« AnteriorContinuar »
disappointment of any of his creatures. cording to our own narrow and selfish sentiments, he ought to give us such things as are most desirable and pleasant in themselves: but instead of these, he gives us what is best for us under our present circumstances; because he looks farther than our own limited powers and disordered passions will suffer us to do. Our happiness is an object as desireable to our Maker as it is to ourselves: but we are too much in haste to judge rightly about it: we mistake our road, through an unhappy persuasion, that it is very easy to be found; that nature will direct us to it, as it does the brutes: but God treats us like what we are, rational men; and therefore gives us, not what is absolutely best in our present state, as being most pleasant, but what is best, when all our views and interests are considered together. We chuse many things, not for the sake of themselves but of their consequences: and shall we think that rule inconsistent either with the justice or wisdom of God, which common prudence obliges us to follow on many occasions?
II. They who have desired to make a right use of their life, have wisely considered it
as a journey: from which the following considerations naturally arise. That as every journey is undertaken for the sake of its end, common reason requires that it should be a progress; that no time should be thrown away in unnecessary excursions, for the sake of such objects as have no relation to the purpose we are upon. A man upon a journey ought to be satisfied, and every reasonable person is satisfied, if he does not find all things as regular and convenient as in his own dwelling: if there is less sunshine than he could wish for while he is travelling; if his meat is less pleasant and his rest less quiet than at home: for he that enters upon a journey exposes himself of course to such inconveniences, and is not surprised if he meets with them. All these things serve to endear his own habitation, and make him in haste to accomplish his business, that he may have some right to enjoy it at his
III. Others have considered human life as a state of banishment: and this representation of it will take away much of our eagerness after its enjoyments. If the mind is tender and sensible, it will take but little pleasure in the possession of those things, with which
it would be highly entertained, if it were at peace in its native land. While it is sighing for what is distant, it can have no relish for what is present. When the children of Israel were led away into captivity, and spent their days by the waters of Babylon, and the trees that adorned their banks; others might have been delighted with the prospect, but they could only sit down and weep. The remembrance of Sion was always uppermost in their minds: so that while their Assyrian companions were full of mirth and music, probably on some occasion of public rejoicing, or some religious festival, and required them to join in it with one of the songs of their own country, they could only reflect with sorrow and bitterness, how improper it was to join with idolaters in their worship, to intermix melody with their heaviness, and to sing the Lord's song in a strange land; that song, with which their hearts had been delighted, while their eyes were also dazzled with the splendors of their own Temple, and their Nation happy in that favour of God, which they knew not how to value till they had lost it.
IV. But if we remember that Death is the penalty of disobedience, Life will appear to
us under a still farther disadvantage; and our passage through it will be the journey of a condemned criminal from the jail to the gibbet. When a man is taken out of prison, and led forth to his execution, though he may be carried to it by the farthest way, the terrors of his mind are not lessened by so inconsiderable a relief; the fatal spot is present to his imagination from the first to the last step of his journey.
Though his limbs are in their full strength, his eyesight perfect, his respiration sound, his appetite good; yet this one consideration takes up all his attention, that he is upon the road to his Death. If we were to hear a person under these circumstances talking about indifferent subjects, or laughing and jesting; or if we should see him anxious about the colour of his clothes, or attempting to drown h's senses in strong liquor; we should be shocked at the impropriety, and lament that the poor infatuated wretch was so insensible of his condition. Our conduct would surely be better than it is on many occasions, and our appetite for dissipation would be checked, if we had the sense to remember daily that this is our own case! that Life is the road to Death, and that every step we take brings
us nearer to it: that our vanity and attention to pleasure, is so far from being an argument of our sense and spirit, that it is in fact a strong proof of our stupidity; that it is all no better than the amusement of a condemned criminal
forgetful of his execution. This may pass for a gloomy consideration, a sort of doctrine which will hardly be received: it disagrees so much with the passions and prejudices of men, that we are apt to reject it with scorn, as invective and not representation. Such is the way of the world! there hath always been too much room for that reflection of MosesOh that they were wise, that they understood this, that they would consider their latter end!
V. The wisdom of God saw how necessary it was to keep his servants attentive to the condition of their tenure here upon earth; and therefore his providence threw them into an unsettled way of life, whence they might with certainty collect, that this world was not to be the object of their affections; that earthly happiness was not proposed to them as the reward of their faith, and that they ought to look forward to another Life for the proper place of their abode. The greatest favourites of heaven, were of all men the