Page images
PDF
EPUB

lives; at peace with himself, at peace with his neighbour, and at peace with his God.

Thus he lives; and when he quits this earthly scene, (like a river, whose banks are flowery, and whose waters limpid and smooth,) he glides, unruffed, into the ocean of eternity. Go, then, gentle Spirit, to the realms of peace, and enjoy the peace of God !-in the bosom of thy Father, and our Father.' •Very pleasant hast thou been unto us,'during the time of thy sojourning here. Dove-like were thy manners; for the Spirit, which descended like a dove, inspired thee with every amiable disposition, and above all with the love of peace, national and public, as well as internal : and blessed are the peace-makers; theirs shall be the peace of God which passeth all understanding, in the kingdom of heaven.

In the kingdoms of the earth, indeed, there is seldom any lasting peace. What Christian but must drop a tear over the fertile realms of Christendom crimsoned with human blood ; shed at the instigation of the spirit of Apollyon, or the destroyer, taking his abode in hearts which have rejected the Holy Ghost, the spirit of love, the God of peace! May the rulers of the world receive the Spirit of Christ, and heal the wounds of the people; so shall they experience, in the hour of their own distress, the peace of God which passeth all understanding, and their crowns shall be immortal.

[merged small][ocr errors]

SECTION LVII.

General Reflections on HappinessErrors in the

pursuit of it-No sublunary Happiness perfectChrist's Invitation to the wretched-Christian Philosophy affords the highest earthly Satisfaction

Its Summum Bonum is a State of Grace, or the En· joyment of divine Favour.

To what purpose are laboured declamations on the misery of man ? He can want no studied proofs of a wretchedness which he sees in others, and feels in his own bosom. To expatiate on the symptoms of a disease, without pointing out a cure or an alleviation, is only to add to the pain, by increasing the impatience of the sufferer.

After all the melancholy pictures of human life, it must be allowed, that there is much comfort in athe world, blended with its misery. Look abroad, from the library into real life, and you will see a general appearance of cheerfulness. Though clouds intervene, sunshine predominates. The labourer and mechanic chant over their daily toil; and though they pause to wipe the sweat off their brow, return to their work, after a short but hearty meal and the sweetest slumbers, not only without a murmur, but with alacrity.

The prospect of reward at the close of a laborious day, the vicissitudes of rest and labour, the succession of ideas in active employment, the warmth and agitation of the animal spirits conse- . quent on exertion, superinduce a delightful obli

vion of care, and render the state of those who are supposed to be the least happy, the poor and labo. rious, frequently most pleasurable.

Nor let the higher ranks among us be enviously and malignantly misrepresented. Many in the higher ranks devote their time to business and pleasure alternately, and though the harp and the viol, the tabret and pipe, and wine, are in their feasts ;' yet some of them, guided by prudence, moderation, and piety, take a delight, at the same time, 'in regarding the work of the Lord, and considering the operations of his hands;"? suffering neither pleasure nor business to interrupt their endeavour to improve in grace, and to exercise themselves in works of devotion and charity. With respect to charity, which distinguishes this age and nation above all nations on the face of the earth, by whom are the great establishments for all infirmities and casualties raised and supported, but by the rich and noble, by successful men in business, who most benevolently endeavour to communicate the happiness to which they were born, or with which Providence has blessed their exertions ? Happy in themselves, they endeavour to deserve or sanctify their prosperity, by imitating him who gave it, in acts of most disinterested beneficence. For a proof of this, look into our public diaries, and the registers of great charities; and see how eagerly the rich and great contribute to their sup

port.

So that, upon the whole, there is certainly an appearance of goodness and of joy on the face of human affairs; and this appearance, in many cases,

Isa. v. 12.

2 Ibid.

is, most certainly, supported by reality. The world abounds with good as well as evil. Our own disposition and discontent too often poison and embitter the rich repast.

It is indeed evident that there is more good than evil in the world. Plenty is certainly more common than scarcity; health than sickness; ease than pain. And this is so far confirmed by experience, as to render the descriptions of human misery, which we read in declamatory harangues, worthy of little credit and attention. Few, comparatively, know what it is to be completely miserable. Who of us, in this country, does not every day enjoy some solid comfort ? A vast majority is warmly clothed, plentifully fed, and accommodated with a house for shelter, and a bed for repose.

Yet let the balance be held evenly. There is, we all experience, an abundance of evil in the world; and it is aggravated and actually increased by fear, and the activity of a lively imagination.

It is true also, that the best of our pleasures and enjoyments are rather amusive, than perfectly and durably satisfactory. For who ever declared himself, in the midst of grandeur, pleasure, opulence, happy to the utmost extent of his wishes ? Who but, in some moments, has felt a sentiment of discontent ? Who ever said, 'I am now in that settled state of enjoyment and perfect contentment, that I conceive not a wish of addition to it; I look not to a future day for an increase: I acquiesce; free at once from hope and from fear ?' An involuntary sigh rises in the height of our prosperity.

I shall think myself not uselessly employed in the endeavour to discover the causes of man's failure in search of satisfaction. What is it that dashes his sweetest and most plentiful cup with a bitter mixture ?

In the first place, man raises his expectations too high ; beyond what nature and experience justify; when he ventures to promise himself any happiness without defect, and without abatement; a sun without spot; a sky without a cloud. The world is not our home. The world is now old; and the experiment of attaining to perfection of happiness has been tried by every individual that ever existed in it. Many have left on record an account of their experiments, and an uniform avowal of disappointment. He, therefore, that would taste the happiness allowed to human nature, must learn to take aim at marks within his reach, to be duly sensible of little advantages and common blessings daily, exemption from evil, from pain, from debt, from extreme want, from infamy, from exile, from imprisonment. How much happier is he who has a sufficiency of food, of raiment, a comfortable house, and a warm bed, than millions of the human race, in savage climes! Yet these things are little thought of by those who murmur at the evils of life, and pine with the misery of their own situation. Something unpossessed still torments; yet all wish to appear happy.

Many things which, in the midst of our complaints, we possess and enjoy in security, would perhaps render half of our fellow-creatures rapturously delighted, though they, who were born to them, pay them not the least attention, in the eagerness of reaching after something more, something higher, something better, to be enjoyed at a future day; that day which never comes to

« PreviousContinue »