« AnteriorContinuar »
Nor is any thing better to be expected from new discoveries, since 9 The thing that bath been, it is that] which shall be ; and that
which is done [is] that which shall be done : and (there is) 10 no new [thing) under the sun. Is there [any thing whereof
it may be said, See, this [is] new ? it hath been already of oid time, which was befure us. This is not an universal proposition ; nevertheless many of the things we value ourselves upon as new discoveries, were known to former ages ; and men's labours and enjoyments are the same in general now as formerly. No new ex
piedient can be found out to secure the happiness of mankind in earth11 ly things. [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 ; the names and meinories of the inventors of many things are lost, 80 will the names and memory of their successors : their inventions did not answer their expectation, they still complained of runily, and so shall we. In the rest of the chapter the preacher slows the vanily of human
wisdom and learning, and its insufficiency to make men happy ; 12 though it bids fairest for it of all natural things. I the Preacher
was king over Israel in Jerusalem ; I was in circumstances
which gave me every advantage for pursuing knowledge : 13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom con
cerning all (things] that are done under heaven : this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised there
with ; he must search for knowledge with great labour, and ob14 tain it by slow degrees. I have seen all the works of this kind
that are done under the sun; and, behold, all (is) vanity and vex
ation of spirit ; we know little, and that little is not of much service 15 to us. (That which is) crooked cannot be made straight : and
that which is wanting cannot be numbered; there are many
things uncasy and disagreeable in life, which all the wil and wisdom 16 of men cannot fully rectify. I communed with mine own heart,
saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotion more wisdom than all (they] that have been before me in Jerusalem : yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowl. cdge ; the distinguished circumstances in which God haih placed
ine, gave me greater advantages for searching into wisdom than 17 others. And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know
madness and folly ; I applied my mind closely to search into the nature and rcason of things, the causes and effects of men's follies
and vices; and here likervise I found disappointment, I perceived 18 that this also is vexation of spirit. For in much wisdom, or
speculative knowledge, [is] much grief ; there is a great deal of trouble in getring, pursuing, and keeping it : and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow : the more he knows, the alcarpar views he has of the vanily of human life ; and the more veration he quill find, unless his knowledge be imfiroved to religious purposes. Beside attending to the general purport and design of this book, there are particular pasou ges that may afford us some useful instructiuns..
1. INTE here see, that it is no dishonour to the wisest and best
VV of men to be preachers, but much to their glory ; for Solomon, so renowned for wisdom, wealth, and dignity, assumes this character. This should teach us, that it is every man's duty to employ what talents God gives him, for the instruction and refore mation of the world ; and that those especially to whom God has given peculiar wisdom, should communicate it to others for their edification. If they have rank, wealth, and influence, these may help to recommend their instructions, and add weight lo all the advice they give.
2. The abilities and circumstances of Solomon should engage our peculiar attention to what he says, especially about the vanity of the world. He was the wisest, the richest, and the greatest of men; of all men that ever lived, he had the greatest advantage for making the experiment; the result of which, he in this book informs us. It was the issue of a deliberate judgment, founded upon close inquiry and large experience, and therefore worthy of our highest regard.
3. Let us endeavour to impress our hearts with the changeable nature of all earthly things. This is Solomon's first and strongest proof of their vanity. All nature is in continual fluctuation. Generation after generation passeth off"; men are engaged in the same pursuits as their ancestors; the same follies are acted over and over again. Old arts are recovered ; old fashions restored ; the disorders, corruptions, and complaints of every age are much the same. Let this therefore abate our pride in our own discoveries and attainments ; restrain the folly of despising former ages ; and teach u3 particularly, that what is so changeable can never afford substantial happiness to an immortal spirit.
4. The vanity of speculative knowledge should teach us to pursue that which is practical, useful, and satisfactory. Solomon's design is not to discourage us from pursuing knowledge. It has its difficulties, arising in a great measure from our wrong choice ; but it has its pleasures too. Those whose business in life it is to increase in speculative knowledge, as subservient to something better, feel the truth of Solomon's observation, v. 18. in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth knowledge increaselh sorrow : but never more sensibly, than when they meet with ill returns from those for whose service they pursue it ; and with the best returns they find little satisfactory in it. May we all therefore, those of us especially who have little time for reading and study, apply our minds chiefly to that which will make us wise to salvation. He that increaseth in the knowledge of God and divine things, will increase in joy ; and find in the end that this is life eternal, to know the only irue God, and Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent.
In this chapter are further e periments, how far happiness is to de
found in earthly things.
ITSAID in mine heart, Go to now, I will prove thee with
1 mirth, therefore enjoy pleasure ; come on,, indulge all lawful
delights, and try every agreeable scene : and, behold, this also 2 (is) vanity. I said of laughter, [It is) mad ; it transports men
beyond the bounds of reason, prudence, and sobriety : and of mirth, 3 What doeth it ? it is soon over, and leaves a man unsatisfied. I
sought in mine heart to give myself unto wine, yet acquainting mine heart with wisdom; and to lay hold on folly, till I might see what (was) that good for the sons of men, which they should do under the heaven all the days of their life ; I sought for han. piness in entertainments and banquets, yet kept myself within the
bounds of sobriety; but here I met with so much disappointment, 4 that I hate to dwell any longer upon the mention of it. I made
me great works ; I builded me houses; I planted me vine5 yards : I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees, 6 in them of all kind of] fruits : I made me pools of water, 7 to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees : I got
(ine) servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house, whom I could educate as I pleased ; also I had great possessions
of great and small cattle above all that were in Jerusalem before 8 me: I gathered me also silver and gold, and the peculiar trea
sure of kings and of the provinces : I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, [as] musical instruments, and that of all sorts ; I in a manner drained
the kingdoms and provinces subject to me of all their curiosities, 9 So I was great, and increased more than all that were before me
in Jerusalem : also my wisdom remained with me ; my genius enabled me to carry these things to greater perfection, than a
person of equal substance but not equal abilities could have done. 10 And whatsoever mine eves desired I kept not, from them, I
withhell not my heart from any joy ; for my heart rejoiced in all my labour : and this was my portion of all my labour; It is true I found entertainment in these things ; the forming of filans, and se ing their rising beauties, gave me some pleasure ; but.
