صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the sun, a dream vanishing in the morning, it will be in a succession of ages, in the boundless gulfs of eternity.

[ocr errors]

4. I said finally, my brethren, that we were sometimes disgusted with the world through an excess of fondness for the world, and hated life through an over valuation of it. Oh heart of man, deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked!' Jer. xvii. 9. Who would not think, to hear some men exclaim, Ah human life, I only wish to free myself from thy connexions, and thou, wicked world, I detest thee! Who would not think that these people were convinced of the vanity of the world! But undeceive yourselves. Man enters the world as an enchanted place. While the charm lasts, the man I speak of is in raptures, and thinks he has found the supreme good. He imagines that riches have no wings, that splendid fortune has no reverse, that the great have no caprice, that friends have no levity, that health and youth are eternal: but as it is not long before he recovers his senses, he becomes disgusted with the world in the same proportion as he had been infatuated with it, and his hatred of life is exactly as extravagant as his love of it had been; that is to say, these sentiments, which seem so just and respectable, do not proceed from serious reflections on the views, which an immortal soul ought to have: that is to say, you would have consented to renounce all hopes of future happiness, and to be for ever separated from God, had not the spring of your life passed away with so much rapidity, had your connexions been more durable, had your interest at court been better supported.

How pitiable is your condition! In it you unite the misfortunes of time with the miseries of eternity. You disclaim both heaven and earth, you are disgusted with the vanity of the one, and you have no taste for the other. A worldling indemnifies himself by present enjoyments for the loss of future bliss, of which he has no prospect; and a Christian indemnifies himself by enjoying pleasures in prospect for the loss of sensual delights; but you! at what do you aspire? Your condition is the height of misery, as it is the height of absurdity.

It is not in any of these senses that the Wise Man says, 'I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me.' He would have us understand, that the earth has more thorns than flowers-that our condition here, though incomparably better than we deserve, is however inadequate to our just and constitutional desires-that our inconveniences in this life would seem intolerable, unless we were wise enough to direct them to the same end that God proposed by exposing us to suffer them-in a word, that nothing but hope in a future state formed on another plan can render the disorders of this world tolerable. So much may serve to explain the meaning of the Wise Man.

II. Let us now proceed to justify the sense given, and to this I shall devote the remainder of this discourse, and all the moments of attention which we shall take the liberty to require

of you.

I will make use of no artifice to obtain my end. I will not affect, in order to detach you from the world, to exhibit only the odious things of the world; nor will I combat an excessive love of life by opposing against it the pains and the miseries of the living; but I mean to attack your idols in their fort, to decry life by showing its most amiable sides, and to endeavour to disgust you with the world by exposing the most desirable objects in it.

The phantoms that seduced Solomon during his dissipation may be reduced to two classes. The first suppose in the dissipated man very little knowledge, and very little taste; and it is astonishing that a man so eminently endowed with knowledge could set his heart upon them. The second may more easily impose on an enlightened and generous mind. In the first class I place riches, grandeur, and voluptuousness, with all their appendages. these be, as they certainly are, the most common idols of mankind, it is for a reason inglorious to them, it is because most men have very little knowledge and very little taste.


The world has phantoms more specious, life has charms more capable of seducing a generous heart, and of imposing on a liberal mind. I put these into three classes. In the first I put the advantages of science-in the second the pleasures of friendship-in the third the privileges, I mean the temporal privileges of virtue and heroism. I will endeavour to unmask these three figures, and to prove, that the very dispositions which should contribute most to the pleasure of life, mental abilities, tenderness of heart, rectitude and delicacy of conscience, are actually dispositions which contribute most of all to imbitter life.

