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Ecc 1:1 The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Ver. 1. The words. ] Golden words, weighty, and worthy of all acceptation; grave and gracious apophthegms, or rather oracles, meet to be well remembered. Solomon’s sapiential sermon of the sovereign good, and how to attain to it; Solomon’s soliloquy, as some style it; others, his sacred retractations; others, his ethics, or tractate de summo bono, a of the chiefest good, compiled and composed with such a picked frame of words, with such pithy strength of sentences, with such a thick series of demonstrative arguments, that the sharp wit of all the philosophers, compared with this divine discourse, seems to be utterly cold, and of small account; their elaborate treatises of happiness to be learned dotages, and laborious loss of time. b How many different opinions there were among them concerning the chief good in Solomon’s days is uncertain. Various of them he confuteth in this book, and that from his own experience, the best school dame. c But Varro, the most learned of the Romans, reckoneth up two hundred and eighty in his time; and no wonder, considering man’s natural blindness, not unlike that of the Syrians at Dothan, or that of the Sodomites at Lot’s door. d What is an eye without the optic spirit but a dead member? and what is all human wisdom without divine illumination but wickedness of folly, yea, foolishness of madness? as our preacher, not without good cause, calleth it. "A spirit there is in man," saith Elihu - viz., the light of reason; and thus far the animal man goes, and there he makes a halt; Ecc 7:15 he cannot transcend his orb - but "the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding." Job 32:8 God had given Solomon wisdom above any man; Abulensis saith above Adam in his innocence, which I believe not. He was παιδαριογερων - as Macarius was called - a man at twelve years old. e His father, had taught him; Pro 4:3-4 his mother had lessoned him; Pro 31:1 the prophet Nathan had had the breeding of him. But besides, as he was Jedidiah, loved of God, so he was θεοδιδακτος , taught of God. And being now, when he penned this penitential sermon, grown an old man, he had experimented all this that he here affirmeth; so that he might better begin his speech to his scholars than once Augustus Caesar did to his soldiers, Audite senem iuvenes, quem iuvenem senes audierunt, Young men, hearken to me, an old man, whom old men hearkened unto when I was yet but young. "Have not I written for you excellent things in counsel and knowledge?" Pro 22:20 Or, have I not written three books for thee - so some read those words - proverbial, penitential, nuptial? See the note there.
“Nescis temerarie, nescis
Quem fugias, ideoque fugis.” - Ovid. Metam.
Surely, "if thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that speaketh unto thee," Joh 4:10 thou wouldst "incline thine ear and hear," Isa 55:3 thou wouldst listen as for life itself. Knowest thou not that I am a preacher, a prince, son of David, king in Jerusalem, and so do come multis nominibus tibi commendatissimus, much commended to thee in many respects? But "need I, as some others, epistles of commendation" 2Co 3:1 to my readers, or letters of commendation from them? Is it not sufficient to know that this book of mine, both for matter and words, is the very work of the Holy Ghost speaking in me, and writing by me? f For "prophecy comes not by the will of man, but holy men of God speak it as they are moved by the Holy Ghost." 2Pe 1:21 And albeit this be proof good enough of my true, though late, repentance, whereof some have doubted, some denied it. g Yet take another.
