« VorigeDoorgaan »
they make the inquiry, Who will show us any good? would convey this idea, That none but God can satisfy and fill the desires of an immortal mind.
In the prosecution of this subject, my object will be to point out the path of human happiness. In the world above, all are completely happy; butinthe present state, happiness is variously distributed, and in general according to the propriety and uprightness of conduct. Hence the present and future prospects of human beings depend much upon themselves, or upon a wise and faithful improvement of means and talents. But suffer me first to present the reader with some observations from Sterne, on the same subject.
The great 'pursuit of man is happiness, which is the first and strongest desire of his nature. In every stage of his life he searches for it, as for hid treasure. He courts it under a thousand different shapes; and though perpetually disappointed, still persists, runs, and inquires for it afresh; asks every passenger, who comes in his way, Who will show him any good ? who will assist him in the attainment of it, or direct him to the discovery of this great end of all his wishes?
He is told by one, to search for it amongst the more gay and youthful pleasures of life; in scenes of mirth and sprightliness, where happiness ever presides, and is ever to be known by the joy and laughter which he will see, at once, painted in het looks.
A second, with a graver aspect, points to the costly dwellings which pride and extravagance have erected; tells the inquirer that the object of which he is in search, resides there; that happiness lives only in company with the great, in the midst of much pomp and outward state; that he will easily find her out by the fineness, richness, and costliness of her dress; and by the great luxury, the expense of equipage and furniture, with which she is always Surrounded.
The miser blesses God; wonders how any one would mislead and wilfully put him ipon so wrong a path; is convinced that happiness and extravagance never dwelt under the same roof; that if he would not be disappointed in his search, he must look into the plain and thrifty dwelling of the prudent man, who knows and understands the worth of money, and cautiously lays it up against an evil day. He is persuaded that it is not the prostitution of wealth upon the passions, or the parting with it at all, that constitutes happiness; but that it is the keeping of it together, and the having and holding of it fast to him and his heirs for ever, which are the chief attributes that form this great idol of human worship, to which so much incense is offered up every day.
The epicure, though he easily rectifies so gross a mistake, yet at the same time, he plunges him, if possible, into a greater; for, hearing the object of his pursuit to be happiness, and knowing of no other enjoyment than what is seated immediately in the senses; he sends the inquirer there, tells him it is in vain to search for it elsewhere, than where nature herself has placed it, even in the indulgence and gratification of the appetites, which are given us for that end. And in a word, if he will not take his opinion in the matter, he may trust the word of a much wiser man; who has assured us, that there is nothing better in this world than that a man should eat and drink and rejoice in his works, and make his 'soul enjoy good in his labour for that is his portion.
But, to rescue him from this sensual experiment, ambition takes him by the hand, leads him forth into the world, shows him all the kingdoms of the earth, and the glory of them; points out the many ways of advancing his fortune, and raising himself to honour; lays before his eyes all the charms and bewitching temptations of power; and then asks, if
there can be any happiness in this life like that of being caressed, courted, flattered, and followed?
To close all, the philosopher meets him bustling in the full career of this pursuit; stops him, tells him if he is in search of happiness, he is far gone out of his way. The fullest assurance is given that this goddess has long been banished from noise and tumults, where no rest could be found for her; has fled into solitude, far from all commerce of the world. In a word, if he would find her, he must leave this busy and intriguing theatre, and go back to that peaceful scene of retirement and books from which he at first set out. Alas! how often does man run the round of this circle? Try all experiments, and generally sit down weary and dissatisfied with them all at last; in utter despair of ever accomplishing what he wants, nor knowing to what to trust after so many disappointments, or where to lay the fault; whether in the incapacity of his own nature, or the insufficiency of the enjoyments themselves.
In this uncertain and perplexed state, without knowledge which way to turn, or where to betake ourselves for refuge; so often abused and deceived by the many who pretend thus to do good, Lord,
, says the Psalmist, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.
That is, send us some rays of thy grace and heavenly wisdom, in this benighted search after happiness, to direct our goings in the sure path. O! let us not wander for ever without a guide in this dark region, in endless pursuit of our mistaken good; but enlighten our eyes that we sleep not in death. Open to them the comforts of thine holy word and religion; lift up the light of thy countenance upon us, and make us know the joy and satisfaction of living in the true faith and fear of Thee, which alone can carry us to this haven of rest where true joys are to be found; and which will at length not only answer all our expectations, but satisfy the most unbounded of our wishes for ever and ever.
Having selected these interesting remarks, let us now attend directly to the inquiry and examination of the present subject; which will lead us in the right way in our pursuit after happiness, as we are instructed from the oracles of divine truth.
Ist. The restraining and governing of unruly passions, is a necessary step for those that would be happy. The active principles of human nature, if they be in subordination and properly exercised, become springs to exertion and sources of enjoyment; but, if they be unrestrained and rage with violent impulse, they will render a man wretched. To have the government of one's self, is to lead a peaceable and quiet life, and enjoy a serene day; but the man who does not restrain himself from sinful passions, is like the troubled sea, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. Says Solomon in his Proverbs, he that hath no rule over his own spirit, is like a city that is broken down and without walls. Such an one is liable to be overcome by every enemy; for he is exposed to constant assaults and has his mind continually ruffled. How does every malicious man disturb his own peace, and become a wretched prey to every designmg intruder. Whilst others are fanned by a pleasant gale, and cheered by the gentle zephyrs, he is tossed by the surges of a boisterous
A person who gives loose reins, to a spirit of jealousy, is disturbed at every thing he sees or hears; and the sweets of life are embittered to his taste, and converted into the most baneful poison. The envious man, how is he prepared to be wretched; though the means of happiness abound within his reach. He pines in secret, blights his own fair prospects, and becomes his own tormenter. The passionate man, every idle word throws into a phrensy, and agitates his passions like the tumult of an assaulted city. Regardless of reputation, character, or friendship, he scatters around him fire-brands, arrows, and death. Unrestrained passions, and violent inclinations, acquire strength, and soon hurry their wretched victim, with an almost irresistible force, to the quicksands and whirlpools of death. On the other hand, what greatness of soul for a man to have the rule over his own spirit! The victory over one's self is a conquest immensely more important and glorious than that of conquering armies and subduing kingdoms. Some persons are doubtless more exposed to temptation from the passions, than others; but to such, especially, does the exhortation apply with force, To keep the heart with all diligence, and set a double guard over the tongue, that they may be the issues of life. Let human beings so command themselves and regulate the active principles of their nature, to the end for which they were implanted; which is, to promote individual and general happiness.
2d. They who would promote human happiness, must not yield to the excessive indulgence of appetite. A man may be a glutton as well as a drunkard. Probably as many indulge in excessive eating in their daily food, as do in the excessive drinking of spirituous liquors; and perhaps the consequences are as extensively sad and ruinous. By frequent excesses in eating, no doubt thousands and thousands have been thrown into a violent fever and brought to an untimely grave. From the same cause, perhaps, a still greater number have fallen into other diseases which have preyed upon their vitals; and by a gradual, yet fatal pace, have greatly shortened their days. Every gluttonous person gradually enervates his body; greatly beclouds and enfeebles all the powers of his mind; brings on himself a heavy stupor and strange stupidity. Gluttony blunts all the tender and interesting feelings of a human being, and bars all the noble avenues of a refined sensibility. In addition to the varied and lasting diseases both of body and mind, which it entails upon its miserable subjects, it draws them into the sad habits of inac