1. If ever possessions could make man happy, Solomon must certainly have been the happiest of mankind. Imagine the most proper and the most effectual means of acquiring knowledge, joined to an avidity to obtain it, both were united in the person of this prince. We individuals, when we have received from Heaven abilities for science, we generally want assistance to cultivate them. What individual is able to send emissaries into distant climes to make observations to perfect geography, physic, astronomy, botany, navigation? An individual, to make collections, to ascertain reports, to procure materials, must carry on works, which, in a word, more properly belong to the beasts of burden of the learned world than to himself, whose time should be better employed in exercising, and improving his own natural abilities. An individual seldom has it in his power to gain access to the museums of great men, and to procure the productions of their pens, or to consult the oracles that proceed from their mouths. An individual is often condemned to turn the studies that naturally employ his liberal mind into a mercenary trade, the only means of providing bread for himself and his family. In some protestant states youth are but half educated for want of endowments, and people choose rather to pluck the unripe fruits of the finest genius than to furnish him with the means of bringing them to perfection. A king, a rich

king like Solomon, is free from all these difficulties. He has all the assistance necessary to the cultivation of his mind, and to the full gratification of his avidity for science. He says, what perhaps you have not sufficiently observed, 'I turned myself to behold wisdom,' that is, I applied myself to the sciences, and 'what can the man do that cometh after the king?' chap. ii. 12. That is, who will ever have such innumerable means of acquiring and perfecting knowledge as those with which royal advantages furnish me?

[ocr errors]


Accordingly the world was filled with the science of this prince, and his science has given occasion to a great many fabulous histories. To him has been attributed a book entitled the Contradiction of Solomon,' condemned by Pope Gelasius, and other works named Inchantments, clavicula, necromancy, ideas, neomania, letters to king Hiram.' Some ancient fathers thought that the pagan philosophers had read his writings, and that Aristotle in particular had taken his History of animals' from the works of this prince. Josephus says, that he composed a book of charms' to heal the incurable, and that one Eleazar, a Jew, had found in it a secret, by which he freed a person from possession, a reverie mentioned by Origen. The schoolmen have agitated a great many indiscreet questions concerning the science of Solomon, and have inquired, whether he were more learned than the angels and the Virgin Mary; and they have persuaded themselves not only that he was a great poet, a great physician, and a great astronomer, but also that he understood all the mysteries of the theology of the schools, and was well acquainted with the doctrine of transubstantiation.

[ocr errors]

We have better evidence of the science of Solomon than these visionaries. The Scripture itself informs us, that God gave him a wise and an understanding heart, so that there was none like him before, neither after him should any arise like unto him,' 1 Kings iii. 12; that he was wiser,' that is a greater philosopher, than all the children of the east country, and all the Egyptians,' chap. iv. 30, 31. By the children of the east we understand the Arabian philosophers, Chaldeans, and the Persians, so famous for their erudition, and particularly for their profound knowledge of astronomy. He was wiser than all the Egyptians, that is, the most consummate doctors of Egypt, a country famous in the time of Moses for its literature, called by the pagans the mother of arts, and who boasted that they first of all men knew how to take dimensions of the stars, and to calculate their motions, as Macrobius, Diodorus of Sicily, and many other authors affirm. The Scripture says that Solomon was wiser than Ethan, Heman, Chalcol, and Darda:' names which the Jews understand in a mystical sense, meaning by Ethan Abraham, by Heman Moses, and Chalcol Joseph. The Scripture says farther, that he composed three thousand proverbs, and a thousand and five songs; that he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop, that springeth out of

[ocr errors]

the wall, also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes,' ver. 32, 33. Some of these works are a part of the canon of Scripture, but the rest are lost.

[ocr errors]

Now what says this great man concerning science? He acknowledges indeed that it was preferable to ignorance, the wise man's eyes,' says he, are in his head,' that is, a man of education is in possession of some prudential maxims to regulate his life, whereas an illiterate man walketh in darkness:' but yet says he' it happeneth even to me, as it happeneth to the fool, and why was I then wise?' ver. 15. And again, the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing; for in much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,' chap. i. 8. 18. So again, in another place, after he had proposed some rules for the government of life, he adds, My son be admonished by these, for of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh,' chap. xii. 12. I wish I could weigh every expression. Observe however two imperfections of science.

