ECCLESIASTES, OR, The Preacher.
THe Author of this Book both by the Style, and by the Title of it appeareth to have been Solomon, since no other Son of David was King in Jerusalem, but he. He seemeth to have written it in his old Age, when he took a more serious view of his past Life. The Honours, pleasures, wealth, wisdome, he had so abundantly enjoyed: The Errors and miscarriages which he had fallen into: the large experience, and many obser∣vations he had made, of things Natural, Mo∣ral, Domestical, Civil, Sensual, Divine: the Curious and Critical inquiry he had made af∣ter true happinesse, and what Contribution all things under the Sun could afford thereun∣to. Page 2 Concerning which, He doth, 1. In the general discover the utter vanity and insuffi∣ciency of all things here below to make a man Blessed, in regard of their mutable nature, of their weaknesse and disproportion to the Soul of Man: of the weariness which is contracted by the studying of them: and the impossibility of ever drawing from them more then ha•• been formerly extracted; and consequently the fruitlesse attempt of any that should ever after go about to receive satisfaction from them. 2. He demonstrateth this General Proposition touching the most Vain Vanity of all things under the Sun, by an Induction of those particulars, from which, above all others, men usually expect the greatest Contentment. Those are, 1. Wisdom and Knowledg both na∣tural and moral, for inquiry whereinto no man was ever furnished with greater abilities and stronger inclinations in himself; or with more fitting provisions and assistants from without, then Solomon was, in regard of the greatnesse of his dignity and estate; and yet after all he concludeth, That Wisdome and Know•edge do but encrease Grief and Sorrow, so far are they from bringing such blessedness to the Soul, as may fully satisfie the desires thereof. 2. Pleasures and Delights, which he had as much advantage by his greatnesse to Enjoy, and by his wisdome to Examine, as ever any Page 3 other man should have: and yet all the con∣tent he expected from them, did end in hatred of them, and despair of ever mending his con∣dition by them. 3. Honour, greatnesse, and power in the World, concerning which, he shew∣eth that it is so far from making men happy, as that without the fear of God to correct and •emper it, it is the occasion of much wicked∣nesse to those that have it, and of much mise∣ry to th•se that suffer under it: It usually breaking forth into oppression and violence, whereby men in power carry themselves like beasts towards their brethren, and shall them∣selves dye like beasts, undesired, and unla∣mented. It being likewise matter of much discouragement to men that are oppressed by it, making them weary of their lives, careless of their labours, resolved rather upon quiet idlenesse, then upon envied imployments; and to get what they can privately to themselves, then having been publickly useful, to •e re∣payed with no other Rewards then wrong and danger: by which means Society and Com∣munity of services amongst men, so greatly beneficial to publick interest, are obstructed and dissolved. 4. An outward form of Reli∣gion and of Divine Worship, into which foo∣lish men by carnal confidence, and superficial performances, do also put diverse vanities, and make even Gods service unuseful to their Page 4 Happinesse. 5. Riches and great Possessions, which are so far from satisfying the heart of man, as that they occasion more cares, lesse sleep, lesse quiet, are snares and occasions of much Hurt to the owners of them, who, living, possess them with sorrow; and dying, part with them with wrath and indignation: Ha∣ving little benefit by them in their life, as ha∣ving not power no enjoy them: nor in their death any comfort from them, as leaving them to they know not whom, being not at all exemp∣ted by them either from misery or morta∣lity.
And having thus discovered the vanity of the principal things from whence the Heart of man might have expected satisfaction: He doth thereupon prescribe many excellent means for healing and abating of that Vanity, and for procuring tranquility unto the Mind, and peace and comfort to the life of a man. Such are, Contentation of heart in the sweet and fr•e Enjoyment of all outward Blessings, with thanksgiving, and in the fear of God. Quiet and Humble Acquiescency under the holy and powerful providence of God, in all the Events which befall us in the World. Sincerity of heart in his worship, and prudent Piety in our vowes, prayers, and addresses unto him. Pa∣tience of spirit under all the oppressions we meet with in the world. A composed preparedness Page 5 of mind to undergo sorrows and afflictions. Prudent and pious moderation of spirit in our behaviour towards all men, that so we may preserve our names from Cal•mnie, and our persons from danger. Meekness, Charity, Patience towards such as offend, considering Common frailty, and our own weaknesse. So∣briety of mind, contenting our selves with a measure of wisdome and knowledge, and not busying our selves with things too high for us. Practical Prudence, which may render us beautiful in the eyes of others. Loyalty a•d obedience towards Magistrates, that our lives may not be made uncomfortable by their dis∣pleasure. Wisdome to discern of time and judgment. Preparedness of heart against inevitable evils. Submission to the Holy and invincible Providence of God, admiring his Works, adoring his Iudgments. Ioyful frui∣tion of Comforts. Conscionable and indu∣strious walking in our particular Callings. Wisdome how to carry our selves amidst the many Casualties which meet us in the World, so as that we may by our loyalty towards our Superiours decline the danger of displeasure from them: and by our Charity to Inferiours, lay up a good foundation for our selves, against the time to come. Lastly, Moderation in the use of Comf•rts here: And preparation by the fear of God, and keeping of his Comman∣dements, Page 6 for death and Iudgment hereafter. That by these means as our Life is sweet, so our Death may be welcome. That the Piety of our Youth may help us to bear the Infirmi∣ties of our Age, and to lift up our Heads in the day of Redemption.
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.
BEing disappointed in his expectation from the knowledge of the Creature, he now resolveth to search what good may be found in the use and fruition of it, and so sets himself to try what content either sen∣sual, or rational pleasures could bring to the heart; which he doth, from vers. 1. to ver. 12. and finding that he had changed for the worse, he goes back again to the considerati∣on of wisdome and madnesse, and finding as much disappointment the second time, as he had done the first, vers. 12—23. He con∣cludeth, that there is no comfort nor tran∣quility to be found in the use of Creatures, till by the favour of God it be sweetned unto us, Vers. 24, 25, 26.
Vers. 1. I Said in my heart] I purposed Within my self, and did resolve with intimate affection to try what plea∣sures would do, Chap. 1.16. Luke 12.19.
Go to now] It is an adverbial form of ex∣horting Page 49 and quickening his heart unto such a course.
I will prove thee with mirth] Or, by mirth, as by the instrument of enquiring after hap∣pinesse, Judg. 6.39. 1 King. 10.1. I will make tryal another way whether pleasures will content thee, Psal. 26.2. the word be∣ing deriveable from another root, admits of another sense, but to the same purpose, I will pour out my self in delights, or I will abound in delights. Pleasures do melt and pour out the soul; hence Reuben is said to be unsta∣ble as waters, Gen. 49.4. Ezek. 16.15. Lusts have a greediness and excess in them, Eph. 4.19. I will wholly give my self, my heart shall flow forth into delights, I will fully gra∣tifie my senses, and indulge my fancy in all pleasing things.
therefore enjoy pleasure] Or, see good. To see, is to enjoy, Isa. 53.11. Psal. 34.8. & 4.6. Live plentifully, indulge to thy self all delights, restrain not thy self from any desire of thine eyes.
V. 2. I said of laughter] By laughter, he meaneth any excess of joy, and merriment, when the heart is so full, that it cannot con∣tain its delight within, but it breaketh forth into the face, voice, and outward behaviour, Gen. 21.6. Psal. 126.2. Luke 6.21.
Page 50or I said to laughter, Thou art mad] By a Prosopopoeia. Excess of joy transporteth the mind, and as it were displaceth reason, argues much levity, vanity, incomposedness of judgment. True joy is a severe and se∣rious thing, keeps the heart alwayes in a stayed and fixed condition, but the joy which breaks forth into laughter, is like the crack∣ling of thorns, Eccl. 7.6. and hath a sorrow at the bottom of it: as a mad-man, the more merry he is, is the more miserable, Prov. 14.13. Jam. 4.9.
and of mirth, what doth it?] What good or profit bringeth it with it? Job 35.6, 7. Matth. 20.32. The interrogation bids a chal∣lenge to all the masters of mirth, that were to produce any one satisfactory fruit which it affordeth. Thus we see by the example of Solomon, that the heart cannot stay long on any one enquiry wherein it meeteth with dis-satisfaction, but it quickly hasteneth un∣to another, as a Bee flyeth from flower to flower, when there is not enough in one to satiate it, as a sick man that removes from one bed, couch, chamber, unto another for ease, and finds none, Esay 57.10. Jer. 2.23, 36. 2. That in such kind of changes usu∣ally the heart goeth from better to worse, 〈◊〉 here Solomon from wisdome to pleasure• 3. Here is observable the nature of sensua•Page 51 mirth, it tends towards excess, and so to∣wards undecency and madness: for here is not condemned moderate, but excessive plea∣sure, when a man gives up his heart to it, and makes it the business of his life.
V. 3. I sought in my heart] Upon serious deliberation, and further exploration of that good which men may in this life attain unto, finding that neither wisdome alone, nor plea∣sures alone, could bring me unto it, I pur∣posed to temper them together; and since I found that wisdome and knowledge was ac∣companied with grief and sorrow, I intend∣ed to mitigate those griefs with bodily de∣lights: and yet so, as that my wisdom might restrain those delights from any excess, and from disabling me in the duties which I owed to God or men.
to give my self unto wine] To draw my flesh with wine. Or, to draw forth my flesh unto wine. Abstinence doth shrink and contract the body, and keep it under, 1. Cor. 9.27. Dan. 1.10. feasting and mirth doth draw it forth, Psal. 73.7. That leannesse or wasting of body which by hard studies I had contracted, I now purposed by more deli∣cacy of living, and indulgence to draw forth into freshness, fulness and beauty again. Or, to draw with wine, to spend more time in feasting, banqueting, and delights then for∣merly Page 52 I had done. So drawing signifies some∣times continuance and prolongation of a bu∣siness, Psal. 85.5. Isai. 13.22. Ezek. 12.28. So the glutton, Luk. 16.19.
unto wine] (i. e.) By a Synecdoche, unto all kind of delicates in eating and drinking, in banqueting and feasting. As bread signi∣fies all necessaries, Amos 7.12. with 6.11. so wine all delicates, Prov. 9.2. Cant. 8.2. & 2.4.
yet acquainting mine heart with wisdome] Or, leading my heart by wisdom, resolving to keep such a temper, as to carry my self not licentiously, but wisely in the use of pleasures, to keep my self from being capti∣vated unto, or swallowed up of these carnal delights, as using them not sensually, with a bruitish excesse, but critically and rationally to finde out what real content they do af∣ford unto the heart of an intelligent man. I did so give my flesh unto wine, as though I kept my heart for wisdom still.
and to lay hold on folly] By folly, he meaneth those pleasures, the laying hold on which he found in the event to be nothing but folly. Thus to lay hold on them is fully to possess a mans self with them, and to em∣brace and apprehend them with all one• strength, Isa. 56.4. 1 Tim. 6.19. Phil. 3.12, 13. It may likewise seem to intimate thus Page 53 much, That he held folly from mixing with his pleasures, or coming into his heart along with them, to hold it as a man holds an ene∣my from doing him any hurt, Judg. 12.6. & 16.21.
till I might see what was that good for the sons of men] This was the end of his enqui∣ring; it was not to drown himself in sensua∣lity, but to discover what kind of course was that, which would render this present mor∣tal life more comfortable to a man. He did it not vitiously, but to make an experiment only. Solomon found in himself emptiness and indigency, he felt strong opposition af∣ter some good which might supply those wants; and he had active principles of rea∣son to enquire what that good was, which Nature did so much want, and so greatly de∣sire. And this reason and habitual wisdome he imployed to the uttermost, to discover that good under heaven which might most perfectly satisfie the wants and desires of the reasonable soul.
under 〈◊〉] As before under the Sun. He was not ignorant, but that in the Heavens there was a supreme and infinite good, which the glorified soul should enjoy unto endlesse satisfaction; but he speaketh •here of that good under the Sun, which may most swee∣ten the mortal life of man.
Page 54all the dayes of their life] That is, time good which is durable, and commensurate to the Soul that feeds on it. Now most of the things he here recounteth are onely for some seasons of life; as painful studies, vigorous pleasures, active negotiations, when age and and infirmities come, they forsake him; and so these good things dye before the man that should enjoy them, 2 Sam. 19.35. Psal. 90.10. Eccl. 1•.3, 4, 5. Therefore in this en∣quiry, the duration of the good, is as requi∣site to be considered as the quality of it; whether it will continue with a man as a stay and comfort to him all the dayes of his life. Nothing will do this but godliness, Psal. 92.13, 14. There can be no time, no condition in a mans life, wherein the fear of God will not be comfortable unto him.
Here we observe; 1. That in all these inquiries Solomon begins with his heart, thereby noting unto us, That the good which must satisfie a man, must bear proportion to his heart, and to his inward man. 2. That he tempers his pleasures and 〈◊〉 pains in seeking knowledge, together; teaching there∣by, that the right use of pleasures, is not to take up the whole man, but to mitigate the bitterness and pains of severer studies there∣by. 3. That a man hath never greater need of the bridle of wisdom, then when he is in Page 55 pursuance of carnall delights. 4. That pleasures and folly are very near of kin; and a very hard thing it is to hold folly so fast in, but that it will get loose, and immixe it self in carnal delights. 5. That a free and full indulgence unto pleasures, though not upon sensual, but critical and more curious aims, will by degrees steal away the heart, & much abate more spiritual and heavenly delights: corruption ever creeping in with curiosity, Prov. 20.1. & 23.3, 6. It is a noble and high frame of spirit, to look out in every thing which a man undertakes, after that which is truly and principally good for his heart, in the use of that thing. 7. That the comfort of a mans life under heaven, is to be doing of that good which God hath given him his strength and life for. 8. That nothing is truely the good of a mans life, which is not commensurate in duration and continu∣ance thereunto, and which will not properly minister comfort unto him into whatsoever various conditions of life, as sickness, poverty, bondage, disfavour, old age, &c. he may be cast into.
V. 4. Having upon further deliberation, de∣clared his purpose, to search for good amongst pleasures and bodily delights; he now shew∣eth what magnificent and royal provisions he made, in order to that design, sumptuo•s diet, stately buildings, vineyards, gardens, or∣chards, Page 56 forests, parks, fish-ponds, honourable retinue of servants; possessions of all sorts of cattel; treasures of gold, silver, and all precious things; musick vocal, instrumen∣tal; and all these in great abundance, as far as royal wealth could procure, largenesse of heart desire, or exquisite wisdom contrive: In all which he took exceeding much joy and delight, being withheld by no manner of im∣pediments from the full fruition of them; yet in the conclusion, he passeth the same censure here, as he had done before, That all was vanity, &c.
I made me great works] I did not stoop to base and inconsiderable things, to find out that pleasure which might satisfie my desires, but I sought it in magnificent works, becom∣ming the royal state of a King; as Esth. 1.4. Of which works, he doth immediately sub∣joyn a large catalogue.
I builded me; Or to my self, or for my self (it is Datrius's Commody) houses, large and stately, thirteen years in building, 1 Reg. 7.1—13. & 9.15, 17, 18, 19. Houses for habitation, and houses for state and pleasure; winter-houses, and summer-houses, Amos 3.15. David had built an house of Cedar be∣fore, 2 Chron. 2.3. but Solomon contenteth not himself with that.
Page 57vineyards] Cant. 8 11. David likewise had vineyards, and orchards, and cattel, and treasures, and servants set over all these, 1 Chron. 7.25 — 31. yet Solomon will have them in greater magnificence, having no wars nor troubles to interrupt him, as his fa∣ther had.
V. 5. I made me gardens and orchards] Gardens for flowers, plants, spices, Cant. 6.2. orchards, or paradises for trees of all sorts; under which we may comprize forrests and parks, or places for choisest cattel, Cant. 4.13, 14. Neh. 2.8. which were places of great pleasure and delight, Esth. 1.8.
V. 6. pools of water, to water therewith the wood, &c.] Artificial ponds, and receptacles of water, whether arising from springs, or otherwise by aqueducts, and other means de∣rived thither, 2 Reg. 18.17. These used to be in, or near great gardens, and near prince∣ly works, 2 Reg. 20.20. Neh. 2.14. & 3.15. Gen. 2.9, 10. Cant. 7.4. To water the wood or forrest, whereby he seemeth to mean the gardens and orchards, before mentioned, for the spaciousness of them. So a forrest is elsewhere called an orchard or paradise, Neh. 2.8. These things in these hot Countries, were accounted special blessings, and from thence they have their name, Josh. 15.19. These things he had as materials for his wis∣dome, 1 Reg. 4.33.
Page 58V. 7. I got me servants and maidens] Some he bought or hired from abroad, others were born unto him in his house: and these he had for the manifold duties of his royal family: Such had David, 1 Chron. 27.26.—31. and so Solomon, 1 Reg. 4.7. & 5.16, 17. & 10.5.
And had servants born in mine house] Sons of mine house; the children of an handmaid born in her masters house, were born ser∣vants unto the master of the house, Gen. 14.14. & 15.3. & 17.12. Jer. 2.14. hereunto David alludeth, when he saith, I am thy ser∣vant, the son of thy handmaid, Psal. 116.16. The servants of Solomon, which were cer∣tain publick officers, appointed by Solomon, we read of long after, Ezra 2.58. Neh. 7.60. who may seem to be those of the Canaanites, whom Solomon made bond-slaves, 1 Reg. 9.21. Some, by sons of the house, understand those officers whom Solomon did set over his house, to order the Affairs thereof, 1 Reg. 4.27.
possessions of great and small cattel] Or, I had cattel both great and small, or herds and flocks. The first word is general to all cat∣tel, great or small; the two next, the species of that general, Gen. 34.23. 1 Reg. 4.22, 23, 26.
above all that were before me in Ierusalem] Page 59 As more wisdom, Chap. 1.16. so more wealth, and provisions for that wisdom to work up∣on, 1 Reg. 3.13. & 10.23.
V. 8. I gathered me also silver and gold] I heaped it up; as Psal. 33.7. 1 Reg. 9.28. & 10.14. & 15.27. The wayes of this great gain were Tribute, 1 Reg. 10.25. Honourers presents, sent out of the high admiration of his wisdom, from other Princes, 1 Reg. 10.10. & 4.34. and merchandize, or free-trade into remote Countries, 1 Reg. 9.26— 28. & 10.15, 28.
and the peculiar treasure of Kings and of Pro∣vinces] Precious rarities, or most choice & de∣sirable things, which men use to lay up in their treasures; the chief rarities of several Coun∣tries, 1 Chron. 29.3. Hence whatsoever is in∣timately dear and honourable, is metaphori∣cally called segullah, Exod. 19.5. Psal. 135.4. Mal. 3.17. The Apostle rendreth it 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Tit. 2.14. others, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, that which is of principal worth and esteem, Isai. 39.2. The preciousest and most desirable things, which Kingdoms and Provinces could afford, or wherewith Princes and Provinces did use to present him, 1 Reg. 4.21. & 9.11. & 10.2, 10. 2 Chron. 9.9. & 10.24.
I gat me men singers and women singers] These as well as those, because naturally their voices are sweeter then mens: So we finde Page 60 them joyned, 2 Sam. 19.35. 2 Chron. 35.25. So we read, that not onely Moses and the men, but Miriam and the women did sing at the overthrow of Pharaoh, Exod. 15.1. & 20.21. 1 Sam. 8.6, 7.
and the delights of the sons of men, viz. mu∣sical instruments, &c.] The word translated musical instruments, is no where else used in the Scripture, and hath various interpreta∣tions put upon it. Some understanding by it, beautiful daughters, denominated from their brests, as elsewhere from their womb, Judg. 5.30. Others, for choice and deli∣cate women, taken as a prey in war, as we finde there the manner was: and others for divers other things, as we find in Hierom, Drusius, Mercer, and others. But the most received sense, and most agreeable with the former delight of singers, is musical instru∣ments.
V. 9. So I was great, and increased] Or, added to my greatness; as Chap. 1.16. 1 Reg. 10.23.
also my wisdome remained with me] This he addeth, 1. as a rare and unusual thing, that pleasures should not at all smother and suppress wisdom; 2. As an Argument to∣wards the main conclusion, that in the midst of all these delights, he did intend the business for the which he used them, namely, Page 61 by wisdome to observe, what real good and satisfaction they did bring to the heart of man.
V. 10. And whatsoever mine eyes desired, &c.] It might be objected, That his wisdom haply and his fear of God, restrained both his eye and his heart from so full a fruition of these delights, as were requisite to extract all the comfort of them; so Job restrained his eye, Job 31.1. and Solomon adviseth a glutton to restrain his appetite, Prov. 23.2. Numb. 15.39. To this he answereth, That whatsoever his eyes desired, (as the eye is one of the principal seats of desire or lusting, 1 Joh, 2.16. Josh. 7.21.) he did not reserve any thing of it from them, which withheld his heart from any joy: Neither did any accidental hinderance intercede, as war, or sickness, or sorrow, or any notable affliction; which might debar him from a liberal and cheerful use of all this his greatnesse. The eye is here taken synecdochically for all the senses, (for in this ample preparation there was provision for them all.) Much labour and care he had taken to make those provi∣sions for the flesh; (as the Apostles phrase in another sense is, Rom. 13.14.) and there was no other fruit of all that labour, but ha∣ving gotten them, to enjoy them.
Page 62my heart rejoyced] That is, I my self did intimately rejoyce and please my self in the fruit of my labours.
this was my portion of all my labour] This was all the fruit, benefit, and as it were, in∣heritance, which my labours in this kind did purchase for me. A metaphor from the man∣ner of dividing inheritances, Numb. 18.20. or spoils, 1 Sam. 30.24.
V. 11. Then I looked on all, &c.] After all this, I turned and looked back, or took an impartial survey of all my works, which with such painful labours and trouble I had wrought: and found, that the fruit was not answerable to the toyl which was sustained for the reaping of it: but that this also was vanity, a perishing, withering, and dying comfort, a feeding upon wind, and that it left no abiding benefit behind it, Ch. 1.3.
V. 12. And I turned my self, &c.] Here Solomon doth once more seriously apply himself, as he did before, Chap. 1.17. to take a view of wisdom and folly. Because it might haply be objected, That at the first conside∣ration of them, he might let many things slip, which were of weight and moment in his present inquiry. Because, second thoughts, and solemn review of former studies, may haply beget some retractation, and discover Page 63 some error: The later day being usually the disciple of the former; and we use to say, that the second thoughts are the wisest: therefore when the Scripture will put a thing beyond question, it sayes it over again, Gal. 8.9.
I turned my self] This notes reconside∣ration and special heedfulness, to inquire a new into a business, and likewise a weariness of those pleasures which had disappointed him, Joh. 20.14.
to behold wisdom, and madness and folly] To compare the one with the other, that I might the better understand them, as con∣traries serve to set forth one the other. There is nothing more usual in Solomons Proverbs then this kind of Antithesis, to put contraries together for natural illustration.
for what can the man do that cometh after the King] Here man and king; the king seems to be opposed, what further progress can a∣ny more private man make in this disquisiti∣on, then I who am such a king? This is a Prolepsis or answer to a tacite objection; for it might be said, that it was a high and bold attempt for one man out of his particu∣lar experience to passe so confident a sen∣tence of vanity, & vexation, upon all wisdom and greater works. To this he answereth, that no man after him, could do more in this Page 64 enquiry then he had done, who was so emi∣nent in wisdom, in power, and in industry, that was as it were fitted and stirred up by God unto this business; and therefore if a∣ny man after him should set about the same work, he should do no other thing then that which the king had done before him. This appears to be no arrogant boast in Solomon; because the Scripture testifieth the same of him, 1 Reg. 3.12. The Man who will not believe it upon my report, but will make trial of it himself, if he will go with the same wisdom and integrity about it as] have done, shall find the same vanity in the bottom of e∣very creature, as I have found. So here are two reasons why Solomon challengeth belief in this point. 1. The advantages which he so great a king had above any other man, to draw forth all the flower and quintessence of the creature. 2. The double diligence which he used in it, in not onely viewing throughly once, but reviewing again the things upon which he passed such a judg∣ment.
what the man] The words intimate a kinde of i•dignation, disdain, undervaluing of any one who should attempt such an inquiry af∣ter him, as Psal. 8.4. Quid dignum tanto tulit hic promissor hiatu; what is the man who cometh after the king, whom they have Page 65 made king before; so some read the words: but the most genuine and coherent sence is that which our translation expresseth; he that comes after can do nothing but what they have done: i.e. what is done already be∣fore them. The active voice indefinite u∣sed for the passive, as Isa. 9.6. Jer. 12.6. Gen. 16.14. 1 Sam. 23.22.
I would observe hence, 1. That the dou∣ble and multiplyed experience of wise, great and good men, doth gain much credit and strength to the doctrines so confirmed, 1 Joh. 1.3. Heb. Chap. 11. & 12.1. Jam. 5.10, 11.
2. That the more prejudice is in the heart of men against a truth, the more care must be used to vindicate the same from all shew of exception, Tit. 1.11. & 2.8. Act. 6.10. and 18.28.
3. For a man to speak the truth of himself touching the gifts of God bestowed on him. and to mention his own experiences, onely ayming therein at the glory and truth of God, and edification of the Church, is no arro∣gance, or violation of modesty, but an impro∣ving of Gods gifts to the ends for which he gave them, Chap. 1.16.
V. 13. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly: &c.] That there is an excellency in Page 66 wisdom more then in folly, &c. This So∣lomon confesseth, that indeed there is a great difference between wisdom and pleasures, that being many waies more excellent then those; and therefore though the study of wisdom be not without pain and sorrow, Chap. 1.18. yet it is not therefore to be re∣jected: Wisdom leaves behind it some per∣manent good, as the word here imports, whereas pleasures do perish in their use, and nothing staies behinde them but the sting and sorrow. The sorrow of wisdom is in the getting, but the sorrow of pleasures is after the using, and enjoying of them. It is true, wisdom and knowledg are vain, in order to a higher and nobler end then they bear propo∣tion unto. viz. to make man truly happy, yet they are of excellent use, and singular ornaments to the soul which hath them; so the Apostle, though he tell us that charity is more excellent then gifts, the one serving for edification onely of others, but the other for sanctification of a mans self, yet acknow∣ledgeth that they are all operations of Gods Spirit, and bestowed on men for very profi∣table uses, and accordingly to be earnestly desired, 1 Cor, 12.4, 7, 31. & 14.1, 39. we are so to esteem gifts, as that we prefer salva∣tion and happinesse before them, Luk. 10.20.
Page 67As far as light excelleth darknesse] Wis∣dom to the minde being as light to the body and therefore the Rabins called their wise men, the light of the world; as our Saviour his Apostles. Matth. 5.14. Light is many waies comfortable, it shews things in their distinct forms and shews, it discovers any thing hurtfull, that it may be avoided; or beneficial, that it may be embraced, where∣as darknesse confoundeth all things, and exposeth a man to many dangers. Light is pleasant in it self, Eccles. 11.7. and it is metaphorically used to express the most ex∣cellent things, as joy, Psal. 97.11. Ester. 8.16. liberties, and deliverance, Isa. 9.1. Glory, 1 Tim 6.16. Prosperity. Mic. 7.9. Life it self. Job 3.16, 20. and usually, wisdom and know∣ledg, whereunto it is here compared, Dan. 5.14. And it is very usefull and necessary for direction in our works and labours, Joh. 11.9, 10. But darkness on the other side is very uncomfortable; it is used to express the most calamitous and disconsolate condition, Job. 30.26. Eccles. 5.17. Isa. 8.22. Amos. 5.18.20. Isa. 50.10. Eccles. 11.8. very unusefull, as putting a stop to all labour, Exod 10.23. Josh. 4.9. very dangerous, as causing a man to stumble at every stone, to fall into every pit, to wander out of his way, &c. Josh. 11. Page 68 12. & 12.35. and folly and ignorance in the mind, is usually expressed by the name of darkness Eph. 4.18. & 5.8. Rom. 1.21. In the creation, darkness was the first evil which God removed, and light the first good crea∣ture that he made, Gen. 1.2, 3. light excel∣leth darkness, as the beautifull and orderly frame of nature doth the first confused chaos.
V. 14. The wise mans eyes are in his head] The reason of the former comparison, a wise man is in the light, but a fool in darkness. In his head, as in a watch-tower, from whence he seeth his way before him a far of, taketh notice of things to come, as well as things present, is circumspect, and heedfull, judi∣cious, and wary in his undertakings; There∣fore they who are called wise men in one place, Deut. 16.19. are called men that have their eyes open, in another place, Exod. 23.8. They do in the beginning of a businesse look forward to the end of it, they forecast events, foresee consequences; their eyes try their wayes, as Psal. 11.4. so looking straight forward, denoteth pondering and weighing a mans actions, Prov. 4.25, 26. here it is that Moses said to his father in law, who was a very wise man, thou shalt be to us instead of eyes, to guide and counsel us, Numb. 10. Page 69 31. where the LXX. render it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, thou shalt be an elder, a counsellor, a guide amongst us; so Job saith of himself, that he was eyes to the blind, Job. 29.15. A coun∣sellor, and guide unto them. Thus the ex∣cellency of wisdom is described by the eye, as being the principal part of the body and most beneficial to the whole, 1 Cor. 12.16, 17, 21. Mat. 9.22. and what the eye is to the body, that is to the mind, Eph. 1.18.
But the fool walketh in darknesse] Hereby we understand what is meant by having the eyes in the head, namely, to have them use∣ful for guiding and ordering our waies, so as that we may not erre, wander, stumble, fall, mistake, miscarry in our affairs. The Antithe∣sis should have run thus, but the fools eyes are in his heels, or he hath no •yes to see; but the use of Scripture is to put in the place of the antithesis, that which shall in sense amount thereunto, as Prov. 12.27. the one part of the verse is parabolical or proverbial, but the Antithesis is plain and familiar; so Prov. 14.3. & 15.19. The fool is rash, heady, inconsiderate, cannot discern events, nor foresee dangers; knowes not which way to chuse, or to refuse; his eyes are any where, rather then in his head, Prov. 17.24. is carried headlong in his business, ea∣sily snared and taken, Prov. 4.18, 19. 2 Pet. Page 70 1.19. Matth. 13.15, 16. By darkness here, we may understand blindnesse, Act. 13.11. and then walking in darkness, is a discovery of folly; when a man wants eyes, and yet will be wandring and venturing abroad; when he knowes not whither he goes, nor what dangers are in his way.
Thus far he hath shewed the excellency of wisdome above folly, now he sheweth wherein, notwithstanding they do so far agree, as that vanity belongs unto them both.
And I perceived] The meaning is, not∣withstanding this excellency of the one above the other, yet I perceived that one event hap∣neth to them all] They are equally subject to the same unhappy events; the wisest man that is cann•• by his own counsel exempt himself from the same common calamities which other men fall into: As two ways which seem to part, the one turning to the right hand, and the other to the left, and yet both at last bring to the same Town, Chap. 9.2. & 3.19.
V. 15. Then said I in mine heart] i.e. Therefore, or hereupon I said in mine heart, if it happen to me, even to me, as to the fool, to what end have I taken so much pains to be more wise and learned then he, being by all my wisdom not a whit protected from Page 71 those evils which he hath by his folly exposed himself unto,
That this also is vanity] Some make this to be a judgment on that hasty and angry in∣ference, why was I then more wise? and so the meaning to be; This was my infirmity and vanity, to undervalue wisdom, and mea∣sure it by the casual events which befall it, as Psal. 73.13—15. & 77.10. But the meaning is, that in this respect wisdome is no more able to make a man happy, or to bring perfect tranquility to the Soul, then folly is: albeit in other respects there be a singular excellency in it above the other.
Here then observe, 1. That the most excellent endowments of minde that are, cannot perfectly satisfie the heart of man.
2. That yet there is a special beauty and goodnesse in such gifts, to draw the light of the heart unto them, as being to the minde, as the eye to the head, the guide and the beauty of it; or as light to the eye, a most congenial and suitable good unto it.
3. That events and successes depend not upon the counsels of men, nor upon the gifts of God bestowed on them, but his Pro∣vidence hath the casting voice, and doth over-rule and order them all as pleaseth him, Eccles. 9.11. Psal. 127.1, 2. many times those who have least wisdom or goodnesse, Page 72 have greatest successe, Job 21.7—13. Psal. 73.3—12. Jer. 12.1, 2. Hab. 1.13. Mal. 3.15. and many times the wisest and most cir∣cumspect men, are most frustrated in those courses which were contrived with greatest skill and cunning, 2 Sam. 17.14. Job 5.12, 13, 14. Isa. 19.11—14. 1 Cor. 1.20.
4. That notwithstanding the Providence and Counsel of God hath the pre-eminency in the events of things, yet that hindreth not the excellency of wisdom above folly, nei∣ther are we thereby at all encouraged to finde fault with our selves for any labour in the use of means, onely we must so use them▪ as not to deifie them, nor to trust in them, but wholly to depend upon G•d for his bles∣sing on our counsels, to submit to his wise and holy purposes, when they are disappoin∣ted; to admire his goodness when at any times he turneth our imprudence or impro∣vidence unto good, and maketh the event not answerable to our follies, but to his love.
5. That we cannot judge of the wisdom or folly, the goodness or badness of men by outward events, because these happen alike to all, Chap. 8.14, & 9.11.
V. 16. There is no remembrance, &c.] What he observed in the general before, he now maketh good in two particulars, viz, ob∣livion, Page 73 and death, which are both alike com∣mon to wise men and to fools. Wise men may seem to secure at least their names, though they cannot their bodies from morta∣lity; by such magnificent works as Solomon here wrought, and by such noble contempla∣tions as he was conversant in; but he assures us here the contrary, and elsewhere, that Piety onely keepeth the name from rotting with the body, Prov. 10.7. Psal. 112.6. Psal. 49.11, 12. Jer. 17.13. Time will eat out all the monuments of wisdom; or though they continue, yet the renown of a wise man doth him no good at all, he is not after death sensible of it, or comforted with it, so Chap. 1.11. new wise men that arise in after Ages, will darken and eclipse the honour of those that went before them: and so will it be done to them in the Ages that follow. To be sure, no mere wise or great mans honour, separated from Piety, will hold pace with his being; at the last day there will so much shameful matter be discovered against the wisest of wicked men, as they shall the ••se all their renown, and shall appear to be ves∣sels of dishonour and shame for evermore, 1 Cor. 4.5. 2 Tim. 2.20.
And how dieth the wise man? as the fo•l] The second fate, common to both. Th•s how, is a passionate interrogation, noting Page 74 grief that it is so; wonder that it is no other∣wise; and indignation or disdain that thing• so exceeding different in their worth, should both of them perish alike. Thus there is a Quomodo dolentis, of grieving, Lam. 1.1▪ admirantis, of wondring, Acts 2.7, 8. In∣dignantis or objurgantis, of chiding and dis∣dain, Joh. 5.44. Matth. 23.33. And because it may be objected, That this Argument may as well disable Piety from making a man happy, as wisdom: Since the same question may be framed of them as well as of these▪ How dieth the just man? as the unjust; 〈◊〉 must remember that Piety followes a man• and so abides with him after death, which no other acquired excellencies do either as or∣naments or as comforts, Rev. 14.13. Death doth not cut off their spiritual life and union with Christ, which was that which made them happy here. Wicked men are dead▪ being alive, 1 Tim. 5.6. and good men liv• in death, Joh. 11.25, 26. Mat. 22.32. there∣fore the Jews called their burying place domus viventium, the houses of the living▪ Therefore there is no durable Life or Honou• but in the fear of the Lord.
V. 17. Therefore I hated life, &c.] Thi• is the effect which this great vanity of th• most excellent humane endowment wrougth Page 75 in the heart of Solomon, made him weary of living to so little purpose, as to dye at last like the basest of men. He saw no loveli∣ness or desireableness in life it self, (though •he chiefest outward blessing) all the course •hereof being full of evil, grievous, crucia∣•ing, disquieting labour, all which at last •uns down like the waters of Jordan, into the same lake of death, with the other refuse of men. Many mens poverty, pains, sick∣ness, worldly troubles, have caused them to complain of their life; but here is one who had health, peace, honour, abundance of all the contents which the world could afford, not murmuringly, but as it were judiciously and critically making the same complaints. The greatnesse of his wisdom being such, as that all the comforts of life were too narrow to satisfie the inquiries of it, he saw little va∣luable or desireable in it.
Here observe, 1. That life it self is too mean a thing to bring full content to the soul of man. It must be something better then life which must do it, Psal. 63.3.
2. That in the greatest confluence of worldly things, the life of a man may be full of grievous labour, and he weary of it, not onely out of anguish of spirit, but of na∣tural wisdom observing the vanity there∣of.
Page 763. That the wisdom of man, without ma∣king use of the grace of God, is very apt to undervalue the greatest outward blessing which humane nature is capable of; as So∣lomon here doth life. There is •aturally so much distemper in the heart of man, that ex∣cept all things answer his own desires and expectations, he will fall out with his very life, and pick quarrels with the choycest blessings that God here affords him. As a little cloud hides the light of the whole Sun from the eye, so amidst a multitude of en∣joyments, a little labour or trouble which comes along with them, doth darken the beauty, and remove the content of them all, Gen. 30.1. Psal. 59.15. Esth. 5.13.
4. Concerning this point, of being wea∣ry of Life, or hating it as an unlovely and undesireable thing, we may note, 1. That Life is the choycest and principal outward blessing which God here affords us, and that unto the comfort and preservation thereof all other outward blessings are directed, M•tth. 6.25. 2. That though in a way of obedience we are to undervalue it at the command of God, when he calls on us to lay it down, Luke 14.26. Act. 20.24. 1 Joh. 3.16. Joh. 12.25. and in comparison of a bet∣ter life we may groan for a deliverance from it, and to be with Christ, Phil. 1.23. yet Page 77 it is a great fault out of passion, murmuring, outward troubles, nay out of largeness of heart, as here Solomon doth, to dis-esteem and wax weary of so great a blessing, Gen. 27.46. Numb. 14.2 Job 10.1.. & 36.20. Jon. 4.3, 8.
V. 18. Yea I hated all my labour, &c.] All those magnificent and excellent works, which with so much labour I had wrought. They were all so far from ministring unto my heart any solid contentment, that I grew wholly out of love with them, had no regard nor respect at all unto them. If by hatred here, and in the former verse, be meant only an abatement of that love and delight which his heart might over-sensually take in them, then this was a very commendable fruit of the vanity which he discovered in them, ac∣cording to the counsel of the Apostle, upon the same ground, 1 Cor. 7.29, 30, 31. 1 Joh. 2.15. Love not the world, that seems to be, a worldly and secular life, or Temporal Be∣ing; nor the things of the world, that is, the provisions and materials which are the fuel of lust in the world: and so hatred some∣times signifies an abatement and moderation of love, Matth. 10.37. compared with Luke 14.26. Joh. 12.25. Gen. 29.30, 31. But if by Hatred, is meant a detestation and ab∣horrency Page 78 of them, so as to leave off all care of duty to be exercised in wordly things, ac∣cording to the travel which God hath ap∣pointed for the sons of men, Chap. 1.13. Ephes. 5.28. 2 Thess. 3.10—13. and this to do, because we find not that plenary satis∣faction from them, which they were never ordained to administer, then this was an inordinate hatred, which did not belong un∣to the works themselves, (being in them∣selves good) but unto the sinful distemper of the heart from whence it proceeded. Such was the sullen distemper of Israel in the Wilderness, Numb. 11.6. & 20.4. Jon. 4.1.
Because I should leave it unto, &c.] Here the Wise man doth subjoyn reasons of this his weariness and dislike of all his past labours: 1. Because he was to leave them; there was a necessity of parting with them at the last. As the heart of man in this state of corruption is naturally apt to cleave to the world and worldly things, so there is a peculiar delight in those works which are the fruit of his own wisdom and labour; and he finds it more hard to wean and take off his affection from them, then from any other. As the Apostle saith of a mans own proper lust, so we may of his own labour and work, that it doth more easily draw away the heart, Jam. 1.14. therefore when God punisheth such men, he usually Page 79 doth it in the works of their own hands, in their principal and peculiar imployments; as Tyrus in her merchandize, Ezek. 27.27. Pharaoh in his River, Ezek. 29.3, 4. The Wise man is apt to glory in his wisdom, and the strong man in his strength, &c. Jer. 9.23. Dan. 4.30, 31. This is the first ground of vexation, They must leave their wealth to others, Psal. 49.10, 12.
V. 19. And who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool?] 2. And the reason of his fore-mentioned dislike of all his la∣bour, because he must leave them to the man that comes next after him, who haply may be very unfit to succeed him in so wise and great works. It is not in mans power to leave the works of his hands, when he must him∣self no longer enjoy them, unto such as are most likely to improve or preserve them: but be he what he will, wise or foolish, he must have not only the fruition of my la∣bours, but the dominion over them, Psal. 39.6. And this is a great vanity, to know a mans self how to get great things, and to know how to preserve, and to enjoy them; but not to know what will become of them at the last: A wise man it may be will alter all; a fool will scatter and dissipate all, and so all the fathers wisdome may quickly come to nought by the sons folly, Psal. 39.7.
Page 80Wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed my self wise] Which by my labour and by my wisdome I have gotten. He understandeth humane wisdome in ma∣naging worldly affairs to the best improve∣ment, Isa. 10.13. Ezek. 38.4, 5. These are the two great principles of humane acti∣ons, Wisdome to direct; Labour, to exe∣cute: Wisdome by counsel guideth labour; and Labour through experience encreaseth wisdome. That wisdome is fruitless, which doth not produce labour; and that labour is useless, which is not managed by wisdome. Some conceive, that Solomon here did fore∣see, at least, that Rehoboam by his folly might scatter many of those great works, and lose much of that ample power and wealth which his father by his wisdome had gotten, 1 Reg. 12.13, 15.
V. 20. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour, &c.] I went about, or, I circled. The meaning is, Having turned hither and thither to take a view of all humane actions, and every where discovering notable vanity in them all, I found my self, after I was wearied in this round, brought at last to utter despair and despondency of spirit, being without hope of ever finding out that in any of my labours for which I h•d undertaken them. When I Page 81 found, after all my labour, this sad uncer∣tainty attending on them, that it was out of my power to dispose them for the future so, but that they might fall into the hands of a fool that would demolish and dissipate them all; who by his folly, would extinguish the monuments of my wisdome; and by his luxury, the fruits of my labour: Then I be∣stirred my self to make my heart despair, to call it wholly off from all my labours. The word importeth a desisting from a pur∣pose or work undertaken, a changing of a mans counsel, finding the attempt to be fruitless or unfeasable, Isa. 57.10. Jer. 2.25. & 18.12. There is a Rational despair, when a man having erroniously sought for some good from that which is wholly unable to afford it, doth thereupon give over so fruitless an inquiry, and betake himself to that which is more effectual, Isa. 55.2. and there is a passionate despair proceeding from that frowardness of heart which such a dis∣appointment is apt to produce in carnal minds, when because a man cannot enjoy that good from a thing which he expected, he will therefore wholly fall out with it, though it be otherwise good in its degree, and doth bring such comfortable fruit as God appointed it for. This is a sinful despair: For the Lord hath made many promises unto Page 82 the labour which we take about outward things, Prov. 12.24. & 13.11. & 31.31. Psal. 128.1, 2. And hath a word of blessing ever proportionable to those ends and uses for which he hath appointed them, Deut. 28.2—8. Matth. 4.4. If Solomon mean here the former despair, then it was an effect of his wisdome, dictating unto him not to place his hopes upon vain things, which would delude and abuse him, but to take off his heart from the inordinate love of empty things. If the later, then it was a corrupt and froward aversion from things good in their degree, because the providence of God might haply dispose otherwise of them than he desired. Duty and labour about outward things, belongs unto us, but the disposition of them into what hands he pleaseth, belong∣eth unto God. In the mean time, it is a good argument to draw off the heart from anxious and inordinate toyl about worldly things: and rather to imploy our thoughts about the education of our children, lest much wealth in the hands of a foolish son, prove an ar∣gument of our folly; whereas a little estate with principles of wisdome and piety in∣stilled into him that must enjoy it, will be a greater blessing unto him, and an evidence of more wisdome in our selves.
