Page images
PDF
EPUB

who is discontented cannot be happy. One of the first lessons, both of religion and wisdom, is, to moderate our expectations and hopes; and not to set forth on the voyage of life like men who expect to be always carried forward with a favourable gale. Let your views be suited to your rank and station in the world; and never soar fantastically beyond them. Content yourselves with sober pleasures, and form your relish to them. Be thankful when you are free from pain, though you be not in the midst of high enjoyment. Be satisfied, if the path you tread be easy and smooth, though it be not strewed with flowers. Human life admits not of continued pleasure: nor is it always rendered happy by great exaltation. Remember, that it is a middle region, which is the native station of tranquillity. It neither aspires to those heights of the atmosphere where the thunder is formed, nor creeps always on the ground. Affect not, on every occasion, to put yourselves forward. Be content to retire sometimes into the shade; and allow others to take their proper place. It will be easily seen, that I speak not now to the ambitious and aspiring; but to those who value tranquillity more than splendid appearance in the world.

Such persons I also advise, while they expect not too much from the world, neither, also, to form too high expectations from the characters of those on whose friendship they rest, and with whom it is their lot to be connected, either in social or domestic relations. If you have looked for perfection any where, you will find yourself disappointed; and the consequence of this disappointment will be, that friendship will cool, and disgust succeed. If you wish to

enjoy comfort in any of your connections, take your fellow-creatures as they are, and look for their imperfections to appear. You know you have your own; bear with those of others, as you expect that they are to bear with you. As no one is without his failings, few also are void of amiable qualities. Select for your companions, those who have the greatest share of such qualities; and value them accordingly. -In a word, make the best of this world as you find it. Reckon both on the state of human life, and on the society of men, as mixed and chequered with good and evil. Carrying always in your eye such views of things, you will be best formed to those equal spirits, and that reasonable disposition of mind, which make the basis of tranquillity. I shall only add, as my

SEVENTH, and last advice on this subject, to mix retreat with the active business of the world, and to cultivate habits of serious thought and recollection. I before advised those who are not particularly engaged in active life, to form to themselves some object of pursuit, in order to furnish proper employment to time and thought. But the great multitude of men are in a different situation. Industry is required of them; business and cares press; and active pursuits occupy their closest attention. He who, in this situation, pours himself forth incessantly on the world, cannot escape partaking much of its disturbance and trouble. Amidst bustle, intrigue, and dissension, he must pass many an uneasy hour. Here an enemy encounters him; there a rival meets him. A suspicious friend alarms him one hour; an ungrateful one provokes him the next. I do not

[blocks in formation]

recommend, that, for these reasons, he who studies tranquillity should retire from all public business, and forsake the haunts of men. This were the retreat of a monk, not of a good and a wise man. Tranquillity were too dearly purchased by the neglect of those duties which belong to a man and a Christian. Nor indeed in absolute seclusion from the world, is tranquillity ever found. On the contrary, when the human mind is cut off from those employments for which it was designed by nature and Providence, it preys on itself, and engenders its own misery. Tranquillity is always most likely to be attained, when the business of the world is tempered with thoughtful and serious retreat. Commune with your hearts on your bed, and be still. Leaving this world to itself, let there be seasons which you devote to yourselves, and to God. Reflection and meditation allay the workings of many unquiet passions; and places us at a distance from the tumults of the world. When the mind has either been ruffled or cast down, an intercourse with God and heaven we find a sanctuary to which we can retreat. In the hours of contemplation and devotion, a good man enjoys himself in peace. He beholds nobler objects than what worldly men can behold. He assumes a higher character. He listens to the voice of nature and of God; and from this holy sanctuary comes forth with a mind fortified against the little disturbances of the world. Such habits, therefore, cannot be too much recommended to the lovers of tranquillity, as powerful subsidiary means for attaining that happy state.

I HAVE thus pointed out what appears to me the discipline of religion and wisdom for tranquillity of

mind. He that doeth these things shall never be moved. During the early periods of life, vivid sensations of pleasure are the sole objects thought worthy of pursuit. Mere ease and calmness are despised, as the portion of the aged only and the feeble. Some longer acquaintance with the world, with its disappointed hopes and fallacious pleasures, teaches almost all men, by degrees, to wish for tranquillity and peace. But you must not imagine that these are blessings which will drop on men of their own accord as soon as they begin to desire them. No: the thoughtless and the profligate will ever remain strangers to them. They will remain the sport of every accident that occurs to derange their minds, and disturb their life. The three great enemies to tranquillity are, Vice, Superstition, and Idleness: Vice, which poisons and disturbs the mind with bad passions: Superstition, which fills it with imaginary terrors: Idleness, which loads it with tediousness and disgust. It is only by following the path which eternal wisdom has pointed out, that we can arrive at the blessed temple of tranquillity, and obtain a station there: By doing, or at least, endeavouring to do, our duty to God and man; by acquiring a humble trust in the mercy and favour of God through Jesus Christ; by cultivating our minds, and properly employing our time and thoughts; by governing our passions and our temper; by correcting all unreasonable expectations from the world and from men; and, in the midst of worldly business, habituating ourselves to calm retreat and serious recollection.— By such means as these, it may be hoped, that, through the Divine blessing, our days

shall flow in a stream as unruffled as the human state admits. The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest. But the work of righteousness is peace; and the effect of righteousness is quietness and assurance for ever.*

Isaiah, xxxii. 17.

« PreviousContinue »