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tue; the way to her is at first rough and difficult, but grows more smooth and easy the farther we advance in it.” The man who proceeds in it with steadiness and resolution, will, in a little time, find that “her ways are ways of pleasantness, and that all her paths are peace.”.
8. To enforce this consideration, we may further observe, that the practice of religion will not only be attended with that pleasure which naturally accompanies those actions to which we are habituated, but with those supernumerary joys of heart, that rise from the consciousness of such a pleasure; from the satisfaction of acting up to the dictates of reason; and from the prospect of a happy immortality.
9. In the fourth place, we may learn from this observation which we have made on the mind of man, to take particular care, when we are once settled in a regular course of life, how we too frequently indulge ourselves in even the most innocent diversions and entertainments; since the mind may, insensibly fall off from the relish of virtuous actions, and by degrees, exchange that pleasure which it takes in the performance of its duty, for delights of a much inferiour and unprofitable nature.
10. The last use which I shall make of this remarkable property in human nature, of being delighted with those actions to which it is accustomed, is, to show how absolutely necessary it is for us to gain habits of virtue in this life, if we would enjoy the pleasures of the next. The siate of bliss we call heaven, will not be capable of affecting those minds which are not thus qualified for it: we must, in this world, gain a relish for truth and virtue, if we would be able to taste that knowledge and perfection, which are to make us happy in the next. The seeds of those spiritual joys and raptures, which are to rise up and flourish in the soul to all eternity, must be planted in it during this its present state of probation. In short, heaven is not to be looked upon only as the reward, but as the natural effect of a religious life.
SECTION XVI. The pleasures resulting from a proper use of our faculties. 1. Happy is that man, who, unembarrassed by vulgar cares, is master of himself, his time, and fortune; who spends his time in making himself wiser; and his fortune, in making others (and therefore himself) happier: who, as the will and understanding are the two ennobling faculties of the soul, thinks himself not complete, till his understanding is beautified with the valuable furniture of knowledge, as well as his will enriched with every virtue ; who has furnished himself with all the advantages to relish solitude and enliven conversation ; who when serious, is not sullen; and when cheerful, not indiscreetly gay; whose ambition is, not to be admired for a false glare of greatness, but to be beloved for the gentle and sober lustre of his wisdom and goodness.
2. The greatest minister of state has not more business to do, in a publick capacity, than he, and indeed every other man, may find in the retired and still scenes of life. Even in his private walks, every thing that is visible convinces him there is present a Being invisible. Aided by natural philosophy, he reads plain legible traces of the Divinity in every thing he meets: he sees the Deity
in every tree, as well as Moses did in the burning bush, though not in so glaring a manner: and when he sees him, he adores him with the tribute of a grateful heart.
Description of candour. 1. True candour is altogether different from that guarded, inoffensive language, and that studied openness of behaviour, which we so frequently meet with among men of the world. Smiling, very often, is the aspect, and smooth are the words, of those who inwardly are the most ready to think evil of others. That candour which is a Christian virtue, consists, not in fairness of speech, but in fairness of heart.
2. It may want the blandishment of external courtesy, but supplies its place with a humane and generous liberality of sentiment. Its manners are unaffected, and its professions cordial. Exempt, on one hand, from the dark jealousy of a suspicious mind, it is no less removed, on the other, from that easy credulity which is imposed on by every specious pretence. It is perfectly consistent with extensive knowledge of the world, and with due attention to our own safety.
3. In that various intercourse, which we are obliged to carry on with persons of every different character, suspicion, to a certain degree, is a necessary guard. It is only when it 'exceeds the bounds of prudent caution, that it degenerates into vice. There is a proper mean between undistinguished credulity, and universal jealousy, which a sound understanding discerns, and which the man of candour studies to preserve.
4. He makes allowance for the mixture of evil with good, which is to be found in every human character. He expects none to be faultless; and he is unwilling to believe that there is any without some cornmendable qualities. In the midst of many defects, he can discover a virtue. Under the influence of personal resentment, he can be just to the merit of an enemy.
5. He never lends an open ear to those defamatory reports and dark suggestions, which, among the tribes of the censorious, circulate with so much rapidity, and meet with so ready acceptance. He is not hasty to judge; and he requires full evidence before he will condemn.
