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I.-INQUIRY AFTER HAPPINESS. a mistake, yet at the same time he plunges him,
if possible, into a greater; for, hearing the * There be many that say, Who will show us any good ? objects of his pursuits to be happiness, and
Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon knowing of no other happiness than what is us!'--PSALM IV. 6.
seated immediately in his senses,-he sends the The great pursuit of man is after happiness; inquirer there, tells him 'tis in vain to search it is the first and strongest desire of his nature. elsewhere for it than where Nature herself has In every stage of his life he searches for it as placed it-in the indulgence and gratification for hid treasure ; courts it under a thousand of the appetites, which are given us for that different shapes; and, though perpetually dis- end; and, in a word—if he will not take his appointed, still persists, runs after, and in- opinion in the matter-he may trust the word quires for it afresh, -asks every passenger who
of a much wiser man, who has assured us that comes in his way, Who will show him any good ? | there is nothing better in this world than that --who will assist him in the attainment or direct a man should eat and drink, and rejoice in his him to the discovery of this great end of all his works, and make his soul enjoy good in his wishes ?
labour, for that is his portion. He is told by one to search for it among the
To rescue him from this brutal experiment, more gay and useful pleasures of life, in scenes Ambition takes him by the hand, and carries of mirth and sprightliness, where happiness ever him into the world; shows him all the kingdoms presides, and is ever to be known by the joy and of the earth and the glory of them ; points out laughter which he will at once see painted in her the many ways of advancing his fortune, and looks.
raising himself to honour; lays before his eyes A second, with a graver aspect, points out to all the charms and bewitching temptations of the costly dwellings which pride and extrava- power; and asks if there can be any happiness gance have erected; tells the inquirer that the in this world like that of being caressed, courted, object he is in search of inhabits there; that flattered, and followed ? Happiness lives only in company with the great, To close all, the philosopher meets him busin the midst of much pomp and outward state ; | tling in the full career of this pursuit, stops him, that he will easily find her out by the coat of tells him if he is in search of happiness he many colours she has on, and the great luxury is far gone out of his way; that this deity has and expense of equipage and furniture with long been banished from noise and tumults, which she always sits surrounded.
where there was no rest found for her, and The miser blesses God! wonders how any was fled into solitude far from all commerce one would mislead, and wilfully put him upon of the world ; and, in a word, if he would find so wrong a scent; convinces him that happiness her, he must leave this busy and intriguing and extravagance never inhabited under the scene, and go back to that peaceful scene of same roof; that, if he would not be disap- retirement and books from which he at first pointed in his search, he must look into the set out. plain and thrifty dwelling of the prudent man,
In this circle too often docs man run, tries all who knows and understands the worth of money, experiments, and generally sits down weary and cautiously lays it up against an evil hour: and dissatisfied with them all at last, in utter that it is not the prostitution of wealth upon despair of ever accomplishing wliat he wants, the passions, or the parting with it at all, that ror knowing what to trust to after so many constitutes happiness ; but that it is the keep-disappointments, or where to lay the fault, ing it together, and the haring and holding it whether in the incapacity of his own nature, fast to him and his heirs for ever, which are the or the insufficiency of the enjoyments themchief attributes that form this great idol of selves. human worship, to which so much incense is In this uncertain and perplexed state, withoffered up every day.
out knowledge which way to turn or where to The epicure, though he easily rectifies so gross betake ourselves for refuge — so often abused and deceived by the many who pretend thus little impression where the imagination was to show us any good-Lord ! says the Psalmist, already heated with great expectations of future lift up the light of thy countenance upon us ! | happiness; and that the best lectures that have Send us some rays of thy grace and heavenly been read upon the vanity of the world so wisdom, in this benighted search after happi- seldom stop a man in the pursuit of the object ness, to direct us safely to it! O God ! let us of his desire, or give half the conviction that not wander for ever without a guide, in this the possession of it will, and what the experidark region, in endless pursuit of our mistaken ence of his own life, or a careful observation good, but enlighten our eyes that we sleep not upon the life of others, do, at length generally in death; open to them the comforts of thy confirm to us all. holy word and religion ; lift up the light of Let us endeavour, then, to try the cause upon thy countenance upon us, and make us know this issue; and instead of recurring to the the joy and satisfaction of living in the true common arguments, or taking any one's word faith and fear of thee, which only can carry in the case, let us trust to matter of fact; and as to this haven of rest where we would be, if, upon inquiry, it appears that the actions of - that sure haven where true joys are to be mankind are not to be accounted for upon any found, which will at length not only answer other principle but this of the insufficiency of all our expectations, but satisfy the most un- our enjoyments, 'twill go further towards the bounded of our wishes for ever and ever.
