« EelmineJätka »
shall be. I have reason to suppose that the removing these enormous masses, public bodies, world can offer me no object in future different and in turning the current of prosperity and in its nature from those which I have always victory. But should he penetrate into the hitherto found inadequate to my happiness. spring of events, he would soon find, that a very All the past has been vanity, and all the future small and inconsiderable point gave motion to will be vanity to the end of the world. “The that wheel, on which turned public prosperity, thing that hath been is that which shall be: and and public adversity, and which gave a whole that which is done is that which shall be done; nation a new and different appearance. and there is no new thing under the sun.” Sometimes all the wise counsels, the cool
In order to enter into the views of the Wise deliberations, the well-concerted plans, that Man, we must observe three things: first, the constitute the prosperity of a nation, proceed error which he attacks-next, the arms he em- from the prudence of one single head. This ploys-and, lastly, the end he proposes in at one head represses the venality of one, and the tacking it. Suffer me, before I enter on the animosity of another; the ambition of this man, discussion of these articles, to give you a more and the avarice of that. Into this head one exact idea of my meaning, and to lead you more single vapour ascends; prosperity relaxes it, fully into the plan of this discourse.
death strikes it off. Instantly a new world In the first article I shall try to develope the arises, and then that which was is no more, for idea of Solomon, and to engage you to enter with that head well-concerted measures, cool into the most intricate labyrinths of your own deliberations, and wise counsels, all vanished hearts, and to make you acknowledge that we away. are all, more or less, prejudiced in favour of Sometimes the rare qualities of one single this bewitching opinion, that future life will general animate a whole army, and assign to produce something more solid and satisfactory, each meinber of it his proper work; to the pruihan we have hitherto found, especially if we dent, a station which requires prudence; to the obtain some advantages, which we have long intrepid, a station which requires courage; and had in prospect, but which we have not been even to an idiot a place where folly and abable to obtain.
surdity have their use. From these rare qualiIn the second part, we will prove, that even ties a state derives the glory of rapid marches, supposing the happiest revolutions in our fa- bold sieges, desperate attacks, complete victovour, we should be deceived in our hopes, so ries, and shouts of triumph. This general that whether they happen or not we shall be finishes his life by his own solly, or is supplanted brought to acknowledge that there is nothing by a party cabal, or sinks into inaction on the in this world capable of rendering us perfectly soft down of his own panegyrics, or fatal bulhappy.
let, shot at random and without design, peneIn the last place, we shall conclude from these trates the heart of this noble and generous man. two principles with the Wise Man, that though Instantly a new world appears, and that which a reasonable creature may be allowed to better was is no more; for with this general, victory his condition, and to obtain a happier state in and songs of triumph expired. this world than the past or the present, yet he Sometimes the ability and virtue of one sinought by no means to promise himself much gle favourite enable him to direct the genius success, and that, in one word, it is in God of a prince, to dissipate the enchantments of alone, and in the hope of a future state of hap- adulation, to become an antidote against the piness in another life, that we ought to place poison of flattery, to teach him to distinguish our felicity.
sober applause from self-interested encomiums, I. Let us first of all determine the sense of and to render him accessible to the complaints the text, and examine what error the Wise Man of widows and orphans. This favourite sinks attacks. We have already explained the idea into disfavour, and an artful rival steps into we affix to his expressions, but as they are vague his place. Rehoboam neglected the advice of and indeterminate, they must be, first of all, prudent old counsellors, and followed the sugrestrained by the nature of the subjects of which gestions of inconsiderate youth. Any one of he speaks, and secondly, explained by the place these changes produces a thousand consethey occupy.
