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النشر الإلكتروني

ECCLESIASTES;

OR,

THE PREACHER.

CHAP. I.

In this chapter we have, first, the inscription of the whole book, ver. 1. in which its author is described by his natural relation, the son of David; his civil relation, king of Jerusalem ; and his church relation, a preacher, or a penitent soul returning into the bosom of the church, from which he had secluded himself by many gross miscarriages. Secondly, a general proposition, setting forth the utter insufficiency of all things under the sun to make a man blessed, and their extreme vanity to promote such an end; however useful and beneficial they may otherwise be within their own sphere, when sanctified to sweeten and comfort the life of one who has placed his happiness in God: so that all the labour taken to extract felicity

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from the creature will be entirely fruitless and unprofitable, ver. 2, 3. The proof of this general proposition is drawn,

1. From man's mortality, by which he is quickly removed from the fruition of them; whereas that which proposes to make a person happy ought to abide with him for ever, ver. 4.

2. From the instability of all other creatures, which come, and presently go, and are never in a fixed condition: if, when they come, they impart happiness, when they depart they again entail misery; which instability of the creatures (themselves being continually unsatisfied) implies, first, their weakness to minister satisfaction to so noble a creature as man, ver. 5, 6,7. Secondly, the restless and fruitless labour which is taken in seeking satisfaction from objects which only affect the senses, since the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, ver. 8.

3. From the continual vicissitudes and return of the same things, which having not only once, but often failed, are never likely to afford further supplies towards human happiness: and therefore, except they can minister some new satisfaction to the soul, which they never yet imparted nor can bestow, it is impossible that the same disappointment which some have reaped, should not befal others, who will conti

nue to seek from these very things what the wisest of men were never yet able to find, ver. 9, 10, 11.

4. From Solomon's own experience, who, on account of the dignity of his station, the inclination of his heart, the greatness of his wisdom, and the abundance of his wealth, was able to penetrate as far as any other human being into this enquiry after true happiness, and when he had set himself to search most critically and accurately into all things here below, concludes of them all in general, and of the most excellent of them in particular, as of wisdom and knowledge, that they are not only vanity, and so unable to satisfy the soul, but also vexation of spirit, causing much grief and sorrow to that heart which is immoderately conversant about them.

1. The words of the preacher, the son of David, king of Jerusalem.

This is the inscription of the whole book, describing its author by his parentage, dignity, and design in this writing. The author is prefixed as owning and avowing the doctrine contained in it; his dignity is added, the better to recommend its scope and intention. A king, such a king, the son of David, so pi

ously educated, 1 Kings ii. 2, 3; 1 Chron. xxviii. 9; Prov. xxxi. 1: so solemnly selected by God, and separated to that honour, 2 Sam. vii. 12-15; 2 Chron. i. 1: so admirably endowed with inward wisdom, by which he was peculiarly fitted, not only for the work of government, 1 Kings iii. 12, 28; but likewise for all natural and moral enquiries, 1 Kings x. 3. and iv. 29-34: so well furnished with all outward means to further such an enquiry, 2 Chron. ix. 22: so fixed and wholly occupied with it; at one time vitiously taking his fill of sensual pleasures, 1 Kings xi. 1; at another time setting himself critically to extract the quintessence of all sublunary perfection; and lastly, inspired and called out to publish this book as a preacher of truths so necessary to God's people. In all these respects there is much authority added to what the wise man here delivers, whilst he hereby draws the people's regard to his declarations, as to the words of a penitent convert, as well as of a wise, holy, and powerful prince.

"The words of the preacher." Some read it as a proper name, the words of Koheleth, son of David, supposing it to be one of the names of Solomon, as Jedidiah, 2 Sam. xii. 25; Lemuel, Prov. xxxi. 1. It is usually rendered from the Greek, Ecclesiastes, or the Preacher;

as if Solomon had publicly delivered it to the congregation (as sometimes kings and extraordinary persons spake to the people in their church assemblies, 1 Kings viii. 1, 12). But it seems chiefly to signify his repentance, and reuniting himself to the congregation of God's people, from which he had departed by his idolatries and other apostasies; and so the sense is, the words of the soul, or person gathered to the church, or congregation of the saints, Ps. lxxxix. 5; i. e. of the son of David, king of Jerusalem. Some were not to be admitted into the congregation at all, Deut. xxiii. 1, 3; Nehem. xiii. 1: and others, by idolatry, exeluded themselves from the assemblies of the saints. Now, Solomon, by serious and solemn repentance, here returns into the bosom of that congregation from which he had departed by his idolatry, and turned his heart from the Lord God of Israel, 1 Kings xi. 9; and so declares the vanity of all other ways to true happiness, but the fear and worship of the Lord: herein imitating his father David, whose name probably for this reason is introduced, that, as he, after his conversion, published his repentance to the church in that solemîn penitential psalm, Ps. li. ; so his son having fallen from his integrity, took the same course, that he might thereby glorify God and strengthen his bre

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