A FOURTH PARTICULAR ASPECT OF THE WISE ORDERING OF LIFE: UNDERSTANDING “CHANCE” EVENTS, PART 2: ECCLESIASTES 9:1-12
In this section, Pemble finds competing arguments of the Spirit and the Flesh which seek to understand God’s actings.
For all this I considered in my heart even to declare all this, that the righteous, and the wise, and their works, are in the hand of God: no man knoweth either love or hatred by all that is before them. All things come alike to all: there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath. This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope: for a living dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing, neither have they any more a reward; for the memory of them is forgotten. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy, is now perished; neither have they any more a portion for ever in any thing that is done under the sun. Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works. Let thy garments be always white; and let thy head lack no ointment. Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all the days of the life of thy vanity, which he hath given thee under the sun, all the days of thy vanity: for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest. I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all. For man also knoweth not his time: as the fishes that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare; so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falleth suddenly upon them. Ecclesiastes 9:1-12
The Spirit: One Cannot Tell God’s Heart by His Hand
That howsoever secret and hidden the disposing of all things be, yet all men and all actions are guided by a divine providence. The certainty of which point, with that which follows, is commended to us by Solomon’s exact observations and the final resolution of his inquiries, For all this I considered in mine heart, even to declare all this. What? That the righteous and the wise and their works are in the hand of God to dispose as he sees good, how wise soever ]sic[ they be in their own contrivances, to reward when and in what manner he pleases, how righteous and well deserving they seem to be, verse 1.
That God’s love or hatred towards men is not discernable by outward things and events, such as lie open to our view and common observation. No man knows either love or hatred by all that is before him, by such as here befall them in the world, verse 1.
The reason is added from the alike condition of the good and bad in all outward things: All things come alike to all, and there is not even to the righteous and to the wicked, both which are in the words following described by synonyms to the clean and unclean, the good and the sinner and properties to him that sacrifices and to him that sacrifices not, he that swears (commonly) as he that fears an oath makes conscience of it, verse 2.
The Judgment of the Flesh
The judgment the Spirit thus declared, Solomon returns again to consider the judgment of the flesh which was before, verse 15. Briefly delivered but here is more distinctly expounded. Touching the use then that carnal men make of this point of God’s providence, we are to note:
Their practice, whereto they fall upon this occasion, generally expressed in the 3 verse, viz a giving of themselves up to all impiety. That is an evil among all things that are done under the Sun. What? That there is one event to all. Why this evil? Seeing God’s government may not be condemned as bad it is evil in the evil consequent and use wicked men make of it: Yea also the hearts of the sons of men is full of evil and madness in their hearts while they live they live like man men in all sinful practices and after that they go to the dead, die like beasts, and come to nothing as they imagine. This practice of impiety is illustrated.
By the reason that move them onto it, which is in brief an erroroneous opinion, that there is nothing to be looked and hoped for after this life, For to him that is joined to all the living there is hope, viz., of enjoying some good, not ex opposito to him that is dead, which is proverbially expressed, for a living dog, the worse man if living, is better than a dead lion, the best man that is in his grave, verse 4.
The Arguments of the Flesh
This opinion is further amplified and confirmed by sundry seeming arguments: First, the living have knowledge as of other things, so of death, and therefore study always to compass the pleasures of life, but the dead know and take care for nothing, For the living know, & c.
Second, the living have reward of honor or profit for their doings, the dead enjoy not this benefit; who are so far from it, that the memory of them and all their works is forgotten, verse 5.
Third, the living have a great part and portion in the things and affairs of this life, there is what they may love, and hate and envy, but th dead are deprived of the use of all things belonging to this life. Also their love, and their hatred, and their envy & c. by which appears that these carnal wretches confine all the good that man can enjoy with the compass of this present life.
Fourth, by one particular of their practice, viz., voluptuous living, or Epicurianism, set forth:
In its parts:
1. Diet and feasting without fear, in all jollity and profuse mirth, Go thy way, eat thy bread, & c. ver. 6
2. Apparel: Let thy garments be always white, as was and is the fashion in eastern countries, in triumphs, feasts, and other occasions of mirth and joy.
3. Curatura corporis, by synedoche, of ointments, much used by those eastern people in banquetting, bathings and at other times: Let not oil be lacking on thy head, pamper up thy body with all delights, verse 8.
4. Carnal pleasures: where yet the Epicure hath some regard to common honesty, shame of men, fear of law, and so restrains himself to his own wife, with whom he may enjoy voluptate tura & facile parabili, Live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest all & c., verse 9.
In the sum and general, Whatsoever thou findest to do, in a matter of pleasure or profit, do it with all thy might, spare no pain nor cost to get all contentment to theyself whilst thou livest, verse 10.
In this course of worldly delights the carnal man encourages himself by false persuasions and arguments misapplied:
First, that God is well pleased with him, to whom he affords liberty and scope of pleasures and licentuousness. Be merry. Why? For God now accepteth thy works, verse 7.
Second, that in this life nothing can be further expected than the delightsome use of all things we get by our labor, which though it be good with moderation, and all that the things of this life can afford, yet it is not all whcih a man must seek after, resting herein without care of the life to come, as the carn man doth. For that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labor which thou takest under the sun, verse 9.
Third, that post mortem nihil, “Intend,” saith the Epicure, “thy pleasures, and follow thy affairs hard whilst thou livest:” Why? “In the grave there is nothing to be done or suffered, for there is no work to be wrought, nor yet means to effect it, no device, knowledge nor wisdom, & c.” verse 10. So is the carnal man’s practice. Next follows the
The Motives of the Flesh
Occasion that drives carnal men upon the former ill opinions and evil practices: And taht is, that there is no providence, but that all things are carried by chance and fortune; which conclusion they gather from a double experience:
First, of mens’ doings and endeavors, which are often frustrated of their end and event, when there is greatest probability of success. I returned and saw under the sun that the race is not to the swift, & c. but time and chance happeneth to all, verse 11.
Second, of mens’ sufferings in such harms and dangers as befall them. Wherein he comares men to birds and fishes, that fall ignorantly and suddenly into the net and snare. For man knoweth not his time, as fishes & c. so are the sons of men snared, & c. verse 12.