Of the Preacher. ] Or, Of a preaching soul (for the Hebrew word koheleth, is of the feminine gender, and hath nephesh, soul, understood), or of a person reunited and reconciled to the church, h and in token of reconciliation to God, readmitted by him to this office in his Church; like as Christ sealed up his love to Peter, after his shameful fall, by bidding him "feed his lambs"; and to the rest of the apostles that had basely forsaken him, by saying to them, after his resurrection, "Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Joh 20:21-22 See the like mercy showed to St Paul. 1Ti 1:12 Howbeit, some learned men here observe, that it is no new thing in the Hebrew tongue to put feminine names upon men, as Ezra is called Sophereth, descriptrix, a she scribe, in the very same form as Solomon is here called Koheleth, a preacheress; and the gospel preachers, Mebaseroth , Psa 68:11 Isa 52:7 either to set forth the excellence and elegance of the business, or else to teach ministers to keep themselves pure as virgins; whence they are also called Wisdom’s maids; Pro 9:3 and Christ’s paranymphs; Joh 3:29 to "present the church as a chaste virgin to Christ." 2Co 11:2
The son of David. ] So Christ also is said to be, Mat 1:1 as if David had been his immediate father. "The glory of children are their fathers," Pro 17:6 to wit, if they be godly and pious. The Jews made great boasts that they were "the seed of Abraham"; Mat 3:9 Joh 8:33 and that wretch, Elymas the sorcerer, had surnamed himself Barjesus, Act 13:6 or the son of Jesus, as if he had been of nearest alliance to our Saviour, of whom "the whole family of heaven and earth is named." Eph 3:15 What an honour is it now accounted to be of the posterity of Latimer, Bradford, Ridley, &c.! How much more of David, that man of renown, the father of our princely Preacher, who himself took also not scorn to teach and do the office of a preacher, Psalms 32:9 ; Psa 34:11 though he were the governor of God’s people, Psa 78:71 and head of many heathen! Psa 18:43 The like may be said of Joseph of Arimathea, who of a counsellor of state became a Preacher of the gospel. So did Chrysostom, a noble Antiochian; Ambrose, lieutenant and consul of Milan; George, prince of Anhalt; Earl Martinengus; John a Lasco, a noble Polonian; and various others of like quality and condition. The Psalmist Psalms 138:4-19.138.5 ; Psa 119:72 shows by prophesying, that they that have tasted the joys of a crown shall leave the throne and palace to sing with the saints, and to publish the excelling glory of God and godliness.
King in Jerusalem. ] And of Jerusalem. The Pope will allow the Duke of Milan to be king in Tuscany, but not King of Tuscany: i Solomon was both Pro 1:1 See Trapp on " Pro 1:1 " Hither came the Queen of Sheba from the utmost parts of the earth to hear him: here he wrote his excellent book, these "words of delight," which he had learned from that one Shepherd, the Lord Christ, Ecc 12:10-11 and hath left them faithfully set down for the use of the Church; so honouring learning with his own labours, - as Sylverius said of Caesar. Here, lastly, it was that he sovereigned over God’s own peculiar, the people of his purchase, Israel, God’s firstborn, and in that respect "higher than the kings of the earth." Psa 89:27 So that if Maximilian, the Emperor of Germany, could say, Rex hominum Hispanus, asinorum Gallus, regum ego j the Spaniard is king of men, the French is king of asses, and I am King of kings; how much better might Solomon have said so!
b Tο του χρονου παραναλωμα . - Arist.
c Experientia optima magistra.
d Aug., De Civ. Dei, lib. xviii.
f Regis epistolis acceptis, quo calamo scriptae sint, ridiculum est quaerere. - Greg.
g Bellarminus Solomonem inter reprobos numerat.
h Anima congregata, et cum ecclesia se colligens. - Cartwright.
i Spec. Europ.
j Joh. Manlius.
Ecc 1:2 Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all [is] vanity.
Ver. 2. Vanity of vanities. ] Or, Most vain vanity: therefore, no happiness here to be had but in the reverential fear of God, Ecc 12:13 and this is the sum of the whole sermon, the result of the discourse, the impartial verdict brought in by one that could best tell; and he tells it over and over, that men might the sooner believe him, without putting themselves to the fruitless pains of trying any further conclusions. Sin hath hurled confusion over the world, and brought a vanity on the creature. This our first parents found, and therefore named their second son Abel, or vanity. David comes after and confirms it, Psa 144:4 "Adam is as Abel," a or, "Man is like to vanity." There is an allusion in the original to their two names: yea, all-Adam is all-Abel, b when he is best underlaid - so the Hebrew hath it c - "Every man at his best estate," when he is settled upon his best bottom, "is altogether vanity: surely, Selah." It is so, it is so; you may seal to it. Psa 39:5 But who, alas! hath believed our report? These outward things are so near to us, and so natural to us, that although we can say, nay swear, with the Preacher, "Vanity of vanities," a heap, a nest of vanities, - It is naught, it is naught, saith the buyer, yet, when gone apart, we close with them; albeit, we know they are naught and will come to naught. 1Co 2:6 Neither will it ever be otherwise with us, till, with Fulgentius, we have found, after much trial, the vanity of all earthly triumph; d till, with Gilimer, King of Vandals, led in triumph by Belisarius, we cry out, as here, "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity"; e till, with Charles V, Emperor of Germany (whom of all men the world judged most happy), we cry out with detestation to all our honours, pleasures, trophies, riches, f Abite hinc, abite longe, Get you hence, let me hear no more of you.
a Adam is Abel’s mate.
b Omnis Adam est totus Abel.
c Nitsub, fundatus, constitutus.
d Fulgentius triumphos Romanos ludosve cum spectarit appellavit vanitatem.
e Procop., lib. ii., de bello Vand.
f Philip. Morn.