quences. 1. When the Wise Man
“that which It would be easy to repeat of individuals what hath been is that which shall be,” he does not we have affirmed of public bodies, that is, that mean to attribute a character of firmness and the world is a theatre in perpetual motion, and consistency to such events as concern us. No always varying; that every day, and in a manman ever knew better than he the transitoriness ner, every moment, exhibits some new scene, of human affairs: but it is not necessary to our some change of decoration. It is then clear, knowledge of the subject to occupy a post as that the proposition in the text ought to be reeminent as that which he held; for a superficial strained to the nature of the subject spoken of. view of the condition of public bodies, and of 2. But these indeterminate words, “that that of individuals, will be sufficient to open a which hath been shall be, and there is no new wide field to our reflections.
thing under the sun," must be explained by the The condition of public bodies is usually place they occupy. Our chief guide to deterfounded on materials so brittle, that there is no mine the meaning of some vague propositions room to be astonished at sudden and perpetual of an author is to examine where he placed variations. A spectator, young in his observa- them, and what precise idea he had in his mind tions, and distant from the central point, is when he wrote them. By observing this rule, amazed at the rapid changes which he beholds we find, that the same phrases are often taken suddenly take place like the creation of new in different senses. Without quoting other exworlds; be supposes whole ages must pass in amples, we observe, that the words under con
sideration occur twice in this book, once in the soinething to fill the void, that all past and text, and again in the fifteenth verse of the present enjoyments have left in our hearts, this third chapter, where we are told, “that which does not change the nature of things; all will hath been is now, and that which is to be hath be vanity in future, as all has been vanity in already been.” However, it is certain, that former times. “ The thing which hath been, these two sentences, so much alike in sound, is that which shall be; and that which is done, have a very different meaning. The design of is that which hath been done; and there is no Solomon, in the latter passage, is to inform such new thing under the sun.”. persons as tremble at the least temptation, that Weigh these words, my brethren, “the eye they were mistaken. We complain, say they, is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled that God exercises our virtue more than he with hearing.” It seems this is precisely the does that of other men, and though he allows disposition of mind which the Wise Man atthese rude attacks, yet he does not afford us tacks; a disposition, as I said before, common strength sufficient to resist them. No, says to mankind, and one of the principal causes of Solomon, whatever variety there may appear our immoderate attachment to life. Let each to be in the conduct of God towards men, yet of us study his own heart, and let us examine there is always a certain uniformity, that cha-. whether we know the portrait that we are now racterizes his conduct. Indeed he gives five going to try to sketch. talents to one, while he commits only one ta We often declaim on the vanity of the world; lent to another, and in this respect there is a but our declamations are not unfrequently variety: but he does not require of him, to whom more intended to indemnify pride, than to he has committed one talent, an account of express the genuine feelings of a heart disabusmore than one talent; while he calls him to ac- ed. We love to declaim against advantages count for five talents, to whom he committed out of our reach, and we take vengeance on five, and in this respect there is a perfect uni- them for not coming within our grasp by exformity in his conduct; and so of the rest. “I claiming against them. But such ideas as know that whatsoever God doth (these are the these, how just soever they may appear, are words of Solomon,) I know that whatsoever only superficial. It would be a fatal error God doth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be indeed, to persuade ourselves that we are really put to it, nor any thing taken from it, and God undeceived, and consider the world in a true doth it, that men should fear before him. That point of light on this account. which hath been is now, and that which is to A dying man is all taken up with his then be hath already been, and God requireth that present condition. A desire of health occupies which is past."
