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Our design, in checking the immoderate inclination we have to contrive fanciful schemes
SERMON LXI.* of happiness, is to make you enjoy with tranquillity such blessings as you have. Most men render themselves insensible to their present
DISGUST WITH LIFE. advantages by an extravagant passion for future acquisitions. The avidity, with which they
Ecclesiastes ii. 17. wish to acquire more riches, prevents their enjoying what they actually possess; the avidity I hated life, because the work that wroughl with which they desire to obtain a station more
under the sun is grievous unto me. elevated in society, prevents their tasting the WERE we to estimate life by the idea which pleasure of that in which Providence has placed Solomon gives of it in the words of the text, it them. In a word, our design is to engage you should seem there was very little wisdom in to proportion the pains you take to obtain our congratulating one another, this morning, worldly advantages to the true value of them. on beginning a new year. There should seem
Above all, the design, the chief design we better reasons for deploring our fate, because have in denouncing a vain and unsatisfactory we are alive, than for congratulating one being in this world, is to engage you to seek another on the happiness of seeing another after a happy futurity in the presence of God; new year's day. Ye desolate families, in which to engage you to expect from the blessings of death has made such cruel breaches! I think, a future state what you cannot promise your while this day naturally brings to your rememself in this: And what, my soul, canst thou brance those dear parts of yourselves, you expect during the short period of this life, if the ought rather to shed tears of joy than sorrow! remainder will resemble the past, if in future And you,“ Rachel, weeping for your children," years thy condition will resemble that of the you ought rather "to be comforted for the former days, if thou must pass through the children” that are, than for those that “are same vicissitudes, suffer the same maladies, be not.” It should seem that the benedictions of witness to the same injustice, see the same in the servant of God, who preceded us this fidelity, and the same perfidy?
morning in this pulpit, and to which we are But if all mankind ought to preserve them- going to join ours, were very unsuitable to the selves from the disorder of fanciful schemes of tender affections we owe you, and to which future pleasure, they above all are bound to this solemnity adds a new degree of activity do so, who are arrived at old age, when years and force. accumulated bring us near the infirmities of Long may you live, said we this morning to declining life, or a dying bed. Such a man one another; may God bless you, your fellowought to say to himself, What can I henceforth citizens, your relations, your friends, and your expect in this world? Should an unheard-of children, long may they live! Enjoy the blessrevolution happen in my favour, should the ings of peace, prosperity in commerce, stability face of the universe be changed, should all the in freedom, riches and plenty in abundance! advantages of the world unite, and present Attain, and, if it be possible, go beyond the themselves to me, what benefit could I derive usual limits of the life of man, and may every from them?
day of that life be distinguished by some new What advantage could I derive from a well- prosperity. These were the benedictions and furnished table 1, whose palate has lost the prayers which our friends uttered to us and we faculty of tasting and relishing food? What ad- to them. And yet the Wise Man tells us, that vantage could I derive from a numerous levee? riches and plenty, that the best established liI, to whom company is become a burden, and berty and the most prosperous trade, that the who am in a manner a burden to myself? What blessings of peace and all the advantages of this advantage could I derive from elegant apart- life, are nothing but vanity. He does more, ments, and extensive landscapes; I, whose eyes after he had experienced all the pomp of are incapable of discerning objects, whose body, worldly grandeur, and immensity of wealth, almost motionless, is confined to an easy chair, the utmost refinement of pleasure, and the or a sick bed? In one word, what benefit can most extensive reputation, after he had been I reap from a concurrence of all the advantages the happiest mortal that ever lived upon earth, of life, I, who am within a few steps of the he tells us in the words of the text, “ I hated gates of death! Happy! when my life comes life, because the work that is wrought under to an end, to be able to incorporate my ex- the sun is grievous unto me." istence with that of the immortal God! Happy! What then, must we revoke the congratulawhen I feel this earthly tabernacle sink, to be tions of this morning? Do we come to pray to able to exercise that faith, which is an “evidence God to send out his destroying angels to return of things not seen!" Happy to ascend to that us that mortality which has been ravaging our "city, which hath foundations, whose builder towns and provinces? Are we come to collect and maker is God!" Heb. xi. 1. 10.
all our prayers into this one of Jonah, “O May we all, my dear brethren, live, grow Lord, take, I beseech thee, my life from me, for old, and die in these sentiments! God grant us it is better for me to die than to live," chap. the grace. To him to be honour and glory for ever. Amen.
