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future, but rather comfortably enjoy present supplies, and in a conscientious discharge of duty, rely on the same providence and blessing of God throughout futurity, as they have hitherto so largely experienced, Ps. xxxiii. 11, 13, 14, 15; 1 Sam. ii. 7, 8; Acts ii. 23. and iv. 28. _" And it is known that it is man :” however wealthy or honourable, yet he is the same frail, mortal, mutable, earthly creature, as he was before; and though some men hare been so mad and intoxicated with worldly greatness, as to take divine honours to themselves, as well as to suppose themselves elevated above all laws, and exempted from the restraints and obliga. tions of their inferiors; yet it is known, and visible, that they still are but men, and so God. will ultinately make them manifest to be so to themselves, Ps. ix. 20 ; Ezek. xxviii. 6–9; Isai. ii. 22. and xxxi. 3 ; Dan. iv, 28, 33 ; Acts xii. 21-23.-“ Neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he:" he cannot implead God, nor enter an action or suit in judgment with him; he cannot call him to account, nor must he think by contending with omnipotence, to alter, or break through, the order of his providence and decrees, Isai, xlv. 9; Job ix. 2, 3, 12; Jer. 1. 44; Job iv. 17 ; Rom. ix. 20; Ps. li. 4; 1 Cor. x. 22 ; Ezek. xxii. 14; Ps. xxxiij. 10, 11; Job xxxiv. 23.
11. Seeing there be many things that increase vanity, what is man the better?
This is generally understood as a further argument against insatiable desires of wealth : because where they are multiplied, their increase only increases vanity: more cares, distractions, fears, troubles, and employments, being the concomitants of great abundance ; and yet the possessor is neither better nor happier than he was before. He was fed and clothed then ; and he has no superior real advantage from them now. Can he carry any of them away with him ? Can he ascertain any more excellency in them? Will any greater profit remain to him, than his own portion and comfortable accommodations by them! But I rather conceive these words to be a solemn conclusion of all the former discoveries of vanity in the creature, and the repetition of what he summarily declared, ch. i. 3. It was there laid down as the proposition which he undertook to demonstrate ; and hav. ing demonstrated it, it is here resumed in the close of the discourse, and the whole result comprehended in one brief recapitulation : Seeing there are so many things, wisdom, folly, pleasures, honours, crowns, and riches, that increase vanity, what is man the better, as to
real contentment and solid happiness, for any or for all of them ?
12. For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun ?
" For who knoweth what is good for man in this life?” Amongst such variety of things under the sun, towards which the heart of man is apt to be attracted, neither can he inform himself, nor any other point out to him, which of all these is best for him to enjoy, and will most contribute to his comfort and happiness. No one can ascertain whether it be better for him to be rich or poor, in a high or low cona dition, in retirement, or in public service, The greatness of some has undone them; the meanness of others has secured them, 2 Kings xxv. 9, 12. Some persons.would not have been so wicked, if they had not been so learned ; others would not have been so vicious, if great wealth had not been as fuel to excite and feed their lusts. Ahitophel might have lived longer with less wisdom, and Nabel with less wealth, - Who can tell whether that which, like the silly fish, he snatches with most greediness, and
with the highest expectation of contentment, may not be tempered with poison, or have a hook under it, and thus be the occasion of his greater misery, Rom. i. 22 ; 2 Pet. ii. 18, 19; Rom. vi. 21 ; Prov. i. 13, 18, 19.-" All the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow?” If by chance, rather than by choice, he happens to take that way and course which was best for him ; yet his very life, the best of all outward blessings, is in itself but a mere vanity and shadow. In a little while he must part with it, and with all those comforts which rendered it peaceable and cheerful. A very appropriate description of the shortness of man's life, and of the entire number of the days of his vanity, which he spendeth as a shadow. First, he calls them days, not years. Secondly, days that may be numbered, which intimates their few. ness, as Job xvi. 22; Isai. x. 19; Ps. cv. 12; Numb. ix. Thirdly, a life of vanity is a very vain life: the substantive for the adjective, as Ps. xxxi. 3 ; Ixviii. 31 ; and cxl. 12; Rom. vii. 24; Ephes. iv. 24; Phil. iii. 21. Fourthly, a life spent like a shadow, that possesses little substance whilst it lasts, and soon vanishes away, Ps. xxxix. 6. and cxliv. 4 ; Job xiv. 2; Jam. iv. 14 ; Job viii. 9.4" For who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun ?” As he can have little satisfaction from external things here below, in his own abode upon earth, so he can promise himself as little for his name and family, when he is departed; because he cannot foresee, or foreknow, future and contingent events, ch. ii. 18, 19.