- Sermon I. the Rising Generation Exhorted to Adopt the Religion of Their Christian Forefathers.
- Sermon II. Hope In God.
- Sermon III. On the Means and the Importance of Grace.
- Sermon IV. Corruption of Heart the Source of Irreligion and Immorality.
- Sermon V. Against Despair and Suicide.
- Sermon VI. On the Folly and Danger of Thoughtlessness.
- Sermon VII. Perseverance In the Religious Principles Taught In Youth, and Particularly In Faith and Hope, Recommended.
- Sermon VIII. Good Intentions the Least Fallible Security For Good Conduct.
- Sermon IX. Religion the Chief Concern of Life.
- Sermon X. On Conformity to Fashion and the Customs of the World
- Sermon XI. On Seeking a Remedy For Sorrow, In Vice and Dissipation.
- Sermon XII. Christian Politeness
- Sermon XIII. On the Duty of Preventing Evil, By Actual Coercion, As Well As By Advice and Remonstrance.
- Sermon XIV. On Pursuing Visionary Schemes of Happiness, Without Attending to Scripture, and Revealed Religion
- Sermon XV. the Pride of Human Learning and False Philosophy, a Great Obstacle to the Reception of Christianity.
- Sermon XVI. On the Duty of Servants.
- Sermon XVII. On the Wickedness and Misery of Envy and Contention.
- Sermon XVIII. the Cunning Oe the Wicked Inconsistent With Wisdom.
- Sermon XIX. On the Snares of the Devil, and Means of Escaping Them.
- Sermon XX. Moderation Necessary to All Solid and Durable Enjoyment.
- Sermon XXI. Happiness to Be Found Rather In the Enjoyment of Health and Innocence, Than In the Successful Pursuits of Avarice and Ambition.
- Sermon XXII. On the Duties of the Preacher and the Hearer.
- Sermon XXIII. * On the Benefits to Be Derived From the Sight of a Funeral.
- Sermon XXIV. a Preparatory Persuasive to the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
- Sermon XXV. the Prospect of Perpetual and Universal Peace to Be Established On the Principles of Christian Philanthropy.
- Sermon XXVI. On the Necessity of Increasing the Places of Public Worship On the Establishment; and On the Duty of Supporting the Objects of the Philanthropic Society.
- Sermon XXVII. the Support of the Magdalen Hospital Recommended.
- Sermon XXVIII. the Education of the Poor Recommended.
moderation necessary to all solid and durable enjoyment.
Proverbs, xxv. 16.—Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
Some animals appear to possess an instinctive wisdom; the observation of which affords human nature with all its pretensions to superior reason, a very instructive lesson. Man has been often sent to learn of the bee and the ant; and, indeed, they exhibit very beautiful models of foresight and persevering industry.
The production of the bee has also afforded an emblem, which both ancient and modern moralists have delighted to use in the illustration of their precepts. Honey has been the figurative appellation of all that affords pleasure to the human senses; of all that gratifies the heart, the understanding, and the imagination.
Man, indeed, may be called, in a figurative style, a bee. In search of sweets, he roams in various regions, and ransacks every inviting flower. Whatever displays a beautiful appearance, solicits his notice, and conciliates his favour, if not his affection. He is often deceived by the vivid colour and attractive form; which, instead of supplying honey, produce the rankest poison; but he perseveres in his researches, and if he is often disappointed, he is also often successful. The misfortune is, that when he has found honey, he enters upon the feast with an appetite so voracious, that he usually destroys his own delight, by excess and satiety.
I will endeavour to improve and exalt his happiness, by recommending to him, moderation. Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, says Solomon, lest thou befitted therewith, and vomit it.
The text, however, suggests several hints for useful reflection, previously to an entrance on the principal design of it.
