« AnteriorContinuar »
can satisfy the soul, and render it happy. It is true, the works of the Lord are all great and excellent, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein, good in their kind and order, of excellent use to set forth the divine wisdom, power, goodness, and glory; and necessary to the use and service of man, 1 Tim. iv. 4, 5 : yet vain in other respects: First, comparatively vain, when put in the balance with God and heavenly things, Job xv. 15; Is, xl. 15, 16, 17. Secondly, vain, by that superinduced vanity to which they are subjected by man's transgression, Rom. viii. 20. Thirdly, vain, in order to happiness, the full possession and the most vigorous fruition of them not being capable of affording real satisfaction to the immortal soul; man himself, the noblest of them all, being “at his best state altogether vanity,” Ps. xxxix. 5, 6, 11; lxii. 9; cxliv.3, 4. They are vain, first, as to their unprofitableness, Jer. xvi. 19. Secondly, as to their falseness and deceit, Ps. xxxi. lxii. 10; Jonah ii. 8. Thirdly, as to their instability and impermanency, being under the bondage of corruption, 1 Cor. vi. 31; Ps. xxxix. 11; 2 Cor. iv. 18. And in all these respects useless to happiness: for that which is adequate to this purpose must be fully proportionate to all the wants, desires, and capacities of the soul, and of equal duration and continuance; neither of which is to be found in any worldly thing.
.“ Saith the preacher,” both by inspiration and by experience. He sets his name a second time to this proposition, which is the sum of the whole book; confidently avowing its truth, as the apostle sometimes adds his name, emphatically to confirm what he affirms or desires, 2 Cor. x. 1; Gal. v. 2; Philemon ix. 19: so 1 Peter v. 1; 1 John i. 1, 3. They who speak to the church should do it experimentally, and from demonstration of the truth to their own hearts, that they may be able confidently to own and avow what they say.
3. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
Or what remaineth and abideth with a man of all his labour? What is added to him, or what more has he by it?
" Of his labour.” The word imports toilsome and troublesome labour; and is so rendered by the Septuagint, yoxIQ; and by Aquila, xóma.
• Under the sun?” i. e. what remaineth to a man under the sun? Nothing under the sun will tarry or abide with him, or of all the labour which he hath laboured under the sun. There is a conversation and a labour in reference to things above the sun, which will remain with him and profit him, Phil. iii. 20; Col. iii. 1, 2; John vi. 27: but labour in earthly things will not do so. We are said to labour under the sun, because earthly labour is performed by the light of the sun, Ps. civ. 22, 23; John ix. 4; and because by that light we are more comforted in the enjoyment of worldly things, Eccles. xi. 7; and because the benefit we expect from our labours is wrought instrumentally by the warmth and influence of that luminary, Deut. xxxiii. 14. Here then the wise man proves his general proposition, whatsoever is unprofitable and perishing is entire vanity:all things under the sun, about which the anxious and toilsome labour of man is conversant, are unprofitable and perishing, for nothing of them will either remain or abide with him, therefore they are all vain. And this he propounds by way of interrogation, which makes the negative more unquestionable as an appeal to every man's conscience, as well as a challenge to any one to disprove it. The Scripture usually denies more emphatically by interrogation, as Gen. xxx. 2; 2 Sam. vii. 5; compared with 1 Chron. xvii. 4; Matth. xvi. 26; Zech. i. 5 : and he further insists on this point as certain and necessary, ch. ï. 11; iii. 9; v. 15. The sum is this: First, whatever fruit we have from worldly things, we get it with very hard and toilsome labour either of body or mind, Gen. iii. 17, 19; Job v. 7. Secondly, however that labour be useful and
subservient to our temporal condition, yet it is wholly unprofitable to our happiness. Thirdly, the foundation of this unprofitableness is, first, it doth not cause a man to excel; it adds nothing of real worth to him, James ji. 1, 6. Secondly, it doth not abide with him: all the comfort it brings with it is dying comfort; it stops at the grave, and extends no further. Now nothing is profitable to a man which he cannot transport beyond the grave, and carry with him into another world, Job i. 21; xxi. 21; Ps. xlix. 14, 17; John vi. 27; 1 Tim. vi. 7: those works are beneficial which follow a man, Rev. xiv. 13: therefore we must lay out our labour for a life that abides and abounds, and not labour in the fire and for mere vanity, Habak. ii. 13; Luke xii. 26; Mat. xxiv. 38, 39.
4. One generation passeth away, and another cometh; but the earth abideth for ever.
By generation is meant the time in which a body of people live and continue together : thus we read of this or that generation, Luke xxi. 32; Heb. iii. 10; and of the second, third, and tenth generation, or ages of men yet to come, Deut. xxiii. 2, 3, 8; and of a man's own generation, or the age in which he lives, Acts xiii. 36. There is a constant succession of men, a fixed time, as the days of a hireling, Job vii. 1-10. and xiv. 14. The inward principles of change and mortality are always working, and life is like a shepherd's tent, which continues not in one place or station, Isai. xxxviii. 12.
“ But the earth abideth or standeth for ever." It continues much longer than the men that are upon it: for ever often denotes a long time, so long as the present course and order of nature is to continue, Ps. cxix. 90; or as long as such an administration lasts, Gen. ix. 12; 1 Sam. ii. 30, and xiii. 13: otherwise we know that the earth is to be changed, and, in some sense at least, to pass away, as its inhabitants now do, Mat. xxiv. 35; Ps. cii. 25, 26. The words seem to contain a double sense, both consonant to the present argument: First, that man cannot be happy from any thing here below, on account of his transitory condition, fathers going, and children succeeding: a man's labour may probably enrich himself, or promote him to honour, but it cannot lengthen out his days beyond one generation; then he and all his acquirements must part: so that in this respect the earth on which he treads is in a better condition, for it abideth to the end. Secondly, man seeking happiness from the earth and earthly things, must needs be disappointed of his expectations, because he passes away, and the earth stays be