* Preached on the first day of the year 1728.
iv. 3; or, in this of Elijah, "It is enough, now, | Yet I think we have sufficient reasons to preO Lord, take away my life, for I am not better sume, that the Wise Man puts these words into than my fathers!'' 1 Kings xix. 4.
the mouth of a libertine, so that though they It is this contrast of ideas that we will en- contain a truth, yet they cannot be proposed deavour to reconcile, for in this point of light in proof of a doctrine. I suppose we must enwe are going to consider the words of the text, tertain the same idea of another passage, which and to treat of disgust with the world and con- seems to establish one of the finest maxims of tempt of life. Happy! if we be able by any morality, "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, observations of ours to abate the asperity of do it with thy miglit, for there is no work, nor your minds in regard to the hateful things of device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the life, and to engage you to make a holy use of grave whither thou goest," chap. ix. 10. But every thing agreeable in it. Happy! if, by if you consider, that this is a consequence turning your attention to the amiable side of drawn from the irony just before, “Go, eat thy life, we may inspire you with gratitude to God bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a for preserving it, in spite of the many perils to merry heart," ver. 7, you will suppose, as we which it is exposed; and if, by showing you do, that it contains a pernicious maxim, like the other side, we may incline you to quit it that mentioned by, the prophet, “let us eat with joy, whenever it shall please God to re- and drink, for to-morrow we shall die,” Isa.
quire it. This is the substance of all our ac- xxii. 13. clamations and prayers in your favour to-day: There are other inspired books, as well as Almighty and most merciful God, condescend this of Ecclesiastes, subject to the same misinto ratify in heaven what we are sincerely en- terpretation. Under pretence that the Scripdeavouring to effect on earth! Amen. ture is divinely inspired, people quote texts in
I suppose it is Solomon himself who speaks discriminately. Certainly it is divinely inspired, the words of my text, and not any one of the and for this reason we should always reject interlocutors, whom he introduces in his book. such maxims as would tend to defeat the deI suppose that he expresses in the words his sign of it. Without this precaution you may own sentiments, and not those of any other prove by Scripture things the most opposite to person; and that he tells us not what he thought the design of Scripture; you may prove that while his reason was wandering, and he was God has violated his promises, because it is pursuing the vanities of the world, but what said in Scripture, “where is the promise of his he thought after his recovery, and when he coming?" Or you may prove that atheism is was under the direction of divine wisdom. preferable to religion, because the Scripture
This observation is absolutely necessary for says, “there is no God;” and so by a hundred the understanding of the text. The great dif- other passages you may prove a hundred simificulty of the Book of Ecclesiastes is owing to lar absurdities. the great variety of persons who are introduced But the connexion of our text with preceding there, each of whom proposes maxims con- and following verses, and its perfect harmony formable to his own principles. Is it the same with the design of the Wise Man, which was man, who says in one place, “Go thy way, to decry the world and its pleasures, and by his eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with own experience to undeceive such as made idols a merry heart. Live joyfully all the days of of them, confirm, in my opinion, the judgment thy vanity, for that is thy portion in this life, we have formed of them; the whole authorizes and God now accepteth thy works," chap. ix. us to consider the words as proceeding from the 7. 9; and in another place, “ Rejoice, O young mouth of Solomon himself, expressive of his man, in thy youth, and walk in the ways of own sentiments and not those of others, and thy heart: but know thou, that for all these what he thought after his reconversion, and not things God will bring thee to judgment?" chap. what his opinion was during his dissipation. xi. 9. Is it the same man, who says in one I. On this principle, we will first rid the text place, “I commended mirth, because a man of several false meanings, which it may seem at hath no better thing under the sun than to eat, i first sight to countenance; for as there is a disand to drink, and to be merry," chap. viii. 15; gust with the world, and a contempt of life, and in another place, “I said of laughter, it is which wisdom inspires, so there is a hatred of mad; and of mirth, what doth it! chap. ii. 2. the world that arises from evil dispositions. We Is it the same man, who says in one place, may be disgusted with life from a principle of “The dust shall return to the earth as it was, melancholy-from a principle of misanthropy and the spirit shall return unto God who gave —from a principle of discontent--and, which is it,” chap. xii. 7; and in another place, " The still more singular, we may be disgusted with dead have no more a reward, for the memory the world through an excessive esteem for the of them is forgotten: to him that is joined to world, and hate life through a too violent atall the living there is hope, but the dead know tachment to it. not any thing, for a living dog is better than a 1. We may hate life because we are melandead lion?" chap. ix. 4, &c.
