« AnteriorContinuar »
thousand ways and means of obliging, which will ever escape the unconcerned, the indifferent, and the unfeeling.
The most proper objects of your bounty are the necessitous. Give the same sum of money, which you bestow on a person in tolerable circumstances, to one in extreme poverty; and observe what a wide disproportion of happiness is produced. In the latter case, it is like giving a cordial to a fainting person ; in the former, it is like giving wine to him who has already quenched his thirst. -66 Mercy is seasonable in time of affliction, like clouds of rain in time of drought."
And among the variety of necessitous objects, none have a better title to our compassion, than those, who, after having tasted the sweets of plenty, are, by some undeserved calamity, obliged, without some charitable relief, to drag out the remainder of life in misery and wo: who little thought they should ask their daily bread of any but of God; who, after a life led in affluence, 66 cannot dig, and are ashamed to beg." And they are to be relieved in such an endearing manner, with such a beauty of holiness, that, at the same time that their wants are supplied, 'their confusion of face may be prevented.
There is not an instance of this kind in history so affecting, as that beautiful one of Boaz to Ruth. He knew her family, and how she was reduced to the lowest ebb: when, therefore, she begged leave to glean in his fields, he ordered his reapers to let fall' several handfuls, with a seeming carelessness, but really with a set design, that she might gather them up without being ashamed. Thus did he form an artful scheme, that he might give, without the vanity and ostentation of giving; and she receive, without the shame and confusion of making acknowledgments.- Take the history in the words of scripture, as it is recorded in the book of Ruth. 66 And when she was risen up to glean, Boaz commanded his young men, saying, Let her glean even among the sheaves, and rebuke her not; and let fall also some of the handfuls on purpose, and leave them that she may glean them, and reproach her not.” This was not only doing a good action; it was doing it likewise with a good grace.
It is not enough we do no harm, that we be negatively good; we must do good, positive good, if we would 6 enter into life.” When it would have been as good for the world, if such a man had never lived; it would perhaps have been
better for him, " if he had never been born.” A scanty fortune may limit your beneficence, and confine it chiefly to the circle of your domestics, relations, and neighbours; but let your benevolence extend as far as thought can travel, to the utmost bounds of the world : just as it may be only in your power to beautify the spot of ground that lies near and close to you; but you could wish, that, as far as your eye can reach, the whole prospect before you were cheerful, every thing disagreeable were removed, and every thing beautiful made more so.
1V-On Happiness. THE great pursuit of man is after happiness : it is the first and strongest desire of his nature ;-in every stage of his life he searches for it as for bid treasure ;-courts it under a thousand different shapes ;-and, though perpetually disappointed-still persists-runs atter and inquires for it afresh-asks every passenger who comes in his way, “Who will show him any good ?"—Who will assist him in the attainment of it, or direct him to the discovery of this great end of all his wishes ?
He is told by one, to search for it among the more gay and youthful pleasures of life; in scenes of mirth and sprightliness, where happiness ever presides, and is ever to be known by the joy and laughter which he will see at once painted in her looks. ,
A second, with a graver aspect, points out to him the costly dwellings which pride and extravagance have eréct.
ed;-tells the inquirer that the object he is in search of · in habits there ;-that happiness lives only in company with the great, in the midst of much pomp and outward state. That he will easily find her out by the coat of many colours she has on, and the great luxury and expense of equipage and furniture with which she always sits surrounded.
The miser wonders how any one would mislead and wilfully put him upon so wrong a scent-convinces him that happiness and extravagance never inhabited under the same roof; that, if he would not be disappointed in his search, he must look into the plain and thrifty dwelling of the prudent man, who knows and understands the worth of money, and cautiously lays it up against an evil hour: that it is not the prostitution of wealth upon the passions, or the parting with it at all, that constitutes happiness—but that it is the keeping it together, and the having and holding it fast to
him and his heirs for ever, which are the chief attributes that form this great idol of human worship, to which so much incense is offered up every day.
The epicure, though he easily rectifies so gross a mistake, yet, at the same time, he plunges him, if possible, into a greater : for, hearing the object of his pursuit to be happiness, and knowing of no other happiness than what is seated immediately in his senses-he sends the inquirer there;-tells him it is in vain to search elsewhere for it, than where nature herself has placed it in the indulgence and gratification of the appetites, which are given us for that end : and in a word—if he will not take his opinion in the matter-he may trust the word of a much wiser man, who has assured us that there is nothing better in this world, than that a man should eat and drink, and rejoice in his works, and make his soul enjoy good in his labour—for that is his portion.
