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SE R M ON
ECCLES. IX. IO.
Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with
thý might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goeft.
OLOMON, the supposed author, of the
book of Ecclesiastes, whose active genius and disposition were perpetually urging him on in the pursuit of knowledge, who had gotten more wisdom than all those that went before him; having found by long experience that nothing truly valuable could ever be acquired without pain, perseverance and assiduity; recommends in the words of my text, that industry which he had himself so successfully practised, and that constant exertion of the human powers and faculties, for which he had been himself so eminently distinguished.
That this his falutary advice might carry with it the greater weight and authority, he enforces it with an argument that appeals to the senses of all men, and which must strike with equal force on every heart that is open to conviftion. Whatsoever, says he, thy hand findeth
to do, do it with thy miglit; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither theu goeft.
If we are lifless and indolent in the purfuit of riches, fame, or power, if we give but half our strength and application, we shall ever fall short of the end proposed. And as it is with what are generally called the good things of this life, that which more immediately concerns our interest and advantage here, so is it also with those nobler accomplishments of the mind, which diftinguish man from the inferior parts of the creation. The paths of human learning are thorny and perplexing at our first entrance into them; and though by degrees they grow wider and more passable, yet unless we pursue them with all our might, we shall never attain to any pre-eminence or perfection in them. Half-wise men disgrace wisdom, half-learned men dihonour learning, half-good and religious meli, do hurt to that virtue, and prejudice that holy faith which they profess.
Thus useful, and thus neccffary, are industry and perseverance to fupport our character, and render us easy and happy in our several stations and profefiions; but the argument will rise upon us with redoubled force, when we come to consider what Solomon hath added on this occasion to recommend and efiablith it: that there is no work, nor dez:ice, nor knowledge, ror wisdom, in the grave whither we are going. To a heathen, or to an infidel, to one who had no hopes or fears of a future state, the argument
which the wise man here makes use of would indeed have very little power: if there were no life after this, what reason would persuade men to perpetual labour, and unremitted activity in search of objects that could be of very little use or service to them? why should they exercise themselves in works that had no profpect of reward? whilst, on the other hand, to the Christian believer, to him who looks for the resurrection of the dead, nothing can so animate and inspirit him in every good word and work, as the admonition of the preacher, who tells him, that there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither he is going. Most indisputable it must be to every rational and thinking man, that this life is a state of probation; that God has endowed us all with talents and abilities fuf. ficient for the attainment of that knowledge which he has commanded us to search after, and that wisdom which he has enjoined us to pursue: he hath given us faculties which we ought to exert, and powers which we are bound to employ. We are not sent into this world to be idle spectators in the great theatre, but every one of us to act the part allotted to him; to be active and vigilant in the practice of those duties which religion commands us to practise, and to make all our views and interests in this life fubfervient to the more important concerns of the other. For the performance of these offices, God hath decreed unto man his appointed time, beyond which no human art can possibly extend it; reserving to
himself the power of shortening those limits, in whatever degree his divine wisdom should think most proper. The Almighty Being, of his infinite goodness and mercy, hath concealed from us the fatal hour of our diffolution, that seeing the uncertainty of our state and condition here, we might always be ready and prepared for it, that not knowing when the bridegroom cometh, we might have our lamps always ready trimmed to receive him.
And yet were we to judge from the supineness, indolence, and inactivity that is so universally prevalent amongst us, we should imagine that the life of man extended to many centuries; that no sickness or misfortune could interrupt, no accidents intervene to prevent the execution of everything which he proposed, and that whatever his hand found to do, he would do it with all his might. But how different from this is the real state of human nature ! the days of man are but threescore years and ten, and though men come to fourscore years, yet is their strength then but labour and forrow: fo foon passeth it away, and we are gone.
The great business of man therefore, in this life, is doubtless to prepare himself for a better : to search after that knowledge and wifdom here below, which may fit them for the participation of that infinitely superior wisdom and knowledge which are above. Those, and those only, whose diligence and faithfulness have been distinguished on earth, can hope to be rewarded in heaven. The higher degree
of moral perfection which we attain unto, the purer habit and taste which we contract for refined and spiritual enjoyments, the greater pleasure shall we undoubtedly enjoy in the society of blessed spirits, the exalted converse with the sons of God. But unless we apply ourselves early to the study of divine truths, unless we exert all our powers, and do it with all our might, unless our conduct is steady, regular, and uniform, unless we pursue one great and noble end with unchangeable resolution and perseverance, we have no title to the name of rational beings, much less to that of good and pious Chriftians.
Time, therefore, that pearl of great price, whose real value we are so little acquainted with, should be considered by us, not as an inheritance from our forefathers which we have a right to squander away as may be most convenient or agreeable to us, but as a treasure lent unto us, deposited in our hands by the great Lord and Master of all things, whose ftewards we are, and who will undoubtedly call us to account for the minutest portion of it: we cannot mispend or misapply one hour or even one minute without wronging, and consequently without offending, our divine Benefactor. Whatsoever, therefore, thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave whither thou goeft. After our short day of life is over, there is no morrow for us : we should work therefore whilft it is day, before the night cometh wherein no man can work; it will be