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lowed to take possession of the heart. Even though it be of the class of those which are reckoned innocent, yet if it have entirely seized and overpowered a man, it destroys his tranquillity, and brings his mind into a perturbed state. But if it be a passion of the black and vicious kind, it is sufficient to blast the most flourishing condition, and to poison all his joys. If to those wounds inflicted by folly, or by passion, you add the wound of guilt, the remorse and fear produced by criminal deeds, you fill up the measure of pain and bitterness of heart. Often have the terrors of conscience occasioned inward paroxysms, or violent agitations of mind. A dark and threatening cloud seems, to the conscious sinner, to be hanging over his head. He who believes himself despised, or hated, by men, and who dreads at the same time an avenging God, can derive little pleasure from the external comforts of life. The bitterness of his heart infuses itself into every draught which pleasure offers to his lips.
The external misfortunes of life, disappointments, poverty, and sickness, are nothing in comparison of those inward distresses of mind, occasioned by folly, by passion, and by guilt,. They may indeed prevail in different degrees, according as one or other of those principles of bitterness is predominant. But they are seldom parted far asunder from one another; and when, as it too often happens, all the three are complicated, they complete the misery of man. The disorders of the mind, having then arisen to their height, become of all things the most dreadful. The shame of folly, the violence of passion, and the remorse of guilt, acting in conjunction, have too frequently driven men to the last and abhorred refuge, of seeking relief in death from a life too embittered to be any longer endured. I proceed to consider,
II. OTHER troubles and other joys of the heart, arising from sources different from those that I have now described; founded in the relations or connections which we have with others, and springing from the feelings which these occasion. Such causes of sorrow or joy are of an external nature. Religion does not teach that all the sources of inward pleasure or pain are derived from our temper and moral behaviour. These are indeed the principal springs of bitterness or joy. In one way or other, they affect all the pleasures and pains of life; but they include not, within themselves, the whole of them. Our Creator did not intend, that the happiness of each individual should have no dependance on those who are around him. Having connected us in society by many ties, it is his decree, that these ties should prove, both during their subsistence, and in their dissolution, causes of pleasure or pain, immediately, and often deeply, affecting the human heart. My doctrine, therefore, is not, that the
bitterness which the heart knoweth as its own, and the joy with which a stranger intermeddleth not, is independent of every thing external. What I assert is, that this bitterness and this joy depend much more on other causes, than on riches or poverty, on high or low stations in the world; that equally in the conditions of elevated fortune and of private life, the most material circumstances of trouble or felicity, next to the state of our own mind and temper, are the sensations and affections which arise from the connections we have with others.
In order to make this appear, let us suppose a man in any rank or condition of life, happy in his family and his friends; soothed by the cordial intercourse of kind affections which he partakes with them; enjoying the comfort of doing them good offices, and receiving in return their sincerest gratitude; experiencing no jealousy nor envy, no disquiet or alienation of affection, among those with whom he is connected ;--how many, and how copious sources of inward joy open to such a man ! How smooth is the tenor of a life that proceeds in such a course! What a smiling aspect does the love of parents and children, of brothers and sisters, of friends and relations, give to every surrounding object, and every returning day! With what a lustre does it gild even the small habitation where such placid intercourse dwells; where such scenes of heartfelt satisfaction succeed uninterruptedly to one another!
But let us suppose this joyful intercourse to be broken off, in an untimely hour, by the cruel hand of the last foe; let us imagine the family, once so happy among themselves, to behold the parent, the child, or the spouse, to whom their hearts were attached by the tenderest ties, stretched on the cold bed of death; then what bitterness does the heart know! This, in the strictest sense, is its own bitterness; from which it is not in the power of any external circumstance whatever to afford it relief. Amidst those piercing griefs of the heart, all ranks of life are levelled; all distinctions of fortune are forgotten. Unavailling are the trophies of splendid woe with which riches deck the fatal couch, to give the least comfort to the mourner. The prince, and the peasant, then equally feel their own bitterness. Dwelling on the melancholy remembrance of joys that are past and gone, the one forgets his poverty, the other despises the gilded trappings of his state; both, in that sad hour, are fully sensible, that on the favours of fortune it depends not to make man happy in this world.
But it is not only the death of friends, which, in the midst of a seemingly prosperous state, is able to bring distress home to the heart. From various failures in their conduct when living, arises much of the inward uneasiness we suffer. It will, in general, be found, that the behaviour of those among whom we
live in near connection, is, next to personal character and temper, the chief source either of the pleasures, or of the disquietudes, of every man's life. As when their behaviour is cordial and satisfactory. it is of all external things the most soothing to the mind; so, on the other hand, their levity, their inattention, or occasional harshness, even though it proceed to no decided breach of friendship, yet ruffles and frets the temper. Social life. harrassed with those petty vexations, resembles a road which a man is doomed daily to travel; but finds it rugged, and stony, and painful to be trod.
