Page images
PDF
EPUB

of free choice. But to hear a wise man, in the height of these advantages, proclaim their vanity, yea, kings from the very thrones whereon they sit in their royal robes, give forth this sentence upon all the glories and delights about them, is certainly above all exception. Here are two, the father and the son ; the one raised from a mean condition to the crown; instead of a shepherd's staff, to wield a sceptre, and that, after many afflictions and dangers in the way to it, which, to some palates, gives a higher relish and sweetness to honor, than if it had slid on them before they could feel it, in the cheap easy way of an undoubted succession. Or, if any think David's best days a little cloudy, by the remains of insurrections and oppositions, then, take the son, succeeding to as fair a day as heart can wish, both a complete calm of peace, and a bright sun shine of riches and regal pomp, and he able to improve these to the highest. And yet both these are perfectly of the same mind in this great point. The son, having peace and time for it, though a king, would make his throne a pulpit, and be a preacher of this one doctrine, to which the father's sentence is tlie fittest text I have

seen.

The words give an account of a double prospect; the latter, being as it were the discovery of a new world after the travelling over the old, expressed in the former clause; I have seen an end of all perfection, taken an exact view of all other things, and seen their end; but thy commandment is of exceeding extent and perfection, and I see but a part, and there is no end of it.

I have seen an end. I have tried and made experiment of much of what this world affords, and the rest I see to the uttermost of it, how far it reaches. The psalmist, as standing on a vantage ground, sees clearly round about him the furthest horizon of earthly excellencies and advantages, and finds them not to be infinite or unmeasurable ; sees that they are bounded, yea, what their bounds are, how far they go at their very furthest; an end of all, even of perfection. And this is in effect what I find, that their end stops short of satisfaction. A man may think and desire beyond them, yea, not only may but must: he cannot be terminated by their bounds; he will still bave

a stretch further; he feels them leave bim, and then finds a void. All which he says most ponderously in these short words, giving the world the slight thus-It is not so great a matter as men imagine it ; the best of it I have examined, and considered to the full, taken the whole dimension: all the profits and pleasures under the sun, their utmost goes but a short way; the soul is vaster than all, can look and go much further,

I will not attempt the particulars, to reckon all or be large in any: the preacher, Solomon, bath done this matchlessly, and who is he that can come after the king ? If any be sick of that poor disease, esteem of riches, he can tell you the utmost of these, that when they increase, they are increased that eat them; and what good is to the owners thereof, save the beholding of them with their eyes ? Yea, locking them up, and not using them, and still gathering, and all to no use, this is a madness. It is all one as if they were still in the mines under the ground, and the difference none, but in turmoiling pains in gathering, and tormenting care in keeping. But take the best view of theni, supposing that they be used, that is, spent on family and retinue, why then what hath the owner but the sight of them for himself? Out of all bis dishes, he fills but one belly. Of all his fair houses and richly-furnished rooms, he lodges but in one at once. And if his great rent be needful for his great train or any other ways of expense, is it an advantage to need much? Or is he not rather poorer who needs five or six thousand pounds a year, than he that needs but one hundred ?

Of all the festivities of the world and delights of sepse, the result is, laughter is mad; and mirth, and orchards, and music, these things pass away as a dream, and are still to begin again. And so gross and earthly are they, that for the beasts they may be a fit goud, but for the divine, immortal soul, they cannot. A horse lying at ease in a fat pasture, may be compared with those that take delight in them.

Honor and estcem are yet vainer than those pleasures and riches that furnish them. Though they be nothing but wind, compared to solid soul delights, yet, as to nature, there is in them somewhat more real than in the fame of honor; which is no more indeed, than an airy imaginary thing, and hangs more on others than any thing else, and not only on persons above them, but even those below; especially that kind which the vanity of man is much taken with, all popular opinion; than which there is nothing more light and poor, and more despised by the elevated sort of natural spirits, a thing as unworthy as it is inconstant. No slavery like the affecting of vulgar esteem : it enthrals the mind to all sorts. Often the worthiest share least in this esteem. True worth is but sometimes honored, but always envied. Again, I considered all truvail, and every right work, that for this a man is envied of his neighbour. And with whomsoever it is thou seekest to be esteemed, be it with the multitude or more chiefly with the wiser and better sort, what a narrow thing is at largest ! How many pations know neither thee nor those who know thee !

