Imágenes de páginas

tory to our views of happiness in this world ; and this ignorance of the divine plans ought only to make us feel the more that we are nothing,—God every thing; "in short it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps." The natural and the moral world are so constituted as to be intimately connected. The government of the natural world is a system of parts relating to each other, and then forming a whole. The government of the moral world is carried on by general laws, various means intervening to accomplish the end. This world, most unquestionably, is a state of probation and trial, in order to fit us for that happiness which the good man desires to attain. Likewise, the sense of what is right, as well as wrong, is only another agency of God's, for stimulating us in well-doing, and warning us in pursuing wickedness. But there is something else,—the doctrine of religion teaches us that prudence is essential to our prosperity here, and virtue necessary to our obtaining bliss hereafter. Yet in both these points, a certain power is given to man, entrusted to his charge, and for the use of which he must one day account. Neither strength of body, or maturity of understanding, come at once, but by degrees :—in like manner our happiness; for duration begins in this world, but is not finally accomplished until the next. This world is, if I may so speak, a school, in which we are trained and fitted for futurity. The passions and propensities implanted in our hearts at our birth, as age advances, gradually increase and incline, either to goodness or vice, as the bias of the disposition leads, or events of time gradually put into force.

But many notions are entertained of happiness; and I consider it will be better before we proceed further, to give a clear definition of that word, as some mistakes are likely to arise with respect to what is real abiding happiness.

Various indeed are the notions entertained upon the nature of happiness. The man of pleasure, for instance, will tell you that his happiness consists in the gaiety and amusements of life. The sensual man will inform you that his greatest happiness is in the full indulgence of his passions; and the drunkard, who cares not for social or domestic peace, will state his happiness to be in the bowl and glass, among men of dissipation and evil. The ambitious man who heeds not the concerns of his far less wealthy neighbours, but ever mindful of his own prospects—if he can but gain the summit of his pinnacle, and perhaps crushing the well-being of many, will pronounce his happiness to be in attempts,—attempts to obtain prizes and gain elevation, which are quite beyond his grasp. Many more examples might be adduced, but these are sufficient to show the difference of opinion. In the present life it is almost impossible to be competent judges of each other's actions,—to fathom as it were the inmost recesses of the heart. The pursuit which may best befit the christian would totally disaccord with the feelings of the worldly-minded. But the happiness in this world, which is a forerunner of greater in the next is a knowledge of the will and expectations of God, and a constant practice of the same which must (nothing can prevent) ensue to the obtaining blessing from above, and a joyful acceptation in that place "where the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest."

Our imperfect nature forbids us to conjecture plans and actions for deriving more happiness than is given; but the little we do know, should be assiduously performed. In the government of this world, vice is held out as to be punished; and virtue, to be rewarded. But we can give no means of ourselves to affect either of these : hence we notice the moral perfection of God, who ordains that such and such things shall happen most conducive to the advantage of his creatures; or if we act in such and such a manner, we shall surely suffer. We may, however, modify our trials in this life by a little contemplation as to the issue of our deeds, which would frequently prevent many unpleasant occurrences. But as to point out the best way of always being happy, is not granted unto us to do, Virtue certainly is the stepping stone to bliss; but the means of being virtuous and acting virtuously, must come from Christ, who was tempted in all things like ourselves, "sin only excepted." Vice, on the other hand, is inherent in our nature: sin is implanted in us at our very birth. By prudence and care, we