all the capacity of his soul; but he does not But in our text the same words, “ the thing observe, that, should he recover, he would find that hath been is that which shall be,” have a the same troubles and pains as before, and on different meaning. It is evident, by the place account of which he has felt so much uneasiness, in which the Wise Man put them, that he in- and shed so many tears. A man waiting on tended to decry the good things of this life, to the coast, to go abroad, wishes for nothing but make the vanity of them appear, and to con a fair wind; and he does not think that he shall vince mankind, that no revolutions can change find other, and perhaps greater calamities, in the character of vanity essential to their con- another climate than those which compelled dition. The connexion of the words establishes him to quit his native soil. This is an image the meaning. From what events do mankind of us all. Our minds are limited, and when an expect, says he, to procure to themselves a firm object presents itself to us, we consider it only and solid happiness in this life? What efforts in one point of view, in other lights we are not can be made greater than have been made? competent to the examination of it. Yet “what profit hath a man of his labour Hence the interest we take in some events, which he taketh under the sun? One genera- in the revolutions of states, the phenomena of tion passeth away, and another generation nature, and the change of seasons: hence that cometh," but the world continues the same; perpetual desire of change; hence sportive “the sun riseth, and the sun goeth down, and phantoms incessantly created by our imaginahasteth to his place where he arose. The wind tions; hence chimerical projects for ever regoeth toward the south, and turneth about volving in our minds; or, as the Wise Man unto the north, and the wind returneth again expresses it, “ Eyes never satisfied with seeing, according to his circuits. All rivers run into and ears never filled with hearing.” O, says the sea, and whence they come, thither they one, could I get cured of this illness, which return again, ver. 3-7. The moral world renders life a burthen—could I, says another, resembles the world of nature. It is in vain to get free from the company that poison all my expect any vicissitude that will render the pleasures—could I go, says a third, and settle remaining part of life more happy than the in a country where maximns and laws are alloformer. “The eye is not satisfied with seeing,” gether different from those under which I live ver. 8; or, as may be translated, “with con- -could I but obtain that place, which would sidering; nor the ear filled with hearing;” or, take me out of the obscurity in which I ain as the words may be rendered, “the ear never buried alive, and render me conspicuous-could
But this contention, which I acquire a sufficient fortune to support a cermakes us stretch all our faculties in search of tain number of domestics, and to procure me
certain accommodations, then, in retirement Visus et auditus synecdochice ponuntur pro omnibus and silence, I would gratify the desire that quibus voluptatem percipimus. Horum autem sensuun alone animates me, of employing my life in a labore et mazina cum delectatione exerceutur, Poli pursuit of wisdom, and virtue, and happiness! Synops. id loc. R.
Poor mortals! will you always run after phan
ceases to listen."*
toms? No, it is not any of the revolutions you opens a more ample field of meditation than so earnestly desire can alter the vanity essential the former, for the pleasures of mankind are to human things: with all the advantages which only a point, only an atom in comparison of you so earnestly desire, you would find yourself the miseries which pursue and overtake him. as void and as discontented as you are now. Who can reconcile the doctrine of a good God “The thing which hath been, is that which with that of a miserable man, with the doubts shall be; and that which is done, is that which that divide his mind, with the remorse that shall be done: and there is no new thing under gnaws his heart, with the uncertainties that the sun." O that it were as easy to imprint torment him, with the catastrophe that envethese truths on our hearts, as it is to give evi-lopes him, with the vicissitudes which are dence that they are truths to the judgment! always altering his situation, with the false
II. Let us endeavour to admit these truths, friends who betray him, with pain that conwith all their effects (and this shall be the sumes him, with indigence that contracts him, second part of our discourse,) let us attempt with neglect and contempt which mortify him, the work, though we have so many reasons to and with such a number of other inconvenienfear a want of success. Let us first examine ces and calamities as conspire to embitter his the destination of man-next let us look into existence? the school of the world—then into the expe His life is a mystery. What part, poor man, rience of Solomon-and, lastly, let us review what part are you acting in this world? Who the history of our own lives. These are four misplaced you thus? barriers against imaginary projects; four proofs, His death is enigmatical. This is the greatest or rather four sources of demonstrations in of all enigmas; four days of life, a life of sixty, evidence of the truth of the text. “The thing or a hundred years, is all that this creature that hath been, is that which shall be: and that called pian has to expect in this world; he diswhich is done, is that which shall be done: and appears almost as soons as he makes his apthere is no new thing under the sun.”
