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DR. JOHNSON'S SERMONS.
THE SECOND CHAPTER OF GENESIS, AND THE
FORMER PART OF THE 24TH VERSE.
Therefore shail a man leave his father and his
mother, and shall cleave unto his wife.
That society is necessary to the happiness of human nature, that the gloom of solitude, and the stillness of retirement, however they may flatter at a distance, with pleasing views of independence and serenity, neither extinguish the passions nor enlighten the understanding; that discontent will intrude upon privacy, and temptations follow us to the desert ; every one may be easily convinced, either by his own experience, or that of others. That knowiedge is advanced by an intercourse of sentiments and an exchange of observations, and that the bosom is disburdened by a communication of its cares, is too well known for proof or illustration. In solitude, perplexity swells into distraction, and grief settles into melancholy; even the satisfactions and pleasures, that may by chance be found, are but imperfectly enjoyed, when they are enjoyed without participation.
How high this disposition may extend, and how far society may contribute to the felicity of more exalted natures, it is not easy to determine, nor necessary to inquire ; it seems, however, probable, that this inclination is allotted to all rational beings of limited excellence, and that it is the privilege only of the infinite Creator to derive all his happiness from himself.
It is a proof of the regard of God for the happiness of mankind, that the means by which it must be attained are obvious and evident ; that we are not left to discover them by difficult speculations, intricate disquisitions, or long experience ; but are led to them, equally by our passions and our reason, in prosperity and distress. Every man perceives his own insufficiency to supply himself with what either necessity or convenience require, and applies to others for assistance. Every one feels his satisfaction impaired by the suppression of pleasing emotions, and consequently endeavours to find an opportunity of diffusing his satisfaction.
As a general relation to the rest of the species is not sufficient to procurè gratifications for the pri. vate desires of particular persons ; as closer ties of union are necessary to promote the separate in. terests of individuals, the great society of the world is divided into differeut communities, which are again subdivided into smaller bodies, and more contracted associations, which pursue, or ought to pursue, a particular interest, in subordination to the public good, and consistently with the general happiness of mankind.
Each of these subdivisions produces new de. pendences and relations, and every particular relation gives rise to a particular scheme of duties;
duties which are of the utmost importance and of the most sacred obligation, as the neglect of them would defeat all the blessings of society, and cut off even the hope of happiness ; as it would poison the fountain whence it must be drawn; and make those institutions, which have been formed as necessary to peace and satisfaction, the means of disquiet and misery.
The lowest subdivision of society, is that by which it is broken into private families; nor do any duties demand more to be explained and enforced, than those which this relation produces ; because none is more universally obligatory, and, perhaps, very few are more frequently neglected.
The universality of these duties requires no other proof than may be received from the most cursory and superficial observation of human life. Very few men have it in their power to injure society in a large extent ; the general happiness of the world cau be very little interrupted by the wickedness of any single man, and the number is not large of those by whom the peace of any particular nation can be disturbed; but every man may injure a family, and produce domestic disorders and distresses ; almost every one has opportunities, and perhaps, sometimes temptations, to rebel as a wife, or tyrannize as a husband ; and therefore, to almost every one are those admonitious necessary, that may assist in regulating the conduct, and impress just notions of the behaviour which these relations exact.
Nor are these obligations more evident than the neglect of them; a neglect of which daily examples may be found, and from which daily calamities arise. Almost all the miseries of life, almost all the
wickedness that infects, and all the distresses that aflict mankind, are the consequences of some de. fects in these duties. It is, therefore, no objection to the propriety of discoursing upon them, that they are well known and generally acknowledged; for a very small part of the disorders of the world proceed from ignorance of the laws by which life ought to be regulated; nor do many, even of those whose hands are polluted by the foulest crimes, deny the reasonableness -of virtue, or attempt to justify their own actions. Men are not blindly betrayed into corruption, but abandon themselves to their passions with their eyes open ; and lose the direction of Truth, because they do not attend to her voice, not because they do not hear or do not understand it. It is, therefore, no less useful to rouse the thoughtless, than instruct the ignorant ; to awaken the attention, than enlighten the understanding.
There is another reason, for which it may be proper to dwell long upon these duties, and return frequently to them; that deep impressions of them may be formed and renewed, as often as time or temptation shall begin to erase them. Offences against society in its greater extent, are cognizable by human laws. No man can invade the property, or disturb the quiet of his neighbour, without subjecting him. self to penalties, and suffering in proportion to the injuries he has offered. But cruelty and pride, oppression and partiality, may tyrannize in private families without control : meekness may be trampled on, and piety insulted, without any appeal, but to conscience and to Heaven. A thousand methodş of torture may be invented, a thousand acts of unkindness or disregard may be committed,