« PrécédentContinuer »
I will not attempt the particulars, to reckon all, or be large in any; the preacher Solomon hath 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 them, supposing that they be used, i. e. spent on family and retinue; why then, what hath the owner but the sight of them for himself? Of all his dishes, he fills but one belly; of all his fair houses, and rich 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 expence, is it an advantage to need much? Or is he not rather poorer that needs five or six thousand pounds by year, than he that needs but one hundred?
Of all the festivities of the world, and delights of sense, the result is, laughter is mad, and mirth, and orchards, and musick, these things pass away as a dream, and as still to begin; and so gross and earthly are they, that for the beasts they may be a fit good; 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.
Honour and esteem are yet vainer than these pleasures and riches that furnish them: Though they be nothing but wind, compared to solid souldelights; yet as to nature, there is in them somewhat more real than in the fame of honour, 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, that the vanity VOL. III.
of man is much taken with, all popular opinion, than which there is nothing more light and poor, and that is 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 enthralls the mind to all sorts, often the worthiest share least in it. True worth is but sometimes honoured, but always envied'. 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 it at largest? How many nations neither know thee, nor those that know thee?
Beyond all these things is inward worth, and even that natural wisdom, 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, 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, amidst so many follies. Yea, give a man the confluence of all these, which is so rare, make him at once rich and honourable, and healthful, and encompassed with all the delights 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 that hath them; he dies, and that spoils all; breaks the strings, and that ends the musick. And the highest of natural wisdom, which is the soul of all nature's advantages, that ends then, if practical or political. In that day are all state projects and high thoughts laid low, if speculative; 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 Solomon. Yea, I suppose a man were b Eccles, iv. 4. © Chap, iv. 13. Eccles. ii. 16.
a Eccles. ix. 11, 15.
Chap. vii. 18.
not broke off, but continued still in the top of all these perfections; yea, imagine much more, the chiefest delights of sense that have 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, the affairs of all the earth, and that he was 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 an union with a higher good by that love that subjects all things to him, that alone is the endless perfection: Thy commandment is exceeding broad.
You may think this a beaten subject, and possibly some other cases or questions fitter for christians; I wish it were more needless: But oh! the deceitfulness of our hearts; even such as have 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, still lagging after 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 humour 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 all this? At what do I aim? For, sure 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, oh! miserable portion at the best! O! shortlived happiness! Look on them, and learn to see this the end of all perfections; and have an eye beyond them, till your hearts be well weaned from all things under the sun. Oh! there is little acquaintance with the things that are aboye 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; readily, each man according to his experience, and the capacity of his soul, hath his sense (if awake) of the unsatisfaction 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 ar gument 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 more sublime, and peculiar to a divine illumination; that which we find not without, we would have within, and work out of ourselves, which cannot be extracted from things about us. Philosophy is much on this, but it is upon a false scent, and still deluded: No, it is without us, not within us, but above us; that fulness is in God, and 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, I conceive, for that tye and connexion of them all, for which he that breaks one is guilty of all: A rule they are, and so one, as a rule must be, one authority 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 unseemly going. And as it is here, so a plural word is joined with the singular, ver. 137. and Psal. cxxxii. Deum tradunt Hebræi, una coce, eloquio uno, hoc est, uno Spiritu & halitu, sine ulla interspiratione, mora, pausa, vel distinctione, ita
ut omnia verba, tanquam verbum unum, & vox una, fuerant, elocutum. Atque hinc volunt duplicem illam accentuum rationem in Decalago ortam, ut alterà una, illa Dei continuata elocutio, altera hominum tarda & distincta, judicetur.
And it is fitly here spoken of, as one opposed to all varieties and multitudes of things beside, Thy commandment, each linked to one another; and that one chain reaches 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 more so, no end of it. That good to which it leads and joins the soul, is enough for it; compleat and full in its nature, and endless in its continuance: So that there is no measuring, no end of it any way; but all other perfections have their bounds of being, and period of duration; so each way an end is to be found of them. Now, in this the opposition is the more admirable, that he speaks not expressly of the enjoyment of God, but of the commandment of God: He extols that above all the perfections of the world; which is much to be remarked, as having in it a clear character of the purest and highest love. It had been more obvious to all, had he said, "I have seen the utmost of all besides thee, but thou, O God, the light of thy countenance, the blessed vision of thy face, that alone boundless and endless happiness;" or to have taken it below the full perfect enjoyment of glory, but some glances let into the soul here, a comfortable word from God, a look of love. O how far surpassing all the continued caresses and delights of the world; he speaks not of that neither, but Thy commandment is exceeding broad. As the Apostle says, The foolishness of God is wiser than men's wisdom'. So here, that of God that seems lowest and hardest, is infinitely beyond whatsoever is highest and sweetest in the world;
f 1 Cor. i.