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preparations; nor doth that side which in human estimation is strongest, always prevail and get the better.
Nor yet bread 10 the wise; Neque doctorum panem elle : So some render the words, that learned men are not always secured against poverty and want.
Nor yet riches to men of understanding; for so some interpreters translate the words, Neque industriis divitias ele, that those who take most pains do not always get the greatest ettates.
Nor yet favour to men of skill; that is, to those who understand men and bufiness, and how to apply themselves dextrously to the inclinations and interests of princes and great men. Others interpret these words mure generally, Neque teritorum artificum elle gratiam ; that those who excel most in their several arts and professions, do not always meet with suitable encouragement: but because the word which is here rendered favour, is so frequently used by Solomon for the favour of princes, the former senfe seems to be more easy and natural.
But time and chance happeneth to them all; that is, faith Aben Ezra, there is a secret providence of God, which sometimes presents men with unexpected oppor. tunities, and interposeth accidents, which no human wisdom could foresee; which gives success to very unlikely means, and defeats the swift, and the strong, and the learned, and the industrious, and them that are best versed in men and businefs, of their several ends and designs.
It sometimes happens, that he that is swiftest, by a fall, or by fainting, or by some other unlucky accident, may lose the race.
It sometimes falls out, that a much smaller and weaker number, by the advantage of ground, or of a pass; by a stratagem, or by a sudden surprise, or by some other accident and opportunity, may be victorious over a much greater force.
And that an unlearned man, in comparison, by fa-vour, or friends, or by some happy chance of setting out to the best advantage the little learning he has, before one that hath less, may arrive at great things ; when perhaps, at the same time, the man that is a
hundred times more learned than he, may be ready to ftarve.
And that men of no great parts and industry, may ftumble into an estate, and by some casual hit in trade may attain such a fortune, as the man that hath toiled and drudged all his life, shall never be able to reach.
And, lastly, that a man of no great ambition or design, may fall into an opportunity, and, by happening upon the mollia tempora fandi, some soft and lucky season of address, may side into his prince's favour, and all on the sudden be hoisted up to that degree of dignity and esteem, as the designing man, who hath been laying trains to blow up his rivals, and waiting opportunities all his days to worm others out, and to ikrew himself in, Ihall never be able to attain.
The words thus explained, contain this general proposition, which shall be the subject of my following difcourse :
That, in human affairs, the most likely means do not always attain their end, nor does the event constantly answer the probability of second causes; but there is a secret providence which governs and over-rules all things, and does, when it pleales, interpose to defeat the most hopeful and probable designs.
In the handling of this proposition, I shall do these three things.
I. I shall confirm and illustrate the truth of it, by an induction of the particulars which are instanced in, here in the text.
2. I shall give some reason and account of this, why the providence of God doth sometimes interpose to hinder and defeat the most probable designs.
3. I shall draw some inferences from the whole, suitable to the occasion of this day. In all which, I shall endeavour to be as brief as conveniently I can.
1. For the confirmation and illustration of this propor sition, That the most likely means do not always attain their end; but there is a secret providence, which overrules and governs all events, and does, when it pleases, interpose to defeat the most probable and hopeful designs. This is the general conclusion which Solomon proves by this induction of particulars in the text. And he instanceth in the most probable means for the compassing of the several ends which inost men in this world propose to themselves. And the great darlings of mankind are, vi&tory, riches, and honour. I do not mention pleasure, because that seems rather to result from the use and enjoyment of the other. Now, if a man design victory, what more probable means to overcome in a race, than swiftness ? what more likely to prevail in war, than strength ? If a man aim at riches, what more proper to raise an estate, than underítanding and industry ? if a man aspire to honour, what more likely to prefer him to the King's favour and fervice, than dexterity and skill in business? And yet experience shews, that these means, as probable as they seem to be, are not always successful for the accomplishment of their several ends.
