Page images

drinks, a watchful, pious man may escape ; but she is so great a

plague, that God often gives a man up to her, as a punishment for 27 his former sins. Behold, this have I found, saith the preacher, 28 [counting] one by one, to find out the account : Which yet

my soul seeketh, but I find not : one man among a thousand have I found ; but a woman among all those have I not found. He diligently observed the characters of all about him, and found very few men worthy of friendship and throughly to be trusted, whose real sentiments and dispositions he could find out ; and fewer women that were 80 ; he had generally found more wisdom, good

ness, true friendshish, and less artifice among men than wo99 men ; but this is not to be charged upon God: Lo, this only

have I found, that God had made man upright ; but they have sought out many inventions; they have perverted their own ways, corrupted their original integrity, and devised many excuses for neglecting their dury. This chapter is so practical that we need not enter upon any particular reflections. Let it be seriously rea viewed, that we may learn from it to cultivate a serious, prudent, humble, patient spirit ; let the concluding part especially teach young men to be exceeding watchful against bad women, and exa ceeding cautious in the choice of wives; and younger women to be ambitious to retrieve the honour of their sex, and cultivate integ. rity, openness, and honour, which will be pleasing to God, and will render them amiable and useful in the world.

[ocr errors]


Solomon proceeds to some prudential directions which will conducte

man to true happiness ; beginning with a general encomium upor wisdom.



1 HO [is] as the wise (man?] who is so excellent as he ?

and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? under. stands things himself, and is useful to others ? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed ; it gives him an agreeable countenance, takes away eve

ry thing morose, sour, and forbidding, and gains him respect and 2 I counsel thee) to keep the king's commandment in all law, ful things, and (that) in regard of the oath of God, not merely 10

avoid his displeasure, but out of a principile of conscience and a re3 gard to God. Be not hasty to go out of his sight, to leave his

firesence or service through passion and discontent : stand not in an evil thing ; if thou hast in any respect offended, though thou

mayest escape him for a while, he will find an opportunity to fiuna 4 ish thee ; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him. Where the

word of a king (is, there is) power to execute his commande :: and who may say unto him, What doest thou ? who shall call

5 him to an account without extreme hazard? Whoso keepeth the

commandment, continues dutiful and loyal, shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man's heart discerneth both time and judg

ment how to withdraw from public affairs without offending the 6 prince, and when and how to give him humble advice. Because to

every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man [is] great upon him ; men suffer much for want of pru

dence in not observing and seizing fit times, especially in courls, 7 For he knoweth not that which shall be : for who can tell him

when it shall be ? he neither knows nor can any one tell him when 8 the like opportunity will return. [There is) no man that hath

power over the spirit to retain the spirit ; neither [hath he] power in the day of death : and (there is) no discharge in (that) war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it. Probably this is said with particular reference to princes ; let them consider that there is no giving law to men's thoughts ; and

likewise that death is hastening toward them, when they must 9 give an acccount of all their tyranny and oppression. All this have

I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun : (there is) a time wherein one man ruleth over another

to his own hurt, yea, sometimes is dethroned and ruined in this 10 world. And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and

gone from the place of the Holy, that is, the seat of judgment, which is God's place, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done ; their pomp vanished with them, and could not 80 much as secure them an honourable remembrance : this [is] also

vanity. 11 God has denounced a righteous sentence upon them, but 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 ;* they grow licentious by the delay, and think of nothing but doing

mischief. 12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his [days]

be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him ; who notwithstanding all

the oppressions they suffer, continue obedient to him and their gov13 ernors : But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall

he prolong [his) days, (which are] as a shadow ; because he feareth not before God : plainly implying that there is a happiness in reserve for every good man ; in comparison with which, a hun

dred years of prosperity enjoyed by a sinner, are not worth men14 tioning : but they see not this distinction made at present. There

is a vanity which is done upon the earth; that there be just [men,) unto 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 ; just men are reproached, onpressed, and persecuted, and the wicked live in ease, aflüo ence, and splendor : I said that this also [is) vanity.

* As eastern execntions were done speedily, perhaps this may intimate, that if God's judgments were as speedy as sheirs, they would not dare cu act as they do.

15 Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better

thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry : for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun; it is better to enjoy the good things of life in the fear of God, than to torment ourselves with the fear of losing them, or to pretend to accotint for many dis

pensations of Providence. 16 When I applied mine heart to know wisdom, and to see the

business that is dorre upon the earth : (for also there is that] neither day nor night seeth sleep with his eyes;) to expound this

mystery of Providence, I was as diligent and solicitous as those 17 men are to get wealth who allow no steep to their eyes : Then I

beheld all the work of God, that a man cannot find out the work

that is done under the sun : because though a man labour to 1 seek [it] out, yet he shall not find (it ;] yea, further ; though a

wise (man) think to know [it,] yet shall he not be able to find [it ;] therefore let us not disquiet ourselves about it, but cheerfully acquiesce in the divine government.


[ocr errors]

1. F we desire to be easy and happy, we must honour the king, the administration. No argument can be drawn from this charge, for passive obedience, though many commentators have attempted it. We are many of us under the obligation of the oath of God, and all are obliged to allegiance, as being born subjects of the kingdom, and enjoying the protection of the government. Let us then be subject not for wrath only, but for conscience sake : and if we would not be afraid of the power, let us do that which is good.

