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Nothing new under the Sun.
[From Dr. CLAGET's Second Volume. ]
Écch. iii. 15. That which hath been, is now; and that
which is to be, bath already been: and God requireth that which is paft.
T HE former part of this text, That
which hath been, is now; and that
which is to be, bath already been, is in sense the same, with verse the ninth of the first chapter of this book, There is no new thing under the sun; that is, As the ages of the world go on, the same events come about again.
The latter part of it, God requireth that which is past, seems to have this meaning; that God still requireth the fame be
haviour from us, that he hath ever required of those that have been before us.“
Which two considerations being intended to promote the general end of the whole book, i. e. to make men fear God and keep his commandments, I intend to illustrate both, and to shew how useful they are for that purpose.
Now these fayings are to be understood, as many other moral and proverbial sayings are, where what is universally affirmed, is to be understood as to the greater part. The meaning cannot be this, that there is no diversity of events to be seen in the seyeral passages of men's lives, or in the several ages of the world ; for as Solomon observes in the beginning of this chapter, To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven : nor, can the meaning þe, that nothing happens in one age of the world, but it hath happened in every age; for sometimes God (as the scripture expresseth it) createth a new thing: The Son of God was to come in our nature, but once before the end of the
world: The first ages of Christianity were ages of miracles; but miracles now have ceased for many ages. Such rare and extraordinary cases as these, are not intended. And as to all the rest, the meaning is this.; That if we consider the diversity of events which befal mankind, and the viciffitudes of the good and evil which they undergo, m athese yarieties are still so repeated in the several ages of the world, that the difference is not so confiderable as the agreement. In the main they are the same, though the circumstances be various. Just as the seasons of the year are the fame, in which nevertheless there may be great diversity of weather; not always the like sunshine or rain, fair or foul weather, barren or fruitful seasons; yet still the same spring, summer, winter, and autumn, do return in their course,
And as the case of all ages is much alike, as to the events that befal men; so it is not much different, as to the duties required of them. For in all times, from the beginning to the end of the world, the moral part of religion is the same, namely, to fear God, to be just and kind to men, and to govern our passions by reason, by the reverence of our Maker, and the expectation of a final account. And God has, once for all, required some duties, by the particular revelation of the gospel; by which we are obliged to the end of the world. Nay, and the circumstances which make the doing of these things more or less difficult, are not new; since the same, or the like, have frequently returned heretofore; and when we are gone, will be repeated again. So that still God requireth that which is past,
Now because, as I said, these considerations are of great use, in order that they may have the stronger impression, I shall try to Thew, that it must needs be so; that it cannot be otherwise, if we take one thing with another, but that that which bath been should be now, and that which is to be, already should have been.
: For, from the beginning of the world to the end of it, they are the same things, of which the good or evil of mankind is compounded. The welfare of the world. always did, and ever will confift, in such things as these; in a just and wise government; in constant. obedience to it; in peace and security; in prosperous undertakings; in having good parents, and good children, and good relations; in a good name; in competent maintenance ; in liberty and health ; and in agreeable con, versation. · There are no sorts of happiness peculiar to one age, which are not as delireable by another; nor any kind of misery, that one has suffered, but another must feel the fame uneasiness and pain under it, when it happens. And therefore because it is the good and the evil that happens to meny which makes up a great part of the history of the world; they must be, in great part, the same things that are brought over again,