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rather call it brutal philosophy, which they have it ” But is this the condition of the man revived. We ingenuously acknowledge that the whom I have been describing? sight of people of this character always excites On what conditions does religion promise emulation in us, at least it leads us to deplore eternal life to a statesman: On condition that the inefficacy of religion in some people's he always sets before his eyes that King," by minds. Truth with all its brightness, virtue whom kings reign, and princes decree justice," with its graces, religion with its evidences, Prov. viii. 15; on condition that he does not eternity with its demonstrations, celestial feli- regard the appearance of persons; on condicity with its pomp, all these things can hardly tion that he take no bribes, which God dehold some trembling Christians steady to their clares “blind the eyes." You have not perprofession, who yet seem to adhere to Jesus formed this condition, you are intoxicated Christ: while these men without light, with with your own grandeur, you are inaccessible out proofs, without demonstration, without to the cries of widows and orphans, you are certainty, yea without hope discover a tran- flexible to presents, though you know they quillity, which we should congratulate our are given you to be returned in actions disselves for producing, even after we have spent guised under the fair names of impartiality and twenty or thirty years in the ministry. equity. And are you in a state of tranquillity?
But how fair soever this exterior may seem, On what condition does the gospel promise how insurmountable soever this difficulty may eternal felicity to a counsellor?" On condiappear, how strong soever it may seem to pre- tion that he perform the oath administered to vent the judgments of God, and to dispose him when he entered on his profession, an oath of the terrors which they naturally excite in in wbich he called God to witness that he the conscience, it is an effort of wickedness would never plead any but just causes. You easily defeated; and although this fourth way have not performed this condition, you have seems to surpass the three others in wisdom, been known to take either side of a cause, yea yet it actually goes beyond them all in absur- both, when your interest required it; you have dity and extravagance.
been seen exercising your talents in varnishing Do we impose on people of this kind? Let over such causes as you durst not state in their them tell us on what their tranquillity is found true point of light, and straining every nerve ed. Allowing the circumstances in which we to mislead the judges. And you are in a now are, there can be only two ways of ac- state of tranquillity, and will be so the day quiring tranquillity in prospect of death. The you die. first is, to prove that religion is a human con- On what condition does religion promise trivance; that all we propose concerning a 'fu- eternal happiness to a man in possession of ture state, a heaven and a hell, and concerning property unjustly acquired? On condition of the means of escaping the last and enjoying his making restitution. You are, in this case, the first, is either exaggerated or imaginary. I mean in the case of him who holds such proThe second is, to bring full proof that we have perty, for “the stone crieth out of the walls of performed the duties, to which religion has your houses, and the beam out of the timber annexed a promise of freedom from misery, witnesses against you. The hire of the laand the possession of eternal felicity. In which bourers which have reaped down your fields, class shall I place the man I have been de- which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth, scribing?
and the cries are entered into the ears of the He would complain of injustice should I put Lord of Hosts,” Hab. ii. 11; Jam. v. 4. You him in the first class. He always professed have not made restitution; you will not even himself a Christian. He has all his life long suffer us to utter this frightful word, Restitubeen present at public worship, and has par- tion; you are going to transmit this accursed taken of our sacraments. In any case, if he patrimony to your children, and you too are be an infidel, he is a mere idiot. Distracted tranquil and easy! What are you also a phiwith the cares of life, he has never made such losopher? Are you also a stoic: Extravagant inquiries as are absolutely necessary to refute stoicism, senseless philosophy, absurd tranquilthe system of religion, even supposing the lity! Is it thus you pretend to oppose Alsystem could be refuted; and I pledge myelf, mighty God! There is no wisdom, nor un. let him take which side he will, to silence him, derstanding, nor counsel against the Lord.” whether he undertake to attack religion, or to Let us conclude. The most reasonable part, defend it, so grossly ignorani is he of every that an intelligent creature can take, is to subthing that belongs to the subject.
