Immagini della pagina

sert me in trouble, unshamed at their perfidy and their mean selfishness! "Two are better than one; for if they fall one will lift up his fellow; but woe to him that is alone when he falleth, for he hath not another to help him up" (4: 10.) Such laments do not all come from a disordered fancy, from unstrung nerves, or from a melancholy disposition. They come sometimes from the realities of distressful experience; and that distress strikes so deep and so disgustfully upon the heart, (not now to say so common), that there is little ground to wonder, if life itself, to be spent among such sunshine friends, becomes a matter of disgust:"I hated life." If you cannot realize it, I can only say, the realization is yet in store for you. You have but one way of avoiding it. You must have a friend that sticketh closer than a brother, to whom you may flee in every time of trouble, and with whose spirit you must be so deeply imbued, that, instead of hating the treacherous that pierce you, you shall pity them, and pray, "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do."-It is very common that an unbeliever's own companions make him hate life itself.

IV. There are instances in which this detestation of life results in its strongest measure from an excessive valuation of what one proposes to gain from the world, while life lasts. As ministers of the Gospel, we have something to do sometimes with this strange aspect of human nature. Let us tell you a secret : the most extravagant fondness for the world which we are ever called to notice and compelled to deplore, is indicated to us in the language of laments and dissatisfaction. Our acquaintance is unbosoming himself to us. He tells how he feels. He says, I detest the world; I despise it; I could wish to be dissolved from it; it has done me injustice; life in such a world is little more than a burden!-How is this? Does this complainer realize the world's emptiness? Has he risen superior to its charms? No such thing. Its charms are as dear to him as ever. He is heartsick; but does not half know what makes him so. Its charms have escaped him; and his contempt of the world just springs from that fact. He had an excessive love for it, and his lamentations now, are just in proportion to his fondness once, aye his fondness still. He is not sorry for sin; he is only sorry his sin cannot find the means of indulgence. He is not about to repent; he is only taking revenge upon a world that has cheated him, by calling it hard names, and pouring contempt upon it. Take a little leaf of his heart's biography: I write it in this way: He commenced life in raptures with the world: his heart bounded to its embraces: he did not imagine that friends would be treacherous, fortune capricious, hopes vanishing, riches have wings, and the blood of youth and health soon circulate pain through his bones instead of pleaBut his dream of fancy was soon broken. Its gilded spell


gave place to a hated reality. And now he is disgusted with life in such a world as this, just in the very proportion as he loved and loves still, the things beyond his reach: he hates life just as much as he loves the world; and he rails at the world simply because it eludes him.-That is a leaf of his heart. He does not own it; he does not believe it, simply because he does not know himself, because his heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. His disgust with life is just the result of an excessive worldliness. It does not result from the serious reflections which an immortal soul ought to have-reflections controlled by the contrast between the life that now is and that which is to come.

V. A disrelish for life often springs from the cutting contemplation of the end of all man's endeavors, (2: 11.) One does not like to labor in vain. It is disheartening to expend much toil for little good; and it becomes the more so, when the good falls nowhere, either to the man himself or to those who come after him. If there could be any fixed certainty, that beneficial results shall come somewhere, and that, though the laborer does not reach them. himself, yet his labor shall bless his successors; the recollection of this might bring some solace to weary mind and weary muscles; pride if not benevolence might then extend its regards onwards beyond life, and as far as the results of present exertion shall reach- and the man might value life on much the same principle as some men put value on the tomb-stone, that shall tell where they lie-it gives their earthly existence a kind of extension. But behold the reality. Even worldly men are often compelled to see it. There is no certainty; none that is solacing. Toil and labor must be expended very much in vain. At least the wicked think so, whenever they really think at all. Solomon thought so. Hear him. He asks, (2: 23)—“ For what hath man of all his labor and of the vexation of his heart, wherein he hath labored under the sun? for all his days are sorrows, and his travail grief, yea, his heart taketh not rest in the night. This is also vanity. (2: 11). Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and behold all was vanity and vexation of spirit, and there was no profit under the sun." So much for the present.-And what in the future? The future is no better. "There is no remembrance of the wise man more than of the fool forever, seeing that which now is, in the days to come shall all be forgotten. And how dieth the wise man? as the fool. Therefore I hated life.”—And the future is no better when contemplated in respect to those who shall take the fruits of our labor-" Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun; because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me; and who knoweth whether he shall be a wise man or a fool? Yet shall he have rule over all my labor wherein I have labored, and wherein I have showed

myself wise under the sun. This also is vanity." (2: 18, 19). Fools may take our possessions. Fools may be our heirs. All our labor, instead of profiting them, may only be a curse to them. Rehoboams may inherit the crowns of our Solomons! and personal dissipation, and divided and ruined kingdoms, may be the fruits of all our earthly successes! Who then, can blame a disgust with life? If this is all, who ought not to be disgusted? Oh, that men would see it! certainly we do not live here for life's sake! most certainly, the world's history, almost every heart's history, is made by God himself, as bold a lesson to turn man's eyes towards the life to come, as could be written by the sunbeams on the ashes of a burnt world!-There is only one thing which never cheats endeavor, and never cheats hearts.

