them, in his righteous judgement, or by his word unto themselves, and make them know their Page 116 own natural vileness, and that they are, as to outward respects, but as the beasts that perish, Psal. 49.20. as Psal. 82.6, 7. ye are Gods by office, but ye shall die like men; so here, men by reason, by power, by digni∣ty, But ye shall die like beasts. Others thus, That they might clear, or purge God when he judgeth them, and shall make them see that they lived like beasts, Psal. 51.4. Others, that God indeed hath chosen and advanced them to dignity, but by what is seen, and doth outwardly appear of them, they are by their cruelty and injustice, no better then beasts; as Mic. 3.3. Zeph. 3.3.
That they themselves are Beasts] Heb. A Beast. Or that these are as a Beast to those, or as a beast to one another; the singular number is put collectively, they act the part of all kind of hurtful beasts one towards another: so Christ called Herod a fox, Luk. 13.32. and the hypocritical Jews, vipers. Luk. 3.7. See Psal. 22.12, 16. & 10. & 57.4. 2 Tim. 4.17. Ps. 80.13. Ezek. 22.27. Jer. 5.6. Psal. 68.30. Amos 4.1. Mat. 7.6. 2 Pet. 2.22. Ezek. 2.6.
Some render these words 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 by Secundum rationem humanam; and thence infer, that Solomon speaketh here according to the judgment of carnal and corrupt reason, and under a Prosopopoeia, doth deliver the judgment of Atheists and Epi∣cures, Page 117 touching the mortality of the Soul, and the total parity of condition between men & beasts in regard of mortality, who thence al∣low themselves in all kinds of violence, op∣pression and luxury: and so they understand all that follows to the end of this Chapter, to be spoken as in the person of an Epicure and Atheist: The same events happen to man and beast, their end the same, their original and matter the same, their senses, breath, no∣tions the same, their soul alike earthly, for who knows that mans goes upward more then a beasts, and therefore it is equal, that they should live sensually, without fear or care for the future, as beasts do.
But the necessity of such a sense doth not appear, since the wise mans purpose here seemeth to be no other but to humble the highest of men, as in the former words, by consideration of Gods Judgement over them; so in these to the 21. verse, by the conside∣ration of their own mortal and earthly con∣dition; wherein as to many particulars they agree with the brute beasts: for he speaks not here of mans immortal or heavenly Con∣dition; but throughout this Book the Scope is to shew the vanity of earthly things, and of humane actions in order unto things under the Sun; which vanity is by no means to be remedied, but only by the fear of God. The Page 118 vanity of all the honours and labours of this life, he here discovereth by the equal con∣dition in mere outward respects between men and beasts.
V. 19. For that which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts, even one thing befal∣leth them] For as for the Event of the sons of men, and for the Event of beasts, one Event is to them both, Psal. 49.10.
as the one dieth, so dieth the other] Or, as is the death of the one, so is the death of the other, Chap. 2.15, 16.
they have all one breath] They draw in and out the same air; by the same kind of vital organs, mans breath is in his nostrils, as the breath of beasts, Isa. 2.22. Job 27.3, 4. Gen. 2.7. He speaks not of the soul of man, but of Animal and vital breath, which is common to both, Ezek. 37.5.10. So we read of the common provisions which God makes in regard of this life, for beasts, birds, fishes, and men, and the common fate which attends them all, Psal. 104.11, 12, 14, 15, 21, 23, 27—30.
so that a man hath no preheminence above a beast] In outward respects, without piety to raise him above a mere corporal and sensual use of them: nay in many outward things beasts have the preheminence, some more strength, others more agility; some more Page 119 exquisite senses, others longer life, most more healthy, more hardy, able to work more, able to bear and endure more, then man.
for all is vanity] All equally vain and mortal.
V. 20. All go into one place, all are of the dust, and all return to dust again] As they agree in one vital principle, so are they subject to one Law of mortality, their origi∣nal, in regard of bodily constitution, the same, and by dissolution their condition in regard of bodies the same, Gen. 3.19. Job 34.15. Psal. 22.16. We must still remem∣ber, that he speaketh of mans mere natural condition, as he is under the Sun. Other∣wise, in regard of mans future condition, his body is again to be raised, and brought to Judgement.
V. 21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast which goeth downward to the earth?] It is true indeed there is a future happiness belonging unto men who have immortal souls, which beasts have no right unto, nor are capable of; The soul of the one goes upward, Chap. 12.7. Luk. 18.22. Act. 7.59. whereas the souls of beasts perish. But no man can by sense discern the ascent of the one, or the descent of the other; and Solomon speaks not of mans Page 120 future celestial happiness in this Book, but of the vanity of all outward things, without true piety, to satisfie the heart of man while he is under the Sun. As for the other celestial happiness, it cannot be discerned by a na∣tural disquisition, but is revealed in the word unto a few, 1 Cor. 2.9—11.
V. 22. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, then that a man should rejoyce in his own works] He repeats his former con∣clusion, Chap. 2.23. & 3.13. from these va∣nities, since there is so little difference in outward things between a man and a beast; therefore to remedy this vanity, he is in the fear of God, while he liveth, to enjoy with cheerfulness and contentment his own la∣bours; for that only which he so doth enjoy, is his own portion: and not to trouble himself with thoughts or cares for the future, since being gone, he hath no more share in them, nor knowledge of them.
for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?] If he h•ard them up for others, and use them not himself, what good will he have of them when he is gone? Who can foretell him what use shall be made of them, what good shall be done with them; there∣fore let him take comfort of them himself be∣fore he die, Chap. 5.18.