mit to his Creator. Happy, if it were as easy Has he then obtained satisfaction by the se- to affect our hearts, as it is to convince our cond method? A man, who has set his heart judgments of this article! Happy, if the heart entirely at ease, because he can give full proof never appealed from the dictates of reason, that he has performed the duties to which the and if the passions had no distinct and separate gospel has annexed a promise of exemption system! A system the more dangerous, befrom future misery, and a possession of endless cause reason is present only in a few moments felicity; such a man is truly happy; he has ar- of our attention; whereas the other, on the rived at the highest degree of felicity that can contrary, always carries us away when we folpossibly be obtained in this valloy of tears; for low the suggestions of our passions, that is in his tranquillity is that “joy unspeakable and the usual course of our lives. fall of glory," of which our scripture speaks. My brethren, let us act like intelligent creaIt is that "peace of God, which passeth all un- tures, let us form a just idea of sin, let us alderstanding." It is the white stone, which ways have before our eyes this image, which no man knoweth saving him that receiveth I the Wise Man has given us, and which is so
proper to demonstrate to us the extravagance of it. Let us remember, that a sinner is an
SERMON LX. idiot, who attempts to resist God, who opposes his laws, and who undertakes to counteract
IMAGINARY SCHEMES OF HAPPIhim by superior skill or force. Let us seek in a reconciliation to God those succours of which
NESS. our silly pride offers us only an appearance. But you love grandeur, you are struck with the
ECCLESIASTES i. 9. courage of a man, who opposes God, and who The thing that hath been, is that which shall be; pretends to resist and triumph over him. Well, and that which is done, is that which shall be consider the path we open to you in this point
done; and there is no new thing under the sun. of light. This Almighty God is armed against There are few people in the world, who do you, his anger is ready to crush you to atoms, not form in their minds agreeable plans of haphis thunder roars, his lightnings flash in your piness, made up of future, flattering prospects, eyes, his fire is kindled, and his justice requires which have no foundation, except in their own your destruction: but there is an art of disarm- fancies. This disposition of mind, which is so ing God. This was the skill of Jacob, who general among mankind, is also one of the prinwept, and prayed, and said, “I will not let cipal causes of their immoderate desire to live. thee go, except thou bless me," Gen. xxxii. 26. Some have questioned, whether any mortal This was the wisdom of Moses, who stood in were ever so happy as to choose to live his life the breach to turn away the wrath of heaven, over again, on condition of passing through all of that Moses to whom God said, “Let me the events through which he had gone from his alone, that I may consume this people," Exod. birth to his last hour. Without investigating xxxii. 10; but Moses said, “O forgive their sin, this problem, I venture to affirm that mankind and if not, blot me, I pray thee, out of the book would be much less attached to the world, if which thou hast written,'' ver. 32. This is the they did not flatter themselves with the hope art which Jesus Christ taught us, “the king of enjoying more pleasure than they had hidom of heaven suffereth violence, and the vio- therto experienced. A child fancies, that as lent take it by force,” Matt. xi. 12. These are soon as he shall arrive at a certain stature, he powerful weapons, which God will not oppose. shall enjoy more pleasure than he has enjoyed These are arms always effectual. This was the in his childhood, and this is pardonable in a method which the Lord formerly taught his child. The youth persuades himself that men, people by the ministry of Isaiah, “Who would who are what they call settled in the world, are set briars and thorns against me in battle! I incomparably more happy than young people would go through them, I would burn them can be at his age. While we think ourselves together. O, let him take hold of my strength, condemned to live single, solitude seems intolehe may make peace with me, and he shall make rable; and when we have associated ourselves peace with me,” Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. Let us not with others, we regret the happy days we spent make a vain parade before God of fanciful great in the tranquillity of solitude. Thus we go on ness, let us rather appear in our own insignifi- from fancy to fancy, and from one chimera to cance, let us show ourselves as we are, “poor, another, till death arrives, subverts all our miserable, blind, and naked.” Let us not pre- imaginary projects of happiness, and makes us tend to surprise him with the wisdom of our know by our own experience what the expecounsels; but let us endeavour to move his com- rience of others might have fully taught us long passion, by acknowledging our uncertainty, before, that the whole world is vanity; that our darkness, our ignorance, our superficial every state, all ages, and all conditions, have thoughts on the government of the world, and inconveniences peculiar to themselves, and