this was all my portion, the pleasure ceased wilh the novelty, and 11 I quickly wanted some fresh object. Then I looked on all the
works that my hands had wrought, and on the labour that I had. laloured to do: and, behold, all (was) vanity and vexation of
spirit, and there was no profit under the sun. 12 And I turned myself to behoid wisdom, and madness, and
folly ; I returned to the crimination of wisdom and its opposites, particularly as applied 10 worldly busines8 ; and no man can try the erperiment more fully than I have done ; for what (can) the
man [do] that cometh after the king ? [even] that which hath 13 been already done. Then I saw that wisdom excelleih folly, as, far as light excelleth darkness : the result was, that a discreet;
prudent, regular conduct for this world has greatly the advantage 14 of its contrary. The wise man's eyes (are) in his head, where
they best serve him io look about him, to see his danger, and guide his way ; but the fool walketh in darkness ; rash, imprudent
men blunder on into mischief and vexation : and I myself per15 ceived also, that one event happeneth to them all. Then said I
in my heart, As it happeneth unto the fool, so it happeneth even to me ; we are subject to the same painful events ; and why was
I then [more] wise ? Then I said in my heart, that this also 16 [is) vanity. For (there is no remembrance of the wise more
than of the fool for ever; seeing that which now [is] in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise (man?] as the fool. The wise die as well as fools, and each are
quickly forgotten : he must be a person of extraordinary character 17 that is talked of for ages. Therefore so far from finding satis
faction, I hated life ; because the work that is wrought under the sun [is] grievous unto me : for all (is) vanity and vexation
of spirit., 18 Yea, I hated all my labour which I had taken under the sun :
because I should leave it unto the man that shall be af. 19 ter 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 showed myself wise under the sun. This [is] also vanity. Rehoboam, who was forty years
old when his father died, so that he must have seen his weakness 20 and folly, is doubtless here referred to. Therefore I went about
to cause my heart to despair of all the labour which I took under the sun ; instead of pursuing former schemes, I gave them us, as
one utterly tired with them; nor is this peculiar to me, it is often 21 seen in lower circumstances. For there is a man whose labour
[is] in wisdom, and in knowledge, and in equity ; yet to a man that hath not laboured therein, 10 a man whose character is just
the reverse of his own, shall he leave it (for] his portion. This 22 also [is) vanity and a great evil. For what hath man, such a
man as above described, of all his labour, and of the vexation of 23 his heart, wherein he hath laboured under the sun ? For all his
days, or, although all his days, sare] sorrows, and his travail grief ; yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night ; though he haih obtained what he has with so much care, labour and fatigue, yet it must be left to he knows not who. This is also vanity.
[There is) nothing better for a man, [than] that he should eat and drink, and [that] he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw, that it (was] from the hand of God: The best way therefore, is not to engage in many schemes, and perplex himself with much business; but contentedly to sit
down and enjoy the good things God has given him with pleasure 25 and thankfulness : but this is not in a man's oron porver ; For who
can eat, or who else can hasten [hereunto,) more than I ? or, as it may be better rendered, who can cut or hasten thereunió
without him?' This depends on the divine blessing, and the turn
he gives to the mind, though the materials may be in a man's own 26 possession. For (God] giveth to a man that [is] good in his
sight, that is, to a pious man, wisdom and knowledge to make e good use of his substance, and joy in the using of il : but to the singer be giveth travail, to gather and to heap up, that he may give to (him that is) good before God; he gives up the wicked to an insatiable discontented spirit, so that they afflict themselves with many cares and sorrows, 10 heap un what in the course of his providence he ofien gives to the righteous. This also (is) vanity and vexation of spirit.
.W E here see the vanity of expecting happiness in mirth
V and pleasure, grandeur and luxury. In spite of all Solomon's reasoning and experience, the present age is trying the ex. periment over again ; but they will at last join in his conclusion. It is a dangerous experiment ; for few can make it and yet their wisdom remain with them. Therefore it is better to desist and take Solomon's word. Remember that these things cannot quiet a guil. ty conscience, comfort a drooping spirit, ease a dying body, or save an immortal soul.
2. There are many things which are excellent in themselves, and of great use in life, that will not make a man happy. Prudence, diligence, and regularity in business, are things highly commendable, and favourable to men's worldly interest, therefore many place all their religion in them ; but they are not the one thing needful. Let us be careful that we are not mistaken ; and while we study the arts of prudence and economy, forget the weightier matters of the law, and coniinue destitute of the love of God.
3. We are here taught the importance and necessity of true reli. gion to make a man comfortable even in this world. Men may slave and toil ever so much, gain ever such abundance by sagacity, diligence, and frugality, it will not prolong their lives or their memories; it will not insure them a worthy heir; nor even a comfortable use of their own substance. The cheerful enjoyment of what we have must come from God. It is therefore to be sought by fervent prayer; and is generally given to good men ; and this they may have with a little. So that upon the whole, Godliness hath the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.