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chooses to retire after he hath spent the prime of his life in dissipation.
On this principle, what an impression ought the declaration of Solomon to make on our minds ? But what an idea doth he give us of all the good things, of which he had made an experiment? And this also, saith he of each particular, in the catalogue of the whole, and this also is vanity. This word seems to me very remarkable, This also, and this also is vanity.
Few men are so fascinated with the world as not to know that some things in it are vain and vexatious. Most men say of some particular object this is vanity : but very few are so rational as to comprehend all the good things of this life in the same class, and to say of each, as Solomon did, this also is vanity. A poor peasant, whose ruinous cottage doth not 'keep out the weather, will readily say, my cottage is vanity: But he imagines, there is a great deal of solidity in the happiness of him, who sleeps in a superb palace. A , man, who is admitted only into a small circle of company hardly known in society, will say without hesitation, my circle is vanity: but he fancies there is a great deal of solidity in the happiness of those, who are admitted into circles, or shall I rather say, into that chaos, where jews and greeks, barbarians and scythians, people of all nations, and of every religion seem to contribute to a general disorder and confusion?
Solomon knew all these conditions of life, and it was because he knew them all that he declaimed against them: and liad you
like him known thein all by experience, you would form such an idea as he did of, the whole. See what a list he makes, and observe, he says that of each, which he said of the whole, this also is vanity. What! Is it vain to possess great riches? Yes, lle that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; this is also vanity What! Is it in vain to become a celebrated author, a model of erudition ? Yes, saith he, of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. This also is runity. l'unity of vanitics, saith the preacher, all is tantly
4. To reflections on the experience of Solomon add yout own, and 19 this purpose recollect the history of your life. Remember the time when sighing and wishing for the condition, in which providence hath since placed you, you con. sidered it as the centre of felicity, and verily thought could you obtain that state you should wish for nothing more. You have obtained it. Do
did then? You, who formerly had hardly enough to subsist on, now possess enough for your subsistence, and almost enough for your wishes, have you less inclination now to augment your superfluities, than you had then to acquire a mainte
You, who have been raised from the meanest and most obscure employment in society to one of the most conspicuous and brilliant offices, do you feel yourself less disposed to have no equal, than you did formerly to have fewer masters?
You, who are now come to manhood through a sickly youth, in which
you did not expect to live half your days, have you less desire to arrive at a hoary
ager had formerly to advance to manhood?
Realize all the fanciful schemes of happiness, that revolve in your minds, and you will find that the good things you acquire will leave you as hungry, and as void as these do which you now actually possess : and that the more you enter into the spirit of this supposition the more will you be astonished at the exact conformities there are between conditions, which at first sight appear to you so extremely different,
HI. From all these reflections what consequences shall we draw? That all conditions are absolutely equal? That as they, who actually enjoy the most desirable advantages of life, ought to consider them with sovereign contempt, so people, who are deprived of them, ought not to take any pains to acquire them, and to better their condition ? No, my brethren, God forbid we should preach a morality so austere, and so likely to disgrace religion,
On the one hand, they, to whom God hath granted the good things of this life, ought to know the value of them, and to observe with gratitude the difference, which providence hath made between them and others. Worldly prosperity, I grant, is not the most substantial good, however it is not an imaginary advantage : it is not indeed that permanent good, which will continue ours after death, but it is, however, capable of rendering the present state more agreeable. Q2
Do you enjoy liberty ? Liberty is a great good : feel the pleasure of liberty. Behold the man, who is inclosed in lofty and impenetrable walls, who breathes only an infectious and unwholesome air, who lies on straw in a dungeon, and who with the utmost aitention and pains can hardly perceive a ray of light, and bless God that you are not in the condition of that inan. Are you
rich? Wealth is a great good: enjoy the pleasure of being rich. Behold the man loaded with debts, destitute of friends, pursued by inexorable creditors, having indeed just cnough to keep himself alive to day, but not knowing how he shall support life to-morrow, and bless God you are not in the condition of that inan.
Do you enjoy your health? Health is a great good: relish the pleasure of being well. Observe the man lying on a sick bed, ụnable to bear up a body loaded with infirmities, not able to move himself, without excruciating sensations of pain, crawling tuward the grave by the horrible road of the gout or the stone.