To rescue him from this brutal experiment-ambition takes him by the hand and carries him into the worldshows him all the kingdoms of the earth and the glory of them-points out the many ways of advancing his fortune and raising himself to honour,—lays before his eyes all the charms and bewitching temptations of power, and asks if there be any happiness in this world like that of being caressed, courted, fattered, and followed ?
To close all, the philosopher meets him bustling in the full career of his pursuit-stops him-tells him, if he is in search of happiness, he is gone far out of his way :-That this deity has long been banished from noise and tumults, where there was no rest found for her, and was fled into solitude far from all commerce of the world; and, in a word, if he would find her, he must leave this busy and intriguing scene, and go back to that peaceful scene of retirement and books from which he first set out. ,
In this circle, too often does a man run, tries all experiments, and generally sits down wearied and dissatisfied with them all at last-in utter despair of ever accomplishing what he wants-not knowing what to trust to, after so many disappointments-or where to lay the fault, whether in the incapacity of his own nature, or the insufficiency of the enjoyments themselves.
In this uncertain and perplexed state-without knowing which way to turn or where to betake ourselves for refuge -so often abused and deceived by the many who pretend
thus to show us any good_Lord ! says the psalmist, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.—Send us some rays of thy grace and heavenly wisdom, in this benighted search after happiness, to direct us safely to it.. O God ! let us not wander forever without a guide, in this dark region, in endless pursuit of our mistaken good; but enlighten our eyes that we sleep not in death-open to them the comforts of thy holy word and religion-lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, and make us know the joy and satisfaction of living in the true faith and fear of Thee, which only can carry us to this haven of rest where we would be that sure haven, where true joys are to be found, which will at length not only answer all our expectations—but satisfy the most unbounded of our wishes for ever and ever.
There is hardly any subject more exhausted, or wbich at one time or other has afforded more matter for argument and declamation, than this one, of the insufficiency of our enjoyments. Scarce a reformed sensualist, from Solomon down to our own days, who has not, in some fits of repentance or disappointment, uttered some sharp reflection upon the emptiness of human pleasure, and of the vanity of vanities which discovers itself in all the pursuits of mortal man.But the mischief has been, that, though so many good things have been said, they have generally had the fate to be considered, either as the overflowings of disgust from sated appetites which could no longer relish the pleasures of life, or as the declamatory opinions of recluse and splenetic men, who had never tasted them at all, and, consequently, were thought no judges of the matter. So that it is no great wonder, if the greatest part of such reflections, however just in themselves, and founded on truth and a knowledge of the world, are found to have little impression where the imagination was already heated with great expectations of future happiness; and that the best lectures that have been read upon the vanity of the world, so seldom stop a man in the pursuit of the object of his desire, or give him half the conviction, that the possession of it will, and what the experience of his own life, or a careful observation upon the life of others, does at length generally confirm to us all.
I would not be understood as if I were denying the reality of pleasures, or disputing the being of them, any more than any one would the reality of pain--yet I must observe, that there is a plain distinction to be made betwixt pleasure
and happiness. For though there can be no happiness without pleasure—yet the reverse of the proposition will not hold true.-We are so made, that, from the common gratifications of our appetites, and the impressions of a thousand objects, we snatch the one like a transient gleam, without being suffered to taste the other, and enjoy the perpetual. sunshine and fair weather which constantly attend it. This; I contend, is only to be found in religion-in the consciousness of virtueand the sure and certain hopes of a better life, which brightens all our prospects, and leaves no room to dread disappointments—because the expectation of it is built upon a rock whose foundations are as deep as those of heaven or hell.
And though, in our pilgrimage through this worldsome of us may be so fortunate as to meet with some clear fountains by the way, that may cool, for a few moments, the heat of this great thirst of happiness—yet our Saviour, who knew the world, though he enjoyed but little of it, tells us, that whosoever drinketh of this water will thirst again :—and we all find by experience it is so, and by reason that it always must be so.
I conclude with a short observation upon Solomon's evidence in this case.
Never did the busy brain of a lean and hectic chymist search for the philosopher's stone with more pains and ardour than this great man did after happiness. He was one of the wisest inquirers into nature-had tried all her powers and capacities; and, after a thousand vain speculations and idle experiments, he affirmed at length, it lay hid in no one thing he had tried : like the chymists projections, all had ended in smoke, or, what was worse, in vanity and yexation of spirit. The conclusion of the whole matter was this—that he advises every man who would be hapry, to fear God and keep his commandments.
. V.-On the Death of Christ. THE redemption of man is one of the most glorious works of the Almighty. If the hour of the creation of the world was great and illustrious ; that hour, when, from the dark and formless mass, this fair system of nature arose at the Divine command; when 6 the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy ;'-no less illustrious is the hour of the restoration of the world; the hour, when, from condemnation and misery, it emerged into happiness and peace. With less external majesty it