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CHAP. III.

Solomon here proceeds to describe the vanity of human wisdom ; it is

confined to a certain time of acting, which if we miss, our contrivances are vain, and the opportunity over.

i T o every [thing there is) a season, and a time to every

1 purpose under the heaven, out of which no human wisdom 2 can produce the events God hath affixed to them : A time to be

born, and a time to die ; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up 3 (that which is] planted ; A time to kill, and a time to heal ; a 4 time to break down, and a time to build up ; A time to weep,

and a time to laugh ; a time to mourn, and a time to dance ; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing ; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose ; a time to keep, and a time to

cast away ; A time to rend, and a time to sew ; a time to keep 8 silence, and a time to speak ; A time to love, and a time to

hate, that is, to break off friendship ; a time of war, and a time 9 of peace. What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he

laboureth out of the firoper season, or even in it, since there are so 10 many changes ? I have seen the travail which God hath given to

the sons of men to be exercised in it ; minding the business of life, observing the proper seasons, and submitting when disan

pointed. 11. He hath made every [thing] beautiful in his time ; there is

beauty in this variety : also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end ; there is a vast variety of things, as objects of their pursuits and studies : and God hath set it in their hearts

10 examine all his works, except whai is above their understand. 12 ing. * I know that (there is) no good in them, that is, in worldly

things, but for [a man] to rejoice, and to do good in his life ; there is no other satisfaction or felicity which a man can meet with in

worldly enjoyments but to use them with a cheerful temper, and do 13 good to o!hers with them. And also that every man should eat

and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, and lay aside distracting fears of future want, it [is] the gift of God, and should be

diligently sought and thankfully acknowledged as coming from him. 14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever : nothing

can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it : and God doeth [it,] that (men) should fear before him ; God will not vary from his purpose ; he has fixed this uncertainty to keep men in a con

stant dependence, that they may humbly submi!, and not murmur at 15 what they cannut avoid. That which hath been is now; and

that which is to be hath already been ; and God requireth that

• Some understand the passage as referring to the influence the world has uron men to make them neglect prudent consilleration ; others refer it to their continuance in the world; as if he had said, A inan that lives so short a time cannot judge of the whole of God's works.

Vol. V.

which is past ; it always has been thus, and always will be ; there. fore it is indecent to complain of the settled laws of God's creation ; and as he determines all the events of our lives, he will call

us to an account for the conduct of them. 16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment,

[that] wickedness (was) there ; and the place of righteousness, [that] iniquity (was) there ; such is the vanity of power and authority, without religion; or, as some understand it, 80 liable are

men to rapine and onpression, which lessens the value of earthly 17 comforts. I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous

and the wicked : for (there is) a time there for every purpose

and for every work ; this was the comfort I had under this vanity 18 and oppression. I said in mine heart concerning the estate of

the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts ; 0 that God would give these proud oppressors to see that they shall die, not only like men, but like beasts ; that their oppression shall last but a little

time, and that they shall not long enjoy the consequences of it. 19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts ; even

one thing befalleth them : as the one dieth, so dieth the other ; yea, they have all one breath ; so that a man hath no preemi.

nence above a beast, with regard to the body, or for the avoiding 20 of death : for all (is) vanity. All go unto one place ; all are of 21 the same dust, and all turn to that dust again. Who knoweth

the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth ? Few men, especially great men, consider seriously the difference between the human nature and

the brutal, the immortality of the one and the mortality of the other. 22 Wherefore I perceive that [there is) nothing better than that a

man should rejoice in his own works ; take the comfort of what God has given him without labouring after honour and fireferment; for that [is] his portion ; all the good he can have from them : for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him ? who can inform him what will become of them when he is gone ?

REFLECTIONS.

1. TT is comfortable among the many changes of life to think,

I that they are under the direction of an overruling Provi. dence. We live in a world full of changes ; the conditions of men are different, yet continually altering. There are many favourable circumstances in life, which it is our wisdom to observe and improve. Whatever may appear to us as casual or contingent, is determined by Providence ; we must not therefore complain of changes, troubles, and labours, for God has alloited them to us ; they are all beautiful in their season, make upon the whole an admirable scheme of Providence, and are for the good of the world.

2. We also see wherein the true enjoyment of earthly things consists. Not in eagerly pursuing or hoarding them up, but in using them with cheerfulness, and doing good with them. This is the

only good in them. They cannot make us happy themselves ; but by a wise, pious, and charitable use of them, they may contribute to it. For these ends they were given us, and to these ends they ought to be employed.

3. The end of God's government and providence, and of the variety of his dispensations, is, that we may fear before Him. They were not designed to perplex and disturb us, but to edify us, by keeping alive in our minds a sense of our constant dependence upon God. They ought to direct our thoughts to him, and engage us to pray to him for what we want, to give him thanks for what we receive, and to seek wisdom so to improve them, that they may turn to a good account at last.

4. The iniquity and oppression which there is in the world, especially in magistrates and great men, should confirm our faith in a future judgment, and lead us to Solomon's conclusion, that God will judge every purpose and every work. Let us not stumble at these disorders, but wait for the day of the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.

5. How much is it to be lamented that so few consider the immortality of their souls ! how they are distinguished from the beasts by a rational spirit, and what becomes of it after death! What pity is it that rational creatures should live like beasts, only to eat, drink, sleep, work, and play. Few live under the power of this truth, that their souls are immortal. Let us then seriously dwell upon the thought, that we may take due care of our immortal spirit.i, and lay up a good foundation against the time 10 come, and finally lay hold on eternal life.

