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and fleeting, the supreme and ultimate good of man. These answers, beside, proceed on ignorance of the constitution of man as a moral agent, of the designs of the Creator in regard to the ends of his existence, and of the relations in which, as an accountable and immortal being, he stands to God, and to a never-ending eternity.
Were there an individual so circumstanced as to have it in his power to subject to the test of experience all the sources of pleasure which philosophers have represented as constituting the chief and ultimate happiness of man ;-of trying them all in succession, or as united, and of pronouncing his verdict upon each,—we should consider his judgment on the point, if not decisive, at least entitled to our serious consideration. Solomon, the king of Israel, was placed in such circumstances; with mental capacities of the highest order ; with attainments in physical and moral science that raised him far above the philosophers of his own, or of any other age; with all the resources of unbounded wealth and power, and with a peaceful reign of forty years, he was able to bring this universal inquiry to the test of experiment. He did so; he turned aside from the fountain of living waters, and
up to those broken cisterns, from which man so fainly and exclusively draws; and in his book of Ecclesiastes his experience and decision are recorded.
WHERE HAPPINESS IS NOT TO BE FOUND.
“ Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun.” The repetition of the language shews the earnestness of the speaker; it conveys the result of his experience, as well as the dictate of divine authority; and it is to be understood as applicable to all sublunary sources of happiness.
I conceive that a material error in the inquiries of philosophers into the chief good of man, has been an overlooking the actual state of the mind. If the understanding be darkened, and the affections depraved, and the will inconstant, how can any outward circumstances afford permanent happiness? Is it not possible to be surrounded with all the means of gratification, adapted to the various faculties of our nature, and at the same time be incapable of enjoying them? In the midst of a paradise there may be springs of misery in the mind itself, sufficient to give a disrelish for all its fruits, and to present its most beauteous objects under the aspect of deformity; while, on the other hand, to a heart right with God, and right with itself, the sources of enjoyment are continuous and infinite.
Another error connected with this subject is the overlooking the most important part of the constitution of man. We do not consider his nature aright unless we regard him as a spiritual, intellectual, moral, and sensitive being; and as he is capable of receiving enjoyment in each of these four capacities, his happiness is, of course, incomplete, if any one of them is neglected. The first of these, namely his spiritual character, being the most important, that which is designed to modify and regulate the rest, and which gives to man his highest elevation, any scheme which has his true and abiding happiness in view should mainly include this, and consult the other powers of his nature in subserviency to it. If, indeed, he has been made in the image of God, and fitted and designed to have his happiness in his favour, his service, and in his presence, and that his intellectual and sensitive capacities are to be gratified in accordance with this and in subordination to it, then surely every plan which would aim at securing the chief good of man, by reversing this order and frustrating this design, must be fruitless and vain.
A third error connected with this subject is, that in the numerous attempts that have been made to point out the chief good of man, the mere elements of happiness have been considered as the supreme and ultimate objects of desire and aversion. This is a material error; and yet it has very generally misled mankind. Because we are encompassed with sources of enjoyment, some of them more fixed, others more fleeting, it is, therefore, supposed that one or other of these, or all of them united, must constitute the real happiness of man; while in truth they are only accessaries to this happiness, and are not essentially connected with it. Every thing, however excellent in itself, however fraught with enjoyment, is vanity of vanities, if made a substitute for that which constitutes the great, abiding, and eternal good of man. Nor is it any depreciation of earthly happiness thus to desig. nate it; since it is only rating it according to its true value. It is good in itself; adapted to the purposes for which it was designed ; and it has only become vanity by the folly of man, who has attempted, in opposition to the will of God, to derive from it his sole happiness.
The following may be considered as an enumera. tion of the chief sources of earthly enjoyment.
The exercise of the understanding and the attainments of wisdom, the gratification of the social af fections, the pleasures of the senses, the possession of honour and fame, and the command and use of riches.
I. The exercise of the understanding, and the attainments of wisdom, form an element in the happiness of man, but not his chief and abiding good. It is unnecessary to say how great and refined are the pleasures which accompany the exercise of the intellectual faculties, in the pursuit of knowledge, in the discovery of truth, and in cultivating any of the sciences to which the human mind has given existence. They are pleasures not confined to the few who attain the high eminence of enlightening the world by their wisdom, and associating their names with the literary history of our race; but common to all who are capable of learning from their discoveries and labours. They have besides a peculiar value from their saving multitudes from that languor and fretfulness of temper, which arise from the mere want of occupation as often as from any other cause. The very interest which the mind feels in the objects presented to it by a book or by a science is itself pleasure, and pleasure that continues as long as the objects contemplated or pursued awaken interest. When early impressions are favourable to cheerfulness and virtue, and when the imagination is pure and strong, it is impossible to estimate the sum of enjoyment, which from this source is always at the command of the individual.
But, then, even the exercise of the mind, and the attainments of wisdom, conducive as they are to the happiness, honour, and dignity of man, are, when separated from God and religious and moral excellency, vanity of vanities. When human literature and wisdom are possessed in a high degree, how many circumstances may exist to disturb the tranquillity of the mind. They are insufficient to shew the way in which sin may be pardoned, and peace and reconciliation with God obtained ; they cannot exempt from the ills of life; they furnish no comfort and support in death; they form no preparation for appearing before the judgment-seat; and melancholy is the reflection, that their possession is quite compatible with an everlasting exclusion from the abode of pure and glorified spirits. It is on these and on other grounds that the Royal Preacher declares them to be emptiness. “I gave my heart,” says he, “ to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit. That which is crooked