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aggravate yours. What an enemy would you think him,
, who should deprive your food of all its relish, or cook it for you with gall ; who should rob your nights of sleep, poison every moment of your time with grief or vexation, throw all your affairs into confusion, and ruin both the morals and fortunes of your children! This enemy you are (I do not say to each other but) you, the husband, to yourself; and you, the wife, to yourself; for want of considering that you cannot hurt or vex her, nor you hurt or vex him, without equally hurting, vexing, and tormenting yourself, for you can have but one and the same condition.
You have indeed another enemy, who blinds your understandings, who inflames your passions, and spreads the darkness and fire of his own abode through yours. Well were it for you, if death itself could put an end to the evils he schemes against you. But unhappily, they are rooted in your souls! Pride, rage, revenge, malice, cruelty, towards that very person, whom, by all the ties of nature, all the laws of reason and revelation, and by the most solemn vows, you are bound to love and cherish, are crimes of the deepest die, and riveted in the very soul of you, who profess obedience to the commands of Christ as necessary to your eternal salvation, and know full well, at the same time, that Christ hath expressly commanded you to love even your neighbour as yourself, to forgive your enemies,' nay,' to love your enemies.' Your religion tells you, you cannot possibly be saved, without the humble, the meek, the forgiving, the benevolent, the charitable spirit of your Master and his gospel, towards all mankind. It expects of you, if you are married, the highest proofs of this spirit toward's your wife or husband. Now, how can you hope to be saved, whose spirit is yet, in all points, the very reverse of this? You cannot be acquitted, as a good son or daughter, as a good father or mother, as a good master or mistress, or as a good neighbour; and at the same time condemned as a bad husband or wife. You must, on the whole of your life, be either acquitted or condemned; either rewarded or punished; rewarded only as a good Christian, which you can never be, if you are not a Christian, but a perjured traitor, in regard to your marriage vows.
Repent, therefore, before it is too late ; and God give you understanding in all things, in this more especially, for the sake of Christ Jesus our Saviour, to whom, with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, be all might, majesty, dignity, and dominion, now, and for evermore. Amen.
I have seen all the works that are done under the sun, and behold all is vanity,
and vexation of spirit. This, if I mistake not, is the severest reflection that ever was made on the world. Whatsoever keen or contemptible the imagination can paint, or experience prove to us, concerning the follies, the vices, and the miseries of mankind, it is all summed up in this comprehensive saying, and delivered in the sharpest and most expressive terms. The preacher does not condemn one work of man as vanity, and another as vexation of spirit; but he unites the two, and pronounces them both, of each work. The very sting of the reflection consists in this, that howsoever vain and trifling all our works are found to be, this does not prevent their giving us vexation of spirit, such is the littleness of our souls; and that howsoever great the vexations are which they bring upon us, they are, notwithstanding this, mere emptiness, and vanity, so that we get nothing to recompense our vexations, such is our stupidity and folly. They are perfectly insignificant; yet they make us miserable; and this we cannot but know. They make us miserable, but we cannot be made sensible of their insignificance, nor learn to despise them; and therefore, during our whole lives are never to be disengaged from them. Their vanity eternally disappoints us, and their bitterness ever torments us; however, we place our wisdom in the pursuit, and hope for our happiness in the accomplishment of them. Yet
what profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth? None at all.'
The Wise Man does not 'level these reflections at the works of God in this world. No, God, he saith, hath made every thing beautiful, so that nothing can be put to it.' Nor does he condemn the religious and virtuous works of men, which, though done under the sun, are performed with a view to things above it. He speaks very highly of 'true wisdom,' of 'charity,' of the 'fear of God,' and of their effects in the lives of good men; and recommends an ' early piety' to youth in the most affecting terms.
But the works of men, which he so severely lashes, are such as are done under the sun,' with no higher prospects than of worldly profit or sensual gratification; with no intention to reform and improve our nature, or to please our Maker; and with no view to any being or motive above the sun. This appears plainly enough, by the particulars, to which he applies the general censure in my text, and which he expressly pronounces, vain, vexatious, or both.
• Vanity of vanities ! saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities! all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun? All things are full of labour, man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, although there is nothing new under the sun. Moreover, I saw under the sun,' saith he, 'the place of judgment, that wickedness was there, and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. I considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, behold the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforter; and on the side of their oppressor there was power. There is one alone, and there is not a second, he hath neither child nor brother; yet is there no end of all his labour, neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither saith he, for whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This is also vanity, yea, it is a sore travail. When goods increase, they also are increased that eat them; and what good is there to the owners thereof, saving the beholding of them with their eyes? The abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep. There is a sore evil which
I have seen under the sun, namely, riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt. As the rich man cometh forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of his labour, which he may carry away in his hand. And this also is a sore evil; that in all points as he came, so shall he go; and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind ? All his days also he eateth in darkness, and he hath much sorrow and wrath with his sickness. There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men: a man to whom God hath given riches, wealth, and honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his soul of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger eateth it; this is vanity. All the labour of a man is for his mouth, and yet the appetite is not filled. For what hath the wise more than the fool? Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better? There is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the wicked; again there be wicked men, to whom it happeneth according to the work of the righteous. I said, that this also is vanity. This also is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all. I saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to all men.
That which befalleth the sons of men, befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so dieth the other. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.'
Such are the observations and reflections made by the Preacher on all the works, pursuits, and possessions of men, considered as relative to this life only, and as beginning at the birth, continuing during the life, and ending with the death of the man. But lest we should understand these reflections as intended only to represent the vanity and vexation incident to other men, and not to the Preacher himself, who was the wisest of men ; that which he draws from observations on others, he confirms by experiments made on himself.
* I the preacher,' saith hę,' was king over Israel in Jerusalem; and I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven; and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem. Then I saw that wisdom excelleth folly, as far as light excelleth darkness. But I perceived that this also is vexation; for in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. I said in my heart, as it happeneth to the fool, so it happeneth to me, and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity. I said in my heart, go to now, I will prove thee with mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure; and behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, it is mad; and of mirth, what doeth it? I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly ; and I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. I made great works. I builded me houses. I planted me vineyards, gardens, orchards, groves. I made spacious ponds and canals. I got multitudes of men-servants and maid-servants, and vast possessions of great and small cattle. I gathered silver and gold, and the treasures of kings and princes; I provided men-singers and women-singers, and all the delights of the sons of men. Whatsoever mine eyes desired, I kept not from them; I withheld not mine heart from any joy. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had laboured to do; and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit! What can the man do that cometh after the king? Therefore I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me, for all is vanity and vexation of spirit. Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun, because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me; and who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool ? Yet shall he have rule over all my labour wherein I have laboured, and wherein I have shewed myself wise under the sun. This is also vanity. Therefore I went about to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun. For what hath man of all his labour ? All his days are sorrow, and his travail grief: Yea, his heart taketh no rest in the night. This also is vanity.'