V. 21. For there is a man whose labour Page 83 is in wisdome, &c.] i. e. who, 1. by his ha∣bitual skill and faculty of contrivance. 2. by his experimental and improved knowledge; and 3. by his just, honest, and righteous dealing; concurring all 4. with diligent labour, (unto which kind of principles so attempered, the blessing of God is usually annexed,) doth get a fair and full estate: and when he hath all done, must leave it to another who never took thought about it, nor stirred hand or foot towards the gather∣ing of it. This is a third reason of the wise mans weariness of his life and labours, name∣ly, that he should be a very drudge for ano∣ther man, and should use all his skill and pains, and suffer so much anxiety and dis∣quiet only to purchase rest and idleness for his successor. And this is a great and sore evil, that the labour should be one mans, and the fruit thereof anothers, and is often threatned as a punishment, Job. 5.5. Hos. 7.9. & 8.7. Deut. 28.30, 31, 32, 33. Psal. 39.6. Prov. 13.22.
shall he give it for his portion] Or, shall he give his portion. That which in all reason after so much labour should have been the portion of him who laboured for it, he is com∣pelled by death to give or leave it to another man, and so to make it that other mans por∣tion.
Page 84V. 22. for what hath man of all his labour, &c.] What is there unto a man of all his labour? Nehem. 6.6. viz. what profit, com∣fort, advantage, can a man have of such la∣bour wherein all the pain is his, and all the fruit and benefit another mans? Chap. 1.3. & 3.9. Psal. 39 6.
vexation of his heart] Hereby are noted those discruciating, disquieting, careful thoughts, whereby he doth project and con∣trive within himself all waies of gain, and how to increase and preserve a great estate, Psal. 49.11. Hab. 2.5, 6. 1 Tim. 6.9, 10. This may refer to all the three Reasons be∣fore given; 1. What hath man left to him∣self of all his labour and vexation when he is dead and gone, all the world is then gone to him, Job 1.21. 1 Tim. 6.7. Ps. 49.17.2. What good hath he by all that pains which was taken for another man, who if he were wise, would be able to take the pains for himself, and if foolish, will be likely to make all another mans pains fruitless, which he took to provide for him, Job 27.16, 17.3. What hath he of all his Labour more than the other man who sa•e still, and lived quiet∣ly, and saw him toyl and drudge to get him an estate who laboured not for it? nothing at all more as to contentment and fruition, much more as to weariness and vexation.
Page 85V. 23. For all his daies are sorrows, and his travel grief] &c.] These words are very emphatical, to set forth the pain and trouble of such a man who toyls for others: and the wise man closeth this disquisition as he did the first, Chap. 1.18. only this is ex∣pressed with greater emphasis, as being the greater evil of the two; as vers. 21. 1. The words are many, to shew the greatness of the trouble. 2. The word translated sorrows, signifieth a very painful and cruciating grief, the grief of some sore wound, Gen. 34.25. Jer. 51.8. and used in the case of Israels sorrow in their bondage in Egypt, Exod. 3.7. and in Babylon, Lam. 1.12. and to ex∣press the sorrows of Christ, Isa. 53.3, 4. See Job 33.19. Prov. 14.13. 3. The ab∣stract is used for the Concrete, it is not said, all his daies are sorrowful, but very sorrow it self, which addeth much force to the sense, as Gen. 3.6. Ps. 5.9. & 39.5. Hag. 2.8. Gen. 12.2. Cant. 5.16. 4. The word is in the plural number, all his daies are sorrows, (i. e.) full of sorrow, great sorrow, and va∣riety of sorrow; as Isa. 63.6. 2 Pet. 3.11. So it is said, that the Sodomites were smit∣ten with blindness, Gen. 19.11. 2 Cor. 1.3. Eccl. 5.6.
and his travel [or anxious and careful la∣bour] grief. Or, indignation, his wearisome Page 86 imployments, full of disquietness, and of continual sollicitude, meeting withal with many miscarriages and disappointments, do stir up much grief and displeasure of heart.
Hereby is noted the exceeding great trou∣ble of heart, which ariseth out of an inordi∣nate conversing about worldly things, and apprehension of parting with them. For the less measure there is in the labour of getting them, the more trouble there is in the thoughts of parting with them. If the life of the best men be full of evil and labour, Gen. 47.9. Ps. 90.10. Job. 14.1. & 5.7. Our mother brings us forth in sorrow, and unto sorrow: much more unquiet must be the life of those who labour in the fire, and for very vanity, Habb. 2.13.
yea, his heart taketh no rest in the night] The night was appointed by God for man to rest in, as the day to labour, Ps. 104.23. & 127.2. Job 4.13. But such a man depriveth himself of that blessing, which God by the very season offers him, Job 7.3, 4, 13, 14. Eccl. 5.12, 13. Prov. 3.24. Or, if such a mans body, through labour and weariness, do sleep, yet his heart is still taken up with unquiet thoughts and cares; for the heart may be awake when the body sleeps, Cant. 5.2.
V. 24. There is nothing better for a man, Page 87 than to eat, &c.] In this verse, and so to the end of the Chapter, is contained that which is the whole sum and subject of this book, which is to shew, wherein the only good which a man can attain unto in his labour a∣bout worldly things, doth consist, and the happiness of this present life, which is to get the heart seasoned with the s•ar of God, and to be good in his sight, or approved of him; and then in the assurance and joy of his favour, to make use of all outward good things with quiet contentment, with free∣dome, chearfulness, and delight, which is a special blessing which the Lord gives unto his own servants. The Apostle puts all this into two words, Godliness and Content∣ment, 1 Tim, 6.6.
The words admit of a several reading, though all run to the same issue. There is no∣thing better for a man, then—so our ver∣sion. The word [then] according to the read∣ing is to be supplyed, it not being in the O∣riginal. And so Interpreters agree, that such a word as nisi, or tantum, may be un∣derstood, as it is necessarily to be supplyed elsewhere; as Isa. 1.6. where, in the Ori∣ginal, the words run in this manner, There is no soundness it, wounds and bruises, &c. where the word but, or only, is necessarily to be supplyed; no soundness, [but] wounds Page 88 or bruises: So here, There is not good for a man that he eat; the word but is to be sup∣plyed, There is not, or it is not good for a man but that he eat: It is expressed, Chap. 3.12. Others read the words with an inter∣rogation, Is it not good for a man that he eat, &c.? (i. e.) It is good. Others •ead thus, This good is not in a man, (i. e.) in the pow∣er of a man, that he eat and drink, &c. As he cannot help it, but he must in time leave his outward things, which with so much la∣bour he hath gotten, and that to such as, it may be, will not dispose of them to his de∣sire; so even while he doth actually possess them himself, it is not in his power to use them, much less to enjoy with delight and pleasure, without the special gift of God. All amounts to the same issue; which is this: Since there is in all the studies, labours, af∣fairs of men so much vanity and vexation, as hath been here discovered, by the ablest and wisest inquirer into the creature; it remains, if we would effectually free our selves from this vanity and vexation, that giving over those anxious and disquieting labours, we betake our selves to a free, chearful, and comfortable use of those good things which God hath blessed us withal; and that so we may do, to commend our selves by sincerity of heart unto God, from whose hand and gift Page 89 alone this mercy proceedeth, and not from the power or will of man.
make his soul see, or enjoy good] i. e. Make himself to enjoy the good which outward blessings do afford, the like phrase making •o see good is •sed, Ps. 4.6. and 50.23. su∣•ra, vers. 1.
in his labour] 1. In the fruit of labour, •ot of idleness. 2. Of his own labour, of •hat which is righteously his own, not gotten •rom others by violence or injustice.
this also I saw that it was from the hand of God] Or the special gift of God, as vers. 26. Chap. 3.13. & 5 19. 1 Chron. 29.16. It may seem but an easie thing when man hath, with much toyl and trouble, gotten provisions about him, to eat the fruit of his own labours, yet he hath no power to do it without Gods blessing.
Here we may observe. 1. That the ut∣most good of all worldly labours reach no further as to real benefit, then the supply of body, Eccles. 6.7. 1 Tim. 6, 7, 8.
2. That it is not in the power of man, af∣ter all his hard labour for these things, either to use them, or with chearfulness and joy to delight at all in them, without the special hand and gift of God; to say nothing of sickness, or other distempers within, and of robbers without, which may take away the Page 90 taste of any sweetness in them, and conse∣quently the desire of them, 2 Sam. 19.35. Job 33 19, 20. so that the floor and the wine∣press shal not feed us, Hos. 9.2. & 2.9. There is such a sordid and base cruelty in the mind of a man towards himself, as to de∣fraud and grudge himself the fruit of his own labour, Eccl. 6.2, 4, 8. much less can a man with cheerfulness, contentment, and sweet tranquility, make use of these blessings with∣out the special favour of God unto him therein, Prov. 10.22. Ps. 128.1.2. Nehem. 8.10, 12. 1 Chron. 29.22. Act. 14.17. Deut. 8.12—18. Phil. 4, 11, 12, 13.
3. That the happiness of this life standeth in a free, cheerful and contented enjoyment of the good blessings of God, together with the sense and comfort of his fatherly love, 1 Tim. 6.4.
4. That all the sweetness of outward bles∣sings standeth in this, that they are reached out unto us, from the hand, and sanctified by the blessing and grace of a merciful Father, Ps. 37.16. Prov. 15.16. 1 Tim. 4.5. 1 Tim. 6.17. It is the love of God which puts sweetness into all outward mercies.
5. Honest labour whereby a mans bread is his own, is the proper object of our com∣fortable fruition. Then only we can rejoyce Page 91 in our eating and drinking, and other out∣ward delights, when in them we taste the sweet of our righteous labours, Prov. 16.8. Eph. 5.28. 2 Thes. 3.12.
V. 25. for who can eat, or who else can ha∣sten thereunto more than I?] He proveth what he had said, that it is the gift of God; because he so wise, so wealthy a Prince, who had so great variety to hold up his delight, could of himself find nothing in all his great estate, but matter of vexation. What pow∣er can others have to enjoy them, when he could not; or else it may refer to the former part of the fore-going verse. There is no∣thing for a m•n then to eat and drink and enjoy good in his labour: this he proveth by his own experience. As by his own expe∣rience, he hath all along proved the vanity and vexation of the creatures in other re∣spects; so here by his own experience he proveth, that the only tranquility is, having made sure of the favour of God, to eat and drink with cheerfulness. He doth not mean sensual Epicure-like surfeiting on the crea∣tures, but a quiet and free contented use of them; who is fit to eat of my estate, and to make haste so to do, i. e. readily and cheer∣fully to do it, then I my self who laboured it? and I unto whom God hath given such plenty, and such readiness of heart to use it, Page 92 can by my own taste of Gods goodness give to others a judgement and assurance hereof. So vers. 10, 12.
who else can hasten thereunto more than I?] This noteth a special promptitude and cheer∣fulness of heart, which Solomon did put forth in the fruition of the good things he had gathered, as Job 20.2. others read it, who hath taken more care thereunto, to a∣bound in delights and contents then I? Others, who hath quicker senses to discern the comforts of them, then I? but the first sense seemeth more genuine; for as in the former verse, he spake, 1. Of eating and drinking, or of the free using of Gods bles∣sings. 2. Of making the heart to enjoy them: So here he telleth us that his practise, was suteable, who can eat? that relates to the former; and who can hasten more than I, that relates to the later.
V. 26. for God giveth to a man that is good in his sight, wisdome, and knowledge, and joy, &c.] Having commended this free and comfortable use of Gods blessings with God∣liness and contentment by the author of it, it is the gift of God: He here further com∣mends it by the subject of it, unto whom God doth afford so excellent a gift: many gifts of God are common to good and bad men, Matth. 5.45. 1 Cor. 13.1, 3. but this Page 93 is a peculiar blessing which he bestows on his beloved, Ps. 127.2. the subject of it is a good man; the Character of that good man, he is good in his sight, good in the judgement of God, who trieth the heart, Gen. 17.1. 1 Cor. 10.18. Rom. 12.1, 2. 1 Tim. 2.3. Heb. 13.21. The gift of God to this man. 1. Wisdome to get, 2 Know∣ledge to use, 3. Joy to use cheerfully and comfortably all outward blessings, and this is illustrated by an Antithesis.
but to the sinner he giveth travel, to gather and to heap up,] i. e. He giveth them up, or leaveth them to their own greedy desires, to gather and heap together with much anxiety and tormenting sollicitude, Habb. 2.6. Luk. 12.18. Ps. 39.6.
That he may give to him that is good before God] That is, that God may dispose of it by his own over-ruling providence, besides and against the purpose of the gatherer, to whom he pleaseth, or to those that fear him, making wicked men but the drudges and purveyors for others. Isa. 10.7. Prov. 13.22. & 28.8. Job 27.16, 17. Est. 8.1, 2. Isa. 65.13, 14. as wicked men built the Ark, but Noah enjoyed it, according to the Greek proverb, one man makes the garment, but another wears it.
This also is vanity] viz. for a wicked man Page 94 to labour for others whom he loves not, nor ever intended his labour for.
Here we see, 1. Goodness consists in ap∣proving a mans self to God. 2. That sweet and perfect contentment is peculiar unto good men. 3. That wisdome or skill to get riches, is the gift of God, Deut. 8.18. 4. That knowledge to use them, being gotten, is like∣wise Gods gift, as vers. 24. 5. That good men only are the proper subject of true joy, Gal. 5.22. 6. That amongst other curses, God doth many times punish wicked men with giving them up to the insatiable desires of their co∣vetous hearts, to weary themselves in gather∣ing wealth to no purpose of their own, of Eccl. 4.8. 7. Gods providences, that many times disposeth the labours of wicked men for the use and good of the godly.
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.
HAving shewed the vanity of oppression, and injustice in those who are in place of power and judgement, who carry them∣selves like beasts to their brethren, and must themselves die like beasts, un-desired, un-lamented. He sheweth further in this Chapter divers other vanities, which are consequents upon oppression, and misgovern∣ment; both in persons oppressed, whose life is a weariness to them, Verse 1, 2, 3. and in other men; who thereby are subject to be envied for their industry and prospe∣rity, Verse 4. and thereupon some foolish∣ly give over all imployments, Verse 5, 6. Others scrape together what they can get, and live privately alone, out of the eye of the world, and from being observed, Verse 8. and thereupon he returneth to shew the vanity even of the greatest power, when it thus oppresseth the people, Vers. 13, 14. yea, the most regular power, through the mutability of the affections of the people, Verse 15, 16.
Page 122Vers. 1. SO I returned, and considered all the oppressions, &c.] Returned and considered, (i. e.) considered again; the verb is put for the adverb, as is usual in Scripture, in verbs which signifie repeat∣ing, or iterating of an action; as Gen. 25.1. Abraham added and took a wife, (i. e.) took another wife, or married again. Psal. 106.13. They made haste and forgat, (i. e.) They soon forgat: Hos. 9.9. They were profound, and corrupted themselves, (i. e.) They deeply corrupted themselves: So Isa. 64.4. Gen. 26.18. Rom. 10.20. Psal. 6.10. He had considered violence and injustice in the seat of judgement, be∣fore Chap. 3.16. and had shewed the va∣nity of that, and yet notwithstanding that a good man should endeavour to rejoyce in his labours. But when he looks on it again, he finds instead of rejoycing, nothing but the tears of oppressed men, without strength in themselves, without comfort from o∣thers, which must needs render their live• very grievous and irksome to them.
all the oppressions] It importeth, either vio∣lent, or fraudulent detaining of mens goods or rights 〈◊〉 them, Jer. 22.3. Luk. 3.14. and 19.8. 1 Thess. 4.6. Jerem. 5.26, 27.
Page 123and behold the tears of such as were op∣pressed] The greatness of this evil is set forth, 1. By the grief of such poor oppres∣sed persons, it squeezed forth tears out of their eyes, Lam. 1.2. 2. By their help∣lesness, they had no comforter: It is some ease of a man in sorrow, to see others pity him, and a great aggravation of misery to be without a comforter, when a mans adver∣saries are so powerfull, so malicious and cruel, that others are affraid, so much as to pity him, Job. 6.14, 15. and 19.21. 3. By their impotency to escape from the hand of their oppressours. So much is im∣plyed in the next words, which way ever we read them, whether so, as to repeat the negative of the former clause with the later, which is usual, Psal. 1.5. Job 30.20, 25. & 31.20. thus, And no power from the hand of their oppressours, namely, to escape from them. They have no power but to weep, none to help themselves. Or else, as we read it, On the side of their oppressors there is power, so much as to keep others from comforting them. So the word hand, is some∣times rendred by the word side, Psal. 140.6. Prov. 8.3. The doubling of that clause, notes the sadness of their condition; as Job calls once and again for pity, Job 19.21.
Page 124V. 2. Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead, &c.] I esteemed the dead more happy. The dead which are already dead; this is emphatical; our mortality, makes us, as it were, dead while we live, much more our lusts, Matth. 8.22. Eph. 2.1. 1 Tim. 5.6. Rev. 3.1. Prov. 9.18. There are dead men that are yet living, and dead men that are already dead. Men are said to be dead likewise that are in any de∣sperate condition, under any invincible ca∣lamity, as Jews in Babylon, Isa. 26.19. Ezek. 37.11, 12, 13. 1 Cor. 15.31. 2 Cor. 1.9, 10. Oppression is, in the Scrip∣ture account, a killing, a devouring of poor men, eating them up, gnawing their bones, Hab. 1.13. Psal. 10.8—10. & 14.4. Zeph. 3.3. Ezek. 22.27. Mic. 3.2. 3. Psal. 8.3, 4, 5. The emphasis then of the place is this, I esteemed those more happy who are already quite dead, then those who do thus continually die, and languish away under the cruelties of their oppressors. This may seem to be spoken after the judgement of the flesh, because grievous miseries and oppressions make men weary of their life, and chuse rather to die. Death is a haven to such a soul after shipwrack, Job. 3.13—16. Jon. 4.3. 1 Reg. 19.4. And indeed life being the greatest of mere outward bles∣sings, Page 125 and that whereunto all the rest are ordered, Matth. 6.25. it can hardly be either rationally or piously undervalued, be∣cause of the evils which crush and lie heavy on it, or the contrary thereunto desired, save only in order to the escaping evils which are worse then death, and to obtaining of good things which are better then life. In which sense the Apostle desired to depart, that he might be with Christ, Phil. 1.23. Therefore he here speaketh according to the judgement of men under oppression, and who lie g•oaning and sighing amidst many miseries, whose reason is darkned by the weight of their sorrows; for oppression, in this sense, makes even a wise man mad, Chap. 7.7.
more then the living who are yet alive] By the living who are yet alive, he seems to mean those poor men, who languish and pine away under their oppressions, of whom we can say only, as we do of a man ready to die, He is yet alive, his breath is not quite gone, he doth live, and that is all; as Luk. 10.30. He doth not simply prefer death before life; but the ease and quietness of death, before the miseries and sufferings of a dying life, Job. 3.17.18, 19.
V. 3. Yea, better is he then both they, &c.] He speaketh only according to the judgment Page 126 of sense, and with relation to the greatness of outward miseries, which he, who is yet unborn, hath not seen in others, or felt in himself, Job. 3.10. & 10.18, 19.
seen the evil] To see good is to enjoy it, Chap. 2.24. To see evil is to have experi∣ence of it, and to suffer it; in which sense the Serpent told Eve, that her eyes should be opened to know good by the loss, and evil by the danger of it, Gen 3.5. and this kind of not being, or not having been born, though it cannot reasonably or piously be preferred before a sorrowfull life, which will consist with the fear of God, yet it may, before a cursed condition, which sinks a man under the wrath of God, Matth. 26.24.
Here then we may observe, 1. The sad condition of men under the power of oppres∣sors, when they have not so much abate∣ment of their Misery as to be pitied. 2. The cruelty of powerfull oppressors, which de∣terrs others from compassionating those whom they oppress. 3. The dangerous temptation which oppression exposeth men unto, even to be weary of life, as we see in the case of Job, Jonah, Eliah, and others. 4. The inconvenience in cases of difficulty, which relate any way to conscience, to con∣sult with carnal reason, which will easily lead us into extreams.
Page 127V. 4. Again, I considered all travel and every right work] Here he proceedeth to another vanity, arising out of the former of oppression and misgovernment, under which men usually are discouraged from all inge∣nious and usefull undertakings, from all noble enterprizes of any sort, by reason of the envy and danger, which, partly through the jealousies of superiours, partly through the malignancy and evil eye of equals, or infe∣riours, they are by their eminency and in∣dustry exposed unto. By every right work, we are to understand not so much works done in integrity towards God, as the ingenious and accurate works of humane issue, done by the wisdom and practick cunning of Ar∣tificers in any kind; such as the wisdom of Bezaleel, Exod. 31.3, 4. and Hiram, 1 Reg. 7.14.
that for this a man is envied of his neigh∣bour] That the more he deserves for his in∣dustry, and ingeniousness of invention, the more he is exposed to envie and danger; envie being like those moths and cankers which usually feed on the richest garments, as we see in many examples, Gen. 4.5. Numb. 11.27—29. 1 Sam. 18.7, 8. Gen. 26.12—14. & 37.8. 1 Sam. 17.28. Dan. 6.3, 4, &c. And this is a great vanity and disappointment, when that from Page 128 whence a man might have expected credit and thanks from the world, shall procure him hatred and danger, and must needs thereupon be a great disquieting of heart, and discouragement against so fruitless en∣deavours, Prov. 37.4. Psal. 73.12, 13.
V. 5. The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh] This is one fruit of this danger and envie, taken up by fool∣ish and sloathfull men, they refuse to take pains, and rather chuse to be poor then to be envied. Here is the character of an idle person, 1. He is a fool, to make so ab∣surd an inference, that for fear of envie and trouble, will not only neglect duty, but un∣do himself. 2. He foldeth his hands; puts himself into a posture of idleness, composeth himself to do nothing. Labour requireth the stretching forth of the hands, Prov. 31.19. Laziness wraps them up in one another, Prov. 6.9, 10. & 26.14. & 19.24. 3. He eateth his own flesh; bringeth himself to ex∣treme poverty, contracteth weakness in his body, enfeebleth his mind, wasteth his stock, consumeth his family, bringeth the curse of beggary upon himself and his. For as the di∣ligent hand maketh rich, Prov. 13.11. So the slack hand maketh poor, Prov. 10.4. He thinks it a part of wisdom to spare his pains, Page 129 and sit quiet; and because he cannot attain so much dexterity and skill as a other man, therefore enviously to sit down and gnaw his own flesh, either with hunger or indignati∣on, Prov. 26.16. Whereas indeed he is a fool, (i. e.) 1. A wicked man, in neglecting the duty of labour, which he oweth to him∣self, to his family, to his generation, and whereunto by the ordinance of God he is ap∣pointed, Gen. 3.19. Tit. 3.14. 1 Thess. 3.10, 11. 2. An absurd man, to reason him∣self into contempt and beggary, and to be cruel to himself, because he is fretted at o∣ther men, Prov. 11.17. Ps. 27.2. For as he had before touched the vanity which ari∣seth from others, so here that which ariseth from a mans own self.
V. 6. Better is an handful with quietness, than both the hands full with trouble and vex∣ation of spirit] This may be here taken, either as Solmons own words, and then to import a seasonable remedy against the evils here spoken of, viz. envy, idleness, and co∣vetousness, namely, sweet contentment with a competent estate, rather than vexation with a greater, Prov. 15.16, 17. & 17.1. Ps. 37.16. Luk. 12.15. Or rather as the words of the sluggard, and then they are his apology for his laziness: If he strive to excel in his profession, he shall many waies disquiet him∣self, Page 130 he cannot do it without much travel, nor after all that travel be free from much envy & danger. And therefore he rather chuseth a smaller portion, with more ease and content∣ment. In which, there is a great deal of false arguing; 1. It is false, when he calleth his slothful and idle way of living, rest or qui∣etness. For true tranquility of mind is the consequent of a fruitful conversation, Ps. 119.165. bodily rest a fruit of honest labour, Ps. 127.2. Eccl. 5.12.2. It is false, when he cal∣leth industry in a mans course of life, vexa∣tion of spirit, whereas honest labour taketh off the heart from many vain thoughts and desires, which would more sorely vex it. 3. It is a great prophaness to palliate his own sin, under the name of rest and quiet∣ness of spirit, and under the protection of Gods own truth to find an hiding place for his bruitishness and sensuality; as Saul pre∣tended sacrifice to excuse rebellion, 1 Sam. 15.15. 2 Sam. 15.7, 8. Prov. 7.14, 15. Hos. 12.8. 1 Reg. 21.9. 4. It is alike prophaness to give ear to the wisdome of the flesh, against the duties of our calling, and to argue from inconveniences, which we fear to discourage our selves from those labours which God hath promised to bless. God saith to encourage us unto duty, That his light shall shine on our waies, he will comfort and Page 131 bless us in them, and his angel shall keep us in our waies, Ps. 91.11. but the sluggard saith to discourage himself, There is a Lion in the way, Prov. 22.13. as if Lions were more terrible to affright, than Angels to pro∣tect. 5. It is a vain conceit, to think con∣tentment is tied unto a small estate, and vex∣ation to a greater; whereas true content knows as well how to abound, as how to want, Phil. 4.11, 12. and discontent will make men as anxious, as froward, as impa∣tient under a small estate, as craving, hoard∣ing, coveting under a greater, Prov. 30.9. Ps. 59.15. The words of this verse are pro∣verbial, the former part, by the word hand∣ful, expressing a little estate; as Ps. 72.16. Ezek. 13.19. The other, by hands full, a greater and more plentiful, gotten with all the strength and labour of the whole man, Mic. 7.3.
V. 7. vanity under the Sun] Another va∣nity, and quite contrary to the former; as fools when they avoid one extreme, fall into the other.
V. 8. There is one alone, &c.] One, (i. e.) one by himself; as Gen. 19.9. and not a second; that is, either no companion, or member in his family to provide for, or no heir to succeed him in his estate; none for whom he can say, It is this man for whom I labour. See v. 15.
Page 132neither child nor brother] His labour is not founded in any natural love of those for whom he is bound to provide, 1 Tim. 5.8. Gen. 47.12. Prov. 17.17. but meerly on the inordinate love of riches themselves.
This covetous wretch is here described, 1. By his solitariness, he lives all alone, he cannot endure two months in a house.
2. By his excessive labour; there is no end of all his labour: He toyls infinitely, and without measure, Isa. 2.7. Job. 22.5. Some by labour, understand wealth gotten by labour. He hath a vast estate, and yet is as greedy as if he had nothing.
3. By his insatiable desires, neither is his eye satisfied with riches] He hath enough for his back, his belly, his calling, the decen∣cy of his state and condition, but he hath not enough for his eye. Though he can but see it, and have no use of it, yet he is displeased that he sees no more. The eye is the instru∣ment of coveting, 1 Joh. 2.16. Josh. 7.21. Chap. 1.8. & 2.10. A covetous man, though he have as much as his eye can see, yet he would have more still, Isa. 5.8. Hab. 2.5. Prov. 30.15. Job 40.23, 24.
4. By his folly and inconsiderateness, he doth not weigh with himself the absurdity of his so living, he still goes out of himself in labour after riches, but never comes to himself, to Page 133 reason and argue the case, or to call himself to an account of his doings, Jer. 8.6. Luke 15.17. Ps. 4.5.
5. By his Inhumanity and self-cruelty, denying those comforts to himself, which God hath given him, using himself worse than God would have the Oxe used in the Law, Deut. 25.4. Treading out the corn, and yet muzling himself, Chap. 6.2.
6. By the groundlesness of this cruelty, He hath none, while he lives, for whom he doth it, and when de dies, he leaves no heir, kinsman, second to enjoy it, but undergoes all his toyl, and bereaves himself of all com∣fort, for he knows not whom, Ps. 39.6. The censure of all which is, that it is vanity, and a very sore and grievous affliction.
V. 9. Two are better than one] Good more than one: so the comparative useth to be expressed; as Chap. 7.1, 2, 3, 5, 8. Prov. 8.11. Hag. 2.10. upon occasion of the solitary life of this miser, he sheweth the benefit of society, and mutual helpfulness which thereby one man affordeth unto ano∣ther, therefore God made woman for a com∣panion and an helper unto man, Gen. 2.18. and Christ sent forth his Disciples by Two and Two, Mar. 6.7. Luke 10.1. not only that they might be joyful witnesses of the truth which they were to deliver, as Moses Page 134 and Aaron, Joshua and Zorobbabel, in re∣ference unto whom we read of, Two wit∣nesses, Rev. 11.3, 4. and in that respect the Apostle usually joyneth one or two more to himself in the inscription of his Epistles, as joynt witnesses of the truth of the doctrine therein delivered, 1 Cor. 1.1. 2 Cor. 1.1. Phil. 1.1. Coloss. 1.1. 1 Thes. 1.1. But withal, That they might with more ease and success carry on the ministery, wherein they were imployed, and help mutually to streng∣then, to encourage, to comfort one the o∣ther.
because they have a good reward for their labour] Or, a Benefit mutually from each other in their labour, by counsel, by comfort, by assistance and co-operation, by supply of any want, or infirmity which may befall each other, 1 Sam. 23.16, 17. 2 Cor. 8.18, 19, 22. Act. 13.2, 5. Prov. 27.17. Act. 19.29. Phil. 4.3. They do both promote the common good, they do the more easily com∣pass it, they do the more sweetly enjoy it. This mutual benefit is further opened 〈◊〉 some particulars of mutual danger, mutual rest, and mutual defence.
V. 10. If they fall,] That is, if one or either of them fall, the plural is used di∣stributively or partitively to either of the singulars: as, The wicked men they flye, Page 135 Prov. 28.1. i. e. every man. She shall be saved, if they abide, 1 Tim. 2.15. i. e. if any of them abide. Falling, here, may be un∣derstood in all senses, for corporal falls, into a pit, from a horse or the like. Metaphori∣cally, if they fall into diseases, disgraces, dangers. Spiritually, into sins or errors. In any adversities, The society of friends is use∣ful to pity, to restore, to support, to con∣vince, to comfort. Whereas such a solitary worldling as he spake of before, is forsaken of all, and hath none to stand to him. This is sometimes the lot of the godly in trouble, but then God stands by them, Ps. 22.11. 2 Tim. 4.16, 17.
But woe to him that is alone] Woe to him, is in the Original, one word made of two; as is observed out of Kimchi. It is here an interjection of grieving, with a denouncing of some evil which is coming towards a man: It is once more used in this Book, Chap. 10.16. and hardly at all elsewhere in that sense. Woe to him that is alone, or, to him that One, when he falleth, and there is not a second to lift him up.
V. 11. Again, if two lye together, then they have heat, &c.] This also may be understood not only literally, as 1 Reg. 1.1, 2. but me∣taphorically for all kind of mutual assistance, and encouragement in any work which is to Page 136 be done, Heb. 10.24. Luke 24.32.
V. 12. And if one prevail against him] i. e. Some stranger or third person assault, and be too hard for him, that is, for one of the two, then two or three shall stand against that One, and shall be easily able to resist him. See 2 Sam. 10.11. Jer. 41.13, 14. Ps. 127.5. This is another benefit of society and friendship, aid & protection against assaults, whether outward, or spiritual in Temptations from Satan. In all those, and so proportiona∣bly in all other cases, in war, in peace, in danger, in business, day and night, in the mul∣titude of counsellors there is safety, Prov. 11.14. & 14.22. provided that this Soci∣ety be undertaken in the fear of God, and in good and lawful things, otherwise, com∣binations in wickedness are cursed, Ps.64.5, 6, 7. Ps. 83.3—9. Nahum 1.10, 12. Prov. 11.21.
two shall withstand him] Or, stand be∣fore him with confidence and courage to help one another. Standing, is a military posture, Ephes. 6.11, 13, 14. Ps. 94.16. Esther 8.11. Standing before one, as an enemie to destroy him, Rev. 12.4. Hence that expression of looking one another in the face, 2 Chron. 25.17.
a threefold cord, or a triple twisted threed, is not easily broken.] A Proverb setting forth Page 137 the strength and benefit of concord and so∣ciety.
V. 13. Better is a poor and wise child, &c.] From this verse to the end of the Chap∣ter, Solomon proceedeth to set forth the va∣nity of the Highest and most eminent con∣dition amongst men, namely, of Kingly dig∣nity, which he sheweth both in foolish and wilful Princes, who refuse to be counselled, and in all other, be they never so circum∣spect. To manifest the former, he taketh first one of the most contemptible persons one could think on, and compares him with one of the most honourable, a child to an aged man, a poor child to a potent King. Childhood is alone very contemptible, and exposed to neglect and scorn; looked on as rash, heady, unstayed, without judgement or experience, Isa. 3, 4, 5. 1 Reg. 3.7. 1 Cor. 14.20. Eph. 4.14. 2 Chron. 13.7. Hereunto poverty being added, will make such an one much more neglected, Eccles. 9.15. Jam. 2.3, 6. Prov. 14.20. 1 Tim. 5.12. on the other side, old age alone is ve∣nerable, though but in an ordinary person, Lev. 19.32. Isa. 3.2, 3. Gray hairs alone are a Crown, and beauty, Prov. 16.31. how much more honourable, when they are joyn∣ed with a Crown; yet this poor child be∣ing wise, is preferred before that aged King Page 138 being foolish and intractable; as Prov. 19.1. The wisdome of such a child here, is his knowledge of God in his word, whereby a young man is instructed how to order his waies, as that of Timothy, 2 Tim. 3.15. Ps. 119.99, 100. The foolishness of such a Prince is, He knoweth not to be admonish∣ed, He cannot counsel himself, and he will not be counselled by others. So, not to know, doth import a foolish obstinacy and impo∣tency in the mind, a neglect of what is of∣fered unto a man to consider of, Isa. 56.11. & 7.16. contrary to that which is called knowing, or considering in the heart, Deut. 8.5. Prov. 29.7.
Here we see, 1. That wisdome makes the meanest person honourable, maketh the face shine, Chap. 8.1.
2. That the fear of God teacheth chil∣dren wisdome, 2 Tim. 3.15. 1 Sam. 16.18. & 18.5. Ps. 119.98, 100. Dan. 1.20.
3. That intractableness of heart against counsel, is an evidence of folly. Solomon, though the wisest of Princes, yet had a Coun∣sel about him of aged and the most able men, whose counsel Rehoboam rejecting, shew∣ed his weakness, 2 Chron. 10.6. & 13.17.
4 That old age, and power, without a cor∣rective of wisdome, are very likely to render Page 139 men wilful, and opinionative, Job 32.9.
V. 14. For out of prison he cometh to reign] Out of the house of men bound, Judg. 16.21. Gen. 40.3, 7. Isa. 14.17. from the midst of bonds and fetters. He cometh] Namely, the poor and the wise child: For these words are a confirmation of those be∣fore, from the event which hapneth to both, The wisdome of the child advanceth him from a prison to a throne, from chains to a Crown. The obstinacy and folly of the other, hurrieth him from power to poverty; from honour to contempt. Out of prison he cometh to reign i. e. from the lowest and most obscure condition, Job 5.11. Ps. 113.7, 8. Gen. 41.14, 39—44. 2 Sam. 7.8. Dan. 2.25, 48. & 3.26, 30. & 6.3.
whereas also he that is born in his kingdom becometh poor] Or, whereas he in his kingdom is born poor, i. e. is made poor. So passing from one condition to another, is a kind of birth: but the other sense is more emphati∣cal, he who from his childhood was a King, and in actual possession of his Throne, be∣cometh poor, Ps. 149.8. Job 12.19, 20, 21. 2 Chron. 33.11. & 36.3, 4, 6. 2 Reg. 25.6, 7. Dan. 4.30—33.
V. 15. I considered all the living, which walk under the Sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stead] These two Page 140 verses set forth another vanity attending up∣on Kingly power, not for the fault of the per∣son, but through the inconstant and fickle disposition of the people, who ever have, and ever will be given to changes, worship the rising Sun, and grow weary of him who is likely soonest to leave them.
all the living] That is, all the present ge∣neration of men living under a present Prince or Government. He speaks of the generality of men, and therefore expresseth them under a general notion of living men, Job. 30.23. Dan. 4.17. And withal, to intimate a ground in them of what he here considered, when the father is going away, and the son ready to succeed, they think that they must live and be preserved by the living, and not by the dead, and accordingly wor∣ship him under whom they expect protecti∣on and preservation of life; for, for that end was Government instituted, 1 Tim. 2.2.
which walk under the sun] Elsewhere, which see the sun, Chap. 7.11. another ex∣pression intimating this to be the popular hu∣mour of the generality of men, o• the vul∣gar people, who go up and down the streets; as the vulgar are distinguished from the greater and nobler sort, Jer. 5.1, 4, 5. or walking may be joyned with the following words, viz.
Page 141with the second child] I observe that the ge∣nerality of people walk with the second child, joyn themselves unto him, and flatter and crouch to him, forsaking in their affecti∣ons and behaviours the father, because he is about to forsake them.
which shall stand up in his stead] Name∣ly, in the fathers or predecessors stead. By standing up, he meaneth, rising to the Throne, Dan. 11.2. they look on the predecessor as falling, sinking, lying down, stooping to∣wards the grave, and therefore apply them∣selves to his heir. Whereby he noteth as the unhappiness of Princes, who if they live long, live to see their glory dye before them∣selves; so the fickleness of the generality of the people, who do not honour Rulers for their office sake, as they ought to do; and especially should reverence it the more, by how much the more experience they have had of happiness under it, Rom. 13.1—5. 1 Pet. 2.13, 14, 15. but honour them meerly out of interest and self-respect, not consider∣ing so much present duty, as future advan∣tage. There is naturally in the minds of the people a weariness of being long under one Prince, a querulousness and repining at eve∣ry thing which pincheth them, and thereupon a desire to change him for the next, not so much out of choice or assurance that he will Page 142 be better, but out of natural levity and in∣constancy; as sick men change beds, cham∣bers, couches, but carry their disease with them, they love changes for the very change sake, 1 Sam. 8.5, 18, 19, 20. and 12.12, 13. 2 Sam. 15.12. 1 Reg. 2.15. 2 Sam. 20.2. Prov. 14.21.
V. 16. There is no end of all the people, &c.] By all the people, he meaneth the giddy and inconstant multitude, whose levity and dis∣content with their present estate, is the cause that they thus desire continual changes, and reject to day whom yesterday they adored. There is no end of all the people, or to all the people] There are infinite numbers of people in every age and generation who stand thus affected: it is not a contingent or unusual thing, but very common. It is not a vanity which Princes have experience of only some∣times, as in some few persons; but it is the general disease of the vulgar, to stand thus variously affected towards their Princes in all ages. So this phrase, There is no end, is used to express a great or infinite number, Isa. 2.7. supra, vers. 8. Job 22.5. Nahum. 3.3. Again, There is no end to all the people] The people never put an end or a stop to this vanity, but it passeth on, from one generation to another. They which went before did so, so do these now, and so will they do which follow. 3. By Page 143 no end, may be meant no satisfaction to de∣sires, no through and fixed acquiescency of heart in the people towards their Princes, they will still entertain expectations of new men, and new events to satisfie their desires. So the word End, is used for that wherein the heart may acquiesce, and look no further for something else, Prov. 23.18. They do not terminate and fix their affections in one man, be he never so wise or worthy, but grow wea∣ry of him, and joyn themselves unto his Suc∣cessor.
even of all those that have been before them] Namely, before the father and the son, or successor which was second unto him. The word [before] may signifie either in the presence of them, i. e. who have been offi∣cers under them, or done service, and born allegiance to them, 2 Sam. 16.19. 1 Reg. 10.8. or else an antecedence in time unto them. They who were before them, did thus languish in their affections to the fa∣ther, and apply themselves unto the son.
They also that come after shall not rejoice in him] i. e. In the son, unto whom now they seem so zealously, and with so much loyalty to joyn themselves.
not rejoyce] That is, they will be weary of him, troubled with him, wish them∣selves freed from him. The verb negative Page 144 by a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, seems to import the Affirma∣tive contrary unto it, as is usual in Scripture, Exod. 20.7. Prov. 17.21. Zach. 8.•7. Rom. 4.19. This then is Hereditary to all people, There is no End of it, they can never be setled or contented with the present estate, as they before did dislike the father in ex∣pectation of the son, so they after will cast off the son in expectation of the grandchild, and so it will be in all generations.
This is vanity and vexation of spirit] This must needs be matter of indignation & grief to Princes, to see so much falseness and in∣constancy in their people, to see their Ho∣nour grow old & decrepit with their bodies.
THe Wise man having spoken of the va∣nity which attendeth on the very high∣est condition of men here below; seems here to make a kind of digression, and to go yet higher unto the consideration of that which principally concerns man in this Life, to wit, The worship of God. This is the su∣preme Remedy of all the other Vanities, and may seem here to be subjoyned (as also it is in the end of the Book) to that purpose, to shew, that though neither knowledge, nor Page 145 pleasures, nor honours, nor crowns can make men happy, though it be beyond the sphere and activity of any Creature to administer compleat tranquility to the heart of a man, yet even in this life a man may be happy by worshipping of God, and Communion with him. As if he should have said, We have gone through the World, and sought high there for satisfaction, as ever any man could arrive, even to Crowns and Thrones, and yet have missed of it. It remains therefore that we go higher yet, before we can be truly hap∣py, and that is from the World to the Sanctu∣ary; from the Thrones of Princes, to the Thrones of Grace; from the Creature, to God, In whose service alone there is com∣pleat felicity.