6. As long as an action can be ascribed to different motives, he holds it as no mark of sagacity to impute it always to the worst. Where there is just ground for doubt, he keeps his judgement undecided; and, during the period of suspense, leans to the most charitable construction which an action can bear. When he must condemn, he condemns with regret; and without those aggravations which the severity of others adds to the crime. He listens calmly to the apology of the offender, and readily admits every extenuating circumstance, which equity can suggest.
7. How much soever he may blame the principles of any sect or party, he never confounds, under one general censure, all who belong to that party or sect. He charges them not with such consequences of their tenets, as they refuse and disavow. From one wrong opinion, he does not infer the subversion of all sound principles; nor from one bad action, conclude that all regard to conscience is overthrown.
8. When he “beholds the mote in his brother's eye,” he remembers “the beam in his own." He commiserates human frailty; and judges of others according to the principles, by which he would think it reasonable that they should judge of him. In a word, he views men and actions in the clear sunshine of charity and good nature; and not in that dark and sullen shade which jealousy and party-spirit throw over all characters.
SECTION XVIII. On the imperfection of that happiness which rests solely on worldly
pleasures. 1. The vanity of human pleasures, is a topick which might be, embellished with the pomp of much description. But I shall studiously avoid exaggeration, and only point out a threefold vanity in human life, which every impartial observer cannot but admit'; disappointment in pursuit, dissatisfaction in enjoyment, uncertainty in possession.
2. First, disappointment in pursuit. When we look around us on the world, we every where behold a busy multitude, intent on the prosecution of various designs, which their wants or desires have suggested. We behold them employing every method which ingenuity can devise; some the patience of industry, some the boldness of enterprise, others the dexterity of stratagem, in order to compass their ends.
3. Of this incessant stir and activity, what is the fruit? In comparison of the crowd who have toiled in yain, how small is the number of the successful ? Or rather where is the man who will declare, that in every point he has completed his plan, and attained his utmost wish?
4. No extent of human abilities has been able to discover a path, which, in any line of life, leads unerringly to success.
“ The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor riches to men of understanding.” We may form our plans with the most profound sagacity, and with the most vigilant caution may guard against dangers on every side. But some unforeseen oc. currence comes across, which baffles our wisdom, and lays our labours in the dust.
5. Were such disappointments confined to those who aspire at engrossing the higher departments of life, the misfortune would be less. The humiliation of the mighty, and the fall of ambition from its towering height, little concern the bulk of mankind. These are objects on which, as on distant meteors, they gaze from afar, without drawing personal instruction from events so much above them.
6. But, alas! when we descend into the regions of private life, we find disappointment and blasted hope equally prevalent there. Neither the moderation of our views, nor the justice of our pretensions, can ensure success. But "time and chance happen to all.” Against the stream of events, both the worthy and the undeserving are obliged to struggle; and both are frequently overborne alike by the current.
7. Besides disappointment in pursuit, dissatisfaction in enjoyment is a farther vanity, to which the human state is subject. This is the severest of all mortifications; after having been successful
in the pursuit, to be baffled in the enjoyment itself. Yet this is found to be an evil still more general than the former. Some may be so fortunate as to attain what they have pursued; but pone are rendered completely happy by what they have attained.
8. Disappointed hope is misery; and yet successful hope is only imperfect bliss. Look through all the ranks of mankind. Examine the condition of those who appear most prosperous; and you will find that they are never just what they desire to be. If retired, they languish for action; if busy, they complain of fatigue. If in middle life, they are impatient for distinction; if in high stations, they sigh after freedom and ease. Something is still wanting to that plenitude of satisfaction, which they expected to acquire. Together with every wish that is gratified, a new demand arises. One void opens in the heart, as another is filled. On wishes, wishes grow; and to the end, it is rather the expectation of what they have not, than the enjoyment of what they have, which occupies and interests the most successful.