Ecc 1:3 What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?
Ver. 3. What profit hath a man? ] What durable profit? Quid residui? what excess? what more than will serve to satisfy back and belly? Our life is called, "the life of our hands," Isa 57:10 because it is maintained by the labour of our hands. Si ventri bene, si lateri, as he in Horace saith, If the belly may be filled, the back fitted, that’s all that can here be had, and that most men care to have; which if they have (some have but prisoners’ pittance, so much as will keep life and soul together), yet quid amplius? as the Vulgate renders this text, what have they more to pay them for their pains? Surely, when all the account is subducted, such a labouring man’s happiness resolved into its final issue and conclusion, there resteth nothing but ciphers. This should make us more moderate in our desires and endeavours after earthly things, since we do but "labour in the very fire, and weary ourselves for very vanity." Heb 2:13 They that seek after the philosopher’s stone, they must use so much gold, and spend so much gold, and then they can turn as much into gold by it as they have spent in making of it; and so they have their labour for their pains. Quid emolumenti? What profit hath a man? Do we not see many take a great deal of pains to go to hell? whereinto at length they are turned as a sumpter horse is at night, after all his hard travail, with his back full of galls and bruises.
Ecclesiastes 1:4 [One] generation passeth away, and [another] generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
Ver. 4. One generation passeth away, &c. ] Therefore, no happiness here, because no assurance of life or long continuance: -
“ Omnia sunt hominum tenui pendentia filo:
Et subito casu, quae valuere ruunt. ”
Xerxes, looking upon his huge army, wept to think that, within less than a hundred years, not one of those many should be left alive. Mortality is the stage of mutability; mere man is but the dream of a dream, but the generation of a fancy, but an empty vanity, but the curious picture of nothing, a poor feeble, unable, dying flash. How then can he here work out unto himself a happiness worth having? Why should he lay up and "load himself with thick clay," Hab 2:6 as if his life were riveted upon eternity?
But the earth endureth for ever. ] As a stage, whereon the several generations act their parts and go off; as the centre of the world and seat of living creatures, it stands firm and unmovable. That was an odd conceit of Plato’s that the earth was a kind of living creature, having stones for bones, rivers for veins, trees for hairs, &c. And that was worse of Aristotle, teaching the world’s eternity; which some smatterers in philosophy fondly strive to maintain out of this text, not rightly understanding the force of the Hebrew phrase for ever, which ofttimes, and here, signifies a periodical perpetuity, a long indefinite time, not an infinite. see 2Pe 1:3 ; 2Pe 1:10 The whole engine shall be changed. By ever then is meant, till the end of all things.
Ecc 1:5 The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
Ver. 5. The sun also ariseth. ] That sweet and swift creature (the Persians deified it); so sweet that Eudoxus professed himself willing to be burnt up by the sun presently, so he might be admitted to come so near it as to learn the nature of it; a so swift that the Persians dedicated a horse to their god the sun, as the swiftest on earth to the swiftest in heaven. b He courseth about the world with incredible speed, and "rejoiceth as a giant to run a race." Psa 19:5 He exceedeth the eagle’s flight more than it goes beyond the slow motion of a snail. Whether it run nearer the earth now by 9976 German miles than it did in Ptolemy’s days, as some mathematicians affirm, I know not; but that, being of a fiery nature, it should, contrary to the nature of fire (which is to fly upward), send down its beams, its heat, light, and influence, this I admire, with Chrysostom, c as a gracious work of God, in making this great servant of the world - as his name in Hebrew d signifies - so sweetly serviceable.