But besides this I take it, the scope of the wise man is, by way of Prolepsis or answer to a tacite objection, to discover yet a higher and a stranger vanity than any he had spo∣ken of before, namely vanity in the wor∣ship of God, not as it is in it self, but as it is performed by vain & foolish men. They might say, we do easily agree with you in all that you have said, we know we must look a∣bove the Creatures, if ever we intend to ar∣rive at true Happiness. Therefore what pains soever we take about things under the Sun, yet we seek for our Happiness▪ no Page 146 where but in God, and in his service. Solo∣mon now, acknowledging the truth of this in the Thesis, That the Worship of God is the true felicity of man in this life, doth withall assure these men, that they may put vanity in the very Worship of God, and ren∣der that by their foolish and carnal perfor∣mance wholly unprofitable to any such end, yea there may be therein divers vanities, vers. 7. for discovery and avoiding whereof, he prescribeth a solemn caveat to those, who being convinced of vanity in the Creatures▪ do go to God in his Worship to mend them∣selves.
This is, 1. General, relating to all parts of Gods Worship, which is in our Approache• unto God, to look to our affections, and to prepare our hearts to meet with him, not resting in outward sacrifices, which are but the oblations of fools, who think they do well, when in truth they do the contrary, vers. 1.
2. Particular, in some species of wor∣ship:
1. In Hearing, which he saith must be done with Readiness, with a docile and tractable spirit, yielding up it self to the whole counsel of God, vers. 1.
2. In Prayer and speaking unto God, where is first condemned a double Vanity▪ Page 147 Rashnesse of tongue, Hastinesse of heart, both enforced by consideration of Gods Greatnesse, and of our own Vilenesse, vers. 2. Secondly, prescribed fewness of words, without vain and unnecessary babling, and that because of Gods Majesty, and the folly of so doing, vers. 3.
3. In Vowes, which being once made, are to be performed, and that cheerfully, without grudging or delay; which doctrine he doth, 1. prove, 2. vindicate from shift∣ings and excuses. He proveth it, 1. By the the folly of the contrary course, it argues a levity of spirit to dally, and to be off and on with God, who as he is constant himself in all his Promises, so he expecteth constancy from us in all ours. 2. By Gods dislike of such folly and falseness, vers. 4.
Next he vindicateth it from a double ex∣cuse which men are apt to make:
1. It was free for me to vow; the thing was in mine own power, therefore it is not so hainous a thing though I do fail, because I was not bound to what I vowed till I had vowed it. This he answereth, That it had been better to have kept this Liberty still, and not to have vowed, then after vowes to resume Liberty when it is too late, vers. 5.
2. But I was mistaken, there was an Er∣rour in my Vow. To this he gives a double Page 148 answer, and sets it on with weighty conside∣rations: First, Look well before thou vow, that thou do not bring a bond of sin upon thy self: Suffer not thy mouth to cause thee to sin. Secondly, Take heed of pretending errour and oversight, out of unwillingnesse to do what thou hast promised: Say not that it was an errour. For consider, 1. Thou art in the presence of the Angel. 2. Thou provokest Gods anger. 3. The damage which by that anger thou wilt suffer, he will destroy the work of thy hands, disappoint thee in that benefit, the preservation whereof thou didst aym at in excusing thy Vow. 4. The folly of such vain excuses. There is a vani∣ty in all parts of Worship when undertaken by fools or wicked men: the fools sacrifice, vers. 1. the fooles voyce, vers. 3. the fooles vow, vers. 4. Divers vanities in all this, vers. 7.
Now having shewed the vanities in the carnal performance of Divine Worship, he doth (as he had done formerly in the other Vanities which he spake of before) prescribe a Remedy of this also, viz. The inward principle of all Right and spiritual Worship which is to fear God, vers. 7.
And because it might be objected, That Piety it self is not likely to secure a man's tranquility and peace, in as much as we find Page 149 poor and righteous men every where, all a Province over, oppressed and persecuted by great men in high place: he removeth this objection, 1. By shewing the compassion of God and his Justice, He sees and regards it. 2. The greatnesse and power of God, that he is higher then any of those that oppresse his servants, vers. 8.
Now he proceedeth to another Vanity, which is in Riches and outward possessions. They are of two sorts;
1. Substantial and Real wealth, in the profits and Fruits of the Earth, Corn, Cattel, &c.
2. Instrumental, in that which is by mens agreement made a measure to other wealth, viz. silver and gold. Concerning both which he sheweth, 1. The excellency of the for∣mer, in regard of real and general profit, be∣fore the later, verse 9. 2. The vanity both of the one and the other, when 1. inordi∣nately loved. 2. Immoderately increa∣sed.
This vanity is shewed, 1. Absolutely, in that the Inordinate love of them is unsatis∣fiable, vers. 10. and that troubles and cares are proportionably increased in the Increase of them, vers. 11.
2. Comparatively, and that 1. in respect of any Real benefit and good in the fruition Page 150 of them. The owner hath no more true pro∣fit by them, (further then that he looks on them as his own) then any of his friends and servants, who are fed and cloathed by them as well as he: onely his cares are increased. 2. In respect of consequent rest and quiet∣ness, the servants heart is lesse troubled, his body more refreshed then the owners, vers. 12. 3. In regard of the evill effects of Riches:
1. The damage and hurt which sometimes a man layes up with them against himself, vers. 13.
2. The uncertainty of their abode with a man, having hurt the owners, they perish themselves, vers. 14.
3. The certainty of parting with them, They must dye, they cannot carry one hand∣ful away with them, vers. 15, 16.
4. The sordid and uncomfortable use of them, vers. 17.
5. Impatiency and fretfulnesse in part∣ing with them, or in getting of them, vers. 17.
Lastly, he gives the Remedy of this Va∣nity and Vexation, in the right use of Riches, viz. In a free and cheerful enjoyment of them: which is here commended,
1. By its goodness to the owners.
Page 1512. By its comelinesse and commendable∣nesse towards others.
3. By its Equity, It is the fruit of a mans Own Labour, and provided for his Own Life.
4. The End of it, and his Right to it, It is His Portion, all that he is ever like to get by it, vers. 18.
5. The Author of it, it is a special gift of God, 1. To give Riches. 2. To g•ve an heart to enjoy them, vers. 19.
6. Freedome hereby from the trouble of all his Labours, when himself tastes the fruit of them, and hath experience of Gods spe∣cial blessing, in answering the desires of his heart, and causing h•m comfortably to enjoy them, vers. 20.
Vers. 1. KEep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God] He had gone up and down the World, from Learn∣ing to Pleasures, from Pleasures to Honours, from Honours to Thrones, to find out Hap∣pinesse, and had met with nothing but Vani∣ty. Now he sends us to a fitter place to find it, The House of God, whether his Tem∣ple, or other Synagogues, where God is pre∣sent to those that serve him, here they shall find remedies against the vanity of other things, and that which will stay and fix their Page 152 hearts, Psal. 73.16, 17. Psal. 4.6, 7. Onely we must take heed of putting vanity into Gods Worship, lest we be there disappoint∣ed of our ayms, as well as elsewhere. This Caveat he gives us in those words, Keep thy foot] or, each foot. The letters are plural, the points direct to read it in the singular number. So foot, for feet, Psal. 119.105. This Enallage of numbers is very usual, the singular for the plural; as Psal. 14.1. The fool hath said, &c. They, i. e. fools are cor∣rupt. In that day a man shall cast away his idols which they have made, Esay 2.20.
Keep thy foot] Seriously advise how thou art to behave thy self in Gods presence, look to thy heart and affections, let thy heart be fixed, thy affections composed, thy thoughts ordered, call all that is within thee together to serve him, Psal. 57.7. & 103.1. A Meta∣phor from men that walk in dangerous ways, who take heed to their steps lest they stum∣ble and fall: Or rather an allusion to the speech of God to Moses, Exod. 3.5. So Exod. 19.21. Josh. 5.15. As Mephibosheth dressed his feet, when he went to David, 2 Sam. 19.24. So they used washings, and purifyings before they came into Gods presence, Exod. 19.14 15. Num. 8.7. Psal. 26.6. Heb. 10.22. Lev. 19.30. & 16.2, 3. Gen. 28.16, 17. Exod. 40.32.
Page 153and be more ready to hear, then to offer the sacrifice of fools] Or, Draw near to hear, rather then with, or as fools, to offer a sacri∣fice, who think to be accepted for their out∣ward work. The Infinitive used for the Imperative, as Exod. 20.8. Matth. 5.39. Luk. 22.42. or we may read it in the Infinitive, thus, for to draw near to hear, i. e. to bring before God an obedient heart, is better then when fools do give a sacrifice. Or, then to give a sacrifice of fools. He doth not for∣bid or condemn sacrifices, but he preferreth obedience, and sheweth the vanity and folly of those, who are very forward in the out∣ward acts of Religion, without the love and service of the heart, 1 Sam 15.22. Hos. 6.6. Isa. 1.11—18. Amos 5.21, 22, 23, 24. Psal. 50.17. & 51.16, 17. Isa. 66.2, 3. Prov. 15.8, 21, 27.
be more ready] The word is, Draw near to Hear. It is a word very frequently used in Scripture, to express our addressing our selves unto the solemn Service and Worship of God, Lev. 1.9. 1 Sam. 14.36. 2 Reg. 16.12. Psal. 73.28. Isa. 5.8.2. Ezek. 44.15, 16. Matth. 15.8. whereunto there is a frequent allusion in the New Testament, Ephes. 2.18. Heb. 4.16. & 7.25. & 10.1, 22. & 11.6. It importeth a serious composing of our hearts, in an humble, reverend, and holy man∣ner Page 154 to appear before God, and to have a com∣fortable accesse unto the Throne of grace, Lev. 10.3. Heb. 12.28, 29.
to hear] Whereas there are two parts of Worship, sacrifice and obedience, be thou most careful of this, which is the spiritual and inward part of service, rather then of that which fools, hypocrites, wicked men can offer as well as thou. Be ready to receive Instruction, and to accept of what God sayes, Psal. 85.8. Job 34.32. 1 Sam. 3.10. Act. 9.6. & 10.33. Jam. 1.19. Be ready to obey and give up thy will to every one of Gods holy Commandements, Psal. 119.128.
then to offer the sacrifice of fools] Then as fools, (i. e.) wicked men do, to offer up sacrifice, and neglect obedience, Mich. 6.6, 7, 8.
for they consider not, know not, that they do evil.] Some would have the word, But, to be supplyed, They know not but to do evil: They can onely do evil, even when they worship God; as Isa. 1.6. See Chap. 2.24. Others thus, non attendunt ad facere malum, or ad factionem malt: which is to the sense of our Version. They are here called fools, and that is further expressed, by want of knowledge: They know not, and that doth further appear by doing of evil, Isa. 1.3, 4. Jer. 8.9. The most natural sense is, as we Page 155 render it, They know not that they do evil: when they do evil, they consider it not, they understand it not; the like phrase, 1 Joh. 2.6, 9. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. He that saith to abide, (i.) that he abideth. He that saith to be in the light, (i.) that he is in the light. So here, They know not to do evil, (i.) that they are doing of evil. And hereby is meant by an Auxesis, they think they do very good service; So when the Lord is said not to command a thing, the meaning is, that he doth forbid it, Lev. 10.1. He will not hold them guiltless that take his Name in vain, (i.) he will hold them very guilty, Exod. 20.7. He will withhold no good thing from them that walk upright, (i.) He will largely supply them, Psal. 84.12. He will not break a bruized reed, (i.) he will bind them up and strengthen them, Isa. 42.3. Abraham was not weak in faith, (i.) he was strong, Rom. 4.19. Men may think they do God good service, when they do greatly of∣fend him, Isa. 66.5. Prov. 14.12. Isa. 58.2, 3. Hos. 8.2, 3. Joh. 16.2. Act. 26.9.
These things are here observable;
1. That in Gods Worship we do in a spe∣ciall manner draw nigh unto him.
2. That when we do so, we ought to pre∣pare and compose our hearts and affections Page 156 by faith and humility to appear before God.
3. That a prepared heart brings purposes of obedience, and to hear God in all that he shall say unto it.
4. That mere outward service without the heart prepared obediently to serve the Lord, is but a sacrifice of Fools, a mere for∣mal and ceremonial worship.
5. That Hypocrites may think they please God, when indeed they provoke him, and know not that they do evil, Joh. 4.22.
V. 2. Be not rash with thy mouth] Having spoken in general of the due preparation of the heart unto Gods service, he now giveth direction in the particulars of prayer and vowes.
Be not rash] Go not about Gods Worship as men that in a fright or terrour being ama∣zed, flye hastily they know not whither. Do not precipitate thy words, nor speak any thing hastily, unadvisedly, according to the dictate of carnal and hasty desires before God, or in his house and presence. We know not what to ask as we ought, Rom. 8.26. and are very apt to put our own greedy and sudden passions into prayers, complaints, deprecations, to think God deals not well with us if we be not answered according to Page 157 our wills, and in our own time, Psal. 31.22. & 116.11. Job 10.2, 3, 18. Jer. 15.18. Jon. 4.2, 3. Matth. 20.20, 21. Psal. 77.7—10.
and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God] Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh, Matth. 12.34. Therefore the remedy of rashness in our words, is to compose our thoughts and affe∣ctions aright; to let our heart guide our tongue, not to bring raw, tumultuary, indi∣gested thoughts into Gods presence, but to get a collected heart, to pray with under∣standing, with spirit, with judgment, and according to Gods Will; as David found his heart to pray to God, 2 Sam. 7.27. and call'd together his scattered affections, that he might fix them upon God, Psal. 103.1. Dan. 9.2, 3. Rom. 8.26, 27. 1 Cor. 14.15. 1 Joh. 5.14.
We may likewise understand the Caveat, as directed against that carnal pride and con∣tradiction of spirit, whereby the heart is apt to rise against God and his Word, when we hear of more spiritual service required by God, then our foolish sacrifices do amount unto, or our carnal hearts are able to perform, Jam. 1.19, 20. Rom. 10.21. Acts 13.45. & 28.19.
Page 158before the Lord] That is, in his House or Sanctuary. Therefore they who sin here, are said to provoke the Lord to his very face, and to do evil before his eys, Isa. 65.3. & 66.3, 4.
for God is in heaven, and thou on the earth] These are two Arguments to enforce this Caveat upon us; the one drawn from Gods greatness, the other from our vilenesse▪ Mean persons behave themselves with all honour & reverence, when they supplicate unto men of honour and eminency. Much more should men do so unto God. So Christ teacheth us in prayer to come unto God, as with confidence and comfort, because he is a Father; so with reverence and fear, because he is a Father in Heaven, Matth. 6.9.
His being in Heaven denotes, 1. His do∣minion over us as Lord and Master, Eph. 6.9.
2. His glory and majesty above us, 1 Reg. 8.27. that we might learn to fear before him, Mal. 1.6. Deut. 28.58. Heb. 12.18, 29.
3. His holinesse and purity, Deut. 26.15. Isal. 57.15. & 63.15. Hereby to raise us unto heavenly mindednesse in our approa∣ches unto him, Col. 3.1, 2. Lam. 3.40▪ 41.
4. H•s power to answer us, and to do for us according to our desires, 2 Chron. 20.6, 7. Psal. 115.3. Matth. 5.45. & 7.11.
5. His omniscience, he looketh down on us, and seeth how we behave our selves in Page 159 his presence, Matth. 6.32. Psal. 11.4. & 33.13, 14.
6. His justice and displeasure against evil doers, Psal. 14.2, 3. Rom. 1.18. In all which respects, we ought to take heed of all hasty, rash, and unadvised frame of heart in Gods presence. Mans being on earth, signifieth his baseness and vile condition, his great di∣stance from God, and by reason of corrup∣tion, his great dissimilitude unto him. He is of the earth earthly, 1 Cor. 15.47. Psal. 10.18. This consideration of our natural and sinful vileness, should greatly humble us in our approaches unto God, Job 4.19, 25. & 4.5, 6. & 40.4. Gen. 18.17. Isa. 6.5.
therefore let thy words be few] First, use not rash and vain babling, and empty, heart∣less repetitions as the heathen, Mat. 6.7. but weigh and choose out words to speak unto him, Job 9.14. Eccles. 12.10. He speaketh not against all length in prayer; for Christ prayed whole nights: nor against all repeti∣tion, when it proceedeth from zeal, love, and holy fervency; as that of Daniel, Ch. 9.16, 18, 19. but of that which is a clamorous and vain ingeminating of the same thing without faith or wisdom, 1 Reg. 18.26. Se∣condly, let thy words be few, (i. e.) Let not thy vowes be more then thou mayest comfor∣tably perform.
Page 160V. 3. For a dream cometh through the multitude of businesse, and a fools voice is known by multitude of words▪] (i. e.) As mul∣titude of business produceth dreams, so mul∣titude of words discovereth folly. When two sentences are connected together by a Copula, there is frequently imported a simi∣litude between them, Prov. 17.3. & 25.23, 25, 26, 27. & 26.3, 7, 9, 11, 14, 17, 20, 21. Isa. 53.7. Another Argument moving unto the former duty, because, as certainly as much business produceth dreams, so much speech discovereth folly within, Prov. 10.19. Eccles. 10.11—14. Jam. 3.2.
V. 4. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it.] He giveth direction in the other particular, wherein men use to address themselves unto God, viz. Vowes: And as he did in the former forbid rash ha∣stiness, so he doth in this, warn to take heed of grudging delayes. A vow is a solemn promise, or permissory oath made unto God, wherein a man doth voluntarily binde him∣self unto something, which was in his own power to binde himself unto. He doth not direct us here to make such a vow, but ha∣ving made it, to take heed of breaking faith and promise with God, who never fails in any promise of his unto us, Josh. 21.45. nor delayeth to perform it in its time, Exod. 12. Page 161 41, 51. Heb. 2.3. 2 Pet. 3.9. This then is the first Rule concerning vowes, That law∣ful vowes must be speedily and cheerfully performed, Psal. 66.13, 14. & 76.11. Numb. 30.2. Deut. 13.21. Isai. 19.21. Matth. 5.33. God would not have an alteration in a vow, though it were for the better, Lev. 27.10. Thus Hanna made haste to perform her vow in dedicating her child unto God, as soon as he was weaned, 1 Sam. 1.11, 24, 28. God calls on Jacob, and minds him of his vow made before, and expected that he should go to Bethel, and pay it as he had promised, Gen. 35.1. compared with Gen. 28.20, 22.
for he hath no pleasure in fools] He is greatly disple'sed with those, who go about one while to flatter him in making a vow, and afterwards to mock him in refusing or delay∣ing to perform it, Prov. 20.25. This is one reason, drawn from the folly in offending God; whereunto there is another adjoyn∣ed.
V. 5. Better it is that thou shouldest not vow, then that thou shouldest vow and not pay] It was arbitrary, and in our own power to make the vow, for vowes were to be of things in a mans power, Numb. 30.3—15. Deut. 23.22. Acts 5.4. But it is not in our power whether, being made, we will pay it or no, Page 162 for we bring a bond upon our souls, and the vowes of God will be upon us, Psal. 56.12.
V. 6. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin] These words contain the second Rule concerning Vowes, which is to teach us to avoid all rash Vowes which are unad∣visedly made, and that is done two wayes;
1. When we vow things sinful, when our mouth causeth us to sin,
2. When in lawful things we vow, and presently repent, seeking after shifts and evasions to elude the obligation, and to ex∣cuse our selves. Suffer not thy mouth, by making an hasty vow, to cause thy flesh] That is, thy tongue, or thy self to sin. Flesh is taken by a Synecdoche, for •he whole man, Gen. 6.12. Isai. 40.5. Rom. 3.20. It may seem here to be used for the whole man, to intimate, that rash vowes are usually groun∣ded upon fleshly, rather then spiritual rea∣sons. A man did not go about them with his soul and spirit, upon solemn and serious grounds, but to gratifie himself in some car∣nal interest or other, or to carry on some sin∣ful end, Acts 23.12, 13. Mal. 1.14. 2 Sam. 15.8, 9. Prov. 7.14. A like expression, Eccl. 11.10.
neither say thou before the Angel] By the Angel some do understand the Priest, or Page 163 Messenger of the Lord towards the people; so they are called, Job 33.23. Mal. 2.7. Rev. 1.20. for in the case of an Oath, where∣in there was errour or ignorance, the person was to bring a sacrifice, and the Priest was to make an atonement for him, Lev. 5.4, 5, 6. And then the meaning is, Do not when thou hast vowed, repent and grudge, and go to the Priest, acknowledging an errour or igno∣rance, that so thou mayest save charges, and lick thy self whole, by offering a sacrifice to excuse a vow. Others, understand the An∣gels of heaven, who are sent forth for the good of the Elect, and who observe our be∣haviour in Gods Worship; as that in the Apostle useth to be understood, 1 Cor. 11.10. Matth. 18.10. Luk. 12.8. 1 Tim. 5.21. the Greek reads it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Before God; it may haply be meant of the Temple or House of God, where they did pay their vowes, Psal. 66.13. wherein there were Cherubims drawn, in token of the pre∣sence of the Angels, and their protection to the Church, 1 Reg. 6.29, 32. Others, understand it of Christ, who is the searcher of hearts, and will not be mocked, cannot be deceived; who is the Angel of the Cove∣nant, and who is in the midst of his people, his Candlesticks, when they come to Wor∣ship, Exod. 23.20, 21. called the presence Page 164 of God, Exod. 33.14. Mal. 3.1. Isa. 63.9. Josh. 12.41. It seemeth to me to have some allusion to the history of Balaam, who when the Angel stood in the way against him, made such an excuse as this, It was an errour, I knew not that thou stoodst against me, if it displease thee, I will go back, Numb. 22.34.
That it was an errour] That is, either do not vow so rashly and unadvisedly, as to be at last brought to a necessity of confessing a sinfull errour, but advise before hand that thou maiest not erre. Such a rash vow was that of Jephthah, Judg, 11.30, 31, 35. and that other of Saul, 1 Sam. 14.24, 29, 39, 40. Or else, do not excuse thy self for breaking thy vow, by saying, thou didst it imprudently, and wert mistaken in it, it was an ignorance which thou art willing, by some sacrifice, or other way of devotion to expiate; as sacri∣fices were to be offered for the ignorances of the people, Levit. 2.27. Numb. 15.24, 25. Heb. 9.7. Do not cover a wilfull prevarication with a specious pretence, nor after vowes make enquiry, Prov. 20.25.
wherefore should God be angry at thy voice] The word signifies foaming anger; why should he through anger foam against thee? An interrogation of dehorting. As, Why will Page 165 ye dye, (i. e.) Be careful that you may not dye. This is one reason, God will be an∣gry. Another, Thou shall feel his anger, he will destroy the Work of thy hand, He will not blesse those endeavours, for the ac∣complishing whereof thou didst make that vow; thou destroyest the vow, he will de∣stroy thy work, Deut. 28.15, &c. The third follows.
V. 7. For in the multitude of dreams, and many words, there are many vanities: but fear thou God] Or, In multitude of dreams, there are also vanities: and so in many words. Or, as in multitude of dreams, so also •f words there are divers vanities. Some take 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 not for a Noun, but for the Infinitive mood of the Verb; & render it thus, Quia sicut in multipli∣care, or, quando multiplicantur somnia, etiam vanitates multiplicantur: sic se habent verba multa. As when dreams are multiplied, vani∣ties also are multiplied, so is it in many words. In all, the sense is the same. Mercer, a most learned Interpreter, makes the connexion & sense to be thus, I have given thee these cau∣tions to be tender of thy behaviour in the pre∣sence of God, that thou maiest not by dreams, fancies, vanities, or multitude of difficult busi∣nesses, be brought to utter any thing rashly be∣fore God, but amidst all dangers or dreams, or vanities, or difficulties, to fear God, and not to suf¦fer Page 166 thy self to be withdrawn from him by any temptations. But the words seem to pre∣scribe the same remedy against rash vowes, as before against other hasty addresses unto God, vers. 3. There is a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 in the conjunction copulative, as elsewhere, Gen. 43.8. &. 25.34. The plural & vanitates, is as much, as plurima vanitas, great vanity, or many vanities; as Prov. 1.20. Wisdoms, (i.) principal or excellent wisdom, Isa. 64.6. Our righteousnesses, (i.) most righteous action, Gen. 19.11. Blind∣nesses, (i.) Thick and through blindnesse: Psal. 45.15. With gladnesses, (i.) with great gladness: 2 Pet. 3.11. What manner of per∣sons ought we to be in holy conversations and godlinesses, (i.) In all manner of holy con∣versation and godliness: Cant. 5.16. His palate is sweetnesses, and he is altogether, or every whit of him is desires, (i.) Most sweet, and most desirable: Dan. 9.23. A man of desires, (i.) Greatly desired o• be∣loved: Isai. 53.3. A man of sorrows, (i.) Full of sorrows.
but fear thou God] This is the remedy of all vanities in Worship, to serve God rather with inward reverence and fear, then with rash, hasty, many, formal, empty expressions. The fear of God is the foundation of all holy duties, Chap. 12.13. Isa. 29.13. Deut. Page 167 28.58. Mal. 1.6. Heb. 12.28, 19.
V. 8. If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent, &c.] The connexion of these words with the former, st•nds thus: The fear of God doth many times expose men unto injury and violence, and that eve∣ry where, all a Province and Country over, and that not onely from ordinary persons, but from great men, and that without remedy; because, if haply they have recourse unto judgment and justice for ease, even they finde wresting, perverting, distorting of ju∣stice: So that a mans tranquility in this life, may seem to be but little mended by Piety and fear of God, whereby he is in danger of being reduced to poverty and distress. This is a stumbling-block, which may cause men to be offended at the waies of God, Matth. 11.5, 6. & 13.21. Gal. 5.11. and good men have stumbled at it, Psal. 73.12, 13. Against this temptation, he here subjoyns a season∣able antidote, they should not be much ama∣zed at it, but rather comfort themselves, that there lyeth an appeal to a higher Court, where they shall certainly be righted, and their innocency vindicated. If thou seest the oppression of the poor; and that such op∣pression, as that thou hast no remedy against it, but it is powerful enough to wry and per∣vert judgment: And yet further, no escape Page 168 from it, but it meets with thee all the Nation or Province over. If you see a poor man that fears God, not onely suffer under the meanness of his condition, but under fraud, calumny, rapine, violence, where ever he goes; as Ezek. 18.12, 18. Job 20, 19. Mic. 3.2. Job 24.2—12, & 19.7, 8. Psal. 74.20. Jer. 6.6, 7. & 20.8. Ezek. 8.17.
marvel not at the matter] Be not amazed or astonished at it: so much the word im∣ports, Isa. 13.8. Job 26.11. Think it not a strange thing, 1 Pet. 4.12▪ Do not think hardly of God, nor distrust his Providence, or grow weary of his service. What wonder at all is it to see power crush poverty; or wick∣edness suppress Piety? Psal. 37.8, 9.
at the matter] Or, at the will, or purpose, to wit, of God, in suffering, and ordering this thing: for these things happen not with∣out his appointment and providence, Hab. •.12. Isa. 10.5. Psal. 17.13.
for he that is higher then the highest re∣gardeth, and there be higher then they] High∣er, viz. God, who is higher: the relative without the antecedent, which is very usual: or, The High from above; The High re∣gardeth it. It seemeth to be a vehement and emphatical Anadiplosis: the same word is used for from above, Gen. 27.39. & 49.25. This kind of elegant and emphatical repeti∣tion Page 169 is frequent in the Scripture, Psal. 22.1. Jer. 7.4. & 22.29. Ezek. 21.27. 2 Sam. 18.33. 1 Reg. 18.39. Judg. 5.30. Psal. 98.4, 5, 6. & 124.1, 2. Hos. 2.2. Dan. 10.19. And according to this sense, God is said in a way of Judgment to look down from heaven up∣on the violence of great men, and to speak from thence in his wrath unto them, Psal. 2.4, 5. & 11.4, 5, 6. Exod. 2.23, 24. 1 Sam. 9.16. Psal. 93.4. Or, He that is higher then the High, God, who is the High above all the Earth, the High and Mighty One, above the Potentates of the World, who are called High ones, Isa. 24.21. Isa. 2.11, 12. 2 Sam. 23.1. He that is King of kings, and Lord of lords, Higher then the Kings of the earth, Psal. 89.27.
regardeth] Observeth the violence of proud men to avenge it. Or keepeth the poor who are oppressed by them, Isa. 3.14. Prov. 22.22, 23. Psal. 10.12—18. & 11.5. & 68.5. & 72.14.
and there •e higher then they] Namely, The Holy Angels, who are sent forth for the good of the Church, Heb. 1.14. who pitch their tents about believers, and are Guardians over them, Psal. 34.7. & 91.11. who behold the face of God as Ministers ready to exe∣cute his commands in behalf of them, Matth. 18.10. whose service God is pleased to use Page 170 in the punishment of Tyrants, and subver∣sion of States, Isa. 37.36. Act. 12.23.
V. 9. Moreover, the profit of the earth is for all] Here he returneth to consider the vanity of all kind of Riches; amongst which, though some are to be preferred before others, as namely corn and cattel, which are the profits of the earth, yet both the one and the other are unable to make the possessors of them happy. Yet withall, the words may seem to have some relation to what went before, namely, That God in his providence hath so ordered things in the civil body, That the Head cannot say to the Foot, I have no need of thee: the King himself wanteth the help, and cannot subsist without the labour of poor men, and that may be a check unto oppression and violence.
the profit of the earth is for all] Or, above all other profit. He commendeth husbandry, consisting in tillage and grazing, above all other wayes of gain, as extending to the necessary supply of all men whatsoever; for bread is the staffe of life, Isa. 3.1. Gen. 41.55. Prov. 24.27. & 27.23, 24. & 31.16. Adam even in Innocency was to have dres∣sed the earth, Gen. 2.15. There is an ex∣cellency or profit of the earth, in, or above all. The substantive is put for an adjective of the superlative degree; as Gen. 12.2. Psal. 21.7. & 88.9. Cant. 5.16.
Page 171the King himself is served by the field] Or, the King himself is for the field: or the King is served for the fields sake, that under him men may quietly labour and eat the fruits of the earth: or the King himself dresseth his field, is as it were a servant to his field to order and husband it. It lyes on him to take care of husbandry, that he and his people may be nourished. The most simple mean∣ing is to shew, that from the meanest to the greatest, the fruits of the earth are necessary for every mans supportance. Therefore Joseph reserved the fifth of the fruits of the Earth for Pharaoh, Gen. 47.24. and it is re∣corded for the commendation of King Uz∣ziah, that he was a lover of Husbandry, 2 Chron. 26.10.
V. 10. He that loveth silver shall not •e satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abun∣dance with increase] This may be under∣stood either Absolutely by it self, to set forth the unsatiable greediness of covetous wret∣ches, whose desires are like the grave, and never say, It is enough, Habak. 2.5, 6, 8, 9. Isa. 5.8. or Comparatively, with relation to what was said before, There is a profit and real benefit which the Earth bringeth un∣to those that labour about it, but money though a man increase it never so much, and though it appear never so lovely Page 172 unto him, yet it cannot of it self satisfie any desire of Nature; if a man be hungry, it cannot feed him; if naked, it cannot cloath him; if cold, it cannot warm him; if sick, it cannot recover him. As it is an instru∣ment of traffick, which answereth unto All things, Eccles. 10.19. So it may be a de∣fence to a man, Chap. 7.12. and may pro∣vide other things for him. But if God should withhold the fruits of the Earth; and forbid that to bring them forth, abundance of wealth would be as useless as so many stones: a man hath no good of money, nor of other •rades, further then they purchase or manage for us the fruits of the earth.
The later clause some thus render it, He that loveth it, shall not have any increase by, or in the abundance thereof. Increase here, is a word which signifieth Increase of the earth, such fruits as may be eaten: and mo∣ney is not fructus edulis, though it come out of the earth. But the prefix 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 set before the word Abundance, being sometimes a note of the Accusative case, and expressing the object of an Action, we may well record it as it is in our Version; He that loveth abun∣dance; as Gen. 34.1. & 37.2. Prov. 9.5. Multitude, or Abundance, here, is taken in the same kind, for gathered wealth, as Psal. 37.16.
Page 173V. 11. When goods increase, they aro in∣creased that eat them] He shewed the va∣nity of the love of money; here he shewes the vanity of Husbandry and great possessi∣ons: or else goeth on upon occasion of the last words, he that loveth abundance, shall not •e satisfied with increase; because as his wealth increaseth, his charge and family, and friends, and retinue will increase like∣wise. The possessour can have no more real good, nor satisfaction from his great estate, then his servants have, many hands must be set on work, and consequently ma∣ny bellies filled, many backs cloathed, and they all have their real share as fully, as he himself in the things which he possesseth: no man had greater experience of this then So∣lomon, of whose numerous Family, and large expences we read, 1 Reg. 4.22, 26. So we read of the great Family of Abraham, Gen. 14.14.
and what good, or what profit is there to the owners thereof] Chap. 1.3. & 2.14. & 3.9.
saving the beholding of them with their eyes?] He hath no advantage above others, save that he sees them eat that, the property whereof is his: and this is some good; for it is a more blessed thing to give, then to re∣ceive, Act. 20.35. or, he can onely please Page 174 himself with looking on his land on moneys as his own, whereas the real benefit which they yield, doth accrue unto others as well as to himself. And if his eye have any ad∣vantage above his servants in this respect, Theirs have an advantage above his in ano∣ther; for they are refreshed with sweet sleep, which his are usually deprived of.
V. 12. The s•eep of a labouring man] Or of a servant, or of him that tilleth the ground, or is conversant about any painful trade and work, Gen. 4.2. 2 Sam. 9.10. Prov. 12.11. Isa. 19.9,
is sweet] Whether he eat little or much: If he eat little, his labour causeth sweet sleep: If much, his healthiness and strength causing good concoction, doth not suffer his sleep to be disquieted with crude and offensive va∣pours. Besides labour taking up the minde, doth free it from those careful thoughts and covetings which are usually the hinderers of sweet sleep.
but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep] This may be understood either of abundance of wealth, with the many cares, businesses, fears, troubles, which are conse∣quent thereupon, Gen. 41.29. Prov. 3.10. Luke 12.16, 17. or of fulness of dyet, glut∣tony and excess of delicious fare, which cau∣seth distempers, and so hindereth sleep. This Page 175 seemeth rather to be intended, (because he mentioned eating before) and so to be di∣rected against rich Gluttons, who spend their time in riot, feasting and excess, and so over∣charge Nature with intemperance, beyond its strength, Luke 16.19. & 21.34. which causeth indigestion and malignant vapours whereby sleep is removed or disquieted, Eccles. 8.16. Prov. 4.16, 17. and this is a great vexation; for sweet sleep is a blessing of God to man, Psal. 127.2. Prov. 3.24.
V. 13. There is a sore evil which I have seen under the Sun] An evil that causeth Sickness, a very grievous and bitter evil. Or an Evil falling on men, Chap. 6.2.
riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt] Prov. 1.19. Either being unto them occasions of sin, & fuel of lust, causing pride, vanity, oppression, violence, gaming, glut∣tony, idleness, excess, Hab. 2.9, 10. Luke 12.15—21. 1 Tim. 6.9, 10. Luke 16.19. Deut. 6.11, 12. & 8.10, 11, 12. Prov. 30.9. Jam. 2.6, 7. & 5.3—6. or else exposing them unto envy and danger, to rapine and violence, Prov. 13.8. 2 Reg. 25.6, 7, 9, 12.
V. 14. But those riches perish by evil tra∣vel] Or, with much affliction. Either by their own improvidence, imprudence, luxu∣ry, &c. or by the fraud, circumvention and Page 176 violence of others, or by casualties and mis∣carriages in trading: or by some secret blast and curse from God, Prov. 23.5. and that after much travel and toyl to get them, after much sollicitude and anxious care to keep them, after much providence and tenderness towards his children to lay up for them.
he begetteth a son, and there is nothing in his hand] O•, in his power and possession, Dan. 2.38. Joh. 3.35. 1 Reg. 20.6. 1 Chr. 29.12. his hand, (i.) either the fathers, to to leave unto the son; or the sons, to inherit it after his father.
V. 15. As he came forth of his mothers womb, naked shall he return to go as he came] Though he could secure all his wealth from perishing, yet he himself must leave them, and go out of the World as naked as he came into it, And that which hath no power to free us from death, to comfort us in death, to go with us into another World after death, is no foundation of happiness or solid tran∣quillity, Job 1.21. Psal. 49.17. 1 Tim. 6.7. Luke 12.20, 21.
to go] (i.) To dye, Chap. 6.4. Job 16.22. Psal. 39.13. Phil. 1.23. Return, viz. to the Womb of the common mother, the earth, Job. 1.21. Eccles. 12.7.
and shall take nothing of his labour] That is, of his estate gotten by hard labour, Chap. Page 177 2.19. Prov. 5.10. Deut. 28.33. which he may carry away, or cause to go along with him, in his hand. He cannot carry so much as one handful of all that he hath with him.
V. 16. And this also is a sore evil] As before, vers. 13. That though his Riches haply are not kept for his hurt; nor do not perish in his time, yet they will not at all keep him from death, nor profit him in it. Riches will not profit in the day of wrath.
that in all points as he came, so shall he go] His death and his birth are over against one another in an exact proportion.
and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind?] For that which will not stay, which cannot be held fast, which is empti∣ness and very vanity. So words of wind, are empty and vain words, Job 16.3. A man walking in wind, that is, a lying Prophet, Mic. 2.11. so to reap a whirlwind, Hos. 8.7. to fill the belly with the east wind. Job 15.2. to inherit wind, Prov. 11.29. to bring forth wind, Isa. 26.18. To feed upon wind, Hos. 12.1. To speak into the ayr, 1 Cor. 14.9. To beat the ayr, 1 Cor. 9.16. Are ex∣pressions of very vain and fruitless enterpri∣zes. Here money is compared to wind; The one hath wings to fly away with, Prov. 23.5. so hath the other, Psal. 104.3. The Page 178 one cannot be held, Prov. 30.4. neither can the other, 1 Cor. 7.31.
V. 17. All his dayes also he eateth in darknesse, and hath much sorrow and wrath with his sicknesse.] Or, according to the words in their order, thus, Also all his dayes he eateth in darknesse, and much sorrow, and his sicknesse, and wrath. A further vanity of Riches in the hands of a covetous world∣ling, he denies himself a full, free, and com∣fortable enjoyment of outward things, he cannot unbend himself from his •arking cares even when he goes to eat, but as he gets, so he useth and enjoyeth his wealth in darkness, i. e. (for the words following are Exegetical) in sorrow, and wrath, even unto very sickness.
All his dayes he eateth in darkness] It may be understood either literally, that he doth so lengthen out his labour, and grudge to spare himself any times even of necessary re∣freshment, as that he deferreth eating till it be dark, and till he can work no longer. Or rather Metaphorically, he eateth without any pleasure, and with much trouble and anxiety of minde; so much darkness commonly im∣porteth, Isa. 49.9, 10. & 50.10. Mic. 7.8.
and hath much sorrow] Or, indignation. The word in some Copies (as the Learned Page 179 observe) is read with the points of a noun; in others, of a verb, and so they render it, multum irascitur, or indignatur, he is very angry, or he sorroweth much, and hath sick∣ness, and wrath. The meaning (as I con∣ceive) is, he eateth in darkness, basely, and wretchedly, as a slave to his riches; he storms, grieves, frets, is even sick with an∣ger and vexation, at the expences he is put unto in keeping but a mean and a sordid Ta∣ble. The Greek by a very easie mistake in the letters which are much alike, read it thus, All his dayes he is in darknesse, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and in mourning, and in sorrow, and in sick∣nesse, and in wrath. His sickness, for, he hath sickness. The Affix is used for the se∣parate and absolute pronoun; as Psal. 115.7. Ezek. 29.3. Our reading, He hath sor∣row and wrath with his sicknesse, (where the conjunction copulative is rendred by the preposition [with] as sometimes elsewhere, 1 Sam. 14.18.) seemeth to intimate such a sense as this, All his dayes, or while he lives, he eats in sorrow, and when he falls sick, and is in danger of death, he hath much wrath and indignation in his sickness, for fear of parting from his wealth, which he so dearly loveth, and hath so hardly laboured for.
V. 18. Behold, that which I have seen, It is good and comely, &c.] Here is subjoyn∣ed Page 180 a remedy of this Vanity, setting forth the right use of riches, to take away all this sinful anxiety which is conversant about them; which is, in the fear of God comfortably to enjoy his good blessings, without afflicting our selves for the future, but casting ou• cares upon him, who careth for us.
that which I have seen, is this] He speak∣eth out of experience, and upon exact study and inquiry after the truth; as 1 Joh. 1.1, 3. Joh. 1.14. Chap 1.13. & 2.24. & 3.22.
It is good and comely] Good and comfor∣table to a man himself. Comely, decent, honourable, and of good report toward others. Or, there is a good which is also comely. Or, it is good, yea, it is comely. Or, Be∣hold I have seen that which is good, that which is comely. The like manner of ex∣pression, 1 Sam. 15.20. Psal. 10.6. Teach∣ing us in our conversation, 1. To look unto that which is good in it self, and then to that which is decent towards the world, Phil. 4.8.
that a man eat and drink, and enjoy good of all his labour] Or? In all his labours, to sweeten his labours with a comfortable frui∣tion of the fruit of them. Of all his labours; so the Preposition 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 is used, to signifie as much as Ex or De, Exod. 12.43.
Page 181all the dayes of his life which God giveth him] When God gives life, we should not deny the comforts of it to ourselves.
for it is his portion] All the good he can ever have from them: A metaphor from di∣vision of heritances; or from distribution of meat at a feast. It is that which God hath allotted him of all his labour. But withal, he must remember, that God allowes him but a part; God himself, and the poor, and his family, country, friends, challenge part likewise in those goods, wherewith God hath blessed him, Prov. 3.8. 1 Cor. 9.13, 14. 1 Cor. 16.2. Gal. 6.6, 10. 2 Cor. 12.14. 1 Tim. 5.8. Isai. 23.18.
V. 19. Every man also to whom God hath given, &c.] Here is onely a further insisting on the same argument; as Chap. 2.24. & 3.13. & 6.2. He shews, 1. That God gives us our wealth, Deut. 8.18. 2. That he gives us dominion over our wealth, that we may not be captivated unto it; every man is a slave to his estate further then God sets them free. 3. Wherein this power stands; 1. in using it, to eat thereof; 2. in using it proportionable to his condition; or as Divines speak, Secundum decentiam statu∣ti, to take his portion: 3. To use it with fruition and cheerfulnesse, to rejoyce in it, 1 Tim. 6.17. 4. Not to let his joy swallow Page 182 up his duty, nor his delight his labour, but to sweeten his labour with joy, and to moderate his joy with labour, Eph. 4.28. 5. To use, and to enjoy his own, the fruit of his own labour, not to be burdensom or injurious unto others, 2 Thess. 3.12.
