Imágenes de páginas
[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.

It is the excellence of our rational nature, that by it we are capable of living to some known end, and of governing our lives and conduct by some rule; whereas brute creatures necessarily live and act at random, just as the present appetite influences them. Let us, then, my brethren, make the most of this our prerogative, by proposing to ourselves the noblest end of human life, and engaging in such a course of actions as will reflect the greatest honor upon our nature, and be productive of the most solid and lasting happiness, both in the performance and the review of them.

Agreeably to this, let the principal use we make of our understanding be, to discover what the great end of life is;

and then let us use the resolution and fortitude that is either natural to us, or acquired by us, in steadily conforming ourselves to it. But, as the regular investigation of the rule of life from the light of nature only, may be tedious, and perhaps at last unsatisfactory; let us, without waiting for the result of such an inquiry upon the principles of reason, take a more clear and sure guide, the Holy Scriptures, in so important a subject, and see afterwards whether reason and experience will not give their sanction to that decision. The great end of human life is negatively expressed by the apostle Paul in my text, “None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; ” and if we attend to the connexion of these words, we shall find what, in the apostle's idea, is the true end to which men ought to live. The apostle is here treating of a controversy which had arisen in the Christian church, about the lawfulness of eating meat sacrificed to idols, and keeping holy certain days, together with some other ceremonious observances, and exhorting both parties to do nothing that might give offence, or be a snare to the other, lest, by their means, any one should perish for whom Christ died. As the best foundation for mutual tenderness and charity, he reminds them that both parties acted, with regard to all ritual observances, as they imagined was the will of Christ. “He that observeth a day, observeth it to the Lord; and he that observeth not a day, to the Lord he observeth it not.” And after giving his sanction in the fullest manner to this maxim, and deciding, with respect to this particular case, that all Christians ought to act according to the will of Christ, and consult the good and the peace of their fellowChristians; he declares in general, that “no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself; but whether we live, we live unto the Lord, or whether we die, we die unto the Lord; ” that is, in all our actions, our views should not be directed to ourselves, but to the interest of our holy religion.

[ocr errors]

And as the Christian religion has for its object the happiness of mankind, (since Christ came to bless us in turning us away from our iniquities,) it is the same thing as if he had said, The great scope of all our conduct should be the real welfare of all to whom our influence can extend. We should, therefore, my brethren, according to this apostolical maxim, by no means confine our regards to ourselves, and have our own pleasure, profit, or advantage in view in every thing we undertake ; but look out of, and beyond ourselves, and take a generous concern in the happiness of all our brethren of mankind; make their sorrows our sorrows, their joys our joys, and their happiness our pursuit; and it is in this disinterested conduct, and in this only, that we shall find our own true happiness. That this is the true rule of human life, will appear, whether we consider the course of nature without us, the situation of mankind in this world, or take a nearer view of the principles of human nature. And we shall likewise find that several considerations, drawn from the Holy Scriptures, will farther confirm and illustrate this maxim of human conduct, which was first suggested by them. 1. This disinterested conduct of man is most agreeable to the course of nature without us. There is no part of the creation but, if it be viewed attentively, will expose the selfishness and narrow-mindedness of men: for among all that infinite variety of things and creatures which present themselves to our view, not one of them appears to have been made merely for itself, but every thing bears a relation to something else. They can hardly be said to afford any matter for contemplation singly, and are most of all the objects of our admiration when considered as connected with other things. The primary uses of things are few, but the secondary uses of every thing are almost infinite. Indeed, the secondary uses of things are so many that we are lost in the multiplicity of them; whereas we can give no answer, if we be asked what is the primary use of any thing, but this general one, which will equally suit every thing, — that every creature which is capable of happiness, was made to enjoy that share of it which is suited to its nature. Now what do we mean when we say that the several parts of nature are adapted to one another, but that they are made for the use of one another ? I shall mention only a few of these mutual relations and uses; beginning with those parts of nature which are the most remote from one another, and whose mutual relations and uses are the least obvious, and so proceed to those in which they are more obvious. The sun, the moon, the planets, and comets, are strictly connected, and combined into one system. Each body, though so exceedingly remote from the rest, is admirably adapted, by its situation, magnitude, and velocity in its orbit, to the state of the whole, in those respects and many others. This connexion, probably, also extends to the remotest bodies in the universe; so that it is impossible to say that the withdrawing of any one would not, in some respect or other, affect all the rest. The clouds and the rain are designed to moisten the earth, and the sun to warm it; and the texture and juices of the earth are formed so as to receive the genial influences of both, in order to ripen and bring to perfection that infinite variety of plants and fruits, the seeds of which are deposited in it. Again, is not each plant peculiarly adapted to its proper soil and climate, so that every country is furnished with those productions which are peculiarly suited to it? Are not all plants likewise suited to the various kinds of animals which feed upon them 1 So that, though they enjoy a kind of life peculiar to themselves, and all the influences they are exposed to are adapted to promote that life, they themselves are as much adapted to maintain that higher kind of life which is enjoyed by creatures of the animal nature. The various kinds of animals are, again, in a thousand ways adapted to, and formed for the use of, one another. Beasts of a fiercer nature prey upon the tamer cattle : fishes of a larger size live almost wholly upon those of a less: and

there are some birds which prey upon land animals, others upon fishes, and others upon creatures of their own species. That brute animals are excellently adapted to the use of man, and were, therefore, made to be subservient to the use of man, man will not deny. The strength of some, and the sagacity of others, are as much at our command, and are as effectually employed for our use, as if they belonged to ourselves. We can even turn to our advantage every passion of their nature, so that we can safely repose the greatest confidence in many of them. They are the guardians of our possessions and of our lives. They even enter into our resentments, and, at our instigation, take part in our revenge. Having now advanced to man, the chief of this lower creation, and shown that all creatures of the vegetable and merely animal nature, live and die for his use, pride might bid us here break off the chain of mutual relations and uses, which we have been pursuing thus far, and leave man in the enjoyment of his superiority; but, — beside that it is contrary to the analogy of nature, in which we see nothing but what has innumerable secondary relations and uses, that man only should be made for himself; — 2. The situation of man in this world, or the external circumstances of human nature, still oblige us to assert with Paul, that “no man liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself.” Man himself is but a link, though the highest link of this great chain, all the parts of which are closely connected by the hand of our divine Author. Nay, the more various and extensive are our powers, either for action or enjoyment, on that very account, the more multiplied and extensive are our wants; so that, at the same time that they are marks of our superiority to, they are bonds of our connexion with, and signs of our dependence upon, the various parts of the world around us, and of our subservience to one another. In fact, every time that we gratify any of our senses, though it be in consequence of the exertion of our own powers, we are reminded (if we will be so just to ourselves as to take

« AnteriorContinuar »