And hasteth to the place. ] Heb., Panteth, as if tired, and even breathless, A figurative speech, like that in Daniel 9:21 , where the angel Gabriel is said to "fly swiftly," or with weariness of flight, to inform Daniel. For use hereof, hear the poet: -
“The sun doth set and rise,
But we contrariwise,
Sleep after one short light,
An everlasting night.” e
b ωσπερ το ταχιστον, τω ταχυτατω θεων . - Paus.
c Hom. 8 Ad. Pop. Antioch.
d שׁמשׁ .
e Soles occidere et redire possuat,
Nobiscum semel! occidit brevis lux,
Nox est perpetua una dormienda. - Catull
Ecc 1:6 The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
Ver. 6. The wind goeth toward the south, &c. ] It is a little very small thing at first, a vapour rising out of the earth; but, by circuiting and whirling about, it gathers strength - now rushing toward the south, and anon toward the north, &c.; the original is very lively in expressing the manner of it. Una Eurusque Notusque ruunt, &c. a The restlessness of these insensible creatures, and diligence in doing their duties, as it taxeth our dulness and disaffection, so it reminds us of the instability of our states, and that we should seek and set up our rest in God alone. All earthly things are to the soul but as the air to the stone, - can give it no stay till it come to God the centre.
a Virg., Aeneid.
Ecc 1:7 All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea [is] not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
Ver. 7. All the rivers run into the sea. ] And the nearer they come to the sea, the sooner they are met by the tide; sent out, as it were, to take their tribute due to the sea, that seat and source of waters. Surely as the rivers lead a man to the sea, so do all these creatures carry him to God by their circular motion. A circle, we say, is the most perfect figure, because it begins and ends; the points do meet together; the last point meets in the first from whence it came; so shall we never come to perfection or satisfaction till our souls come to God, till he make the circle meet. A wise philosopher could say, that man is the end of all things in a semicircle; that is, all things in the world are made for him, and he is made for God, to whom he must therefore hasten.
Unto the place from whence the rivers come. ] Sc., From the sea, through the pores and passages of the earth, where they leave their saltness. This is Solomon’s opinion, as it was likewise the opinion of the ancient philosophers, which yet Aristotle finds fault with, and assigns another cause of the perennity of rivers, of their beginning and origin - viz., that the air thickened in the earth by reason of cold, doth resolve and turn into water, &c. a This agrees not with that which Solomon here saith by the instinct of the Holy Ghost. And therefore Averroes is by no means to be hearkened unto in that excessive commendation he gives Aristotle - viz., that there was no error in his writings, that his doctrine was the chiefest truths, and that his understanding was the utmost that was by any one attainable; himself the rule and pattern that Nature invented to show her most perfect skill, &c. b
a Hinc poetae fingunt Inachum fluvium ex Oceano genitum.
b Alsted. Chronol., p. 460.
Ecc 1:8 All things [are] full of labour; man cannot utter [it]: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
Ver. 8. All things are full of labour. ] Labor est etiam ipsa voluptas. Molestation and misery meet us at every turn. The whole world is a "sea of glass" (for its vanity), "mingled with fire" (for its vexation), -. Rev 4:6 Vota etiam post usum, fastidio sunt: All things are sweeter in the ambition than in the fruition. There is a singular vanity in this splendid misery. One well compares it to a beautiful picture, drawn with white and red colours in sackcloth, which afar off is very lovely, but near by it is like the filthy matter of a sore or wound, purulent rottenness, or the back of a galled horse. No man ever yet found any constant contentation in any state; a yet may his outward appearance deceive others, and another’s him.
Man cannot utter it. ] If Solomon cannot, no man can; for "what can the man do that cometh after the king?" Ecc 2:12
The eye is not satisfied with seeing. ] Though these be the two ‘learned senses,’ as Aristotle calls them, whereby learning is let into the soul, yet no man knows so much but he would know more. Herillus, therefore, and those other philosophers that placed the happiness of a man in the knowledge of natural causes and events, were not in the right. There is a curse of dissatisfaction which lies upon the creature. The soul, that acts in and by the outward senses, flickers up and down, as Noah’s dove did, but finds no firm footing; sharks and shifts from one thing to another for contentment, as the bee doth from flower to flower for honey, and desires still more things in number, and new things for manner. Hence the particles in the Hebrew that signify and and or, come of a word that signifieth to desire, b because the desires of man would have this and that, and that and another; and doth also tire itself, not knowing whether to have this or that or that or the other, so restless it is, after utmost endeavours of plenary satisfaction, which this life affords not.
a Chiron, cum ob iustitiam Dii permitterent ut perpetuo viveret, maluit mori, quod offenderetur taedio rerum semper eodem tenore recurrentium.
b ו and, א of אוה .
Ecc 1:9 The thing that hath been, it [is that] which shall be; and that which is done [is] that which shall be done: and [there is] no new [thing] under the sun.