1. Observe first the little progress made in science by those who pursue it to the highest pitch. As they advance in this immense field they discover, shall I say new extents, or new abysses, which they can never fathom. The more they nourish themselves with this rich pasture, the more keen do their appetites become. The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor the ear with hearing, and of making many books there is no end.'

2. Remark next the little justice done in the world to such as excel most in science. He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow, and it happeneth even to me as it happeneth to a fool.' Yes! after you have spent all your youth, after you have impaired your health, after you have spent your fortune to improve your own mind, and to enable you to improve those of other men, it will happen to you even as it happeneth to a fool.' You will be told, that sciences have nothing in them that deserve the attention of a man of quality. A man of mean extraction, who carries himself like a lord, will tell you that a man of birth ought to aspire at something more noble than meditating on questions of law, studying cases of conscience, and explaining holy Scripture. You will be told, that there is not half the knowledge required to sparkle in political bodies, and to decide on a bench the lives, and fortunes, and honours of mankind. Presumptuous youths will judge, and without appeal condemn your discourses and your publications, and will pronounce with decisive tone this is not solid, that is superficial! The superiority of your understanding will raise up against you a world of ignorant people, who will say, that you corrupt the youth, because you would guard them against prejudice; that you stab orthodoxy, because you endeavour to heal the wounds which pedantry and intolerance have given it; that you trouble society, because you endeavour to purify morality, and to engage the great as well as the small, magistrates as well as people, to submit

to its holy laws. They will prefer before you, both in the state and in the church, novices who are hardly fit to be your disciples.

times, he is a brother born for adversity. A friend sticketh closer than a brother,' Prov. xvii. 17, and xviii. 24. But where is this friend, who sticketh closer than a brother? Where is this friend, who loveth at all times? One would think the Wise Man drew the portrait only to save us the useless labour of inquiring after the original. Perhaps you are incapable of tasting the bitterness of friend

ing the sweetness of it.

Blessed ideots! You, who surrounded with a circle of ideots like yourselves, having first stupified yourselves with your own vanity, are now intoxicated with the incense offered your admirers; you, who, having collected a few bombastic phrases, are spreading the sails of your eloquence, and are bound for the oceanship, only because you are incapable of relishof glory: you, whose sublime nonsense, stale common-places, and pedantic systems, have acquired you such a reputation for learning and erudition as is due only to real merit: your condition seems to me often preferable to that of first-rate geniuses, and most accomplished scholars! Ah! Wisdom is vanity and vexation of spirit-of making many books there is no end it happeneth even to me as it happeneth to the fool-there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool, for all shall be forgotten-therefore I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me.'

2. The second disposition, which seems as if it would contribute much to the pleasure of life, but which often embitters it, is tenderness of heart. Let the sacred names of friendship and tenderness never come out of some mouths; let them never be used by profane people to express certain connexions, which far from having the reality have not even the appearance of rational sensibility! Would you give these names to such vague associations as are formed only because you are a burden to yourselves; to connexions in which the sentiments of the heart have no share, in which nothing is intended except the mutual performance of some capricious customs or the assuaging of some criminal passions, to the impetuosity of which you like brute beasts are given up? Would you give these names to those unpleasant interviews, in which while you visit, you inwardly groan under the necessity of visiting, in which the mouth protests what the heart denies, in which, while you outwardly profess to be affected with the misfortunes of another, you consider them inwardly with indifference and insensibility, and while you congratulate them on the prosperity which Providence bestows, you envy their condition, and sometimes regard it with a malice and mortification you cannot help discovering?

