CONCLUSION PART 1:
Here at the end of the book, Solomon gives us the reasons why we should hear him. First, his book is superlative: It was a book written by a man uniquely fit to know of what he wrote; and who wrote with special wisdom from God. Second, other writings are not to be rightly compared with such a book. The opinions of men are ultimately too many and tiresome; that is never the way with Scripture.
8 Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity. 9 And moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he gave good heed, and sought out, and set in order many proverbs. 10 The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd. 12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Hitherto from the 7th chapter, Solomon hath particularly declared the means of true happiness, so far as in this life men may attain unto it. He comes now in the conclusion of this whole book summarily to deliver up his sentence and judgment touching all that hat been said: Which he doth artifically in two opposite conclusions answers the two parts of his former discoruse.
First Argument: The Value of Solomon’s Teaching
Touching the false means of happiness, of which Solomon repeating by way of conclusion, what was the proposition to be proved in the first verse of this book pronounceth definitively that they are all vanity, Vanity of vanity, saith the Preacher, all is vanity, verse 8. Against which sentence lest men should yet take exceptions and not rest satisfied with the former proofs and demonstrations borught to confirm it, but either cavail at Solomon’s wisdom and fidelity, or seek to make better trail of things by their own experience and practice, or think to have better information from other men’s teachings and writings, than this book can afford: Solomon to prevent this, inserts a serious exhortation & admonition that setting aside all fruitless speculation and vain studies, we would take heed to the doctrine here delivered unto us and by it learn our duty. This admonition is set down by a hyperbation in verse 12, Moreover, or Rather by these, my son be admonished. The confirmation and reasons to enforce it are epxressed both before and after the admonition: they are of two sorts:
Why Solomon’s Word Should be Heeded
From the excellency and authority of the doctrine contained in this sacred book, which is commended to us by four arguments:
Argument One: The Writer
From the quality of the instrument and penman: Solomon, not the amorous, idolatrous, voluptous; but the penitent Preacher. He is set forth by two properties: First, wisdom extraordinary above all men in the world, Because the Preacher was wise, he must needs be a fool that will not harken to him.
Second, faithfulness and industry in the exercise & employment of this talent of wisdom, which he hid not in a napkin, but used to the instruction of his people. He still taught the people knowledge, he taught them always, which painfulness ]painstakingness, thoroughness[ is amplified:
By its parts ]the nature of the author’s work[: Observation and attentive markings all such things as might add to his wisdom, He gave good heed, or harkened afer all such experiments of wisdom which might be got from others. Inventions in the study and search of things in his own wisdom, And sought out. By its fruit and former effect, He set in order many proverbs, composed many excellent sentences for instruction and piety and good manners, vid., 1 Kings 4, verse 9.
Argument Two: The Doctrine
From the quality and nature of the doctrine itself, delivered here and in other books which hath two praises: First, of pleasantness and delighfulsomeness: and therefore if we would read books for delight, lets read this and other of Solomon’s works, The Preacher sought to find out acceptable words, verba delections & benevolentia, such as might content and delight the reader.
Of profitableness: Though Solomon’s writing was a pleasant and delightful writing, yet it was not either idle nor fabulous fancies, or sinful flatteries to please man’s corruptions. But sound and wholesome doctrines such as 2 Tim. 3:16. Here described by two epithets:
1. That which was written was upright, written in sincerity, without favoring of man’s corruptions and vices, and written to make men upright and straight in soundness of religion without hypocriscy.
2. The words of truth, most trrue and free from all error, lies, & deceiving. Singular arguments to make us give heed to the sacred writings. Verse 10.
Argument Three: Use of the Doctrine
From the end and use of holy doctrine, viz, edification in godliness and good manners, which also further unfolds the profitableness of the word of God this use stands in two things, here expressed under similitudes:
First, stirring us up to goodness, by comparing of it to a goad or rod, wherewith heavy and dull cattle are roused up and quickened to their labor, The words of the wise, i.e., Prophets, as himself was, and such other teachers of the people of God, are like goads, to prick us up and by sharp reproofs and admonitions to awak our drowsy, drossie and sluggish nature to attention & holy practice.
Second, confirming and establishing us in goodness that we be not wavering minded, and unconstant hearted to fall alway: In which respect it is compared to nails that fasten things together, or stakes wherewith shepherds short up the hurdles to their folds to keep their sheep in. And as nails, such are the strong promsies and threatenings of the word, fastened, driven home to the head, or deep in the ground, ie., throughly applied to the hearts of the people, by the master of the assemblies, i.e., by ministers who are rules and teachers of the congregations of God’s people, verse 11.
Others expound this last clause otherwise, making a several argument of commentation of the word, that the Scriptures are words choicely and excellently collected together, as no writing can be compared to them, alluding to the custome of epitomising and collecting the sermosn of the prophets and the histories fo the Bible into one volume by men inspired by the Holy Ghost.
Argument Four: Divine Source
From the author of this and other Holy Writ, which however it be delivered by inferior shepherds and ministers of the Church, it is not their word, but is given and inspired in them by that great and One Pastor, Jesus Christ, who by his Spirit spake in the prophets and holy men. And therefore, this book is to be heeded, not as Solomon’s but as God’s word, verse 11.
Second Argument: Other Books are Vain
The second kind of argument is from the fruitlessness and vanity of other books and studies which men make & betake themselves to wanting supernatural directions. The vanity is double:
In making of books, proved from the multitude of them: It must needs be that men’s writings should give no full satisfaction, seeing no man thinks another has written so well, but that he may be amended, confuted, something distracted, and one or other corrected. Whence, every day new books and new discourses of one and the same subject: And thus whilst all will be still writing, it argues that all their writings are imperfect and full of vanity: for he that comes last and sees and reads all will yet make a new book more. Therefore, it is good to study the Scriptures, which are perfect and complete declarations of matters that are fully to satisfy our inquiries. In making many books there is no end true of all times, especially in these days which hath infinite numbers of books and few to any purpose.
In reading and studying of these books here censured to be wearisome, because a fruitless labor. It dulls the spirits, wearies the body, spends the time, but brings no satisfactory knowledge. Much reading is a weariness to the flesh. Wherefore seeing we have the Scriptures in not so many nor so large volumes as the reading need weary us out, yet so perfect and entire as they are able to make us wise to salvation, let us bestow thereon principally our pains and study, verse 12.