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5 The fool foldeth his hands together, and eateth his own flesh i under a pretence of avoiding envy and oppression, he gives himself up to an idle disposition, till he almost starves, or becomes a prey to his uneasy fuissiens, that do as it were devour him. The other extreme is excessive anxiety, for
6 Better [is] an handful [with] quietness, than both the hands full [with] travail and vexation of spirit; a little with a contented mind and a comfortable enjoyment of it, is better than ever so much with uneasiness and discontent.
? Then I returned, and saw vanity under the sun, in the wretched case of a sordid miser, which shows the vanity of the world, and
8 that the love of wealth grows upon men. There is one [alone,] and [there is] not a second; yea, he hath neither child nor brother; no body to care for but himself, 110 near relation; yet [is there] no end of all his labour; neither is his eye satisfied with riches; neither [saith he,] For whom do I labour, and bereave my soul of good? This [is] also vanity, yea, it [is] a sore travail; a wicked disposition and a miserable state.
On the other hand, consider the benefits of friendship and socicty, of which covetousness in a great measure deprives men; but
9 which would tend to cure that sordid disposition. Two [are] better than one; because they have a good reward for their la
10 hour. For, if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow : but wo to him [that is] alone when he falleth; for [he hath] not an
11 other to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then th*y
12 have heat: but how can one be warm [alone ?] And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him and a three fold ccj'd is not quickly broken; near relations and friends may be assistants in danger, help'' i i labour, and mutual comforts to each other in various circumsanas of life, and especially in adversity.
But society alone cannot make a man happy. Who have more
13 about them than kings? yet they are not always happy. Better, that is, more happy, [is] a poor and a wise child, than an old and foolish king, who will no more be admonished, whose dignity
14 and age lead him to reject good counsel. For out of prison he, the poor wise child, cometh to reign; though confined for debt, or in low circumstances, he is speedily advanced; his wisdom bears him above his misfortunes, and fixes him in a considerable station; whereas also [he that is] born in his kingdom becomcth poor; for want of prudent management, he that is born to a large estate, and is, as we say, a little prince, is impoverished and despised. Another proof of the vanity of the world is, that even wise kings
15 lose the esteem of their subjects. I considered all the living which walk under the sun, with the second child that shall stand up in liis stead. This would be better rendered, ' J have seen all the hving under the sun going with the child that is second,' that is, the heir
16 apparent to the crown. [There is] no end of all the people, [even] of all that have been before them ; the number of all the people, even of all that have been before him, is without end: they also that come after shall not rejoice in him; though vast crouds attend his levees, the time will come when this young man shall see himself neglected, as his father was. Surely this also [is] vanity and vexation of spirit: therefore hafifiiness is not to be found in royal lwinfi, grandeur, and attendants. Solomon might sfitak this feelingly: it must have been very mortifying to see hit courtiers leaving him, and crouding after such a fool as ReAoba* am was.
1. r I MI E many oppressions which are in the world, are very disX tressing to a pious, compassionate heart. Let us bless God that we are not under public oppression by tyrannical princes and cruel judges; though there is a great deal in private life; many servants and workmen are oppressed by cruel masters, and tenants by their landlords. There are few to pity them, and fewer still to redress them. Let us lament such scenes, and carefully avoid such a detestable character; and appear as far as we can, the comforters of those that are oppressed.
2. How malevolent and wretched is that spirit which leads men to envy those who prosper more than themselves 1 When honest men take pains, deal honourably, and meet with success, their neighbours, especially their brother tradesmen, and some who arc in plentiful circumstances too, will envy them, misrepresent them, injure them by false suggestions, vile insinuations and endeavours to lessen their reputation and undermine their interests. This is a most wicked disposition, and yet very common. A man of true charity and christian love is glad to see his neighbour thrive, and takes pleasure in his prosperity.
