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For what reason could his approbation be given? For the possession of faculties, which enabled them to accomplish this glorious object, but which, being perverted, or neglected, and thus voluntarily rendered useless, would be given to them in vain?
Is there, let me ask, any thing lovely in enjoying ? Brutes enjoy, and to a considerable extent, through a much greater part of their life, and with a far less mixture of suffering, than can be asserted of man. If to enjoy, therefore, were lovely; brutes would be proportionally lovely in the sight of God; and might, with the strictest propriety, claim a reward. Intelligent beings, who spend life in enjoying only, would be equally destitute of amiableness; and, in the moral sense, would sustain no higher character, than that of superior brutes. The great moral distinction between men and animals is, that men can, and animals cannot, voluntarily do good. Where this is done; men become objects of the divine complacency. Where this is not done; they can be neither approved, nor loved. “ Therefore," says St. James, “ to him, that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”
But, if God could not approve of such beings, can he be supposed to communicate to them happiness, of any serious importance? While they were in a state of trial, he might, perhaps, be reasonably expected to sustain them by his goodness. After their trial was ended, can it be supposed, that he would make them happy at all? Communications of happiness, in such a case, are always proofs of his approbation. Where that approbation is not given, therefore, such communications cannot be made.
Are not those, who have done good, the persons, whom mankind respect and honour ? Recall to your remembrance the character, as it has been customarily regarded by yourselves, of a man, who does nothing, but sit quietly down to enjoy the bounties of God's providence. Think of a father, who, instead of providing for the wants, the interests, the education, of his children, spent his time, and consumed his property, upon his own pleasures : a Prince, who employed his extensive power, and the treasures of his country, solely as the means of luxury and splendour ; and forgot the rights, safety, and happiness, of his subjects. Think of the Sage, who consumed life in amassing knowledge, and
terminated all his designs, and labours, in the enjoyment of intellectual luxury : the man of taste, who expended his property, and his time, not in relieving want, assuaging distress, or creating prosperity, for those around him, but in adorning his villa with rich furniture, the choicest products of painting and sculpture, beautiful gardens, and other objects of refinement, merely to enjoy the luscious pleasures of the mental palate, and inhale the delights of admiration and applause. Bring before your eyes an Angel, who, if the language may be permitted, basked in the sunshine of hea. ven, and revelled in the bliss of immortality; forgetful of the service of his Maker, and regardless of the eternal well-being of his glorious companions. Would not all these, and the last as truly as the others, be pronounced, by the impartial judgment of your own minds, drones in the Creation, and blanks in the kingdom of God? Would the character of either awaken esteem, or merit praise? Instead of being amiable, would they not of course be odious? Instead of claiming respect, would they not be contemptible!
Ascend still higher. Separate in your thoughts, from the other attributes of the GODHEAD, that good-will, which is the energy of the infinite Mind, and that characteristical beneficence, in which it is divinely displayed. Do you not discern, that in this manner the glory would depart from the Creator himself; and the face of the uncreated Sun be finally eclipsed ? Do you not perceive, that, in this case, the God of the Scriptures would be strongly assimilated to the character, and descend far down towards the level, of the deities of Epicurus ; who spent their immortal existence in quaffing nectar, and feasting on ambrosia ?
The dead, especially those, who have long since died, are usually estimated with impartiality. Whom do mankind remember with sincere respect, and cordial veneration ? Not the host of Asiatic sovereigns; immured in their palaces ; arrayed in splendour; bathed in essences; feasted on dainties; incensed with perfumes ; fed, fanned, served, and idolized, by numerous trains of slaves and dependents. Not Sardanapalus ; not Vitellius ; not the second Charles, of Great Britain. It is Alfred; it is Gus. tavus Vasa; it is Gustavus Adolphus; it is Washington ; whom mankind remember with delight, and never mention without ve
neration and praise. But we need not look to heads of armies, nor ascend to the chair of state, to find examples of this nature. The beneficence of Howard places him on the same roll of worth with these exalted men. The character of Paul, the tent-maker, is not inferior to that of Moses, the leader of Israel. Not the rulers, but the benefactors, of mankind, and that, whatever has been their station, command the attachment, and the reverence, of the heart. The " Man of Ross" is a title, by the side of which that of Emperor is forgotten. In the whole roll of history, I know not, that what is styled enjoying life has been even mentioned with approbation.
6thly. Would it be honourable for God to rule an Universe, coniposed of creatures, who merely enjoyed good?