pearance, he is gone in an instant from the I. Let us first observe the appointment of cradle to the coffin, his swaddling bands are man, and let us not form schemes opposite to taken off, and his shroud is put on. that of our Creator. When he placed us in Lay down the principle which we have adthis world, he did not intend to confine us to vanced, grant that the great design of the Creit; but when he formed us capable of happiness, ator, by placing man amidst the objects of this he intended we should seek in it an economy present world, was to draw out and extend his different from this. Without this principle desires after another world, and then all these man is an inexplicable enigma; his faculties clouds vanish, all these veils are drawn aside, and his wishes, his afflictions and his con- all these enigmas explained, nothing is obscure, science, his life and his death, every thing that nothing is problematical in man. concerns man is obscure, and beyond all eluci His faculties are not enigmatical; the faculty dation.
of knowing is not confined to such vain science His faculties are enigmatical. Tell us what as he can acquire in this world. He is not is the end and design of the faculties of man? placed here to acquire knowledge, but virtue; Why has he the faculty of knowing? What, at least he is placed in this world to acquire is it only to arrange a few words in his memory knowledge only so far as it contributes to the only to know the sounds or the pictures to acquisition of virtue. If he acquire virtue, he which divers nations of the world have associ- will be admitted into another world, whore his ated their ideas? Is it merely to learn Greek utmost desire of knowledge will be gratified. and Hebrew, to collect a chaos of ancient his His desires are not mysterious. When the tory, to go beyond remote ages, and to discover laws of order require him to check and control with some degree of probability what were the his wishes, let him restrain them. When the habits, the customs, and the follies, of the first profession of religion requires it, let him deny inhabitants of this universe? Has man intel- himself agreeable sensations, and let him paligence only for the purpose of racking his tiently suffer the cross, tribulations, and persebrain, and losing himself in a world of abstrac- cutions. Let him subdue his passion for eletions, in order to disentangle a few questions vation and grandeur, and let him humbly rest from metaphysical labyrinths what is the origin in that mean situation where it has pleased of ideas, what are the properties, and what is Providence to place him. Lot him moderate the nature of spirit? Glorious object of know- his love of riches, and let him patiently submit ledge for an intelligent being! An object in to poverty and indigence. After he shall have general more likely to produce skepticism, than thus submitted to the laws of bis Creator, he demonstration of a science properly so called. may expect another period in which his desire Let us reason in like manner on the other facul- to be great will be satisfied. ties of mankind.
His miseries are no more enigmatical; they His desires are problematical. What power exercise his virtue, and will be rewarded with can eradicate, what power can moderate his glory. desire to extend and perpetuate his duration? His life ceases to be mysterious; it is a state The human heart includes in its wish the past, of probation, a time of trial, a period given the present, the future, yea eternity itself
. him to make choice of an eternity of happiExplain to us, what proportion there can be ness, or an eternity of misery. between the desires of man and the wealth His death is no longer a mystery, and it is which he accumulates, the honours he pursues, impossible that either his life or his death the sceptre in his hand, and the crown on his should be enigmas, for the one unfolds the head?
other: the life of man is not an enigma, beHis miseries are enigmatical. This article cause it tends to death, and death verifies,
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 which 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 murality 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." †his 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, ås 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 saperb 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 riches. Yes. “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 end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. just enough to keep himself alive to-day, but This also is vanity. Vanity of vanities, saith not knowing how he shall support life to-morthe preacher, all is vanity."