9. This dissatisfaction in the midst of human pleasure, springs partly from the nature of our enjoyments themselves, and partly from circumstances which corrupt them. No worldly enjoyments are adequate to the high desires and powers of an immortal spirit. Fancy paints them at a distance with splendid colours; but posnession unveils the fallacy. The eagerness of passion bestows upon them, at first, a brisk and lively relish. But it is their fate always to pall by familiarity, and sometimes to pass from satiety into disgust.
10. Happy would the poor man think himself, if he could enter on all the treasures of the rich; and happy for a short time he might be : but before he had long contemplated and admired his state, his possessions would seem to lessen, and his cares would grow.
11. Add to the unsatisfying nature of our pleasures, the attending circumstances which never fail to corrupt them. For, such as they are, they are at no time possessed unmixed. To human lipg it is not given to taste the cup of pure joy. When external circumstances show fairest to the world, the envied man groans in private under his own burden. Some vexation disquiets, some passion corrodes him; some distress, either felt or feared, gnaws like a worm, the root of his felicity. When there is nothing from without to disturb the prosperous, a secret poison operates within. For worldly happiness ever tends to destroy itself, by corrupting the heart. It fosters the loose and the violent passions. It engenders noxious habits; and taints the mind with false delicacy, which makes it feel a thousand unreal evils.
12. But put the case in the most favourable light. Lay aside from human pleasures both disappointment in pursuit, and deceit. fulness in enjoyment; suppose them to be fully attainable, and completely satisfactory ; still there remains to be considered the vanity of uncertain possession and short duration. Were there in worldly things any fixed point of security which we could gain, the mind would then have some basis on which to rest.
13. But our condition is such, that every thing wavers and totters around us. “Boast not thyself of to-morrow ; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” It is much if, during it course, thou hearest not of somewhat to disquiet or alarm thee.
For life never proceeds long in a uniform train. It is continually varied by unexpected events.
14. The seeds of alteration are every where sown; and the sunshine of prosperity commonly accelerates their growth. If our enjoyments are numerous, we lie more open on different sides to be wounded. If we have possessed them long, we have greater cause to dread an approaching change. By slow degrees proşperity rises; but rapid is the progress of evil. It requires no preparation to bring it forward.
15. The edifice which it cost much time, and labour to erect, one inauspicious event, one sudden blow, can level with the dust. Even supposing the acciuents of life to leave us untouched, human bliss must still be transitory; for man changes of himself. No course of enjoyment can delight us long. What amused our youth, loses its charm in maturer age. As years advance, our powers are blunted, and our pleasurable feelings decline.
16. The silent lapse of time is ever carrying somewhat from us, till at length the period comes, when all must be swept away. The prospect of this termination of our labours and pursuits, is sufficient to mark our state with vanity. “Our days are a hand's breadth, and our age is as nothing.” Within that little space is all our enterprise bounded. We crowd it with toils and cares, with contention and strife. We project great designs, entertain high hopes, and then leave our plans unfinished, and sink into oblivion.
17. This inuch let it suitice to have said concerning the vanity of the world. That too much has not been said, must appear to every one who considers how generally mankind lean to the opposite side; and how often, by undue attachment to the present state, they both feed the most sinful passions, and “pierce themselves through with many sorrows."
SECTION XIX. What are the real and solid enjoyments of human life. 1. It must be admitted, that unmixed and complete happiness is unknown on earth. No regulation of conduct can altogether prevent passions from disturbing our peace, and misfortunes from wounding our heart. But after this concession is made, will it follow, that there is no object on earth which deserves our pursuit, or that all enjoyment becomes contemptible which is not perfect? Let us survey our state with an impartial eye, and be just to the various gifts of Heaven.
2. How vain soever this life, considered in itself, may be, the comforts and hopes of religion are sufficient to give solidity to the enjoyments of the righteous. In the exercise of good affections, and the testimony of an approving conscience; in the sense of peace and reconciliation with God, through the great Redeemer of mankind; in the firm confidence of being conducted through all the trials of life, by infinite Wisdom and Goodness; and in the joyful prospect of arriving, in the end, at immortal felicity; they possess a happiness, which, descending from a purer and more perfect region than this world, partakes not of its vanity.
3. Besides the enjoyments peculiar to religion, there are other pleasures of our present state, which, though of an inferiour order, must not be overlooked in the estimate of human life. It is no