By friendship and tenderness, I mean those affectionate attachments produced by a secret sympathy, which virtue cements, which piety sanctifies, which a mutual vigilance over each other's interests confirms with indissoluble, I had almost said eternal, bonds. I call a friend an inestimable treasure which might for a while render our abode on earth as happy as that in heaven, did not that wise Providence, that førmed us for heaven and not for earth, refuse us the possession of it.

It is clear by the writings of Solomon, and more so by the history of his life, that his heart was very accessible to this kind of pleasure. How often does he write encomiums on faithful friends! A friend,' says he, loveth at all


What friends do we make upon earth? At first lively, eager, full of ardour: presently dull, and disgusted through the ease with which they had been gratified. At first soft, gentle, all condescension and compliance: presently masters, imperious tyrants, rigorously exacting as a debt an assiduity which can arise only from inclination, pretending to domineer over our reason, after they have vitiated our taste. At first attentive and teachable, while prejudices conceal their imperfections from us, ready to acquiesce in any thing while our sentiments are conformable to their inclinations: but presently intractable and froward, not knowing how to yield, though we gently point out their frailty, and endeavour to assist them to correct it. At first assiduous, faithful, generous, while fortune smiles on us: but presently, if she betray us, a thousand times more faithless, ungrateful, and perfidious than she. What an airy phantom is human friendship!

I wish, however, through the favour of heaven, that what is only an airy nothing to other men may become a reality in regard to you, and I will take it for granted, that you have found what so many others have sought in vain. Alas! I must, yes, here I must deplore your destiny. Multiplied, so to speak, in the person of that other self, you are going to multiply your troubles. You are going to feel in that other self ills which hitherto you have felt only in yourself. You will be disgraced in his disgraces, sick in his sicknesses. If for a few years you enjoy one another, as if each were a whole world, presently, presently death will cut the bond, presently death will dissolve the tender ties, and separate your entwined hearts. Then you will find yourself in a universal solitude. You will think the whole world is dead. The universe, the whole universe, will seem to you a desert uninhabited, and uninhabitable. Ah! You who experience this, shall I call you to attest these sorrowful truths? Shall I open again wounds which time has hardly closed? Shall I recall those tremulous adieus, those cruel separations, which cost you so many regrets and tears? Shall I expose to view bones, and infection, and putrefaction, the only remains of him who was your support in trouble, your counsel in difficulty, your consolation in adversity?

Ah, charms of friendship, delicious errors, lovely chimeras, you are infinitely more capable of deceiving than of satisfying us, of poisoning life than of sweetening it, and of making us break with the world than of attaching us to it! My soul, wouldst thou form unalterable connexions! Set thy love upon thy treasure, esteem God, obey his holy voice, which from

the highest heavens says to thee, 'Give me thine heart!' In God thou wilt find a love fixed and faithful, a love beyond the reach of temporal revolutions, which will follow thee, and fill thee with felicity for ever and ever.

3. In fine, I will venture to affirm, that if any thing seems capable to render life agreeable, and if any thing in general renders it disagreeable, it is rectitude, and delicacy of conscience. I know Solomon seems here to contradict himself, and the author of the Book of Proverbs seems to refute the author of the Book of Ecclesiastes. The author of the Book of Ecclesiastes informs us, that virtue is generally useless, and sometimes hurtful in this world: but according to the author of the Book of Proverbs virtue is most useful in this world. Hear the author of Ecclesiastes. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his life in his wickedness. All things come alike to all, there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good so is the sinner; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath, chap. vii. 15. ix. 2. Hear the author of the Book of Proverbs. My son forget not my law: but let thy heart keep my commandments; for length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck, write them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thou find favour, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies; and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared with her,' chap. iii. 1-3. 13-15.