choly. Only he, whose ideas are disconcerted Expositors of this book, perhaps, have not by a dark and gloomy lemper, can say fully and always paid a sufficient attention to this variety. without qualification, “I hate life.” To attriWhich of us has not, for example, quoted bute such a disposition to the Wise Man is to against the doctrine of invocation of saints these insult the Holy Spirit who animated him. All words, "The living know that they shall die, the advantages of life, I grant, cannot procure but the dead know not any thing; their love, us perfect happiness, yet every one may procure and their hatred is now perished, neither have us some satisfaction, transient but real, provided they any more a portion for ever in any thing we enjoy each with such moderation as wisdom that is done under the sun?” chap. ix. 5, 6. prescribes. Instead of exclaiming in melan
choly mood against society, “What friends! | sisting the inhabitants of it, and our contempt What friendships!" Enjoy the innocent plea- of life should always be accompanied with chasures of society, and you will find that they can rity for the living. contribute to suspend your pain, to dissipate 3. Sometimes a spirit of discontent produces your anxieties, and to relieve your wearisome disgust with the world, and contempt of life. attention to your misfortunes. Instead of ex- To hear the people I mean, one would think it claiming against fortune, and saying, “ Riches was impossible that this world should be goand honours, what are they good for?" Enjoy, verned by a wise Being, because, forsooth, they as far as justice and benevolence will allow, the are doomed with the rest of mankind to live in advantages of fortune, and you will experience a valley of trouble. But who art thou, thou that they may procure you some agreeable ac- miserable man, to conceive ideas so false, and commodations, which you are permitted, yea to form opinions so rash! Learn to know thycommanded to relish. Instead of exclaiming self, and to do thyself justice! If thou shouldst against reputation, and saying, "What doth it be required by the rigorous judgment of God signify to be known and esteemed among man to expiate thy crimes, it would not be in the kind? Enjoy the advantages of reputation, vanity of this world, it would be in the fames and you will experience some satisfaction in of heil! It would not be in the society of men, being respected by intelligent persons in society. faithless in trade, inconstant in friendship, inThough, in general, the world is unjust in esti- sipid in conversation, troublesome in applicamating ability and virtue, yet there are many tion, perfidious in contracts, it would be in the rational members of society, who know how to society of the devil and his angels! It would distinguish gold from tinsel, and real ability not be in the narrow compass of this life, the from parade.
brevity of which may be justly compared to a 2. Some are disgusted with life from a prin- vapour lost in the air, a Hower fading in the ciple of misanthropy. What is a misanthrope, sun, a dream vanishing in the morning, it will or a hater of mankind He is a man, who be in a succession of ages, in the boundless gulfs avoids society only to free himself from the of eternity. trouble of being useful to it. He is a man, who 4. I said finally, my brethren, that we were considers his neighbours only on the side of sometimes disgusted with the world through an their defects, not knowing the art of combining excess of fondness for the world, and hated life their virtues with their vices, and of rendering through an over valuation of it. “Oh heart of the imperfections of other people tolerable by man, deceitful above all things, and desperately reflecting on his own. He is a man more em- wicked!” Jer. xvii. 8. Who would not think, ployed in finding out and inflicting punishments to hear some men exclaim, " Ah human life, Í on the guilty than in devising means to reform only wish to free myself from thy connexions, them. He is a man, who talks of nothing but and thou, wicked world, I detest thee!" Who banishing and executing, and who, because he would not think that these people were conthinks his talents are not sufficiently valued and vinced of the vanity of the world! But undeemployed by his fellow-citizens, or rather, be- ceive yourselves. Man enters the world as an cause they know his foible, and do not choose enchanted place. While the charm lasts, the to be subject to his caprice, talks of quitting man I speak of is in raptures, and thinks he has cities, towns, and societies, and of living in dens found the supreme good. He imagines that or in deserts. Intercourse with mankind is dis riches have no wings, that splendid fortune has agreeable, you say. Very well, I grant it. no reverse, that the great have no caprice, that But do you know what would make it infinitely friends have no levity, that health and youth more disagreeable? I will tell you. It would are eternal: but as it is not long before he rebe, if all the members of society were animated covers his senses, he becomes disgusted with with your spirit. What a society would that the world in the same proportion as he had be, which should be composed of people with been infatuated with it, and his hatred of life is out charity, without patience, without con- exactly as extravagant as his love of it had descension!