V. 20. For he shall not much remember the dayes of his life] Some make the sense to be thus, Although he give not much, or although it be not much which God hath gi∣ven, (which sense the distinguishing Accent doth somewhat favour) yet he shall remem∣ber, that all his life long, God sweetneth that little unto him with the joy of his heart: And a little with joy and cheerfulness, and Gods blessing, is better then much riches of the ungodly, Psal. 37.16. Prov. 17.1. Luk. 12.15. Prov. 15.17. Dan. 1.15. But our Translation preferreth another sense, which seems most consonant to the drift of the place, He that in this manner, doth cheer∣fully enjoy the blessings which God gives him, shall not, with much sorrow or weari∣ness, remember the troubles of his life; nei∣ther shall his labour be very irksome or grie∣vous unto him, because the Lord doth answer him, or doth proportionably unto his labors, return comfort to him in the joy of his heart, in the joyful and contented fruition of them.
Page 183because God answereth him in the joy of his heart] Answereth all his labour with joy, giveth him such joy of heart, as is a full com∣pensation for all his labour. As money is said to answer unto all things, in a propor∣tionable value to them all, Eccl. 10.19. so shall his joy bear a full value to all the labour which was taken for it. Other expositions there are, but this is most genuine and na∣tural.
IN this Chapter is continued a further de∣scription of the common vanity of riches, in the hands of a covetous person. He is here set forth,
First, By the good things which he hath; 1. Riches in abundance, riches and wealth. 2. Honour, and both to the uttermost of his desires, vers. 2. 3. Many Children. 4. Ma∣ny years, a great old age, vers. 3, 6.
Secondly, By his misery, which makes all that vain unto him. 1. God gives him not power to enjoy it. 2. A stranger eateth it. 3. His Soul is not filled with good. 4. He hath no burial, vers. 2, 3.
Thirdly, the censure of all this: 1. Ab∣solutely, 2. Comparatively. Absolutely; It is first, an evil; secondly, a common evil; Page 184 thirdly, a vanity; fourthly, a disease, vers. 1, 2. Comparatively, an untimely birth, o• abortive is better; For, 1. He is born dead, and so free from sense of miseries, which the other discruciated himself withal. 2. He departs in darkness, without the loss of light and comfort, which the other denies unto himself. 3. His name is covered in dark∣ness, the others name is odious, vers. 4. 4. He hath not seen the Sun, nor known any thing: the other hath indeed seen the Sun, but hath seen no good, nor known any thing but sorrow and vexation, and at last goes to the same place, vers. 5, 6. This vanity he fur∣thers opens:
First, By the narrow use of Riches, and all the labour conversant about them; it terminates in the body; it cannot satiate the minde nor appetite; that is, if evil and co∣vetous, insatiable; if wise and prudent, above satisfaction by these things, vers. 7. That they cannot satisfie the minde, appears, be∣cause then wise men might find out some more good in them then fools; but the wisest can have no more out of them, then for their mouths, and so have fools, and the poorest men that know how to live, as well as the richest, vers. 8.
Secondly, By the vanity of wandring and endlesse desires; the wise, the foolish, the Page 185 rich, the poor have things present and neces∣sary, so long as they live, they have enough to that use; and this is a real fruit, much bet∣ter, then to let the heart wander and weary it self in endless desires, vers. 9.
Thirdly, By the impossibility of mending a mans condition by these things, or of rai∣sing him above the state of mortality and in∣firmity. A man will be but a man how rich soever he be, and all his wealth will not guard him against the evils incident to humanity, vers. 10. He will be still never the better by such things, as do but increase vanity, vers. 11.
Fourthly, By the ignorance of man to make the best use of things, and to resolve himself, whether a great, or a moderate estate be better for him; especially considering the shortnesse of his life, and the ignorance of what will become of his Estate or Family af∣ter he is gone, vers. 12. Thus we may con∣nex the two last Verses, with the Argument of those before: or rather we may take them for a general conclusion of all the precedent vanities, since so many things there are which increase vanity, what is man the better for them, vers. 11. For first, amongst them all, he can hardly know what is good for himself. 2. If he do, he can enjoy that good but a little while, his very life (the best outward Page 186 blessing he hath) is vain, and but a shadow 3. When his life is over, he shall be never the better for any thing which comes after him. 4. Neither can he please himself with the fore-sight of what shall be after him, be∣cause he cannot tell it to himself, neither can any man else declare it to him.
Vers. 1. THere is an evil which I have seen under the Sun] He shews the misery of a discontented covetous dispo∣sition, and that it is a special gift of God to bestow upon a man the sweet enjoyment of outward blessings, which when he hath, he is apt enough to deny unto himself.
and it is common amongst men] Or much and great. Covetousness is both a great sin, and yet a very usual and frequent sin, that it is to be met with, in all parts of the habitable world, where ever the Sun riseth and setteth. The commonness of sin, doth not at all exte∣nuate the greatnesse of it, but rather aggrava∣te the same, Psal. 14.2.3. Jer. 5.1.5.
V. 2. A man to whom God hath given, &c.] There is a man, who hath all things that heart can desire, not onely riches, but sub∣stance of all sorts, lands, moveables, with ho∣nour and great place, 2 Chron. 1.11, 12.
so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth] He is not defective, or Page 187 destitute of any thing which his soul can wish for; his substance extends to all just and large desires; it cannot be exhausted or worn out, Deut. 8.9. Isa. 51.14. 1 Reg. 17.16. He speaketh not of the boundless desires of covetous men, which are never satisfied; but of the just desires, which a man of dig∣nity and honour could have, in order to the decency of his estate, and to the quality of his place. He cannot rationally wish for any thing towards the satisfaction of his just desires, which his estate will not plentifully afford him, Psal. 73.7. Luk. 12.17, 18. Job 21.7—13. Psal. 17.14. All this a cove∣tous wretch is said to have from God, not in a way of blessing, as if God did prosper and approve of his sordid, or sinful waies of gain; but in a way onely of providence, his Sun shining on the just and unjust, Matth. 5.45.
yet God giveth him not power to eat there∣of] Chap. 5.18, 19. To eat of them, import∣eth a moderate and prudent use of them, for necessity and delight, taking a mans own portion; this is a special curse and judge∣ment of God, when a man hath not an heart to enjoy the blessi•gs which God bestoweth on him: as the contrary is a blessing from God, Chap. 5.19.
but a stranger eateth them] One that is Page 188 in no relation of neerness, blood, friendship to him: or an enemy, who spoileth and plundreth him of them. This is noted as a great affliction, Hos. 7.9. Deut. 28.33. Isa. 1.7. Lam. 5.2. Jer. 5.17. Here the Learned observe a difference, between a mans own use of his goods and a strangers; for he himself doth but eat of them; but a stranger eateth them. The former noteth care, mo∣deration, providence: The later, cruelty and devouring, without pity without mea∣sure.
This is a vanity, and an evil disease] Not onely a fruitlesse thing, but a very grievous trouble, when a man by sordid thoughts, base∣ness of spirit, unquiet and incessant cares, greedy desires, distrustful jealousies, anxious fears, thronging imployments, keeps himself from taking any delight in his abundance, and pierceth himself through with divers sor∣rows, 1 Tim. 6.10.
V. 3. If a man beget an hundred children] He spake before of one, who had none to succeed him in his estate, but a stranger; here, he shews the misery of a covetous per∣son to be as great, though he have many chil∣dren, and live many years. These be grea∣ter blessings in themselves, Psalm 127.3, 4.5. therefore children were called the glory of their Parents, Hos. 9.11. Job 5.25, 26. Page 189 Psal. 21.5. & 128.6. But covetousnesse takes away the comfort of them.
an hundred children] Very many,; a cer∣tain number for an uncertain; as 1 Cor. 14.19. Prov. 17.10. 1. Sam 18.7.
many years, so that the dayes of his years be many] He seemeth, speaking of long life, to correct himself, and call it rather many dayes, then many years: so Gen. 47.9.
and his soul be not filled with good] Or, satisfied with good. Either in regard of his own insatiable desires, or of some curse of God, mixing biternesse therewith; as Chap. 5.10. Job 9.25. By his soul, is meant 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, his appetite and desires; as Gen. 34.8. 1. Sam. 20.4. Psal. 103.6. O∣thers, understand this of the vanity of chil∣dren and old age without riches, when a man is so poor, that he hath nothing to satis∣fie nature while he lives, and cannot leave e∣nough to bury him when he is dead Which sense is touched at in the Contents of the Chapter, in our English Bibles.
and also that he have no burial] Either through cruelty of mur•herers & spoylers, or through neglect of heirs and successors, who deny him an honourable interment. It is a part of humane misery to be without burial, Deut. 28.26. 1 Re•. 14.11, 13. 2 Reg. 9.37. Isai. 14 20. Jer. 8.2 & 16.4. & 22.19. 2 Chron. 21.19.
Page 190I say, that an untimely birth is better then he] In regard of outward respects, never to have felt good or evil, not to be born at all, or to be born and die at once, then to live long in misery, and then dye without love or honour from any. Hereby is noted the base condition of such a person, who is worse then an untimely birth, which hath not had the ordinary comfort of the meanest living creatures, to see the Sun, Job 3.10, 11, 12, 16. Psal. 58.8.
V. 4. For he cometh in with vanity] (i.) He is born, Job 1.21. Josh. 1.9. To no pur∣pose. That which never comes to perfection, but melteth and vanisheth away as soon as it is born, is born in vain.
and departeth in darknesse] Or, into dark∣nesse, or, obscurely without any notice. A Periphrasis of death, Eccl. 11.8.
his name shall be covered with dark∣nesse] (i.) Shall utterly be forgotten; there shall never be any mention of him.
V. 5. hath not seen the Sun] Job 3.16. Hath not felt any worldly delight, and therefore is not affected with the loss o• it.
nor known] Hath had no use, either o• sense or reason, and so cannot compare the evil of loss with the good of fruition.
Page 191this hath more rest then the other] For he rests immediately from the wom•, whereas a covetous man lives a toylsome and unquiet life, and then parts with all, unwillingly, in∣to the condition of the abortive.
V. 6. Yea, though he live a thousand years twice told] Whereas it might be objected, that the one hath lived a long life, and that alone is a blessing; and therefore in that re∣spect, he is to be preferred before an untime∣ly birth. He answereth, That long life, with∣out seeing good, doth but lengthen out mise∣ry; It is not the life, but the good, which makes a solid difference, Psal. 34.12. else the evil of the day, Matth. 6.34. makes day and life it self undesirable, Job 3.20—23 & 7.1, 2.
Do not all go to one place] As well he that lives longest, as he that never saw the Sun: and though one never saw the Sun, yet if the other never saw good, but only wea•ies him∣self with sorrowes and vanity, and goes to the same dust; what difference is there be∣tween them?
V. 7. All the labour of man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled] For his mouth; For his bodily sustenance, and the services of life. Here is first a Metonymie of the subject, the mouth for the nour•sh∣ment which is put into it: and then a Sy∣necdoche, Page 192 of the part for the whole; food being, though the principal, yet but one part of mans necessary provision; all which the Apostle comprizeth in food and rayment, 1 Tim. 6.8. All the real fruit which any man can reap of all his worldly labours, is to have his daily bread, the bread of his allow∣ance, or food convenient for him, Prov. 30.8. Things simply necessary for life, and things secundarily necessary for the decency of his condition, and proportion of his qua∣lity and degree in the world.
yet the appetite is not filled] (i.) Either the covetous desires of a worldling remain still insatiable, he is not contented with his own portion, he cannot contain his heart within the limits of reason or religion; but though he have abundantly sufficient for all his wants, yet he toyleth still as if he had nothing, Chap. 4.8. Or else, The Soul is not filled; riches may benefit the body, and feed, and cloath, and comfort that, but to the nobler part of man, they can afford no sa∣tisfaction, they do not bear any proportion at all. They cannot hold the soul, Luk. 12.19, 20. They cannot help the Soul in a day of trouble, Prov. 11.4. Zeph. 1.18. They cannot follow it into another World, Psal. 49.17. They have no suteableness, either in ex∣cellency or duration unto it.
Page 193V. 8. F•r what hath the wise more then the fool, &c.] This question is a denyal, The Wise man hath nothing more then the fool. Internal excellency there is in wisdom above folly, Chap. 2.13. But here he speaketh with relation to wealth, and the outward events of things, in which regard, the Wise man hath no peculiar prerogative above the fool. The one fares as deliciously, is cloa∣thed as richly, hath Lands and Revenues left him by his Ancestors, as well as the other. The wisest man can but provide for back and belly, and such other conveniences, as out∣ward things are proper to supply; and so much may he do who hath Wealth without Wit. Outward things promiscuously hap∣pen unto all, and beyond their own use, they are not able to supply a wise man more then a fool.
what hath the poor which knoweth to walk before the living?] A poor man that lives, hath the substantial benefit of outward things as well as the richest or the wisest. What hath he lesse then the rich? he knowes how to get his living, and walk through his short time of life, as well as the other. Or, what hath the poor wise man, who by his industry and prudent conversing amongst men doth Page 194 maintain himself, more then the poor foolish man, who makes a shift to live as well as the other?
to walk before the living] That is, to live decently and discreetly amongst men, Chap. 4.15. Isa. 42.5. Psal. 56.13. Chap. 7.12.
V. 9. Better is the sight of the eyes, then the wandring of the Desire] By the sight of the Eyes, he meaneth things present, and in possession, which we have before us, in our eye, and in hand: by the wandring or walking of the Soul, he meaneth an insatiable and endlesse pursuit of the heart after thing• which we have not, and cannot easily over∣take. So sight is opposed by the Apostle to Faith, Because Sight looketh on things in possession; Faith, on things in expectation, 2 Cor. 5.7. and so property or possession is before called the seeing of things with the eye, Eccles. 5.11. And on the other side, unsatisfied desires are expressed by wandring of the heart up and down, Isa. 57.10. Jer. 2.25. & 14.10. when the minde is not stayed and fixed with contentment in its present condition, but like a Bee flyeth from flower to flower, from creature to creature, to ga∣ther more. This then is the plain meaning of these words, It is better for a man quietly Page 195 and contentedly to enjoy the things which he hath in present possession, then to rove up and down, and weary himself with anxi∣ous and unsatisfied desires after things which he hath not: since the poor man hath as much the substantial and principal benefit of outward things, as the Rich, namely life and health, and food convenient: since the wisest man that is, can fetch no more real good out of wealth, then fools themselves do enjoy from it, It is much more comfortable to enjoy what we have, then endlesly to weary our selves in hoarding and hunting after more, Matth. 6.25—31. This is the same in sense with that, Chap. 4.6. but spoken here by Solomon as a remedy against covetous desires; there, by the sluggard, as an apology for his laziness. Though some would have it here understood in the person of a covetous Rich man. As if he would answer Solomons question: What good hath one more then another, the wise then the fools, the rich then the poor? yes saith the covetous rich man, he hath an Estate to look on, the other is continually vexed with want and desires: and it is much better to be in possession of a good Estate, then to languish under poverty, and be ever in a craving condition. But the former sense is more genuine.
Page 196This also is vanity and vexation of spirit] That is, in the later sense, It is a vain and troublesome thing to possess good things only to look on them, and not to use them. Or rather in the former sense, the wandring of the fool up and down after new gain, and denying it self the comfortable fruition of present contentments, is vanity, because much can do a man no more real good, then a little cheerfully used: and vexation of spirit, because insatiable desires bring per∣petual disquiet upon the heart of a man.
V. 10. That which hath been, is namel• already] He sheweth the vanity of wandri•• desires, and greedy endeavours after gre••ter things then God hath yet afforded a ma• for whatever things have been or are, wh••ther a man be rich or poor, noble or 〈◊〉 his condition comes not unto him by chanc• but is prae-assigned him, in the purpose an• decree of God, and therefore much bett•• is it for him contentedly to enjoy what Go• gives, then with a vain and ineffectual amb••tion, to strive for things without his rea•• Especially since no things acquireable 〈◊〉 humane industry, can exempt or protect man from the evils, or common miseri• which mankind is exposed unto. Let 〈◊〉 grow as Rich, as potent, as Honourable the world can make him; A man he was 〈◊〉Page 197 and he will be but a man still, from earth he came, and to earth he will go, he lies under a decree of mortality and infirmity, which by the help of no worldly wealth or greatness, he is able to break through.
That which hath been, The name of it is called already] That is, Its state, quality, order, condition, every thing belonging to the nature and being of it, every thing externally happening unto it, is all pre-ordained in the counsel and decree of God. He by his im∣mutable and irresistible providence hath▪ as∣signed unto every one his order, and doth 〈◊〉 his wisdome dispose of all things belong∣•ng unto men, They are under his care and •llowance, and therefore ought not anxi∣•usly and sollicitously to insist upon provi∣••ons for the future, but rather comfortably to ••joy things present, and in a conscionable ••scharge of duty, to wait for a like blessing 〈◊〉 providence of God for hereafter, as ever ••fore they have had experience of, Psal. •.11, 31, 14, 15. 1 Sam. 2.7, 8. Act. 2.•. & 4.28.
and it is known that it is man] Be his ••alth or honours what they will, yet a frail, ••rtal, mutable, earthly creature he is still, •he was before. And though men have 〈◊〉 so dementated with worldly greatness, 〈◊〉 take Divine honour to themselves, and Page 198 to think themselves lawless, and exempted from the bonds of other men, yet it is known and visible, that they remain men still, and so God will at last make them known to them∣selves, Psal. 9.20. Ezek. 28.6, 9. Isa. 2.22. & 31.3.
Neither may he contend with him that is mightier then he] He cannot implead God, nor enter an action or suit in Judgement with him, he cannot call him to an account, or judge him; he may not think by contend∣ing with God, to alter or break through the order of his providence or decrees, Isa. 45.9. Job 9.2, 3, 12. Jer. 50.44. Job. 4.17. Rom. 9.20. Ps. 51.4. 1 Cor. 10.22. Ezek. 22.14. Ps. 33.10, 11. Job. 34.23.
V. 11. Seeing there be many things which increase vanity, what is man the better? This is commonly understood as a furth•• argument against insatiable desires of wealth because where there are many of them, the• increase doth but increase vanity, that is 〈◊〉 usual concomitant of great abundance, mor• cares, more distractions, more fears, mor• troubles and imployments come along wit• them, and yet man is not a whit bette• then he was before, he was fed, and cloathe• then, and he is no more now. Can he car•ry any of them with him? can he find 〈◊〉 any more excellency in them? will the••Page 199 any real advantage remain unto him more then his own portion, and comfortable ac∣commodations by them? But I rather con∣ceive these words to be a solemn conclusion of all the former discoveries of vanity in the creatures, and repetition of what he gave summarily before, Chap. 1.3. It was there laid down as the Proposition which he un∣dertook to demonstrate, and having demon∣strated it, it is here in the close of the whole discourse resumed again, and the whole drawn together in one brief recapitulation, seeing there are thus many things, wi•dome, folly, pleasures, honours, crowns, riches, that increase vanity, what is man the bet∣ter in regard of solid happiness and content∣ment for any, or for all of them?
V. 12. For who knoweth what is good for man in this life?] Amongst such variety of things under the Sun which the heart of man is apt to be drawn unto, neither he himself nor any other is able certainly to inform him, which of all those is best for him to enjoy and reap comfort from. Whether it be bet∣ter for him to be rich or poor, in a 〈◊〉 or low condition, in a private retirement, or in publick service; some mens grea•ness hath undone them, or other mens meanness hath secured them, 2 Reg. 25.9, 12. S•me men had not been so wicked, if they had not Page 200 been so learned; others had not been so vi∣tious, if great wealth had not excited and been fuel to feed their lusts. Achitophel might have lived longer with less wisdome, and Nabal with less wealth. No man can tell whether that which he snatcheth at, as the silly fish, with most greediness, and grea∣test expectation of contentment from it, may not be temper'd with poyson, or have a hook under it, and so be the occasion of his grea∣ter misery, Rom. 1.22. 2 Pet. 2.18, 19. Rom. 6.21. Prov. 1.13, 18, 19.
All the dayes of his vain life which he spen∣deth as a shadow] If he do by chance, rather then by election, happen upon that way and course which was best for him, yet his very life, the best of all outward blessings, is it self but a very vanity and shadow. It is but a very little while before he must part with it, and all those comforts which rendred it peaceable and cheerfull to him. A very e∣legant description of the shortness of mans life, All the number of the dayes of the life of his vanity, which he spendeth as a sha∣dow: 1. He calleth them dayes, not years. 2. Dayes that may be numbred, which like∣wise intimateth fewness of them, as Job. 16.22. Isa. 10.19. Psal. 105.12. Num. 9.20. 3. A life of vanity; a very vain life. The substantive for the adjective; as Psal. 31.3. Page 201 & 68.31. Psal. 140.12. Rom. 7.24. Ephes. 4.24. Phil. 3.21. 4. A life spent like a shadow, that hath little of substance while it lasts, and doth presently vanish a∣way, Ps. 39.6. & 144.4. Job. 14.2. Jam. 4.14. Job. 8.9.
for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the Sun.] As a man can have little satisfaction by outward good things here in his own sight and life-time, so can he pro∣mise himself as little in name or family, when he is gone, because he can by no means foresee or foreknow future and contingent events, Chap. 2.18, 19.
THe Wise man having set forth many va∣nities of this life; and the great disap∣pointment which men meet with, who seek for happiness and satisfaction from them, and thereupon the vexation which naturally ariseth from such a disappointment: and ha∣ving interwoven some general remedies a∣gainst these vanities, namely, the fear and worship of God, and the cheerfull enjoy∣ment of outward blessings: He here proceed∣eth to many other particular means of heal∣ing the vanities of this Life, and procuring tranquillity and peace to the mind of man Page 202 in the midst of them. Such are, 1. A good name, ve. 1. 2. A composed preparedness of mind to entertain death, the chiefest out∣ward evil, and consequently to bear any any other sorrow, verse 2, 3, 6. 3. Mode∣ration and patience of spirit to bear with present evils, and to digest injuries, expect∣ing the end and issue which God will give, vers. 7—10. 4. Wisdome to defend a mans self against the vanity of Riches, vers. 11, 12. 5. Acquiescency in the Government of all things by the wise providence of God, vers. 13, 15. 6. Contentation of heart in all estates, as well adversity as prosperity, con∣sidering Gods wise and just tempering of them together for our good, vers. 14. 7. Prudent and pious moderation of our beha∣viour, so as that we may not by rash zeal, or inordinate walking, expose our selves to danger and trouble, vers. 16, 17. 8. Reso∣lution and constancy in the fear of God, vers. 18. 9. Wisdome of meekness, charity, and patience towards such as offend, consi∣dering the general frailty of humane nature, and the experience and sence of our own weakness, vers. 19—22. 10. Content∣ment with such a measure of wisdome as is in this life attainable, and not to busie and dis∣quiet our thoughts with things which are above us, vers. 23, 24. Now as before in Page 203 the handling of humane vanities he did oc∣casionally intermix some Remedies thereof: so here in handling the remedies of it, and the means to obtain tranqui•lity of mind, he doth here and there intermix some other va∣nities, which are great occasions of vexa∣tion and unquietness to the heart of man: one principal one, whereof he had had very sad experience, he doth here subjoyn, name∣ly, the bitterness of an ensnaring woman, vers. 25—29.
Vers. 1. A Good name is better then pretious oyntment] Or, A name is good before good oyntment. A name, for, a good name, as, a wife, for, a good wife, Prov. 18.22. By a good name, understand that which hath its foundation in an innocent, unblame∣able and profitable life, when a man hath reverence in the conscience of others, 2 Cor. 4.2. for the name of the wicked will rot, Prov. 10.7. So to be a man of name, is meant an eminent person, renowned in his generation, Gen. 6.4. 1 Chron. 5.24. and names of men, Rev. 11.3. & 3.4. may seem to note special persons of honour and renown.
better then sweet oyntment] So the name of Christ which signifieth his gratious do∣ctrine, Act. 9.15. is compared unto sweet Page 204 oyntment, Cant. 1.3. called the sweet sa∣vour of Christ, 2 Cor. 2.14, 15. Pretious Aromatical oyntments were things▪ greatly in use and esteem amongst the Israelites, and a special part of their treasures: appointed by God to anoint the holy vessels of the Ta∣bernacle, Exod. 30.22—33▪ used in the consecration of persons to offices of ho∣nour and eminency, Exod. 28.41. 1 Sam. 16.13. Psal. 89.20. called therefore the oyl of gladness, Heb. 1.9. Isa. 61.3. used likewise in Feasts, great entertainments and expressions of joy, Amos 6.6. Esther 2.12. Psal. 23.5. Luk. 7.46. Reckoned amongst the special blessings of God, and treasures of that people, Psal. 92.10. Job. 29.6. Deut. 33.24. Prov. 21.20. Isa. 39.2. whence some would have it here taken synecdo∣chically to signifie all kind of riches, before which Solomon doth here prefer a good name; as also Prov. 22.1.
and the day of death, then the day of ones birth] Some understand here a note of simi∣litude to joyn the two clauses together, As a good name is better then sweet oyntment, so is the day of death then the day of Birth. Others repeat the former clause in the later, unto such a man who hath a good name, bet∣ter is the day of death, then of birth. And the clauses seem to have Cognation with one Page 205 another: for the day of Birth is a time of fe∣stivity and rejoycing, and accordingly used to be celebrated, Gen. 40.20. Mar. 6.21, 22. in which kind of solemnities, they used to anoint themselves with sweet oynt∣ments: as on the other side, in dayes of sor∣row, they abstained from them, 2 Sam. 14.2. Dan. 10.23. On the other side, The day of Death removes a man wholly out of this world, and leaves nothing of him behind, but only his Name and Memory, which the Lord threatneth wicked men to blot out, and cause it to rot, Deut. 29.20. & 32.26. Prov, 10.7. Job 18.17. But the name of good men remains behind them, as the sweet savour of a pretious perfume, when the sub∣stance of the perfume it self is consumed with the fire: or as spices when they are bro∣ken and dissolved, leave an excellent scent behind them. And so the meaning is, That although the day of birth be a day of feasting and joy, and the day of death a day of sorrow and mourning, yet unto a good man this is much better then the other, and the memo∣rial which he leaves behind him, is much sweeter then that of spices or perfumes. If we take the later clause alone, without con∣nexion to the former, then they relate unto the many vanities and vexations which the life of man is exposed unto; in which con∣sideration, Page 206 That day which delivers a man from them, is better then that day which lets him into the possession of them: for man is born unto much trouble and sorrow, Job. 5.7. & 14.1. but a godly mans death puts a period to all his sins, to all his sorrows, Rom. 7.24. Rev. 14.13. 2 Cor. 5, 6, 7, 8. Phil. 1.23.
V. 2. It is better to go to the house of mourning, &c.] As to a good man, the day of his death is better then the day of his birth, because it puts an end unto all those sorrows and vanities which he was born un∣to: so for those that remain alive, it is bet∣ter to go to a funeral, the house of mourning, then to a feast, or a birth-day solemnity, the house of jollity and rejoycing.
for that is the end of all men] Or, in the which is the end of all men. In which house of sorrow, a man is minded of the common end of all men. A man seeth his own end in the end of another man, and is admonish∣ed of his frailty and mortality, for it is the way of the whole earth, Josh. 23.14. Heb. 9.27.
and the living will lay it to heart] Or, will put it up, and fasten it to his heart; will be seriously and sadly affected with it, and have deep impressions thereby made upon his spirit, of the greatne•s and power Page 207 God, who draweth away our breath, and we perish, Psal. 104, 29. and of his own vani∣ty and baseness, even in his best estate, Psal. 39.5. putting in the heart, noteth diligent attendance on a thing, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Deut. 11.18. Isa. 42.25. Luk. 21.14. whereas feasting and jollity is very likely to draw off the remembrance of God, Job. 1.5. Deut. 8.12—14. Isa. 22.13. Amos 6.3—6. Deut. 32.15. Isa. 5.11, 12.
V. 3. Sorrow is better then laughter] That sorrow which ariseth from the medita∣tion of death, a sad, sober, and composed temper of spirit, whereby a man is rendred capable of instruction, and sensible of serious things which concern his peace, is better, and doth a man much more good, then laughter and the jollity which belongeth un∣to Feastings. The word signifieth anger, and so by some is the sense rendred, that charitable and wholsome Anger which re∣proveth men for their faults, and so maketh them sorrowfull, is better then the flattery of Parasites, which feedeth their foolish lusts with laughter and vain mirth, and so tendeih unto ruine.
for by the sadness of the countenance] Heb. by the illness or badness of the countenance, Neh. 2.2. badness of heart, 1 Sam. 17.28. The heart is made better. Vain lusts and Page 208 foolish exorbitant light affections are check'• and suppressed; as the outward man is grie∣ved, the inward man is amended, Prov. 2•▪30. 2 Cor. 4.16. & 7.9, 10. whereas o• the other side, empty mirth doth dissolv• the heart, and let it out unto more vanity Chap. 2.2, 3. Hos. 4.11. Esther. 1.10. Sam. 25.36.
V. 4. The heart of the wise is in the hou•• of mourning] He proveth sorrow to be be••ter, wholsomer for the soul then laughte• by the judgement and choyce of wise me• and of fools. That which wise men prefer, is indeed better then that which fools make choyce of; but wise men prefer spectacle•▪ places, occasions of sorrow; fools make choyce of the contrary: ergo that is bette• then this. Wise men consider the end of things, and chuse the most proper means unt• the best ends: whereas fools look only on things present and before their eyes. By the house of mourning, we understand any plac• or object which occasioneth mourning; 〈◊〉 the grave is called domus seculi, the house 〈◊〉 ages, or a mans long home, Eccles. 12.5▪ So a trench is called a house of measures▪ 1 Reg. 18.32. Isa. 3.21.
The heart of the wise] When his body is elsewhere, yet his thoughts and heart are thinking on the evil day, which wicked men Page 209 thrust far from them, Amos 6.3. So Job in prosperity did with a religious fear forecast evil, Job. 3.25. Neh. 2.2—5. Psal. 137.6.
but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth] Though he may by poverty, busi∣ness or many other diversions be absent in his body, yet by his good will he would have his share in every merry meeting, his heart is upon pleasures, and his love runs wholly that way, so that he is amazed and over∣whelmed through unpreparedness of heart when any sudden evil overtakes him, 1 Pet. 4.3, 4. 2 Pet. 2.13, 14. Houses of joy we read of, Isa. 32.13. Here then we are taught to moderate our selves in regard of outward pleasures, because love of them is the character of a fool, and of an heart e∣stranged from God, Job 21.12, 13. Prov. 21.17. 1 Cor. 7.30. 1 Joh. 2.15, 16.
V. 5. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, then for a man to hear the song of fools] He instanceth in another cause of sorrow, namely, the rebukes of wise and good men, which though they may sad the heart of a man for the present, yet they are much more wholsome and beneficial, then the songs and flatteries of ungodly Parasites, which sooth men in their sins, and feed the flame of their lusts and corruptions. It is better to hear, Page 210 (i.) patiently, and obediently to listen to the counsel and reproof of a prudent friend, who doth seasonably, and faithfully discover his errours to him, then that a man should hear the song of fools, Prov. 13.18. & 15.31.32. & 27.6. Psal. 141.5. It is a token of a wise and teachable disposition, to receive with meekness the words of reproof, as Da∣vid did, not only from Nathan a Prophet, 2 Sam. 12.7—13. but from Abigail a wo∣man, 1 Sam. 25.32, 33. Heb. 13.22. Prov. 9.9. & 17.10. By the song of fools, understand any flattering speeches, or any merry and pleasant discourses, being a Sy∣necdoche, whereby all kind of jests, and bewitching pleasures are signified, Isa. 24.8, 9. Gen. 31.27.
V. 6. For as the crackling of thorns under a pot, so is the laughter of the fool:] The voyce of thorns, so the noise of chariots, is called the voyce of chariots; and the noise that fire makes in stubble is called the voyce of a flame, Joel 2.5. Ezek. 1.24. Fools are here elegantly compared unto thorns, they are burdens to the place they live in, Gen. 3.17, 18. They are intractable, he must be fenced▪ which toucheth them, 2 Sam. 23.6, 7. They are unprofitable, good for nothing but the fire, Heb. 6.8. The laughter of these fools, that is, all those flatteries, Page 211 jests, vain and frothy discourses, mimical and apish practises, whereby they beget laughter, and feed the delights of vain men like themselves, are compared to the noyse of thorns burning under a pot: as these make a sudden blaze, and a great noise, but do no good, presently go out, and the meat is left as raw as when it was put in; in stipulis magnus sine viribus Ignis Incassum fuerit: whereas a solemn fire in coals or great wood, boyleth the meat without any such noise: so the effuse mirth and jollity of fools, (i.) of wicked men, though it may seem to pro∣mise more pleasure and content, then the more sad and severe conversation of serious men, yet that doth suddenly vanish with∣out leaving any solid joy behind it; where∣as the reproof of wise men sinketh down in∣to the heart, and helps to work out the scum and vanity which lay within it, Psal. 58.9. & 118.12. and as the crackling of thorns to the ear, so the laughter and vain mirth of fools to the heart of a wise man is wholly offensive and unsavory. Hereby seems like∣wise to be noted the aptness of vain men to be caught with every light and empty plea∣sure, as fire doth suddenly take in thorns, and pass thorow them, Exod. 22.6.
V. 7. Surely oppression maketh a wise man mad, &c.] This may be understood two dif∣ferent Page 212 wayes: 1. That even wise men when they see innocence oppressed, and violence prevail instead of justice, or when they themselves are unrighteously oppressed, are hereby much shaken and discomposed, tempted to passion and indignation against so great disorder, Psal. 73.2, 3, 8, 13, 21. Prov. 23.17. Hab. 1.2, 3, 13, 14. 2 Sam. 16.9. and then the later clause is thus to be taken, and It, namely oppression, destroyeth the heart of a gift, (i.) An heart endowed and adorned with excellent gifts from above; which sense the Chaldee Paraphrase favour∣eth: and many times when two substantives come together, the later is taken adjective∣ly, as Psal. 5.6. a man of blood (i.) a bloody man. Psal. 140.11. A man of tongue, (i.) an evil speaker. Luk. 4.22. words of grace (i.) gracious words. Ephes. 4.24. ho∣liness of truth, (i.) true holiness: and in this sense likewise doth the Septuagint, and the Vulgar Latine, render this clause, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Perder Robur Cor∣dis Ejus. So by Cor muneris, they under∣stand Cor munificum & liberale.
2. Oppression, (i.) wealth gotten by op∣pression, maketh a wise man mad. When a wise man turneth oppressor, and seeth bribes and gifts come in apace, he becometh mad in greediness to get more, or mad in Page 213 violence against his poor neighbours, or mad in his understanding, his eye is blinded, his heart is infatuated and besotted, he is be∣reft of his wonted wisdome, ruining his fa∣mily when he thinks to raise and to establish it: and so gifts destroy the heart, (i.) his understanding, Hos. 4.11. Deut. 16.19. Exod. 23.8. Either sense will consist well with the scope of the Wise man in the whole context, which is to perswade unto patience against fretfulness, when oppressors grow rich, and run madding after gain, and to direct them to wait quietly and observe the end of such men, (as David also directeth, Psal. 37.37, 38. & 73.17.) and not to break forth into anger and madness at the present disorder which we conceive to be in these things.
V. 8. Better is the end of a thing, then the beginning▪ &c.] This maxime holds in many things: The Beginnings are difficult and painful, the End fruitful, and rewards those pains; as in the studies of learning, in the wayes of vertue, in the bearing of afflictions, &c. Heb, 12.11. on the other side, the beginnings of vice seem sweet and pleasant, but they end in bitternesse, like the role that was sweet in the mouth, but bitter in the belly, Rev. 10.9, 10. 2 Sam. 2.26. So in businesse, a man may suddenly enterprize some great work, and glory in the conceit of Page 214 his abilities, who after comes off with shame and is not able to finish it, for want of wis∣dome to forecast events, Luke 13.28— 32. 1. Reg. 20.11. perseverance is that which crowns and honours an enterprize, Matth. 10.22. Heb. 3.6. Rev. 2.26. Ma∣ny begin in the spirit, who end in the flesh, Gal. 3.3. They use to say of the Devil, that he cannot change his feet. He can be∣gin like a Saint, and transform himself into an Angel of light, but he will still end like himself. But though this be appliable many wayes, yet here the scope of the Wise man is to arm us with moderation of spirit against the present and prevailing oppressions which we meet with. Although thou see much violence, and do thy self suffer much evil thereby, yet do not despond, nor give over waiting upon God, do not look only on the present face of things, but patiently expect what issue he will give, go on in his way, be not dismayed nor affrighted from any good purpose; many times the end is comfor∣table, when the beginnings are troublesome, and they who sowed in tears, do reap in joy, Ps. 126.5, 6. Ps. 73.17. Jam. 5:11. Heb. 10.36, 37. Phil. 4.5. Isa. 10.12, 24, 25.
and the patient in spirit, then the proud in spirit] Long in spirit. That can long re∣strain and keep in anger or impatience. Page 215 This is frequently in Scripture attributed unto God, Exod. 34.6. Neh. 9.17. Ps. 145.8. and is the evidence of his power, Num. 14.17, 18. Nahum. 1.3. and so it is of wis∣dome and strength in a man. Prov. 14.29. & 16.32.
then the proud in spirit] The proper An∣tithesis had been, then the hasty, or short in spirit, as the expression is, Prov. 14.29, 17. Exod. 6.9. But his purpose is to shew, that patience is rooted in humility; the meaner esteem men have of themselves, the more willing they are to endure what God inflicts, and to wait his time for an issue out of trouble. Whereas pride and high-mind∣edness makes men wilfull, and impatient of any opposition, Prov. 13.10. Therefore when God humbled David, we find how strong he was to bear the Railing and Cur∣sing of Shimei, 2 Sam. 16.11, 12. Hab. 2, 3, 4.
V. 9. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be an∣gry] Do not fret at the oppression and vio∣lence which thou seest in humane affairs; do not rashly and hastily give way to mur∣muring and impatience. So the Chaldee Paraphrase understandeth it of contumacy and frowardness against God and his provi∣dence, when things go not as we would have them. Be not hastily nor revengefully an∣gry against rich oppressors, Psal. 37.1. Prov. Page 216 23.17, 18. & 24.19. Chap. 5.2. Anger is naturally an hasty passion, and very apt to prevent reason. The Philosopher compares it to dog which barketh at a man before he observe whether it be his master or a stranger; and to an hasty messenger which runs away without his errand. And therefore slowness and deliberation is necessary to keep it in, Jam. 1.19. Prov. 19.11. & 15.18. Tit. 1.7. It being of it self very wilfull, and hasty, Gen. 49.6. Hab. 1.6. David was overtaken in this point in the case of Nabal, 1 Sam. 25.21, 22. and the disciples, whom our Saviour rebuketh for it, Luke 9.54, 55.
for anger resteth in the bosom of fools] A thing is said to be in the bosome, when it is much loved, cherished, delighted in, Deut. 13.6. & 28.56. Joh. 1.18. Ruth 4.16. fools delight in anger. It resteth. It is in his proper place, it never departeth from him, Is ever at hand, ready to enrage and enflame him. A wise man useth anger as Physick, in its proper time, but a fool useth it as his constant dyet. It is bound up in the heart of a fool, and as it were sewed and sealed up in it. It is an Inmate in a fool, it is but as a passenger through the heart of a wise man, it doth not lodge in it all night, Eph. 4.26. therefore the Apostle exhorting unto perfect patience, directeth to us to pray for Page 217 wisdome as the foundation of it, Jam. 1.4, 5.
V. 10. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former dayes were better then these] He doth not forbid us with godly sorrow, and holy zeal to bewail the corruption of the dayes wherein we live, and to be sensible of the sins or judgements which make them evil; for there is no question but some ages are worse then others, there were purer, and then darker and corrupter times of the Church, Gen. 6.11, 12. Amos 5.13. Eph. 5.16. 2 Tim. 3.1—5. 2 Thess. 2.3. Luke 18.8.
But 1. He condemneth our aptness to pass over the good things which we enjoy in our own age, and to look only on that which pincheth us, to complain of wrong, oppression, injustice now, as if former ages had not the like reasons or other evils, which we are freed from, to complain of as well as we. Israel had Gods presence, and Manna in the Wilderness, and they value not that, because they miss the onions they had in Egypt, Exod. 16.3. Num. 11.4, 5, 6. & 14.1—4.
2. He teacheth us not to charge the evils we lie under unto the times, but to our sins, which make the times evil: for that is all one as if a man should think he should be Page 218 better, if he were removed into another chamber, or did lie on another couch. He that is wicked now, would have been so in the best of times, Matth. 23.30. Thou can'st not change the world, thy work is to mend thy self: a bryar is but a bryar, though it be in paradise; and a lilly is a lilly, though it grow in a wilderness.
3. According to the scope of the place, his principal purpose is, to reprove that re∣pining disposition which is in us, whereby we are apt to murmure at the providence of God, because he hath given us our lot in an age of trouble, when violence haply and oppression prevaileth: and so foo•ishly to charge God, as if humane affairs were not ballanced with so equal and indifferent di∣stribution of blessings as they ought to be; do not, saith he, question the Government of the world, nor the wisdome and righteous∣ness of God therein; Leave Gods work unto him, to whom it belongeth to temper & order the several ages of the world in what manner it pleaseth him. Attend thou on thine own duty, be contented with the present condition of the times, study how to serve God in thy generation, leave not thy station, depart not from thy rank, afflict not thy self with the things which thou can'st not help, walk with God, as Noah did in the worst of times, Gen. Page 219 6.9. and let the badness of the age thou livest in, make thee more wise, more circumspect, more humble, as fire burns hottest in the coldest weather.
otherwise thou doest not wisely inquire con∣cerning this matter] This is a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, the meaning is, It is a foolish arrogancy to com∣plain of the providence of God, as if thou wert wise enough to teach him, or to mend his works, Job, 38.2, 3. Job 21.22.
V. 11. Wisdome is good with an inheri∣tance: and by it, &c.] This is to be under∣stood comparatively, for wisdome is good of it self alone, but it is better, more useful and beneficial to a mans self and others, when it meets with an inheritance: As the Rabbins say, Bona est lex cum via terrae; Wisdome without wealth is despised, Chap. 9.15. and wealth without wisdome is a snare, a tempta∣tion, fuel of lust, pride, vanity, luxury, op∣pression, 1 Tim. 6.9. Psal. 49.6. Prov. 28.11. Therefore as life, expressed here by seeing of the Sun, is uncomfortable without the means and supports of life, an inheri∣tance to maintain it: So an inheritance is unweildy and harmfull without wisdome to order it. But wealth in the hand of a wise and good man, is an excellent instrument, whereby he is enabled to do much good, Isa. 23.18. Prov. 3.9. Isa. 60.6, 9. Luke 16.9. Page 220 1 Tim. 6.17, 18, 19. Here we see, 1. It is not having of wealth, but right using of it, which makes life comfortable; for a fool may have it. 2. That wealth without wisdome to use it a∣right, is not good unto the owner of it. 3. That it is an especial skill and wisdome, so to ma∣nage an estate, as that it may be for good to our selves and others. 4. That wealth is a great ornament unto wisdom, Prov. 14.24. and a great instrument unto the works there∣of: Therefore they use to say, That wealth is the sinews of action 5. That it is happier for a wise man to have an inheritance, an estate derived on him from his ancestors, then to be put to get wealth by his own la∣bour and industry: Res non parta labore sed relicta.
and by it there is profit to them that see the Sun] That is, by wisdome with an inheri∣tance, there is more profit, or more ex∣cellent advantage to men in this life, then if they were separated. Or, though wisdome with an inheritance be good, yet the fruit of wisdom is more permanent, and more excel∣lent and beneficial, then the profit of an in∣heritance.
