« AnteriorContinuar »
enjoyment is a farther vanity, to which the human state is subject. This is the severest of all mortifications; after having been successful in the pursuit, to be baffled in the enjoyment itself! Yet this is found to be an evil still more general than the former. Some may be so fortunate as to attain what they have pursued; but none are rendered completely happy by what they have attained. Disappointed hope is misery; and yet successful hope is only imperfect bliss. Look through all the ranks of mankind. Examine the condition of those who appear most prosperous; and you will find that they are never just what they desire to be. If retired, they languish for action; if busy, they complain of fatigue. If in middle life, they are impatient for distinction; if in high stations, they sigh after freedom and ease. Something is still wanting to that plenitude of satisfaction, which they expected to acquire. Together with every wish that is gratified, a new demand arises. One void opens in the heart, as another is filled. On wishes, wishes grow; and to the end, it is rather the expectation of what they have not, than the enjoyment of what they have, which occupies and interests the most successful.
This dissatisfaction in the midst of human pleasure, springs partly from the nature of our enjoyments themselves, and partly from circumstances which corrupt them. No worldly enjoyments are adequate to the high desires and powers of an immortal spirit. Fancy paints them at a distance with splendid colours; but possession unveils the fallacy. The eagerness of passion bestows upon them, at first, a brisk and lively relish. But it is their fate always to pall by familiarity, and Sometimes to pass from satiety into disgust. Happy would the poor man think himself, if he could enter on all the treasures of the rich; and happy for a short time he might be but before he had long contemplated and admired his state, his possessions would seem to lessen, and his cares would grow.
Add to the unsatisfying nature of our pleasures, the attending circumstances which never fail to corrupt them. For, such as they are, they are at no time possessed unmixed. To human lips it is not given to taste the cup of pure joy. When external circumstances show fairest to the world, the envied man groans in private under his own burden. Some vexation disquiets, some passion corrodes him; some dis tress either felt or feared, gnaws like a worm, the root of his felicity. When there is nothing from without to disturb the prosperous, a secret poison operates within. For worldly happiness ever tends to destroy itself, by corrupting the heart. It fosters the loose and the violent passions. It engenders noxious habits; and taints the mind with false delicacy, which makes it feel a thousand unreal evils.
But put the case in the most favourable light. Lay aside from human pleasures both disappointment in pursuit, and deceitfulness in enjoyment; suppose them to be fully attainable, and completely satisfactory; still. there remains to be considered the vanity of uncertain possession and short duration. Were there in worldly things any fixed point of security which we could gain, the mind would then have some basis on which to rest. But our condition is such, that every thing wavers and totters around us. "Boast not thyself of to-morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth." It is much if, during its course, thou hearest not of somewhat to disquiet or alarm thee. For life never proceeds long in a uniform train. It is continually varied by unexpected events. The seeds of alteration are every where sown; and the sunshine of prosperity commonly accelerates their growth. If our enjoyments are numerous, we lie more open on different sides to be wounded. If we have possessed them long, we have greater cause to dread an approaching change. By slow degrees prosperity rises; but rapid is the progress of evil. It requires no preparation to bring it
forward. The edifice which it cost much time and labour to erect, one inauspicious event, one sudden blow, can level with the dust. Even supposing the accidents of life to leave us untouched, human bliss must still be transitory; for man changes of himself. No course of enjoyment can delight us long. What amused our youth, loses its charm in maturer age. As years advance, our powers are blunted, and our pleasurable feelings decline. The silent lapse of time is ever carrying somewhat from us, till at length the period comes, when all must be swept away. The prospect of this termination of our labours and pursuits, is sufficient to mark our state with vanity. "Our days are a hand's breadth, and our age is as nothing." Within that little space is all our enterprise bounded. We crowd it with toils and cares, with contention and strife. We project great designs, entertain high hopes, and then leave our plans unfinished, and sink into oblivion.
This much let it suffice to have said concerning the vanity of the world. That too much has not been said, must appear to every one who considers how generally mankind lean to the opposite side; and how often, by undue attachment to the present state, they both feed the most sinful passions, and 66 pierce themselves through with many sorrows."
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 misfortunes 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 survey our state with an impartial eye, and be just to the various gifts of Heayen. How vain soever this life, considered in itself, may be, the comforts and hopes of religion are suffi cient to give solidity 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 yanity.
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 esti mate 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 rea son 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, notwith
standing the vanity of the world, a considerable degree of comfort is attainable in the present 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, Ŏ 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 wish? What title hast 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 to a happier state of existence? When thou comparest thy condition with thy desert, blush, and be ashamed of thy complaints. Be silent, 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 wise and good, and has been bountiful to thee. BLAIR.
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 so curiously