may pass our days in quietness and ease; whereas by rashness, precipitated feelings, ungoverned passion, and even negligence, we may make ourselves miserable. One thing is certain,—that God does not give us happiness without the instrumentality of our own actions. Why he should so ordain it, is an enquiry upon which we cannot enter: it can only be ascribed to the general course of nature. God has endowed to us all more or less faculties of knowledge; and the every day events of life bring this knowledge into practice. Our actions are his appointment, but a foresight of consequences is a warning from him in what way we are to act; "according as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises, that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature." Let, however, one thing be borne constantly in mind, that our worldly desires, and the gratification of them, which many, when gained, call happiness, is not, and never can be, the forerunner of future glory. Though our eyes are given to us to view all external objects within our reach, yet on objects of sin and evil they are to be turned away. So, also, are we to forget the glaring enchantments of this vain life, and look as it were through a glass to a wide and unbounded prospect, which is fraught with consolation, in the view of" the wrecks of matter, and the crush of worlds," on new displays hereafter to burst from the Creator's glory, world without end. Alas 1 how many are looking only to the present day,—the gratification of the present moment; forgetting that their future happiness is depending upon their actions here. And this is the reason why we do not see virtue flourishing like the palm-tree. This world and the next are not united together in men's memories; they flatter themselves with their good intentions; but as to their good living, and its future consequences, all this is passed over. The formation of habits in our youth, as coming to maturity in manhood, is a fact we all admit; but that real happiness depends often on such formation, is a fact also, too many, alas, forget! Many misfortunes and unhappiness in after years may be traced to imprudent and thoughtless deeds in the spring-time of our lives. If any privileges we neglect to profit by when in our reach—manhood will only lament their loss, and old age repent it with endless remorse. If the husbandmen lets the seed-time pass, where is the harvest at Autumn? If motives for partial happiness here are offered, and we reject them, how shall we expect to enjoy happiness as their result, in the world to come? Reformation too, is another point upon which I would slightly touch. That men err to a great extent is certain ; but, that opportunities are held out by God for repentance and amendment, is equally sure. Convinced am I of this, that if happiness was to be awarded hereafter of itself without any pre-disposed cause, or primeval agency, the misery of this world and the torment of the next,—the pleasure in this life, and the consequences ensuing would stand of trivial importance. Little argument is required for strengthening this assertion. If eternal punishment and eternal happiness were not seen in the government of God over this world, as to be the final end of all we do in this life, it would matter not at all whether men indulged their sinful inclinations, or shunned the paths of vice. But as virtue and those deeds known to be the promoters of it are clearly acknowledged to be the forerunner of neverending happiness in the world beyond the grave, it should be the studious exertion and great aim of all of us to render our lives suitable to this holy purpose, for virtus sub cruce crescit, ad aethera tendens. It rejoices in temptation and alone is invincible; it overcomes envy, and is the way of life. Nobilitas virtus, Bob stemma, character. It is an anchor of the soul, and our safest shield.

Secondly. The shortness of this life is another argument that Man's Happiness, as God in his mercy most probably intends, shall not be enjoyed to its full extent in this world of trial and vexation of spirit, but have its full completion in the scenes of diversified and everlasting grandeur, which the heaven of heavens shall display.

Question the man of science, and he will tell you that it requires almost eternity itself to explore the depths of art and learning. That there is always, as the Poet said,—

"Something to please, and something to instruct,
E'en in the noisome weed."

Ask the man of this world, and he assuredly will complain of the fleeting vanishing pleasures in which he takes his delight; and ere he has enjoyed a few, is summoned to the presence of his Maker. Ask the aged man with his silvery locks and bending knee, and he will compare it to a dream, or an unsubstantial vapour. Indeed to deduct the affairs of life and rest, which occupy the chief part of our sojourn, what does there remain? Alas 1 the longest life, as the Psalmist declared, is but an handbreadth, and threescore years abode is reduced to an actual existence of 20 years. Many will say what are twenty years, but like a night's dream, so swift and fleeting: to such, I exhort, value them the more. Use this precious gift—precious, because so short, as a preparation for futurity. Act in this life, virtuously, honorably, and religiously. Seek for happiness where only real happiness can be found. Do not deceive yourselves with the idea that there is any real satisfaction or happiness in the pursuit of this world's goods, and in the enjoyment of them. Some think wealth gives happiness: others, popularity, and many, pleasure. But, I strenuously deny each. The HappiNess Of This Life Depends On Our Discretion; for experience shows that those who are habituated to any indulgence, be it what it may, will rather encourage themselves in it, than be subjected to the restraints of reason and the difficulties of self-denial. Knowing that if such habits are repented of, in the course of time, the uneasiness and infamy of them will be much more felt. Therefore as so many instances of this kind are to be met with in our pilgrimage, it becomes doubtful, as to whether more happiness is enjoyed from virtue or vice. But it is most reasonable to believe from the moral government of God, and the evidence of religion, that both these qualities will be judged and awarded in the last day. The being virtuous in this world conveys many feelings of happiness and self-satisfaction: what then must it be in a future

« AnteriorContinuar »