« 上一頁繼續 »
An examination of the second of these causes was begun in Sermon V; and ascribed chiefly to a false Estimate of what we call our good things, and a vehement desire to hold uninterrupted Possession of them. They are enumerated, as attached to the va, rious stages of life, as follows*, viz,
" Youth and Beauty; Health and Strength; « Riches and Honours; Power and Greatness; Wiş. “ dom and Knowledge; disinterested Virtue; public
Spirit, and the likę." These chiefly entangle men, who consider themselves somewhat above the common ranks; and who have to share also with the poorest mortal that is born of woman, in that natural Reluctance, those insuperable recoilings of grief, springing from the intimate Union of Soul and Body, on the approach of Death; and the prospect that two such loving partners must soon sustain and undergo a Divorce from each other, by the fierce Mandate of a relentless and unappeasable tyrant.
We proceed now, as was proposed in the conclusion of the last Sermon (which was addressed to the Devotees of Pleasure of all ranks, especially among the young and gay) to estimate the Bliss of those of higher ranks and ages; hoping the Young also; if they look for rank and age, will still continue among the number of our patient Hearers. For the sake of those who wish for the Arguments of Experience, Wisdom and true Philosophy, I can use none of more Weight, nor more venerable for their Antiquity, than those of Solomon; who was account
• See page 70, antea.
ed the Wisest Man upon Earth, before the Light of the Christian Revelation; who made the truest Esti. mate, and taught the most sublime Doctrine concerning Pleasure; namely, that there is no substantial or lasting Bliss but in the FEAR OF GOD AND KEEPING His COMMANDMENTS “RejoiceO Young Man in the days of thy Youth, whilst thou walkest in the ways of thy Heart; but, for all these things, God will bring thee into judgment”-All the joys thou canst taste from the Syren-Cup of Pleasure, are mixed with such Poison, as to accomplish more than half the Work of Death before the time of his Natural approach to thy ruined Tabernacle.
His Sermon upon all the above recited sources of Pleasure, namely, Wisdom, and Knowledge, &c. &c. is a master-piece of Argument and Eloquence; for no man ever lived before or after him, who had greater Opportunities, or larger Means of enjoying, and estimating the worth of every one of them; and, therefore, He shall deliver for me the remainder of this day's Discourse.
But, to the men of this world, whose very Hearts and Souls are wedded to its enjoyments, who have formed to themselves vast Happiness and Contentment from the accomplishment of their projects in it, there is no doubt, but his Sermon, and all the Arguments leading to his sublime and interesting Conclusion, may, at first view, appear perfect Paradoxes; the Result, not of sober Judgment and deliberate Inquiry, but of deliberate Prejudice, and a gloomy disappointed mind!
What regard, it will be said, is to be paid to a Preacher, with all his Character of Wisdom, who runs so contrary to the Sentiments and Tenor of this world, as to tell us
“ That the day of a man's Death is better than “ the day of his Birth; the House of Mourning better * than the House of Feasting; Sorrow better than “ Laughter; Rebukes better than Praises; Wisdom " better than Riches; and the end of a thing better " than its Beginning ?”
But, before we pass judgment on his Sermon, let us hear him speak or preach a little for himself The subject is the most interesting that can engage the heart of man; namely, to determine, wherein consists the Supreme Good, or chief Happiness, of our nature. And, in this inquiry he lays it down as a great and incontestible first Principle, or Axiom—" That whatever is vain, transient and perishable, cannot be the true materials of Happiness, to Beings constituted as we are.”
He begins his Address in the most solemn manner; and his Sermon is to a large Audience, the whole people of Israel;"Hear, O Congregation of Israel! the words of a Preacher whom you did not expect, even the son of David your king; whose Wisdom and Experience stand highly extolled and confessed among all your Tribes! My subject is Happiness, and an estimate of the Good Things of this World; which men consider as the materials thereof."
But be persuaded by me, that the Happiness, which you all desire, is not to be found in yourselves, nor in this world, where you seek for it.
" All things here below, are vain, and Man the most vain. This inanimate Earth abideth from one generation to another. The sun rises and sets, and rises and sets again, still the same. Even the Winds, the most Auctuating and shadowy part of this Creation, go towards the South, and towards the North, following their circuits continually. The rivers run stedfastly unto the sea;-unto the place from whence they were exhaled and came, thither do they return. But man hath no continuance. One generation passeth away, and another cometh; and all the works of man are equally vain—In them there is nothing new, and nothing permanent; and when once they are gone there is no remembrance of them left.-Nor are the other endowments of man, his Good Things and Acquisitions, more stable than himself. I will speak first of the acquisitions of the Mind and of Wisdom, the chief and principal things, brighter than rubies and more to be preferred than Riches.
“ I the Preacher, was king over Jerusalem the City of God and of the Prophets; and the School of Wisdom. Here I set my heart to search and seek her, in all the works done under the Sun. I com. muned with myself, and said-Lo, I have come to great estate, and gotten more Wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem--I have been conversant in all Sciences, searching into the Depths of God's consummate Wisdom, and the wonderful works of his Creation; but found my searches vain, and myself lost in Mazes and Difficulties inextricable-That which was crooked, I could not make straight, and that which was wanting, could not be numbered."
And now, what more than this can our wisest men, or philosophers of the present day, ascribe to their Researches, Wisdom and Knowledge? Have we yet attained to a perfect understanding of the smallest flower of the field? Can we say, why the grass should be green rather than red? The Sciences and Discoveries of one age are considered as Errors, and neglected in the next; leaving the Imagination in a thousand labyrinths. What is all we know, compared with what we know not? Are we even yet, in any way, agreed about what constitutes the Chief Good or Felicity of Man? The literary Renown of one age, by which men think they have become im. mortal, is as slender as the Paper to which it is com. mitted. A multitude of words, the transient boast of one age, is scorned by the next, and sported with, as vain conceits; taking Truth for Fables, and often Fables for Truth! How many millions never hear the name of the most famous Writers; and how few of those who have heard their names, turn over their pages; but treat them, as we do old garments-cast them aside for a new and more fashionable mode?
Solomon, therefore, wearied or despairing in the pursuit of abstruse and speculative Science, turns himself to a lighter, and easier sort of science, in which many applaud themselves, and seem to pass joyous through life-namely, in the exercise of their Wit and Parts, upon ludicrous subjects." I gave my heart, says he, not only to seek wisdom in her severer retreats, but likewise to kriow madness and