VI. But Solomon tried other resources. He was a man of science. Seldom, if ever, hath he been equalled. The wisdom embodied in his Book of Proverbs is unparalleled. Not to speak now of its religion, it is unequalled in its wisdom in reference to the common principles and economy of life. You have been taught how he coined those proverbs. To make a single one of them demanded great labor-extensive and acute observation. His mind examined and weighed everything connected with the subject; and having attained its knowledge and formed its judgments and made its discriminations, it condensed the whole matter in one short proverb, the embodied wisdom of a world of thought. There never was such a man. He studied everything. He says, "I turned myself to behold wisdom" (2: 12). "I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven" (1: 13). He applied himself to the sciences; and he expresses the superiority of his opportunities and means, by the question, (2: 12)" What can the man do that cometh after the king?" i. e., who can have such advantages for science as royalty furnished him? And he improved them. In the first Book of the Kings, fourth chapter and thirtieth verse, it is said "Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt, for he was wiser than all men." The twelfth verse of the third chapter of that Book, tells us what God himself said to him-"Lo, I have given thee a wise and an understanding heart; so that there was none like thee before thee, neither after thee shall any arise like unto thee." The thirtysecond and thirty-third verses of the fourth chapter furnish us a catalogue of some of the subjects on which he composed treatises, part of which are lost to the world-" He spoke three thousand proverbs, and his songs were one thousand and five. He spake of trees, from the cedar-tree that is in Lebanon, even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall; he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things and of fishes."

A moralist, a poet, a philosopher, a historian, a botanist, a master in the natural history of beasts and birds and fishes and creeping things; there is no danger of extravagance in affirming, that his extent of science has seldom or never been equalled. He gave his heart to it, as he says; and he signally succeeded.

If, therefore, there was ever a man, or ever will be one, qualified by the knowledge and experience of the matter to estimate literature and science justly; that man was Solomon. And what does he say? Does he deem all this worth living for? Does it give him a relish for life, any more than his pleasure, "I said of laughter it is mad, and of mirth what doeth it?" or any more than his labors and his possessions, which might fall into the hands of a fool? Not at all. Take his own testimony. He does, indeed, in one sentence, express a preference for knowledge. He says "A wise man's eyes are in his head," i. e., a man of knowledge is not blind, while a fool "walketh in darkness." But after all, the whole array of his literature and science co not hinder his disgust of life, or make him feel it was worth living for. Read the eighth verse of the first chapter-" All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing;" science cost him more labor than it furnished him satisfaction; it could not fill an immortal soul. Read the eighteenth verse-" But in much wisdom is much grief; and he that increaseth in knowledge, increaseth in sorrow." How is this? How is it? Why, it comes in a hundred ways; one is, that the point of satisfaction is never reached, not only, but is pushed further off, and appears more inaccessible, as knowledge increases, "that which is far off and exceeding deep, who can find it out." (7: 24): this is an affliction. Another is, that, as knowledge increases, you will see more and more to deplore in the world, and more and more to detest in its inhabitants. As your skill unmasks selfishness, and sees through the disguises of insincerity; and as you find the very man who has a smile for your presence, will have a sneer for you in your absence; you will have less bliss, than when you had more ignorance; you will be disgusted with men, and blush to think that you belong to the race. Another way is, that your increasing knowledge will have little justice done to it. You have laboriously fitted yourself for a station, that the world will not give you. A dolt, a simpleton, a profound blockhead, whose stupidity is his only qualification, will be ushered before you, into the station, place, or business, for which you have laboriously qualified yourself in vain. Another way is, that knowledge will bear hard upon an irreligious pride. Fools may be vain. Vanity is a vice of the superficial. But men of extensive knowledge cannot have the stupid bliss of a high self-esteem. To say all in one word, when you have explored the heights and depths

of all earthly science, and gratified your zeal for knowledge in all that is knowable among men; you will be compelled to an increase of sorrow, because all this comes no nearer to satisfy your immortal soul, than did the ignorance in which you began. You will say like Solomon- " As it happeneth to the fool so it happeneth even to me; and why was I then more wise? Then I said in my heart, that this also is vanity" (2: 15).-Considered in view of eternity, the longest periods of time are no more than the shortest; and measured by the wants of an immortal soul, the most extensive science hath no more sufficiency than ignorance and stupidity. And if you could try it all, and on the ground of your experience should desire to leave your advice as a legacy to your son; you would just copy the twelfth verse of the twelfth chapter of this Book-" By these, my son be admonished, of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness to the flesh. Therefore I hated life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me, for all is vanity and vexation of spirit." Disgust with life, when life is spent for any mere earthly purposes, will be an inevitable result of all sober thinking. Men cannot avoid it, but by avoiding thought, by shutting their eyes, by drowning their senses in the intoxication of thoughtless merriment, or gilded and baseless hopes.

It were easy to add to these items. Let these suffice.

But we cannot close without some other ideas, some lessons by way of inference.

1. Man was made for religion. He must have been. If not, he was made by an enemy, made for vanity aad vexation of spirit. His life, and all he can gain as he spends it, will sooner or later become matter of disgust, contempt and sickening; just as surely as he lives and must die, if he does not live for immortality, and die to inherit it. If an immortal life is not within his reach; his life is itself a dark riddle, his world a riddle, his heart and conscience and hopes are only curses to him, all cheats; and it matters scarcely a song, whether he dies this year or the next, or lives a century! If he will not live for immortality, he will soon hate life, and soon wish he had never lived at all! He was made to "fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man."

2. The felicities of the irreligious, in this life, all depend upon lack of thought, and the power of deception. They cheat themselves the world cheats them; their hopes, their aims, all cheat them! They are not what they think, and the world is not what they think it. Life, spent as they are spending it, will do them no good. How mournful, to see young people, (while life is on the wing, and its years one after another are rushing by,) spending their hours, their hopes, their energies, in a way, not only to do them no good; but in a way which if not speedily abandoned, will force

« IndietroContinua »