establishment of the truth of this part of the The words thus opened naturally reduce the discourse than a thousand speculative arguments remaining part of the discourse under 'two which might be offered upon the occasion. heads. The first part of the verse, There Now if we take a survey of the life of man, be many that say, Who will show us any from the time he is come to reason to the good ?'---To make some reflections upon the latest decline of it in old age, we shall find insufficiency of most of our enjoyments towards him engaged, and generally hurried on, in such the attainment of happiness, upon some of the a succession of different pursuits and different most received plans on which 'tis generally opinions of things, through the different stages sought.
of his life, as will admit of no explication but The examination of which will lead us up to this,-That he finds no rest for the sole of his the source and true secret of all happiness, sug-foot on any of the plans where he has been led gested to us in the latter part of the verse, - to expect it. 'Lord ! lift thou up the light of thy counte- The moment he is got loose from tutors and nance upon us,'—that there can be no real governors, and is left to judge for himself, and happiness without religion and virtue, and the pursue this scheme his own way, his first assistance of God's grace and Holy Spirit to thoughts are generally full of the mighty direct our lives in the true pursuit of it.
happiness which he is going to enter upon, Let us inquire into the disappointments of from the free enjoyment of the pleasures in human happiness, on some of the most received which he sees others of his age and fortune plans on which ’tis generally sought for and engaged. expected by the bulk of mankind.
In consequence of this, take notice how his There is hardly any subject more exhausted, imagination is taught by every glittering appearor which at one time or other has afforded ance that flatters this expectation. Observe more matter for argument and declamation what impressions are made upon his senses by than this one, of the insufficiency of our en diversions, music, dress, and beauty; and how joyments. Scarcely a reformed sensualist, his spirits are upon the wing, flying in pursuit from Solomon down to our own days, who of them, that you would think he could never has not in some fits of repentance or dis- have enough. appointment uttered some sharp reflection Leave him to himself a few years, till the upon the emptiness of human pleasure, and edge of appetite is worn down, and you will of the vanity of vanities which discovers itself scarce know him again. You will find him in all the pursuits of mortal man. But the entered into engagements, and setting up for mischief has been, that, though so many good a man of business and conduct, talking of no things have been said, they have generally had other happiness but what centres in projects of the fate to be considered either as the over- | making the most of this world, and providing flowings of disgust from sated appetites, which for his children and children's children after could no longer relish the pleasures of life; them. Examine his notions, he will tell you or as the declamatory opinions of recluse and that the gayer pleasures of youth are only fit splenetic men, who had never tasted them at for those who know not how to dispose of all, and consequently were thought no judges themselves and time to better advantage. of the matter. So that 'tis no great wonder if That however fair and promising they might the greatest part of such reflections, however appear to a man unpractised in them, they were just in themselves and founded on truth and no better than a life of folly and impertinence; knowledge of the world, are found to leave and, so far from answering your expectations of happiness, 'twas well if you escaped without up again; buys statues, pictures; plants, and pain. That in every experiment he had tried, plucks up by the roots ; levels mountains, and he had found more bitter than sweet; and, for fills up valleys; turns rivers into dry ground, the little pleasure one could snatch, it too often and dry ground into rivers; says unto this left a terrible sting behind it. Besides, did the man, Go, and he goeth; and unto another, balance lie on the other side, he would tell you Do this, and he doeth it: and whatsoever there could be no true satisfaction where a life his soul lusteth after, of this kind, he with. runs on in so giddy a circle, out of which a wise holds not from it. When everything is thus man should extricate himself as soon as he can, planned by himself, and executed according to that he may begin to look forwards; that it his wish and direction, surely he is arrived to becomes a man of character and consequence the accomplishment of his wishes, and has got to lay aside childish things, to take care of his to the summit of all human happiness ? Let interests, to establish the fortune of his family, the most fortunate adventurers in this way and place it out of want and dependence; and, answer the question for him, and say how in a word, if