V. 12. For wisdom is a defence, and mo∣ney is a defence] In the Original the words go thus, For in the shadow of wisdom, and in the shadow of money. But the excellency of Page 221 knowledge, &c.] Where there is either an Ellipsis of some Verb, supplyed by the Chal∣dee version, As a man is preserved in the shadow of wisdom so is he preserved in the shadow of money. And by others, A man resteth, and is sheltred against danger under the shadow of wisdom and of money▪ Or else an Hypallage, In the shadow of wisdom, that is, In wisdom there is a shadow. The doubling of the prefix Beth, noteth the pro∣portion of the one, and the other, in that which is in common affirmed of them; as the one is a shadow, so is the other. And so the vulg•• Latin rendreth it, As wisdom defendeth, so money defendeth. Which kind of proportion is commonly expressed by a double Caph; as Isa. 24.2. Or lastly, the Preposition 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 may here from a Nominative Case, as Psal 55.18. Hos. 13.9. and in other places, as some learn∣ed men have observed. A shadow, (i.) a De∣fence, by a Metaphor borrowed from the shelter, which in those hot countries men re∣ceived under trees from the scorching heat of the Sun, Job. 7.2. Isa. 25.4. & 30.2, 3. Psal. 121.5, 6. Num. 14.9. Jon. 4 6, 8. Wis∣dom is thus a refreshing defence from op∣pression and danger, Prov. 3.18. Eccl. 9.15. Act. 23.6—9. And money is a defence; It will arm, it will ransome and buy a man out of danger, Prov. 13.8. & 10.15. & 19.4.
Page 222but the excellence of wisdom is, that wis∣dome giveth life to them that have it] They both defend, and therefore both together are very profitable; but of the two, wisdom is the most excellent; he meaneth spiritual wis∣dom, joyned with the fear of God which is the beginning of it, for this giveth life, Prov. 3.16. & 9.11. which riches cannot do, Psal. 39.5, 6. & 49.16—19. Prov. 11.4. Rich Na∣bal died with sorrow, when wise Abigail saved the life of the family, 1 Sam. 25.33, 37, 38. Therefore wisdom is better then wealth, Prov. 8.11. & 16.16. & 4.5—10. Many times a mans wealth shortneth his dayes, either by his own luxurious and inordinate use of them, or by exposing him to the cruelty of thieves and murtherers. But a mans wisdom will fence him against such dangers; or at least will quiet and comfort him under them, that he shall not sink nor despond.
V. 13. Consider the work of God: for who, &c.] He seemeth to have prescribed wis∣dom, with an inheritance, or unquestionable estate, to be the best remedies against oppres∣sion, violence, and those other evils, which in a bad age we are apt to complain of. But because such may be the badness of the times, and so prevalent the injuries and corruptions thereof, as that neither wealth or wisdom can defend a man against them: He here Page 223 therefore directeth to another act of wisdom, namely, to look above the creatures, and all second causes, unto the righteous hand and irresistible providence of God in them all; and where wisdom cannot mend our condition, nor make the times, or the men thereof, or our affairs therein, so right and orderly as we would have them, there to let it, at the least, teach us contentment, silence, & an humble acquiescency in the good plea∣sure of the Lord. Many things there are, which no humane wisdom can rectifie. In a pub∣lick Pestilence or Famine, no ability of man can purge the air, or open the windows of heaven to supply us. In a shipwrack, no wisdom of man can rebuke the winds and seas, and command a calm. But in all such cases, wisdom must teach us to submit to God, and to wait upon him.
See the work of God] (i.) Diligently view and take notice, in the course of the world, of Gods over-ruling providence. The Scrip∣ture commonly useth words of external sen∣ses, to express the actions of the soul with∣in, Chap. 2.24. & 3.10.
the work of God] Namely, his righteous government of the world; when thou art apt to complain of the times, and the op∣pressions therein, then remember, how crooked soever things are, it is God that Page 224 ordered and appointed all things; and it is vain for thee to think, that by thy sollicitude or anxiety, thou canst rectifie every thing which thou art apt to complain of; for the decrees of God are unalterable, like moun∣tains of brass which cannot be moved▪ Zach. 6.1.15. Therefore make that light by pa∣tience, which thou canst not correct.
for who can make that straight, which he hath made crooked?] This shews the unal∣terableness of Gods order, which he in his providence hath placed things in. It may be understood, 1. In the course of nature, Be not angry, nor fretfull against Gods work, in unseasonableness of winds or weather, in losses by sea or land, in sicknesses and infirmities or deformities, which God bringeth upon thee or thine; nor at the miscarriage of any means, or weakness of any endeavours thou usest to re∣ctifie these things. This sin was the fault of Is∣rael in the wildernes, they murmured at things which they could not mend, Exod. 17.2, 3. Numb. 11.4, 5, 6, 2 Reg. 6.33. Jon. 4.8, 9. 2. In Civil policy, and the managing of humane societies; If thou see great con∣cussions in States, depopulating of Coun∣tries, translating of Kingdoms, plucking down and rooting up, the Sword devouring as it pleaseth; wonder not, murmur not, but Page 225 seriously consider, that God hath an over∣ruling providence therein, and whatever else displeaseth thee, yet rest silent and contented with what he doth, Job 9.5— 13· Job. 12.14—24. Psal. 75.6, 7. Isa. 2.10—19. Dan. 2.11. Jer. 18.6—10. & 47.6, 7. Ezek. 14.17. 3. In the sins and prevailing wickedness of men in any kind, when thou seest men incorrigible in wickedness, so crooked, that no means will reclaim or rectifie them; consider the work of Gods most righteous judgement in hardning whom he will; and remember that God is so holy that he would not suffer sin to prevail, if he were not also so wise and powerfull as to order it to his own glory, and that no wickedness of man shall proceed further, then to execute what his pre-de∣terminate counsel had appointed, and that the remainder of it he will restrain, Rom. 9.18. 1 Sam. 2.25. Gen. 50.20. Exod. 7.3, 4.2 Thess. 2.11, 12. Act. 4.28. Rom. 11.8. Psal. 76.10.
V. 14. In the day of prosperity be joyfull, but in the day of adversity consider] In the day of good be thou in good. Or, be thou good; That is, joyfull, and cheerfull. The prefix 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, sometimes denoting a No∣minative Case, as some learned have ob∣served. Page 226 Or, it may note a fulness of joy; Be thou very joyfull: as the like phrase seems to import, Exod. 32.22. 1 Joh. 5.19. Joh. 9.34. Mark 5.3, 25. Psal. 29.4. & 33.4. When God gives thee prosper•ty, do thou enjoy it with a cheerfull and a thankfull heart.
but in the day of adversity, or, in the day of evil consider, or, see] Times of trouble and affliction are called evil dayes, Amos 5.13. Eph. 5.16. Eccl. 12.1. Consider; he doth not say, Be thou in evil, or do thou droop and languish under thine affliction; but consider the righteous providence of God, behave thy self wisely, and sutably to his visitation; see from what hand it comes, to what issue it tends; be not fretfull; use not sinfull means to extricate thy self out of trouble; look on it as the work of God, which though it seem crooked unto thee, yet thou canst not make straight, vers. 13. nor by murmuring, or wrestling, mend thy self. Therefore in the day of evil, see to thy self, take heed of any undecent and unbeseeming behaviour of heart; so much the word seeing sometimes doth import, Mar. 12.38. & 13.9. 1 Cor. 10.12. as also se∣rious observing of what is proposed unto us, 1 Sam. 24.11. and accurate perpending and attendance upon it, that we may learn some∣thing Page 227 by it, So should we behave our selves in the time of trouble, Mic. 6.9. Psal. 94.12. & 119.71. Isaiah 26.11. & 42.25.
God also hath set the one over against the other] Hath so ordered and tempered the life of man, that good and evil should be, as it were, interwoven with one another, that the vicissitude of them should take of the heart, either from surfeiting on prospe∣rity, or desponding in adversity; as God hath set Winter and Summer, Day and Night over against one another, Gen. 8.22. Psal. 74.16, 17. so good and evil in the life of man, Lam. 3.38. Isa. 45.7. that in prosperity, a man might not say, He shall never be moved; nor in adversity, He shall never be deliver∣ed; but that in the one, he might learn mo∣deration; and in the other, might exercise faith and hope, and might thankfully receive both good and evil at Gods hand, Job. 1.21. & 2.10. Habet has vices conditio mortaliu• ut adversa ex secundis, ex adversis secunda, nascantur. As in a curious and well pro∣portioned building, one side doth exactly answer unto that which is over-right it, Ezek. 40.21. as in a balance, the weight in the one side, doth poise and answer to the wares in the other; so doth God measure forth good and evil in the lives of men, and pro∣portion Page 228 them to one another, so as may be best fitted for humane frailty, and most conduce unto the spiritual good of his ser∣vants, 1 Cor. 10.13. Psal. 90.15. & 103.9, 14. 2 Cor. 1.4, 5, 9, 10. Isa. 57.16—18.
to the end that man should find nothing af∣ter him] Or, To the end, that man should not be able to find out, or to foresee any thing that is to befall him afterwards; that it being impossible for him, by his providence or prudence, to prevent that order and vi∣cissitude of events, which God hath fore∣ordained, he may thereupon resolve pa∣tiently to submit to the will of the Lord, (which must obtain notwithstanding all our unquietness) and to adore the wisdome and goodness of God, who as he doth by his So∣veraign authority, whatsoever it pleaseth both in heaven and earth, so doth he by his ad∣mirable wisdome, and Fatherly goodness, so dispose of things, and so temper them toge∣ther for the good of his servants, that none, who comes after him, can mend his work, be able to order things better to his own advan∣tage then God hath done; and hereupon since no man can find out any thing superfluous, any thing defective, any thing irregular in the work of God, any thing which if he had been, Page 229 consulted, might have been better done; every man therefore ought to take heed of fretting or complaining, or finding fault with the providence of God towards him, and be∣lieve, that what the Lord doth, is best done, and accordingly acquiesce in it, and with si∣lence and submission yield unto it, 1 Sam. 3.18. 2 Sam. 15.25, 26. & 16.10. Ps. 39.9. Acts 11.17, 18. Isa. 39.8. Rom. 8.28. Job 9.22.13, 14, 15, 32. Mic. 7.9. Lam. 3.26—39. Job 40.4.
V. 15. All things have I seen in the daies of my vanity, &c.] He confirmeth the for∣mer doctrine of Gods dark and wonderful providence, by his own observation and ex∣perience. All these things have I observed in my vain and short life, Chap. 6.12.
there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness] Is oppressed and ruined, being innocent; or, for his righteousness; as Naboth, 1 Reg. 21. Hab. 1.13. In, some∣times is as much as for; as Gen. 29.18. Hos. 12.13. Gen. 18.28. Jon. 1.14. Matth. 6.7. Act 7.29.
and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life] Lives impunely in a wicked way without controul, and that many times, be∣cause he is wicked, Job 21.7. Jer. 12.1, 2. The Lord hereby teaching us, that there is a day to come wherein he hath appointed to Page 230 judge the world in righteousness, called the day of the revelation of his righteous judge∣ments, Acts 17.31. Rom. 2.5. He is most just and righteous now in all his waies of pro∣vidence, but many times in them he hideth himself, Isa. 45.15. that he may exercise the faith and patience of his servants, and that the perdition of wicked men at the last, may by his long suffering and patience to∣wards them, be the more conspicuous.
V. 16. Be not righteous over much] Some would have this spoken in the name, and ac∣cording to the judgement of carnal Reason, as a politick precept unto neutrality and in∣differency in good courses, seeing piety and righteousness doth so often expose men unto danger, be not therefore over-forward and religious, over-wise and scrupulous; be not so inflexible upon grounds of conscience, remit a little of thy strictness, and accom∣modate thy self to the exigence of times and circumstances, slacken thy hand, strike sail, loosen the rudder bonds in a tempest. Why shouldest thou unnecessarily expose thy self unto danger? But I rather conceive that the name of the mean is here given to the ex∣treme, for a man may many times do a thing conscientiously, and upon an opinion of du∣ty, and thereby involve himself in much trou∣ble and danger, when indeed there was no Page 231 necessity so to do. 1 Sam. 15.21. 2 Sam. 21.1, 2. Joh. 13.8. Rom. 10.2, 3. Phil. 3.6. Act. 26.9. Joh. 16.2. Col. 2.18. 1 Tim. 5.23. and in this sense the meaning is, be not righteous over-much, be not too much bent on a thing, just in thine own opinion, but temper thy zeal with godly wisdome, ad∣vise with others, lean not on thine own un∣derstanding; make not thy self over-wise, as if thine own private judgement were ground enough to regulate all thy behaviours by, flatter not thy self in any opinionative confidence of thine own ability to judge of all that is fit to be done, but think soberly of thy self, Rom. 12.3. The more humble thou art, the more wary and circumspect thou wilt be, and the more wary, the more safe. Some apply this against too much rigor and severity in censuring of men for unjust, when we see them perish, or for righteous when we see them prosper, grounded upon the doctrine of the former verse. But I rather take it for a Caution and direction to mo∣derate our zeal with prudence, least it bring upon us the fore-mentioned danger▪ Matth. 10.16. It was the commendation of Agri∣cola in Tacitus, Retinuit, quod est difficilli∣mum, ex sapientia modum. Quisquis plus justo non sapit, ille sapit.
V. 17. Be not over-much wicked, neither Page 232 be thou foolish, &c.] Though there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness, do not thou thereupon take cou∣rage to let loose the reins to all lust, or to make the impunity of others an encourage∣ment to any excess of wickedness in thy self, for this is folly and madness to run against a rock, because some one or other hath esca∣ped shipwrack. He doth not here allow any degree of wickedness, but because in many things we sin all, and no man by his greatest vigilancy can preserve himself wholly from miscarriage, therefore he warneth us to be∣ware above all, of breaking forth into pre∣sumptuous sins, and superfluity of naughti∣ness, Jam. 1.21. Excess and profuseness of evil, 1 Pet. 4.3. greediness of lust, Eph. 4.19. Jer. 6, 7. & 2 23, 24. & 8.6. Hos. 4.2. Mic. 7.3.
why shouldest thou dye before thy time?] why shouldest thou by excess of sin consume thy body, waste thy strength, cast thy self in∣to the danger of civil justice, or under the curse threatned against desperate sinners, Ps. 55.23. Prov. 10.27. Job. 15.32.
V. 18. It is good that thou shouldest take hold of this, &c.] Take hold, that is, firm∣ly and constantly keep to it, and never let it go, Isa. 56.4. Job 17.9. Prov. 4 13.
of this] Meaning either that which he Page 233 speaks of in the present verse, the fear of God, whereby the heart will be preserved from vitious and imprudent extremes, and the dangers ensuing thereupon. Or else, the mediocrity he before spake of, it is good that thou hold fast this counsel, to follow the middle and safe way, sincerely keeping unto duty, and yet wisely declining danger, and then the clauses [of this] and [from this] must relate unto the two former precepts, it is good that thou take hold of this, namely, that thou be not over-much wicked, and withal that thou with-draw not thine hand from that, namely, that thou be not righte∣ous over-much.
for he that feareth God shall come forth of them all] Of all those dangers, which ex∣tremes are likely to draw men into. He that ordereth his waies in the fear of God, turneth aside neither to the right hand, nor to the left, but doth observe one precept, as that he departeth not from another, shall thereby be preserved from the dangers which lye on either hand, Ps. 34.9—16. shall have comfort in trouble, and deliverance out of it; for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdome, he doth teach them how they may walk without offence, Ps. 25.12, 14. Job 22.28. Ps. 32.7, 8.
V. 19. Wisdome strengtheneth the wise, Page 234 more than ten mighty men that are in the Ci∣ty] By wisdome he meaneth that wisdome which he advised in the three preceding ver∣ses, that fear of God, whereby men are taught to keep an holy moderation, and to avoid all unnecessary and imprudent extremes in evil times, this wisdome will keep a man from the dangers mentioned vers. 15. more than ten, that is, many mighty men, or principal commanders can preserve a city. A godly man, who hath God for his friend, and his Angels pitching their tents about him, is thereby much safer from dangers, than a city is by the power of many Dynastae or Poten∣tates, who are intrusted with the defence of it, 2 Reg. 6.16. Eccles. 9.16. Isa. 8.10. 2 Sam. 20.16—22. Prov. 24.3, 4, 5. Zach. 2.5. Ps. 34 7. Prov. 3.21—26. & 4.12, 13.
V. 20. for there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not] Though some conceive these words to have no relation or connexion to the words going before, or following after, yet they seem to have a very fair aspect both waies. 1. To the former words; there is no man so just, but he will sometimes be overtaken with sin, which will easily expose him unto danger, if he have not spiritual wisdome to behave him∣self, in a fair accommodation towards other. 2. To the following words, there is no man Page 235 so just, who doth not sometimes fall into sin, and therefore he ought to bear with the er∣rors and failings of others. The common cor∣ruption of the best men requireth of them, both wisdome toward themselves to prevent danger, and charity towards their brethren to forgive offences: wisdome towards them∣selves, that they give not occasion to any to reproach and speak evil of the waies of God, Col. 4.5, 6. 1 Thess. 4.11, 12. Eph. 5.13, 16. 2 Cor. 11.12. 1 Pet. 2.12.15, 16. Charity towards others, when they are over∣taken with a fault, as considering themselves, who are without Gods continued assistance, equally obnoxious to the same miscarriages, Gal. 6.1. Col. 3.13.
not a just man upon earth] For the Saints in heaven are made perfect, they sin no more, Heb. 12.23. The words in their absolute sense are a full testimony of the imperfection of our inherent Righteousness in this Life, and that even justified persons come very short of that exact and perfect obedience which the Law requireth, Ps. 103.3, 4. & 143.2. 1 Reg. 8.46. Isa. 64.6. Prov. 20.9. 1 Joh. 1.8, 10. Rom. 7.14—23.
V. 21. Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken, lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.] Set not thine heart upon all words that men speak, or all things that they Page 236 do unto thee: set not thine heart over∣curiously to know them: when thou dost know them, lay them not to heart, be not troubled at them, do not set thy self to re∣venge them, let them not disquiet thy mind, see them, and see them not, 1 Sam. 9.20. 2 Sam. 13.20. 1 Sam. 25.25. & 1 Sam. 10.27. Prov. 19.11. & 20.3. It is a great point of wisdome to dissemble injuries, to connive at them, to take no notice of them, to pass them by with meekness and neg∣lect, 2 Sam. 16.10, 11. This meekness he requireth to be shewed even towards mean and abject persons, or towards the poorest servant in a mans family, who doth some∣times, it may be, through our own provoca∣tion, utter some hard and undutiful speeches against us, Joh. 31.13, 14.
V. 22. for oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth, that thou thy self likewise hast cur∣sed others] The order of the words seems to be inverted; for the meaning is, thou art conscious to thy self that thou hast often∣times cursed or spoken evil of others. The consideration of our own frequent passions and infirmities should move us patiently to suffer, and willingly to pardon the over∣sights of our brethren, Gal. 6.1. Tit. 3.3. Jam. 3.1, 2. Matth. 7.1—5. The more sensible any man is of sin in himself, the more Page 237 meek and charitable he will be towards o∣thers. Pride is the ground of contention and censoriousness, Prov. 13.10.
V. 23. All this have I proved by wis∣dome: I said I will be wise, but it was far from me.] He professeth the truth of all which he had before taught, that wisdome is an excellent protection to a righteous man against his own corruptions, and dangers en∣suing thereupon, and confirmeth it by his own experience and tryal, according to that great wisdome which God had given him. Yet withal, he acknowledgeth how short he came of that perfection in wisdome, which he pro∣mised himself by the diligent use of means to attain unto. Professing the great difficulty he found therein: 1. He was endued with the Spirit of God, and with his fear, which is ever accompanied with spiritual wisdome, Ps. 119.99, 100. 2. He had a personal and extraordinary promise of wisdome above any other men, 1 Reg. 3.12. 3. He had used all the means to increase this excellent grace of God in himself; 1. He did very highly prize it, Prov. 3.13—26. & 8.11, 12. 2. He had the benefit of a Reli∣gious education, and his fathers instructions to quicken him in it, Prov. 4.4—13. 3. He set his heart wholly upon it, that ac∣cording to the property of wise men, he Page 237 might be yet wiser, and get more know∣ledge, Prov. 9.9. & 10.14. Eccles. 1.13. 4. He prayed earnestly unto God for it, (which is an excellent means to get wis∣dome, Jam. 1.5. Eph. 1.17. Col. 1.9.) 2 Chron. 1.10. 5. He had humility, and a due sense of his want of wisdome, (which also is a fit disposition of heart to be taught of God, 1 Cor. 3.18. & 8.2. Ps. 25.9. Matth. 11.25.) 1 Reg. 3.7. 6. He had all out∣ward furtherances and accommodations to∣wards the getting of it, wealth, peace, power, authority, to call in all the assistances which might be useful unto him in it, Eccles. 2.9, 10. 7. He had an extraordinary stock of in∣fused wisdome to begin withal, which he greatly improved by long and accurate ex∣perience, 1 Reg. 4.30. Eccles. 1.16. And yet after all this he professeth, That though he said he would be wise, Though the pur∣pose of his heart was wholly set upon it, yet he found that it was far from him. Teaching us thereby, 1. The unsearchable deepness and distance of wisdome in its whole wide∣ness from the noblest and most sublime un∣derstanding of man, Job 28.12—21. & 37.15—23. & 38. per totum. Rom. 11.33, 34. 2. That the most perfect Saints are the most sensible of their imperfection; as the more delicate the senses are, the more Page 239 sharply are they affected with what offends them, Rom. 7.14—24. & 12.3. 1 Cor. 15.9, 10. & 13.9, 10. 3. That it is the nature of spiritual wisdome to discover spiritual wants, and the more the soul knows of God, the greater doth it discern and be∣wail its distance from him; as things neerest the Center make more haste unto it, Exod. 33.11, 18.
V. 24. That which is far off, and exceed∣ing deep, who can find it out?] Or, that which hath been, is far off, and exceeding deep: the word is doubled, to note the super∣lative degree, as Prov. 20.14. He sheweth the cause why he was far from wisdome, be∣cause the works of God, whether of Creati∣on, Redemption, or Providence, are very profound, abstruse, and mysterious, greatly distant from the eye, and beyond the com∣prehension of the weak and narrow reason of man, Prov. 2.4. Job 11.6—10. Ps. 139.6.
V. 25. I applyed mine heart to know, and to search, and to seek out wisdome, &c.] Or, I and my heart turned every way, left no means unattempted, exactly to discover wis∣dome, &c. The using of many words unto one purpose, implyes the exquisite and cu∣rious search which Solomon made in this in∣quiry; as Deut. 13.14. See Chap. 1.13, 17. Page 240 & 2.3, 12. Solomon was not so much dis∣couraged by the difficulty, as provoked by the excellency of wisdome, and made no other use of the profoundness and abstruse∣ness thereof, than to multiply his endeavours in searching after it.
to seek out wisdome and the reason of things.] The curious art and subtil contri∣vances of things: the same word is used, vers. 27, 29. Chap. 9.10. 2 Chron. 26.15. whereby we are taught in the disquisi∣tion of knowledge, especially that which is spiritual, not to content our selves with a superficial shew, but to get rooted and grounded principles, that we may be able with full assurance to give a reason of the hope which is in us, 1 Pet. 3.15. and to have a distinct comprehension of the truth, that we may be rooted and fixed on it, Eph. 3.16, 17, 18. & 4.14. and give a clear and deliberate Judgement upon it.
I, and my heart] That is, I did heartily and seriously seek out. The copulative Vau, doth either import a preposition, I with my heart did search, as 1 Sam. 14.19. or a more clear explication; I, that is, my heart: so the learned conceive that copula many times to signifie as much as, That is, as Gen. 35.12. 1 Chron. 21.12. 2 Sam. 17.12. 1 Sam. 17.40. & 28.3.
Page 241And to know the wickedness of folly, even of foolishness and madness] Or, the foolish∣ness of madness: as the Apostles expression is 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, a sinning sin, Rom. 7.13. so here the Wise man expresseth the de∣sperate wickedness and folly of corrupt hearts: by wickedness of folly, and foolish∣ness of madness, thereby signifying the vast and deep corruption and deceit which is in the heart of man. The knowledge whereof he did search after, that he might be the better able to convince and to dissect the consciences of others, 1 Cor. 14.24, 25. Heb. 4.12. Ezek. 14.5. Isa. 49.2. Ps. 45.5. Rev. 1.16. only his study is in this order, first he searcheth and seeketh out wisdome, as an antidote against the danger of his se∣cond studies, to discover the wickedness, folly, and madness of sensual pleasures. And therefore we shall observe, that in the par∣ticular wickedness which he specifieth in the next verse, namely, the inticements of a whorish woman, he doth often premise the Commendations of wisdome, and the study of that, as an effectual prevention of that mischief, Prov. 2.10—19. & 5.1, 2, 3. & 6.6, 20—24. Prov. 7.4, 5. & 9.10—13.
V. 26. And I find more bitter than Death the woman whose heart is snares and nets,Page 242 &c.] He sheweth the discovery which he had made by his study to find out the wick∣edness of folly, and foolishness of madness, by instancing in one particular vanity of the wiles and subtilties of harlots, which it was necessary for him to add to the former cata∣logue of vanities, that he might give to the Church then, and leave a record for all po∣sterity to take notice of his special Repen∣tance for those gross miscarriages which by that means he had been drawn into. And here he gives, 1. The Character of an whorish woman, described, 1. By her subtilty. Her heart is snares and nets, her cunning devices to deceive and intangle sensual persons, are as gins laid to catch silly creatures, who are entised with the bait, but discern not the danger, See Prov. 2.16. & 6.24, 26. & 7.5. & 9.16, 17. & 22.14. 2. By her pow∣er, her hands, wherewith she catcheth, hold∣eth, embraceth him, are as strong cords to hale simple fools as an oxe to the slaughter, Prov. 7.13, 21, 22. Judg. 16.15—19.2. Here is the great danger of these nets and bands to the souls of men.
They are more bitter than death] More pernitious, and bring more heavy miseries with them. We read of the bitterness of death, 1 Sam. 15.32. and of a worse bitter∣ness, the end of a strange woman is bitter as Page 243 wormwood, and her steps take hold on hell, Prov. 5.4, 5. Death may be sweetned and sanctified, made a welcome and desirable thing to a believer, 1 Cor. 15.55. Phil. 1.23. Luke 2.29, 30. But the bitterness of hell is incurable; death may be honourable, to dye in a good cause, in a good old age, to go to the grave in peace, lamented, desired, with the sweet savour of an holy life, and many good works to follow one, Rev. 14.13. Phil. 1.21. Ps. 116.16. But to consume and putrifie alive, under a Tabes of impure l•sts, to perish, as Tiberius did at Capreae, quotidie perire me sentio, to shipwrack a mans honour, ruine his estate, shorten his years, consume his flesh, put a hell into his conscience, to bury his name, his substance, his soul, his carkass, in the bosome of an Har∣lot; this is a bitterness beyond that of death, Prov. 5.9, 10, 11. & 6.26, 33. & 9.16, 17, 18.
who so pleaseth God, shall escape from her, but the sinner shall be taken by her] Here is intimated the great wrath of God against this sin. It is a sin which he useth to give over reprobates, and those whom he in special manner hateth, unto; a sin which few repent of, to take hold of the paths of life again, Prov. 2.19. & 22.14. Amos 7.17. Rom. 1.24—28. Eph. 4.18, 19. A man is not Page 244 preserved from the power of this temptation by his own wisdome or strength, but only by the supernatural grace of God.
V. 27.28. Behold, this I have found, (saith the Preacher,) &c.] This, which he had spoken of, vers. 26. or which follow∣eth, vers. 28.
saith the Preacher] This added, 1. To give credit from his wisdome and experi∣ence to what he here affirms: especially having made so distinct and accurate an in∣quiry, weighing and comparing one by one, to find out the account, and to come to a de∣terminate and clear judgement in the case, and to make a certain conclusion. 2. To testifie to the Church his repentance. This have I found, saith the soul, which, by sound repentance, is returned unto the Congrega∣tion of Saints, which was before ensnared in the nets and bands of seducing women, and that upon serious & sad recollected thoughts, which he hath not yet given over, but doth insist upon the same penitent inquiry still.
one man amongst a thousand have I found, but a woman amongst all those have I not found] The meaning is not to condemn one sexe rather than the other; for all have sin∣ned, and come short of the glory of God, Rom. 3.23.) and Solomon had known good and wise women, as well as men, Prov. 18. Page 245 22. & 19.14. Prov. 12.4. & 31.10—30. But he speaketh here of his observation, ac∣cording to his former sensual conversation with wanton women, which seems to be the reason of the number here mentioned: for Solomon had a thousand wives and concu∣bines, all strange women of the neighbour wicked nations, which turned away his heart from the Lord unto idols. Amongst all these thousand, Solomon had not found one good one, 1 Reg. 11.1—9 Or the s•btil coun∣sels of one man, amongst many, may more easily be discerned, than of any harlot, be∣cause their flatteries and dalliances do steal away the heart, and put out the eyes and judgement, and infatuate a man so, that he can look no further than the present delights wherewith they do bewitch him, Hos. 4.11. Judg. 16.17—21. Prov. 7.21, 22. & 5.6.
V. 29. Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions,] This only: He could not discover all the streams of wicked∣ness and folly amongst men: but the origi∣nal and fountain of them all he doth disco∣ver, namely, the corruption of the heart of man by the fall; this he found, that their wickedness was not from God, nor by creati∣on, but from themselves, and their willing Page 246 entertainment of the temptation of the ser∣pent. Some more subtilly expound these words, as a confirmation of the former: God made Adam Right, and so he continued so long as he was alone: but when the Woman was given unto him, she tempted him, and then they sought out many inventions. Be∣cause the woman was first in the transgression, 1 Tim. 2.14. But here he speaketh of both Sexes together under the name of man, and sheweth, that they were made without any of this sinful and subtle wisdom, after the Image of God, endowed with divine wisdom to discern the way unto true happiness, and with perfect ability to pursue the same, Gen. 1.26. Col. 3.10. But though he were made upright, yet he was as a creature, mutable, & so subject to be overcome by temptation, and accordingly he did easily admit of the tem∣ptation of Satan, and sought out many in∣ventions of his own, did not content himself with that way to happinesse which God had prescribed, but fancied to himself an higher perfection, and yielded to follovv those new wayes unto blessedness, vvhich Satan and his own deceived heart, did suggest unto him, and so fell from his primitive honour, and became like the Beasts that perish, and con∣tracted a bottomless and unsearchable depth of sinful deceit, which none but God can Page 247 throughly search and discover, Jer. 17.9. Isa. 57.10. Jer. 2.23, 24. & 32.22. By many inventions, he meaneth all these vain, though crooked counsels, and carnal shifts wherewith men do pacifie, palliate, excuse, defend all their sinful courses, Psal. 119.133. Rom. 1.21. 2 Cor. 10.5. Gen. 6.5. Ludo∣vicus De Dieu translateth the words thus, Ipsi autem quae sierunt cogitationes Magnatum, They sought out the inventions of mighty men, or of the Angels, who were not con∣tented with their own station, but forsook it, Jud. v. 6. and so relateth to the tempta∣tion of the Serpent, Ye shall be like unto Gods, you shall be advanced into a nobler and more honourable condition, then now you are in, Gen. 3.5. these thoughts, being suggested by Satan, they ambitiously enter∣tained, and so fell from their primitive per∣fection.
THe wise man proceedeth in this Chap∣ter, to give further precepts touching tranquillity of life. And they are, 1. Pra∣ctical prudence with the fear of God, which stamp a kind of majesty and lustre on the face of a man, and make him to be had in reve∣rence Page 248 of others, vers. 1. 2. Obedience to Magistrates, without hastily attempting, or obstinately persisting in any rebellious design it being in their power, as they please, to a∣venge themselves upon us, vers. 2.3, 4, 5. 3. Preparednesse of heart to bear inevitable evils, by a prudent observation of times, and judging of what is in a concurrence, of such and such circumstances fittest to be done, and where things are dark and undiscernable, to dispose our hearts quietly to yield to the pro∣vidence of God, vers. 6, 7, 8. 4. Because it is a very great temptation unto disquietnesse and impatiency of spirit, when a man liveth under wicked Rulers, against whose cruelty▪ all a mans wisdome and meeknesse can hard∣ly be security enough: He therefore, 1. observeth the providence of God in this par∣ticular, vers. 9, 10. 2. the reason of that insolence and excess of evil in the lives of such men, vers. 11. 3. the grounds o• comfort unto good men in this temptation▪ and of terrours and restraint upon evil men, notwithstanding their present power and prosperity, vers. 12.13. Laying down a ge∣neral proposition concerning Gods provi∣dence in the affairs of this life, whereunto good men should submit. vers. 14. 5▪
A cheerfull enjoyment of outward and pre∣sent Page 249 blessings, without anxious sollicitude for the future, vers. 15. 6. A patient rest∣ing in the providence of God, admiring his works, and adoring the unsearchablenesse of his counsels; whose judgements, though they may be secret, yet they cannot be un∣righteous, vers. 16, 17.
Vers. 1. W Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretati∣on of a thing?] He had set his heart to seek out wisdome and folly, Chap. 7.25. And having there handled the later of these two, as the use of the Scripture many times is, when two members or branches of a subject are proposed, to handle the later first, and then to resume the former. Behold how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell toge∣ther in unity, Psal. 133.1. Pleasant as the pretious oynment of Aaron, vers. 2. Good and profitable, as the dew of Hermon, vers. 3. Isa. 56.3, 4, 6.) he doth here return to the former member, shewing the excellency of wisdome, whereunto no other is to be compared. The prefix Caph may be under∣stood, either as a note of similitude, Who is as the wise man? (i.) None is to be compared to him: And so it may be understood as spo∣ken of himself, Who hath attained a greater Page 250 measure of wisdome then I have? who yet with my utmost studies have not been able to finde out the perfection of it. Chap. 7.23, 24. Or it may be taken pro not a veritatis, and so the sense to be, that no man can attain un∣to perfect wisdome, as vers. 16, 17.
and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing?] Here are two sorts of wise men no∣ted unto us, 1. He that is wise in himself: 2. He that is able to teach others wisdom. Or, who is able truly to judg of all affairs, and rightly to discern what in every case is to be done, or left undone? Dan. 2.4, 5, 7. & 4.3.16.
a mans Wisdome maketh his face to shine] This seemeth to allude to the brightnesse of Moses his face, Exod. 34.29, 30, 34. the like whereunto we read of Stephen. Acts 6.15. Hereby is noted, 1. That wisdom doth beautifie a man with tranquillity of mind, and cheerfulnesse of countenance, spem fronte serenat, Psal. 4.6, 6. Prov. 15.13. & 16.24. Psal. 34.5. 2. That it ma∣keth his light of holinesse to shine out unto o∣thers, Matth. 5.16. Joh. 5.35. Phil. 2.15. 3. That it rendreth him reverend, venerable, amiable in the eyes of others, and doth con∣ciliate special honour and favour unto him, in the hearts of those that converse with him, Page 251 Job 29.7—16. 4. That it inlight∣neth his eyes, that he may more clearly un∣derstand what he is to do, and to leave un∣done; the light of the Lord shineth on his wayes, Psal. 25.9. Job 22.28. Psal. 32.8. 1 Joh. 2.20.
and the boldnesse, or, strength of his face shall be changed, or, doubled] By the strength of the face, we may understand fiercenesse, Impudence, sourness, austerity; as Dan. 8.23. Deut. 28.50. Prov. 7.13. & 21.29. Isa. 3.9. Psal. 10.4. Jer. 4.3. wisdome changeth all this into mildnesse, meek∣nesse, and serenenesse of countenance; as Moses was the wisest and holiest, so he was the meekest man, Numb. 12.3. Prov. 11.2. 2. By strength of face, we may un∣derstand confidence and courage; For the righteous is bold as a Lion, Prov. 28.1. Guilt and shame cast down the countenance, Gen. 4.5, 6. Righteousnesse and wisdom embol∣den it, 1 Sam. 1.18. Job 11.15. Luk. 21.28. And in this sense, some read the text thus, (which the Original word well bears) The strength of his countenance, his confidence and courage shall be doubled, Chap. 9.19. Isa. 40.31. Prov. 4.18.
V. 2. I counsel thee to keep the kings com∣mandement, and that in regard of the oath of God] I to keep. There is in the Original an Page 252 Ellipsis, and something necessarily to be supplyed, as is usual in other places, Psal. 120.7. Hos. 14.8. 2 Cor. 9.6. Matth. 25.9. 2 Thess. 2.3. 1 Tim. 4.3. Gen. 25.22. Matth. 21.30. I, if thou wilt admit of my coun∣sel or perswasion, thus advise thee. It is put Elliptically, to intimate a special Empha∣sis, and to give authority to the precept, Gal. 5.2.
To keep the Kings command] To observe the mouth of the King. The Angels are said to see, or observe the face of God, in token of obedience and readiness to execute his commands, Matth. 18.10. Esth. 1.14, 1 Reg. 10.8. The mouth is often used for the command, which proceedeth from it, Exod. 38.21. Numb. 4.27. Josh. 1.18. Our obedience must not be according to our own fancies or conjectures, but according unto the prescript of the Law, for the Law is the mouth of the Magistrate. This is one spe∣cial part of prudence, in order unto tranquil∣lity of life, to be faithful and obedient to∣wards Magistrates, and not to make our selves wiser then the Law.
and that in regard of the oath of God] These words are both an enforcement, and a limitation of the duty prescribed;
1. An enforcement: It is necessary to yield obedience unto Magistrates, not onely Page 253 out of fear towards them, because of their sword, but out of conscience towards God, and because of his vowes that are upon us, Rom. 13.5. and so it seems to relate unto some covenant and oath of fidelity, which was taken by them towards their Princes. We read of the covenant between the king and the people made before the Lord, 1 Chr. 11.3. and a promise or league made in the presence of God, was likely to be by the in∣tervention of an oath, as the covenant between Abimelech and Abraham, Gen. 21.23, 24. See Gen. 26.28, 29. & 31.44, 53. And this may seem to be intimated in that phrase of Giving the hand under Solomon; which we render, By submitting themselves unto him, 1 Chron. 29.24. A like Ceremony, where∣unto Abrahams servant used, when he sware faithfulness unto him, Gen. 24.2, 3. & 47.29. So giving the hand, was a ceremonial confirmation of some sworn covenant or pro∣mise, Ezra 10.19. Ezek. 17.18, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Iliad. 2. And hence some here by Iuramentum Elohim, understand the Oath of the Magistrates, who are sometimes in Scripture so called, Exod. 22.28. Psal. 82.1, 6. Josh. 10.34. Thereby to teach them to rule for God, not by their own lust, but by his Law, and for the good of his people. But I rather understand, by the Page 254 Oath of God, an oath sworn unto God, Isa. 19.18. & 44.4. 2 Chron. 15.12, 14. & 34.31, 32. So that we are bound to be obedient unto Magistrates for the Lords sake, 1 Pet. 2.13 — 17. as servants are required upon the same accompt, to yield obedience to their masters, Eph. 6.5—8.
2. This clause containeth a limitation, by which our obedience unto men is to be boun∣ded: Keep the Kings Command; yet so, that thou do not violate thine oath and obe∣dience due unto God. Thy service to the one, must be such as will consist with the fealty to the other; for we are bound unto God and his service by oath and covenant, 1 Pet. 3.21. Neh. 9.38. & 10.29. Psal. 119.106. and no subordinate obedience to others must make us forget our duty unto him, 1 Sam. 19.1. & 22.17. Dan. 3.16, 17, 18. Act. 4.19. & 5.20. 1 Pet. 2.17. Prov. 24.21. 1 Reg. 21.3. Esth. 3.2. 1 Sam. 14.45.
V. 3. Be not hasty to go out of his sight, &c.] Or, Go not hastily out of his sight. When two Verbs finite come together, ei∣ther the later is to be taken infinitively; as Deut. 2.31. Esth. 8.6. Psal. 102.13. or the former adverbially; as Gen. 24.18. 1 Sam. 4.14. Hos. 9.9.
Page 255Be not hasty to go] It signifies such haste, as ariseth out of terrour and perturbation of spirit, in which sense the word is frequently taken, Exod. 15.15. 2 Sam. 4.1. Job 23.15. He sheweth the root of Rebellion, namely, impatience, fear, perturbation of spirit, whereby men fling off from their Allegiance. Servants are said to stand in the presence of their Lords, 1 Reg. 10.8. Esth. 1.4. So that hasting out of their presence, implies, a declining and casting off of obedience, Jon. 1.3. 1 Reg. 12.16. This is one part of obedience here forbidden, hastiness in ta∣king offence, discovering of choler and dis∣content, flying away in passion, either from the presence or from the Commands, or from the anger of a King; not remembring that Kings have many eyes, & can see at a great distance, and long arms, and can easily reach those that flye in discontent from them. Obedience, in∣nocence, calmness of spirit, a meek and yield∣ing disposition, may secure and reconcile a man, (for a soft answer turneth away wrath) when turbulency and unquietness will but plunge him into greater disfavour and dan∣ger. Another and worser Errour, is wilfully to persist in disobedience, and to boyl up the former passion into habitual stubborn∣ness.
Page 256Do not thou stand in an evil thing] If thou have been transported with perturba∣tion, and gone out of the way, cool and draw back betime; do not harden thy self in thy defection, but labour, by forbearance and mildnesse, to recover his favour again, Prov. 15.1. & 25.15. & 30, 32. To stand in a thing, is to have a fixed and unmoved reso∣lution upon it, 1 Cor. 7.37. Ephes. 6.11, 13, 14.
for he doth what soever pleaseth him] This is not spoken to confirm, or give allowance unto any revengefull and cruel Actions of Princes, as if their power did serve to exe∣cute their own lusts; but he sheweth, be∣sides the sinfulness of it, how unsafe, and how fruitless it is to resist those, who have power to do what they please, and who being in∣jured and provoked, can easily break in pie∣ces those who rise up against them.
