Page images


On a Life of Dissipation and Pleasure.

PROVERBS, xiv. 13.

Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness.


PAINS and sorrows occur so frequently SERMON
in human life, that it is not surprising
that the multitude of men should eagerly
court scenes of pleasure and joy. It is
natural to seek relief from our cares, by
whatever promises to substitute hours of
gladness in the place of anxiety and trouble.
But we have much reason to beware, lest
a rash or unwary pursuit of pleasure de-
feat its end, lest the attempt to carry plea-
sure too far, tend, in the issue, to sink us
into misery. There is a way, says the wise
man in the verse preceding the Text, which
R 4


[ocr errors]


SERMON seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. There is a certain course of life which a man may have chosen to adopt, as leading to gladness and enjoyment; but which he shall find at last to be destructive of his happiness: for all is not real gladness, which has the appearance of being such, There is a laughter, in the midst of which the heart is sorrowful; and a mirth, the end whereof is heaviness.

From serious admonitions of this kind given in Scripture, it would be very unjust to infer, that religion is an enemy to all mirth and gaiety. It circumscribes our enjoyments, indeed, within the bounds of temperance; but, as far as this sacred limit permits, it gives free scope to all the gratifications of life. It even heightens their relish to a virtuous man. It enlivens his cheerfulness, and allows him to enjoy with satisfaction all that prosperity affords him. The text is applicable only to that set of men to whom temperance is no restraint ; who propose to themselves the unlimited enjoyment of amusement and pleasure in all their forms, as the sole object and business of life.



Such persons, too frequently to be met SERMON with in the age wherein we live, have utterly mistaken the nature and condition of man. From the participation of pleasure, as I just now observed, he is far from being excluded. But let him remember that a mediocrity only of enjoyment is allowed him, for his portion on earth. He is placed in a world, where, whatever his rank or station be, a certain part is allotted him to act; there are duties which are required of him; there are serious cares which must employ his mind, how to perform properly the various offices of life, and to fill up the place which belongs to him in society. He who, laying aside all thoughts and cares of this kind, finding himself in the possession of easy or affluent fortune, and in the bloom of life, says within himself, "What have I to do, "but to seek out every pleasure and amuse"ment which the world can afford me? "Let others toil in the common walks of life, who have to make their fortunes by " sober and dull application. But to me labour is superfluous; the world is open. "Wherever amusement invites, or pleasure


[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

"calls, there I go. By passing my days
"and nights in whatever can entertain my
fancy or gratify my senses, life shall
"to me, be rendered delightful."- He, I
say, who thinks thus, vainly endeavours to
counteract the intention of nature, and the
decree of Providence. He attempts to ren-
der his state on earth, what it was never
designed to be. He might as well expect
that the physical laws of nature should be
altered on his account; and that, instead of
being confined to walk like ordinary men
on the ground, he should obtain the privi-
lege of treading on the air, as expect to
enjoy a state of perpetual pleasure, by de-
voting himself to pleasure wholly, and set-
ting aside all the serious cares and duties
of life. Troubles, he may be well assured,
are prepared for him, and await him.
Where he expected satisfaction, he shall
meet with disappointment; and in him
shall be verified the saying in the Text,
that even in laughter the heart is sorrowful,
and the end of that mirth is heaviness.
But lest, to persons of this description, such
general reasoning, from the established con-
stitution of Providence, may not be satis-


[ocr errors]


factory, I proceed to show them how clearly SERMON it is confirmed by facts. For this purpose let us observe,

In the first place, the obvious consequences of a life of pleasure and dissipation, to health, fortune, and character. To each of these, it is an enemy, precisely according to the degree to which it is carried. Character is soon affected by it. As the man of dissipation often makes his appearance in public, his course is marked, and his character is quickly decided, by general opinion according to the line which he is observed to pursue. By frivolity and levity, he dwindles into insignificance. By vicious excesses, or criminal pleasures, he incurs disapprobation or contempt. The fair prospects which his friends had once entertained of him die away, in proportion as his idleness or extravagance grows; and the only hope which remains is, that some fortunate incident may occur to check his career, and reclaim him to a better mind. In the mean time, the respectable and the grave smile at his follies, and avoid his company. In the midst of some fashionable assemblies


« PreviousContinue »