How shall we reconcile these things? To say, as some do, that the author of Proverbs speaks of the spiritual rewards of virtue, and the author of Ecclesiastes of the temporal state of it, is to cut the knot instead of untying it. Of many solutions, which we have no time now to examine, there is one that bids fair to remove the difficulty; that is, that when the author of the Book of Proverbs makes temporal advantages the rewards of virtue, he speaks of some rare periods of society, whereas the author of Ecclesiastes describes the common general state of things. Perhaps the former refers to the happy time, in which the example of the piety of David being yet recent, and the prosperity of his successor not having then infected either the heart of the king or the morals of his subjects, reputation, riches, and honours, were bestowed on good men: but the second, probably, speaks of what came to pass soon after. In the first period life was amiable, and living in the world delicious: but of the second the Wise Man says, 'I hated life because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me.'

To which of the two periods does the age


in which we live belong? Judge by the des cription given by the preacher as he calls himself.

Then mankind were ungrateful, the public did not remember the benefits conferred on them by individuals, and their services were unrewarded. There was a little city besieged by a great king, who built great bulwarks against it, and there was found in it a poor wise man, who by his wisdom delivered the city, yet no man remembered that same poor man,' chap. ix. 14, 15.

Then courtiers, mean and ungrateful, basely forsook their old master, and paid their court to the heir apparent. I saw all the living under the sun walking after the child, who shall stand up next instead of the king,** chap. iv. 15.

Then strong oppressed the weak. I considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun, and behold, the tears of such as were oppressed, and they had no comforters, and on the side of their oppressors there was power, but they had no comforter.'

Then the courts of justice were corrupt. " saw the place of judgment, that wickedness was there'. . . . . . chap. iii. 16. We will not finish this disagreeable picture. I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me.'

Such is the idea the Wise Man gives us of the world. Yet these vain and precarious objects, this world so proper to inspire a rational mind with disgust, this life so proper to excite hatred in such as know what is worthy of esteem, this is that which has always fascinated, and which yet continues to fascinate the bulk of mankind.

This it was that infatuated the inhabitants of the old world, who, even after God had pronounced this dreadful decree, 'My spirit shall not always strive with man, for he is flesh, and after a hundred and twenty years he shall be no more,'t forgot themselves in the pursuit of present pleasure, They were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that the flood came, and took them all away,' Mat. xxiv. 38, 39.

This was what bewitched the whole heathen world, who lived without hope, and without God in the world;' Eph. ii. 12.

This was what enchanted that highly favoured nation, which God distinguished from the rest of the world, and to which he gave his laws, and intrusted his prophecies, yet they forsook the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water,' Jer. ii. 13.

This was what influenced Christians, more inexcusable in this respect than Jews and Pagans, because their religion breathes nothing

* The sense given to this passage by our author is agreeable both to the French version, and to the original. J'ai oui tous les rivans qui marchent sous le soleel apres l'enfant, qui est la seconde personne qui doit etre en la place du roi. Per puerum secundum intellige, regis filium et hæredem, quod a rege secundus est, ac post eum regnaturus. Poli. Synops. in loc.

Gen. vi. 3. The sense given by Mr. Saurin is that of many commentators, and seeins preferable to our English text, which is obscure. Accipiunt de spatio pœnitentiæ isti ætati concesso, &c.

but disgust with the world, and alienation from the idols of life: and yet they are as much in love with worldly splendour, as eager in pursuit of wealth, as much intoxicated with diversions, gaming, amusements, and dissipations, as ever Jews and Pagans could possibly be.

This was the charm that operated on your ancestors; on those who governed the state before you, magistrates: on those who ascended this pulpit before you, ministers: on those who attended the worship of God in this place before you, Christian people: all these, except a few, followed the multitude, ran, with the world, to the same excess of riot, and made the world their god, just as we all, except a few, yet make the world our god, yet follow the multitude, yet run with the wicked, to the same excess of riot.