V. 4. Where the word of a King is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What dost thou?] Think not that thou shalt be able to escape the wrath of a King: for if he but speak the word, he hath power enough to reach thee where ever thou goest: Where ever the Command of a King comes, it is accompanied with power enough to be aven∣ged Page 257 on any that provoke him. He never wants instruments to execute his displeasure. When Saul pronounced death upon the Priests, there wanted not a Doeg to set upon them, 1 Sam. 22.18. Dan. 5.19.
and who may say unto him, What dost thou?] This elsewhere spoken of God, who worketh all things by the counsel of his own Will, and doth whatsoever he pleaseth both in hea∣ven and earth, Job 9.12. But of Princes and Magistrates it cannot be absolutely and so fully spoken; for being subject unto Er∣rour, and miscarriages, they may with humi∣lity and wisdom be admonished, 1 Sam. 14.45, 46. But he speaketh here of the great power which they have, against which the people dare not to mutter, Prov. 30.31. and ought not without much reverence to contest withal, Job 34.18.
V. 5. Whoso keepeth the commandement, shall know no evil] This may be understood either of the Commands of God, Piety and godly Wisdom will teach a man to walk so circumspectly, as that he shall not provoke the wrath of the King to his own ruine: or of Commandment of the King, whereof he spake, vers. 2.
he that observeth his commandement, shall know no evil,] None of the danger before mentioned, vers. 3. shall live securely, and Page 258 quietly out of fear, Rom. 13.3, 4. 1 Tim. 2.2.
and a wise mans heart discerneth both time and judgment] This is a qualification of the precept, a wise man will not for fear of dan∣ger, or hope of advantage, do all that is com∣manded him by a blind obedience, but he considereth the season wherein, and the manner how to execute commands: or he knowes to find out a proper season, and right way to apply himself unto the Prince, to pre∣vent his displeasure, to gain his favour, to qualifie or alter his Commands, if they be any way grievous, 1▪ Chron. 21.3. Judg. 6.27. Gen. 32.7, 8, 13, 16, 17. & 33.12, 14. 1 Sam. 25.18—. 1 Chron. 12.32. Neh. 2.4, 5, 12, 16. Esth. 4.5. & 7.2. & 8.5, 6.
V. 6, 7. Because to every purpose, there is time and judgment: therefore the misery of man is greater upon him. For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?] Because to every purpose or enterprize there is a proper season, and pe∣culiar manner of acting, upon which narrow points, the happy success of such underta∣kings do depend, and this cannot without much wisdome be duly observed: hence it cometh to passe, that the misery of man is great upon him. This general is to be ap∣plyed Page 259 to the particular case, a man by incur∣ring the displeasure of his Prince, bringeth much misery upon himself, because he want∣eth that wisdom, which should suggest a pro∣per opportunity, and right way of regaining his favour again. When there is ignorance and folly within, dangers and snares without, it is hard for a man to walk safely. There is no greater part of wisdome then the pru∣dent observing of times, circumstances, and the right manner of transacting businesses that are of weight and consequence unto us, Jer. 8.7, 8. Amos 5.13. Luke 19.44. Prov. 15.23. Act. 22.25 — 29. Act. 23.6, 7.
for he knoweth not that which shall be.] Because a man cannot foresee future events, nor exactly judge of the consequences of actions, therefore it is very difficult to avoid many of those miseries which by reason of this ignorance do attend him. There is one season, and one manner of acting, which would have been seconded with success, if a man could have foreseen it, but any other time, any other way of proceeding, would miscarry: great therefore must needs be the misery of man by reason of this ignorance, who hath • thousand waies to misse the mark, and but one to hit it. A man cannot so much as fore-appoint his own actions for the Page 260 future, much lesse foresee the consequences and issues which vvould follow thereupon, Prov. 27.1. Jam. 4.14. None can foretell a man what shall be, but God alone, Isa. 41.•3. & 44.7. & 46.10. Onely this a wise and holy man may be sure of, that whatever falls out shall be for his good, though it may be contrary to his desire and expectation, 1 Cor. 3.22.
V. 8. There is no man that hath power over the spirit, to retain the spirit, neither hath he power in the day of death.] By spi∣rit, he meaneth the breath of life, or the soul. So it is often understood, Gen. 6.19. Job▪ 7.7. Isa. 42.5. Psal. 104.29. Luke 8.55. Jam. 2.26.
This may be understood, 1. Generally, to signifie the weakness which is in man to help himself against the greatest future evil, namely, death: no power, industry, wise∣dome, can keep the Soul, when God by death requires it: no man hath the dominion over his own life, to live as long as it pleaseth himself; nor over death, to repell and resist Heb. 9. it when it comes, Psal. 49.7—10.27.
2. Particularly, to the present argument of obedience to Princes, whose wrath is as the roaring of a Lyon, whose displeasure can∣not Page 261 be avoided. An offender hath no pow∣er to retain his life, when supream authority passeth judgment against it: and therefore we ought wisely to take heed of those provo∣cations which are likely to cast us under so great danger: for the punishment of rebel∣lion can no more be avoided, then the Wind can be held fast. Therefore we ought to keep our selves still within the bounds of duty, and that will preserve us from evil, as vers. 5.
to retain the spirit] To shut it in, to keep it from going away. Neither hath he, or any man, power in the day, or over and against, the day of death, to adjourn and pro∣rogue it; aequo pede pulsat pauperum taber∣nas, regumque turres. The power of a King is as little against death, as the power of the meanest beggar. And therefore some have observed, That whereas when David is men∣tioned upon other occasions, he is usually spoken of by the name of King David; when his death is spoken of, there is no mention of his Dignity and Office, but onely of his name, 1 Reg. 2.1.
and there is no discharge in that warr] Or, no weapon wherewith we can prevail in our war with death. There is no apparatus bellicus against such an Adversary, no arrow or javelin that a man can let flye in this combate; Or, there is no mission into this Page 262 battel, in vain doth any man go forth to make War against death. So the word seem∣eth to be understood, Psal. 78.49. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. So Symmachus ren∣dreth it. It is not possible to stand in bat∣tel array against such an adversary: the Sep∣tuagint render it thus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. There is no mission or di∣mission in that war; which sense our Inter∣preters seem to follow, in their Version, There is no discharge in that war, no man can have a Vacation or an Exa•ctoration from that warfare. There is no protection or deliverance from the hand of death.
neither shall wickednesse deliver those that are given to it] Unquiet wickedness, sinful shifts, which men in danger are apt to betake themselves unto, though a man turn himself every way, and move every stone, yet he shall not be able to deliver himself. Saul and Pi∣late would fain shift off the guilt of their sins upon the people, 1 Sam. 15.21. Matth. 27.24. and Caiaphas pretended necessity for his persecuting of Christ, Joh. 11.50. but this did not deliver their souls. By wickednesse, here may be understood, in relation to the argument of the text, Rebellion, Sedition, disobedience against Magistrates, as 1 Sam. 24.13. The words are a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, wicked∣nesse shall not deliver, that is, It shall de∣stroy Page 263 those that use it; as Rom. 1.16. Psal. 51.17. Prov. 17.21. Prov. 11.4.
V. 9. All this have I seen, and applyed mine heart unto every work, that is done un∣der the Sun: There is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.] With his wonted transition he passeth on to the observing of another Vanity, which was to be found amongst men; I applyed or gave mine heart unto every work, as Chap. 7.25. teaching us with special attention to observe the wayes of Gods providence in the world, Psal. 111.2. 1 Pet. 1.10, 11. When he was thus considering of the right means of living comfortably, by yielding due obedience un∣to Government: He found that some Prin∣ces were so tyrannical and intolerable, that it was very hard for men to live quietly un∣der them, they go on without controle, and miserably afflict the poor people, Prov. 28.15, 16. for whose good and comfort they were appointed, Rom. 13.4. God thus plea∣sing in his Justice many times to punish the sins of a Nation, by giving them up into the hands, under the will of unrighteous Gover∣nours, Zach. 11.6. Hos. 13.11. Job 34.30. Isa. 10.6. & 14.20. & 19.4. But he shew∣the vanity of such Tyrannical courses. They tend at last to the hurt of those that use them: the Rod which beateth the children, is usu∣ally Page 264 at last thrown into the fire. As their power hath put into their hands a greater li∣berty of sinning, so hath it heaped up for them a greater measure of wrath, Isa. 10.12. Dan. 11.36—40. Isa. 14.4—23. 1 Reg. 15.29, 30.
V. 10. And so I saw the wicked b•ried, who had come and gone from the place of the Holy: and they were forgotten in the City where they had so done: This is also vanity.] These words are obscure, some understanding the former part of wicked Rulers, and the later part of good Rulers: others, the whole, only of wicked ones. The sum of the former sense is this; When I considered the rule of Tyrants over others, I observed that when they were dead and buried, they did as it were come and return again in their Chil∣dren or wicked Successors, who reigned like them, Job 8.18, 19. or when they had been deprived and deposed, and so as it were bu∣ried, I saw them return to domination again. But other good men, who had walked with God in his holy place, are driven out of sight, made to run into corners, and as it were bu∣ried in forgetfulness, Prov. 28.12, 28. Psal. 12.8. even in that City where they had done Right. This he looked on as a great Vanity, that the memory of good men should Page 265 perish; and wicked men should be had in honour. But the other sense which apply∣eth all to wicked Rulers, seemeth to be more genuine, and is followed by our Translation; I saw wicked Rulers continue all their life long in the place of the Holy one, to be had in great honour, and after they had gone in and out before the people in the place of Justice and Government, (which is the Throne of God) I saw them magnificently buried in very great pomp and solemnity, Luke 16.22. yet being dead, notwithstand∣ing all those flatteries and formalities in their funeral, their name and memories did quickly perish and dye with their bodies, in∣somuch, that in that very City where they had lived in so great power, and been buried in so much state, they were presently for∣gotten, neither the Nobleness of their Fa∣milies, nor the flatteries of their Creatures, nor the magnificent Monuments erected for them, were able to preserve their names from rottennesse, Psal. 37.9, 10, 35, 36. Prov. 10.7. By the place of the Holy, or of the Holy one, as Hab. 3.3. understand the Tribunals of Judgment, whereon they sit as his Vicegerents, Deut. 1.17. Psal. 82.1. Exod. 22.28. 1 Chron. 29.23. 2 Chron. 19.6▪ By coming and going, seems to be inti∣mated Page 266 the administration of the publick Of∣fice of Government, elsewhere expressed in the like manner, by going in and out before the people, Numb. 27.17. Deut. 31.2. 1 Reg. 3.7.
and they were forgotten] The Septuagint render it, and they were praised; upon an easie mistake of one letter for another in the original word.
where they had so done] Others, where they had done right, in the first of the two former senses; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Sym∣machus: or where whatsoever they did was accompted Right, and so it is appliable to the later sense.
This is also Vanity] All the power and pomp of wicked men in their life, and fune∣rals, is but mere Vanity, since when they are gone, their names and memorials perish with them.
V. 11. Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily: therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.] Here is intimated the Reason why wicked Rulers go on without remorse or controle in their tyranny and oppression all their life long; namely, because the Judg∣ments of God threatned against them, are not presently put in execution. The pro∣sperity Page 267 of wicked men doth exceedingly strengthen and harden them in their wicked∣ness. This proceedeth from infidelity, and a root of Atheism in their hearts, they can∣not see afar off; or if they do, yet because evil seems far from them, therefore they go on securely, abusing the goodness and long-suffering of God unto presumption, which should have led them unto repentance, Rom. 2.4.
First, we here see that there is sentence pronounced against every wicked work, Isa. 3.10, 11.
Secondly, That the Lord is slow in put∣ting that sentence in execution, being wil∣ling that men should repent, 2 Pet. 3.9.
3. That the sentence being pronounced, though it come slowly, yet it will come sure∣ly against ungodly men. It is every day nearer and nearer, and the longer it stayes, the more heavy it will be. It comes with feet of wooll, but it will strike with hands of lead, Gen. 6.3.
4. That wicked men abuse Gods pati∣ence unto presumption, and because they see all well with them, do despise his threat∣nings to their own destruction, Isa. 5.19. Jer. 5.12. & 17.15. 2 Pet. 3.4. Ezek. 12.22. Psal. 55.19.
Page 2685. That Impunity maketh wickednesse more excessive and outragious, and the heart of man is the more filled and emboldened in wickedness, by how much the more expe∣rience it hath of Gods slowness to wrath, Matth. 24.48, 49. Prov. 7.18, 19, 20. 2 Pet. 3.3, 4.
therefore the heart of the sons of men is full in them, or is f•lly set in them to do evil.] is bold in them, so Aquila: therefore the sons of men do evil, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, with a fearless and presumptuous heart; so Symmachus: the phrase noteth an height of confidence and resolvedness on sinful courses, called in the Scripture, madness, excess, greediness, rushing, breaking forth, superfluity, &c. Esth. 7.5. Act. 5.3. Gen. 6.12, 13. Luk. 6.11. Jer. 50.38. 1 Pet. 4.4. Ephes. 4.19. Jer. 6.7. & 8.6. Hos. 4.2. Jam. 1.21.
V. 12, 13. Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his dayes be prolonged: yet surely I know, &c.] Here he answereth the Temptation whereby good men are apt to be offended at the prosperity of wicked men, Psal. 73.2, 3. Jer. 12.1. and wicked men to be hardened in their sins thereby: Though a sinner do continue to do evil, and escape punishment an hundred times, never so often, as Chap. 6.3.
Page 269and his dayes be prolonged] Or▪ his punish∣ment delayed: or God do put off his anger, and not straightway execute it upon him, Chap. 7.15. Isa. 48.9. Deut. 4.40. Exod. 20.12. yet surely I know, and do considently affirm, That it shall be well with them that fear God, Isa. 3.10, 11. The order of the consequence is inverted, and first the remu∣neration of good men is mentioned, before the punishment of evil men, to strengthen their faith, and to comfort them against the oppressions and injuries of their potent ad∣versaries, because usually the rage of Ty∣rants doth vent it self against those that fear God.
which fear before him] This is the cha∣racter of a good man, they fear God sincere∣ly, they tremble at his presence, they labour to commend their hearts and consciences to him in well doing, Isa. 8.13. When wick∣ed men prosper and rage, they fret not, they fear not their cruelty, but still they hold fast their integrity, and go on steadily in obedi∣ence and patient waiting on God.
But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his dayes, which are as a shadow] It shall not well] This is a 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, less being said then is intended: for the meaning is, It shall be very ill with him; as Exod. 20.7. Psal. 34.5. Rom. 1.16. Psal. Page 270 84.12. Isa. 42.3. Rom. 4.19. Revel. 12 11.
neither shall he prolong his dayes] Long life is oftentimes promised as a blessing, Prov. 28.16. Exod. 20.1•. Psal. 91.16. Prov. 3.2. and the contrary threatned as a curse, Psal. 55.23. and though they seem to live long, their longest life is but as a shadow, which suddenly is gone, Psal. 144.4. wrath doth at last certainly overtake them. Where∣as in Scripture sometimes prolonging of ones dayes, relates to a life after death, and a victory over it, Isa. 53.10.
V. 14. There is a vanity which is done upon the earth] He doth not pass this Cen∣sure upon the wise and righteous providence of God, who ordereth all the seeming con∣fusions and disorders which are in the world, and who is pleased after a seeming inequality to dispence good or evil unto men, contrary to what our reason doth judge most equal and righteous, Job 9.22. & 21.7, 8. But first he speaketh according to the judgment of flesh and blood, which is apt to judge hardly of so strange a distribution, Psal. 73.13, 14.2. He doth it, to shew the vanity of all out∣ward things which do variously happen unto men under the Sun, which being distributed without any great difference, sometimes evil Page 271 things to good men, and good things to evil men, do lead us necessarily to think but meanly of them, and to look after a further Judgment, wherein rewards and punish∣ments shall be in a more notable manner di∣spenced, Chap. 7.15. 1 Cor. 15.19. And even in this distribution there is much good∣ness shewed to one man in his sufferings, whereby his graces are exercised: and much wrath and justice to others in their prospe∣rity, whereby they are many times harden∣ed and ensnared, Psal. 69.22. Hos. 13.6.
V. 15. Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the Sun, then to eat, and to drink, and to be merry, &c.] Some make this to be a sensual and carnal deduction drawn from the former ob∣servation, that since by a mans most circum∣spect walking he can no more free himself from evils, then if he lived more loosely, and since evil men do many times go away with the rewards of good men, and good men suffer such things as they had not deser∣ved: since a man gets nothing by his holi∣ness, nor loseth any thing by his wickedness: It is therefore the best way to take our plea∣sures, to eat and to drink and be merry, and to take no further care then how we may for the present gratifie our licentious desires, Page 272 1 Cor. 15.32. Isa. 22.12, 13. Amos 6.3—6. Psal. 73.11, 12. But I rather understand the words in the sense formerly expressed, Chap. 2.24. & 3.12, 13, 22. & 5.18. Since it is impossible for a man to free himself from those common vanities and temptations which are under the Sun, Therefore there is no greater wisdom, no better remedy of our present vexations, then to compose our hearts in an holy calmness and security, not over-curiously or querulously to inquire into the dark providences of God in the World, but with an holy submission to commit our selves to the Lord, and in his fear, and with cheerfulness and thanksgiving to enjoy the present blessings which his bounty hath be∣stowed upon us, without any unquietnesse of spirit at the disorders we see, or any anxious and sollicitous thoughts touching any thing which for the future we may fear, Phil. 4.11, 12, 13. 2 Thess. 3.12.
for that shall abide with him of his labour, the dayes of his life, which God giveth him under the Sun] This is the onely fruit which a man can reap in this life from all his la∣bour; greater benefit he can never expect from any thing under the Sun, then to have food and rayment, with cheerfulness of heart in the use of them.
Page 273V. 16, 17. When I applyed mine heart to know wisdome, and to see the businesse that is done upon the earth] He here concludeth with a reason why a man ought not anxiously to perplex or disquiet his thoughts about the Works of Gods Providence, in the Govern∣ment of the World, why good men are af∣flicted, and ill men advanced; because when a wise man hath applyed his mind, made it his business, broken his sleep in this inquiry, yet he shall come short of what he promised himself, and must at last acquiesce in the So∣veraignty and Dominion of God, whose Works are unsearchable, and whose Judge∣ments past finding out: therefore we must suppresse all rash censures of those things the reasons whereof we are not able to attain unto, and with calmnesse and tranqui∣lity of spirit, labour to enjoy present comforts rather then to busie our selves with curious and fruitlesse inquiries.
to see the businesse that is done on the earth] That is, to discover and get a clear, distinct and satisfying accompt of all the works of Gods providence in the world, to comprehend the reasons of the administrati∣on and Government thereof, to have a rati∣onal view of the compages and whole frame of humane affairs, to reconcile all the seeming absurdities and incongruities which appear in Page 274 them, to look exactly into the Tempera∣ment and Composition of so many infinite, and contrary events, unto the making up of one most exquisite and beautiful work
for there is that neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes] As Chap. 2.23. This he speaketh of his incessant study, in denying himself necessary refreshments, out of the in∣tentnesse of his minde in this inquiry, as strong and fixed thoughts will keep away sleep from our eyes, Psal. 127.2. Ecles. 5.12.
a man cannot find out the work that is done under the Sun] Cannot perfectly understand: or search into the counsel of God in the go∣vernment of humane affaires, his secret Jud∣gements, his admirable contrivances, his va∣rious wisdome Job. 11.7, 8, 9. Psal. 36.6, & 92.5. a man can neither by labour, nor by wisdome, (the two great Engines and In∣struments of discovery,) attain unto it. He doth not hereby discourage us from searching into the works of God, which elsewhere we are directed to observe, Psal. 111.2. & 104.24. & 105.5. & 106.13. Isa. 5.12. But only teacheth us after all, to adore the depths of his wisdome, to rest satisfied that whatever he doth, how contrary so ever it appear unto humane reason, is righteously, holily, and wisely done. Secret and wonder∣ful Page 275 his works may be, but they are never un∣just: and therefore when we cannot under∣stand them. we must admire and adore them, Job 9.2—14: & 40.2.3. Rom. 11.33 —36.
IN the end of the former Chapter, the Wise man observed the secret and hidden course of Gods providence; and in this, pro∣ceedeth in the same argument, taking notice of a confused administration of the world in common Events which do equally befall both the good and the bad, even as death at the last hapneth to them all alike, vers. 1, 2, 3. Whereupon he resumeth his former remedy against this vexation, to wit, that we should comfortably enjoy life, and the good things thereof, while we have time to do it, and not defer it till it be too late, because when death comes, it deprives us of all the com∣forts and delights which this present life doth afford unto us; upon which occasion he prai∣seth life before death, because therein we have the liberty of enjoying all good things under the Sun, the sense of all which Death doth bereave us of, vers. 4, 5, 6. And there∣fore since the dayes of our life are but Vani∣ty, we ought with much cheerfulnesse and in∣tention Page 276 of mind to enjoy all the sweet con∣tentments which life doth afford us, yet so, as not to leave the duties of our Calling un∣done, this being all the portion which we can have in this life of all our labours, vers. 7, 8, 9, 10. After which he falleth into the contemplation of another wonderful pro∣vidence of God, whereby events seem to be∣fall men, rather by chance, then by reason and counsel, and contrary to those previous dispositions by which we are led to expect far different effects from those which do come to passe, vers. 11. The reason whereof in part he subjoyns, namely that invincible ig∣norance which is in all men of the proper seasons wherein actions are to be done, or else disability to foresee and prevent the evils which are coming towards them, and do suddenly surprize them, vers. 12. Lastly lest he should seem to dictate unto us a su∣pine neglect of all good means towards our desired Ends, in regard that things seem to be governed rather by chance, then by coun∣sel, He sheweth the excellent use of godly wisdom to deliver us out of such dangers, by an example of One poor, but wise man, who being in a little City meanly man'd and de∣fended, did by his wisdome deliver it from the power and military assaults of a mighty King which came against it. Yet shewing Page 277 withal a very great Vanity amongst men in neglecting so wise a man because of his po∣verty, vers. 13, 14, 15, 16. whence he con∣cludeth, by shewing the excellency of wis∣dome, that silent wisdome is better then cla∣morous and bustling power, and then all in∣struments of war. And withal, that as one wise man may avert much danger, so one wicked man may destroy much good, vers. 17, 28.
Vers. 1. ALl this I considered in mine heart] I gave all this to my heart. I laid it up in mine heart. It noteth special study and attention thereunto, Luke 2.51. & 21.14.
even to declare all this] To prove, exa∣mine, perfectly to understand, and clearly to manifest all this. The word signifies to puri∣fie and purge, because when a thing is soyled and defaced, it is the more difficultly known, 2 Cor. 3.16.17., 18.
That the Righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God] That the per∣sons and works of the best and most prudent men are not in their own power or disposal but are guided by a Divine providence, and by a secret, invisible, and unpreventable di∣rection from above, by him who worketh all things, by the counsel of his own Will: To Page 278 be in the hand of God, noteth, 1. Subjection to his power, Joh. 3.35. Matth. 28.18. Joh. 5.22. 2. Direction and guidance by his povidence, Act. 4.28. Jer. 10.23. Prov. 16.9. & 20.24. Exod. 34.24. 3. Ruling by his powerful though sometimes se∣cret and invisible Government. So the hand of the King, notes the command or or∣der given by the King, 1 Chron 25.3. 4. Custody and protection from evil by his care Ester 2.3. Isa. 62.3. Joh. 10.28, 29. Our works are transient things, and as they come from us, seem to vanish away, and to be no more, they are quickly out of our hands: but they are alwayes in Gods hands, and written in his book, he reserveth them unto the time of Retribution, and keepeth an exact Re∣cord and Register of them: So that no one of them shall be unrewarded, Heb. 6.10. Our persons, our times, our imployments are in the hand of God, men cannot do to us, or dispose of us as they will, Joh. 19, 10, 11, neither can we dispose of our selves as we please: but he who is wisest, and knowes what is best for us, and what uses we are fit∣test for, doth as it pleaseth him, order both our persons, our times, our places, our call∣ings, our work, our wages, as may be most for the glory of his Name, whose we are, and whom it is our happinesse to serve in whatso∣ever Page 279 station he shall be pleased to place us in, 2 Sam. 15.25.26.
no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them] The words admit of such a reading as this; The Righteous, and the wise, and their works are in the hand of God: Also Love and Hatred, to wit, are in the hand of God, He loveth whom he will, he hateth whom he will, Rom. 9.11, 12, 13, 15, 16. No man knoweth any thing that is before him: no man can discover the coun∣sel or the love and hatred of God by any outward things which he looketh on, the same things equally happening to the good and to the bad, Chap. 8.14. Matth. 5.45. Or, no man can know whether the things which he loveth, or the things which he hateth, shall befall him, though he guide his works with never so much rectitude and prudence; events depending on the providence of God, and not on the counsel of man, Rom. 9.16. Jer. 9.23, 24. Isa. 45.9. Jam. 4.13, 14, 15.
V. 2. All things come alike unto all: and there is one event, &c.] Some would have these words, and so forward to vers. 13. to be the perverse judgement of the flesh, and the voice of Atheists and Epicures upon the doctrine of providence before observed: But we must remember, that Solomon speak∣eth Page 280 only of outward things, and the different administration of them: and of the reme∣dies of vanity and vexation, in regard of our condition here under the Sun, restraining and limiting all the confused events of worldly things by the holy hand and wise providence of God: And all the precepts which might otherwise seem to savour of Sensuality and Epicurisme by the fear of God, and honest labour in our vocations: which things being premised, all that is here set down, doth well consist with the will of God, and the scope of Solomon in this book, which is to set down such rules de Tranquil∣litate animi, as may make a man comfortably to digest the vanities of this life, and sweet∣ly to pass over the time of his pilgrimage here.
All things come alike to All] Omnia sicut omnibus: So Symmachus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, All alike unto All. This is the reason why we cannot judge of love or hatred by outward things: for albeit good things are promised unto good men, and evil things threatned unto evil men; yet God doth so proceed in the execution of these promises and threatnings, as that faith only can disco∣ver the difference; all things outwardly, and to the eye of sense appearing alike to all: As if the Lord had subjected all things to the Page 281 domination of Fortune, rather than of Ju∣stice; and that the events of the world, were all rather casual and contingent, than either predetermined by the counsel, or governed by the providence of God.
one event to the righteous and to the wicked, &c.] Moses dyes in the wilderness, as well as those that murmured. Josiah in the wars as well as Ahab. Is Abraham rich? so is Nabal: Is Solomon wise? so is Achitophel: Is Joseph honoured by Pharoah? so is Doeg by Saul. And usually, as to outward things, the advantage is on the side of the worst men, Ps. 73.12, 13. Mal. 3.15.
to the righteous and the wicked,] In re∣gard of their spiritual state and condition to∣wards God. Not that any man is perfectly righteous in this life, Chap. 7.2•. but in∣choatly by the first fruits of the Spirit. Com∣paratively, in opposition to the wicked. E∣vangelically, by sincere dispositions of heart, and by the ordinary prevalency and domini∣on of grace.
to the clean and unclean] Between whom great difference was to be made, Ezek. 22.26.
to him that sacrificeth, and him that sacri∣ficeth not] That carefully observeth, or pro∣phanely neglecteth the worship of God; as we see in the examples of Jeroboam and Jehu.
Page 282as is the good, so is the sinner] The doub∣ling of the prefix Caph, noteth an equal com∣parison, and absolute similitude between the things compared, Gen. 18.25. & 44.18. Isa. 24.2. 1 Reg. 22.4.
and he that sweareth] Namely, falsly or rashly, without truth, or judgement, or righ∣teousness.
as he that feareth an oath] The character of a godly man, who doth so reverence the great name of God, Deut. 28.58. that by the fear thereof, he is kept from swearing rashly by it, and when he is called to swear, doth it with an awful regard towards that glorious and fearful Name.
V. 3. This is an evil amongst all things that are done, &c.] When I consider the course of providence, I found this to be one of the most grievous things which hapneth under the Sun, That all things, the same equal events, both in life & death, do happen not only to the just and the unjust, but even to the maddest and most desperate of sin∣ners, who all their life long do give up them∣selves unto all excess of wickedness.
This is an evil among all things] It is not evil in regard of God, who doth all in a most wise and holy manner: but evil, that is, grievous and troublesome unto man to be∣hold, Page 283 a great temptation unto him to con∣sider, that just and wise men should be ex∣posed to the self-same miseries, with fools and ungodly.
an evil amongst all things] Or, above all other evils: So some render it, hoc pessimum, this is the worst of evils. As the Superla∣tive is often expressed by an Adjective, go∣verning an Ablative case with the Prepo∣sition Caph: Examples whereof, the Learned give in, 1 Sam. 17.12. Prov. 30.30. Cant. 1.8. Luke 1.28. Jer. 49.15.
yea also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, &c.] Yea also; That upon occa∣sion hereof, when men see that it is all one, whether men be good or bad, as to any out∣ward difference in things here below; they judge it vain to serve the Lord, they despise all threats, they undervalue all promises, they let loose the reins, and run headlong unto all kind of wickedness and madness, all sort of furious, headstrong and desperate excess, with boldness and presumption, See Chap. 8.11.
and after that they go to the dead] After a life spent in madness and sensuality, then they dye. Or, Their later end is to go to the dead: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; so Symmachus. Others, After that, (i.) Following their own Page 284 heart, running after their own lusts, they do at last fall into the pit. The end of all their madness is death, Rom. 6.21.
V. 4. For to him that is joyned to all the living, there is hope] In the written Text it is, Who shall be chosen? but the Maso∣reths direct the reading to be, instead of cho∣sen, joyned, by a transposition of the Origi∣nal letter•. This correction some Learned men have conceived unnecessary. Some ren∣dring it thus, For what or which shall be cho∣sen? Thereby meaning, how difficult it is to resolve, which state or condition to chuse, that of the living or of the dead. Yet quick∣ly passing a judgement on the side of the li∣ving, in regard of the hope a man may have, while he lives, of bettering his condition. Others, annexing these words unto the last of the former verse, thus, After all mens mad∣ness, their end is to dye: Who shall be chosen out, or exempted from that comon condition? Since therefore all men, without any choice or exemption, must dye, most miserable is the condition of those mad men, whose hearts are full of wickedness, even till death over∣take them: For while men live, there is some ground of hope, but the mightiest of sinners, when once dead, are past hope, and Page 285 in a worse condition than the meanest men who are yet alive. Others, retaining the marginal reading, render it thus, by an inter∣rogation, For who will be joyned, to wit, with the dead? Who will chuse a dead man for his companion, since that is, of all, the most hopeless condition? But this is a forced sense; herein therefore Interpreters do most agree, As for him that is joyned to, or is a companion of the living, He hath hope. While life remains, what evils ever befall a man, he is in hope to break through, and to mend his condition: some good things however he doth yet injoy: But, as to the good things of this world, after death there is no hope. Symmachus, whom the vulgar followeth, rendreth it thus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; Who shall alwaies continue alive? Unto such a man there would be hope. Pagnum & Montanus keep the reading in the Text, and render it thus, Whosoever is chosen unto, or amongst the living, unto him there is hope. The Septuagint renders it differently from all, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; Who is there that commu∣nicateth with, or towards all the living? They seem to follow, not the written Text, but the reading; and so by communicating, mean joyning in fellowship with the living: Page 286 Who is there that shall have the society and communion of all the living? Surely none. According to the sense of Symmachus, and Hierom. Marinus Brixianus offereth two other senses; 1. By reading the word active∣ly, with a different punctation, thus, Who∣soever chuseth any thing while he is yet a∣live, he hath hope to compass and to effect his desire. 2. By keeping to the written Text, in the passive sense, thus, Whosoever shall be chosen unto any life, or condition of life, he may therein have hope; which maketh a clear and a good sense. The Adjective, which we render, Living, being usually taken for the Substantive or abstract, to wit, for life; as Gen. 2.7. Ps. 21.4. Prov. 18.21. Ps. 63.3. I take it, the expression we find Isa. 4.3. may give light unto this place. Every one that is written among the living: To be chosen among the living, here; seems to be the same, with being written amongst the living, there. It is an allusion unto Cities, wherein there is a Matricula or Record kept of such as were Free-men: whereunto the Scripture seemeth to allude, Ps. 87.6. Ezek. 13.9. Heb. 12.23. Jer. 17.13. Luke 10.20. Ps. 4.3. For as the Elect are said to be written in the Book of life, Dan. 12.1. Ps. 69.28. Rev. 17.8. & 21.27. & 22.19. Page 287 so the living may be said to be elected unto life; as all such Enrolements, in the Re∣cords of a City, do follow upon a preceding choice of the persons so enrolled.
for a living Dog is better than a dead Li∣on] A proverbial speech, whereby is meant, that the basest and most contemptible person while he lives, is in a better and more hope∣ful condition than the most honourable, when he is laid in the dust. The Scripture useth the Metaphor of a Dog, to denote the vilest and most abject persons, 2 Reg. 8.13. Matth. 15.16. Rev. 22.15. Phil. 3.2. as on the other side; a Lion is the most noble of beasts, Prov. 30.30. yet a dead Lion is exposed to the scorn of the weakest and most fearful creatures, according to the Greek Epigram: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉▪ The lowest expression of a vile thing, which the Scripture useth, is, A dead Dog, 1 Sam. 24.14. 2 Sam. 9.8.
V. 5. For the living know that they shall dye] By this knowledge, they gain much, if they rightly improve it: For, 1. Hereby they are perswaded to repent, and to fit them∣selves to meet with the king of terrours. 2. Hereby they are set seriously to consider, how this unavoidable evil may be sweetned, and sanctified unto them, that they may com∣fortably Page 286〈1 page duplicate〉Page 287〈1 page duplicate〉Page 288 desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is best of all, 2 Cor. 5.4. Phil. 1.20. 3. Hereby they are excited unto duty with more vigor, when they look on this as the day of grace, as the time of light, wherin only they can work, Joh. 9.4. Isa. 38.18, 19. Ps. 118.17. Job. 14.14. Ps. 39.1.4. & 90.12. But 4. and which seems most pertinent unto this place, knowing that they shall dye, and that the present comforts of this world, are for the use of the living on∣ly, and not of the dead; therefore they set themselves comfortably to enjoy the good blessings of God here, while they have time to use them, and by a cheerful and thankful enjoyment of present mercies, to fit them∣selves for a happy dissolution. For godliness teacheth us, both quietly to enjoy the world, and willingly to leave it when God calls.
but the dead know not any thing.] This is not spoken absolutely, for the spirits of just men are made perfect, and are with Christ; but according to the subject matter in the context, They know nothing of the things of the world, or any outward comforts and blessings here below under the Sun, they can no longer be delighted with the knowledge or fruition of earthly things, Job 14.•1.
neither have they any more reward] He speaketh not of the reward of a holy life, for Page 289 so the dead have a reward, because their works do follow them, Rev. 14.13. but he speaketh of the comfortable use of outward blessings, as the only reward which worldly things can afford them for all their labour; as it is more plainly expounded in the next verse, and Chap. 3.22. & 5.18, 19. & 8.15.
for the memory of them is forgotten] They are wholly removed from all humane and worldly conversation with men, their house, their families, their friends know them no more. So far are they from enjoying and knowing outward things, that the living do by degrees forget them, Isa. 26.14. Job 10.8, 9, 10.
V. 6. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy is now perished] He speak∣eth in relation to outward things; living men meet here with objects of all sorts, some lovely, some hateful▪ some things that they pity, some that they envy. But when they are dead, they have no knowledge left of any such things, and consequently no affections at all towards them. And because it were endless to recount particulars, therefore he concludeth in general, That they have not any more a portion for ever in any thing un∣der the sun] They have not the possession, Page 290 the fruition, so much as the contemplation of any worldly things; They carry away nothing with them; their glory, their con∣tents do not descend after them. A cove∣tous man doth no more dote upon wealth, nor an ambitious man upon honour, nor a sen∣sual voluptuous man upon pleasure, all their thoughts, desires, emulations perish; there∣fore if ever we will enjoy the good blessings of God, it must be while we live, because there is no knowledge nor wisdome in the grave whither we go, Ps. 49.17. Luke 12.20. Job 3.17, 18, 19. & 7.7— 10.
V. 7. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart] In as much as the dead neither know, nor en∣joy any of these worldly blessings; and in as much as God gives them to his servants in love, and as comfortable refreshments unto them in the daies of their vanity: There∣fore he exhorteth unto a cheerful fruition of them, while we have time and liberty so to do, that so the many other sorrows and bit∣terness which they shall meet with in this life, may be mitigated and sweetned unto them. He speaketh not (as some conceiv•) of sensual, epicurean, and brutish excess, but of an honest, decent, and cheerful enjoy∣ment of blessings, with thankfulness, and in the fear of God.
Page 291Go thy way] It is used adverbially, as much as ag• igitur, eia Agedum, by way of adhortation, or encouragement; as Gen. 19.32. Prov. 1.11. Eccles. 2.1. Isa. 1.18. & 55.11. Since in de•th thou canst have no love, nor sense of any outward blessings, therefore hearken to my counsel, make use of thy time, and enjoy mercies while thou maiest.
eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a good (i.) a merry heart] As a sad heart is called an evil heart, Neh. 2.2. 1 Reg. 21.7. Ruth. 3.7. Eccles. 7.3. Enjoy the fruit of thine own labours; as Chap. 3.22. When he saith, Thy bread, wine, &c. he sheweth, that our comforts and delights must be bounded within our own labours and pos∣sessions; though stollen waters, and bread of deceit may be sweet, yet it hath gravel and bitterness in it at the last, Prov. 9.17, 18. 1 Thess. 3.12. And also, that our delights must be proportioned to the decency of our condition; we must eat, panem statuti, our proper portion and dimensum, and not either luxuriously exceed, or sordidly live be∣neath our own estate and condition, Prov. 30.8.
for God now accepteth thy works] It is pleasing unto God, that when thou hast, in the fear of his Name, and in obedience to Page 292 his Ordinance, laboured, and by his blessing, gotten thee thine appointed portion, then thou shouldest, after an honest, cheerful, de∣cent, and liberal manner, without further anxiety, or sollicitousness enjoy the same. This is the principal boundary of our outward pleasures and delights, still to keep our selves within such rules of piety and moderation, as that our waies may be pleasing unto God; And this shews us the true way to find sweetness in the creature, and to feel joy in the fruition thereof, namely, when our per∣sons and our waies are pleasing unto God; for piety doth not exclude, but only mode∣rate earthly delights, and so moderate them, that though they be not so excessive as the luxurious and sensual pleasures of foolish E∣picures, yet they are far more pure, sweet, and satisfactory, as having no guilt, no gall, no curse, nor inward sorrow and terrors at∣tending on them, Nehem. 8.10.
V. 8. Let thy garments be alwaies white] Food and rayment are the substantials of out∣ward blessings, 1 Tim. 6.8. Having dire∣cted unto cheerfulness in the one, he here directs unto decency and comeliness in the other. Whiteness was antiently an expres∣sion of things pleasing and delightful. Al∣bosque dies h•rasque Serenas, in Silius Ita∣liens. Candidus & felix proximus 〈◊〉 eri•,Page 293 in Ovid. So the white stone of absolution, is called a white stone, Rev. 2.17. the Asses on which persons of Honour did ride, were white Asses, Judg. 5.10. In like manner they did use in the Eastern Countreys to use white garments, as expressions of dignity and honour, Esth. 8.15. Therefore our Saviour shewing his glory to Peter, and James, and John, in the Mount, had his garments white as light, Matth. 12.2. And the glory of the Saints in Heaven, is expressed by white Robes, Rev. 3.4, 5, 18. & 6.11. & 19.8. Here it is used as a Symbole of joy and cheerfulness; as on the other side, Black∣ness is the colour of grief and sorrow, Jer. 14.2. They were wont to use white gar∣ments at feasts and joyful solemnities: when he saith, let them be alwaies white, as it is to be understood not absolutely, as if they were never to mourn, Chap. 7.2. this was the sin of the rich Glutton, Luke 16.19. but with restriction to the rules of seasonableness and decency, Prov. 5.19.
And let thine head lack no oyntment] This likewise was an expression of joy used in feasts, Luke 7.46. Joh. 12.3. and in trium∣phal solemnities, whereunto the Apostle seemeth to allude, 2 Cor. 2.14, 15, 16. And in the like occasions of rejoycing, Amos 6.6. Prov. 27.9. As in times of hu∣miliation Page 294 and sorrow, they were wont not to anoint themselves, Dan. 10.3. The mean∣ing is, that we should lead our lives with as much freeness, cheerfulness, and sweet de∣light, in the liberal use of the good blessings of God, as the quality of our degree, the de∣cency of our condition, and the Rules of Re∣ligious wisdome, and the fear of God do al∣low us, not sordidly or frowardly denying our selves the benefit of those good things which the bounty of God hath bestowed upon us.
V. 9. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest] See Life, or enjoy life. So Symma∣chus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; as 1 Pet. 3.10. Eccl. 2.1, 24.
with the wife whom thou lovest] There∣fore he speaketh not in the person of an Epi∣cure, to whom stollen waters are sweet, Prov. 9.17. but of a lawful and chast love; as Prov. 5.15—19.
whom thou lovest] This is the character of a wife, and the duty of the husband, that which makes their communion comfortable, Ezek. 24.16, 18. Eph. 5.25, 28, 29. there∣fore the husband is called the friend of his wife, Jer. 3.20. There is a special freeness of delight and liberty of love which is al∣lowed in this relation, though still within the bounds of honour and sobriety, Prov. 5.19. Page 295 Gen. 26.8. It noteth also the difference between conjugal and adulterous love, that is, a love wherein a man may live joyfully, or may sweetly enjoy his life with comfort; whereas the pleasures of the other lead unto death, Prov. 2.18. & 5.3—11. & 6.26, 32, 33. & 7.23.
all the daies of the life of thy vanity] As Chap. 6.12. This is repeated again, to mind us in the midst of all our earthly content∣ments, that they are perishing and Tempo∣rary things. This living joyfully All our daies, is to be understood as the Alwaies, in the former verse, with restriction to the du∣ties of piety and humiliation, 1 Cor. 7.5. and also it intimateth the duty of cohabita∣tion, that they should not depart one from the other, 1 Cor. 7.10.
which •e hath given thee] That may refer either to the wife, which Solomon elsewhere tells us, is the gift of God, Prov. 19.14. or to the daies of the life of our vanity, which also are the gift of God, Job. 10.12. Act. 17.25. Ps. 31.15.
this is thy portion in this life] As Chap. 2.24. & 3.13. & 5.18, 19▪ & 8.15. when thou dyest, thou shalt carry none of these comforts away with thee; in the next world there is no enjoyment of these kind of bles∣sings, Ps. 49.17. Matth. 22.30.
