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The complaint, with regard to the variety of all perishing and transitory enjoyments, which has been long general among mankind, is indeed just and well-founded; but it is no less true, that the vanity, which resides in the heart of man himself, exceeds every thing of that kind we observe in the other parts of the visible creation : For, among all the creatures that we see around us, we can find nothing so fleeting and inconstant; it flutters hither and thither, and forsaking that only perfect good, which is truly suited to its nature and circumstances, grasps at phantoms and shadows of happiness, which it pursues with a folly more than childish.
Man wanders about on this earth; he hopes, he wishes, he seeks, he gropes and feels about him ; he desires, he is hot, he is cold, he is blind, and complains that evil abounds every where : yet he is, himself, the cause of those evils which rage in the world, but most of all in his own breast; and therefore being tossed between the waves thereof, that roll continually within and without him, he leads a restless and disordered life, until he be at last swallowed up in the unavoidable gulph of death. It is, moreover, the shame and folly * of the human race, that the greatest part of them do not resolve upon any fixed and settled method of life, but, like the brute creatures, live and die, without design, and without proposing any reasonable end. For how few are there, that seriously and frequently consider with themselves, whence they come, whither they are going, and what is the purpose of their life? who are daily reviewing the state of their own minds, and often descend into themselves, that they may as frequently ascend, by their thoughts and meditations, to their exalted Father, and their heavenly country; who take their station upon temporal things, and view those that are eternal : yet these are the only men that can be truly said to live, and they only can be accounted wise.
And to this it is, my dear youths, that I would willingly engage your souls ; nay, I heartily wish, they were carried thither by the fiery chariots of celestial wisdom. Let the common sort of mankind admire mean' things; let them place their hopes on riches, honours, and arts, and spend their lives in the pursuit of them, but let your
souls be inflamed with a far higher ambition. Yet I would not altogether prohibit you these pursuits ; I only desire you to be moderate in them. These enjoyments are neither great in themselves, nor permanent; but it is surprising, how much vanity is inflated by them. What a conceited, vain nothing is the creature we call man ! for, because few are capable to discern true blessings, which are solid and intrinsically beautiful, therefore the superficial ones,
and such as are of no value at all, are catched at; and those who, in any measure, attain to the possession of them, are puffed up and elated thereby.
If we consider things as they are, it is an evidence of a very wrong turn of mind to boast of titles and fame, as they are no part of ourselves, nor can we depend upon them. But he, that is elevated with a fond conceit of his own knowledge, is a stranger to the nature of things, and particularly to himself; since he knows not that the highest pitch of human knowledge ought, in reality, rather to be called ignorance. How small and inconsiderable is the extent of our knowledge ? Even the most contemptible things in nature are sufficient to expose the greatness of our ignorance. And, with respect to divine things, who dares to deny, " that the knowledge, mankind has of them, is next to nothing * ?" Because the weak eyes of our understanding, confined, as they are, within such narrow houses of clay, cannot bear the piercing light of divine things; therefore the fountain of all wis. dom hath thought proper to communicate such imperfect discoveries of himself, as are barely sufficient to direct our steps to the superior regionst of perfect light. And whoever believes this truth, will, doubtless, make it his chief care, and principal study, constantly to follow this lamp of divine light, that shines in darkness, and not to deviate from it, either to the right hand or the left. It is indeed my opinion, that no man of ingenuity ought to de
* ώς έδες ανθρώποισι των θείων σαφές. . ή υπερτερα δώματα.
spise the study of philosophy, or the knowledge of languages, or grammar itself; though, to be sure, a more expeditious and successful method of teaching them, were much to be wished : but what I would recommend with the greatest earnestness, and persuade you to, if possible, is, that
would inseparably unite with such measures of learning and improvements of your minds as you can attain, purity of religion, divine love, moderation of soul, and an agreeable inoffensive behaviour. For you are not ignorant, what a low and empty figure the highest attainments in human sciences must make, if they be compared with the dignity and duration of the soul of man; for however considerable they may be in themselves, yet, with regard to their use, and their whole design, they are confined within the short space of this perishing life. But the soul, which reasons, which is employed in learning and teaching, in a few days will for ever bid farewell to all these things, and remove to another country. O how inconsiderable are all arts and sciences, all eloquence and philosophy, when compared with a cautious concern that our last exit out of this world may be happy and auspicious, and that we may depart out of this life candidates of immortality, at which we can never arrive but by the beautiful way of holiness.
Let us pray
INFINITE and eternal God, who inhabitest thick darkness, and light inaccessible, whom no mortal
hath seen, or can see; yet all thy works evidently declare and proclaim thy wisdom, thy power, and thy infinite goodness : And, when we contemplate these thy perfections, what is it our souls can desire, but that they may love thee, worship thee, serve thee, for ever proclaim thy praises, and celebrate thy exalted name, which is above all praise, and all admiration ? Thy throne is constantly surrounded with thousands and ten thousands of glorified spirits, who continually adore thee, and cry out without ceasing, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is to come. Let others seek what they will, and find and embrace what they can, may we have always this one fixed and settled purpose, that it is good for us to draw near to God. Let the seas roar, the earth be. shaken, and all things go to ruin and confusion; yet the soul, that adheres to God, will remain safe and quiet, and shall not be moved for ever. O blessed soul! that has thee for its rest, and all its salvation; it shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, it shall not fear when heat cometh, nor shall it be uneasy in a year of drought. It is our earnest petition and prayer, O Father, that thy hands may loose all our chains, and effectually deliver our souls from all the snares and allurements of the world and the flesh, and that, by that same bountiful and most powerful hand of thine, they may be for ever united to thee through thy only begotten Son, who is our union and our peace. Be favourably present, most gracious God, with this