Imágenes de página

want of moderation, we turn to its bane. In all the pleasures of sense, it is apparent, that, only when indulged within certain limits, they confer satisfaction. No sooner do we pass the line which temperance has drawn, than pernicious effects come forward and show themselves. Could I lay open to your view the monuments of death, they would read a lecture in favour of moderation, much more powerful than any that the most eloquent preacher can give. You would behold the graves peopled with the victims of intemperance. You would behold those chambers of darkness hung round, on every side, with the trophies of luxury, drunkenness, and sensuality. So numerous would you find those martyrs of iniquity, that it may safely be asserted, where war or pestilence have slain their thousands, intemperate pleasure has slain its ten thousands.

While the want of moderation in pleasure brings men to an untimely grave, at the same time, until they arrive there, it pursues and afflicts them with evils innumerable. To what cause so much as to this, are owing, faded youth, and premature old age; an enervated body, and an enfeebled mind; together with all that long train of diseases, which the indulgence of appetite and sense have introduced into the world? Health, cheerfulness, and vigour, are known to be the offspring of temperance. The man of moderation brings to all the natural and innocent pleasures of life, that sound, uncorrupted relish, which gives him a much fuller enjoyment of them, than the pallid and vitiated appetite of the voluptuary allows him to know. He culls the flower of every allowable gratification, without dwelling upon it until the flavour be lost. He tastes the sweet of every pleasure, without pursuing it till the bitter dregs rise. Whereas, the man of opposite character dips so deep, that he never fails to stir an impure and noxious sediment, which lies at the bottom of the cup. In the pleasures, besides, which are regulated by moderation, there is always that dignity which goes along with innocence. No man needs to be ashamed of them. They are consistent with honour; with the favour of God, and of man. But the sensualist, who disdains all restraint in his pleasures, is odious in the public eye. His vices become gross; his character contemptible; and he ends in being a burden both to himself and to society. Let me exhort you once more,


V. To moderation in all your passions. This exercise of the virtue is the more requisite, because there is no passion in human nature but what has, of itself, a tendency to run into excess. For all passion implies a violent emotion of mind course it is apt to derange the regular course of our ideas; and to produce confusion within. Nothing, at the same time, is more seducing than passion. During the time when it grows and swells, it constantly justifies to our apprehension, the tu

up to

mult which it creates, by means of a thousand false arguments which it forms, and brings to its aid. Of some passions, such as anger and resentment, the excess is so obviously dangerous, as loudly to call for moderation. He who gives himself the impetuosity of such passions, without restraint, is universally condemned by the world; and hardly accounted a man of sound mind. But, what is less apt to be attended to, some even of those passions which are reckoned innocent, or whose tendency to disorder and evil is not apparent, stand, nevertheless, in need of moderation and restraint, as well as others. For such is the feebleness of our nature, that every passion which has for its object any worldly good, is in hazard of attaching us too strongly, and of transporting us beyond the bounds of reason. If allowed to acquire the full and unrestrained dominion of the heart, it is sufficient, in various situations, to render us miserable; and almost in every situation, by its engrossing power, to render us negligent of duties which, as men or Christians, we are bound to perform.

Of the insidious growth of passion, therefore, we have great reason to beware. We ought always to have at hand considerations, which may assist us in tempering its warmth and in regaining possession of our souls. Let us be persuaded, that moments of passion are always moments of delusion; that nothing truly is, what it then seems to be; that all the opinions which we then form, are erroneous; and all the judgments which we pass, are extravagant. Let moderation accustom us to wait until the fumes of passion be spent ; until the mist which it has raised begin to be dissipated. We shall then be able to see where truth and right lie; and reason shall, by degrees, resume the ascendant. On no occasion let us imagine, that strength of mind is shown by violence of passion. This is not the strength of men, but the impetuosity of children. It is the strength of one who is in the delirium of a fever, or under the disease of madness. The strength of such a person is indeed increased. But it is an unnatural strength; which being under no proper guidance, is directed towards objects that occasion his destruction. True strength of mind is shown in governing and resisting passion; not in giving it scope; in restraining the wild beast within; and acting on the most trying occasions, according to the dictates of conscience, and temperate reason.

THUS I have pointed out, in several instances, how moderation ought to be displayed: moderation in our wishes; moderation in our pursuits; moderation in our hopes; moderation in our pleasures; moderation in our passions. It is a principle which should habitually influence our conduct, and form the reigning temperature of the soul.