3. We see of what an insinuating, growing nature, the love of money is, which should make us careful to guard against it. One would scarcely believe, if one had not seen it, that there are persons in plentiful circumstances, who have no near relations dependent upon them, yet are continually slaving; are not content with their own business, but keep pushing into that of any others where there is profit; who have no other pleasure but that of seeing their money, and thinking how much they are worth. They have no excuse for this avarice, and have no good from it. May we therefore beware of the love of money, which increaseth dreadfully in the heart which indulges it; and remember that labouring incessantly to hoard up wealth, is robbing the soul of good at present, and drowning it in future perdition.
4. The benefit and comfort of society should lead us to cultivate social and kind affections. There are noble helps and comforts from it in almost every circumstance of life. Let us then labour to gain and keep friends; and in order to this show ourselvesfriendly. This temper should be carried with us into religion; there we shall find the benefit of pious friendship and religious associations; and by strengthening one another's lands in <7ot/and firovoking one another to love anal to good works, we shall have great assistancc in the attack of spiritual enemies; and the body of Christ Will be edified, while the members are knit together in love.
5. We learn, that to be unwilling to be admonished, is one of the worst and most contemptible of characters. A wise child, an humble, teachable person, is much more worthy and honourable than a conceited obstinate old king, with all the dignity that his crown and age could give him. This is often the case of the rich and great; it is often the case of the aged ; they think themselves above admonition, especially if those who give it are poorer or younger than themselves. Those who need admonition most, bear it worst. But let us show that we are wise (at least not incorrigible fools) by receiving admonition calmly and thankfully, and setting ourselves to correct our errors, and go on to perfection.
Solomon har-btg described the vanity of the ivorld in many instances^ and hinted that religion was the only antidote against it, here proceeds. to caution against those errors in religion into which men are ready to fall; and then returns to the vanity of power and wealth.
1 ~Y£ EEP thy foot when thou goest to the house of God; con-L\. sider what thou art going about, and behave in the most reverent manner; do not run hastily and rashly into the divine presrnce ;• and be more ready to hear, to be instructed in his will, and to obey it, than to give the sacrifice of fools, such Sacrifices at wicked men frequently offer: for they consider not that they do evil ; they do not consider that while they go on in wicked courses, or worship in an indecent manner, they are adding to their guilt.
2 Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter rjany] thing before God by way of prayer or vow: for God [is] in heaven, and thou upon earth, he is highly exalted above thee: therefore let thy words be few, that is, well conddered.
3 For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool's voice [is known] by multitude of words ; as a multitude of business occasions confused dreams, so in multitudes of words men are led to say vain and foolish things before they arc aware.
4 When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it ; for [he hath] no pleasure in fools; he is highly displeased with them: pay that which thou hast vowed, for God is not to be jested with.
5 Better [is it] that thou shouldst not vow, than that thou shouldst vow and not pay ; the one being only a neglect, the other a direct
6 contempt of the divine majesty. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin ; da not entangle thyself with a needless vow, which the frailty of human nature may lead thee to break ;t nei
• Here is an allusion to the pwtcm caitnm or pitting off" the shoe in token of reverence; as putting off-the tut. and uncovering the head is among us.
+ Absolute vows against m^rrh^e. certain foot!, or recreations, are to he avoided ; for bv brr.ikiny, the vow tUo^t tilings ai«y btcomc sinful which in tluir uwn nature are indiHc rcut.
ther say thou before the angel, to the priest, when thou bringest a sacrifice, or the angels that are present at divine worship, that it [was] an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? This is offensive to God, 7 and tends to bring a curse on what thou doest. For in the multitude of dreams and many words [there are] also [divers] vanities; many words uttered in a solemn manner without due consideration, as vows or prayers, are as vain as dreams: but fear thou God ; reverence his presence and majesty, and do not offend him by thy rashness.
S If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for [he that is] higher than the highest regardeth; and [there be] higher than they; there is one higher than the oppressors, who will punish them for it.
9 Moreover the profit of the earth is for all; another reason against covetousness; the necessaries of life are easily obtained; vegetable nature supplies the whole animal world, and all men, even the greatest, yea, the king [himself] is served by the field.