Hast thou found honey? Think thyself happy, and be thankful. Many spend their days in care and labour, without finding it. They gather wormwood and aloes, where they expected nectareous fruits. But thou art successful. Thou art blessed with prosperity. That it may indeed be a blessing, take care to feel a sense of gratitude to him who bestows the blessings of this life. Attribute not thy success to chance, or thy own endeavours only, but to Providence. Impart something of those sweets in which thou delightest, to those who have been used to bitterness; infuse a little of thy honey to sweeten their cup. Thy store may not always last, and thou in thy turn mayest wish to borrow a little from thy neighbour; who, in the various vicissitudes of life, may abound in some future day, when thou art reduced to indigence.
Hast thou found honey? Consider duly the means thou hast made use of in the research. Where they honest and honourable? Has thy gain been attended with injury to no one? If not, congratulate thyself. Thy innocence shall add sweetness to the honey and the honey-comb; but if, on an impartial retrospect, thou findest, that in seeking for thy collection of sweets, thou hast broken thy neighbour's fence, and gone through crooked and miry ways; then fear, for thou hast reason. Thy honey shall lose its sweetness, even in thy mouth, and shall be turned into gall. Haste to restore what thou hast unfairly appropriated, and thus only shall thy palate taste the pleasure which thou hast eagerly expected.
Hast thou found honey? Remember that thou mayest lose it. Set not thy heart upon it, so as to become inconsolable in affliction. No felicity in this life is uniform. Depend upon it, as a truth confirmed by experience, that thou shalt at some time taste the bitter, as well as the sweet, ingredients in the cup of life. Be not, therefore, proud and presumptuous, but rejoice with trembling; for ever keeping it in thy mind, that he who gave, can take away, by means undiscoverable by our most inquiring investigation. Forget not to be thankful to God for the good thou hast, and at the same time humbly resigned to his will, whenever he shall be disposed to deprive thee of a part, or the whole of it. This may be said to be a difficult task, and much more easily recommended by the preacher, than practised by him, or by his hearer; but this also is true of many instructions given from the pulpit. If the practice of that which is conducive to our happiness were easy as well as right, there would be no occasion for exhortations and persuasions. Men would proceed in the path of duty and prudence with eagerness; but it unfortunately happens, that present pleasure is more inviting, than the future advantage of duty.
Hast thou found honey? The text adds, eat so much as is sufficient for thee. It does not require thee to throw it away, or to abstain from the enjoyment. It commands thee to eat, and to eat until thou art satisfied. There have been gloomy moralists and austere teachers in religion, who have forbidden pleasure as inconsistent with virtue. But such prohibitions are often the effects, either of folly, hypocrisy, or enthusiasm. The text says, eat; eat with moderation. So says reason; and happy would it be, if the united voice of reason and religion could be heard and obeyed in the eager enjoyment of pleasure, and worldly opulence. Pleasure loses its essence, when pursued beyond a certain boundary; and prosperity ceases to confer happiness, when the insatiable mind thirsts after more, instead, of acquiescing, in the profusion, which it has already obtained.
In the early age of youth, the world appears with the grace of novelty. The senses are strong and lively. Things are perceived in their fullest beauties. The young and inexperienced imagine, that the enjoyment is without end, and without alloy. They little think, and seem unwilling to learn, that the best method of prolonging and exalting their delights, is to moderate their desires, and to taste them sparingly. The less frequent the indulgence, the greater the delight.
Let us suppose a common case, that of a young man, just entered on the possession of an ample fortune. Like the prodigal son, he resolves to spend his inheritance in the purchase of pleasure. Unhappily, he is unacquainted with the nature of true and permanent pleasure. He has found himself possessed of a store of honey, and he is determined to satiate his eager appetite by unlimited indulgence. He says to his soul, thou hast much goods laid up for thee; eat, drink, and be merry. He looks round for companions; for solitary indulgencies afford him but little delight. He is commendable in desiring to share with others the honey which he has found, but whom does he select? Not those who are remarkable for the goodness of their characters and their exemplary conduct; but the loose, the profligate, the libidinous, the drunkard, and the glutton. These, indeed, seek his acquaintance, and find, from a similarity of taste, an easy access. They, on their part, furnish noisy conversation, and subjects of coarse mirth; and he, on his part, pays the expenses of the banquet. Riot and debauchery begin their reign. Reason and modesty are immediately discarded. A few years pass without thought, for noise and excess dispel all anxiety: but this state is very far from a pleasant one; and, if it were, it would be of very transient duration. For expenses continued, inevitably occasion distress. The creditor will not be satisfied with promises; but the debtor by this time has nothing else to pay. He has this alternative. He must lose his liberty, or leave off his expensive amusements, or go into voluntary exile. His honey is all consumed; the companions who were attracted by its sweetness are gone; and he is left to suck the bitter dregs in solitude and obscurity.