been; that is to say, these sentiments, which My text does not inculcate such sentiments seem so just and respectable, do not proceed as these. The Wise Man had met with a great from serious reflections on the views, which an many disagreeable events in society which had immortal soul ought to have: that is to say, you given him a great deal of pain, but, far from would have consented to renounce all hopes of being driven out of it, he continued to reside in future happiness, and to be for ever separated the world, and to amend and improve it by his from God, had not the spring of your life passed wise counsel and good example. Read the away with so much rapidity, had your connex. Book of Proverbs, and this of Ecclesiastes, and ions been more durable, had your interest at observe how he endeavours to preserve society court been better supported. from damage by exposing the snares into which How pitiable is your condition! In it you he himself had fallen. Behold, being converted unite the misfortunes of time with the miseries himself, he endeavours to “strengthen his bre- of eternity. You disclaim both heaven and thren, and to teach transgressors the ways of earth, you are disgusted with the vanity of the God!" How accurately does he describe all one, and you have no taste for the other. A conditions of life! With what charity does he worldling indemnifies himself by present enjoycondescend, if I may venture to speak so, from ments for the loss of future bliss, of which he the cedars of Lebanon to the hyssop upon the has no prospect; and a Christian indemnifies wall, so that there is no profession so mean, himself by enjoying pleasures in prospect for nor any man so obscure in his profession, that the loss of sensual delights; but you! at what do he does not either direct or improve. Disgust you aspire? Your condition is the height of with the world should never prevent our as- misery, as it is the height of absurdity.
It is not in any of these senses that the Wise procure materials, must carry on works, which, Man says, “I hated life, because the work that in a word, more properly belong to the beasts is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me." of burden of the learned world than to himself, He would have us understand, that the earth whose time should be better employed in exerhas more thorns than flowers—that our condi- cising, and improving his own natural abilities. tion here, though incomparably better than we An individual seldom has it in his power to deserve, is however inadequate to our just and gain access to the museums of great men, and constitutional desires—that our inconveniences to procure the productions of their pens, or to in this life would seem intolerable, unless we consult the oracles that proceed from their were wise enough to direct them to the same mouths. An individual is often condemned to end that God proposed by exposing us to suffer turn the studies that naturally employ his libethem—in a word, that nothing but hope in a ral mind into a mercenary trade, the only future state formed on another plan can render means of providing bread for himself and his the disorders of this world tolerable. So much family. In some protestant states youth are may serve to explain the meaning of the Wise but half educated for want of endowments, and Man.
people choose rather to pluck the unripe fruits II. Let us now proceed to justify the sense of the finest genius than to furnish bim with given, and to this I shall devote the remainder the means of bringing them to perfection. A of this discourse, and all the moments of atten- | king, a rich king like Solomon, is free from all tion which we shall take the liberty to require these difficulties. He has all the assistance of you.
necessary to the cultivation of his mind, and I will make use of no artifice to obtain my to the full gratification of his avidity for science. end. I will not affect, in order to detach you He says, what perhaps you have not suficiently from the world, to exhibit only the odious things observed, “I turned myself to behold wisdom, of the world; nor will I combat an excessive that is, I applied myself to the sciences, and love of life by opposing against it the pains and “what can the man do that cometh after the the miseries of the living; but I mean to attack king?" chap. ii. 12. That is, who will ever your idols in their fort, to decry life by showing have such innumerable means of acquiring and its most amiable sides, and to endeavour to dis- perfecting knowledge as those with which royal gust you with the world by exposing the most advantages furnish me? desirable objects in it.