Page 296V. 10. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might] Having instanced in the principal outward comforts of life, food, rayment, marriage, he concludeth with a general precept, that in all things else wherein the Tranquillity and comfort of life did consist, they should freely and cheer∣fully make use of them, before they go into their graves, where, as they shall have none of these outward materials to work upon, so neither, if they had them, should they have any wisdome or skill to make use of them, or to reap delight from them.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do] Whatsoever is within thy power, and thy abilities can reach unto, whatever works in thy Calling do belong unto thee, or whatso∣ever state and condition the providence of God shall put thee in, Gen. 32.13. Lev. 5.7. & 12.8. Num. 6.21. Judg. 9.33. what∣soever just occasion of honest cheerful∣ness doth offer it self unto thee, embrace it.
do it with thy might] Vigorously, in∣dustriously, instantly, do not slack time, nor defer it till it be too late, Rom. 12.11. 2 Thess. 3.8. Tit. 3.8, 14.
for there is no work, nor device, nor know∣ledge, nor wisdome in the grave whither thou goest] In this life thou hast opportunities of Page 297 doing good, of delighting thy self in the stu∣dies of knowledge and wisdome, of impro∣ving thy strength and invention to pleasure thy self and others, Therefore work while it is day, and while thou hast yet an oppor∣tunity, Joh. 9.4. & 12.35. Gal. 6.10. while there is strength in your hand, while there is wisdome in your head, while the vi∣gour of your faculties last: for in the Grave, or in the state of death, whither thou art every moment hastening, there is no place for any of these things, that is not saculum operis, but mercedis. If thou wilt be re∣warded then, thou must work now. Carpe diem, quam minimum cr•dulus postero. Iam te promet nox. Though this be appliable unto all duties of piety and charity, yet the scope of the place aims principally at the enjoyment of the comforts and commodities of this present life, which we are cheerful∣ly while they are put into our hands, to en∣joy, and not put them off till death, when we shall have neither skill nor strength to use them. Here also we may observe what manner of delights he alloweth them, name∣ly, such as arise from honest labours, and are guided and moderated by art, knowledge, and wisdome. Our delights must not be sensual, but ra•ional and industrious.
V. 11. I returned and saw under the Sun, Page 298 that the race is not to the swift, nor the battel to the strong, &c.] These words some make to be the observation of another Vanity un∣der the Sun, to wit, That Events and Suc∣cesses do sometimes fall out quite otherwise then the preparation or probability of second causes do seem to promise: That things are so done usually in the world, as that no reason can at all be given of them. Others make them a kind of corrective to the former pre∣cept of living joyfully in the use of all out∣ward blessings; Though it were to be wish∣ed that man could thus evenly and comfor∣tably pass over his dayes, yet when I fur∣ther considered, I found, That no man can ever enjoy a stable and constant Delight in this world, in regard that future events do oftentimes quite vary from those principles and preparations which went before them. The words seem to have relation both to the general scope of the Chapter before, Touch∣ing the powerfull and unsearchable provi∣dence of God, Chap. 8.16, 17, & 9.1, 2. & also to the words immediately preceding: for whereas he had advised, That whatever our hand findeth to do, we should do it with our might: Lest any man should thereupon presume, that things must needs fall out ac∣cording to those abilities which he bringeth unto the effecting of them, He here dire∣cteth Page 299 us to look up in all our works, above second causes, not to trust in our own gifts, nor to attribute any thing to our own strength, to remember, that it is not in him that willeth, nor in him that runneth, but in God who sheweth mercy, Rom. 9.16. and accordingly to implore his assistance and blessing in all our labours, who worketh all our works for us, Isa. 26.12▪ Psal. 127.1, 2. Deut. 8.17, 18. Prov. 10.22. Jer. 9.23. And having done our duty, and used such good means as God affordeth, then quietly to refer the success unto God, in whose hand are all the wayes of the children of men, and upon whose good pleasure do all the issues of things depend.
I returned and To see] The Infinitive Mood is put for the Indicative; as Jer. 14.5. Zach. 12.10.
I saw under the Sun] I considered the things which are done in this Life amongst men, and found by my observation, That the race is not to the swift] That swiftness doth not ever avail a man to win the prize, or to escape danger, 2 Sam. 2.18, 23. Jer. 46.5, 6. Amos 2 14, 15, 16.
nor the battel to the strong] That the strength of the mighty doth not alwayes avail them either to fight or conquer, Judg. 7.7. 1 Sam. 14.6. 2 Chron. 14.9—12. Psal. 33.17, 18.
Page 300nor yet bread to the wise] Livelihood and subsistence to men whose wisdome should commend them to honour and great place, Chap. 10.6, 7. Psal. 127.2. David was put to desire supplies from Nabal; and Christ, in whom were all the treasures of wisdome, was ministred unto, Luke 8.2. Matth. 8.20. 2 Cor. 21.26, 27.
nor riches to men of understanding] We read of rich fools, 1 Sam. 25.2, 3, 25. Luke 12.16, 20. and of poor wise men here, vers. 15.
nor yet favour to men of skill] Joseph cast into prison, Daniel in the Lions den, Da∣vid hated of Saul.
But Time and chance hapneth to them all] Their Endeavours do arrive at such a success as the Councel of God had pre-ordained, which is wholly hidden from our eyes, and therefore seem to fall out many times rather at adventure, and casually, then according to any regular means that have been used in order unto them. Whereby we learn, that Divine providence hath a wise and holy hand in ordering the most casual and fortuitous Events, to the execution of his righteous counsells, 1 Reg. 22.34. Esther 6.1— 11. 1 Sam. 6.7—12▪ 2 Reg. 3.22—24. He doth not hereby dishearten us from the use of means, but direct us in the Page 301 use of them, not to sacrifice to our net, nor to glory in our own wisdome, but to wait upon the blessing and providence of God, to give him the praise of our successes, and quietly bear whatever miscarriages he hath ordered to befall us, 1 Cor. 1.31. Jam. 4.13—16. 2 Sam. 15.25, 26.
V. 12. for man also knoweth not his time] Events are then said to be casual, when no praevious knowledge or counsel hath made way unto them. Therefore to prove that even able, wise, and skilfull men are subject in common with others unto Time and chance, he here addeth, That man know∣eth not his time] 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so the Septua∣gint: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, so Symmachus: His proper season and opportunity of working. But by the similitudes here used to illustrate this ignorance, It should seem, that His Time, noteth the time of evil and calamity, which many times befalls a man when he little dreams of it. This is called his day, or his hour, Psal. 37.13. Joh. 16.4. & 13.1. Calamity comes as a Thief in the night, unseen, unexpected, Matth. 24.50. 1 Thess. 5.3. Luke 12.20. Or as a snare which a man thinks not of, Luk. 21.35.
As the fishes that are taken in an evil net, [evil and exitious unto them,] and as the birds that are caught in a snare; so are the Page 302 sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them] Many times when we think things to go best with us, as the fish and the bird go with much hope and promise of good to themselves, unto the bait and snare: so men fall into evil by those very means by which they promised much good unto themselves, Esther, 5.12. Psal. 69.22. 2 Sam. 13.28. Luke 12.19, 20. He intimateth likewise, that as the wisdom of man can easily deceive the simple birds, so the providence and power of God can be too hard for all the wisdome of men, and en∣snare them in their own counsels, Job 5.12.13, 14. Prov. 11.5, 6. He can suddenly infatuate them, Isa. 19.11—15. or sud∣denly start up some unexpected circum∣stance, which shall vary the nature of the whole business, though otherwise never so wisely contrived, 1 Sam. 23.27, 28. Job 22.10. Psal. 64.7.
V. 13, 14, 15, 16. This wisdome have I seen also under the Sun, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little City, &c.] These words may be understood either as the Ob∣servation of another Vanity, namely, the disrespect which is shewed unto wisdome when it is over-clouded with poverty, by the example or parable of a little City, deli∣vered from a great King, by a poor despised Page 303 man: or else in Relation to the words next preceding, thus; Though it be true, that sometimes Events fall out contrary to the second causes, so that even wise men are disappointed in their works of those ends which regularly should have ensued upon them; yet wisdome ought not therefore to be despised, no not in the meanest persons; for as sometimes God doth deny success to the most proper and probable causes, so doth he at other times give great deliverance by unknown and unthought on means. The scope is to shew the excellent use of wis∣dome, and how highly it is to be valued, though it be as a treasure in an earthen vessel, 2 Cor. 4.7. though brought unto us by mean hands: as David blessed God for the wise counsel of Abigail, 1 Sam. 25.32, 33. and Naaman rejected not the advice of a little maid, 2 Reg. 5.2, 3, 4. wisdome, in but a woman, saved a City from destruction, 2 Sam. 20.16—22.
It seemed great unto me] However the wisdome of the poor man was undervalued by others, yet it seemed great unto me; so much the greater, by how much fewer helps and means he had to attain unto it.
There was a little City, and few men with∣in it] Here in a parable, he sheweth the ex∣cellency of wisdome, by the greatness of the Page 304 danger from which it delivereth; set forth by a little City, with few men, and weak de∣fence, assaulted by a great King, with a nu∣merous Army, and strong bulwarks: so that the disadvantage was every way on the City side.
now there was found in it a poor wise man] He found in it: Verbs active of the third person are used sometimes passively, Isa. 9.6. Hos. 10.2. God many times maketh one wife and holy man a means of delivering a whole people, Prov. 11.11. Gen. 50.20. 1 Reg. 2.12. 1 Sam. 17.8, 9, 51, 52. Deut. 32.30.
And he by his wisdome delivered the City] As one Archimedes at Syracuse, by his Art, did more towards the defence of the City, then all the rest that were in it; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉.
yet no man remembred that poor man] This deliverance was wrought by a poor man whom no man made any account of, nor expected any such good from, being an obscure unknown person: and when he had wrought it, no man looked after him, to return him thanks for it, 2 Cor. 4.7.
Then said I, wisdome is better then strength] As Chap. 7.19. Prov. 21.22. & 24.3, 4, 5. Hereby we are taught to con∣sider the goodness of things in comparison Page 305 one to another, and to prefer that which is most excellent, 1 Cor. 12.31. & 7.38. 1 Sam. 15.22.
V. 17. The words of wise men are heard in quiet, more then the cry of him that ruleth among fools] Are heard, that is, ought to be heard. As a son honoureth his father, Mal. 1.6. that is, he ought to honour him.
are heard in quiet] That is, either are to be delivered with submission and meekness, Prov. 25.15. 1 Reg. 12.7. Or, Are to be heard with a tractable and calm spirit, without pride or contradiction, Job. 29.21, 22. Jam. 1.21. A wise man speaking, though without clamour, contention, or o∣stentation, doth by his weighty and season∣able advice, more calm the spirits of his hearers, and by his sober and serious counsel more powerfully prevail with them, then all the angry and passionate words of such as have more power, but no skill to manage it: Ille regit dictis animos & pectora mulcet.
V. 18. Wisdome is better then wea∣pons of war: but one sinner destroyeth much good.] Wisdome is not only better then strength, but then strength armed and se∣conded with military provisions: the poor mans wisdome did not only deliver the City from the great King and his numerous Army, but from his bulwarks and fortifi∣cations Page 306 which he had raised against it.
but one sinner destroyeth much good] By the opposition between a sinner and a wise man, It is evident, that Solomons Wise man here, is also a godly man: otherwise God useth to infatuate and defeat the coun∣sels of worldly wisdome, 2 Sam. 15.31. Isa. 19.11—14. Isa. 29.14. & 44.25. 1 Cor. 1.19.
one sinner] Some render it, Qui in uno peccat. He that in war through folly and inadvertency committeth one Errour, may destroy a whole Army: for they say, In bel∣lo non licet bis peccare. That one Errour in Absalom in preferring the counsel of Hushai before Achitophels, did undo his whole en∣terprize. But it is rather to be understood in opposition to the one poor wise man, vers. 15. one wicked man like Achan will en∣danger the Camp. Josh. 7.1—5. 1 Cor. 5.6. as one leak in a ship, one spark in a barrel of gun-powder will suddenly undo all. One fool can throw a jewel into the Sea, which a thousand wise men cannot get up again: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. •rex totus in agris unius Scabie cadit.
IN the later end of the former Chapter, he shewed the excellent use of godly wis∣dome in order unto tranquillity, both private and publick, and the mischief which one fool might do in destroying much good: which last clause in that Chapter, he proceedeth in the beginning of this, to demonstrate by three instances, shewing first how folly de∣stroyes a good name, which he illustrateth by an excellent similitude, vers. 1. Second∣ly, how it spoils a mans actions and under∣takings, which by wisdome might be dexte∣rously managed, vers. 2. Thirdly, How it defaceth a mans whole behaviour, and con∣versation, vers. 3.
Then he proceedeth to shew the excel∣lent use of true wisdome, in relation to our behaviour towards Princes, and Persons in Authority, whereby, through prudent Cau∣tion, meekness, and gracious deportment, a man may restrain in himself all thoughts, speeches, or attempts tending unto rebellion, and may allay and pacifie the displeasure which had been conceived against him, in the mind of the Ruler; whereas folly tran∣sporting a man into any disloyal resolutions, doth but ruine himself, and end in fruitless Page 308 and weary labour. Concerning those kind of disloyal Affections, He sheweth, First, The Rise and occasion of them, which may be double. First, Undutifull and Revenge∣full passions, upon any private displeasure of the Ruler against us in our own particular persons, vers. 4. Secondly, Envy or In∣dignation growing out of Errors in Govern∣ment; when a man observes foolish and unworthy persons to be advanced, and those more Honourable and deserving to be de∣pressed and discountenanced, vers. 5.6, 7.
Secondly, he sheweth the great danger of Disloyalty, and that 1. In regard of acti∣ons and attempts, which usually prove per∣nitious to their Authors, and this illustra∣ted by many lively similitudes, vers. 8, 9, 10, 11.
2. In regard of rebellious and foolish speeches, contrary unto that gracious circum∣spection and decorum which wisdome would teach a man to observe, in the which through the heat of passion, a man usually proceed∣eth on from bad to worse, vers. 12, 13, 14. Concerning which he sheweth, 1. The mischief which they bring, vers. 12. 2. The vanity and fruitlessness of them to the person that utters them, vers. 15. 3. The root of them, ignorance of civil affairs, and want of skill to converse with men, vers. 15. 4. The Page 309 nature of them, they begin in folly, they end in madness, they proceed in babling, and mul∣tiplicity of words, concerning things which a man cannot foresee or know any thing of them, vers. 13, 14.
3. In regard of inward Thoughts and Af∣fections; concerning which he sheweth how little security a man can promise him∣self even in his most secret and in most pro∣jections of disloyalty, in as much as God hath invisible and unexpected means to bring it all to light, vers. 20.
And because Princes might haply here∣upon think themselves free from all tye or duty towards their people, because they should be free from all danger and rebellion from them: He doth therefore further shew the necessary dependance which Prince and people mutually have in regard of Weal and Woe. Thereby deterring Princes from Ty∣ranny and misgovernment: (whereby they utterly subvert the end of Gods ordinance, which was for the peace and prosperity of the people.) And also directing them unto the right means of Government, and proper vertues requisite thereunto, which are, 1▪ Wisdome, and maturity of judgement, that he be not a child, vers. 16. 2. Nobleness of mind, not only in regard of blood, but chiefly in vertuous endowments, raising the Page 310 soul above all sordid & base designs. 3. Tem∣perance and sobriety, eating and drinking to strengthen unto duty, not to disable or in∣dispose unto it, nor to incroach upon it, vers. 16, 17. 4. Diligent attendance, and su∣perinspection over the house of the Com∣mon-wealth, that there may be no ruptures in it, but that all be sound, and in good re∣pair, vers. 18. 5. Moderation in delights, not feast for laughter, nor spend the life in mirth and drinking, because excess in these will require a proportionable in∣crease in money and treasures to maintain them, whence will necessarily arise op∣pressions and extortions upon the people, vers. 19.
Vers. 1. DEad flies cause the oyntment of the Apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly, &c] In these words the wise man doth by an ele∣gant similitude or proverbial speech, illu∣strate what he had last spoken, namely, That one sinner destroyeth much good, as one dead flie doth corrupt and mar a whole vessel of most pretious oyntment, which in those Countries was had in great account, 2 Reg. 20.13. It is here applyed unto a mans good name, which is compared unto sweet oynt∣ment, Eccles. 7.1. Cant. 1.3. and as a flie, Page 311 though but a little creature, can taint and corrupt much precious perfume, a little mix∣ture of folly and indiscretion will stai• and blemish the Reputation of a man, otherwise very wise and honourable. And this so much the rather, because of the malignity and ingratitude of men, who do more ha∣stily censure one error, then value many graces, and with whom one small miscar∣riage doth blot out the memory of all other deservings: as one little cloud doth serve to overshadow the whole body of the Sun. Therefore it concerneth us to walk so much the more unblameably, that we may not by the least oversight or folly blemish our profession, or cause it to stink in the nostrils of others, Gen. 34.30. Phil. 2.15. 1 Tim. 6.1. 2 Cor. 6.3. 1 Pet. 2.15. much less by our leaven sour the whole mass, and derive in∣fection upon many others, 1 Cor. 5.6. Gal. 5.9.
Dead flies] Flies of death, the Genitive Case in the place of an Adjective, Psal. 2.9. & 31.3. Rom. 7.24. Phil. 3.21. Judg. 7.13. 2 Thess. 2.3. 2 Pet. 2.1. This may be taken either actively, flies which cause death, as the plague of the Locusts is called death, Exod. 10.17. poysonous flies which do render sweet oyntment deadly and mor∣tiferous, as instruments of death, P•al. 7. Page 312 14. (i.) which do cause death: Or else, pas∣sively, flies which are dead, and by their pu∣trifaction do taint the oyntment in the which they are drowned.
Dead flies do cause] The Nown is plural, and the Verb singular, which may properly thus be rendred, Any one of dead flies doth cause the oyntment to stink; as Exod. 31.14. Rom. 1.20. Thereby intimating the great mischief and damage may be from very small causes.
cause to send forth a stinking savour] Heb. maketh to stink, exhaleth or belche•• forth; thereby noting a continual Emana∣tion of unsavouriness, so that the stink dot• never cease or give over. When two Verbs o• the same Tense come thus together, Gram∣marians tell us, that the former hath an ad∣verbial signification, as Jer. 13.18. Humbl• your selves, sit down, (i.) sit humbly down▪ Hos. 9.9. They have made deep, they ha•• corrupted, (i.) They have deeply corrupted. Rom. 10.20. Esay is bold and saith, (i.) speaketh boldly. So here, foetere fecit, eru∣ctat, (i.) foetide eructat. Which is well rendred in our Version, causeth to send forth a stink.
so doth a little folly him that is in reputa∣tion for wisdome and honour] The note of similitude is wanting, as in many other Page 313 places, both in the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, and in the 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, as Prov. 11.22. Jer. 17.11. Psal. 125.2.
so doth a little folly] Here is an Ellipsis of the Verb, which is to be repeated out of the former member, namely, It causeth to send forth a stinking savour; as Gen. 1.29, 30. The more eminent any person is for wisdome and honour, the more circumspect ought he to be in his conversation, because a little folly and over-sight will much diminish his reputation; as spots are soonest observed in the whitest and finest garments, and envy (like worms and moths) doth usually feed on the purest cloath, Neh. 6.11. Hierom and the Vulgar read the words to another sense, Pretiosior est sapientia & gloria parva a• tempus stultitia. That sometimes a little folly is more pretious then wisdome and ho∣nour, 1 Sam. 21.13. But this, besides the grammatical incongruity, holdeth no propor∣tion to the former part of the verse, where∣unto it answereth, and therefore is neglected by the best Interpreters.
V. 2. A wise mans heart is at his right hand, but a fools heart at his left] A like kind of proverbial form we had, Chap. 2.14. The right hand is usually the most expedite and ready for action, doth its work more Page 314 surely, more speedily, more decently, there∣fore the right hand is the dearest of the two, Matth. 5.29, 30. and it is noted as a thing strange and unusual when men have been left handed, or able to use both hands alike, Judg. 3.21. & 20.16. 1 Chron. 12.2. So the meaning is, A wise mans heart is ready and prepared unto every good work, he doth things with judgment and counsel, he doth with mature advice and deliberation so weigh his actions, the circumstances, consequen∣ces, probabilities, and events of them, as that he may not afterwards repent of his behavi∣our therein. He worketh by the guidance of his heart, Prov. 15.22. Luke 14.28 — 30. But a fool is left-handed in his works, doth all his business bunglingly, praeposte∣rously, inconsiderately, either when he ad∣viseth about business his hand is absent, and doth not execute it; or when he worketh and goeth about it, his heart is absent, and doth not direct it. A wise man hath the com∣mand of his heart, knowes how to use it sea∣sonably, opportunely, and in conformity to times, places, persons, so that his underta∣kings may be successful and prosperous: whereas a fool is transported with passion, amazed at difficulties, perplexed with un∣certainties, at his wits end, and knowes not which way to take, or what to resolve, goes Page 315 about his business as awkwardly and unde∣cently, as a man would do whose right hand were tyed behind him, and had onely his left hand to help him, Prov. 2.10—15. & 4.26. & 13.16. & 16.22, 23. Examples of this wisdome we have in Jacob, Gen. 32. Joseph, Gen. 41. David, 1 Sam. 16.18. Abigail, 1 Sam. 25. Jethro, Exod. 18.19. the Woman of Abel, 2 Sam. 20. Paul, Act. 23.6. and of the contrary folly, Numb. 14.40—45. 1 Reg. 12.8. Isa. 19.11—17.
V. 3. Yea also when he that is a fool walk∣eth by the way, his wisdome faileth him, &c.] Not onely in his private actions and under∣takings, but in his open conversation amongst men, in his motions, gestures, behaviour, gate, countenance, usual deportment, he is destitute of prudence and common discre∣tion, and bewrayeth the folly of his heart, by the affected fondness of his conversa∣tion.
and he saith to every one, that he is a fool] The Septuagint render it, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, whatsoever he thinketh on is folly. Symmachus in Hierom, He suspect∣eth of all men that they are fooles. Where∣unto the Vulgar answereth, Cum ipse insipi∣ens sit, omnes stultos aestimat, being a fool himself, he accompteth all other men fools: as to him that hath the Jaundies every thing Page 316 seemeth yellow; and to him that hath a distempered palate, every sweet thing •asteth bitter; to him that hath a vertiginous brain, every fixed thing seemeth to turn round; so to a man made up of pride and folly, other men much wiser then himself do appear fools. The Chaldee rendreth it, All men say that he is a fool. But the most empha∣tical is as we read it, He saith to All men, That he is a fool: He doth so palpably dis∣cover, and as it were proclaim his own folly, by his gestures and behaviour, as if he would himself tell them that he is a fool, Prov. 6.13. & 12.23. & 13.6. & 18.2. Jude vers. 13.
V. 4. If the spirit of the Ruler rise up against thee, leave not thy place] Here he sheweth the excellent use of wisdome in or∣dering our conversation towards Superiours, teaching us to bridle all disloyal passions, to restrain all unlawful attempts, to keep our selves in the same eaven and unmoved tem∣per, whatever provocations we meet with to the contrary.
If the spirit of the Ruler] The Chaldee hereby understandeth the power and domi∣nion of any ruling lust, by which a man should not suffer himself to be shaken from his stead∣fastnesse, nor removed out of his place, or from his duty. But this is inconsonant with Page 317 the series of this Chapter, which is much taken up in the Errours of Government, and the inconvenient passions which those Errors may produce in the minds of the people. Others understand it of the spirit of Rule and Government, as we often read of the spirit of Judgment. of Prophecy, of Reve∣lation, of Wisdome, of Knowledg; so the skill of Governing, is called the Spirit of God, 1 Sam. 10.10, 11. & 11.6. & 16.14. Isa. 11.1, 2. And they understand it thus, If the Lord advance thee unto high place of power and Government, Leave not thy place, continue humble and lowly still, forget not thy duty towards thy brethren; as Deut. 17.15—20. But the later clause of this verse plainly leads us to another sense; If the spirit, that is, the wrath and displeasure of the Ruler rise up against thee; so passion is sometimes called, Chap. 7.9. Prov. 25.28. Judg. 9.23. 2 Chron. 21.16. And it seems to denote high displeasure, like that of Saul, of whom it is said, That he Breathed out threats against the Church, Act. 9.1. His rage was as a Terrible Blast of a storm against a wall, Isa. 25.4. And this is further intima∣ted in the phrase of Ascending or rising up, as a grievous Tempest, or as a flame of fire, 2 Sam. 11.20. Ezek 24.8. Psal. 78.21, If Page 318 the high displeasure of the Ruler be, though unjustly and injuriously, lifted up against thee, as Potiphars against Josephs; Sauls against David; Labans against Jacob; Pauls against the Church of Christ, leave not thy place] Contain thy self within the bounds of thine own calling and condition, do not ei∣ther through fear and despair withdraw thy self from thy duty, nor through insolence and impatience, rise up in disloyalty against him, whose spirit is risen against thee; keep still in the rank of a subject, and behave thy self with that lowliness and submission which be∣cometh a subject. He speaketh not against a prudent withdrawing from a storm, and hi∣ding a mans self, as Jacob •led from Esau, and David from Saul, and Elias from Jeza∣bel, and Christ from Herod, Matth. 10.23. but of disloyal and rebellious defection, go∣ing out of his sight, Chap. 8.3. as Israel to their Tents, 1 Reg. 12.16. He requireth us for conscience towards God, to suffer wrongfully, and to be subject even to those that are froward, and injurious, 1 Pe•. 2.18, 19. Not to violate our Allegiance, nor to attempt any conspiracy against them, but onely in our sufferings, to make our prayers and complaints known unto God, who is a Judge between them and us, and is able to Page 319 vindicate our innocency, and to deliver us out of their hands. Every man must keep his station, as Souldiers in an Army are to stay in their own rank, 1 Cor. 7.20, 21. A man cannot expect to have Gods blessing any where, but in his own place. His promises and protection are annexed unto our duty, Psal. 91.11. 2 Chron. 15.2. This was the sin of the Ten Tribes against the house of David, Hos. 8.4. and of Absolom and Sheba against David himself, 2 Sam. 15.10. and 20.1.
for yielding pacifieth great offences] This is a reason ab utili, to perswade unto the du∣ty. For whereas a man might haply con∣ceive, that the wrath of a King is implacable, and their lost love unreconcileable again, and that therefore their case being desperate, a man were as good give over duty, as perish under it: He sheweth, that by submission and lenity of spirit, a man may not onely re∣cover the favour, but prevent and preserve his Prince from many offences. Some ren∣der the wo•ds vir sanans, an healer, paci∣fieth great offences; and so the Septuagint, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉: He that by gentle behaviour, seeketh to heal the wound and breach between him and his So∣veraign, shall pacifie great offences. Or, as a man in a course of Physick, will abstain Page 320 from those things which are hurtful unto him: so a wise man will leave off all those sins, whereby the anger of the Ruler may be stirred up against him. Wisdom is of an healing nature, Prov. 12.18. & 16.24. as we see in the carriage of Abigail to David, 1 Sam. 25. and of the Woman of Abel to Joab, 2 Sam. 20. others rendring it by mol∣lities or remissio, yiel••ng▪ or fainting, give a double sense of it; First, That a mans yield∣ing to temptations and passions of disloyalty, doth cause many offences to rest on him, doth bring with it many other sins, through faint∣ing in the day of adversity, Prov. 24.10. Se∣condly, that yielding for a while unto the tempest, doth break the force of it, and cause the heart of a man to relent and to melt to∣wards those, who do with calmnesse and hu∣mility endeavour to divert it, Prov. 15.1. & 25.15. As a tempest which breaketh strong Oaks that resist it, doth no hurt unto the weak Corn which yields unto it: Or as Wooll or mud, doth more abate the force of a Ca∣non bullet, then walls of stone that stand stub∣bornly against it. See Judg. 8.1, 2, 3. Gen. 32.13—20. & 33.4. 1 Sam. 24.16—19. & 25.32, 33.
V. 5, 6. There is an evil which I have s••n under the Sun, as an errour which pro∣ceedeth Page 321 from the Ruler, &c.] Here is inti∣mated another cause of defection and rebel∣lion against Princes, namely, misgovern∣ment, when through their errour and inad∣vertency, unworthy persons are exalted, and men of eminency and desert depressed.
There is an evil] Another evil, or a com∣mon evil; an evil under the Sun, in humane affairs.
as an errour] Which is indeed an errour: It is here Caph veritatis, not a note of com∣parison, or similitude, but of truth; as Judg. 13.23. Neh. 7.2. Hos. 4.4. & 5.10. Luke 22.44. By errour, is noted a fault com∣mitted ignorantly and through inadverten∣cy; as Levit. 4.2. Numb. 15.24. Where∣by we are taught to put the fairest constru∣ction upon the faults of Superiours, in the case of misgovernment; it being so easie a thing for them, who must see much with other mens eyes, and cannot possibly have a clear knowledg of the worth of all persons whom they advance, but may easily be car∣ried into mistakes by the flatteries, or plau∣sible pretences of those that serve them, to be deceived in their opinions, of the fitnesse of persons for those places of trust, wherein they do imploy them.
Folly is set in great dignity; and the rich sit in low places] Fools are very highly ad∣vanced: Page 322 The abstract for the concrete, to denote men extreamly foolish and wicked; as Psal. 5.9. 1 Cor. 2.14. Phil. 3.2. Cant. 5.16. This is matter of much grief and trouble to good men, when power is put into the hands of men, as Vice-gerents for God, who yet will use it all against him. When the great interests of States and Churches, shall be intrusted in the hands of those, who have neither skill nor hearts to promote the good of them, Psal. 12.8. Prov. 28.28. & 29.2. Esth. 3.1—15. This the Lord is often pleased in his providence to permit, some∣times for the punishment of a wicked peo∣ple, Job 34 30. Isa. 19.4. Hos. 13.11. Zach. 11.6. Prov. 28.2. Judg. 9.23, 24. and some∣times for the triall of his faithful servants, and to stir up in them earnest prayer for those who are in authority, that according to their duty they may be friends to those that are pure of heart, 1 Tim. 2.1, 2. Prov 22.11. Psal. 101.6, 7, 8. And sometimes to shew the greatness of his power in destroying ty∣rants, Exod. 9.16.
and the rich sit in low place] This is to be understood in opposition to the former; and so by rich is meant, men of noble endow∣ments for wisdom and goodnesse, Psal. 45.12. To sit in low place, or in an abject and despised condition, is noted here as a posture Page 323 of mourning and great sorrow; as Jer. 13.18. Humble your selves, or make your selves low, sit. So Isai. 47.1. Ezek. 26.16.
V. 7. I have seen servants upon horses, and Princes walking as servants upon the earth] By servants, he meaneth men of a low and base condition, fitter to be the tail then the head, Gen. 9.27. Lam. 5.8. which is a thing extreamly preposterous and ab∣surd, when servants do bear rule, men of sla∣vish condition are advanced above those that are free, noble, and pious, Prov. 19.10. & 30.21, 22. Deut. 28.43, 44.
upon horses] This is a note of honour and dignity, Esth. 6.8, 9. Jer. 17.25. Ezek. 23.23. Hereby he meaneth, That abject and vile persons, who ought to be under govern∣ment, were exalted unto the Throne, and unto places of trust and honour. Such an one was Athenion in Greece, who of a poor and mean person, grew up to be a proud and potent tyrant; laid aside wise Counsellors, spoiled Temples and Cities, wasted men of their estates, and filled pits with treasure; as Athenaeus, lib. 5. reporteth. And the like, Zenophon relateth, lib. 2. Helleni∣c 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉
and Princes walking as servants upon the earth] As David seemeth to have walked Page 324 when he fled from Absolom, 2 Sam. 15.30.
V. 8, 9. He that diggeth a pit shall fall into it, and who so breaketh an hedge, a ser∣pent shall bite him. Who so removeth stones, shall be hurt therewith: and he that cleaveth wood, shall be endangered thereby] These are four Proverbial similitudes, tending all unto one end, viz. to shew, that evil usu∣ally returneth on the heads of those who were authors of it; 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Psal. 7.15, 16. & 9.15, 16. Job 5.13. Prov. 11.5, 6. & 26.27. Esth. 7.10. 2 Sam. 17.23. Exod. 14.28. & 18.11. Obad. ver. 15. Isa. 33.1. Judg. 1.6, 7. Quod quisque ••lieno excogitavit supplicio, excipit suo. He that made the fetters for another, doth many times wear them himself.
The application of this general, in the present case, is, First, against Princes, who do so advance unworthy men, and depresse the well deserving; such disorders in Go∣vernment do, many times, redound unto their own sufferings, and while they oppress the people, they do supplant their own Thrones, Prov. 16.12. & 25.5. 2 Reg. 8.8.15.
Secondly, against such as attempt to alter the long established, and wholsom Constitu∣tions of Nations and People, and do rashly Page 325 over-turn the foundations of Lawes and Customs; such changes are usually mortife∣rous to the undertakers of them, Prov. 22.28. & 24.21, 22.
Thirdly, against the undutiful and rebel∣lious carriages of people towards their Prin∣ces and Rulers, which commonly are perni∣cious unto the authors thereof, as we finde in the examples of Absolom, Sheba, and others, 2 Sam. 18.14. & 20.22. 2 Chron. 23.15. & 25.3. & 33.24, 25. Esth. 2.21, 22, 23.
he that diggeth a pit shall fall into it] It is a similitude drawn from Huntsmen, who dig pits, and then cover them over again, as if they were firm ground, by which means the beasts passing on them, fall in and are taken. Many times in the digging of such a pit, the earth falls on him that openeth it. It is used Metaphorically, for an attempting of evil to ensnare another man, Job 6.27. in the which snare many times a man is ta∣ken himself, Psal. 10.2. & 9.15. Prov. 5.22. Dan. 6.24.
and who so breaketh an hedge, a serpent shall bite him] Serpents and Adders use to harbour in old walls and hedges, so that with∣out much caution, he that rashly removeth them, is in danger of being slung by them, Act. 28.3. Now as hedges do inclose Page 326 grounds, and distinguish the property of one man from another; so the Lord hath set an hedge about his own ordinance of Magistra∣cy, which he will not have violated by any disloyal attempts, as the phrase is used in another case, Job 1.10. Ezr. 9.9. And all trayterous attempts against the Ordinance of God, is a breaking of that mound, and an in∣croaching upon that authority, which seldom escapeth some mischief or other, which the contrivers thereof did not foresee, nor were wise enough to prevent. It is a dangerous thing to confound rule and subjection, and to break down the partition wall between the one and the other. They who are impa∣tient of rule over them, have ruine very near them.
Who so removeth stones shall be hurt there∣with] He that goeth about to demolish a building, and to pull the great stones out of the walls thereof, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; shall be put to pain and labour thereby; So the Sep∣tuagint: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, shall be broken and torn thereby; So Aquila: 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉 shall be hurt, and suffer evil thereby; So Symma∣chus. So dangerous is the attempt of those, who go about to unjoynt, and dissolve the li∣gaments of Government. A-like expressi∣ons we finde, Zach. 12.13. Matth▪ 21.44.
Page 327and he that cleaveth wood shall be endan∣gered thereby] Or, heated thereby; The Chaldee, shall be burnt thereby: Shall not do it without danger, if his Tools be blunt, as it followeth in the next verse. We finde mention of danger in this imployment, Deut. 19.5. 2 Reg. 6.4, 5. So all these four Pro∣verbial Similitudes tend unto one and the same end.
V. 10. If the iron be blunt, and he do not whet the edg, then must he put to more strength: but wisdom is profitable to direct] This seems to relate to the words next immediately be∣fore it. He that cleaveth wood, if the iron be blunt, shall be endangered and over-hea∣ted thereby, as being every stroke necessita∣ted to put to more strength, and all in vain, till wisdom, by whetting the weapon do get the better of the wood. Nay, the more strength is used, when the iron is too blunt to enter, the more danger there is of its re∣coiling upon him that useth it. So in the present case, the more violent and froward the passions of men are against Governours, the more danger do they create unto them∣selves. Princes being like strong Oaks, that are not easily wrought upon by opposition: But wise, mild, and gentle behaviour may break their displeasure: as wisdom directing a man to whet his iron, will with lesse labour Page 328 cleave the strongest Timber. Like here∣unto was that of Esop to Solon, that we should speak unto Princes 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; either very little, or that which may swee∣ten and please them.
then must he put to more strength] Or, then it will overcome the strength of him that cut∣teth. Some understand it of an Army; it will exercise and weary the whole strength of an Army, to cleave wood with it. Or, in War, though the arms be blunt, so that strength can do little good, yet wisdom may supply that defect, and get the victory; as Chap. 9.15, 16.
but wisdom is profitable to direct] Or, the the excellency of direction is wisdom. The Infinitive Mood for the Noun, as Merc•• hath observed; as 2 Reg. 19.27. Psal. 101.3. The direction which wisdom gives▪ is more profitable then strength; it guideth a mans actions without so much toyl and labour, un∣to a better end. It is, of all other, the most excellent moderator and director of the actions of life; because without it, all other means are bootless and full of hazard: with∣out it labour is dangerous; there is wisdom requisite in the most ordinary and meanest works, in digging, in bearing burdens, in cleaving and hewing of Wood; as we read of a Porter, whom a Philosopher took and Page 329 bred unto learning, because he observed a natural wisdom and dexterity, in his ordering of his burden for the more easie carriage; 1 Reg. 5.6. Isai. 28.24, 25, 26. Without it strength of body is useless; a blunt Axe will tire out the arm of the strongest man, if he have not wisdome to whet it. Art and cunning can move bodies, and apply En∣gines, which exceed all the strength of the body alone, to stir or stand under. As we finde what huge stones were placed in the Temple, in our Saviours time, Luke 21.5. Josephus saith of them, that they were 12. cubits one way, and 8. another. 3. Without it, eloquence is to no purpose, for unlesse a man have wisdom to charm a Serpent be∣fore he bite, all a mans eloquence afterward will not be able to heal him.
V. 11. Surely a Serpent will bite without enchantment, and a babler is no better] Or, If the Serpent bite without being charmed, or before he be charmed, there is then no profit to him that is a master of his tongue, or an eloquent man. A mans eloquence will do him no good, after the Serpent hath bit∣ten him; except he do wisely charm him, before the danger become: The meaning is, that a man should by meekness of wis∣dome, as by a charm, allay the displeasure of the Ruler against him, before it break forth, Page 330 and be too late to pacifie him. Or, accord∣ing to the scope of our Version, A wise ma• should, by meekness and discretion, charm his own bitter tongue, and spirit of detracti∣on, whereby he is apt to curse and revile the Ruler of the people. Such a vain babler, whose lawless tongue is ever finding faul• with Government, and speaking evil of dig∣nities, is no better then an uncharmed Ser∣pent, Psal. 58.4, 5. Rom. 3.13. Or, as • Serpent bites most dangerously, which bite• without hissing, doth not give warning of the harm, that a man might flye from it; so of all enemies, a secret detractor is the worst.
The scope is, 1. To compare the spirit of disloyalty and murmuring in the people a∣gainst their Rulers, (so often forbidden, Exod. 22.28. Act. 23.4. Jude vers. 12. 1 Pet. 2.23.) unto the biting of a Serpent, every rebellious & trayterous speech against those who are over us by Gods ordinance and in his stead, is full of deadly poyson, Ezek. 2.6. a sin which the querulous disposition of people is very apt to transport them into. Exod. 15.24. & 16.2. and .17.2. Numb. 14.2.
2. To compare the wise and humble be∣haviour of men towards their offended Governours, unto an Inchantment, whereby Page 331•hat serpentine spirit of detraction is allayed 〈◊〉 an adder is kept from biting by a charm. •n the Original it is, If the serpent bite, &c. We take the conditional conjunction for a Confirmation or Asseveration of a truth. as we likewise render it in other places, Psal. 139.19. Prov. 3.34, & 23.18.
V. 12. The words of a wise mans mouth are Gracious: But the lips of a fool will swal∣low up himself.] He here sheweth, How the words of wise men are not only as a charm to prevent the biting of an enemy, but do fur∣ther conciliate favour and grace.
are Gracious] Heb. Grace. They are so comely and graceful in themselves, that they minister grace to others, Ephes. 4.29. Col. 4.6. and obtain grace and respect from them. As Abigail did not onely ap∣pease the wrath of David, but did greatly draw his heart and love towards her, by her wise and gracious words. Prov. 10.32. & 15.1, 2, 4, 26. & 16.23.24.
But the lips of a fool will swallow up himself] Or, will destroy, and drown him, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; so the 70. the noun is plural, and the verb singular, which may be Emphatical, to note, that every one of his words do destroy: or do suddenly ruine, as a whale, or a grave, doth presently devour that which it swal∣lowes. Page 332 A foolish man by froward and di∣sloyal speeches, layes snares against his ow• life, provokes so much wrath and displeasure as thereby utterly to undo, and, as it were▪ eat up himself, Prov. 19.28. Prov. 12.13 Rom. 3.13.
V. 13. The beginning of the words of hi• mouth is foolishnesse, and the end of his talk is desperate madness.] Hereby we understand the Emphasis of the former verse, where a plu∣ral noun was joyned to a singular verb, not∣ing, that every one of his words, from the be∣ginning to the end, tendeth unto ruine. The more he speaks, the more folly he discovers▪ and goes on from evil unto worse, according as his rage or distemper of minde doth fur∣ther and further transport him. Corruptio• in the heart when it breaks forth, is like breach in the Sea, which begins in a narro• passage, till it eat through and cast down 〈◊〉 the banks, 2 Tim. 3.13. as the Pharisee and other Jewes in their discourses wit• Christ, did commonly begin with arguments (such as they were) and ended with stones Joh. 8.33., 48, 59. & 10.24, 31. Act. 6.9 & 7.54.57. & 19.28, 34. first they deal foolishly, and then they lift up their horn, Psalm 75.4, 5. from reproches they go o••to oathes and madnesse, Psal. 102.8. Act Page 333 22.22 23. Prov. 21.24. 2 Sam, 16.13. Prov. 26.18. & 15.28. Thus a furious man aboundeth in transgression, Prov. 29.22.
V. 14. A fool also is full of words: A man cannot tell what shall be: and what shall be after him who can tell him] Besides the madnesse and folly of such a mans discouses, they are also many and endlesse. A wise man is contented with words enough to ex∣presse his mind, he speaks alwayes pertinent∣ly such things as may bring glory to God, and minister grace to the Hearers. He speaketh with choyce & election, and there∣fore in measure and moderation. As the Orator gives this for the reason why learned men do not make so long and tedious Orati∣ons as others of weaker parts, quia doctis est electio & modus: They choose a few things out of many, and weigh their words before they utter them. Whereas fooles pour out all that offers it self; verbis humidis & lap∣santibus, in ore non in pectore natis de fluunt; as he said, Prov. 15.28. & 29.11. & 10.19. Eccles. 5.7. nature hath given a man but one tongue, and that well fenced in; but two ears, to teach us to be swift to heare and slow to speak, Jam. 1.19.
a fool multiplyeth words] Useth many boa∣sting discourses, vainly reporteth his own un∣dertakings Page 334 and purposes, brags what he will do, and what he shall have, as if all events were in his own power; whereas no man, much lesse a fool, can either tell himself, or understand by any other man, what shall be after him. There seemeth to be an Empha∣sis in the word, After him, He boasteth what he will do, whither he will go, what successe he shall have, the next moneth, or the next year, when haply the next moneth or year may be After him, he may be cut off before it come, Psal 49.11, 18. Luke 12.19, 20. Jam. 4.13 — 16. Eccles. 3.22. & 6.12.