God, in order to undeceive mankind, and to dissolve the charms that fascinated their eyes, often showed them the world in its true light. He often added extraordinary ills to the ordinary calamities of life; he made winds his angels, and flaming fires bis ministers,' Ps. civ. 4; he sent war, mortality, flaming eruptions, pestilence, and earthquakes: in a word, he often visited them, as he yet visits us, and with the same design. To them he says, as he yet says to us, Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. Fear God, and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man,' 1 John ii. 15; Eccles. i. 2, and xiii. 13. All this was useless, just as it is is now. Then mankind made a god of the world, and so they continue to do.

[ocr errors]

My brethren, taste is not subject to argument, and if life seems to you supremely amiable in spite of all the imperfections and sins that imbitter it, in vain do I stand here describing it to you. However, condescend at least to see whither every living thing is tending; and allow me to perform the duty of this day, which requires me to treat of the dying and the dead. A modern author has published a book with this singular title, Subterranean Rome,' a title full of instruction and truth, a title that may serve to teach that living haughty city, that there is another Rome dead and buried, a natural image of what the present Rome must shortly be. Such an object I present to you. I present you your republic, not the republic you see composed of living magistrates, generals, and heads of families; this is superficial, the surface of your republic: but I would fix your eyes on an interior subterranean republic. There is a state under your feet. Go down, go into the cells under the earth. Lift up the lids of the coffins. What do you see there, what have you found there? My God! What inhabitants! What citizens ! What a rebublic!

This is not all. Go farther. Carry your eyes beyond these caverns. Exercise that faith which gives substance to things not seen. Think of the souls which once animated this dust, and ashes, and bones. Where are they? Some are in a state of felicity, others in depths of misery. Some in the bosom of God, others

in prison with devils. Some drinking of rivers of pleasures for evermore, others having their portion in the lake of fire, the smoke rising up for ever and ever, Ps. xxxvi. 8, and xvi. 11; and Rev. xix. 3. To say all in one word, some for abandoning themselves to the world are suffering such punishments as the world inflicts on its slaves: and others for devoting themselves to God, are receiving such rewards as God bestows on his servants. May this contrast penetrate, affect, and transform you all! And thou, great God, give weight to our exhortations, in order to give success to our benedictions!

I gladly embrace the opportunity of assisting at this solemnity, of coming to you, my dear brethren, at this auspicious season, and of preaching to you, now that it is allowable to open the bottom of a heart always full of most respectful affection for this city and this church. Receive my good wishes as affectionately as they are dictated.

Magistrates, to whom Providence has committed the reins of government, you are above our benediction. But we are ministers of a Master who governs all mankind, and from that source of splendour, magnificence, and wealth, we drive the benedictions, which we diffuse on your august heads. May God inspire you with that elevation of mind, that magnanimity, and holy ambition, which impel magistrates, with whom he has intrusted the sword of justice, to found all their deliberations and decrees on equity! May God inspire you with such charity, condescension, and affability, as may blend the parent with the master! May God inspire you with such humility and self-denial as incline Christian magistrates to lay their power at the feet of the great Supreme, and to place their glory in rendering to God a faithful account of their administration! Great will that account be. You are, to a certain degree, responsible both for the temporal and eternal happiness of this people. The eternal happiness of a people of ten depends on the conduct of their governors, on the care they take to restrain licentiousness, to suppress scandalous books, to make solemn festivals observed, to procure wise, zealous, and faithful ministers for the church. Magistrates, who enter into these noble designs, have a right to expect from God all the assistance necessary to effect them. To thee, Almighty God, we address our prayers for such assistance for these illustrious persons! O that our petitions may enter heaven, and our prayers be heard and answered!

Ministers, my dear coadjutors in the great work of salvation, successors of the apostles in the work of the ministry for the edifying of the body of Christ!' Eph. iv. 12, God has set narrow limits to what the world calls our preferment and fortune. The religion we profess does not allow us to aspire after such highsounding titles, eminent posts, and splendid equigages, as confound the minister of temporal kings with the ministers of that Jesus whose kingdom is not of this world but

[ocr errors]

* Of Rotterdam.

« السابقةمتابعة »