Accordingly the world was filled with the The phantoms that seduced Solomon during science of this prince, and his science has given his dissipation may be reduced to two classes. occasion to a great many fabulous histories. The first suppose in the dissipated man very To him has been attributed a book entitled the little knowledge, and very little taste; and it is “ Contradiction of Solomon," condemned by astonishing that a man so eminently endowed | Pope Gelasius, and other works named “Inwith knowledge could set his heart upon them. chantments, clavicula, necromancy, ideas, neoThe second may more easily impose on an en mænia, letters to king Hiram.” Some ancient lightened and generous mind. In the first class fathers thought that the pagan philosophers I place riches, grandeur, and voluptuousness, had read his writings, and that Aristotle in with all their appendages. If these be, as they particular had taken his “ History of animals” certainly are, the most common idols of man- from the works of this prince. Josephus says, kind, it is for a reason inglorious to them, it is that he composed a “book of charms” to heal because most men have very little knowledge the incurable, and that one Eleazar, a Jew, and very little taste.
had found in it a secret, by which he freed a The world has phantoms more specious, life person from possession, a reverie mentioned by has charms more capable of seducing a generous Origen. The schoolmen have agitated a great heart, and of imposing on a liberal mind. I many indiscreet questions concerning the put these into three classes. In the first I put science of Solomon, and have inquired, whethe advantages of science-in the second the ther he were more learned than the angels and pleasures of friendship-in the third the privi- the Virgin Mary; and they have persuaded leges, I mean the temporal privileges of virtue themselves not only that he was a great poet, and heroism. I will endeavour to unmask these a great physician, and a great astronomer, but three figures, and to prove, that the very dis- also that he understood all the mysteries of the positions which should contribute most to the theology of the schools, and was well acquaintpleasure of life, mental abilities, tenderness of | ed with the doctrine of transubstantiation. heart, rectitude and delicacy of conscience, are We have better evidence of the science of actually dispositions which contribute most of Solomon than these visionaries. The Scripall to imbitter life.
ture itself informs us, that God "gave him a 1. If ever possessions could make man happy, wise and an understanding heart, so that there Solomon must certainly have been the happiest was none like him before, neither after him of mankind. Imagine the most proper and the should any arise like unto him,” i Kings iii. most effectual means of acquiring knowledge, 12; that he was “wiser," that is a greater phijoined to an avidity to obtain it, both were losopher, “than all the children of the east united in the person of this prince. We indi- country, and all the Egyptians," chap. iv. 30, viduals, when we have received from Heaven 31. By the children of the east we understand abilities for science, we generally want assist the Arabian philosophers, Chaldeans, and the ance to cultivate them. What individual is Persians, so famous for their erudition, and able to send emissaries into distant climes to particularly for their profound knowledge of make observations to perfect geography, physic, astronomy. He was wiser than all the Egypastronomy, botany, navigation: An individual, tians, that is, the most consummate doctors of to make collections, to ascertain reports, to Egypt, a country famous in the time of Moses
for its literature, called by the pagans the ino- condemn your discourses and your publications, ther of arts, and who boasted that they first of and will pronounce with decisive tone this is all men knew how to take dimensions of the not solid, that is superficial! The superiority of stars, and to calculate their motions, as Macro- your understanding will raise up against you a bius, Diodorus of Sicily, and many other au- world of ignorant people, who will say, that thors affirm. The Scripture says that Solomon you corrupt the youth, because you would was “wiser than Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and guard them against prejudice; that you stab Darda:" names which the Jews understand in orthodoxy, because you endeavour to heal the a mystical sense, meaning by Ethan Abraham, wounds which pedantry and intolerance have by Heman Moses, and Chalcol Joseph. The given it; that you trouble society, because you Scripture says farther, that he composed endeavour to purify morality, and to engage " three thousand proverbs, and a thousand and the great as well as the small, magistrates as five songs; that he spake of trees, from the ce- well as people, to submit to its holy laws. dar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hys. They will prefer before you, both in the state sop, that springeth out of the wall, also of and in the church, novices who are hardly fit beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, to be your disciples. and of fishes,” ver. 32, 33. Some of these Blessed idiots! You, who surrounded with a works are a part of the canon of Scripture, but circle of idiots like yourselves, having first the rest are lost.