there is such a thing as happiness often it arises higher than a bare and simple upon earth, it must consist in the accomplish- amusement; and well if you can compound for ment of this; and, for his own part, if God that, since 'tis often purchased at so high a should prosper his endeavours so as to be worth price, and so soured by a mixture of other such a sum, or to be able to bring such a point incidental vexations, as to become too often to bear, he shall be one of the happiest of the a work of repentance, which in the end will sons of men. In full assurance of this, on he extort the same sorrowful confession from him drudges, plots, contrives, rises early, late which it did from Solomon in the like case, takes rest, and eats the bread of carefulness, 'Lo! I looked on all the works that my hands till at length, by hard labour and perseverance, had wrought, and on the labour that I had he has reached, if not outgone, the object he laboured to do; and behold all was vanity had first in view. When he has got thus far, and vexation of spirit: and there was no profit if he is a plain and sincere man, he will make to me under the sun.' no scruple to acknowledge truly what alteration To inflame this account the more-it would he has found in himself. If you ask him, he be no miracle if, upon casting it up, he has will tell you that his imagination painted some- gone further lengths than he first tended; thing before his eyes, the reality of which he run into expenses which have entangled his has not yet attained to; that, with all the fortune ; and brought himself into such diffiaccumulation of his wealth, he neither lives culties as to make way for the last experiment the merrier, sleeps the sounder, nor has less he can try,--and that is, to turn miser, with no care and anxiety upon his spirits than at his happiness in view but what is to rise out of the first setting out.
little designs of a sordid mind, set upon saving Perhaps, you'll say, some dignity, honour, or and scraping up all he has injudiciously spent. title only is wanting: oh! could I accomplish In this last stage, behold him a poor tremthat, as there would be nothing left then for bling wretch, shut up from all mankind, sinking to wish, good God! how happy should I be! | into utter contempt; spending careful days and 'Tis still the same: the dignity or title, though sleepless nights in pursuit of what a narrow and they crown his head with honour, add not one contracted heart can never enjoy: and let us cubit to his happiness. Upon summing up the here leave him to the conviction he will one day account, all, all is found to be seated merely in find, -that there is no end of his labour; that the imagination. The faster he has pursued, his eyes will never be satisfied with riches, or the faster the phantom flies before him; and, will say, For whom do I labour and bereave to use the satirist's comparison of the chariot myself of rest? This is also a sore travail. wheels, haste as they will, they must for ever I believe this is no uncommon picture of the keep the same distance.
disappointments of human life, and the manner But what? though I have been thus far dis- our pleasures and enjoyments slip from under appointed in my expectations of happiness from us in every stage of our life. And though I the possession of riches, let me try whether would not be thought, by it, as if I was denying I shall not meet with it in the spending and the reality of pleasures, or disputing the being fashionable enjoyment of them.'
of them, any more than one would the reality Behold! I will get me down, and make me of pain, yet I must observo, on this head, that great works, and build me houses, and plant there is a plain distinction to be made betwixt me vineyards, and make me gardens, and pools pleasure and happiness; for, though there can of water; and I will get me servants and be no happiness without pleasure, yet the remaidens ; and whatsoever my eyes desire I verse of the proposition will not hold true. We will not keep from them.
are so made that, from the common gratifications In prosecution of this, he drops all pairful of our appetites, and the impressions of a thoupursuits, withdraws himself f:cm the busy sand objects, we snatch the one, like a transient part of the world, realizes, pulls down, builds gleam, without being suffered to taste the other,
and enjoy the perpetual sunshine and fair a mournful traveller the short rest and refreshweather which constantly attend it. This, I ments necessary to suppport his spirits through contend, is only to be found in religion—in the the stages of a weary pilgrimage ? or that he consciousness of virtue--and the sure and certain would call him to a severe reckoning, because in hopes of a better life, which brighten all our his way he had hastily snatched at some little prospects, and leave no room to dread disap- fugacious pleasures, merely to sweeten this unpointments; because the expectation thereof is easy journey of life, and reconcile him to the built upon a rock, whose foundations are as deep ruggedness of the road, and the many hard as those of heaven and hell.