one on that of our families. Let us not appear be which is common to them all, I mean a chafore him intoxicated with pleasure, but morti- racter of disproportion to our hearts; so that by fied, contrite, bowed down under the weight of changing our situation we often do no more our sins, prostrate in the dust, and wounded than change our kind of infelicity. with sincere repentance. Let us not resist him Of this vanity I would endeavour to-day to with a brutal security, but let us lay before him convince you, my brethren, and I dedicate this our timidity, our doubts, and our fears. Let discourse to the destruction of imaginary us conjure him, by the sad objects of our frailty schemes of happiness. “The thing that hath and insignificance to pity our condition. These been, is that which shall be: and that which is are invincible arms, these are impenetrable done, is that which shall be done: and there is shields, this is the infallible art of prevailing no new thing under the sun.” It is not unjust with Almighty God. May he deign to teach to reason thus; as I have hitherto found nothing us how to exercise it! May he condescend to but vanity in all the enjoyinents of the world, crown our efforts with success! Amen! To which I singled out for myself as most likely to him be honour and glory both now and for ever! make me happy, this experience of what has Amen.
been shall guide me in my expectations of what shall be. I have reason to suppose that the removing these enormous masses, public bodies, world can offer me no object in future different and in turning the current of prosperity and in its nature from those which I have always victory. But should he penetrate into the hitherto found inadequate to my happiness. spring of events, he would soon find, that a very All the past has been vanity, and all the future small and inconsiderable point gave motion to will be vanity to the end of the world. “The that wheel, on which turned public prosperity, thing that hath been is that which shall be: and and public adversity, and which gave a whole that which is done is that which shall be done; nation a new and different appearance. and there is no new thing under the sun.” Sometimes all the wise counsels, the cool
In order to enter into the views of the Wise deliberations, the well-concerted plans, that Man, we must observe three things: first, the constitute the prosperity of a nation, proceed error which he attacks-next, the arms he em- from the prudence of one single head. This ploys-and, lastly, the end he proposes in at- one head represses the venality of one, and the tacking it. Sutfer me, before I enter on the animosity of another; the ambition of this man, discussion of these articles, to give you a more and the avarice of that. Into this head one exact idea of my meaning, and to lead you more single vapour ascends; prosperity relaxes it, fully into the plan of this discourse.
death strikes it off. Instantly a new world In the first article I shall try to develope the arises, and then that which was is no more, for idea of Solomon, and to engage you to enter with that head well-concerted measures, cool into the most intricate labyrinths of your own deliberations, and wise counsels, all vanished bearts, and to make you acknowledge that we away. are all, more or less, prejudiced in favour of Sometimes the rare qualities of one single this bewitching opinion, that future life will general animate a whole army, and assign to produce something more solid and satisfactory, each member of it his proper work; to the pruthan we have hitherto found, especially if we dent, a station which requires prudence; to the obtain some advantages, which we have long intrepid, a station which requires courage; and had in prospect, but which we have not been even to an idiot a place where folly and abable to obtain.
surdity have their use. From these rare qualiIn the second part, we will prove, that even ties a state derives the glory of rapid marches, supposing the happiest revolutions in our fa- bold sieges, desperate attacks, complete victovour, we should be deceived in our hopes, so ries, and shouts of triumph. This general that whether they happen or not we shall be finishes his life by his own folly, or is supplanted brought to acknowledge that there is nothing by a party cabal, or sinks into inaction on the in this world capable of rendering us perfectly soft down of his own panegyrics, or a fatal bulhappy:
let, shot at random and without design, peneIn the last place, we shall conclude from these trates the heart of this noble and generous man. two principles with the Wise Man, that though Instantly a new world appears, and that which a reasonable creature may be allowed to better was is no more; for with this general, victory his condition, and to obtain a happier state in and songs of triumph expired. this world than the past or the present, yet he Sometimes the ability and virtue of one sinought by no means to promise himself much gle favourite enable him to direct the genius success, and that, in one word, it is in God of a prince, to dissipate the enchantments of alone, and in the hope of a future state of hap- adulation, to become an antidote against the piness in another life, that we ought to place poison of flattery, to teach him to distinguish our felicity.