Ver. 9. The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be. ] History, therefore, must needs be of noble and necessary use; because, by setting before us what hath been, it predicts what will be again, since the self same fable is acted over again in the world, the persons only are altered that act it. Plato a will therefore have history to have its name, παρα το οστανα τον ρουν of stopping the flux of endless errors and restless uncertainties. b His conceit of a general revolution of all things, after thirty thousand years expired, is worthily exploded and learnedly confuted by Augustine (De Civ. Dei, lib. xii. cap. 13), but in no wise confirmed by this text, as some would have it, and Origen among the rest. Plato might haply hint at the general resurrection, called the "regeneration," by our Saviour. Mat 19:28 See Trapp on " Mat 19:28 "
a Plato in Cratylo.
b Macrob., Joseph., Plin.
Ecc 1:10 Is there [any] thing whereof it may be said, See, this [is] new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
Ver. 10. Is there anything whereof it may be said, See, this is new? ] Hoc ego primus vidi, saith Zabarel. But how could he tell that? Many men have been so befooled. We look upon guns and printing as new inventions; the former found out by Birchtoldin the monk, A.D. 1380, the other by friar Faustus, A.D. 1446. But the Chinese are said to have had the use of both these long before. Should we then so eagerly hunt after novelties, those mere new nothings, till we lose ourselves in the chase? Nil admirari prope res est una Numici. Get spiritual eyes rather to behold the beauty of the new creature (all other things are but nine days’ wonderment), the bravery of the new Jerusalem. Yea, get this natural itch after novelties killed by the practice of mortification, and get into Christ, that thou mayest be a new creature. So shalt thou have a new name upon thee; Isa 62:2 a new spirit within thee; Eze 36:27 new alliance; Eph 2:14 new attendants; Psa 91:11 new wages, new work; Isa 62:11 a new commandment; 1Jn 2:8 a new covenant; Jer 31:33 a new way to heaven; Heb 10:20 and a new mansion in heaven. John 14:2 2Co 5:8
Ecclesiastes 1:11 [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.
Ver. 11. There is no remembrance of former things. ] None to speak of. How many memorable matters were never recorded! How many ancient records long since perished! How many fragments of very good authors are come bleeding to our hands, that live, as many of our castles do, but only by their ruins! God hath by a miracle preserved the Holy Bible from the injury of times and tyrants, who have sought to abolish it. There we have a true remembrance of former things done in the Church by Abraham and his offspring, when the grandees of the earth, Ninus, Belus, &c., lie wrapt up in the sheet of shame, or buried in the grave of utter oblivion. Diodorus Siculus confesseth that all heathen antiquities, before the Theban and Trojan wars, are either fabulous relations or little better. Ezra - that wrote one of the last in the Old Testament - lived before any chronicles of the world now extant in the world.
Neither shall there be any remembrance. ] Unless transmitted to posterity by books and writings, which may preserve and keep alive their memory, and testify for their authors that such have one day lived.
“ - Quis nosset Erasmum,
Chilias aeternum si latuisset opus?”
Nineveh, "that great city," is nothing else but a sepulture of herself; no more shall Rome be ere long. Time shall triumph over it, when it shall but then live by fame, if at all, as others now do.
Ecc 1:12 I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.
Ver. 12. I, the Preacher, was king over Israel. ] And so had all the helps that heart could wish, the benefit of the best books and records that men or money could bring me in, the happiness of holy conference, beside mine own plentiful experience, and therefore you may well give credit to my verdict. Mr. Foxe had a large commission under the great seal to search for all such monuments, manuscripts, registers, ledger books, as might make for his purpose in setting forth that worthy work, the ‘Acts and Monuments of the Church of England.’ And the like had Polydor Virgil for the framing of his history, though with unlike success; for he had the ill hap to write nothing well, saith one, a save the life of Henry VII, wherein he had reason to take a little more pains than ordinary, the book being dedicated to Henry VIII, his son. See Trapp on " Ecc 1:1 "
Ecc 1:13 And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all [things] that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.
