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What are the real and Solid Enjoyments of Human Life.
It must be admitted, that unmixed and complete happiness is unknown' on earth. No regulation of conduct can altogether prevent passions from disturbing our peace, and misfortunès from wounding our. heart. But after this concession is made, will it follow, that there is no object on earth which deserves our pursuit, or that all enjoyment becomes 'contemptible which is not perfect? Let us furvey our state with an impartial eye, and be just to the various gifts of Heaven. How vain foever this life, considered in itself, may be, the comforts and hopes of religion are sufficient to give folidity to the enjoyments of the righteous. In the exercise of good affections, and the testimony of an approving conscience; in the sense of peace and reconciliation with God, through the great Redeemer of mankind; in the firm confidence of being conducted through all the trials of life, by infinite wisdom and goodness; and in the joyful prospect of arriving, in the end, at immortal felicity, they possess a happiness which, descending from a purer and more perfect region than this world, partakes not of its vanity.
Besides the enjoyments peculiar to religion, there are other pleasures of our present state, which, though of an inferior order, must not be overlooked in the estimate of human life. It is necessary to call attention to these, in order to check that repining and unthankful spirit to which man is always too prone. Some degree of importance must be allowed to the comforts of health, to the innocent gratifications of sense, and to the entertainment afforded us by all the beautiful scenes of nature; some to the pursuits and harmless amusements of social life; and more to the internal enjoyments of thought and reflection, and to the pleasures of affectionate intercourse with those whom we love. These comforts are often held in too low estimation, merely because they are ordinary and common; although that is the circumstance which ought, in reason, to enhance their value. They lie open, in some degree, to all; extend through every rank of life, and fill up agreeably many of those spaces in our present existence, which are not occupied with higher objects, or with serious cares.
From this representation it appears that, notwithstanding the vanity of the world, a considerable degree of comfort is attainable in the prefent state. Let the recollection of this serve to reconcile us to our condition, and to repress the arrogance of complaints and murmurs. What art thou, O son of man! who having sprung but yesterday out of the dust, darest to lift up thy voice against thy Maker, and to arraign his providence, because all things are not ordered according to thy with? What title haft thou to find fault with the order of the universe, whose lot is so much beyond what thy virtue or merit gave thee ground to claim? Is it nothing to thee to have been introduced into this magnificent world; to have been admitted as a spectator of the Divine wisdom and works; and to have had access to all the comforts which nature, with a bountiful hand, has poured
forth around thee? Are all the hours forgotten which thou hast passed in ease, in complacency, or joy? Is it a small favour in thy eyes, that the hand of Divine Mercy has been stretched forth to aid thee, and, if thou reject not its proffered assistance, is ready to conduct thee into a happier state of existence? When thou comparest thy condition with thy desert, blush, and be ashamed of thy coinplaints. Be filent, be grateful, and adore., Receive with thankfulness the blessings which are allowed thee. Revere that government which at present refuses thee more. Rest in this conclusion, that though there are evils in the world, its Creator is wife and good, and has been bountiful to thee.
Scale of Beings.
Though there is a great deal of pleasure in contemplating the material world; by which I mean, that system of bodies, into which nature has fo curiously wrought the mass of dead matter, with the several relations that those bodies bear to one another; there is still, methinks, fomething more wonderful and furprising, in contemplations on the world of life; by which I understand, all those animals with which every part of the universe is furnished. The material world is only the shell of the universe: the world of life are its inhabitants.
If we consider those parts of the material world, which lie the neareit to us, and are therefore subject to our observations and inquiries, it is amazing to consider the infinity of animals with which it is stocked. Every part of matter is peopled: every green leaf swarms with inhabitants. There is scarcely a fingle humour in the body of a man, or of any other animal, in which our glasses do not discover myriads of living creatures. We find, even in the most solid bodies, as in marble itself, innumerable cells and cavities, which are crowded with such imperceptible inhabitants, as are too little for the naked eye to difcover. On the other hand, if we look into the more bulky parts of nature, we see the seas, lakes, and rivers, teeming with numberless kinds of living creatures. We find every mountain and marsh, wilderness and wood, plentifully stocked with birds and bcasts; and every part of matter affording proper necessaries and conveniences, for the livelihood of multitudes which inhabit it.
The author of " the Plurality of Worlds," draws a very good argument from this consideration, for the peopling of every planet; as indeed it seems very probable, from the analogy of reason, that if no part of matter, with which we are acquainted, lies waste and useless, those great bodies, which are at such a distance from us, are not desert and unpeopled; but rather, that they are furnished with beings adapted to their respective situations.
Existence is a blefsing to those beings only which are endowed with perception; and is in a manner ahrown away upon dead matter, any farther than as it is subservient to beings which are conscious of their existence. Accordingly we find, from the bodies which lie under our observation, that matter is only
made as the basis and support of animals; and that there is no more of the one than what is necessary for the existence of the other.
Infinite Goodness is of so communicative a nature, that it seems to delight in conferring existence upon every degree of perceptive being. As this is a speculation, which I have often pursued with great pleasure to myself, I shall enlarge farther upon it, by confidering that part of the scale of beings, which comes within our knowledge.
There are some living creatures, which are raised but just above dead matter. To mention only that fpecies of thell-fish, which is formed in the fashion of a cone; that grows to the surface of several rocks; and immediately dies, on being severed from the place where it grew. There are many other creatures but one remove from these, which have no other sense than that of feeling and taste. Others have still an additional one of hearing ; others, of smell; and others, of fight. It is wonderful to observe, by what a gradual progress the world of life advances, through a prodigious variety of species, before a creature is formed, that is complete in all its senses: and even among these, there is such a different degree of perfection, in the sense which one animal enjoys beyond what appears in another, that though the sense in different animals is distinguished by the same com. mon denomination, it seems almost of a different na ture. If, after this, we look into the several inward per fections, of cunning and fagacity, or what we generally call instinct, we find them rising, after the same manner, imperceptibly one above another; and receiving additional improvements, according to the species in