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“ This also is vanity,” &c.; namely, for a wicked man to labour for others, whom he nei. ther loves nor wishes to benefit.
Here we see, first, that goodness consists in approving ourselves to God. Secondly, that sweet and perfect content is peculiar to good
Thirdly, that wisdom and skill to acquire riches, and then to use them, are the gift of God, Deut. viii. 18. Fourthly, that pious persons are the only proper subjects of true joy, Gal. v. 22. Fifthly, that in addition to other curses, wicked men are often punished by being given up to the insatiable desires of their covetous hearts, to weary themselves in gathering wealth without any advantage to themselves, Eccles. iv. 8. Sixthly, that Providence often disposes of the labours of the wicked for the use and benefit of the godly.
Tue wise man proceeds in discovering the vanity of the things of the world, and of the toil and labour employed about them, from the total uncertainty of future events, which have their entire dependance, not on the anx. ious care and thoughts of mankind, but on the predeterminate purpose of God. Since, therefore, a man cannot alter their series and contexture, he ought contentedly to enjoy his condition in the fear of the Lord, and depend on his providence, which he cannot prevent, and from whose power he cannot escape. But whilst he is allowed cheerfully to partake of present blessings, he must not suffer his heart to be glued to them, nor build his chief hopes upon them, because they are subject to unavoidable variations and uncertainties. So that the doctrine of the ten first verses of this chapter appears to be, first, an argument enforcing his former counsel, ch. ii. 24; that since there is a prefixed season for the most contingent events, and it is not in our power, by all our thoughts, counsel, and care, to break through the limits of God's providence in guiding them, our wisest way is to yield ourselves unto him, to depend upon his counsel and provision, to be content with what he gives, and not to disquiet ourselves with the apprehensions or hopes of such things as are entirely out of the reach of our own wisdom or controul. Secondly, a caution in the use of outward comforts, ever to remember, that they are mutable, subject to decay and deprivation ; and not to be offended, if we have not always our desires, nor enjoy them in so constant a tenour of success as we could have wished. Thirdly, a further observation of vanity in outward things, and in the various actions of other men, such as he had before discovered in his own labours.
1. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.
“To every thing there is a season ;” a predeterminate and an appointed time: so it is used, Esth. ix. 31; Ezra x. 14; Nehem. xiii: 31.-" To every purpose;" to voluntary and contingent events, which seem most in a man's own power : yet these are overruled, as to their beginning, duration, and ending, by the providence of God. To every purposed business; hence note, first, that all human events, natural or contingent, voluntary or fortuitous, are all of them entirely limited and bounded by Divine Providence, Ps. xxxi. 15; Job xix. 14; Acts xvii. 26. Thus we read of a time of wrath, Ps. xxxvii. 13; Ezek. vii. 7; Hosea v. 7; Isai. xl. 2: a time of love, Ezek. xvi. 8; 2 Cor. vi. 2: a time to work, John ij. 4. and ix. 4: a time to suffer, John vij. 30 ; viii. 20; xiii. 1 ; and xvii. 1. It is great wisdom to observe the providences of God in this respect, that we may properly conduct ourselves towards him, in whose hand our breath is, and whose are all our ways, 1 Chron. xii. 32 ; Luke xix. 42; Eccles, ix. 12; Jer, viii. 7. Secondly, that whatever are the thoughts or cares of men, the purposes of God must stand; no one, by. his anxious fears or contrivances, being able to improve or alter his condition. Means must be used in obedience to the Supreme Being, and in expectation of his promised blessing; but events and successes must be resigned entirely to him, Isai. xlvi. 10; Prov. xix. 21; Ps. xxxiii. 10, 11; Mat. vi. 27; Jer. x. 23. Thirdly, that all things under the sun are subject to continual changes : there are various revolutions as well as vicissitudes of events ; now one thing, and then the contrary ; that men should neither be wanton in prosperity, nor desperate in adversity, but fear before the Lord, and seek a kingdom which cannot be shaken or removed, i Cor. vij. 29–31; Prov. xxvii. 1 ; Jam. iv. 13, 14; Dan. ii. 21.
2. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted.
The wise man subjoins an induction of several particulars, obvious to general experience, by which he demonstrates the truth of this general proposition. Some of these relate to things natural, and entirely out of the power of mankind; others human and voluntary, such as are performed and directed by the skill of man; to teach us, that the most free and contingent actions are as much under the law of God's providence, and subject to his limitations, as those which are accounted most natural and necessary, 1 Kings xxii. 34 ; Isai. x. 5, 6,7; Acts iv. 27, 28. Some, again, begin with pleasant instances, and end in those which are sad; whilst others begin with sorrow, and terminate with delight : the Lord God Omnipotent so ordering the afiairs of his intelligent creatures, that sometimes they have their good days first, and afterwards their evil ; sometimes affiction first, and then deliverance, Luke xvi.