jostlings he is sure to meet with ? Consider, I And though in our pilgrimage through this beseech you, what provision and accommodation world some of us may be so fortunate as to meet the Author of our being has prepared for us, with some clear fountains by the way, that may that we might not go on our way sorrowing; cool for a few moments the heat of this great | how many caravanseras of rest; what powers thirst of happiness; yet our Saviour, who knew and faculties he has given us for taking it; the world, though he enjoyed but little of it, what apt objects he has placed in our way to tells us that whosoever drinketh of this water entertain us, -some of which he has made so will thirst again; and we all find, by experi- fair, so exquisitely fitted for this end, that they ence, it is so, and by reason, that it always must have power over us for a time, to charm away
the sense of pain, to cheer up the dejected heart I conclude with a short observation upon So- under poverty and sickness, and make it go and lomon's evidence in this case.
remember its miseries no more. Never did the busy brain of a lean and hectic I will not contend at present against this rhechemist search for the philosopher's stone with toric; I would choose rather for a moment to go more pains and ardour than this great man did on with the allegory, and say we are travellers, after happiness. He was one of the wisest and, in the most affecting sense of that idea, inquirers into Nature ; had tried all her powers that, like travellers, though upon business of the and capacities; and, after a thousand vain spe- last and nearest concern to us, we may surely culations and vile experiments, he affirmed, at be allowed to amuse ourselves with the natural length, it lay hid in no one thing he had tried. or artificial beauties of the country we are passLike the chemist's projections, all had ended in ing through, without reproach of forgetting the smoke, or, what was worse, in vanity and vexa- main errand we are sent upon; and if we can so tion of spirit.---The conclusion of the whole order it as not to be led out of the way by the matter was this, that he advises every man variety of prospects, edifices, and ruins which who would be happy to fear God and keep his solicit us, it would be a nonsensical piece of commandments.
saint-errantry to shut our eyes.
But let us not lose sight of the argument in
pursuit of the simile. II.-THE HOUSE OF FEASTING AND THE
Let us remember, various as our excursions HOUSE OF MOURNING DESCRIBED. are, that we have still set our faces towards his heart and lay it open to temptations; the render himself an acceptable guest, - let us consorrows of the other defend it, and as naturally ceive them entering into the house of feasting, shut them from it. So strange and unaccount- with hearts set loose from grave restraints, and able a creature is man ! he is so framed that he open to the expectations of receiving pleasure. cannot but pursue happiness; and yet, unless It is not necessary, as I premised, to bring he is made sometimes miserable, how apt is he intemperance into this scene, or to suppose such to mistake the way which can only lead him to an excess in the gratification of the appetites. the accomplishment of his own wishes !
Jerusalem ; that we have a place of rest and *It is better to go to the house of mourning than to
happiness, towards which we hasten, and that the house of feasting.'-ECCLES. VII. 2, 3.
the way to get there is not so much to please That I deny: but let us hear the wise man's our hearts, as to improve them in virtue; that reasoning upon it,-For that is the end of all mirth and feasting are usually no friends to men, and the living will lay it to his heart; achievements of this kind, but that a season of sorrow is better than laughter,'—for a crack- affliction is in some sort a season of piety, not brained order of Carthusian monks, I grant, but only because our sufferings are apt to put us in not for men of the world. For what purpose, do mind of our sins, but that by the check and you imagine, has God made us ? for the social interruption which they give to our pursuits, sweets of the well-watered valleys, where he has they allow us what the hurry and bustle of the planted us; or for the dry and dismal desert of world too often deny us,—and that is a little a Sierra Morena? Are the sad accidents of life, time for reflection, which is all that most of us and the uncheery hours which perpetually over- want to make us wiser and better men; that take us,-are they not enough, but we must sally at certain times it is so necessary a man's mind forth in quest of them, belie our own hearts, should be turned towards itself, that, rather than and say, as our text would have us, that they want occasions, he had better purchase them at are better than those of joy? Did the Best of the expense of his present happiness. He had Beings send us into the world for this end,--to better, as the text expresses it, go to the house of go weeping through it,-to vex and shorten a mourning, where he will meet with something life short and vexatious enough already? Do to subdue his passions, than to the house of you think, my good preacher, that he who is feasting, where the joy and gaiety of the place infinitely happy can envy us our enjoyments? | is likely to excite them. That whereas the enteror that a Being so infinitely kind would grudge tainments and caresses of the one place expose
as shall ferment the blood and set the desires This is the full force of the wise man's decla- in a flame. Let us admit no more of it, thereration. But to do further justice to his words, fore, than will gently stir them, and fit them I will endeavour to bring the subject still nearer. for the impressions which so benevolent a comFor which purpose it will be necessary to stop merce will naturally excite. In this disposition, here, and take a transient view of the two places thus wrought upon beforehand, and already imhere referred to,—the house of mourning, and proved to this purpose, take notice how mechathe house of feasting. Give me leave therefore, nically the thoughts and spirits rise ; how soon I beseech you, to recall both of them for a mo- and insensibly they are got above the pitch and ment to your imaginations, that thence I may first bounds which cooler hours would have appeal to your hearts, how faithfully, and upon marked. what good grounds, the effects and natural opera- When the gay and smiling aspect of things tions of each upon our minds are intimated in has begun to leave the passages to a man's heart the text.