Nothing but a fund of stupidity or ingratitude can render us insensible to temporal blessings, when it pleases God to bestow them on us. What! Did you as soon as you opened your eyes see yourself crowned with a thousand advantages; did God seem to take pleasure in making your condition a composition of honour, wealth and pleasure; did you find yourself, 'without contributing to it the least labour or attention, abundantly supplied with every thing that can render life easy and delicious; and because, carry human felicity to what pitch you will, there is nothing perfect in it, do you give up yourself to grief and melancholy, does a dark and gloomy teinper within you triumph over all the motives, that ought to inspire you with gratitude aud joy!
As they, to whom providence hath granted the comforts of life, ought to know the value of them, and to enjoy then with gratitude, so it is allowable, yea it is the duty of such as are deprived of them to endeavour to acquire them, to meliorate their condition, and to procure in future a condition inore happy than that, to which they have hitherto been condemned, and which hath caused them so many difficulties and tears. Self-love is the most natural and lawful of all our passions. We ought not to neglect to acquire any good, except the possession of it would be incompatible with that of a greater good, and we ought not to consent to suffer any ills, except enduring them would prevent greater ills. But, other things being equal, cvery one ought to endeavour to procure himself an agreeable condition of life in this world.
Beside, the love of our neighbour, the duty so much enforced by our great lawgiver, the love which nur master requires us to extend as far to our neighbour as ourselves, this duty engageth us to avail ourselves of all the innocent means, which are offered to us to acquire the good things of this life. The more riches you have the more able will you be to assist the indigent. The higher yo: are elevated in society, the more will you have it in your power to succour the oppressed. The inore learning, and knowledge, and accuracy you have, the more will it be in your power to press home the duties of religion, to defend the truth, and to display the beauty and advantage of virtue.
Our design, in restraining your projects, is to engage you patiently to bear the inconveniences of your present condition,
when you cannot remedy them: because whatever difference - there may seem to be between the most happy and the most
miserable mortal in this world, there is much less, all things considered, than our misguided passions imagine.
Our design, in checking the immoderate inclination we have to contrive fanciful schemes of happiness, is to make you enjoy with tranquillity such blessings as you have. Most men render themselves insensible to their present advantages by an extravagant passion for future acquisitions. The avidity, with which they wish to acquire more riches, prevents their enjoying, what they actually possess ; the avidity, with which they desire to obtain a station more elevated in society, prevents their tasting the pleasure of that, in which providence hath placed them. In a word, our design is to engage you to proportion the pains you take to obtain worldly advantages to the true value of them.
Above all, the design, the chief design we have in denouncing a vain and unsatisfastory being in this world, is to engage you to seek after a happy futurity in the presence of God; to engage you to expect from the blessings of a future state what you cannot promise yourself in this. And what, my soul, canst thou expect during the short period of this life, if the remainder will resemble the past, if in future years thy condition will resemble that of the former days, if thou must pass through the same vicissitudes, suffer the same maladies, be witness to the same injustice, see the same infidelity and the same perfidy?
But if all mankind ought to preserve themselves from the disorder of fanciful schemes of future pleasure, they above all are abound to do so, who are arrived at old age, when years accumulated bring us near the infirmities of declining life, or a dying bed. Such a man ought to say to himself, what can I henceforth expect in this world? Should an unheard of revolution happen in my favour, should the face of the universe be changed, should all the advantages of the world unite, and present themselves to me, what benefit could I derive from them?
What advantage could I derive from a well furnished table, I whose palate hath lost the faculty of tasting and reJishing food? What advantage could I derive from a numesous levee, I, to whom company is become a burden, and who am in a manner a burden to myself? What advantage could I derive from elegant apartments, and extensive landscapes, I whose eyes are incapable of discerning objects, whose body almost motionless is confined to an easy chair, or sick bed? In one word, what benefit can I reap from a concurrence of all the advantages of life, I, who am within a few steps of the gates of death ? Happy! When my life comes to an end, to be able to incorporate my existence with that of the immortal God! Happy! When I feel this earthly tabernacle sink, to be able to exercise that faith, which is an evidence of things not seen! Happy to ascend to that city, which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God! Heb. xi. 1. 10.
May we all, my dear brethren, live, grow old, and die in these sentiments! God grant us the grace. To him be honour and glory for ever. Amen.