« PreviousContinue »
within us a good, which we can oppose to this evil ; to show that we have fixed principles of our own, which we will surrender to no man, but upon which we will act, and will stand by them to the last. It ought to be no part of our character, that we seek to distinguish ourselves by affected austerity, and a marked singularity in frivolous and insignificant matters. Our distinction must rest upon a steady adherence to rational religion and the uncontrovertible rules of virtue, when the multitude around us, whether the high or the low, are deviating into licentious and criminal conduct. Depend upon it you may, that even that multitude, though they may attempt to turn you into ridicule, honour you at the bottom of their hearts. They will be compelled to acknowledge, or at least to feel, whether they acknowledge it or not, that your unshaken firmness in what you esteem to be honourable and worthy must proceed from some principle within, of a higher nature than that from which they act. At any rate, by thus maintaining in every situation the cause of religion and truth, and thereby overcoming evil with your good, you shall obtain honour from the great Judge of the earth, and your reward shall be great in heaven.
Thus, in several important instances, I have shown how the exhortation in the text is to be complied with, and in what manner our good should overcome evil; overcoming injuries by generous forgiveness ; overcoming misfortunes by patience and resignation; overcoming the temptations of evil examples by steady adherence to conscience and duty. In many of these cases, the conflict we are called to maintain
may be arduous and difficult; inclined, as we too often are, by the bent of our nature, to the evil side. But, if we wish and desire to do well, let us not be discouraged, nor despair of victory. Weak in ourselves, we have ground to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. For the principle of good, feeble though it may be at present in human nature, is never left unbefriended by God. It is a principle derived from heaven, and partakes of heavenly efficacy. If it once take root in the soul, it will be made to arise and grow from small beginnings into gradual maturity, under his protection and influence from whom its origin came. To them who have no might, it is written, he increaseth strength.* The contest between sin and righteousness, which at present takes place in the world, is a struggle between God and Belial, between the powers of light and the kingdom of darkness; and in this state of things we must easily discern to which side the final victory will belong. Let us endeavour to do our duty, and God will be with us. Let us sincerely study to overcome evil with good, and we shall overcome it. Our feeble powers shall be aided by Divine might, and our imperfect services crowned with Divine rewards. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with wings as eagles ; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.f
* Isaiah, xl. 29.
† Isaiah, xl. 31.
On a LIFE of DISSIPATION and PLEASURE.
PROVERBS, xiv. 13.
Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful; and the end of
that mirth is heaviness.
PAINS and sorrows occur so frequently in human
life, that it is not surprising that the multitude of men should eagerly court scenes of pleasure and joy. It is natural to seek relief from our cares, by whatever promises to substitute hours of gladness in the place of anxiety and trouble. But we have much reason to beware, lest a rash or unwary pursuit of pleasure defeat its end, lest the attempt to carry pleasure too far, tend, in the issue, to sink us into misery. There is a way, says the wise man in the verse preceding the Text, which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. There is a certain course of life which a man may have chosen to adopt, as leading to gladness and enjoyment; but which he shall find at last to be destructive of his happiness : for all is not real gladness, which has the appearance of being such. There is a laughter, in the midst of which the heart is sorrowful ; and a mirth, the end whereof is heaviness.
From serious admonitions of this kind given in Scripture, it would be very unjust to infer, that religion is an enemy to all mirth and gaiety. It circumscribes our enjoyments, indeed, within the bounds
of temperance; but, as far as this sacred limit
permits, it gives free scope to all the gratifications of life. It even heightens their relish to a virtuous
It enlivens his cheerfulness, and allows him to enjoy with satisfaction all that prosperity affords him. The text is applicable only to that set of men to whom temperance is no restraint; who propose to themselves the unlimited enjoyment of amusement and pleasure in all their forms, as the sole object and business of life.
Such persons, too frequently to be met with in the age wherein we live, have utterly mistaken the nature and condition of man. From the participation of pleasure, as I just now observed, he is far from being excluded. But let him remember that a mediocrity only of enjoyment is allowed him, for his portion on earth. He is placed in a world, where, whatever his rank or station be, a certain part is allotted him to act; there are duties which are required of him; there are serious cares which must employ his mind, how to perform properly the various offices of life, and to fill up the place which belongs to him in society. - He who, laying aside all thoughts and cares of this kind, finding himself in the possession of easy or affluent fortune, and in the bloom of life, says within himself, “ What have I to do but to seek out
every pleasure and amusement which the world
can afford me? Let others toil in the common “ walks of life, who have to make their fortunes by “ sober and dull application. But to me labour is “ superfluous; the world is open. Wherever amuse“ ment invites, or pleasure calls, there I go. By “ passing my days and nights in whatever can enter“ tain my fancy or gratify my senses, life shall to me
“ be rendered delightful.” - He, I say, who thinks
, thus, vainly endeavours to counteract the intention of nature, and the decree of Providence. He attempts to render his state on earth, what it was never designed to be. He might as well expect that the physical laws of nature should be altered on his account; and that, instead of being confined to walk like ordinary men on the ground, he should obtain the privilege of treading on the air, as expect to enjoy a state of perpetual pleasure, by devoting himself to pleasure wholly, and setting aside all the serious cares and duties of life. Troubles, he may be well assured, are prepared for him, and await him. Where he expected satisfaction, he shall meet withı disappointment; and in him shall be verified the saying in the Text, that even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. ---But lest, to per
, sons of this description, such general reasoning, from the established constitution of Providence, may not be satisfactory, I proceed to show them how clearly it is confirmed by facts. For this purpose let us observe,
In the first place, the obvious consequences of a life of pleasure and dissipation, to health, fortune, and character. To each of these, it is an enemy, precisely according to the degree to which it is carried. Character is soon affected by it. As the man of dissipation often makes his appearance in public, his course is marked, and his character is quickly decided, by general opinion according to the line which he is observed to pursue. By frivolity and levity, he dwindles into insignificance. By vicious excesses, or criminal pleasures, he incurs disapproba