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says he, return from external objects to my own inward concerns, and from inferior objects rise to those of a superior nature *."
I should look upon it as no small happiness, if, out of this whole society I could but gain one, but wish earnestly I could prevail with many, and still more ardently that I could send
all away, fully determined to entertain more serious and secret thoughts than ever you had before, with regard to your immortal state and eternal concerns. But how vain are the thoughts of men! what a darkness overclouds their minds t! It is the great complaint of God concerning his people, that they have not a heart to understand t. Is it at once the great disgrace and misery of mankind that they live without forethoughts. That brutish thoughtlessness ll, pardon the expression, or, to speak more intelligibly, want of consideration, is the death and ruin of souls; and the ancients observe, with great truth and justice, “ that a thoughtful mind is the spring and source of every good
* * )
It is the advice of the Psalmist, that we should converse much with ourselves : an advice, indeed, which is regarded by few; for the greatest part of mankind are no where greater strangers than at home. But it is my earnest request to you, that
* Ab exterioribus ad interiora redeam, et ab inferioribus ad superiora ascendam.
+ Q vanas hominum mentes ! O pectora cæca!
|| A 88110.
you would be intimately acquainted with yourselves, and, as becomes persons devoted to a studious life, be much at home, much in your own company,
and very often engaged in serious conversation with yourselves. Think gravely, to what purpose do I live? Whither am I going? Ask thyself, hast thou any fixed and determined purpose ? any end thou pursuest with stedfastness *? The principles 1 have embraced under the name of the Christian religion, the things I have so often heard about a future state, and life, and death eternal, are they true or false ? If they are true, as we all absolutely profess to believe they are, then, to be sure, the greatest and most important matters of this world are vain, and even less than vanity itself: all our knowledge is but ignorance, our riches poverty, our pleasures bitterness, and our honours vile and dishonourable. How little do those men know, who are ambitious of glory, what it really is, and how to be attained ? Nay, they eagerly catch at the empty shadow of it, while they avoid and turn their backs upon that glory which is real, substantial, and everlasting. The happiness of good men, in the life to come, is not only infinitely above all our expressions, but even beyond our most enlarged thoughts. comparing, however, great things with small, we attain some faint notion of these exalted and invisible blessings, from the earthly and visible enjoyments of this world. In this respect, even the Holy Scriptures descend to the weakness of our ca
* Est aliquid quo tendis, et in quid dirigis arcum?
pacities, and, as the Hebrews express it, “ the Law of God speaks the language of the children of men *.” They speak of this celestial life, under the representations of an heritage, of riches, of a kingdom, anda crown, but with uncommon epithets, and such as are by no means applicable to any earthly glory, or opulence, however great. It is an inheritance, but one that is uncorrupted, undefiled, and that fadeth not away: a kingdom, but one that can never be shaken, much less ruined : which can never be said of the thrones of this sublunary world, as evidently appears from the histories of all nations, and our own recent experience. Hear, ye sons of Adam, a covetous and ambitious race, here is room for a laudable avarice; here are motives to excite your ambition, and, at the same time, the means of satisfying it to the full: But it must be acknowledged, that the belief of these things is far from being common. What a rare attainment is faith! Seeing among the prodigious crowds of those who profess to believe, in this world, one might justly cry out, where is a true believer to be found? That man shall never persuade me, that he believes the truth and certainty of heavenly enjoyments, who cleaves to this earth, nay, who does not scorn and despise it, with all its baits and allurements, and employ all his powers, as well as his utmost industry, to obtain these immense and eternal blessings.
Nor is there any thing in the way to these enjoyments that can deter you from it, unless holiness in
* Lex Dei loquitur linguam filiorum hominum.
heart and life appear to be a heavy and troublesome task to you: whereas, on the contrary, nothing surely can be named, that is either more suited to the dignity of human nature, more beautiful and becoming, or attended with greater pleasure. I therefore beseech and intreat you, by the bowels of divine mercy, and by your own most precious souls, that you would seriously consider these things, and make them your principal study; try an experiment, attended with no danger or expence, make a trial of the ways of this wisdom, and I doubt not but you will be so charmed with the pleasantness thereof, that you will never thenceforward depart from them. For this purpose, I earnestly recommend to you, to be constant and assiduous in prayer ; nay, it is St. Paul's exhortation, that you pray without ceasing*. So that prayer may be, not only, according to the old saying, “ the key that opens the day, and the lock that shuts up the night t;" but also, so to speak, a staff for support in the day-time, and a bed for rest and comfort in the night; two conveniences which are commonly expressed by one single Hebrew word. And be assured, that the more frequently you pray, with so much the greater ease and pleasure will your prayers be attended, not only from the common and necessary connection between acts and habits, but also from the nature of this duty; for prayer, being a kind of conversation with God, gradually purifies the soul, and makes it continually more and more * 1 Thes. v. 17.
+ Clavis diei, et sera noctis.
like unto him. Our love to God is also very much improved by this frequent intercourse with him
; and by this love, on the other hand, the soul is effectually disposed to fervency, as well as frequency in prayer, and can, by no means, subsist without it.
Of HAPPINESS, its name and nature, and the desire of
it implanted in the human heart.
How deep and dark is that abyss of misery, into which man is precipitated by his deplorable fall, since he has thereby lost not only the possession, but also the knowledge of his chief or principal good ? He has no distinct notion of what it is, of the means of recovering it, or the way he has to take in pursuit of it. Yet the human mind, however stunned and weakened by so dreadful a fall, still retains some faint idea, some confused and obscure notions of the good it has lost, and some remaining seeds of its heavenly original *. It has also still remaining a kind of languid sense of its misery and indigence, with affections suitable to those obscure notions : from this imperfect sense of its poverty, and these feeble affections, arise some motions and efforts of the mind, like those of one groping in the dark, and seeking rest every where
Cognati semina cæli.