sober applause from self-interested encomiums, I. Let us first of all determine the sense of and to render bim accessible to the complaints the text, and examine what error the Wise Man of widows and orphans. This favourite sinks attacks. We have already explained the idea into disfavour, and an artful rival steps into we affix to his expressions, but as they are vague his place. Rehoboam neglected the advice of and indeterminate, they must be, first of all, prudent old counsellors, and followed the sugrestrained by the nature of the subjects of which gestions of inconsiderate youth. Any one of he speaks, and secondly, explained by the place these changes produces a thousand consethey occupy.
quences. 1. When the Wise Man says, "that which It would be easy to repeat of individuals what hath been is that which shall be,” he does not we have affirmed of public bodies, that is, that mean to attribute a character of firmness and the world is a theatre in perpetual motion, and consistency to such events as concern us. No always varying; that every day, and in a manman ever knew better than he the transitoriness ner, every moment, exhibits some new scene, of human affairs: but it is not necessary to our some change of decoration. It is then clear, knowledge of the subject to occupy a post as that the proposition in the text ought to be reeminent as that which he held; for a superficial strained to the nature of the subject spoken of. view of the condition of public bodies, and of 2. But these indeterminate words, “that that of individuals, will be sufficient to open a which hath been shall be, and there is no new wide field to our reflections.
thing under the sun," must be explained by the The condition of public bodies is usually place they occupy. Our chief guide to deterfounded on materials so brittle, that there is no mine the meaning of some vague propositions room to be astonished at sudden and perpetual of an author is to examine where he placed variations. A spectator, young in his observa-them, and what precise idea be had in his mind tions, and distant from the central point, is when he wrote them. By observing this rule, arnazed at the rapid changes which he beholds we find, that the same phrases are often taken suddenly take place like the creation of new in different senses. Without quoting other exworlds; he supposes whole ages must pass in I amples, we observe, that the words under con
sideration occur twice in this book, once in the something to fill the void, that all past and text, and again in the fifteenth verse of the present enjoyments have left in our hearts, this third chapter, where we are told, that which does not change the nature of things, all will hath been is now, and that which is to be hath be vanity in future, as all has been vanity in already been.” However, it is certain, that former times. “The thing which hath been, these two sentences, so much alike in sound, is that which shall be; and that which is done, have a very different meaning. The design of is that which hath been done; and there is no Solomon, in the latter passage, is to inforın such new thing under the sun." persons as tremble at the least temptation, that Weigh these words, my brethren, “the eye they were mistaken. We complain, say they, is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled that God exercises our virtue more than he with hearing.” It seems this is precisely the does that of other men, and though he allows i disposition of mind which the Wise Man atthese rude attacks, yet he does not afford us tacks; a disposition, as I said before, common strength sufficient to resist them. No, says to mankind, and one of the principal causes of Solomon, whatever variety there may appear our immoderate attachment to life. Let each to be in the conduct of God towards men, yet of us study his own heart, and let us examine there is always a certain uniformity, that cha- whether we know the portrait that we are now racterizes his conduct. Indeed he gives five going to try to sketch. talents to one, while he commits only one ta- We often declaim on the vanity of the world; lent to another, and in this respect there is a but our declamations are not unfrequently variety: but he does not require of him, to whom more intended to indemnify pride, than to he has committed one talent, an account of express the genuine feelings of a heart disabusmore than one talent; while he calls him to ac- ed. We love to declaim against advantages count for five talents, to whom he committed out of our reach, and we take vengeance on five, and in this respect there is a perfect uni- them for not coming within our grasp by exformity in his conduct; and so of the rest. “I claiming against them. But such ideas as know that whatsoever God doth (these are the these, how just soever they may appear, are words of Solomon,) I know that whatsoever only superficial. It would be a fatal error God doth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be indeed, to persuade ourselves that we are really put to it, nor any thing taken from it, and God undeceived, and consider the world in a true doth it, that men should fear before him. That point of light on this account. which hath been is now, and that which is to A dying man is all taken up with his then be hath already been, and God requireth that present condition. A desire of health occupies which is past."
