Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

copered some ill qualities, and quickly decay; [but) a woman [that] feareth the LORD, she shall be praised;

she will receive fincere and warm commendations from all 31 that know her. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and

let her own works praise her in the gates; while others have the praise of nobility, fortune, or beauty, she will be commended in the most numerous assemblies, for qualities and endowments infinitely more excellent and useful. Upon the whole, this is a most amiable description: it shows the women what, wives they fould be, and the men what wives they sbould choose. We have reason to lament that the general method of female education, and the manners of so many women are so contrary to this description, and that there is so little domestick virtue in many modern wives. Those whom providence has favoured with wives that answer to this defcription in the most important branches of it, can never be suficiently thankful.

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

ECCLESIASTES, t Or, The PREACHER.

IN TRODUCTION.

. THE defign of this book is to show men wherein true happi

ness confifts, and to guard them against feeking it in thoje things in which it is not to be found : it is generally supposed to have been written by Solomon in his old age. Some parts of it are rather obfeure; and it is difficult to enter into his reafoning, thoo his general scheme and practical design are very apparent.

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER 1. HE words of the Preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem. Vanity of vanities, faith

the Preacher; vanity of vanities, all [is] vanity, that is, all that relates only to this life. This is the text of his fermon, and the issue of his large enquiry; it is absolutely vain; he could not express it more emphatically than by saying, it is vainer than vanity itself; utterly infufficient to procure solid fatisfa&tion and durable happiness. 3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh

under the fun ? he can find very little true fatisfaction in all his pains about earthly things, and none at all considered in themselves. He argues this from the sbortness of human

life in general, which he illuftrates by the continual changes 4 which we behold in the natural world. [One) generation

passeth away, and (another] generation cometh ; but

the earth abideth for ever, or, as some woteld render it, 5 for an uncertain, indeterminate time. The sun also arifeth,

and the sun goeth down, and hafteth to his place where 6 he arose. The wind goeth toward the south, and turn

eth about unto the north; it whirleth about continu.

ally, and the wind returneth again according to his 7 circuits. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea

[is]

H 3

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[is] not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again; and thus do the generations of men revolve with very little variety, and never rejt in a settled condition, but gradually wear away and vanish.

But tho' life should be long, there would be little satisfaction 8 in it, for All things (are] full of labour; man cannot Kutter (it,] cannot sufficiently express how tedious life is ; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing; man's desires are boundless, still seeking after new obječts, and yet not heartily acquiescing in any. Nor is

any thing better to be expected from new discoveries, since 9 The thing that hath been, it is that] which shall be;

and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: jo and (there is] no new [thing) under the sun. Is there

(any) thing whereof it may be faid, See, this [is]
ney? it hatḥ been already of old time, which was be-
fore us. This is not a universal proposition ; nevertheless many
of the things we value ourselves upon as new discoveries, were
known to former ages; and men's labours and enjoyments are
the fame in general now as formerly. No new expedient can

be found out to secure the happiness of mankind in earthly It things. [There is) no remembrance of former [things;]

neither shall there be (any) remembrance of [things] that are to come with (those] that shall come after; the names and memories of the inventors of many things are loft, so will the names and memory of their succesors: their inventions did not answer their expectation, they still complained of vanity, and so shall we. In the rest of the chapter the preacher shows the vanity of human wisdom and learning;

and its insufficiency to make men happy; thoit bids faireft 12

0 over Israel in Jerusalem; I was in circumstances which 13 gave me every advantage for pursuing knowledge: And I

gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all (things] that are done under heaven :- this fore travel hath God given to the fons of man to be

exercised therewith; the must search for knowledge with 14 great labour, and obtain it by flow degrees." I have seen

all the works of this kind that are done under the sun; and, behold, all [is] vanity and vexation of spirit; we

know

know little, and that little is not of much service to us. 15 [That which is ] crooked cannot be made straight: and

that which is wanting cannot be numbered; there are

many things uneasy and disagreeable in life, which all the wit 16 and wisdom of men cannot fully re&tify. I communed with

mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all (they] that have been before me in Jerusalem : yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge; the distinguished

circumstances in which God hath placed me, gave me greater 17 advantages for searching into wisdom than others. And I

gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly; I applied my mind closely to search into the nature and reason of things, the causes and effeets of men's fol

lies and vices; and here likewise I found disappointment, P 18 perceived that this also is vexation of spirit. For in

much wisdom, or speculative knowledge, [is] much grief; there is a great deal of trouble in getting, pursuing, and keeping it: and he that increaseth knowledge incréaseth forrow; the more he knows, the clearer views he has of the vanity of human life; and the more vexation he will find, unless his knowledge be improved to religious purposes. Besides attending to the general purport and design of this book, there are particular passages that may afford us fome useful instructions.

REFLECTIONS

1.

W

E here see, that it is no dishonour to the wiseft

and best of men to be preachers, but much to their glory; for Solomon, fo renowned for wisdom, wealth, and dignity, assumes this character. This should teach us, that it is every man's duty to employ what talents God gives him, for the instruction and reformation of the world, and that those especially to whom God has given peculiar wisdom, should communicate it to others for their edification. If they have rank, wealth, and infuence, these may help to recommend their instructions, and add weight to all the advice they give. 2. The abilities and circumstances of Solomon fhould H 4*

engage

engage our peculiar attention to what he says, especially about the vanity of the world. He was the wiseft, the richest, and the greatest of men ; of all men that ever lived, he had the greatest advantage for making the experiment; the result of which, he in this book informs us. It was the issue of a deliberate judgment, founded upon close enquiry and large experience, and therefore worthy of our highest regard.

3. Let us endeavour to impress our hearts with the changeable nature of all earthly things. This is Solomon's first and strongest proof of their vanity. All nature is in continual fluctuation.' Generation after generation passeth off ; men are engaged in the same pursuits as their ancestors ; the fame follies are acted over and over again. Old arts are recovered ; old fashions restored; the disorders, corruptions, and complaints of every age are much the fame. Let this therefore abate our pride in our own discoveries and attainments; restrain the folly of despising former ages ; and teach us particularly, that what is so changeable can never afford fubftantial happiness to an immortal spirit.

4. The vanity of speculative knowledge should teach us to pursue that which is practical, useful, and satisfactory. Solomon's design is not to discourage us from pursuing knowledge. It has its difficulties, arising in a great measure from our wrong choice; but it has its pleasures too. Those whose business in life it is to increase in speculative knowledge, as subservient to something better, feel the truth of Solomon's observation, v. 18. in much wisdom is much grief ; and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow : but never more sensibly, than when they meet with ill returns from those for whose service they pursue it; and with the best returns they find little fatisfactory in it. May we all therefore,' those of us especially who have little time for reading and study, apply our minds chiefly to that which will makeous wife to salvation. He that increaseth in the knowledge of God and divine things, will increase in joy; and find in the end that this is life eternal, to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom her

[ocr errors]

hath sent.

CH A P.

« AnteriorContinuar »