Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

exhorting, in its flight to immortality, the objects of its tenderest regard ;-when you thus behold, accompanied by the most affecting circumstances, the termination of earthly enjoyment, you have demonstration of the perishable nature of all that has an exclusive reference to this life; and that when the spirit of man relinquishes its present temporary abode, it leaves behind it the attainments acquired in time, and only bears along with it the holiness that fits it for eternity, or the guilt that comes between the sinner and his God.

In this view, then, the duty which man owes to himself in providing for the welfare of his being, is of incalculable importance. He has a prize at stake, the full value of which it is impossible to estimate. The merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. It is more precious than rubies, and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto it. It is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon it; and happy is

every one that retaineth it.

All that can be said of the value of the soul, of its growing capabilities of enjoyment, -of the strength and elevation of its intellectual powers, and of its destination to advance through an endless existence, only illustrates the importance of true religion to man, and the magnitude of the duty of giving it his immediate, earnest, and chief attention. If the Son of God condescended to veil in human form the attributes of the Divinity, and laid down his life as an atonement for sin, it was no object of trivial moment which he died to accomplish, and

secure.

which no sacrifice of inferior efficacy could possibly

When we consider the figurative ritual of the Mosaic economy, the long train of prophets, and the splendid series of typical events that preceded the coming of the Redeemer ; when we reflect on the glories of his character, the condescension of his personal ministry, the extent and bitterness of his sufferings, and the pain and ignominy of his death: when we are assured that the design of these astonishing acts of power and mercy, was to procure eternal redemption for us; to raise us to higher glories than those which we had lost, and to the possession of far richer gifts than those which we had forfeited, we can require no higher evidence of the unspeakable worth of the soul, and of the importance of that duty which man owes to himself in regard to it.

Thus are all our previous convictions confirmed, of the extent of man's powers, and of the immortality of his nature. This nature has within it the principle of never-dying existence; and the helpless infant, which has just entered into being, is in the possession of a mind whose faculties may rise with Newton to measure the distances of the planetary worlds, and to admire with Paul the height and depth of the love of God that passeth knowledge. But these powers, though capable of indefinite improvement, are worse than useless to their possessor, without moral culture, without the renovating influence of religion, by which they are fitted for their noblest exertions and employments in time

and in eternity. Without this influence and renovation, immortality would only be a dark and dreary waste of existence, a boundless continuation of unenjoyed and unsanctified being, deriving no value from its extent or prolongation, and assuming the aspect of the most dreadful horror, by its eternal seclusion from the Fountain of light, and joy, and blessedness. If we are impressed as we should be with the infinite value of that happiness for which our nature is designed, and which through the Gospel may be attained, we shall consider no effort too great that we may secure it, and all the barriers that come between us and this prize, we shall resolve to surmount. May we be awakened from our slumbers, and not allow the delusions that are so natural to our own hearts, the false opinions of the world, and the insinuating and beguiling influence of sin, to hinder us from embracing the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord !

The duty which man owes to himself in regard to his spiritual and immortal interests, is the more important, from the consideration that the period al. lotted him for effectually securing those interests is limited to this fleeting life, and that their loss, therefore, is irreparable. All that gives dignity and glory to man, that connects value with time, and happiness with eternity, is here at stake; and yet, how few will allow themselves to give the matter that immediate regard which its nature and merits so much demand. Do not multitudes seem to think and act as if they had no guide but their passions, no object

but what terminates in the grave, no supreme autho rity to which they are accountable, and no heaven of pure felicity in prospect, for which they have any reason to prepare ? Look around you, and in place of seeing each discharging the duty which he owes to himself, and impressed with the infinite value of that personal religion which fits erring and guilty man for the presence of his God, you will have too much cause to conclude that many regard its profession as a matter of customary form, or of temporary expediency, and that they do not give half the attention to the moral and spiritual glories of their nature that they willingly yield to the fleeting pursuits and pleasures of this perishable existence.

CHAPTER X.

THE INQUIRY CONCERNING HAPPINESS, CONTINUED.

The inquiry into the chief good or happiness of man has been a favourite speculation with philosophers in all ages. The interest felt in it in Greece and in Rome gave rise to nearly three hundred different opinions on the subject *. These opinions have generally been reduced to three heads, suggested by the peculiar views of the ancient leading sects. While the followers of Epicurus regarded bodily pleasure and pain as the sole ultimate objects of aversion and desire, those of Zeno placed the supreme good in rectitude of conduct, without any reference to the event; and the disciples of Aristotle, while they allowed that virtue is the highest good, they neither considered it as the sole good, nor affected a total indifference to external things.

* Varro asserts that two hundred and eighty opinions had obtained among philosophers concerning this important subject.

The existence of this inquiry, as well as the variety of opinions to which it has given rise, is, as it appears to me, no inconsiderable proof that man has wandered from the Fountain of happiness *. Had he been drinking at this fountain, he would not have been urged ever and anon by unsatisfied desire to ask, Who will shew us any good? This cry has proceeded from his sense of want, the conscious absence of real, substantial, and permanent happiness; and evinces that his condition is what revelation describes it to be, alienated from God. The universality of the inquiry can only be considered as the universal acknowledgment of our race, of the unsatisfactory nature of those sources of enjoyment to which it has recourse; and the numerous answers that have been given to this inquiry direct to the fruitless attempt of constituting the mere elements of happiness, many of them casual

* O Happiness ! our being's end and aim !

Good, pleasure, ease, content, whate'er thy name !
That something still which prompts the eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die !
Which still so near us, still beyond us lies,
O'erlook d, seen double, by the fool and wise.
Plant of celestial seed ! if dropt below,
Say, in what mortal soil thou deign'st to grow ?
Fair opening to some court's propitious shine,
Or deep with diamonds in the flaming mine
Twin'd with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,
Or reap'd in iron harvest of the field ?
Where grows,--where grows it not ?- If vain our toil,
We ought to blame the culture, not the soil.

« ElőzőTovább »