« ZurückWeiter »
at leisure, luxury always in a hurry: the latter weakens the body and pollutes the soul, the former is the sanctity, purity, and sound state of both. It is one of Epicurus' fixed maxims, “ That life can never be pleasant without virtue*.” Vices seize upon men with the violence and rage of furies; but the Christian virtues replenish the breast, which they inhabit, with a heavenly peace and abundant joy, and thereby render it like that of an angel. The slaves of pleasure and carnal affections have within them, even now, an earnest of future torments; so that, in this present life, we may truly apply to them that expression in the Kevelation, “
They, that worship the beast, have no rest day nor night.” “ There is perpetual peace with the humble, says the most devout A. Kempis ; but the proud and the covetous are never at restt."
If we speak of charity, which is the root and spring of justice, what a lasting pleasure does it diffuse through the soul ! « Envy, as the saying is, has no days of festivitył:" it enjoys not even its own advantages, while it is tormented with those it sees in the possession of others; but charityis happy, not only in its own enjoyments, but also in those of others, even as if they were its own : nay, it is then most happy in the enjoyment of its own good things, when, by liberality, it makes them the pro
* 'Ανευ αρετής έκ έιναι ηδέως ζήν.
+ Jugis pax cum humili, superbus autem et avarus numquam quiescunt.
[ Invidia festos dies non agit.
perty of others : in short, it is a godlike virtue*. There is nothing more divine in man, “ than to wish well to men, and to do good to as many as one possibly cant;" but piety, which worships God with constant prayer, and celebrates him with the highest praises, raises man above himself, and gives him rank among the angels. And contemplation, which is indeed the most genuine and purest pleasure of the human soul, and the very summit of felicity, is no where so sublime, and enriched, as it will be found to be in true religion, where it may expatiate in a system of divine truths most extensive, clear, and infallibly certain, mysteries that are most profound, and hopes that are the most exalted: and he that can render these subjects familiar to his mind, even on this earth enjoys a life replete with heavenly pleasure.
I might enlarge greatly on this subject, and add a great many other considerations to those I have already offered ; but I shall only further observe, that that sweet virtue of contentment, so effectual for quieting the mind, which philosophy' sought for in vain, religion alone has found; and also discovered, that it takes its rise from a firm confidence in the almighty power of Divine Providence. For what is there that can possibly give uneasiness to him, who commits himself entirely to that paternal goodness and wisdom, which he knows to be infinite, and securely devolves the care of all his concerns upon it?
* αρετή δεο-είκελος. + Omnibus bene velle, et quam plurimis possit benefacere.
If any of you object, what has been observed before, that we often see good men meet with severe treatment, and also read, that “ many are the afflictions of the just* :" I answer, do you not also read what immediately follows, " But the Lord delivereth him out of them allt ?" And it would be madness to deny, that this more than compensates the other. But neither are the wicked quite exempted from the misfortunes and calamities of life ; and when they fall upon them, they have nothing to support them under such pressures, none to extricate or deliver them.
But a true Christian, encouraged by a good conscience, and depending upon the divine favour, bears with patience all these evils, by the efforts of generous love, and unshaken faith : they all seem light to him, he despises what he suffers, while he waits with patience for the object of his hope ; and indeed, what, either in life or in death, can he be afraid of, “whose life is hid with Christ in God;" and of whom it may be justly said, without exaggeration, “ If the world should be crushed, and broken to pieces, he would be undaunted, even while the ruins fell upon his head † ?”
* Psal. cxxxiv.
+ Ibid. Si fractus illabatur orbis Impavidum ferient ruinæ. HoR.
Of our HAPPINESS, particularly that it lies in God,
who alone can direct us to the true way of attaining to it; that this way he has discovered in the Sacred Scriptures, the divine authority whereof is asserted and illustrated.
THESE two expressions, “ That there is a beginning, and that there it also an end*,” convey matters great in themselves, and which ought to be considered as of vast importance to us. It is absolutely necessary, that there should be some one principle of all things, and by an equal degree of necessity, this principle must be, of all others, the greatest and the best. It is also necessary that he who
gave being to all things, must have proposed to himself some end to be attained by the production and disposal of them : but, as the end of the best of all agents must itself also be the highest and the best, this end can be no other than himself. And the reasoning of the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews, concerning the oath of God, may also be applied to this case: “Ashe had no greater to swear by, says the apostle, he swore by himself.” In like manner, as he had no greater or better end to propose, he proposed himself. “ He hath made all things for himself, says the author of the book of Pro
* έσιν άρα τις αρχή, και έσιν άρα τι τέλος.
- Of him,
verbs, even the wicked for the day of evil *.” And the apostle Paul, in his Epistle to the Romans, gives us a lively description of that incomparable circle, the most complete of all figures : and through hiin, and to him, are all things, to whom be glory for ever, Ament”
Now man, the ornament and master-piece of all the visible creation, by extraordinary art, and in a method peculiar to himself, returns to his first original, and has his Creator not only for the principal of his being, and of his well-being, but also for his end. Thus, by a wonderful instance of wisdom and goodness, God has so connected hiş own glory with our happiness, that we cannot properly intend or desire the one, but the other must follow of course, and our felicity is at last resolved into his eternal glory. The other works of God serve to promote his honour; but man, by rational knowledge and will, offers himself, and all that he has, as a sacrifice to his Creator. From his knowledge of him he is induced to love him; and in consequence of his love, he attains at last to the enjoyment of him. And it is the wisdom, as well as the happiness of man, to propose to himself, as the scope and ultimate end of his life, that very thing, which his exalted Creator had proposed before.
But, that we may proceed gradually in our speculations upon this subject, we must first conclude,
* Prov. xvi. 4.
+ Rom. xi. 36.