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ECCLESIASTES II. VERSE I.
I said to my heart, go to now, enjoy pleasure; I will prove thee with mirth, but behold, this also is vanity.
THE former part of this soliloquy of Solomon, to his own heart, we have all pronounced to our hearts; we all have said, "Enjoy pleasure; I will prove thee with mirth;" but have we been wise, or fortunate enough, to add, with the royal moralist, this also is vanity?
In the progress of society, fresh crimes, follies, and virtues, as well as new sciences, and arts, emerge into notice; and to study mankind aright, we must observe, no less the circumstances in which he is placed, than the
feelings, passions, and talents, of which he is composed: To savage men, surrounded by enemies, and trusting to their daily activity, for their daily support, abundance, and ease are the greatest of human blessings; as society advances, the misery of man seems, by a singular inversion of destiny, to proceed from the very cause of his original happiness; thousands are rendered miserable by tranquillity, and opulence; are ruined by a fatal competence, which extinguishes every principle of action, and feel that their existence is a burthen, only because they have escaped from the curse of Adam, and are not doomed to eat their bread by the sweat of their brow.
When we are taught by our wants, we are well taught; when we are left to act from our understanding, our conduct is, generally, more imperfect, and erroneous. The employment of time is, with a greatpart of the human species, who are exempted from necessary labour, a very difficult concern; and, among the number who enjoy the hazardous privilege of chusing for themselves, there are not very many who have
the happiness of chusing well; the common expedient is pleasure, by which, in the language of the world, is meant a succession of company, amusement, and diversion; an excessive pursuit of pleasure has received the name of dissipation, and to this trite, but important subject, I shall endeavour, on this day, to call your serious attention.
Moderate indulgence glides so imperceptibly into vicious excess, that it is by no means an easy task to point out their mutual confines; some evidence, however, an attentive observation of our own souls will necessarily afford; whenever we perceive that the common occurrences of life become languid, and tedious; when domestic society palls upon us; when we find ourselves perpetually escaping from the present hour, and looking eagerly forward to the future moments of vanity, and display; when occasional solitude, and reflection, become the worst of evils, and splendor, crowd, and solicitude, the ever-recurring objects of our wishes, and our cares; when instruction has no charms; when good actions can no longer animate, and delight;