row, and bless God you are not in the condition 4. To reflections on the experience of Solo- of that man. mon add your own, and to this purpose recol Do you enjoy your health Health is a great lect the history of your life. Remember the good: relish the pleasure of being well. Obtime when sighing and wishing for the condi- serve the man lying on a sick bed, unable to tion in which Providence has since placed you, bear up a body loaded with infirmities, not able you considered it as the centre of felicity, and to move himself without excruciating sensaverily thought, could you obtain that state you tions of pain, crawling towards the grave by should wish for nothing more. You have ob- the horrible road of the gout or the stone. tained it. Do you think now as you did then? Nothing but a fund of stupidity or ingrati
You, who formerly had hardly enough to tude can render us insensible to teinporal blesssubsist on, now possess enough for your subsis- ings, when it pleases God to bestow them on tence, and almost enough for your wishes, us. What! Did you, as soon as you opened have you less inclination now to augment your your eyes, see yourself crowned with a thousuperfluities than you had then to acquire a sand advantages; did God seem to take pleamaintenance
sure in making your condition a composition You, who have been raised from the mean- of honour, wealth, and pleasure; did you find est and most obscure employment in society to yourself, without contributing to it the least one of the most conspicuous and brilliant of labour or attention, abundantly supplied with fices, do you feel yourself less disposed to have every thing that can render life easy and delino equal, than you did formerly to have few cious; and because, carry human 'felicity to masters
what pitch you will, there is nothing perfect in You, who are now come to manhood through it, do you give up yourself to grief and melana sickly youth, in which you did not expect to choly, does a dark and gloomy temper within live half your days, have you less desire to ar- you triumph over all the motives that ought rive at a hoary old age, than you had formerly to inspire you with gratitude and joy? to advance to manhood?
As they, to whom Providence has granted Realize all the fanciful schemes of happiness the comforts of life, ought to know the value that revolve in your minds, and you will find, of them, and to enjoy them with gratitude, so that the good things you acquire will leave you it is allowable, yea it is the duty of such as as hungry, and as void, as these do which you are deprived of them to endeavour to acquire actually possess; and that the more you enter them, to meliorate their condition, and to prointo the spirit of this supposition, the more will cure in future a condition more happy than you be astonished at the exact conformities that to which they have hitherto been conthere are between conditions which at first sight demned, and which has caused them so many appear to you so extremely different.
difficulties and tears. Self-love is the most Ill. From all these reflections what conse- natural and lawful of all our passions. We quences shall we draw? That all conditions ought not to neglect to acquire any good, exare absolutely equal? That as they who actu- cept the possession of it would be incompatible ally enjoy the most desirable advantages of with that of a greater good, and we ought not life, ought to consider them with sovereign to consent to suffer any ills, except enduring contempt, so people who are deprived of them, them would prevent greater ills. But, other ought not to take any pains to acquire them, things being equal, every one ought to endeaand to better their condition? No, my brethren, vour to procure himself an agreeable condition God forbid we should preach a morality so aus- of life in this world. tere, and so likely to disgrace religion.
Besides the love of our neighbour, the duty On the one hand, they to whom God has so much enforced by our great Lawgiver, the granted the good things of this life ought to love which our Master requires us to extend know the value of them, and to observe with as far to our neighbour as to ourselves, this gratitude the difference which Providence has duty engages us to avail ourselves of all the made between them and others. Worldly innocent means which are offered to us to acprosperity, 1 grant, is not the most substantial quire the good things of this life. The more good; however, it is not an imaginary advan- riches you have, the more able will you be to tage: it is not indeed that permanent good assist the indigent. The higher you are ele which will continue ours after death; but it is, vated in society, the more will you have it in however, capable of rendering the present state your power to succour the oppressed. The more agreeable.
more learning, and knowledge, and accuracy Do you enjoy liberty Liberty is a great you have, the more will it be in your power to good: feel the pleasure of liberty. Behold the press home the duties of religion, to defend the inan who is enclosed in lofty and impenetrable truth, and to display the beauty and advantage walls; who breathes only an infectious and un- of virtue. wholesome air; who lies on straw in a dun Our design, in restraining your projects, is geon, and who, with the utmost attention and to engage you patiently to bear the inconvepains, can hardiy perceive a ray of light, and niences of your present condition, when you bless God that you are not in the condition of cannot remedy them; because whatever differthat man.
ence there may seem to be between the most Are you rich? Wealth is a great good: en- happy and the most miserable mortal in this joy the pleasure of being rich. Behold the world, there is much less, all things considered, man loaded with debts, destitute of friends, I than our misguided passions imagine.