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proves, and demonstrates the idea we have have made his declaration the third source of given of life.
our demonstrations. We conclude, then, that the destination of When your preachers declaim against the man is one great barrier against imaginary vanity of human things, you secretly say to schemes of happiness. Change the face of so- yourselves, their judgment merits very little ciety, subvert the order of the world, put regard. You think that they, generally edudespotical government in the place of a de- cated in silence and retirement, having breathmocracy, peace in the place of war, plenty in ed only the dusty air of schools and libraries, the place of scarcity, and you will alter noth- are unacquainted with that world against which ing but the surface of human things, the sub- they declaim. I will not now examine this restance will always continue the same. “The proach. People of our order, I grant, are very thing that hath been, is that wbich shall be; apt to form false ideas of the world. But take and that which is done, is that which shall our word for one truth, for which we could albe done: and there is no new thing under lege a thousand proofs, that is, that if they the sun."
magnify worldly objects, it is because they are 2. The school of the world opens to us a se- strangers to the world. A hermit who has cond source of demonstrations. Enter this spent all his days in dens and deserts; a nun school, and you will renounce all vain schemes sequestered from society in her childhood, and of felicity.
buried in the cells and solitary walks of a conThere you will learn, that the greatest part vent; a man who has grown gray over his of the pleasures of the world, of which you books; people of this kind generally imagine entertain such fine notions, are only phan that the world is full of pleasure, and that the toms, which seem indeed at a distance to have demon of voluptuousness has strewed all the some solidity and consistence, but which van- paths with flowers and perfumes in favour of ish the moment you approach and try to en- such as travel them. I know no one more projoy them.
per to teach us a good course of morality than There you will learn, that the extensive an old reformed courtier, who chooses to reviews, the great designs, the plans of immor- tire after he has spent the prime of his life in tality and glory, which revolve in the mind of dissipation. an ambitious man, keep him continually upon On this principle, what an impression ought the rack, trouble his repose, deprive him of the declaration of Solomon to make on our sleep, and render him insensible to all the plea- minds? But what an idea does he give us of sures of life.
all the good things of which he had made an There you will understand, that the friends experiment? "and this also,” says he of each who attach themselves to us when we have particular, in the catalogue of the whole, "and favours to bestow, are venal souls, who put up this also is vanity.” This word seems to me their esteem at auction, and sell it to the high- very remarkable, " This also, and this also is est bidder: blood-suckers, who live upon the vanity." substance of those round whom they twist and Few men are so fascinated with the world twine; that the sacred names of friendship, as not to know that some things in it are vain tenderness, zeal, and devotedness, are nothing and vexatious. Most men say of some partiin their mouths but empty sounds, to which cular object, this is vanity; but very few are they affix no ideas.
so rational as to comprehend all the good things There you will find that those passions, which of this life in the same class, and to say of men of high rank have the power of fully gra- each, as Solomon did, “this also is vanity." tifying, are sources of trouble and remorse, and A poor peasant, whose ruinous cottage does that all the pleasure of gratification is nothing not keep out the weather, will readily say, My in comparison of the pain of one regret caused cottage is vanity: but he imagines there is a by the remembrance of it.
great deal of solidity in the happiness of him There you will learn, that the husbandman, who sleeps in a superb palace. A man who is who all day follows the plough or the cart, admitted only into a small circle of company, and who finds at home in the evening a family hardly known in society, will say without hesiof love, where innocent and affectionate chil tation, my circle is vanity; but he fancies there dren surround a table furnished with plain and is a great deal of solidity in the happiness of simple diet, is incomparably more happy, than those who are admitted into circles; or, shall I the favourite of victory and fortune, who rides rather say, into that chaos, where Jews and in a superb carriage attended by a splendid re-Greeks, Barbarians and Scythians, people of tinue, who sits at a table where art and nature all nations, and of every religion, seem to conseem to vie with each other in lavishing out tribute to a general disorder and confusion their treasures, who is surrounded with cour- Solomon knew all these conditions of life, tiers watching their fate in the cast of his eye, and it was because he knew them all, that he or the signal of his hand.
declaimed against them; and had you, like In a word, you will there understand, that him, known them all by experience, you would what may seem the most fortunate events in form such an idea as he did of the whole. your favour, will contribute very little to your See what a list he makes, and observe, he says happiness.
that of each, which he said of the whole, 3. But if the school of the world is capable “this also is vanity." What! Is it vain to of teaching us to renounce our fanciful projects possess great richesYes. " He that loveth of felicity, Solomon is the man in the world silver shall not be satisfied with silver; this is the most learned in this school, and the most also vanity.” What! Is it vain to become a able to give us intelligence. Accordingly, we celebrated author, a model of erudition? Yes,
says he, of making many books " there is no pursued by inexorable creditors; having indeed
row, and bless God you are not in the condition
You, who formerly had hardly enough to tude can render us insensible to temporal bless-
sure in making your condition a composition
what pitch you will, there is nothing perfect in
As they, to whom Providence has granted
difficulties and tears. Self-love is the most
Besides the love of our neighbour, the duty
more learning, and knowledge, and accuracy
ence there may seem to be between the most
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 is wrought 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? I, 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 contined 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 lifo, 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, Í 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 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 might, for there is no work, nor your minds in regard to the hateful things of device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the fife, 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 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 bis 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 1. 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, , first sight to countenance; for as there is a disu and 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 temper, 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 over 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 flames and you will experience somne satisfaction in of hell! 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 fower 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. 9. Who would not think, ployed in finding out and inflicting punishments to hear some men exclaim, " Ah human lite, I 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 le 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 connexBook 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, fromments 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 provent our as- I inisery, as it is the height of absurdity.