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flames of divine wrath? or rather, who will not tremble, I say, not in describing them, but even in thinking of them, and be quite overpowered with an idea so shocking ?
That I may no further attempt “to speak things unutterable*, and to derogate from a grand subject by inadequate expressionst :” Behold now, my dear youths, if you believe these things, behold, I say, you have now life and death laid before
you, choose for yourselves. And that you may not put off a matter of such importance, consider these things, pray, seriously, and say to yourselves, concerning the vanishing shadows of external things, How long will these enjoyments last, O! how soon will they pass? Even while I am speaking these words, while I am thinking of them, they fly past me. Is any one oppressed with calamities ? Let him
cheerfully with a remarkably good man, “ Lord, while I am here, kill me, burn me, only spare me theref.” Is there any among you of weak capacity, unhappy in expressing himself, of an unfavourable aspect, or 'deformed in body? Let him say with himself, it is a matter of small consequence : I shall soon leave this habitation; and, if I am but good myself, be soon removed to the mansions of the blessed. Let these thoughts prevent his being dejected in mind, or overcome with too much sorrow. If any one is distinguished by a good understanding, or outward beauty, or riches, let him reflect, and seriously consider, how soon all excellencies of this kind will pass away, that he may not be vain, or lifted up by the advantages of fortune. Let it be the chief care and study of you all, to avoid the works of darkness, that so you may escape utter and eternal darkness; embrace with open and cheerful hearts that divine light, which hath shone from heaven; that, when you are divested of these bodies, you may be received into the glorious mansions of that blessed and perfect light.
* Τά αλάληθα λαλείσθαι. . + Magna modis tenuare parvis. | Domine, hic ure, cæde, modo ibi parcas.
Of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, and that it is the true
way to Happiness.
CONFESS, young gentlemen, that whenever I think on the subject, I cannot help wondering at the indolence and madness of mankind. For though we boast, that, to order our affairs with prudence and discretion, and conduct our lives according to the principles of reason, is the great privilege and ornament of our nature, that distinguishes us from the brute creatures ; how few are there, that, in this respect, act like men, that propose to themselves, an end, and direct all their actions to the attainment of it? It is very certain, that the greatest part of mankind, with a folly something more than childish, go in quest of painted butterflies, or commonly pursue the birds with stones and clods; and even those, who spin out their lives to the utmost extent of old age, for the most part gain little by it, but only this, that they may be called very aged children*, being as ignorant as infants why they came into the world, and what will become of them when they leave it. Of all questions, therefore, none can be more properly proposed to you, who are just upon the verge of manhood, I mean entering upon a rational life, than this, Whither are you going? What good have you
in view? To what end do you propose to live? For hence, possibly, your minds may be excited within you, to an earnest desire after that perfect and supreme good, and you may not content yourselves with cool speculations upon this subject, as if it were a logical or philosophical problem, that falls in your way of course ; but with that application, that is proper in a question concerning a matter of the greatest moment, where it highly concerns us to be well informed, and where the highest rewards and greatest dangers are proposed to our view. And, in this hope, I have often addressed myself to you upon the subject of happiness, or the supreme good, at different periods of time, entertaining you in the intervals with essays and suitable exhortations upon other subjects; yet
* Πάιδες πολυχρόνιοι.
so as to observe a kind of method, and keep up a connection throughout the whole. I have taken notice of the name, and general notion of happiness, the universal desires and wishes whereby men are excited to the pursuit of it, the no less universal, because natural ignorance of mankind, and their errors and mistakes in the search of it. Whence it happens, that, as they all run in the wrong road, the faster they advance, the further they depart from it; and like those who ply the oars in a boat, they look one way, and move another. And though it seemed almost unnecessary, as facts sufficiently demonstrate the truth of our assertion, yet by a brief recapitulation, wherein we took notice only of the principal heads and classes of things, we proved that happiness is, by no means, to be found in this earth, nor in any earthly enjoyments what
And this is no more than all, even fools as well as wise men, are willing to own: they not only pronounce one another unhappy, but, with regard to this life, all of them in general, and every one for himself in particular, acknowledge, that they are so; and, in this respect, experience fully justifies their belief: so that, if there were no further prospect, I am apt to believe all mankind would agree in that common saying, “ That if mankind were apprised beforehand of the nature of this life, and it were left to their own option, none would accept of it*.” As the immortality of the soul has
* Vitam hanc, si scientibus daretur, neminem accepturum. Seneca.
a near connection with this subject, and is a natural consequence from it, we, therefore, in the next place, bestowed some time in illustrating that doctrine. In the last place, we advanced some thoughts upon the future happiness and misery, so far as is consistent with the weakness of our capacities to comprehend things so little known, and to express such as are, in a great measure, ineffable.
Having treated of these things according to our measure, it remains that we now inquire about the way, which directly leads into that happy city, or to that happiness which is reserved in the heavens. This is a great and important article, comprehending the end and design of our life, as well as the hopes and comforts of it; and is very proper to be first treated of in a catechetical, or, indeed, any methodical system of theology, as appears from reason and precedents: for by this discussion we are immediately introduced into the whole doctrine of true religion. Accordingly, the first question in the generally received Catechism, which you have in your hands, is,
“ What is your only consolation in life and in death * ?" And the first question of another Catechism, which not long ago was used, particularly in this University, is, “ What is the only way to true felicityt?” For the salvation and happiness of mankind, in subordination to the glory of God, which is, to be sure, the supreme end of all, is the peculiar and genuine scope of theology;
* Quæ est unica tua consolatio in vita et in morte. + Quæ est unica ad veram felicitatem via ?