stupified yourselves with your own vanity, are Now what says this great man concerning now intoxicated with the incense offered your science? He acknowledges indeed that it was admirers; you, who, having collected a few preferable to ignorance, " the wise man's eyes,” bombastic phrases, are spreading the sails of says he, "are in his head," that is, a man of your eloquence, and are bound for the occan education is in possession of some prudential of glory: you, whose sublime nonsense, stale maxims to regulate his life, whereas an illite- common-places, and pedantic systems, have rate man“walketh in darkness:” but yet says acquired you such a reputation for learning he "it happeneth even to me, as it happeneth and erudition as is due only to real merit: your to the fool, and why was I then wise?" ver. 15. condition seems to me often preferable to that And again, “ the eye is not satisfied with see- of first-rate geniuses, and most accomplished ing, nor the ear filled with hearing; for in scholars! Ah!“ Wisdom is vanity and vexamuch wisdom is much grief, and he that in- tion of spirit-of making many books there is creaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow," chap. no end—it happeneth even to me as it happeni. 8. 18. So again, in another place, after he eth to the fool—there is no remembrance of had proposed some rules for the government the wise more than of the fool, for all shall be of life, he adds, “My son be admonished by forgotten-therefore I hated life, because the these, for of making many books there is no work that is wrought under the sun is grievous end, and much study is a weariness of the unto me." flesh," chap. xii. 12. I wish I could weigh 2. The second disposition, which seems as if every expression. Observe however two im- it would contribute much to the pleasure of perfections of science.
life, but which often embitters it, is tenderness of 1. Observe first the little progress made in heart. Let the sacred names of friendship and science by those who pursue it to the highest tenderness never come out of some mouths; let pitch. As they advance in this immense field them never be used by profane people to exthey discover, shall I say new extents, or new press certain connexions, which far from havabysses, which they can never fathom. The ing the reality have not even the appearance more they nourish themselves with this rich of rational sensibility! Would you give these pasture, the more keen do their appetites be- names to such vague associations as are formed come. "The eye is never satisfied with see- only because you are a burden to yourselves; ing, nor the ear with hearing, and of making to connexions in which the sentiments of the many books there is no end."
heart have no share, in which nothing is in2. Remark next the little justice done in the tended except the mutual performance of some world to such as excel most in science. “He capricious customs or the assuaging of some that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, criminal passions, to the impetuosity of which and it happeneth even to me as it happeneth you like brute beasts are given up! Would to a fool." Yes! after you have spent all your you give these names to those unpleasant inyouth, after you have impaired your health, terviews, in which while you visit, you inwardafter you have spent yonr fortune to improve ly groan under the necessity of visiting, in your own mind, and to enable you to improve which the mouth protests what the heart dethose of other men, “it will happen to you nies, in which, while you outwardly profess to even as it happeneth to a fool." You will be be affected with the misfortunes of another, told, that sciences have nothing in them that you consider them inwardly with indifference deserve the attention of a man of quality. A and insensibility, and while you congratulate man of mean extraction, who carries himself them on the prosperity which Providence belike a lord, will tell you that a man of birth stows, you envy their condition, and sometimes ought to aspire at something more noble than regard it with a malice and mortification you meditating on questions of law, studying cases cannot help discovering? of conscience, and explaining holy Scripture. By friendship and tenderness, I mean those You will be told, that there is not half the affectionate attachments produced by a secret knowledge required to sparkle in political bo- sympathy, which virtue cements, which piety dies, and to decide on a bench the lives, and sanctifies, which a mutual vigilance over each fortunes, and honours of mankind. Presump- other's interests confirms with indissoluble, I tuous youths will judge, and without appeal) had almost said eternal, bonds. I call a friend