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man. They cannot retain the soul, Luke. xii. 19, 20; they cannot relieve the soul in the day of trouble, Prov. xi. 4; Zeph. i. 18; they cannot accompany it into another world, Ps. xlix. 17; they have no suitableness to the soul, either as to excellency or duration.
8. For what hath the wise more than the fool? what hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living?
“For what hath the wise more than the fool?” This question is a denial; the wise man has nothing more than the fool. There is internal excellency in wisdom above folly, ch. ii. 13; but as to wealth, and outward circumstances, the scholar has no peculiar prerogative beyond the fool. The one fares as deliciously, is as richly clothed, and inherits as extensive lands and revenues, as the other. The wisest man can but provide food and raimnent, and such other conveniences as may be obtained from worldly sources; and all this may he procure who has riches without understanding. Outward enjoyments promiscuously happen to all; and, beyond their own boundaries, they are not able to benefit a wise man, more than a fool. -“What hath the poor, that knoweth to walk before the living ?” A poor person has the substantial advantage of external means of subsistence, as well as the richest or wisest of his neighbours. What has he less than the wealthy? He knows how to get his living, and walk through his short probationary period, as well as the other. Or the sense may be, What hath the poor wise man, who maintains himself by his industry and prudent conduct, more than the poor foolish man, who, like the former, is enabled to procure a subsistence for himself? -" To walk before the living ;” that is, to live decently and discreetly aniongst men, ch. iv. 15; Isai. xlii. 5; Ps. lvi. 13; ch. vii. 12.
9. Better is the sight of the eyes, than the wandering of the desire : this is also vanity and vexation of spirit.
By " the sight of the eyes,” he means, things present and in possession, which lie before us within our view, and which we have in our hands. By “ the wandering of the desires," or walking of the soul, he means, an insatiable and endless pursuit of the heart after objects out of our immediate reach, and which we cannot easily overtake. So the apostle opposes sight to faith, because sight looks upon things in possession, faith, upon things in expectation, 2 Cor. v. 7: and thus property or possession is
called in a former chapter, the seeing of things with the eye, ch. v. 11: and, on the other hand, unsatisfied desires are expressed by the wandering of the heart up and down, Isai. Ivii. 10; Jer. ii. 25. and xiv. 10; when the mind is not settled and contented with its present condition, but, like the bees flying from flower to flower, runs from creature to creature, to gather more. The obvious meaning of the word is this: It is better for a man quietly and contentedly to enjoy what he possesses, than to rove up and down in his imagination, and so to weary himself with anxious and unsatisfied desires after what he has not: since therefore the poor man enjoys the substantial and principal benefit of outward comforts, such as life, and health, and food convenient, as much as the rich; and since the wisest can extract no greater measure of real good from wealth, than fools themselves enjoy; it is much more reasonable to partake of what we have, than endlessly to weary ourselves in hoarding or hunting after more, Mat. vi. 25– 35. This assertion is of the same import with that in ch. iv. 6; but it is mentioned here, as a remedy against covetous desires; there, it seems to be the sluggard's apology for his lazi.
Some, however, suppose it to be here spoken by a covetous rich man, as an answer to Solomon's question, What good hath one
more than another, the wise than the fool, the rich than the poor? Yes, says the covetous man of wealth, he has an estate to look upon, whilst the other is continually vexed with want and desires; and it is much better to be in possession of a good estate, than to languish in poverty, and ever remain in a craving condition. But the former sense is preferable.-—“This also is vanity and vexation of spirit:" according to the latter interpretation, It is vain and troublesome to possess good things, only to look upon them and not to use them: or rather, agreeable to the former sense, The wandering of the fool hither and thither after new gain, and deny. ing himself the comfortable fruition of present means of enjoyment, is vanity; because much can afford no more real good, than a little cheerfully used: and it is vexation of spirit; because insatiable desires bring perpetual disquiet upon the heart of man.
10. That which hath been is named already, and it is known that it is man: neither may he contend with him that is mightier than he.
The wise man continues to shew the vanity of wandering desires, and covetous endeavours after greater things than God has yet afforded: for whatever events have taken place, or now exist; whether a man be poor or rich, noble or base, his condition comes not by chance, but is pre-assigned in the purpose and decree of God: and therefore it is much better for him, contentedly to enjoy what his Father in heaven gives, than, with a vain and ineffectual ambition, to strive for what is beyond his reach; especially, as nothing acquirable by human industry can exempt or protect us from the evils or common miseries to which mankind are exposed. Let any one grow as rich, as potent, as honourable, as the world can render him, a man he was before, and he will be but a man still: from earth he came, and to earth he must return; he lies under a sentence of mortality and infirmity, which he cannot disannul by the assistance of worldly wealth or greatness.--" That which hath been, the name of it is called already;" that is, its state, quality, order, condition, every thing belonging to its nature and being, and every external circumstance respecting it, are all pre-ordained in the divine counsel and decree: by his immutable and irresistible providence, he has assigned to every one his order, and by his wisdom he disposes all their concerns ; they are under his care and allotment, and therefore ought not anxiously and solicitously to insist on provisions for the