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"thing come unto you." And may the Lord make these few plain pages the means of your ever lasting salvation, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen.
Answer to C. F's Query respecting Eccles.
See Theol. Misc. for Oct. 1786.
N explaining the word of God, we should remember that there is in every portion one precise meaning, previously to our employing our ingenuity upon it, which it is our business, with reverent attention to investigate. To discover that meaning, we should soberly and carefully examine the context, and consider the portion in question in the relation in which it stands,
Now whatever difficulties may occur in the book of Ecclesiastes, the grand scope of it is evident; namely, from experiment and observation to form a practical proof of the vanity of all worldly possessions, enjoyments, attainments, and distinctions; from which this conclusion is drawn: that "To fear God and to keep his commandments is the whole of man:" his whole business, interest, honour, and felicity, as well as duty; all else being "vanity and vexation of spirit."
Among other instances, the inspired writer adduces, as a case in point, this anecdote, (if I may so call it) of the poor wise man; who, though
eminently useful in delivering the city by his wisdom, yet was ungratefully neglected and forgotten by his fellow-citizens; and had consequently rather mortification than benefit from his superior endowments, and the good use to which he put them; except what arose from the satisfactions of benevolence, the testimony of his conscience, and the expectation of a gracious recompence from God.
What city this was, or who the great king that besieged it, or who the wise man that delivered it were, may employ man's curiosity, but can never be known by us, and is nothing at all to our purpose. But it is much to our purpose to learn from this scripture,
1. That even wisdom, (i. e. superior abilities improved by learning, and matured by experience and observation,) though far the most valuable of natural distinctions, yet abstracted from religion, and considered merely with reference to our situation in life, can do just nothing towards rendering us happy; but is equally vain and vexatious with those other distinctions that nature values and grace despises. When accompanied with external wealth, authority, and eminence, it exposes a man to the more malignant opposition, and envy, (and "who can stand before envy?) When found in a poor obscure person, others reap the benefit; but it does not rescue the possessor from hardship and penury, whilst it em