all the capacity of his soul; but he does not But in our text the same words," the thing observe, that, should he recover, he would find that hath been is that which shall be,” have a the same troubles and pains as before, and on different meaning. It is evident, by the place account of which he has felt so much uneasiness, in which the Wise Man put them, that he in- and shed so many tears. A man waiting on tended to decry the good things of this life, to the coast, to go abroad, wishes for nothing but make the vanity of them appear, and to con- a fair wind; and he does not think that he shall vince mankind, that no revolutions can change find other, and perhaps greater calamities, in the character of vanity essential to their con- another climate than those which compelled dition. The connexion of the words establishes him to quit his native soil. This is an image the meaning. From what events do mankind of us all. Our minds are limited, and when an expect, says he, to procure to themselves a firm object presents itself to us, we consider it only and solid happiness in this life? What efforts in one point of view, in other lights we are not can be made greater than have been made competent to the examination of it. Yet “what profit hath a man of his labour Hence the interest we take in some events, which he taketh under the sun? One genera- in the revolutions of states, the phenomena of tion passeth away, and another generation nature, and the change of seasons: hence that cometh," but the world continues the same; perpetual desire of change; hence sportive “the sun riseth, and the sun goeth down, and phantoms incessantly created by our imaginahasteth to his place where he arose. The wind tions; hence chimerical projects for ever regoeth toward the south, and turneth about volving in our minds; or, as the Wise Man unto the north, and the wind returneth again expresses it, “ Eyes never satisfied with seeing, according to his circuits. All rivers run into and ears never filled with hearing.” O, says the sea, and whence they come, thither they one, could I get cured of this illness, which return again, ver. 3—7. The moral world renders life a burthen-could I, says another, resembles the world of nature. It is in vain to get free from the company that poison all my expect any vicissitude that will render the pleasures--could I go, says a third, and settle remaining part of life more happy than the in a country where maxims and laws are altoformer. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing,” gether different from those under which I live ver. 8; or, as may be translated, “with con- --could I but obtain that place, which would sidering; nor the ear filled with hearing;” or, take me out of the obscurity in which I am as the words may be rendered, “the ear never baried alive, and render me conspicuous could ceases to listen."** But this contention, which I acquire a sufficient fortune to support a cermakes us stretch all our faculties in search of tain number of domestics, and to procure me
certain accommodations, then, in retirement . Visus et auditus synecdochice ponuntur pro omnibus and silence, I would gratify the desire that quibus voluptatem percipimus. Horum autem sensuum alone animates me, of employing my life in a meminit, tum quia curiosissimi sunt; tum quia et minimo labore et maxima cum delectatione exercentur, Poli pursuit of wisdom, and virtue, and happiness! Synops. in loc. R.
Poor mortals! will you always run after phan
toms? No, it is not any of the revolutions you opens a more ample field of meditation than so earnestly desire can alter the vanity essential the former, for the pleasures of mankind are to human things: with all the advantages which only a point, only an atom in comparison of you so earnestly desire, you would find yourself the miseries which pursue and overtake him. as void and as discontented as you are now. Who can reconcile the doctrine of a good God “The thing which hath been, is that which with that of a miserable man, with the doubts shall be; and that which is done, is that which that divide his mind, with the remorse that shall be done: and there is no new thing under gnaws his heart, with the uncertainties that the sun.” O that it were as easy to imprint torment him, with the catastrophe that envethese truths on our hearts, as it is to give evi- lopes him, with the vicissitudes which are dence that they are truths to the judgment! always altering his situation, with the false
II. Let us endeavour to admit these truths, friends who betray him, with pain that conwith all their effects (and this shall be the sumes him, with indigence that contracts him, second part of our discourse,) let us attempt with neglect and contempt which mortify him, the work, though we have so many reasons to and with such a number of other inconvenienfear a want of success. Let us first examine ces and calamities as conspire to embitter his the destination of man-next let us look into existence? the school of the world—then into the expe- His life is a mystery. What part, poor man, rience of Solomon-and, lastly, let us review what part are you acting in this world? Who the history of our own lives. These are four misplaced you thus barriers against imaginary projects; four proofs, His death is enigmatical. This is the greatest or rather four sources of demonstrations in of all enigmas; four days of life, a life of sixty, evidence of the truth of the text. “The thing or a hundred years, is all that this creature that hath been, is that which shall be: and that called man has to expect in this world; he diswhich is done, is that which shall be done: and appears almost as soons as he makes his apthere is no new thing under the sun."