10 He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; he will never think he has enough; nor he that loveth abundance with
11 increase: this [is] also vanity. When goods increase, they are increased that eat them; there is a larger family and retinue, and therefore more exptnse; and others enjoy his wealth as much as he: and what good [is there] to the owners thereof, saving
12 the beholding [of them] with their eyes. The sleep of a labouring man [is] sweet, whether he eat little or much : but the abundance of the rich will not suffer him to sleep; it brings cares which counterbalance the satisfaction it affords, and which
13 often prevent his repose. There is a sore evil [which] I have seen under the sun, [namely,] riches kept for the owners thereof to their hurt; the rich are sometimes marked out as objects of oppression and ruin in arbitrary countries, and anxiety often deli strays their health, their peace, and their souls. But those riches
perish by evil travail, by extravagance and imprudence: and he begetieth a son, and [there is] nothing in his hand ; he leaves his family impoverished, which is so much the worse, as his son was educated with the hope of a fortune, Sb that he is reduced to peci
15 liar calamity. As he came forth of his mother's womb, naked shall he return to go as he came, and shall take nothing of hislabour, which he may carry away in his hand; if no other acci
. dent deprives him of his wealth, yet death will strip him of all.
16 And this also [is] a sore evil, [that] in all points as he came, so shall he go: and what profit hath he that hath laboured for the wind? who hath taken abundance of pains for that which he tan no
17 more hold than he can the wind? All his da)s also he eateth in darkness, either does not allow himself the conveniences of life, or is disturbed by irregular passions, so that he han no comfort in hit enjoyments ,- and [he hath] much sorrow and wrath with hi* sickness; iickness and confinement arc peculiarly grievous tu /,<';,;, because they take him offfrom his favourite pursuits, and are Rkety to end in death, ivhen he must leave all his possessions behind him.
18 Behold [that] which I have seen: [it is] good and comely [for one] to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his la-^ bour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it [is] his portion, all tliat fails to his share
19 of the enjoyments and possessions of life. Every man also to whom God hath given riches and wealth, and hath giveh him power to eat thereof, and to take His portion, and to rejoice in his labour; this [is] the gift of God; it ought to be acknowledged at
to a singularfruit of his bounty. For he shall not much remember the days of his life; because God answereth [him] in the joy of his heart; he shall not think life tedious and long, nor be too much concerned at the evils that befall him, because God gives him inward tranquillity, the pleasures of religion, communion with himself, and the hope of a glorious immortality; these amply compensate all Iris trouble and sorrow.
I. "\yC^E have need to be extremely cautious that our religious V V services be not vain and sinful. There is much excellent advice on this head in the former part of the chapter, that should be seriously recollected every sabbath. We should enter Upon divine worship with a solemn pause, with great composure of spirit, and all external marks of reverence. Sensible of the infinite distance between God and us, let us attend to the words we utter, and join heartily in those which are uttered in our name. Our prayers in general ought to be short, because (if they be long) it is next to impossible to keep up a due attention and fervent affection. Let us also remember the caution here given about our vows. As christians, we ought to recollect and pay them. It were a sad thing that our worship should be vain ; that we should be doing evil when we think we are doing good. To imagine that God will connive at our sins, because we pay him solemn worship, is a high affront and indignity. By such services men are contracting new guilt, instead of atoning for past.
2. We see of what admirable use the fear of God is. A sense of his presense and providence, and a reverence for his majesty and authority, will prevent our being disturbed by our own or others' dreams ; it will also prevent our being astonished or dejected at the ■ oppression, violence, or injustice that are in the earth. For Ve shall be sensible that God sees it all, and will reckon for it in the day of the revelation of his righteous judgment. May we then sanctify the Lord of hosts in our hearts, and make him our fear and our dread.
3. The frequent views which Solomon gives us of the vanity of riches, should engage us all to seek a better, even an enduring substance. Wc see Solomon's observations on the vanity, uncertainty,