« PreviousContinue »
whatever, and in all monuments of antiquity ; deeply knowing in all the mysteries of art, or science, or policy, such as have ever been devised by human wit, or study, or observation ; yet all this, such is the pity, he must be forced presently to abandon; all the use he could make of all his notions, the pleasure he might find in them, the reputation accruing to him from them, must at that fatal minute vanish; ‘his breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth, in that very day his thoughts perish.' • There is no work, nor device, nor knowlege, nor wisdom in the grave, whither he goeth. It is seen,' saith the psalmist, seen indeed every day, and observed by all, “ that wise men die, likewise the fool and brutish person perisheth;' one event happeneth to them both ; there is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool for ever;' (both die alike, both alike are forgotten ;) as the wisest man himself did not without some dis. taste) observe and complain. All our subtile conceits and nice criticisms, all our fine inventions and goodly speculations, shall be swallowed up either in the utter darkness, or in the clearer light of the future state. One potion of that Lethean cup (which we must all take down on our entrance into that land of forgetfulness) will probably drown the memory, deface the shape of all those ideas, with which we have here stuffed our minds: however they are not like to be of use to us in that new, so different, state ; where none of our languages are spoken; none of our experience will suit; where all things have quite another face unknown, unthought of by us; where Aristotle and Varro shall appear mere idiots; Demosthenes and Cicero shall become very infants; the wisest and eloquentest Greeks will prove
senseless and dumb barbarians; where all our authors shall have no authority; where we must all go fresh to school again ; must unlearn, perhaps, what in these misty regions we thought ourselves best to know, and begin to learn what we not once ever dreamed of. Doth therefore, I pray you, so transitory and fruitless a good (for itself I mean and excepting our duty to God, or the reasonable diligence we are bound to use in our calling) deserve such anxious desire, or so restless toil; so careful attention of mind, or assiduous pain of body about it? doth it become us to contend, or emulate so much
about it? Above all, do we not most unreasonably, and against the nature of the thing itself we pretend to, (that is, ignorantly and foolishly,) if we are proud and conceited, much value ourselves or contemn others, in respect thereto ? Solomon, the most experienced in this matter, and best able to judge thereof, (he that gave his heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things, that had been done under heaven, and this with extreme success; even he,) passeth the same sentence of vanity, vexation, and unprofitableness, on this, as on all other subcelestial things. True, he commends wisdom as an excellent and useful thing comparatively; ' exceeding folly, so far as light exceedeth darkness;' but since light itself is not permanent, but must give way to darkness, the difference soon vanished, and his opinion thereof abated; considering that as it happened to the fool, so it happened to him, he breaks into that expostulation ; . And why then was I more wise ? to what purpose was such a distinction made, that signified in effect so little? And indeed the testimony of this great personage may serve for a good epilogue to all this discourse, discovering sufficiently the slender worth of all earthly things: seeing he, that had given himself industriously to experiment the worth of all things here below, to sound the depth of their utmost perfection and use; who had all the advantages imaginable of performing it ; who flourished in the greatest magnificences of worldly pomp and power; who enjoyed an incredible affluence of all riches; who tasted all varieties of most exquisite pleasure ; whose heart was (by God's special gift, and by his own industrious care) enlarged with all kind of knowlege (furnished with notions many as the sand on the sea-shore') above all that were before him; who had possessed and enjoyed all that fancy could conceive, or heart could wish, and had arrived to the top of secular happiness; yet even he with pathetical reiteration pronounces all to be · vanity and vexation of spirit;' altogether unprofitable and unsatisfactory to the mind of man.
And so therefore we may justly conclude them to be; so finishing the first grand advantage this present consideration affordeth us in order to that wisdom, to which we should apply our hearts.
I should proceed to gather other good fruits, which it is apt
to produce, and contribute to the same purpose; but since my thoughts have taken so large scope on that former head, so that I have already too much, I fear, exercised your patience, I shall only mention the rest. As this consideration doth, as we have seen, first, dispose us rightly to value these temporal goods, and moderate our affections about them; so it doth, secondly, in like manner, conduce to the right estimation of temporal evils; and thereby to the well tempering our passions in the resentment of them; to the begetting of patience and contentedness in our minds. Also, thirdly, it may help us to value, and excite us to regard those things, good or evil, which relate to our future state ; being the things only of a permanent nature, and of an everlasting consequence to us. Fourthly, it will engage us to husband carefully and well employ this short time of our present life : not to defer or procrastinate our endeavors to live well; not to be lazy and loitering in the dispatch of our only considerable business, relating to eternity ; to embrace all opportunities, and improve all means, and follow the best compendiums of good practice leading to eternal bliss. Fifthly, it will be apt to confer much toward the begetting and preserving sincerity in our thoughts, words, and actions ; causing us to decline all oblique designs on present mean interests, or base regards to the opinions or affections of men ; bearing single respects to our conscience and duty in our actions; teaching us to speak as we mean, and be what we would seem; to be in our hearts and in our closets, what we appear in our outward expressions and conversations with men. For considering, that within a very short time all the thoughts of our hearts shall be disclosed, and all the actions of our lives exposed to public view, (being strictly to be examined at the great bar of divine judgment before angels and men,) we cannot but perceive it to be the greatest folly in the world, for this short present time to disguise ourselves ; to conceal our intentions, or smother our actions. What hath occurred, on these important subjects, to my meditation, I must at present, in regard to your patience, omit. I shall close all with that good Collect of our Church.
* Almighty God, give us grace, that we may cast away the
works of darkness, and put on us the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.' Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON XLVII.
PSALM XC.-VERSE 12.
BRIEF recapitulation of the argument in the last discourse.
II. Our temporal evils weighed in the same scales. On this point much need not be said, since what was discoursed respecting the opposite goods, plainly enough leads to our proper estimate of the evils of life. If worldly glory be but a fading transitory show, the want of it cannot be matter of great moment, &c. Consolation drawn from the shortness of time that we shall have to endure these evils : reply of the Spartans to King Philip of Macedon. But there are other still more noble and effective considerations; viz. the thought that all such evils proceed from God's just will and wise providence, unto which we ought all readily to submit; that they are medicines administered by divine wisdom to cure the distempers of our souls, &c.
III. There is another use of that consideration about which we are engaged, that it is not only useful to diminish our admiration of worldly things, but also to beget in us an esteem, a desire, a prosecution of things conducive to our eternal welfare. This it does, both by removing obstacles, and by engaging us to estimate the importance of those things in comparison with these. It is in our soul, as in the rest of nature; there can be no penetration of objects, as it were, in our hearts, nor any vacuity in them. If we have a treasure here, our hearts will be here with it; and if here, they cannot be elsewhere. If we greatly affect worldly glory, riches, and sensual pleasures, the love of these objects will not admit the love of