2. It is a point of great wisdom in every circumstance and station of life, to attend to times and seasons, and embrace proper opportunities for doing good. This is an important maxim, not only for courtiers but for all of us. Whence is it that man's misery is so great upon him, but because he is rash and thoughtless, will not look before him, and watch opportunities of honestly mending his circumstances and retrieving his errors ; but through giddiness or duiness suffers them to slip ? Hence also is, that men fall into great and endless misery in the other world ; because they will not hear God's voice today, and redeem their time. Let us then mind this wisdom, because time is short, death is at the door, and there is no discharge in that war.

3. How sad is it to abuse the patience and goodness of God! What Solomon says of wicked princes, is true of other wicked men, v. ll. They know God has passed sentence upon them for their iniquities ; but because his patience bears long with them, they grow hardened, and sin the more. Yet the sentence will be executed ; and though they live ever so long and prosperously, it shali be ill with them. May the goodness of God then lead us to repentance, and his long suffering be to us salvation.

4. We are here taught our duty amidst the mysterious conduct of Providence. We see good men afflicted, and wicked men prose perous ; we should not therefore fret or disquiet ourselves about it, but enjoy the good things of life with thankfulness, cheerfulness, and charity. Let us not puzzle ourselves in endeavouring to account for this, for the attempt will be vain ; it is God's ordering, who is infinitely wise and good, and the justice, beauty, and propriety of these seeming irregularities will appear at last. When difficulties therefore occur which we cannot solve, let us always remember, abide by, and act upon this thought, Surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him, v. 12.



Solomon having in a former chaffter made some observations on the.

unequal distribution of good and evil, he here directs us what our | conduct should be amidst these mysteries of Providence. 1

YOR all this I considered in my heart even to declare

all this, that the righteous and the wise, and their works, [are) in the hand of God; are under his conduct and protection, he orders their affairs in the wisest and kindest manner; there. fore we should not complain, but cheerfully refer events to his disposal : nevertheless no man knoweth either love or hatred (by)

all(that is] before them; it does not appear at present whether God 2 loves or hates them. All [things come) alike to all : (there

is) one event to the righteous, and to the wicked ; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean ; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not : as [is] the good, so [is] the

sinner ; [and] he that sweareth, as (he) that feareth an oath. 3 This [is] an evil among all (things] that are done under the

sun, that there is) one event unto all ; this has been a great perplexity to my mind, and a strong temptation : yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness (is) in their heart while they live, and after that they go] to the dead ; they en

courage themselves in a course of wickedness, and 80 hasten their 4 own death.* For to him that is joined to all the living there is

hope that they may be recovered from their calamiious state ; for a living dog is better than a dead lion ; a living man, in the low.

est circumstances, is more serviceable to the world than the greatest 5 prince when dead. For the living know that they shall die, are

capable of considering and improving the thoughts of death : but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a ree

ward ; for the memory of them is forgotten ; they are incapa. 6 ble of any thing, and soon forgolten. Also their love, and their

Some suppose the following verses to be the observations of an epicure, who took os. casion to declare his disblief of a future state ; but I take them to be Solomon's words, speaking only of the present life. Vol. V.


hatred, and their envy, is now perished ; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any [thing] that is done under the

sun ; no one seeks their favour, or fears their displeasure : there. 7 fore Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine

with a merry heart ; for God now accepreth thy works : as far as this mortal life is in question, instead of indulging anxiety, and puzzling thyself with intricate questions, endeavour to live in a

cheerful manner; for if thou art one that feareth God, he accepteth 8 thee, and would have thee be joyful. Let thy garments be always

white, neither be sordid nor sad ; and let thy head lack no oint

ment ; let thy appearance be as pleasant as it innocently may. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest, all the days of the

life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity ; this is repeated to remind us that we are not to expect complete satisfaction, but to make the most we can of every relation, to sweeten the troubles of life : for that [is] thy portion in [this] life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun ; yet indulge not in pleasures 80 far as to become

slothful and dissolule, but attend to the proper business of life. IÒ Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do [it] with thy might ; for

[there is) no work, nor deviee, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest ; do not presume too much on your own wisdom, industry, and power, nor yet neglect every proper ex

ertion of them, 31 I returned and 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, or preferment, to men of skill ; but time and chance, or occurrences, (1 Kings v. 4.) happeneth to them all ; sudden accidents

start up in which all a man's cunning, valour, strength, and infu12 ence, are ineffectual. For man also knoweth not his time : as

the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare ; so (are) the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them ; they do not foresee the evils that may come, or the day of their death ; both may come suddenly : yet we are not to neglect prudent precautions.

This wisdom have I seen also under the sun, and it (seemed) 14 great unto me : [There was) a little city, and few men within

it ; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and 15 built great bulwarks against it: Now there was found in it a

poor wise man, and he by his wisdom, by some wise counsel or

stratagem, delivered the city ; yet no man remembered that 16 same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom (is) better than strength:

nevertheless, the poor man's wisdom (is) despised, and his words are not heard ; such is the folly and ingratitude of men, that

they pay more regard to external appearances than 10 wisdom; yet 17 this instance shows that wisdom is the principal thing, for The

words of wise (men are] heard in quiet more than the cry of him that ruleth among fools ; his words, delivered calmly and without ostentation, are more regarded than the noise of an inso


« PreviousContinue »