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highest honour, that is not under its influence, is so far from securing happiness, that it is an occasion of abounding wickedness; leaving one man to prove a demon and wolf to another, and to use his power, like lions and bears, to injure and devour all within his reach. This wickedness is aggravated by its being committed under the pretence of God's ordinance. Magistracy and courts of justice were erected by his appointment to be sanctuaries and places of refuge, to which injured innocency might repair for succour and relief; but for those, whose office it was to comfort and help the poor and oppressed, to be themselves, through bribery, partiality, and injustice, the greatest oppressors, so as to convert the very tribunals of judgment into slaughter-houses ; this was a great vanity amongst men, and a strong temptation, sufficient to shake a poor person's comfortable waiting on the providence of the Most High..
We here note, first, that power, without piety, is very apt to degenerate into cruelty and oppression. It is an unwieldy and wilful thing, that wants much balance of humility and self-denial to temper and allay it, Isai. i. 21–23. and x. 13, 14; Jer. xxii. 14, 17; Mic. ii. 9, 10, 11; Hab. i. 13, 14; Ezek. xxii. 25. Secondly, that it is the height of impiety ta
derive power and advantage from any ordinance of God to commit injustice, Isai. v. 20; 1 Sam. ii. 17; Jer. xxiii. 25, 28, and ch. xiy. 14, 15; 1 Kings xxii. 11, 12, 24; John xix. 10; Isai. xxxvi. 10; Mal. i. 7; Mat. xxi. 12, 13." And the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.” This is a repetition of the former assertion, common in Scripture ; by which may be intimated how usual it was in places of judgment, here and there, in one as well as another,
17. 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 is the decision which Solomon passes upon this vanity; that though power oppresses, and the poor are oppressed, yet this ought not to discourage good men from contentedly waiting on the providence of God, nor encourage and embolden wicked men in their tyranries and oppressions, because the Lord will in due time review all again, and pass a righteous judgment upon the one and the other." I said in mine heart,” I comforted my heart against this vanity- " God will judge the righteous,” by a sentence of absolution
“and the wicked,” by a sentence of condemnation " for there is a time there," i. e. with God, in the judgment to come. The antece. dent is to be understood in the relative, as Numb. vii. 89. him for God ; Esth. ix. 25. she for Esther; Ps. cxiv. 2. his sanctuary, for God's sanctuary; Job i. 21. naked shall I return thither, namely, to the earth.
Here we see, first, that faith can look on the pride and power of wicked men, when they are in the height of their greatness, as a very vain thing, Job v. 3; Ps. xcii. 7; xxxix. 5; and xxxvii. 10, 20, 35, 36; Hab. ii. 7; Luke xii. 20. Secondly, that it may administer comfort to those who are oppressed, that the Lord will rejudge their cause, and maintain their right against their persecutors. On this account they ought patiently to wait on him, and to expect a happy issue out of their trou. bles, Eccles. v. 8; Jam. v. 7 ; Ps. vii. 6, 7, 8, 9, 11. and ix. 4, 9. Thirdly, that there is a prefixed time, beyond which God will no longer suffer innocency to be injured, nor tyranny to prevail ; and that in submitting to his time of restitution, he will certainly come, when the wicked have filled up the measure of their ini. quities, Acts xvii. 31 ; Ps. xxxvii. 13; Hab. ii. 3; Isai. v.5—7.
18. I said in my heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.
" I said in my heart, concerning the estate of the sons of men;" concerning the order, condition, manner of men, or concerning themselves, as Ps. cxi. 4; Eccles. viii. 2; or concerning the degrees of men, superiors and inferiors " that God might inanifest them.” I saw that man being in power, did not, oould not, rightly consider his own frail condition, and, therefore, that God must make a disco very to themselves, in his righteous judgments, or by his word, of their own constitution, and make them know their natural vileness ; that, in external circumstances, they are but as the beasts that perish, Ps. xlix. 20 ; as Ps. Ixxxii. 6, 7. Ye are gods by office, but ye shall die like men: so here, ye are men by reason, by power, by dignity, but ye shall die like beasts. Others suppose the sense to be, That they might clear or justify God when he judgeth them, and shall make them see that they lived like beasts, Ps. li. 4: or, that God indeed has chosen and advanced them to dignity; but by what is seen, and is outwardly manifested of them, they are, by their cruelty and injustice, no better than beasts, as Mic. ïïi. 3 ; Zeph. iii. 3.-" That they themselves are beasts.” Heb. a beast; or that these are as a beast to those, or as a beast one to another; the singular number is put collectively: they act the part of all kinds of hurtful beasts one towards another : 80 Christ called Herod a fox, Luke xiii. 32 ; and the hypocritical Jews, vipers, Luke; see Ps.xxii. 12, 16; x. 9; and lvii. 4; 2 Tim. iv. 7; Ps. Ixxx. 13; Ezek. xxii. 27 ; Jer. v.6; Ps. Ixviii. 30; Amos iv. 1; Mat. vii. 6; 2 Pet. ii. 22; Ezek. ï. 6. Some render these words, “ concerning the estate of the sons of men,” by secundum rationem humanam; and hence infer, that Solomon speaks here according to the judgment of carnal and corrupt reason, and, under a prosopopeia, delivers the sentiment of atheists and epicures, respecting the mortality of the soul, and the total parity of condition between men and beasts in their dissolution; whose principles lead them to pursue all kinds of violence, oppression, and luxury: and so they understand all that follows to the end of this chapter, as spoken in the person of an epicure and atheist; namely, that the same events happen to man and beast: that their origin, matter, and end, are the same: that their senses, breath, and notions are the same: that their soul is alike earthly, for who knows that