Had he duly attended to the wise precepts of Solomon, his honey might have furnished him with sweets during his life∗ Much of it might have been given to the poor, and much remained as an inheritance to his children. But he was not contented with eating only what was sufficient. Like the voracious and impure animal, which has ever been an emblem of gluttony, he must surfeit himself with food, and wallow in that which was intended to afford him a pure, a sweet, and a wholesome repast.
There are others who have arrived at a state of prosperity on a sudden, by the death of a wealthy relation, or by one of those unexpected events, which, in the language of the world, are called good fortune. They have found honey. Their joy is great. They are inclined to believe, that all the ills of life which they have hitherto experienced, and many of which were the lot of human nature, are such as will be removed or mitigated by the possession of affluence. With this persuasion, it is no wonder that they triumph. Their exultation is however unbounded, and therefore inconsistent with the exercise of dispassionate reason and discretion. They also, like the prodigal son whom I have just described, are of opinion that their stock of sweets is inexhaustible. They enter on life on too expensive a plan. Debts accumulate, and trouble springs up, where they flattered themselves they should find nothing but pleasure. Disappointed in prosperity, and perhaps reduced to their original indigence, they at last subscribe, with sincere regret, to the opinion of Solomon, which declares, that all is vanity and vexation. But had they eaten only as much as was sufficient, and used their opulence without abusing it, it would have contributed to sweeten life, for which gracious purpose it was designed by him who bestowed it.
Many are incapable of bearing any sudden increase of worldly honours or advantage, so that it is the mercy of Providence which keeps them in the condition out of which they are so anxious to emerge. If they should find that honey which they solicitously seek, they would eat till they destroyed themselves by repletion.
Every man has it in his power to find honey, or rather to make it; for what is contentment? As the philosopher's stone was to turn baser metals into gold, so contentment possesses a power of turning even bitter things into sweet, of giving that, which without it might be deemed insipid, a pleasant taste. We cannot subdue things to our own minds, but we can subdue our own minds to the condition of things. Even out of poisonous flowers, a contented mind can, like the bee, extract a delicious flavour. And there is this advantage attending the honey extracted by a contented mind; it is of that pure sort which never becomes sour, nor insipid, nor bitter, by the operation of external accidents.
But discontent prevents men from tasting the sweets which they have collected. Look round the world. Behold a man who has inherited or acquired an affluent fortune, and an honourable station. His neighbour is richer and greater than himself. His own riches and honours are therefore of little estimation to him. He feels all the painful corrosions of envy, which alone will turn every sweet into bitter; but, besides this, he is stimulated to laborious exertions, to servile and painful attendance on his superiors, in the hope of their favour; so that he has neither time nor inclination to enjoy the feast which Providence has kindly prepared for him. He has not enough in his own eyes, though in the eyes of all impartial judges, he abounds in superfluities, and is exalted to a rank which no personal virtues or exertions seem to have deserved. But all this avails nothing, while he sees Mordecai sitting at the gate; he must engross the sweets of worldly prosperity, or he will sullenly refuse to taste them. The text says, eat as much as is sufficient for thee. Not to enjoy the blessings of Providence when they are mercifully placed before us, but to refuse them with sullen insensibility, is probably no less displeasing to our benefactor, than to surfeit and injure ourselves by excessive indulgence. Both extremes defeat the end for which the blessings were sent, and counteract the will of the gracious donor.