Ver. 13. And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom. ] God had given Solomon a large heart, and great store of wisdom; and this made him not more idle, but more industrious, more sedulous and serious in seeking and …
Searching out by wisdom, ] i.e., By the best skill that he had, maturely and methodically, the causes, properties, and effects, with the reason of all things that are, and are done under heaven. Neither did he this in pride and curiosity (as Hugo de Sancto Victore here sharply censureth him), but soberly and modestly, setting down his disquisitions and observations of things political and natural for the use of posterity. And forasmuch as these a are now lost - because haply too much admired and trusted to, by those that had the use of them under the first temple, in and with the which some Jews say they were burnt - what a high price we all set upon this and the other two books of Solomon, the wisest of men, as, not Apollo, but the true God of heaven hath called him, and commended him unto us! Surely, as in the Revelation, heaven never opened but some great mystery was revealed, some divine oracle uttered; so we may be confident that the Holy Ghost never sets any penman of Scripture a work but for excellent purpose. And if we disregard it, he will complain of us as once, - "I have written for them the great things of nay law, but they were counted as a strange thing." Hos 8:12 As for those other worthy works of Solomon (the fruits of this privy search into the natures of the creatures here mentioned), that the injury of time bereft us of, how much better may we say of them, than a godly and learned man b once did of Origen’s Octapla, Huius operis iacturam deplorare possumus, compensare non possumus, This great loss we may well bewail, but cannot help.
a 1 Kings 4:32-11.4.33 .
b Rolloc., De Vocatione, p. 130.
Ecc 1:14 I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all [is] vanity and vexation of spirit.
Ver. 14. I have seen all the works that are done. ] I have seen them, and set down mine observations of them. 1Ki 4:33 Pliny did somewhat like unto this in his Natural History; which work of his, saith Erasmus, Non minus varium est quam ipsa rerum natura: imo non opus, sed thesaurus, sed vere mundus rerum cognitu dignissimarum, it hath as much variety in it as nature herself hath. To speak truth, it is not a work but a treasury; nay, a world of things most worthy to be known of all men.
And behold all is vanity and vexation of spirit. ] Nothing in themselves, and yet of sufficient activity to inflict vengeance and vexation upon the spirit of a man; so far are they from making him truly happy. They do but "feed the soul with wind," as the text may be rendered. Wind gotten into the veins is a sore "vexation."
Ecclesiastes 1:15 [That which is] crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
Ver. 15. That which is crooked cannot be made straight. ] Most men are so wedded and wedged to their wicked ways, that they cannot be rectified but by an extraordinary touch from the hand of Heaven. Hesiod, speaking of God, saith that he can easily set crooked things straight, and only he. a Holy Melanchthon, being himself newly converted, thought it impossible for his hearers to withstand the evidence of the gospel; but after he had been a preacher a while, he complained, that ‘old Adam was too hard for young Melanchthon’; and yet, besides the singular skill and learning that God had given him - for the which he merited to be called the phoenix of Germany - Ad eum modum in hoc vitae theatro versatum Philippum Melanchthonem apparet, saith a friend and scholar of his - i.e., It well appeareth that Melanchthon was, Solomon-like, on this wise busied upon the theatre of his life, that, seeing and observing all he could, he made profit of everything, and stored his heart, as the bee doth her hive, out of all sorts of flowers, for the common benefit. Howbeit, he met with much crossness and crookedness that wrung mahy tears from him, as it did likewise from St Paul, Php 3:18 not in open enemies only, as Eccius and other Papists, but in professed friends, as Flaccius, Osiander, &c., who not only vexed him grievously while alive, but also fell foul upon him when he was dead, b as Zanchins complaineth. c Of all fowl, we most hate and detest the crows, and of all beasts the jackals, a kind of foxes in Barbary; because the one digs up the graves and devours the flesh, the other picks out the eyes of the dead. But to return to the text: sinful men grow aged and crooked with good opinions of themselves, and can seldom or never be set straight again. The Pharisee sets up his counter for a thousand pound, - "I am not as other men," saith he, "nor as this publican"; he stands upon his comparisons, nay, upon his disparisons, and although he turn aside unto his crooked ways, as Samson did to his Delilah, yet he thinks much to be "led forth with the workers of iniquity," but cries, "peace shall be upon Israel." Psa 125:5 How many are there that, having "laden themselves with thick clay," Hab 2:6 are bowed together, as he in the gospel was, Luk 13:11 and can in nowise lift up themselves! They neither can nor will ( O curvae in terras animae, &c. ), but are frample and foolish.
