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tering scenes; and who now, reviewing all that he had enjoyed, delivers to us the result of long experience and tried wisdom. None of his principles seem, at first view, more dubious and exceptionable than those which the text presents. To assert that sorrow is preferable to mirth, and the house of mourning to the house of feasting ; to advise men to choose mortification and sadness when it is in their power to indulge in joy, may appear harsh and unreasonable doctrines. They may, perhaps, be accounted enemies to the innocent enjoyment of life who give countenance to so severe a system, and thereby increase the gloom which already sits sufficiently heavy on the condition of man. But let this censure be suspended, until we examine with care into the spirit and meaning of the sentiments here delivered.

It is evident that the wise man does not prefer sorrow, upon its own account, to mirth; or represent sadness as a state more eligible than joy. He considers it in the light of discipline only. He views it with reference to an end. He compares it with certain improvements which he supposes it to produce; when the heart is made better by the sadness of the countenance, and the living to lay to heart what is the end of all men. Now, if great and lasting benefits are found to result from occasional sadness, these, sure, may be capable of giving it the preference to some fleeting sensations of joy. The means which he recommends in order to our obtaining those benefits, are to be explained according to the principles of sound reason; and to be understood with those limitations which the eastern style, in delivering moral precepts, frequently requires. He bids us go to the house of mourning; but he does not command

us to dwell there. When he

When he prefers sorrow to laughter, he is not to be understood as prohibiting all mirth ; as requiring us to wear a perpetual cloud on our brow; and to sequestrate ourselves from every cheerful entertainment of social life. Such an interpretation would be inconsistent with many other exhortations in his own writings, which recommend temperate and innocent joy. It would not suit with the proper discharge of the duties which belong to us as members of society; and would be most opposite to the goodness and benignity of our Creator. The true scope of his doctrine in this passage is, that there is a certain temper and state of heart, which is of far greater consequence to real happiness, than the habitual indulgence of giddy and thoughtless mirth; that, for the attainment and cultivation of this temper, frequent returns of grave reflection are necessary; that, upon this account, it is profitable to give admission to those views of human distress which tend to awaken such reflection in the mind; and that thus, from the vicissitudes of sorrow, which we either experience in our own lot, or sympathise with in the lot of others, much wisdom and improvement may be derived. These are the sentiments which I propose at present to justify and recommend, as most suitable to the character of men and of Christians; and not in the least inconsistent with pleasure rightly understood.

Among the variety of dispositions which are to be found in the world, some indeed require less of this discipline than others.

There are persons whose tender and delicate sensibility, either derived from nature, or brought on by repeated afflictions, renders them too deeply susceptible of every mournful impression ; whose spirits stand more in need of being supported and cheered, than of being saddened by the dark views of human life. In such cases we are commanded to lift up the hands which hang down, and to confirm the feeble knees. * But this is far from being the common disposition of men. Their minds are in general inclined to levity, much more than to thoughtful melancholy; and their hearts more apt to be contracted and hardened, than to relent with too much facility. I shall therefore endeavour to show them, what bad inclinations their compliance with Solomon's advice would correct; what good dispositions, with respect to God, their neighbours, and themselves, it would improve; and how, upon the whole, his doctrine is verified, that by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.

I BEGIN by observing, that the temper recommended in the text suits the present constitution of things in this world. Had man been destined for a course of undisturbed enjoyment, perpetual gaiety would then have corresponded to his state and pensive thought have been an unnatural intrusion. But in a state where all is chequered and mixed, where there is no prosperity without a reverse, and no joy without its attending griefs, where from the house of feasting all must, at one time or other, pass into the house of mourning, it would be equally unnatural if no admission were given to grave reflection. The mind of man must be attempered to his condition. Providence, whose wisdom is conspicuous in all its works, has adjusted with exact proportion the inward powers

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to the outward state of every rational being. It has for this purpose implanted the serious and sympathetic feelings in our nature, that they might correspond with the vicissitudes of sorrow in our lot. He who endeavours to repel their influence, or to stifle them in unseasonable mirth, acts a violent and unnatural part. He strives with vain effort against the current of things, contradicts the intentions of his Maker, and counteracts the original impulses of his own heart.

It is proper also to observe, that as the sadness of the countenance has, in our present situation, a proper and natural place; so it is requisite to the true enjoyment of pleasure. Worldly and sensual men often remark, not till it be too late, that by the studied efforts of constant repetition, all their pleasures fail. They draw them off so close to the dregs, that they become insipid and nauseous, Hence even in laughter their heart is sorrowful, and the end of their mirth is heaviness. * It is only the interposal of serious and thoughtful hours, that can give any lively sensations to the returns of joy. I speak not of those thoughtful hours, too well known to sinners, which proceed from guilty remorse; and which, instead of preparing for future pleasure, damp and sicken the moment of enjoyment; but of those which take rise from the mind retreating into itself, and opening to the sentiments of religion and humanity. Such hours of virtuous sadness brighten the gleams of succeeding joy. They give to the temperate enjoyments of the pious and humane, a refined and delicate relish, to which the hardened and insensible are entire

Prov. xiv. 13.

strangers. For it will be found, that in proportion as the tender affections of the soul are kept awake, how much soever they may sometimes distress the heart, they preserve it open likewise to the most agreeable sensations. He who never knew the sorrows of friendship, never also knew its joys. He whose heart cannot relent in the house of mourning, will, in the most social hour of the house of feasting, partake of no more than the lowest part of animal pleasure. Having premised these observations, I proceed to point out the direct effects of a proper attention to the distresses of life upon our moral and religious character.

In the first place, The house of mourning is calculated to give a proper check to our natural thoughtlessness and levity. The indolence of mankind, and their love of pleasure, spread through all characters and ranks some degree of aversion to what is grave and serious. They grasp at any object either of business or amusement which inakes the present moment pass smoothly away; which carries their thoughts abroad, and saves them from the trouble of reflecting on themselves. With too many

this

passes into a habit of constant dissipation. If their fortune and rank allow thein to indulge their inclinations, they devote themselves to the pursuit of amusement through all its different forms. The skilful arrangement of its successive scenes, and the preparatory study for shining in each, are the only exertions on which their understanding is employed. Such a mode of life may keep alive, for a while, a frivolous vivacity. It may improve men in some of those exterior accomplishments, which sparkle in the eyes

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