But the text more immediately inculcates temperance and sobriety; and I shall now proceed to consider it as intending to recommend these virtues to our practice.
There are, it must be confessed, few topics triter than those which recommend moderation in diet, and the avoidance of excess; but at the same time it is true, that there are few more necessary to be repeated, as a great part of the misery of mankind arises from the neglect of them.
The pleasures of the table are, doubtless, in their nature innocent. Providence has furnished us with nerves capable of agreeable sensations, and with an abundance and variety of food to gratify them. Both the faculties and materials for enjoyment would have been bestowed in vain, if enjoyment had been prohibited. Eat then; but eat no more than is conducive to thy benefit, and to the satisfaction of thy natural appetite. But is this the practice of the world? Is not feasting a great part of some men's enjoyment? Do they not seem to consider it as constituting their felicity? And are they not, in this idea, most miserably mistaken? How unpleasant are the loads of gluttony∗ How painful the sensations consequent on indigestion∗ How dull the intellect, how obtuse the senses∗ Can happiness, or even pleasure, temporary pleasure, be consistent with such a state? Pale, bloated, languid, the very appearance of the glutton evinces that he feels himself to be uncomfortable. He will even acknowledge it. But habit has overcome him, and he continues to overgorge himself, till he has precipitated his own death; as much a suicide, though not intentionally, as if he finished his existence by a bowl of poison. His honey in excess became the cause of sickness. It remained in his vitals, corroding instead of nourishing them; and after making his days unpleasant, at last put an end to them, which indeed may almost be called the best effects of it. It must however be remembered, that intemperance is scarcely less injurious to the soul, than lo the body.
He also who is guilty of excess in wine, converts his honey into wormwood. Wine, as a medicine, seems to be recommended in the Scripture, Drink a little wine for thy stomach's sake. It is allowed also to be productive of good humour, and may in that respect be conducive to charity and benevolence, those prime virtues of a true Christian.
In excess, it is hurtful to the health, and injurious to every social virtue. But I dwell not cm the enumeration of its pernicious consequences; as the experience and observation of every man will teach him the propriety of Solomon's advice: Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it.
Nature has implanted in the human heart the passion of love, intending to answer her own purposes; alluring men to obey her laws, by the enticement of pleasure. Nature, reason, religion, all unite with one voice in approving the enjoyments of virtuous love. But how do the voluptuary and debauchee corrupt the source of innocent pleasure? Disease, distress, and infamy, attend their excesses; and there is no fountain of human misery so copious, as that of libidinous sensuality. The selfish devotees of pleasure, who would engross to themselves all the honey of life, without tasting its plainer viands, and who scorn the wholesomest diet if it is the least bitter, are most woefully mistaken, when they think it possible to live a life of continual pleasure. Satiety, if nothing else, soon destroys the very essence of delight. But vice is an ingredient, which, like some chemical preparations, converts every sweet into acidity. The sweets of sin indeed may be compared to those snares which are laid with substances of a pleasant taste or odour, to catch the incautious insect, who no sooner tastes the deceitful banquet, but his wings are clogged, and he is chained down to rise no more. The honey of vicious pleasure is the fatal bait of youth.
But there are others who can abstain from the feast, from the cup, and from the sins of concupiscence; who yet destroy the happiness they aspire after, by not knowing when to desist from their pursuits, and to enjoy the honey they have collected.
They who are engaged in merchandise, or in any other mode of life, the prime object of which is the accumulation of money, seldom can relinquish the means, to enjoy that end which they profess to have constantly in view. They seek a maintenance at first. They have gained it. They now wish for an independent competency. They have reached the object. Are they yet willing to rest from their labours? Alas, no∗ They feel an ambition to be distinguished for elegance and fashion. This ambition naturally leads them into expense. They become more avaricious than ever. They have no time for enjoyment and repose, the purposes which they first professed. Worn with cares and fatigues, they die a premature death, and leave their riches to a prodigal son, or to some heir at law, a profligate, who rejoices that they are gone, and derides that avarice which has raised himself to affluence and consequence.
