« AnteriorContinuar »
wings like a dove! for then I would fly away and be at rest. LO! then I would wander afar off, and remain in the wilderness. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. For I have seen violence and strife in the city. Wickedness is in the midst thereof; deceit and guile depart not from her streets. * In this view the sentiment in the text may sometimes be that of a devout man. But such persons I must admonish, that their devotion, however sincere, is not altogether of a rational and chastened kind. It was from this temper that, in former ages of the church, the numerous race sprung of anchorets, hermits, and all the various orders who voluntarily abandoned the world, to people the lonely desarts and the monastic retreat. The ordinary course of things seemed below them as candidates for heaven. The concerns of the world appeared unworthy of their attention, and dangerous to their virtue. Breathing after a higher state, they imagined that they could not abstract themselves too much from every earthly amusement, as long as they were forced to remain in this place of exile.
Let us beware of all such imaginary refinements as produce a total disrelish of our present condition. They are, for the most part, grafted either on disappointed pursuits, or on a melancholy and splenetic cast of mind. They are far from contributing to happiness, and are inconsistent with all the active virtues of man. This life deserves not indeed to be put in competition with that blessed immortality to which God has raised our hopes. But such as it is, it is the gift of God. It is the sphere in which his wisdom has placed us, and appointed us to act our parts. As long as it lasts, we must neither slight
* Psalm lv. 6-ll.
the duties which it requires, nor undervalue the innocent enjoyments which it offers. It belongs to a man to live among men as his brethren; which he who declares himself weary of life is not qualified to do with propriety.
Thus I have placed before you, in various views, the sentiments in the text; and have shown in what circumstances, and from what causes, that disrelish of life arises which is often found among mankind. On a review of the whole we cannot but acknowledge, that it is oftener to be ascribed to our own vices and follies, than to any other cause. Among the multitudes in the world, to whom at this day life is burdensome, the far greater number is of those who have rendered it so themselves. Their idleness, their luxury and pleasures, their criminal deeds, their immoderate passions, their timidity and baseness of mind, have dejected them in such a degree, as to make them weary of their existence. Preyed upon by discontent of their own creating, they complain of life when they ought to reprehend themselves.
Various afflictions there doubtless are in the world ; many persons with whom we have cause to sympathise, and whom we might reasonably forgive for wishing death to close their sorrows. But of the evils which imbitter life, it must be admitted, that the greater part is such as we have brought on ourselves ; or at least such as, if we were not wanting to ourselves, might be tolerably supported. When we compute the numbers of those who are supposed to say, My soul is weary of my life, some there are to whom this sentiment is excusable ; but
whom it is in no way justifiable. I admit that among the worthiest and the best, there may be dark moments in which some feeling of this nature may be apt to jatrude upon their minds. But with them they are only moments of occasional and passing gloom. They soon recall the vigour of their minds; and return with satisfaction to the discharge of the duties, and to a participation of the enjoyments of life:
many more among
One great cause of men's becoming weary of life is grounded on the mistaken views of it which they have formed, and the false. hopes which they have entertained from it. They have expected a scene of enjoyment; and when they meet with disappointments and distresses, they complain of life as if it had cheated and betrayed them. God 'ordained no such possession for man on earth as continued pleasure. For the wisest purposes, he designed our state to be checquered with pleasure and pain. As such let us receive it, and make the best of what is doomed to be our lot. Let us remain persuaded, that simple and moderate pleasures are always the best; that virtue and a good conscience are the surest foundations of enjoyment; that he who serves his God and his Saviour with the purest intentions, and governs his passions with the greatest care, is likely to lead the happiest life. Following these principles, we shall meet with fewer occasions of being weary of life; we shall always find some satisfactions mixed with its crosses; and shall be enabled to wait with a humble and contented mind till the Almighty, in his appointed time, finish our state of trial, and remove us to a more blessed abode.
On CHARITY as the End of the COMMANDMENT.
1 TIMOTHY, 1.5.
Now the end of the commandment is charity, out of a
pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith ... unfeigned.
IT appears from this chapter, that one design of
the Apostle, in writing to Timothy, was to guard him against certain corrupters of Christian doctrine, who had already arisen in the church. To their false representations of religion, he opposes that general view of it which is given in the text. Such summaries of religion frequently occur in the sacred writings; and are extremely useful. By the comprehensive energy with which they express the great lines of our duty, they both imprint them on our memory, and bring them home to our conscience with force. In the progress of this discourse, I hope to make it appear, that the words of the text afford a most enlarged and instructive view of religion in all its chief parts.
The Apostle pronounces charity to be the end or At the same time, in order to prevent mistakes on
tinio this most important subject, he subjoins to charity certain adjuncts, as necessary to qualify it, and to
render the Christian character complete. These are the pure heart, the good conscience, and faith unfeigned. In treating of these, I shall show the nature of their connection with charity, and the importance of their being always united with it.
The end of the commandment is charity. Charity is the same with benevolence or love; and is the term uniformly employed, in the New Testament, to denote all the good affections which we ought to bear towards one another. It consists not in speculative ideas of general benevolence floating in the head, and leaving the heart, as speculations too often do, untouched and cold. Neither is it confined to that indolent good-nature, which makes us rest satisfied with being free from inveterate malice, or ill-will to our fellow-creatures, without prompting us to be of service to any. True charity is an active principle. It is not properly a single virtue, but a disposition residing in the heart; as a fountain whence all the virtue of benignity, candour, forbearance, generosity, compassion, and liberality flow, as so many native streains. From general good-will to all, it extends its influence particularly to those with whom we stand in nearest connection, and who are directly within the sphere of our good offices. From the country or community to which we belong, it descends to the smaller associations of neighbourhood, relations, and friends; and spreads itself over the whole circle of social and damestic life. I mean not that it imports a promiscuous undistinguishing affection, which gives every man an equal title to our love. Charity, if we should endeavour to carry it so far, would be rendered an impracticable virtue, and would resolve itself into mere words, without