The words may haply be a Mimesis, set∣ting forth the humour of such a garrulous per∣son, who saith, A man cannot tell what shall be after him; and then saith it over again, what shall be after him who can tell him? therefore let us indulge to our genius, eat and drink, and enjoy our pleasures while we have time to enjoy them. The former sense seem∣eth rightest.
V. 15. The labour of the fool wearieth every one of them, because he knoweth not how to go to the City.] Having shewed the many attempts of foolish men, both in deeds and words, He here discovereth the vanity and fruitlesnesse of them all. All his boasting Page 335 projects and undertakings prove but labour in vain. As the Sodomites being smitten with blindnesse, wearied themselves to find out the door, which they could not get to, Gen. 19.11. He tyreth and wearieth out himself in matters which are most easie, and yet cannot overcome them: for even children can find out the way into a City when they are neer unto it. Or, though he have not wit enough to keep a high rode, yet he will be wearying of himself in abstruser things, which are as difficult as to foresee future and contingent events: as in the former verse.
The sense seemeth to be much like that, vers. 10. as there the fool puts to all his strength to cleave knotty wood wtth blunt tooles, and all in vain; whereas a little wisdome to whet his Iron, would make his vvork both more easie, and more effectual: so here the fool, like an ignorant Traveller that hath m•ssed his way, goes up and down to little purpose, till he quite weary himself, and yet can never find the way into the City for want of skill, or a guide to direct him, which otherwise would have been most easi∣ly and speedily done. Where wisdome is wanting to direct our actions, labour will be endlesse, we shall sooner weary our selves, Page 336 then effect any thing by blind endeavours. If we understand the words in a civil sense con∣sonantly to the other passages of the Chapter before, then those vvords, [because he know∣eth not to go into the City] do signifie the Ignorance of such a man to convers with men, or to behave himself wisely in civil or political relations: Whereas true wisdome is to understand our way, and to make strait paths for our feet to walk in, and to have the light shine on our wayes, whatever relation we stand in, or whatever imployment we are called unto, Prov. 14.8. Heb. 12.13. Psal. 5.8.
V. 16. Wo to thee, O Land, when thy King is a child, thy Princes eat in the morn∣ing.] The Wise man is not onely careful to keep Subjects from rebellion and disloyalty, (which was the matter of the greatest part of the Chapter before,) but also to mind Prin∣ces of their duty, that they be not wilful, sensual, tyrannous, but that they manage their office with noblenesse of spirit, with tempe∣rance, and industry, and that by a most migh∣ty argument, because They cannot be good or bad to themselves alone, multitudes are con∣cerned in it, and the weal or woe of whole nations doth depend upon it. A wicked Prince is a great argument of Divine displea∣sure Page 337 against a whole people, 1 Sam, 8.6— 18. Isa. 19.4. Job 34.30. Prov. 28.2. And a good Prince an argument of his Love, and that he intendeth to blesse such a Nation, 1 Reg. 10.9.
when thy King is a child] He meaneth not so much in age; for many have in their tender years, by the fear of God, and the help of prudent Counsellors governed their people aright, and some of them much bet∣ter then afterwards, 1 Reg. 3.7—12. com∣pared with 1 Reg. 11.4. 2 Chr. 24.2, 3, 17. & 25.1, 2, 14, 27, & 26.3, 4, 5, 16. But in understanding, in experience, in manners, when a man childishly suffereth the affaires of a Kingdome to be turned upside down, to be broken to peices by his carelesnesse, and through want of prudence & skill to dis∣cern between right and wrong, Ephes. 4.14 Heb. 5.13. Isa. 3.4. 1. Cor. 14.20. Such a child was Rehoboam in the strength of his age, A child of one and fourty years old, 1 Reg. 14.21, 2 Chron. 13.7. when a man is, 1. Ignorant or forgetfull of his duty.
2. Changeable and easily turned out of it with every perswasion.
3. Passionate, easily angry, and fearful, and accordingly alterable upon such sudden impressions.
Page 3384. Sensual, and given unto vain de∣lights.
5. Craving and covetous, and so easily turned aside by gifts.
6. Vain and subject to be flattered by those who know how to make a prey of him.
These and such like impotencies, argue childishnesse in one that Governs. The wise man instanceth in one principal of these, viz. Sensuality, in the next words.
And thy Princes eat in the morning] Though the King be a child, yet if he have prudent and vigilant Counsellours their care may recompence and supply his defects▪ but where they likewise be as bad as he▪ Prov. 29.12. where all other ministers of State follow onely their private gain and pleasure, without any regard unto publick welfare, no wonder if such a Nation have a wo hang over it.
eat in the moring] Are riotous, luxurious, spend their whole time in sleep, and excesse▪ Rise not up unto service, but unto delights, consecrate the flower and best of their time (which should have been given to God, and to the publick) to their own vanity and riot Jer. 21.12. Isa. 5.11, 12. Hos. 7.3, 4, 5, 6▪ Act. 2.15. Prov. 31.4, This is matter o• patience unto the affl•cted people, vvhe•Page 339 they consider, that God doth thus reprove Kings for their sake, Psal. 105.14.
V. 17. Blessed art thou, O Land, when thy King is the son of nobles; and thy Prin∣ces eat in due season, for strength, and not for drunkennesse.] The son of nobles, that is, men trained up, instructed, and shaped with principles of true Nobility, wisdome, and holiness. As a son of death, of perdition, of wrath, is one devoted thereunto: so a son of nobles, is one nobly seasoned with principles of honour and Government. As sons of God, Gen. 6.2. men bred in the Church of God, and under a godly Educa∣tion; sons of the Prophets: sons of Phy∣sitians, men bred in such professions.
of nobles] From a word which signifieth whitenesse, either because persons of honour did use to wear white rayments, Esther 8.15. Rev. 3.4. sit in white thrones, Rev. 20.11. ride on white asses, Judg. 5.10. or to denote the purity of manners which should be in Rulers, that they might be examples of all integrity unto others, Rev. 19.8. By sons of nobles, then, he doth not understand men barely born of noble Parents, and who have noble blood in their veins, (such an Page 340 one likely might the child be of whom he spake in the former verse) but as there he meant a child not in years, but in manners and qualities: (as the words Presbyter, El∣der, Ancient, in the Scripture use, do not so much signifie age, as wisdom, and authori∣ty,) so here he meaneth one noble as well in vertue, as in blood and birth. This is the true nobility, when piety, wisdome, righteou∣nesse, courage, and the fear of God, do a∣dorn the royal blood, and render persons tru∣ly illustrious, and not dark and obscure crea∣tures, as mean persons are, Prov. 22.29, Deut. 1.13. Exod. 18.21. nobility of blood, without nobility of vertue and holi∣nesse, addeth nothing to a Govenou• at all, Psal. 16.3. & 47.9. & 87.3, 4, 5.6. & 110.3. Act. 17.11.
and thy Princes eat in due season] In the time of eating, after they have spent their strength in duty: As to every thing there is a fit time, Eccles. 3.1. so to this particular of eating and drinking, Psal. 145.15. Matth. 24.45. Labour and service should go be∣fore eating, Luk, 12.35, 37. & 17.7, 8, 9. Abrahams servant would not eat till he had done his businesse, Gen. 24.33. and our Saviour preferred his own Fathers work be∣fore his own Refection, Joh. 4.31, 32. Page 341 Sometimes even wicked men have been so intent on their wickednesse, as to deny liber∣ty of eating, drinking, and other refresh∣ments, to themselves, till their designs were to be accomplished, Act. 23.12. Prov. 4.16. and so we find Magistrates so serious in duty, as to forbear eating, and to forbid it e∣ven sometimes when it was necessary, Ezra 10.6. 1 Sam. 14.23. Temperance is in no calling more requisite, then in the Calling of a Magistrate, Prov. 31.4. Multitudes of businesses, and those of greatest importment, and such as do often require immediate consultation and dispatch, (and such are ma∣ny times the affaires of States) will not al∣low liberty of eating and drinking, all de∣lights must be laid aside to attend them. Exod. 12.34.39. It was wickedly done by the King and Haman to sit down to drink when the City was in perplexity, Ester. 3.15. to let publick safety lye still, while private luxu∣ry was served.
for strength, and not for drunkennesse] The end of eating, is to repaire that strength which had been weakened in duty, and so to enable unto the attendance upon duty a∣gain. It ought not to be the end of our li∣ing, but onely a necessary means unto life, and unto the services thereof.
Page 342And therefore Gluttony and Drunkenesse are to be avoyded, as by all men, because of many other evils which are in them, so in special manner by Princes & Rulers, because they do totally indispose for such weighty affaires as are to be managed by wisdome and counsel, Isa. 28.1. Hos. 4.11. & 7.5.
V. 18. By much slothfulnesse the build∣ing decayeth: and through idlenesse of the hands, the house droppeth thorow.] This is a proverbial form of speech, and appliable un∣to all kind of businesses, shewing the dan∣ger of idlenesse and procrastination in them. And it is here used as an illustration of what he had said vers. 16. to set forth the misery of a Land under childish and carelesse Go∣vernment, by a Comparison drawn from the lesser to the greater, from an house to a State; for as an house being exposed to wind and weather, will in time drop thorow, and so endanger the rotting of the Timber, and the ruine of the whole, if the owner thereof do not by timely repairs prevent such a mis∣chief: so the Common-wealth, being expo∣sed to various dangers, from the subtilty and hostility of enemies abroad, and from the rebellion, sedition, and various discontents Page 343 of ill-affected people within it self, will be continually in danger of dissolution, if Go∣vernours, who should be the Healers, Repai∣rers, and Builders thereof, be not exceeding vigilant upon its preservation and safety: which if he be, he will have little time left for luxury and intemperance.
Here then, 1. A State or Kingdome, is compared to an House, as sometimes the Church is, 1 Cor. 3.9. Ephes. 2.21. & 3.15. Heb. 3.2—6. 1 Tim. 3.15. nothing more usual, then to call the Kingdome of Israel, The House of Israel, the House of Jacob, &c. Isa. 2.6. & 5.7. Luke 1.33. Obad. vers. 18.
2. Princes are compared unto the Ma∣sters of the Family, and to those unto whom it belongeth to Heal and Repair the ruines and breaches in that great building, Isa. 3.7. Job 34.17. Isa. 58.12. & 61.4. As else∣where to foundations, Psal. 82.5. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉quasi〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. to Coverings, Ezek. 28.16. to Barrs, which keep a house from be∣ing broken open, Hos. 11.6. to the Coignes, or Corners in a Building, which keep the Compages of a structure together, Isa. 19.13.
3. Misgovernment is compared unto care∣lesness Page 344 in an House-keeper, or Steward, that doth not in time prevent those ruines in an house, which a few breaches uncured, will quickly draw after them. Which, to shew the greatness of it, is called in the duall num∣ber, double slothfulness, or the slothfulnesse of both hands: and so the 70. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, by slothfulnesses. The Building decayeth, is vitiated, weakned, disjoynted, sinketh, inclineth; the 70, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, is brought low: a proper expression, being spoken of the roof of the house: and so the word is rendred, Psal. 106.43. Job 24.24. And through idleness of the hands, so the 70, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; the word is, through the hu∣mility, abjection, demission, hanging down of the hands, that do not put themselves forth, nor lift themselves up unto labour; a• Heb. 12.12. Exod. 17.12. The like expres∣sions whereunto we have, Psal. 76.5. & 74.11. Prov. 6.10. & 19.24. & 26.15. Prov. 10.4.
the house droppeth thorow] Which first causeth the walls and timber to rot, and so tendeth unto ruine; and secondly, causeth a mans habitation to be irksome and un∣comfortable unto him, Prov. 19.13. & 27.15.
Page 345V. 19. A feast is made for laughter, and nine maketh merry: but money answereth all things.] These words, if taken absolutely and alone, are to shew the dominion of money in humane affairs above all other things; other common things, even the best of them, Bread and Wine, (whereby the Scripture useth to expresse most out∣ward contents) have a definite and limi∣ted use, proper to themselves, distinct from others. They tend to make men laugh and be merry, but money is the measure of all things; It will feed, and cloath, and har∣bour, and purchase, and extend as a civill Instrument unto all secular provisions. But they seem rather to bear Relation to what went before; slothful men intend not the sup∣portance of their houses, families, or estates, but they spend their whole time in feasting and luxury, and all that, not out of any store which by their provident labours they had laid up, but by the constant expence of treasure, and emptying of their baggs, where∣by at last their houses, families, estates, are wholly brought to ruine.
Some joyn the words unto the former, thus; Through idlenesse of the hands of th•se Page 346 men the house droppeth thorow, who make feasts for laughter, and prepare wine to make their life merry, and whose money doth rea∣dily answer all these greedy lusts and de∣sires of theirs, and doth bring in supplyes and fuel into them. So this Verse looketh back to verse 16. shewing the Cause of the Woe there pronounced against a Land whose Princes were luxurious, and by whose sloth∣fulnes in regard of publick service, the House of the State was ready to decay and drop tho∣row; for by riot and excess, which cannot be maintained without vast proportion of treasure to answer all the exigences of them, such Princes are constrained to crush and oppress the poor people, and to squeeze them with heavy exactions, Jer. 22.13— 19. which is unto the hearts of the people as a continual dropping in a ruinous house, causeth them either through sadness of spi∣rit to fall and despond, and so to become an abject and low condition'd Nation, Ezek. 17.13.14. 2. Reg. 15.20. or else stirreth them unto more resolute practises, to shake off the yoke which they are not willing nor able any longer to bear, 1 Reg. 12.14, 15, 16.
They make a feast for laughter,] So fa∣cere Page 347 panem, vitulum, agnam, are expressions used for dressing of such things towards a feast or entertainment, Dan. 5.1. Gen. 18.7, 8. 2 Sam. 12.4.
and wine maketh merry] Laetificat vitam, maketh a mans life merry, as elsewhere Lae∣tificat Cor, giveth him a merry heart, Ps. 104.15.
But money answereth all things] LXX. 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Whereunto agreeth the Vulgar, pecuniae obediunt omnia, Money can command all things, to wit, which are mea∣surable thereby. It being the Instrument and element of Commerce, as the Philosopher calleth it. Symmachus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉. Is profitable for all things, which may be bought therewith: or Exaudit omnia, It heareth the desires of men, when men de∣sire such things as they outwardly want; If they have money, that ordinarily can answer this desire, and procure those things for them: a like expression we find, Hos. 2.21, 22.
V. 20. Curse not the King, no not in thy thought: and curse not the Rich in thy bed-chamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.] Because by occasion of such Page 348 sins of mis-government in evil Princes, men might be very apt through impatiency of spirit, to break forth into disloyal thoughts and affection towards them, however they might haply be by fear of danger restrained from seditious speeches, or rebellious practi∣ces: He therefore concludeth this whole Argument with a strict prohibition of all hard and undutiful thoughts and risings of heart against Rulers, notwithstanding their Errors in Government, and Corruptions in living, not so much as secretly in their hearts to wrong them, both for conscience sake, and for fear of wrath, as the Apostle likewise di∣recteth, Rom. 13.5.
Even in thy thought, or in thy conscience curse not the King] Entertain not any l•ght, vain, contemptuous or dishonourable thoughts of him, do not wish any evil to his person, crown or Government, not so much as in thy inmost and most secret retirements, Exod. 22.28. 2 Pet. 2.10. Ps. 62.4. 1 Sam. 10.27. 2 Sam. 19.21. 1 Reg. 2.8. Isa. 8.21.
The second clause, neither curse the Rich, is a re-enforcing of the same precept again, meaning by the Rich, the Governour, Isa. 53.9. In the chambers of thy bed, or, in thy most secret retirement.
And left a man should presume so to do, Page 349 as conceiving thoughts to be free, and far e∣nough out of the sight of the Governor to observe or avenge, He addeth the great dan∣ger like to ensue by means which they could not so much as imagine, or suspect.
[for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the mat∣ter] As if he had said, Thy thoughts and secret curses are heard in Heaven, by him who will certainly punish them, however se∣cret they are kept from men. And the Lord can easily find our waies even by bruit Crea∣tures, to bring them to light: as he did re∣buke the madness of Balaam by his asse, 2 Pet. 2.16. and punish the pride of Pha∣raoh and Herod by frogs, lice, and worms, Exod. 8.6, 17. Act. 12.23. We read how a flight of Cranes did discover the murther done upon the Poet Ibycus: and how Bes∣sus, who had slain his father, overthrew a neast of swallows chattering, because, saith he, they accuse me for killing my father. As our Saviour saith in another case, If these should hold their peace, the very stones would cry out, Luke 19.40. So the Lord can by even dead and inanimate Creatures, disco∣ver wickedness. The earth it self, which drank blood in, shall disclose and reveal it, Gen. 4.11. Isa. 26.21. Hab. 2.11. The Chaldee by birds of the air, understand the Page 350Angels of Heaven, who like winged Eagles shall make report of secret wickedness. O∣thers understand it of fame, which is a swift, and as it were a winged Messenger; allu∣ding unto that which is said of Princes, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉▪ That Princes have many Eyes, & many Ears, and long arms, that can see, and hear, and punish offences at at a greater distance.
IN the former Chapter he shewed the ex∣cellent use of true wisdome, as a means of Tranquillity of mind, and remedy against the vanity of outward things, in ordering our behaviour aright towards Superiors for prevention of those dangers which their dis∣pleasure may subject us unto. In this Chap∣ter he further discovereth the use thereof un∣to the same End of comfortable living, in ordering of our behaviour towards Inferiors, those especially that are in want.
Concerning which, we have, First, the pre∣cept it self, concerning substantial and use∣ful charity, vers. 1. with an effectual reason thereof, both drawn from a Metaphor of sow∣ing and reaping seed, vers. 1.
Secondly, the manner and measure of this our charity, which is to abound towards all Page 351 that are in want, and that enforced by a rea∣son drawn from the uncertainty of future E∣vents; now thou art able; hereafter thou mayst be disabled, therefore do good while thou hast means so to do, and thereby pro∣vide friends to thy self against any evils which thou also mayst fall into, vers. 2.
Thirdly, Both those are illustrated by ma∣ny similitudes, in the which he doth by way of Prolepsis prevent such objections as the covetous hearts of men are apt to make against this duty.
1. A man is apt to say, That he is neerest to himself, and must look after his own sup∣plyes, and leave others to look after theirs.
To which he answereth, That as Clouds are not filled with waters to keep them to them∣selves, but to empty them upon the Earth: so Gods blessings are not deposited to men only for their own good, but as Stewards they are to dispence out of them unto others, vers. 3.
2. It may be objected, If I must relieve seven and eight, take notice of the wants of many, It will be seven to one if much of this bounty will not be cast away upon un∣worthy and ungrateful persons, who will make no return either unto God or man for it.
To this he answereth, That as it is all one Page 352 to the master of a tree, whether it fall North or South, for either way it falls to the owners use and benefit: so that good which is done to any man in want, out of a desire thereby to honour God, and to help our neighbour, shall prove beneficial unto him that so doth it, whatever the person be unto whom it is done, vers. 3.
3. It may be objected, That it is not yet a season to be thus bountiful, there are many Impediments and discouragements thereun∣to, This charge, this loss; that affliction or danger, or expence lyes upon me, when I am gotten over these, it will then be a fitter time to think on the wants of others, when I am secured against mine own.
To this he answers by another similitude drawn from husbandry, He that will not sow his seed lest the wind should blow it away, nor reap his corn, lest the Clouds should rain and wet it, shall never want exceptions a∣gainst that which yet is necessary to be done. Therefore our duty is to embrace the present opportunity, and leave the success for the future unto Gods blessing.
If we could certainly fore-see better weather, and more seasonable accommodati∣ons for our businesses to morrow than to day, we might haply pretend some reason for de∣lay of duty. But that is in Gods hand alone, Page 353 as unknown unto us, as the way of the wind, or of the souls coming into the body, or the growing of the bones of an Embryo in the womb. Therefore it is our duty to do good at present while we have opportunity, and to commit the success of all for the future unto God, vers. 4, 5. Whereupon he re∣peateth the Exhortation in the same Meta∣phor, sow thy seed, scatter thy charity in sea∣son and out of season, in youth, in age, at all times, on all occasions, since thou knowest not which will be most succesful, vers. 6.
And now having thus largely set down va∣rious precepts for making the life of a man comfortable, and his mind quiet amidst all the vanities of the world, He proceedeth to instruct him how he may provide for death, and judgement, and so secure happiness in another world too: for a man might be apt to say, when I am thus throughly fitted by these many precepts unto a secure and com∣fortable manner of living, having the favour of great men, the blessing of poor men, peace within, and plenty without, when by godly wisdome, vexation of mind, and the vanity and disquietness thereupon of all outward things is healed, and removed. It cannot then but be a very pleasant thing to live, to see the light of the Sun, and to enjoy those Page 354 contents which by these means we have ar∣rived at, vers. 7. To this the Wise man an∣swereth, That albeit by these means life is much sweetned, and the vanity thereof is much abated, yet it is never throughly re∣moved: But when all is done which can be done to render our condition here comfor∣table, yet All that cometh, both life, and the supplyes thereof, are still Vanity, and will pass away, and the daies of darkness which follow, will be abundantly more than the daies of light which went before. And that therefore we ought, by the timely remem∣brance of them both, to moderate our de∣lights in things present, and to prepare our selves to lift up our heads with comfort in the judgement to come, vers. 8.
And because of all others, young men, whose blood is fresh, and spirits active, are most apt to surfeit on present pleasures, and to put far from them the evil day, slighting such admonitions as these; therefore the Wise man, who had had himself as full a gale of youthful pleasures, as ever any other man, and had found the vanity of them all, doth by an Irony, deride the folly, and by a solemn citation unto the Tribunal of God, awaken the conscience of such a voluptuous Epicure, vers. 9. perswading him by the assurance of a future judgement, wherein he must be cal∣led Page 355 to a strict account for all the vanities and miscarriages of his youth: and by the flit∣ting condition of that age wherein he doth so glut upon them, to remove far from him∣self those sinful excesses which would fill his heart with sorrow, and his flesh with sin.
Vers. 1. CAst thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after ma∣ny daies] This is a proverbial form of speech, drawn from the manner of husbandmen, who sow their land in expectation of a plentiful harvest, after many daies. Whereby the Wise man, in pursuance of his principal argu∣ment, touching tranquillity and comfort of life, doth perswade unto liberality towards the poor, that their mouths and bowels may bless us. Some make it an allusion to Mer∣chants, who send their Estates in Ships upon the Sea, expecting in time a return with much gain, called the Harvest of the River, Isa. 23.3. if the Prophet do not rather there allude to the plenty of Egypt, by the over-flowing of the River, whereunto possibly the Wise man may likewise allude in this place. O∣thers, more generally, understand it of giving alms to the poor, where all we do, may seem to be cast away, as if it were thrown into the Sea. Though thou think, what is so given, is all lost, because given to those who can Page 356 never recompence thee; yet do thou lend in that manner, looking for nothing again, Luk. 6.35. being assured, that what is thus given to the poor, is lent unto the Lord, Prov. 19.17. who will in his time, certainly re∣pay it with advantage unto thee. But I ra∣ther take it to be an allusion unto seed, which is sowed on very fertil ground, which is neer a river, or is made fat by the over-flowing of a river, Numb. 24.7. Isa. 32.20. So they used in Egypt to make their land fertil, by drawing the water, when the river flowed over, by art unto it, Deut. 11.10, 11. There∣fore amongst other plagues, which the Lord threatneth Egypt withal, this is one, That their Rivers should be dried up; and that which was sowed by them, should wither, Isa. 19.5, 6, 7. and so we read of the seed of Sihor, Isa. 23.3. which was a River in Egypt, Josh. 13.3. Jer. 2.18. By casting the bread upon the waters, we understand, by or neer the waters; as Ps. 1.3. Gen. 41.1. because those places are the most fertil. When he saith, thy bread, he thereby teach∣eth us, that our charity must be out of our own estate, and according to that condition wherewith God hath blessed us, Eph. 4.28.
for thou shalt find it after many daies] The seed which a man sows seemeth to dye Page 357 and perish, but the husbandman waiteth pa∣tiently for many daies together, and at last he reapeth a plentiful harvest, Jam. 5.7. as Isaac did, Gen. 26.12. Mark. 4.8. And in like manner, that which is sowed in the bel∣lies and backs of the poor, will be repayed, as the seed is in harvest, manifold into the bosoms of righteous men, Prov. 19.17. 2 Cor. 9.6—10. Deut. 15.10. Matth 19.22. Ps. 112.9.
V. 2. Give a portion to seven, and also to eight: for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth] By waters, is sometimes in the Scripture meant, multitudes of people; as Isa. 8.7. & 17.12. Revel. 17.15. and the Wise man here bidding us to cast our bread on the waters, doth in this verse ex∣plain what he meant thereby, namely, that we should disperse our good works, and alms-deeds unto many, that we should be large hearted, and open-handed unto the poor.
Give a portion] He alludeth unto the manner of their feasts and entertainments in old times, when they did use to distribute portions to their guests, and to send to the poor, 2 Sam. 6.19. 1 Sam. 1.4, 5. Gen. 43.34. Esth. 9.22. Nehem. 8.10.12. Isa. 58.7. Whereunto our Saviour haply alludeth, when he saith that Mary had cho∣sen Page 358〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; A good part or portion, Luk. 10.42. Which custome of distributing equal portions to the guests, we find in Ho∣mer and Plutarch, to have been observed likewise among the Grecians; as also the custome of sending portions from the Ta∣bles of greater persons, to those that were absent. Vide Stuck. Antiq. Conviv. lib. 3. cap. 3.
to seven and also to eight] That is, to many: a definite number, for an indefinite, 1 Sam. 2.5. Job 5.19. Mic. 5.5. So here∣by is noted, large and cheerful liberality to all in want, according to our abilities. We may not think we have done our duty, when we have been charitable to one or two per∣sons; but we must disperse our bounty, as seed that is sown; and do good unto all men, according to their need and to our condi∣tion, cheerfully and incessantly. The neces∣sity of a man may require it, when his person doth not deserve it, Luk. 6.30. 2 Cor. 9.5—10. Gal. 6.10. Isa. 2•.18. Prov. 31.20.
for thou knowest not what evil shall be upon the earth] Embrace the present opportunity of doing good, thou canst not fore-see how soon thou mayst be deprived of it, since thou knowest not what a day may bring forth, Jam. 4.14. Prov. 27.1. & 3.27, 28. Luk. Page 359 12.20. Haply thou mayst dye, and leave thy wealth to those who will shut up their bow∣els against the poor; however, what they do shall not be put on thy account. Thou art a steward of thy estate, no longer than for thine own life; and therefore be thine own Ex∣ecutor, and consider the wants of the poor at present, therefore let not thy bounty be only future. Haply God may disable thee another time, from doing that good which now he puts into thy hand. It is wisdome to do Gods work in Gods time. Haply thou thy self mayst fall into want, and stand in need of help from others; therefore make thee friends of Mammon before hand, Luk. 16.9. Ps. 37.26. & 41.1, 2, 3. 1 Tim. 6.18, 19.
V. 3. If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth: and if the tree fall towards the South, or towards the North, in the place where the tree falleth, there it shall be] He urgeth the duty of charity and bounty, by elegant similitudes. Clouds that are full of moisture, do not keep it to themselves, but shed it forth in showers on the earth, and on all kind of corn, and herbs for the benefit of many; whence they are called the bottles of heaven, Job. 38.37. and the chambers of the Lord: Ps. 104.13. Page 360 from whence he poureth down rain ac∣cording to the vapour thereof, Job. 36.27, 28. so should rich men, Prov. 11.25. whom the Lord hath filled with his blessings, as the Scripture useth to express it, Deut. 33.23. Job 22.18. Prov. 5.10. Deut. 6.11. Prov. 30.9. Phil. 4.12.18. not keep Gods blessings to themselves, but pour them forth upon those that are empty.
and if the tree fall, &c.] This some ap∣ply unto death, as if we were thereby war∣ned to do good while we may, because death will at last cut us down, and deprive us of any further opportunity, Eccl. 9.10. Joh. 9.4. and as death leaves us, judgement will find us. But it seemeth rather to denote the benefit of charity unto the authors there∣of, that wheresoever their bounty and mercy is placed, there it will be found again to their comfort; they shall not go without their re∣ward, as the tree on which side ever it falls, it will there be found, when the owner there∣of inquireth after it.
V. 4. He that observeth the wind, shall not sow, and he that regardeth the clouds, shall not reap] By these similitudes, he preventeth all those pretences and objecti∣ons which carnal hearts are apt to make Page 361 against the present season of doing good, and are apt thereby, to defer and put it off to some fitter time, when they shall have found out more fitting objects on which to place their bounty. We are very apt to frame excuses against present duty, Hag. 1.2. Act. 24.25. Prov. 3.27, 28. Here therefore the Wise man removeth these pretences; He that will by every wind be deterred from sowing his seed, lest it should be blown away; and by every cloud from reaping his corn, lest the weather should be unseasonable, shall never do his business; because there will never be wanting some discouragement or other: so he that is ever framing carnal objections a∣gainst doing good, shall over-slip the season, and never do his duty, nor receive his re∣ward. We are to take notice of the present call of God unto any good work, and the pre∣sent opportunity he puts into our hands, and not delay service upon the fear of future contingents, which are not in our power, Matth. 6.34.
V. 5. As thou knowest not what is the way of the Spirit, nor how the bones do grow in the womb of her that is with Child: even so thou knowest not the works of God who ma∣keth all] By our ignorance of the works of Gods providence, he warneth us to be diligent in embracing every present oppor∣tunity Page 362 of doing good, and not to defer or de∣lay duty, till haply the Lord will put us out of all capacity to do it. This ignorance he proveth a minori, If we know not things more ordinary and familiar unto us, which happen every day, as the way of the spirit.] Symmachus rendreth it, of the wind, which way it comes and goes, how it riseth and slackneth, Joh. 3.8. Or how the soul comes into the body, and quickneth it; so the Septuagint, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉; Or, how the bones do grow; How the several parts of the body, skin, flesh, sinews, bones, some hard, some soft, are all shaped out of the same seed, Psal. 139.13—16. Job 10.10—13. Much less are we able to fore∣see the works of Gods providence, which are far off and exceeding deep, Chap. 7.24. Therefore since we know not what shall be to morrow, how God may dispose of our life or our estate▪ how long he may continue unto us opportunities of doing good, we ought not to defer or put off duty from time to time, but while we have a present season, to em∣brace it, Chap. 9.10. Gal. 6.10.
V. 6. In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withold not thy hand: for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be alike good] He inferreth from the former do∣ctrine Page 363 of the uncertainty of future events, an hortatory conclusion, to be doing good on all occasions, and to be assiduous and dili∣ligent in the work which God hath set us to do, whether all our labour take effect or no. The Lord being sometimes pleased to frustrate mens endeavours, and to defer the success they expected from them; First, to try them whether they would persevere in their calling: and continue therein with God, though they had not alwayes alike incou∣ragement. 2. To teach them, that succes∣ses depend not upon the labours of man, but upon the will and free blessing of God. And he persisteth in his former Metaphor of sow∣ing seed; meaning thereby, First, in parti∣cular works of charity and mercy to the poor; as vers. 1—4. 2 Cor. 9.6. Ps. 112.9. Se∣condly, In general, works of righteousness in our general or particular callings, Prov. 11.18. Hos. 12.10. Thereby teach∣ing us, that works of mercy and righteous∣ness do not perish, but will bring forth an harvest of comfort, and great reward unto those that abound in them, Gal. 6.8.
sow thy seed] Do thine own work, in∣tend thine own calling, intermix not thy self in things which belong not unto thee, 2 Thess. 3.10. 1 Thess. 4.11. Be liberal of thine own estate, Ephes. 4.28.
Page 364In the morning sow—and in the even∣ing withold not thine hand, or let not thine hand rest or give over.] Begin betimes, and be not weary of well doing, but continue unto the end; be alwayes doing of good, morning and evening, note the whole day from one end of it to the other, Gen. 1.5. Dan. 8.14. Psal. 104.22, 23. So Solomon bids us, be in the fear of the Lord all the day long, Prov. 23.17. It is to be understood of the morning and evening of a mans life, which should be wholly consecrated to God, Lam. 3.27. Eccles. 12.1. Psal. 92.14. Matth. 10.22. or of the morning and evening of a mans prosperity; as soon as ever God giveth thee an estate, begin to do good with it, and be not weary of so doing, but con∣tinue to the end. God requires our charity to be set about on the first day of the week, 1 Cor. 16.2. Gal. 6.9, 10. The night is shut out of the time of working, or of d•ty, therefore while it is day, while we have life and opportunity, we must ply our duties, Eccles. 9.10. Joh. 9.4.
for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, or whether will be most right, or congruous, the one or the other, &c.] Thou maiest justly expect a blessing upon all, however, though the success, as to men, be not alwa•es prosperous; sometimes thy bounty is mis∣placed Page 365 upon those that abuse it, or return evil for good, yet with God, constancy in well-doing will not miss of its reward; and by this largeness heart, thou maist unawares entertain Angels, and bring extraordinary blessings upon thy family, Matth. 10.14, 42. Heb. 13.2. 1 Reg. 17.13 — 16.
V. 7. Truly the light is sweet, and a plea∣sant thing it is for the eyes to behold the Sun] By light, and beholding the Sun, we are to understand the time of this present life, as is evident by what follows in the next verse; so Job 3.20. & 33.30. and withall, we may take in those pleasures and comforts thereof, which serve to render it more sweet and contentfull. Some make it to be a tacit objection, against that continual labour which he before prescribed. Since life is short, we ought to use all the wayes we can to render it pleasant, and not weary out our time and strength in continual toyl and labour; it is much more sweet, to enjoy the light and pleasures of life while we may, 1 Cor. 15.32. whereunto they make the words of the next verse to be an answer; That when death comes, the good we have done will remain with us, but all our pleasures and delights will vanish into nothing. It may seem to relate unto the former verse, as well as to that which follows; sow your seed in the Page 366 morning, and in the evening, so long as you have the light of the Sun to guide you; for this is the chief comfort and sweetness of life, to be doing good while we have time & oppor∣tunity, because the dayes of death and dark∣ness are coming, wherein we cannot work.
But it seemeth rather to be a Transition unto a new matter. In the former parts of this book, the Wise man had set forth the vanity of all outward things, and had pre∣scribed many gracious and excellent means to remedy the same, and to frame the heart of man unto Tranquillity and peace. But now when by these precepts the life of man here is rendred as full of comfort, and quiet∣ness, as an earthly condition is capable of, yet though his life be never so sweet, there are great evils coming, which will require much meditation and preparation of hear• to fit a man for them: and there is a far longer condition for the future, which will abide us after this life is gone; necessary therefore it is unto the compleating of that happiness whereinto he had all this while inquired, to secure not only the comforts of this life, but the assurance of a better, which is the busi∣ness of Solomon in the remaining part of this Book, by a timely meditation of death and judgement, and by the fear of God, and keeping his commandments in our youth, Page 367 to arm us against the terror of future evils, and to fit us for that happiness, which is the whole of man, and which will be throughly proportionable to his largest desires. And so the meaning is this, It is true indeed, to enjoy the light of the Sun, and the comforts of this present life, is a very sweet thing: Sensually sweet unto those, who are volup∣tuous; Solidly and substantially sweet unto those, who by all the foregoing precepts, have gotten wisdome to cure the vanity and vexation of spirit, which otherwise outward things are apt to produce; yet both the one and the other must remember, that though life be sweet under the Sun, yet it is not long, much less, perpetual; dayes of darkness are to come, therefore unto compleat hap∣piness there is yet more to be done, and such an estate to be secured, as may bear full proportion to the capacities of an immortal soul, and may make up the Whole of man.
Light is Sweet] Sweetness here is that properly which is the object of our Taste, J•dg. 14.18. Prov. 24.13. but it is usual in the Scripture to attribute that which is proper unto one sense, to another; as to see thunder, Exod. 20.18. to see the smell •f a field, Gen. 27.27. It is a broken and con∣cise sentence, unto which something is to be added or understood, it is indeed sweetPage 368 to see the Sun; life is pleasant, but yet it is vanity, and will end in death; by the medita∣tion whereof, we are to abate our inordinate love of the profits and pleasures of so vanish∣ing a condition.
V. 8. But if a man live many years, and rejoyce in them all, yet let him remember the dayes of darkness, for they shall be many. All that cometh is Vanity] Though it be a sweet thing to enjoy life, and the comforts thereof, and though a man should live long, and all that long life should have his full of worldly delights, yet the serious meditation of death, and the long abode we shall after all those pleasures have in the house of darkness, will sufficiently demonstrate the vanity of Tem∣poral life, how long, or how prosperous so∣ever it have been; such a life we find de∣scribed, Job 21.7— 13. By dayes of darkness, are understood in opposition to light; and the seeing of the Sun, in the for∣mer verse, that space of time wherein men shall lie in the dust, Psal. 88.12, 13. Psal. 143.3. Eccles. 6.4. Job. 10.21.
for they shall be many] This some apply to the first words of the verse, though the dayes of life be m•ny, yet let a man remem∣ber the dayes of darkness, and that will make him judge all things which happen in this world to be but vanity: we may like∣wise Page 369 read the words thus; If a man live many years, let him rejoyce in them all, he is not debarred the comforts and contents of them, but let him withall temper and moderate the joyes of life, with the medita∣tion of death, and know that every thing which hapneth, that every man which co∣meth into the world is vanity.
V. 9. Rejoyce O young man in thy youth, and let thine heart cheer thee in the dayes of thy youth, and walk in the wayes of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes: But know thou, that for all these things God will bring thee into judgement.] Since all that co∣meth is vanity, as well youth as age, both which he sheweth here and in the next Chapter: And since the dayes of life and jollity here, how long soever, are very short and inconsiderable, in comparison of the dayes of darkness which follow after them, he therefore perswadeth those who are most subject to be transported with the pleasures of life, to remember death and judgement, and thereby to restrain their inordinate de∣sires. A young Epicure, who is scornfull and impatient of such cooling and chill do∣ctrines as those of death and judgement, might be apt to say; if the dayes of darkness be so many, let us not make them more then they are by denying our selves the pleasures Page 370 of light, but let us freely indulge to our selves all our delights, and live to the length of our desires, 1 Cor. 15.32. whereunto Solomon answereth in these words, 1. By way of Concession, 2. By way of sad and se∣vere praemonition. The Concession some would have to be real and serious, as if he had said, I would not discourage thee from the use of lawfull pleasures, nor debar thee such contents as the flower of thine age do call for: only I would have thee carefull not to ex∣ceed the bounds of temperance and mode∣ration, but by the vanity of things present, and certainty of future judgement, to com∣pose thy mind to sobriety in enjoying, and to a readiness to depart from these vain de∣lights, as Gal. 5.13. 1 Pet. 2.16. enjoy pleasures, but be not drowned in them; use honest delights, but be not a slave unto them: Thou seest that all here is Vanity, that the fashion of this world, the power, wealth, honour, pleasures, strength, health, beauties thereof, all vanish and pass away, & that all of us must be brought before Gods tribunal; and all our actions undergo a severe tryal: there∣fore let it be thy chiefest care to provide for that account. But the place is much more Emphatical, if we understand the Conces∣sion Ironically; as 1 Reg. 18.27. & 22.15. Ezek. 28.3, 4. Matth. 26.45. Since thou Page 371 art wilfull and scornfull, take thy course, Rejoyce in thy youth; or, because thou art young, strong, healthfull, and thy bones full of marrow, Job 21.23, 24.
And let thine heart cheer thee] Symma∣chus, 〈 in non-Latin alphabet 〉, Let it be wholly in good, or in delights.
and walk in the wayes of thy heart, and in the sight of thine eyes] Do what thou plea∣sest, let thy wanton and wandring eye en∣flame the lusts of thy heart, and let thy sen∣sual heart give law to thy whole man, deny not thy self any thing which heart can wish, or eye look on, Numb. 15.39. 1 Joh. 2.16. 2 Pet. 2.14. & 3.2. Ezek. 23.16. Josh. 7.21. Jer. 18.12. Psal. 81.12. Job. 21.7. Thus sharply doth the Lord deride the pride and folly of young men in their career of Lust and Vanity, and as it were give them over to their own hearts desires, Prov. 1.24— 28. Rom. 1.28.
But know thou] Though thou Endeavour to blind thine own eyes with sensual de∣lights, to smother thy conscience, and to baffle those principles of fear and restraint which God hath planted in thee; Though thou wouldst not see, yet thou shalt see and know to thy cost, Isa. 26.11. 1 Reg. 22.25. 2 Pet. 3.5.
that for All these things] For all the sins, Page 372 vanities, and excesses of thy youth, for all those things which are now so gratefull to thy senses, though they please thine eye, they will gnaw and sting thy conscience, Job. 13.26. Psal. 25.7. God, whose Word and fear thou now despisest, from whose eye thou canst not hide thy sins, from whose Tribunal thou canst not withdraw thy con∣science; will bring thee] Perforce whe∣ther thou wilt or no, when thou shalt in vain call to Mountains and Rocks to hide thee, Rev. 6.16. Luk. 23.30.
into judgement] The Judgement of the great day, Jude vers. 6. called the Terrour of the Lord, 2 Cor. 5.10. Act. 17.30. the consideration whereof should abate the heat of lust, and cause the heart of young men to tremble at the wrath to come.
V. 10. Therefore remove sorrow from thine heart, and put away evil from thy flesh: for childhood and youth are vanity] This is not to be understood Ironically, as the for∣mer words of the verse foregoing, nor in that sense; but seriously, as a seasonable precept unto young men, who are of all other men, by reason of the heat of their blood, subject unto passions,, and unto pleasures; the one seat∣ed in the heart, the other in the flesh•; from both which, he doth here forewarn them.
Remove sorrow, or anger and indignation Page 373 from thine heart] If we read it sorrow, then hereby is meant all those sinfull pleasures which though the deceitfull heart look on as matter of joy, yet will certainly fill the heart with sorrow at the last, Prov. 14.13. If Anger, or Indignation, then the meaning is, that he should restrain all Inordinate pas∣sions and perturbations of mind, especially take heed of swelling or storming at the will and wayes of God, or at any serious advice minding him thereof, James 1.19. Job 6.24.
and put away evil, sinfull lusts, from thy flesh] From thy bodily members, Rom. 6.13. 1 Cor. 6.15. 2 Cor. 7.1. 1 Pet. 2.11. 2 Tim. 2.22. and so some understand the word flesh, in the sense as it is used, Ezek. 16.26. & 23.20. 2 Pet. 2.10. Jude vers. 23.
for childhood and youth are vanity.] The reason of this advice, drawn from the vanish∣ing condition of youth, and the pleasures thereof: Youth is but as the Aurora or early morning of a day quickly gone, from thence to noon, and from noon to night, therefore care should be used to spend it in such a manner, as that we may have an abiding fruit, and pleasure which will not vanish with the years which were consumed in the pursuance of it.
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.