The great motive to this virtue is suggested by the words immediately following the text; the Lord is at hand. The Judge is coming, who is to close this temporary scene of things, and to introduce a higher state of existence. The day is at hand, which will place the great concerns of men in a point of view very different from that in which they are at present beheld; will strip the world of its false glory; will detect the vanity of earthly pursuits; and disclose objects which have the proper title to interest a rational mind. Objects acquire power to engage our passions only in proportion as they are conceived to be great. But great, or little, are no more than terms of comparison. Those things which appear great to one who knows nothing greater, will sink into a diminutive size, when he becomes acquainted with objects of a higher nature. Were it oftener in our thoughts, that the Lord is at hand, none of those things which now discompose and agitate worldly men, would appear of sufficient magnitude to raise commotion in our breasts. Enlarged views of the future destination of man, and of the place which he may hope to possess in an eternal world, naturally give birth to moderation of mind. They tend to cool all misplaced ardour about the advantages of this state; and to produce that calm and temperate frame of spirit, which becomes men and Christians. They give no ground for entire disregard of earthly concerns. While we are men, we must feel and act as such. But they afford a good reason why they who believe the Lord to be at hand, should let their moderation appear and be known unto all men.



The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy.-PROVERBS, xiv. 10.

IT is well known, that men have always been much inclined to place their happiness in the advantages of fortune, and the distinctions of rank. Hence these have been pursued by the multitude with such avidity, that every principle of honour, probity, and virtue, have been sacrificed to the attainment of them. At the same time, many circumstances might have convinced men, that supposing them to be successful in the pursuit, it by no means followed that happiness was to be the reward. For if happiness be, in truth, essentially connected with splendid fortune, or exalted rank, how comes it to pass, that many, in the inferior stations of life, visibly spend their days with more comfort, than they who occupy the higher departments of the world? Why does the beggar sing, while the king is sad? A small measure of reflection on our nature might satisfy us, that there are other principles of happiness or misery, too often overlooked by the world, which immediately affect the heart, and operate there with greater force and power than any circumstances of rank or fortune. This is the observation of the wise man in the text; and what I now purpose to illustrate. I shall take a view of the chief sources of that bitterness which the heart knoweth, and of that joy with which a stranger doth not intermeddle; and then shall point out the proper improvements to be made of the subject.

If we enquire carefully into the sources of the joy or bitterness of the heart, we shall find that they are chiefly two: that they arise either from a man's own mind and temper; or, from the connection in which he stands with some of his fellow-creatures. In other words, the circumstances which most essen

[blocks in formation]

tially affect every man's happiness, are, his personal character and his social feelings.

I. EVERY man's own mind and temper is necessarily to himself a source of much inward joy or bitterness. For every man, if we may be allowed the expression, is more connected with himself, than with any external object. He is constantly a companion to himself in his own thoughts: and what he meets with there, must, of all things, contribute most to his happiness, or his disquiet. Whatever his condition in the world be, whether high or low, if he find no cause to upbraid himself for his behaviour; if he be satisfied that his conduct proceeds upon a rational plan; if, amidst the failings incident to humanity, his conscience be, in the main, free from reproach, and his mind undisturbed by any dismal presages of futurity; the foundation is laid for a placid and agreeable tenour of life. If to this you add a calm and cheerful temper, not easily fretted or disturbed, not subject to envy, nor prone to violent passion, much of that joy will be produced, which, it is said in the text, a stranger inter meddleth not with. For this is an intrinsic joy, independent of all foreign causes. The upright man, as it is written, is satisfied from himself. Undisturbed by the vexations of folly, or the remorse of guilt, his nights will be peaceful, and his days serene. His mind is a kingdom to itself. A good conscience, and good temper, prepare, even in the midst of poverty, a continual feast.

But how sadly will the scene be reversed, if the first thoughts which occur to a man concerning himself, shall be of a gloomy and threatening kind; if his temper, instead of calmness and self-enjoyment, shall yield him nothing but disquiet and painful agitation! In any situation of fortune, is it possible for him to be happy, whose mind is in this troubled state? The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Vigour of mind may enable a man to sustain many shocks of adversity. In his spirit, as long as it is sound, he can find a resource, when other auxiliaries fail. But if that which should sustain him be enfeebled and broken; if that to which he has recourse for the cure of other sorrows, become itself the wounded part; to what quarter can he turn for relief?

The wounds which the spirit suffers are owing chiefly to three causes to folly, to passion, or to guilt. They frequently originate from folly; that is, from vain and improper pursuits, which, though not directly criminal, are unsuitable to a man's age, character, or condition, in the world. In consequence of these he beholds himself degraded and exposed; and suffers the pain of many a mortifying reflection, and many a humbling comparison of himself with others. The distress occasioned by a sense of folly, is aggravated by any violent passion being al

« AnteriorContinuar »