thus thoughtlessly unguarded ; when kind and And first, let us look into the house of caressing looks of every object without, that can feasting.
flatter his senses, have conspired with the enemy And here, to be as fair and candid as possible within to betray him, and put him off his dein the description of this, we will not take it fence; when music likewise hath lent her aid, from the worst originals, such as are open merely and tried her power upon the passions; when for the sale of virtue, and so calculated for the the voice of singing men, and the voice of singend, that the disguise each is under not only ing women, with the sound of the viol and the gives power safely to drive on the bargain, but lute, have broken in upon his soul, and in some safely to carry it into execution too.
tender notes have touched the secret springs of This we will not suppose to be the case ; nor rapture,-that moment let us dissect and look let us even imagine the house of feasting to be into his heart-see how vain ! how weak! how such a scene of intemperance and excess as the empty a thing it is ! Look through its several house of feasting does often exhibit; but let us recesses, those pure mansions formed for the take it from one as little exceptionable as we reception of innocence and virtue : sad speccan—where there is, or at least appears, nothing tacle! Behold those fair inhabitants now disreally criminal, but where everything seems to possessed-turned out of their sacred dwellings, be kept within the visible bounds of moderation to make room-for what? At the best for levity and sobriety.
and indiscretion; perhaps for folly ; it may be Imagine, then, such a house of feasting, where, for more impure guests, which possibly, in so either by consent or invitation, a number of each general a riot of the mind and senses, may take sex is drawn together for no other purpose but occasion to enter unsuspected at the same time. the enjoyment and mutual entertainment of each In a scene and disposition thus described, other, which we will suppose shall arise from no can the most cautious say, Thus far shall my deother pleasures but what custom authorizes, and sires go, and no further? or will the coolest and religion does not absolutely forbid.
most circumspect say, when pleasure has taken Before we enter, let us examine what must full possession of his heart, that no thought nor be the sentiments of each individual previous purpose shall arise there which he would have to his arrival, and we shall find, however they concealed ? In those loose and unguarded momay differ from one another in tempers and ments, the imagination is not always at comopinions, that every one seems to agree in this, mand; in spite of reason and reflection, it will that, as he is going to a house dedicated to joy forcibly carry him sometimes whither he would and mirth, it was fit he should divest himself of not-like the unclean spirit, in the parent's sad whatever was likely to contradict that intention, description of his child's case, which took him, or be inconsistent with it. That for this pur and ofttimes cast him into the fire to destroy pose he had left his cares, his serious thoughts, him; and wheresoever it taketh him it teareth and his moral reflections, behind him; and was him, and hardly departeth from him. come forth from home with only such disposi- But this, you 'll say, is the worst account of tions and gaiety of heart as suited the occasion, what the mind may suffer here. and promoted the intended mirth and jollity of Why may we not make more favourable the place. With this preparation of mind, - suppositions ?—that numbers, by exercise and which is as little as can be supposed, since it custom to such encounters, learn gradually to will amount to no more than a desire in each to despise and triumph over them; that the