Beyond all these tbings is inward worth and even natural wisdoin, such as some minds have to a far more refined height than others. A man by it sees round about him, yea, and within himself. That, Solomon grants to be an excellent thing, Eccl. iv; yet, presently finds the end of that perfection, ver. 16. That guards not from disasters and vexations; yea, there is in it an innate grief. In much wisdom is much grief, and he that increaseth knowledge, increaseth sorrow. Yea, give a man the confluence of all these, which is so rare; make him at once rich, and honorable, and healthful, and encompassed with all the deligbts of nature and art, and wise to make the best improvement of all they can well afford, (and there is much in that) yet there is an end of all these perfections ; for there is quickly an end of himself who hath them: he dies, and that spoils all. Death breaks the strings, and that ends the music. And the highest natural wisdon, which is the soul of all nature's advantages; that ends then, whether practical or political. In that day are all state projects and high thoughts laid low; for, in spite of all sciences and knowledge of nature, a man goes out in the dark; and if thou art learned in many languages, one death silences all thy tongues at once. So says Solomou; And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Yea, suppose a man were not broken off, but continued still in the top of all these perfections; yea, imagine much more, the chiefest delights of sense that bave ever been found out, more solid and certain knowledge of nature's secrets, all moral composure of spirit, the highest dominion, not only over men, but a deputed command over nature's frame, the course of all the heavens, and the affairs of all the earth, and that he were to abide in this estate ; yet would he see an end of this perfection, that is, it would come short of making him happy. It is a union with a higher good by that love that subjects all things to him, which only is the endless perfection. Thy commandment is exceeding broad.

You may think this a beaten subject, and possibly, that some other cases or questions were fitter for Christians. I wish it were more needless. But O the deceitfulness of our hearts! Even such as bave shut out the vanities of this world at the fore-gate, let them in again, or some part of them at least, at the postern. Few hearts clearly come off untied from all, but are still lagging atter somewhat; and thence so little delight in God, in prayer and holy things. And, though there be no fixed esteem of other things, yet that indisposition to holy ways argues some sickly humor latent in the soul; and therefore this is almost generally needful, that men be called to consider what they seek after. Amidst all thy pursuits, stop and ask thy soul, For what end is all this? At wbat do I aim ? For surely by men's heat in these lower things, and their cold indifference for heaven, it would seem we take our portion to be here. But O miserable portion af the best ! O short-lived happiness! Look on them, and learn to see this, the end of all perfections, and to have an eye beyond them, till your hearts be well weaned from all things under the sun. Othere is little acquaintance with the things that are above it, little love of them, still some pretensions, some hopes that flatter us, "I will attain this or that; and then”-then what? What if this night, thou fool, thy soul shall be required of thee?

But thy commandment. The former part of this sentence hath within every man's breast somewhat to suit with it and own it. Really, each man, according to his

experience and the capacity of his soul, hath bis sense, if awake, of the unsatisfactoriness of all this world. Give him what thou wilt, yet still there is empty room within, and a pain in that emptiness, and so vexation, a tormenting windiness in all. And men of more contemplative minds have higher and clearer thoughts of this argument and matter, and may rise to a very high moral contempt of the world ; and some of them have done so. But this other part is inore sublime, and peculiar to a divine illumination. That which we find not without, we would have within, and would work out of ourselves what cannot be extracted from things about us. Philosophy is much set on this, but it is upon a false scent, and so still deluded. No, it is without us; not within us, but above us. That fulness is in God, and there is no communion with him or enjoyment of him, but in the way of his commandment. Therefore this is the discovery that answers and satisfies, Thy commandment is exceeding broad.

Commandment. He speaks of all as one, in consequence, I conceive, of the tie and connexion between them all, on account of which, he that breaks one, is guilty of all. A rule they are, and are so one, as a rule must be. One authority runs through all: that is the golden thread they are strung on. Break that any where, and all the pearls drop off. Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect to all thy commandments. Otherwise, one piece shames another, like uneven and incongruous ways. The legs of the lame not being even, make an unseenly going. And as it is here, so a plural word is joined with the singular, ver. 137, and Psal. cxxxii. And it is titly here spoken of as one, opposed to all varieties and multitudes of things beside. Thy commandment, each linked to one anotber, and that one chain reaching beyond all the incoherent perfections in the world, if one were added to another, and drawn to a length. This commandment is exceeding broad; the very breadth immense, and therefore the length must be much niore so; there is no end of it. That good to which it leads and joins the soul, is enough for it: it is complete and full in its nature, and endless in its continuance, so that there is no measuring, no end of it any way.

« EelmineJätka »