The case becomes much worse, if the base and criminal conduct of persons whom we have once loved, dissolve all the bonds of amity, and show that our confidence has been abused. Then are opened some of the deepest springs of bitterness in the human heart.- -Behold the heart of the parent, torn by the unworthy behaviour and cruel ingratitude of the child, whom he had trained up with the fondest hopes; on whom he had lavished his whole affection; and for whose sake he had laboured and toiled, through the course of a long life. Behold the endearments of the conjugal state changed into black suspicion, and mistrust; the affectionate spouse, or the virtuous husband, left to mourn, with a broken heart, the infidelity of the once-beloved partner of their life. Behold the unsuspecting friend betrayed in the hour of danger, by the friend in whom he trusted; or in the midst of severe misfortune, meeting nothing but cold indifference, perhaps scorn and contempt, where he had expected to find the kindest sympathy. Are these, let me ask, uncommon scenes in the world? Are such distresses peculiar to any rank or station? Do they chiefly befal persons in humble life, and have the great and prerogative which affords them exemption? When the heart is sorely wounded by the ingratitude or faithlessness of those on whom it had leaned with the whole weight of affection, where shall it turn for relief? Will it find comfort in the recollection of honours and titles, or in the contemplation of surrounding treasures!Talk not of the honours of a court. Talk not of the wealth of the east. These, in the hours of heart-bitterness, are spurned, as contemptible and vile; perhaps cursed, as indirect causes of the present distress. The dart has made its way to the heart. There, there it is fixed. The very seat of feeling is assailed; and in proportion to the sensibility of the sufferer's heart, and the tenderness of his affections, such unfortunately, will be his degree of anguish. A good conscience, and hope in God, may indeed bring him consolation. But under such distresses of the heart, as I have described, fortune, be it as flourishing as you will, is no more than an empty pageant. It is a feeble reed, which affords no support. It is a house of straw, which is scattered before the wind.
THUS, you see this doctrine meeting us, from many quarters, that the heart knows a bitterness and joy of its own, altogether distinct from the uneasiness or the pleasure that is produced by the circumstances of external fortune; arising either from personal character, and the state of a man's own mind; or from the affections excited by the relations in which he stands to others. This joy and this bitterness are, each of them, of so much greater consequence than any distinctions of fortune, that, blessed with the former, one may be happy, as far as human happiness goes, in a cottage; and afflicted with the latter, he must be miserable in a palace.- -Let us now proceed to an important part of the subject, the practical improvement to which this doctrine leads.
FIRST, Let it serve to moderate our passion for riches, and high situations in the world. It is well known, that the eager pursuit of these is the chief incentive to the crimes that fill the world. Hence, among the middle and lower ranks of men, all the fraud, falsehood, and treachery, with which the competition for gain infests society. Hence, in the higher stations of the world, all the atrocious crimes flowing from ambition, and the love of power, by which the peace of mankind has so often been broaken, and the earth stained with blood. Had these coveted advantages the power, when obtained, of insuring joy to the heart, and rendering it a stranger to bitterness, some apology might be offered for the violence to which they have given occasion. The prize might be supposed worthy of being acquired at a high expense, when so much depended on the attainment. But I have shown, I hope with satisfactory evidence, that the contrary is the truth. I say not, that the advantages of fortune deserve no regard from a wise or a good man. Poverty is always distressing. Opulence and rank are both attended with many comforts, and may be rendered subservient to the most valuable purposes. But what I say is, that it is a great error to rate them beyond their just value. Secondary advantages, inferior assistances to felicity, they are, and no more. They rank below every thing that immediately affects the heart, and that is a native source of joy or bitterness there. If a man be either unhappy in his dispositions, or unhappy in all his connections, you heap upon him, in vain, all the treasures, and all the honours which kings can bestow. Divest these things, then, of that false glare which the opinions of the multitude throw around them. Contemplate them with a more impartial eye. Pursue them with less eagerness. Above all, never sacrifice to the pursuit any degree of probity or moral worth, of candour or good affection; if you would not lay a foundation for that bitterness of heart, which none of the goods of fortune can either com、 pensate or cure.
SECONDLY, Let the observations which have been made, correct our mistakes, and check our complaints, concerning a supposed promiscuous distribution of happiness in this world. The charge of injustice, which so often, on this account, hath been brought against Providence, rests entirely on this ground, that the happiness and misery of men may be estimated by the degree of their external prosperity. This is the delusion under which the multitude have always laboured; but which a just consideration of the invisible springs of happiness that effect the heart is sufficient to correct. If you would judge whether a man be really happy, it is not solely to his houses and his lands, to his equipage and his retinue, you are to look. Unless you could see farther, and discern what joy, or what bitterness, his heart feels, you can pronounce nothing concerning him.That proud and wicked man whom you behold surrounded with state and splendour, and upon whom you think the favours of Heaven so improperly lavished, may be a wretch, pining away in secret, with a thousand griefs unknown to the world. That poor man, who appears neglected and overlooked, may, in his humble station, be partaking of all the moral and all the social joys that exhilirate the heart; may be living cheerful, contented and happy. Cease then to murmer against dispensations of Providence, which are, to us, so imperfectly known. Envy not the prosperity of sinners. Judge not of the real condition of men, from what floats merely on the surface of their state. Let us rather,
THIRDLY, Turn our attention to those internal sources of happiness or misery, on which it hath been shown that so much depends. As far as the bitterness or joy of the heart arises from the first of those great springs which I assigned to it, our own conduct and temper, so far our happiness is placed, in some measure, in our own hands. What is amiss or disordered within, in consequence of folly, of passion, or guilt, may be rectified by due care, under the assistence of Divine grace. He who thereby attains to a tranquil and composed state of heart, free from ill humour and disgust, from violent passions, and from vexing remorse, is laying a foundation for enjoyment of himself, much surer and broader than if he were amassing thousands to increase his estate.
With regard to the other spring of joy or bitterness of heart, arising from our connections with others, here, indeed, we are more dependent on things not within our power. These connections are not always of our own forming; and even when they have been formed by choice, the wisest are liable to be disappointed in their expectations. Yet here to it will be found, that the proper regulation of the heart is of the utmost impor