Here we behold men who have found honey, but will not eat it, lest the store should be exhausted. They are still on the wing for more. They encounter many a thorn in searching for the honey-fraught flower, but nothing can deter them from the pursuit. They fill their hive till it is ready to burst, but they taste not the luscious hoard; to them it is as if it were totally destitute of sweetness, and of neither use nor value. They drop into the pit. A stranger, or at least one who laboured not in the acquisition, seizes the store, and consumes it in wanton and pernicious luxury. Who can avoid applying, in this case, that striking passage, Man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain; he heapeth up riches, and cannot tell who shall gather them.
Avarice has ever been the universal madness of human nature. The greatest part of mankind still labour under the same disease. Against no vice have there been more numerous and just invectives, than against avarice. Yet let us not suppose, that the disease is incurable. Reason and religion furnish efficacious medicines for the cure of all mental disorders. There will be no occasion for hellebore, if we will but observe, from the misery of others, who are the slaves of pelf, the folly of avarice. To be misers, is to be our own enemies. What∗ shall I possess honey, and lock it up from my own use, more effectually than if it were enclosed in adamantine vessels, and guarded with naming swords? Let us duly consider, that we cannot serve God and Mammon at the same time, and let us not hesitate one moment in deserting Mammon, for the service of him who giveth riches, which cannot make to themselves wings; riches eternal, incorruptible in the heavens.
Why, O man, shouldst thou be cruel to thyself ? Are not the evils of life sufficient, but thou must debar thyself its goods, the moderate and reasonable enjoyments of life, through a greedy desire of heaping up riches, which thou canst never want, and will not live long enough to expend. The shortness of life ought to be more frequently in our minds, than the eager pursuits and intemperate pleasures of life allow. It would teach a lesson of wisdom more valuable than the speculative doctrines of the best philosophy. It would teach that great truth unknown to the professed votaries of pleasure or avarice, that to use the world so as not to abuse it, either by covetousness or excess, is to secure as much happiness as this world is able to bestow.
But, after all, this world is not able to bestow a great deal without mixture. There is, indeed, honey in it; but there is also gall in great abundance. The happiest among us have a share of bitterness with our sweetness, and many have a greater portion of the unpalatable ingredient.
But as the bee extracts honey from noxious plants, So is good to be derived from this evil. Feeling, as every partaker of human nature must feel, the unsatisfactory nature of all sublunary pleasure, we learn to look for it above the moon. If we found nothing but honey in this world, I fear that some of the wisest among us would be contented with filling ourselves with it, and would not suffer the repast to be interrupted by thoughts of a better state. Adversity teaches us to think of him who can show us the light of his countenance, and brighten the most gloomy scene; to think of him who can lead us to waters of comfort, and feed us with manna in the wilderness.
Hast thou then found the honey of God's grace? rejoice, and thy joy shall no man take from thee. Eat, indulge thy desire, and fear not. Thou canst never be injured by excess. Grow in grace, by accustoming thyself to whatever is pious and praiseworthy. The sweetness of a virtuous conduct, of a conscience void of offence, shall be honey to thy palate, health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
After all the various labours and cares of man in the pursuit of pleasure and a chief good, which in this Discourse I have figuratively called honey, in imitation of the text, it is certain that this happiness will be best secured by a truly virtuous and religious life. The favour of God is undoubtedly the chief good of man. Obtain this, and every thing that is desirable will follow. No longer roam with wearied wing from flower to flower in the fading gardens of this world, for that which is to constitute the true sweetness of life. Soar on the wings of faith and innocence to heaven; for there, and there only, canst thou find that honey with which thy soul shall be satisfied. No satiety, no sickness, shall be the consequence of feeding on the heavenly sweets ; but thou shalt enjoy perpetual health, and prolong thy life to eternity. Butter and honey shalt thou eat, if thy palate is qualified to relish them; and thou shalt hunger no more, neither thirst any more for viler food. He who feeds all his children with food convenient for them, shall conduct thee to a land flowing with milk and honey, even the heavenly Canaan.