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man's soul goes upward, more than a beast's? and, therefore, it is equally just that they should live sensually, without fear or care of the future, as the beasts. But the necessity of such a sense is not apparent, since the wise man's purpose here seems to be no other than to humble the highest of men, as in the former verse, by the consideration of their being amenable to God's judgment; so in this to the 21st verse, by the evidence of their own mortal and earthly condition, in many particulars of which they agree with the brute creation: for he does not at all refer in this connection to man's immortal and heavenly condition; as, throughout this book, the scope is to shew the vanity of earthly things and of human actions, which vanity is incapable of any other remedy than the fear of God. Thus he here discovers the vanity of all the honours and labours of this life, by the equal condition which, merely in outward respects, subsists between men and beasts.
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 pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity.
" For that which befalleth the sons of men,
20. All go unto one place, all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again,
As they agree in one vital principle, so are they subject to one law of mortality, Gen. iii. 19; Job xxxiv. 15; Ps. xxii. 29. We must still remember, that he speaks of man's natural condition under the sun; as to his future condition, his body shall be raised from the dust, and brought to judgment.
21. Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth.
It is true, indeed, that there is a future happiness belonging to men, who have immortal souls, to which beasts have no right, and of which they are not capable: the soul of the one goes upward, ch. xii. 7; Luke xvi. 22; Acts vii. 59; whereas the souls of beasts perish. But it is impossible, by our senses, to discern the ascent of the one, or the descent of the other: and Solomon treats not in this book of man's future celestial felicity, but of the vanity of all outward things, unaccompanied with true piety, to satisfy us in this lower world. As to the happiness of heaven, it cannot be discerned by any natural investigation, but must be re
vealed by the word and the spirit; and after all, it doth not yet appear what we shall be, 1 Cor. ii. 9—11.
22. Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his
portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?
He repeats his former conclusion (ch. ii. 24. and iii. 13.) from these vanities : since there is so little difference in outward circumstances between a man and a beast, there is no better method of remedying this vanity, than for every one, in the fear of God, to enjoy with cheerfulness and contentment his own labour ; since that only which he thus enjoys, is his own portion; and not to trouble himself with unavailing thoughts or cares for the future. -"For who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?" If he hoard them up for others, , and deny himself the use of them, what benefit can he derive from them when he is gone? who can foretell to what purpose they shall be appropriated, or what good shall be done with them? therefore let him take the comfort of them himself before he dies, ch. v. 18.
Having demonstrated the vanity of oppresa sion and injustice in persons of eminent station and authority, who conduct themselves like beasts towards their brethren, and who must at length die like beasts, equally undesired and unlamented ; the wise king, in this chapter, points out various other vanities consequent on misgovernment and oppression, both in persons injuriously treated, whose life is a weariness to them, ver. 1, 2, 3; and in others, who on this account are subject to be envied for their industry and prosperity, ver. 4; and thence either foolishly decline all employment, ver. 5, 6; or scrape together what they can get, and live privately and alone, out of the view of the world, and remote from observation, ver. 8. This last case introduces a commendation of the advantages of society, ver. 9-12; after which he resumes the vanity of the greatest power, when it thus oppresses the people, ver. 13, 14; yea, of the most regu