Or else we may suppose, that Solomon by these instances did intend to represent the chief engines and instruments of human designs and actions. Now, there are five things more especially which do eminently qualify a man for any undertaking; expedition and quickness of dis. patch, strength and force, providence and forecast, diligence and industry, knowledge and insight into men and business : and some think, that Solomon did intend to represent these several qualities by the several instances in the text. The race is not to the swift ; that is, men of the greatest expedition and dispatch do not always succeed : for we see that men do sometiines outrun business, and make halte to be undone. Nor the battle to the strong ; that is, neither does force and strength always carry it. Nor yet bread to the wife; which some understand of the provident care and pains of the husbandman, whose harvest is not always answerable to his labour and hopes. Nor yet riches to men of understanding, or industry; that is, neither is diligence in business always crowned with success. Nor yet favour to men of skill; that is, neither have they that have the greatest dexterity in the inanagement of affairs always the fortune to rise. And if we take the words in this sense, the thing will come much to one. But I rather approve the first inter pretation, as being less forced, and nearer to the letter.
So that the force of Solomon's reasoning is this : If the swiftest do not always win the race, nor the strongest always overcome in war; if knowledge and learning do not always secure men from want, nor industry always make men rich, nor political skill always raise men to high place; nor any other means that can be instanced in as most probable, do constantly and infallibly succeed ; then it must be acknowledged, that there is some other cause which mingles itself with human affairs, and
governs all events; and which can, and does when it · pleases, defeat the most likely, and bring to pass the most
improbable designs. And what else can that be imagined to be, but the secret and over-ruling providence of almighty God? When we can find no other, we are very unreasonable if we will not admit this to be the cause of such extraordinary events, but will obftinately impute that to blind necessity or chance which hath such plain characters upon it of a divine power and wisdom. .
I might be large upon every one of those instances in the text, and illustrate them by pat and lively examples both out of scripture and other histories. But I shall briefly pass over all of them, but the second, The battle is not to the strong.
The race is not to the swift. If we understand this literally, it is obvious to every man, to imagine a great many accidents in a race, which may snatch victory from the swiftest runner. If we understand it as the Chaldee paraphrase does, with relation to war, that the swiftest does not always overcome or escape in the day of battle; of this Asahel is an eminent instance, who though he was, as the scripture tells us, light of - foot as a wild roe, yet did he not escape the spear of Abner. It seems, that, among the ancients, swiftness was looked upon as a great qualification in a warrior; both because it serves for a sudden assault and onset, and likewise for that which in civility we call a nimble retreat. And therefore David, in his poctical lamentation over those two great captains, Saul and Jonathan, takes particular notice of this warlike quality of theirs : They were (says he) Swifter than eagles, stronger than lions. And the constant character which Homer gives of Achilles, one of his principal heroes, is, that he was swift of foot. The po
et feigns of him, that, by some charm or gift of the gods, he was invulnerable in all parts of his body except his heel; and that was the part to which he trusted, and in that he received his mortal wound: the wise poet hereby instructing us, that many times our greatest danger lies there, where we place our chief confidence and safety.
Nor yet bread to the wise, or to the learned. The poverty of poets is proverbial; and there are frequent instances in history, of eminently learned persons that have been reduced to great straits and necessities.
Nor yet riches to men of understanding. By which, whether we understand men of great parts, or of great diligence and industry; it is obvious to every man's observation, that an ordinary capacity and understanding does usually lie more level to the business of a common trade and profession, than more refined and elevated parts; which lie rather for speculation than practice, and are better fitted for the pleasure and ornament of conversation, than for the toil and drudgery of business : as a fine razor is admirable for cutting hairs, but the dull hatchet much more proper for hewing a hard and knotty piece of timber. And even when parts and industry meet together, they are many times less fuccessful in the raising of a great estate, than men of much lower and flower understandings : because these are apt to admire riches, which is a great spur to industry; and because they are perpetually intent upon one thing, and mind but one business, from which their thoughts never straggle into vain and useless inquiries after knowledge, or news, or publick affairs; all which being foreign to their business, they leave to those who are, as they are wont to say of them in scorn, more curious, and too wise to be rich.
Nor yet favour to men of skill. All history is full of instances of the casual advancement of men to great favour and honour, when others, who have made it their serious study and business, have fallen short of it. I could give a famous example in this kind, of the manifold and manifest disappointment of a whole order of men; the slyest and most subtle, in their generation, of all the children of this world ; the most politically insti