Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. II. Sixteenth Century to the Restoration
The Vanity of Life
By Robert Leighton (1611–1684)
From Expository Lecture on Psalm xxxix.

WHAT is this life we cleave so fast to and hear so unpleasantly of parting with, what is it but a continued train and succession of sorrows, a weary tossing and tottering upon the waves of vanity and misery? If there be any that find it otherwise, they would do well to speak it out, for surely they would speak that that was never heard of from any other before. No estate or course of life is exempted from the sad causes of that complaint. Consider yourselves and look about you a little, it may be useful for you, ye that so unnecessarily and vainly look so much at and consider one another: take notice of all.
  Those of the poorer and meaner sort, they are troubled with necessities and wants and pursuit of those things they have not, to supply their necessities; and the greater and richer sort, they are troubled with the cares of managing what they have, and sometimes with the loss of it; and the middle sort between the two, they partake in common of the vexations of both, for their life is spent in turmoil and cares of keeping what they have and getting more; besides a world of miseries and evils that are common generally, and equally incident to all sorts of men. And this is one of them that is apparent here to have been David’s case, sickness and pain of body; and it is one of the closest and sharpest of evils, one that sits hard upon a man, and that he is least able, by any strength of mind or by any art or rule, to bear off the sense of it. And you will find this guest as often in palaces as in the meanest cottages; as many groans of sick and diseased persons within silken curtains as in the meanest lodging. And David, that is here our instance, he was a king, and, as is most likely by the circumstances we find, was now well advanced in years and come to the kingdom, and in possession of it; and yet here he was, sick, smitten and sore vexed, and roared for grief of heart, as almost sinking, and forced to cry out, I am consumed by the blow of Thine hand. And for other things incident to the greatest persons, the ruin of their estates and places and of their greatness, we need not go far off to seek foreign and national examples. We know a very great and fresh instance of that kind, that we have before our eyes; so that, after fullest survey and inquiry, this conclusion still remains, and is again to be repeated, no instance can be found to infringe it at all; “Surely every man is altogether vanity.”  2

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