The Greek word for crooked, d comes of a Hebrew word that signifies a fool, e and every fool is conceited; he will not part with his bauble for the Tower of London. Try to straighten these crooked pieces, and they will sooner break than bend, venture all, than mend anything. Plato went thrice to Sicily to convert Dionysius, and could not do it. A wiser than Plato complains of a "perverse and crooked generation." Deu 32:5 Acts 2:40 Php 2:15 It is the work of God’s Spirit only, by his corrective and directive power, to set all to rights. Luk 3:5 Philosophy can abscondere vitia, non abscindere, - chain up corrupt nature, but not change it.
And that which is wanting cannot be numbered. ] Et stultorum infinitus est numerus, so the Vulgate renders it; ‘there is a numberless number of fools,’ such as are wanting with a witness; witless, sapless fellows, such as have principium laesum, their brains cracked by the first fall, and are not cured of their spiritual frenzy by being reunited to the second Adam. Of such fools there are not a few; all places are full of them, and so is hell too; the earth is burdened, the air darkened, with the number of them, as the land of Egypt was with the flies that there swarmed. Bias the philosopher could say, that the ‘most were the worst’; f and Cicero, that there was a great nation of bad people, but a few good. g Rari quippe boni, saith Juvenal, There is a great paucity of good people. And those few that are, find not a few wants and weaknesses in themselves, quae tamen non nocent, si non placent, these hurt us not, if they please us not; for God considers whereof we are made, and will cast out condemnation for ever, as one renders that place, Matthew 12:10 : Triste mortalitatis privilegium est, licere aliquando peccare. h Our lives are fuller of sins than the firmament is of stars, or the furnace of sparks. Nimis augusta res est nuspiam errare. i David saw such volumes of infirmities, and so many errata in all that he did, that he cries out, "Who can understand his errors? Oh, cleanse thou me from secret sins." Psa 19:12
a Pειος δετ ιθυνει σκολιον . - Hes.
b Melch. Adam in Vita Mel.
c Melanchthon. mortuus tantum, non ut blasphemus in Deum cruci affigitur. - Zanch. Miscel., Ep. Ded.
f Oι πλειστοι κακοι εισι
g Deteriorum magna est natio, boni singulares. - Cic. ad Attic.
h Lud. de Dieu. Euphor.
Ecc 1:16 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.
Ver. 16. I communed with mine own heart, saying, &c. ] Here Hugo de Sancto Victore proceeds to censure Solomon (as he had done before, Ecc 1:13 ) See Trapp on " Ecc 1:13 " of pride and vain-glory, but with greater pride. For puerilis iactantiae est accusando illustres viros suo nomini famam quaerere. a It is a childish vanity to seek for fame by aspersing better men. Solomon might, without boasting, say of himself, as here he doth, Lo, I am come to great estate, or, I have greatened and added wisdom above all that have been before me. Doth not God say as much of him? 1 Kings 3:11-11.3.13 ; 1Ki 4:29-34 ; 1 Kings 5:7 ; 1Ki 10:4-9 And had he not good reason to praise himself in this sort? For, whereas some might here object that the cause that men get not happiness by the knowledge of natural philosophy is, because they understand it not. That cannot be, saith the wise man, for I have out-gone all that went before me in wisdom and perspicacity, and yet I can do no good on it; try you another while if you think you can outdo me. I think a man may break his neck before his fast of these sublunary felicities.
Ecc 1:17 And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.
Ver. 17. And to know madness and folly. ] That by comparing of contraries, I might the sooner find and fish out what I sought for. Sed frustra fui, but I disquieted myself in vain. Philosophandum igitur, sed paucis; there is a deceit in philosophy, Col 2:8 and he who chooseth to hold fast this "lying vanity," doth by his own election "forsake his own mercy." Jon 2:8
Ecc 1:18 For in much wisdom [is] much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.
Ver. 18. For in much wisdom is much grief. ] And herein children and fools have the advantage; as they want wit, so they want woe; as little is given to them, so little is required of them. Nihil scire vita iucundissima, To know nothing is the bravest life, as the Greek proverb hath it. a But this must be taken with a grain of salt; and we must know, that heavenly wisdom hath infinite pleasure; and so far as all other arts and sciences are subservient to it, and regulated by it, they afford to the mind an incredible delight and sweetness.
a Eν τω φρονειν γαρ μηδεν ηδιστος βιος - Soph.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Ecclesiastes 1". Trapp's Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent