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yourselves with your own vanity, are 'now intoxicated with the incense offered by your admirers: you, who, having collected a few bombastic phrases, are spreading the sails of your eloquence, and are bound for the ocean of glory: you, whose sublime nonsense, stale common places, and pedantic systems have acquired you such a reputation for learning and erudition as is due only to real merit: your condition seems to me often preferable to that of first rate geniusses, and most accomplished scholars !. Ah! Wisdom is vanity and vexation of spirit-of making many books there is no end--It happeneth even to me as it happeneth to the fool
There is no remembrance of the wise more than of the fool, for all shall be forgotten---therefore i haled life, because the work that is wrought under the sun is grievous unto me.
2. The second disposition, which seems as if it would contribute much to the pleasure of life but which often imbitters it, is tenderness of heart. Let the sacred names of friendship and tenderness never come out of some mouths; let them never be used by profane people to express certain connections, which far from having the reality have not even the appearance of rational sensibility! Would you give these names to such vague unions as are formed only because you are a burden to yourselves; to connections in which the sentiments of the heart have no share, in which nothing is intended except the mutual performance of some capricious customs or the assuaging of some criminal passions, to the impetuosity of which you like brute beasts are given up? Would you give these names to those unpleasant interviews, in which
you inwardly groan under the necessity of visiting, in which the mouth protests what the heart denies, in which, while you outwardly profess to be affected with the misfortunes, of another, you consider them inwardly with indifference and insensibility, and while you congratulate them on the prosperity, which providence bestows on them, you envy their condition, and sometimes regard it with a malice, and a madness, which you cannot belp discovering.
By friendship, and tenderness, I mean those affectionate attachments produced by a secret sympathy, which virtue cements, which piety sanctifies, which a mutual vigilance over each others interests confirms with indissoluble, I had almost said eternal bonds. I call a friend an inestimable trea . sure which might for a while render our abode on earth as happy as that in heaven, did not that wise providence, that formed us for heaven and not for earth, refuse us the possession of it.
It is clear by the writings of Solomon, and more so by the history of his life, that his heart was very access:ble to this kind of pleasure. How often doth he write encomiums on faithful friends! A friend, saith he, loveth at all times, he is a brother born for adversity. A friend sticketh closer than a brother, Prov. xvii. 17. and xviii. 24. But where is this friend, who sticketh closer than a brother? Where is this friend, who loveth at all times ? One would think the wise man drew the portrait only to save us the useless labor of inquiring after the original. Perhaps you are incapable of tasting the bitterness of friendship only because you are incapable of relishing the sweetness of it.
What friends do we make upon earth ? At first lively, eager, full of ardor : presently dull, and disgusted through the ease with which they had been gratified. At first soft, gentle, all conde, scension and compliance: presently masters, imperious tyrants, rigorously exacting as a debt an assiduity which can arise only from inclination, pretending to domineer over our reason, after they have vitiated our taste. At first attentive and teachable, while prejudices conceal their imperfections from us, ready to acquiesce in any thing while our sentiments are conformable to their inclinations: but presently intractable and forward, not knowing how to yield, though we gently point out their frailty, and endeavor to assist them to correct it. At first assidious, faithful, generous, while fortune smiles on us: but presently, it she betray us, a thousand times more faithless, ungrateful, and perfidious than she. What an airy phantom is human friendship!
I wish, however, through the favor of heaven, that what is only an airy nothing to other men may be a reality in regard to you, and I will take it for granted, that you have found what so many others have sought in vain. Alas! I must, yes, here I must deplore your destiny. Multiplied, so to speak, in the person of that other self, you are going to multiply your troubles. 'You are going to feel in that other self ills, which hitherto you have felt only in yourself. You will be disgraced in his disgraces, sick in his sickness. If for a few years you enjoy one another, as if each were a whole world, presently, presently death will cut the bond, presently death will dissolve the tender ties, and separate your intwined hearts. Then you will find yourself in an universal solitude. You will think the whole world is dead. The uni. verse, the whole universe will seem to you a desert usinhabited, and uninhabitable. Ab! You, who, experience this, shall I call you to attest these sorrowful truths ? Shall I open again wounds which time hath hardly closed ? Shall I call those tremulous adieus, those cruel separations, which cost
you so many regrets and tears? Shall I expose to view bones, and infection, and putrefaction, the only remains of him, who was your support in trouble, your counsel in difficulty, your consolation in adversity ?
Ah, charms of friendship, delicious errors, lovely chimeras, you are infinitely more capable of deceiving than of satisfying us, of poisoning life than of sweetening it, and of making us break with the world than of attaching us to it! My soul, wouldst thou form unalterable connections? Set thy love upon thy treasure, esteem God, obey his holy voice, which from the highest heavens saith to thee, Give me thine heart! In God thou wilt find a love fixed and faithful, a love beyond the reach of temporal revolutions, which will follow thee, and fill thee with felicity for ever and ever.
3. In fine, I will venture to affirm, that if any thing seem capable to render life agreeable, and if any thing in general renders it disagreeable, it is rectitude, and delicacy of conscience. I know Solomon seems here to contradict himself and the author of the book of Proverbs seems to refute the author of the book of Ecclesiastes. The author of the book of Ecclesiastes informs us that virtue is generally useless, and sometimes hurtful in this world: but according to the author of the book of Proverbs virtue is most useful in this world. Hear the author of Ecclesiastes. All things have I seen in the days of my vanity: there is a just man that perisheth in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man that prolongeth his in his wickedness. All things come alike to all, there is one event to the righteous and to the wicked; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not : as is the good so is the sinner ; and he that sweareth, as he that feareth an oath, chap. vii. 15, ix. 2. Hear the author of the book of Proverbs. My son forget not my law : but let thy heart keep my commandments ; for length of days, and long life, and peace shall they add to thee. Let not mercy and truth forsake thee : bind them about thy neck, turite them upon the table of thine heart. So shalt thoil find favor, and good understanding in the sight of God and man. Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteih understanding. For the merchandize of it is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain Thereof than fine gold. She is more precious than rubies : and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her, chap. iii. 1, 2, 3, 13, 14, 15.
How shall we reconcile these things ? To say, as some do, that the author of Proverbs speaks of the spiritual rewards of virtue, and the author of Ecclesiastes of the temporal state of it, is to cut the knot instead of untying it. Of many solutions, which we have no time now to examine, there is one that bids fair to remove the difficulty ; that is, that when the author of the book of Proverbs makes temporal advantages the rewards of virtue, he speaks of some rare periods of society, whereas the author of the book of Ecclesiastes describes the common general state of things. Perhaps the former refers to the happy time, in which the example of the piety of David being yet recent, and the prosperity of his successors not having then infected either the heart of the king or the morals of his subjects, reputation, riches and honors were bestowed on good men : but the second, probably, speaks of what came to pass soon after. In the first period life was amiable, and living in the world delicious: but of the second the wise man saith, I hated life, because the work that is rorought un. der the sun is grievous unto me.