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folly; but this also he found to be vanity and vexation of spirit, yielding no substantial joy–He then deter. mines, that although he would not entirely forsake the search after Wisdom, he would try to mollify its severity, and sooth its disappointments, by joining with it the pursuit of other pleasures.
“ I sought to give myself to Wine (yet still acquainting my heart with Wisdom,) and to lay hold of Folly, till I might see whether there was any real happiness upon earth-any good for the sons of men, which they should do all the days of their life. To this I added other Pleasures-I made to myself great works I builded me houses, stately and magnificent Palaces, sumptuously furnished and decorated with all the luxury and elegance of the East. I planted me Vineyards, and made me Gardens and Orchards, stored with all kinds of Fruits; tempting to the Sight, and delicious to the Taste-I made me Forests also, and Parks of Pleasure adorned with Fountains and Cisterns and Pools of water; to water therewith the wood that bringeth forth trees of every kind, from the cedar of Lebanon to the humblest Hyssop; so that Eden seemed once more to be brought down upon Earth, and Paradise itself to bloom around
“I got me also a splendid retinue of Servants, with great and small cattle for the Luxuries of the Table, such as was never seen in Jerusalem before; using every day thirty measures of fine flower, threescore measures of meal, ten fat oxen from the stall, twenty from the pastures, one hundred sheep, besides harts and roe-bucks and fallow-deer and fatted fowl; having
* Ecl. Ch. II, đc,
dominion over all things on this side of the river ; and, (to add to my happiness) Peace was on all sides round about me In this prosperous situation, I ga. thered Silver and Gold, in rich abundance into my treasury, from all the Kings and Provinces tributary to me—And lastly, to crown my Festivity, the enchanting Voice of Music lent its aid. My Palaces and Gardens, and my Bowers of Joy, were rendered Vocal with the Syren strains of Men-Singers, and Wo. men-Singers, collected out of all my dominions; and the melodious warblings of every instrument of Mu, sic joined in the accompaniment. In short, whatever mine eyes desired I kept not from them, nor withheld my heart from any joy; neither the Pleasures of Love, nor the Luxuries of Taste-I encreased more than all that were before me in Jerusalem, yet tempered and regulated all my enjoyments by the maxims of Wisdom; for all this while, my Wisdom remained with me!”
Come now, ye Sensualists and Voluptuaries of the present day; ye who bask in the sun shine of Fortune, and are mounted on the pinnacle of Grandeur and Power! Strain your imaginations to the utmost pitch! Call in every Earthly Joy and Refinement, which your labouring fancy can suggest; and say, what can you add to this picture of our Preacher's Bliss ? If ever Happiness, complete and satisfactory, could fix her abode with mortal man, must she not have been found a contented Guest, in the courts of Solomon? Will she not make some permanent abode with him ; allured by the dulcet sounds of Music, by the captivating Call of Wisdom, by the intoxicating
Splendour of Wealth; by the dazzling Poftip of Power; all surrounding and embracing him in their fullest raptures and assemblage ? Oh! no!
Hear his own Answer. Upon fat more experience and more deliberate inquiry, than any of the Volup- . tuaries and Votaries of worldly Bliss, of the present day can boast, He discards all those Enjoyments one by one, as Vanity of Vanities; contributinig nothing to substantial Happiness, but leading directly to Disappointment and Misery, even in this life; except so far as they are regulated by the “ Fear of God, and made subservient to the Keeping of His Com- . mandments."
I looked, says he, ori all the works I had wrought, and all was Vanity_Of thy Wisdom, which I accounted my Chief Good, I said in my Heart, (when referred to this world), what availeth it to me - As it happeneth to the Fool, so it happeneth to Me. Both of us die alike, and there is no more Re membrance of the one, than of the other;—nay, as little remembrance as there is of the beast of the field, if our portion is to be only in this world; for all are of the Dust, mani as well as dumb beast, and all turn to the Dust again.
Then, as to Feasting and Mirth, the next kind of fancied Bliss, I am cloyed and satiated with their constant round, and all the frantic noise and toilsome extravagance, which follow in their train. “ I said of Laughter, it is mad; and of Mirth, what doth it; being satisfied, from my own Experience, that better is a Handful with quiet; than both Hands full with travail and vexation of Spirit.”
Again, as to the Riches and Wealth which I had heaped up" I soon hated all my labour I had taken to acquire them under the Sun; because I must leave my Wealth to the man that shall be after me; and who knows whether he shall be a Wise man or a Fool; notwithstanding he shall rule over all my labour, wherein I have been accounted wise under the Sun.”
Lastly, as to Power and Authority; What are they? They place us on a dangerous Preeminence, and few men can use them without their abusing them. “For I saw under the Sun the place of Judgment, and Wickedness was there--I saw the place of Righteousness, and lo, Iniquity was there—I saw also the poor groaning under the Rod of the Mighty-the Tears of the Oppressed, and they had no Comforter, while Rower was on the side of the Oppressors; so that I was ready to praise the dead, as happier than those who live, under such Misery!
Thus Solomon, by an Estimate of the Good Things of this world put in the balance with the Evil Things; and by the soundest arguments of Reason, Wisdom and Experience (which cannot be equalled or excel. ļed by the Arguments and Experience of any other Philosophers either ancient or modern), has drawn the Conclusion for me, viz. “ that no Enjoyments here can yield, permanent Happiness, or so attach us to this World, as to make us consider our Release from it as an Evil, or increase the Terrors of Death, which is the certain portion of every man that is þorn of a woman.” And if, by these arguments, the best which can be offered by Reason and Philosophy, our Souls can be weaned from too great an attach
ment to our Good Things here, and but partly allay the Fear of Death; a complete Victory will be obtained, when, under the following heads of my Text, we proceed to the arguments of one greater than Solomon, who has brought Life and Immortality to Light by his Gospel.
In the meantime Solomon's last argument, on the Use and Abuse of Riches, will lead me to a natural Conclusion of this Discourse, by an application to your Charity and Benevolence in the Collection to be made for the poor and needy of these Congregations at this rigorous season of the year; and when the wants of many are greatly increased by the Loss of employment, and by the deeper Loss of Friends and Relatives, and the accumulated family distress arising out of the late awful Calamity.*
To minister to the wants of others, according to the measure of our abilities, is a duty enjoined upon us by the scriptures of the Old and New Testament; and Solomon tells us in the conclusion of his esti. mate of the Good Things of this Life, that there is nothing better for a man, to make his Soul enjoy the fruit of his labours, than “ to rejoice to do good in his life; for there is not a greater Evil under the Sun than what I have seen.”-Riches kept by the Owner thereof, to his own Hurt-A man wanting nothing for his Soul's desire, and without power to eat thereof (or to bid others cat ;) while this man returneth naked as he came forth of his mother's womb, and of all his labour - taketh nothing which he can
This Sermon was preached on a day appointed for a Collection in Christ-Church, for the above pious purposes.