We readily conceive the Creator to be invested with the highest glory, in forming and governing an Universe, composed of Intelligent beings, possessed of high and noble faculties, and employing them always for great and illustrious ends : all of which, it is to be remembered, are to be comprised under the general name of beneficence. But, if the Intelligent Universe consisted of beings, who only ate, and drank, and rose up to play, in what respect would honour redound to the Creator from its formation, preservation, or government ? Consider, for a moment, the character of those, whom in this case he would govern.. Instead of saints and angels, they would be animals ; superior indeed in capacity, but the same in character and destination. How immensely different would such a kingdom be from the future, celestial kingdom of ever improving virtue, and the ever growing happiness, of which it is the parent.
7thly. A life of beneficence is happier than a life of enjoymeut.
The Scriptures teach us, that " it is more blessed to give, than to receive.” In the address of St. Paul to the Elders of Ephesus these words are quoted as the words of the Lord Jesus ; as the sum of all his instructions concerning this interesting subject. They are, therefore, to be received as the great law of the Universe, by which all moral beings are to be governed ; and in which the true wisdom, and the real interest, of every such being is unfolded. Still it may be useful to examine the state of facts; that we may learn how far they are conformed to this divine declaration. Happiness commences in the mind, which is to be happy. The peace, which passeth all understanding ; the joy, which this world cannot give, nor take away, and with which, as being absolutely personal and internal, no stranger can meddle ; are the primary constituents of enduring good. Within the soul; at its undisturbed fireside ; must be found that family of harmonious Affections, which are to inhabit and to adorn the mansion, in which enjoyment is to dwell. Here Conscience must reign, be satisfied, and smile. But on what can Conscience smile ? Certainly not on a life of sloth, and pleasure. Beneficence is the celestial, the divine, object, at which her eye kindles; and on which, as a fond parent on her beloved child, she looks with serene and eternal complacency. As in the morning of the first Sabbath, which dawned with peace and splendour upon the world, fresh from the forming hand of Omnipotence, the Creator surveyed with smiles the glorious work of his hands; she fixes her eye upon the world within, beautified by this divine energy, and pronounces it very good..
Another ingredient of happiness is the merited Esteem of others ; particularly of the wise and good.
Another, of supreme importance, is the Approbation of God.
Another, immensely complicated, and comprehensive, may be comprised under that unlimited appellation, the Blessing of God.
All these have already been sufficiently considered ; and, if I mistake not, have been decisively shown to flow, as regular consequences, from a life of beneficence. I shall only add to these another consideration ; viz. that, if all diligently everted themselves to do good, the mass of enjoyment would be speedily accumulated beyond calculation. Industry, in the proper sense, is the source of the daily enjoyments of life ; and Idleness, their destruction, or their prevention. If all were idle, as if they sate down to enjoy, all would be; there would be neither ploughing, sowing, nor reaping; neither corn, nor flax; neither food, nor clothes. Houses would cease to be built; children would be neither instructed, nor governed ; and laws would be neither made, nor executed. The protection, the blessings, and even the existence, of Government would terminate. Religion would no longer be taught, nor practised. The present life would stagnate : eternal life would be forgotten.
Like industry in every other case would be industry in this; a perennial source of enjoyment. A spirit of doing good is the peculiar industry of virtuous beings. Its exertions are the culture of the moral world : its harvest is happiness. Wherever it lives, and labours, the crop is exuberant; and all around it have enough, and to spare. Heaven is filled with good, because all its inbabitants labour to produce it. Were mankind to imitate them; this desolate globe would again resemble heaven.
8thly. To do good is to be like God, and like the Redeemer.
6 Thou art good,” says the Psalmist, addressing, and characterizing, his Maker; “ Thou art good; and thou doest good; and thy tender mercies are over all thy works.” "Jesus of Nazareth,” says St. Peter, giving the character of his Saviour, “a man, who went about doing good.” To do good is the only employ. ment of God. In an unlimited and endless course of beneficence, is he always busied; and in this manner is his glory accomplished, and displayed. But God is infinitely happy. From this employment, and the disposition which prompts it, his happiness supremely arises. All, who would be happy with such happiness as he enjoys, must be followers of Him, as dear children, in this divine pursuit. All, who do follow him, will be happy in the same manner, and in some good measure, as he is happy,
1st. It is a glorious proof of the excellency of the Scriptures, that they are wholly occupied in fitting mankind to do good.
The Scriptures themselves declare this to be the end, for which they were revealed. “ All Scripture,” say they, “is given by inspiration of God; and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness; that the man of God may be perfect; being thoroughly furnished unto every good work." In complete accordance with this decisive declaration, the law requires nothing, but that we love God with all the heart, and our neighbour as ourselves. To this spirit of benevolence are all its rewards promised ; and against the contrary disposition are its tremendous penalties denounced. Accordingly, Christ, who magnified the law, and made it honourable, filled up his life with