CHAP. IV.

The preacher here shows that vanity is increased by oppression, cnry,

idlene88, covetourne88, solitariness, and wilfiulness. iCo I returned, and considered all the oppressions that are

D done under the sun, from pride, covetousness, revenge, and illnature : and behold the tears of (such as were] oppressed, and they had no comforter ; they could not help themselves, nor had any to help them ; and on the side of their oppressors

[there was] power ; but they had no comforter : and this ver. 2 ed my spirit; Wherefore I praised the dead which are already

dead more than the living which are yet alive ; I thought them

in a better condition than those who suffer by oppression, who fear 3 il, or even behold it. Yea, better [is he] than both they, which

hath not yet been, who hath not seen the evil work that is done 4 under the sun. Again, I considered all travail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour, for his pros. perily, although he ought rather to esteem him for his integrity and diligence; but there are extremes in this case to be avoided: This [is] also ranity and vexation of spirit.

5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh;

under a pretence of avoiding envy and oppression, he gives himself up to an idle disposition, till he almost starves, or becomes a prey to his uneasy passions, that do as it were devour him. The other

extreme is excessive anxiety, for 6 Better [is] an handful (with) quietness, than both the hands

full [with] travail and vexation of spirit; a little with a contented mind and a comfortable enjoyment of it, is better than ever so

much with uncusiness and discontent. 7 Then I returned, and saw vanity under the sun, in the wretch

ed case of a sordid miser, which shots the vanity of the world, and 8 that the love of wealth grows upon men. There is one (alone,]

and (there is) not a second ; yea, he hath neither child nor brother ; no body to care for but himself, no near relation : 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 ; a wicked disposition and a miserable state.

On the other hand, consider the benefits of friendship and socie. ty, of which covetousness in a great measure deprives men ; but 9 which would tend to cure that sordid disposition. Two [are) bet:

ter than one ; because they have a good reward for their la10 bour. For, if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow : but wo

to him [that is) alone when he falleth; for (he hath] not an11 other to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they 12 have heat : but how can one be warm [alone?] And if one

prevail against him, two shall withstand him ; and a three fold cord is not quickly broken ; near relations and friends may be assistants in danger, helps i'r labour, and mutual comforts 10 each other in various circumsancos of life, and especially in adversity.

But sociaty alone cannot make a man happy. Who have inore 13 about them than kings ? yet they are not always happy. Better,

that is, more happy, [is] a poor and a wise child, ihan an old and

foolish king, who will no more be admonished, whose dignity 14 and age lead him to reject good counsel. For out of prison he, the

poor wise child, cometh to reign ; though confined for debt, or in low circumstances, he is speedily advanced ; his wisdom bears him above his misfortunes, and fixes him in a considerable station ; whereas also [he that is] born in his kingdom becometh poor ; for want of prudent management, he that is born to a large estate, and is, 28 we say, a little prince, is impoverished and despised.

Another proof of the vanity of the world is, that even wise kings 15 lose the esteem of their subjects. I considered all the living which

walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in his stéad. This would be better rendered, 'I have seen all the living

under the sun going with the child that is second, that is, the heir 16 apparent to the crown. [There is) no end of all the people,

Teven] of all that have been before them; the number of all the people, even of all that have been before him, is without end : they. also that come after shall not rejoice in him ; though vasi

crouds attend his levees, the time will come when this young man shall see himself neglected, as his father was. Surely this also (is) vanity and vexation of spirit : therefore happiness is not to be found in royal poinn, grandeur, and attendants. Solomon might speak this feelingly : it must have been very mortifying to see his courtiers leaving him, and crouding after such a fool as Rehoboam was.

REFLECTIONS.

1. THE many oppressions which are in the world, are very dis

T tressing to a pious, compassionate heart. Let us bless God that we are not under public oppression by tyrannical princes and cruel judges ; though there is a great deal in private life : many servants and workmen are oppressed by cruel masters, and tenants by their landlords. There are few to pity them, and fewer still to redress them. Let us lament such scenes, and carefully avoid such a detestable character; and appear as far as we can, the comforters of those that are oppressed.

2. How malevolent and wretched is that spirit which leads men to envy those who prosper more than themselves! When honest men tako pains, deal honourably, and meet with success, their neighbours, especially their brother tradesmen, and some who are in plentiful circumstances too, will envy them, misrepresent them, injure them by false suggestions, vile insinuations and endeavours to lessen their reputation and undermine their interests. This is a most wicked disposition, and yet very common. A man of true charity and christian love is glad to see his neighbour thrive, and takes pleasure in his prosperity.

3. We see of what an insinuating, growing nature, the love of money is, which should make us careful to guard against it. One wouid scarcely believe, if one had not seen it, that there are persons in plentiful circumstances, who have no near relations dependent upon them, yet are continually slaving; are not content with their own business, but keep pushing into that of any others where there is profit ; who have no other pleasure but that of seeing their money, and thinking how much they are worth. They have no excuse for this avarice, and have no good from it. May we therefore beware of the love of money, which increaseth dreadfully in the heart which indulges it ; and remember that labouring incessantly to hoard up wealth, is robbing the soul of good at present, and drowning it in future perdition.

4. The benefit and comfort of society should lead us to cultivate social and kind affections. There are noble helps and comforts from it in almost every circumstance of life. Let us then labour to gain and keep friends; and in order to this show ourselves friendly. This temper should be carried with us into religion ; there we shall find the benefit of pious friendship and religious associations ; and by strengthening one another's hands in God and provoking one another to love and to good works, we shall have great assist.

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