pearance, he is gone in an instant from the I. Let us first observe the appointment of cradle to the coffin, his swaddling bands are man, and let us not form schemes opposite to taken off, and his shroud is put on. that of our Creator. When he placed us in Lay down the principle which we have adthis world, he did not intend to confine us to vanced, grant that the great design of the Creit; but when he formed us capable of happiness, ator, by placing man amidst the objects of this he intended we should seek in it an economy present world, was to draw out and extend his different from this. Without this principle desires after another world, and then all these man is an inexplicable enigma; his faculties clouds vanish, all these veils are drawn aside, and his wishes, his afflictions and his con- all these enigmas explained, nothing is obscure, science, his life and his death, every thing that nothing is problematical in man. concerns man is obscure, and beyond all eluci- His faculties are not enigmatical; the faculty dation.
of knowing is not confined to such vain science His faculties are enigmatical. Tell us what as he can acquire in this world. He is not is the end and design of the faculties of man? placed here to acquire knowledge, but virtue; Why has he the faculty of knowing? What, at least he is placed in this world to acquire is it only to arrange a few words in his memory knowledge only so far as it contributes to the only to know the sounds or the pictures to acquisition of virtue. If he acquire virtue, he which divers nations of the world have associ- will be admitted into another world, where his ated their ideas? Is it merely to learn Greek utmost desire of knowledge will be gratified. and Hebrew, to collect a chaos of ancient his- His desires are not mysterious. When the tory, to go beyond remote ages, and to discover laws of order require him to check and control with some degree of probability what were the his wishes, let him restrain them. When the habits, the customs, and the follies, of the first profession of religion requires it, let him deny inhabitants of this universe? Has man intel- himself agreeable sensations, and let him paligence only for the purpose of racking his tiently suffer the cross, tribulations, and persebrain, and losing himself in a world of abstrac-cutions. Let bim subdue his passion for eletions, in order to disentangle a few questions vation and grandeur, and let him humbly rest from metaphysical labyrinths what is the origin in that mean situation where it has pleased of ideas, what are the properties, and what is Providence to place him. Let him moderate the nature of spirit Glorious object of know- his love of riches, and let him patiently submit ledge for an intelligent being! An object in to poverty and indigence. After he shall have general more likely to produce skepticism, than thus submitted to the laws of bis Creator, he demonstration of a science properly so called. may expect another period in which his desire Let us reason in like manner on the other facul- to be great will be satisfied. ties of mankind.
His miseries are no more enigmatical; they His desires are problematical. What power exercise his virtue, and will be rewarded with can eradicate, what power can moderate his glory. desire to extend and perpetuate his duration His life ceases to be mysterious; it is a state The human heart includes in its wish the past, of probation, a time of trial, a period given the present, the future, yea eternity itself. him to make choice of an eternity of happiExplain to us, what proportion there can be ness, or an eternity of misery. between the desires of man and the wealth His death is no longer a mystery, and it is which he accumulates, the honours he pursues, impossible that either his life or his death the sceptre in his hand, and the crown on his should be enigmas, for the one unfolds the head?
other: the life of man is not an enigma, beHis miseries are enigmatical. This articlo I cause it tends to death, and death verifies,