Imágenes de página

)e nisrgardly in our exhortation, but let all hir fellow prifon^rs have a fhare: good gaoler, et them lie permitted to ftand here, while *I tteinpr to improve them." Thus faying, 'I aadft an effort to rife from m^r ftraw, but ranted ftren«th, and was able only to recline ^•inft the wall. The prifoners affembled acni'ding to m-^ directions, for they loved to rar my counfel; my fin and his mother fuploited me on either fide; 1 looked and -law tut none were wanting, and then addreffed liein with the following exhortation.


'he equal dealings of providence demonftrated w th regard to the happy and the inferable here below. That from the nature of pliafure and pain, the' ivr6tched muft be rep. id the balance of the"ir fuffenngs in the life hereafter.

'y friends, irvv' children, and fellow fufferfS, when 'I reflect on the diftribytion of good »d evil here below , 1 find that much has Pen given man to enjo-\r , yet ftill more td jffer. Though we fhouid examine the whole "'ild, we fhall not find one man fo hippy 'to have nothing left to wi'fh for: but we lily Tee thoufands who filicide fhow usiey have nothing left to hope. 'In this life lf,n it appears that we cannot be enti ely left; but yet we miy be completely miferable.

Why man fhouid thus feel pain, why our 'retchednefs fhouid be requifite in the forma°n 6f univerfal felicity, whjr, when all other ftems are made perfect by the" perfection 6f their fubordinate parts, the' great fyftem f"jbonl require for its perfection, parts that ire nJ only fubordinate to others, but imperfect i themfelves? Thefe are queftions that never- ci be explained, and might be ufelefs if know 'On this fubject prividence has thought fit elude our curiofity, fatisfied with granting motives to confolation.

'In this Jituation, man has called, in tl friendly affiftance ,6f philofophy, and h.eave feeing the incapacity of that to confole hirr has given him the aid of religion. The con folations 6f philofophy are very amufing, has 6ften fallacious. 'It tells us that life is fiilec with comforts, if we will but enjoy them; and 6n the other hand, that though we unavoidably have miferies here, life is fhort, aud therj will foon be over. Thus do thefe confolatioK deftro^r each 6ther; for if life is a place H comfort, its fhortnefs lniift be mifery, and. if ii be long, our griefs are protracted. Thill phil6fophy is weak: but religion comforts in an higher ftrain. Man is here, it tells us, fitting up his mind, and preparing it for another abode. When the good man leaves the body, and is all a glorious mind, he will find he has be4n making himfelf a meaven of happinefs here, while the wretch that has been maimed and contaminated b^r his vices, f hrinks from his body with terror, and Finds that he has anticipated the vengeance 6f heaven. To religion then we muft hold in every circumftance of life for our trueft comfort; for if already we are happy, it is a pleafure to think that we can make that happinefs unending; and if we are miferable, it is very confoling to think that there is a place of reft. Thus to the fortunate,

religion holds out a continuance of bills, to the wretched, a change from pain.

But though religion is very kind to all men, it has pr6mifed peculiar rewards to the- unhappy, the fick, the naked, the houfelefs, the leavy - laden, and the prifoner, have ever moft requent promifes in our facred law. The luthor of our religion every where profeffes limfelf the wretch's friend, and unlike the :alfe ones of this w6rld, beftows all his careffes upon the' forlorn. Tbe unthinking have centered this as partiality, as a preference without tn^rit to deferve it. But they never reflect :hat it is not in the power even of heaven itEelf to make the 6ffer of unceafing felicity as 'reat a gift to the happy as to the miferable. To the firft, eternity is but a fingle bleffing, tince at moft it but encreafes what they -already poffefs. To the latter it is a double advantage; f6r it diminifhes their pain here* and rewards them with heavenly blifs hereafter.

But urovidence is in another refpect kinder to the poor than the rich; f6r as it thus makrs the life after death more defirable, f6 it fmoot $ the paffage there. The wretched have had a 6ng familiarity with every face of terror. T. e man of forrows lays himfelf quietly down, without poffehons to regret, and but few ties lo ftop his departure; he feels only nature's sang in the final feparation, and this is no way greater than he has 6ften fainted under jefore; for after a certain degree of pain, every iew breach that death opens in the con titution, lature kindly covers with infenubility.

Thus providence has given the wretched :w6 advantages over the happy in this life, greater felicity in dying , and in heaven all that fuperiority of pleafure which arifes from contrafted enjoyment. 'And this fuperiority, my friends, Is no fmall advantage, and fecni< to be one of the pleafures of the poor man it the parable; for though he was already in heaven, and felt all the raptures it could give, yet it was mentioned 4s an addition to his happinefs, that he had once been wretched hi now was comforted; that he had known wha' it was to be miferable, and now felt what i was to be happy y).

Thus, my friends, you fee religion doit what philofophy could never do: it f hows the equal dealings of heaven to the happy and tit unhappy, and levels ,all human enjoyments to nearly the fame ftandard. 'It gives to both rid and poor the fame happjnefs hereafter, ami equal hopes to afpire after it; but if the rici have the advantage of enjoyng pleafure here, the poor have the endlefs fatisfaction 6f knowing what it was once to be miferable, wta crowned with endlefs felicity hereafter; and even though this fhould be called a fmal) advantage, yet being an eternal one, it muft make up by duration what the temporal happinefs a the" great may have exceeded by intenfenefs

Thefe are therefore the confolations which the wretched have peculiar to tbemfelves, ^ in which they are above the reTt of mankind; in other refpects they are below them. They who would Know the miferies 6f the p"or; muft fee life and endure it. To declaim ofl the temporal advantages they enjoy, is only re' peating what none either believe or practice

[ocr errors]

The men who have the neceffaries of living are not poor, and they who want them muft be xriiferable. Yes my friends we muft be mifera"ble no vain efforts of a refined imagination can Tooth the wants of nature , can give elaftic fweetnefs t6 the dank vapour 6f a dungeon, or eafe to the throbbings of a broken heart. Let trie philofopher from his couch of foknefs tell ■us that we can refift all thefe. Alas! the effort by which we refift them is ftill the greateft pain! Death is flight, and Any man may fuftain it.;, but torments are dreadful, and thefe no man can endure. /

To us then, nry friends, the promifes of happinefs in heaven fhould be peculiarly dear; for if our reward be in this life alone, we are then indeed 6f all men the moft miferable. When 'I look round thefe gloomy walls, made to terrify, as well as to confine us; this-light that only ferves to fhew the horrors of the place, thofe fhackles that tyranny has impofed, or crime made neceffary; when 'I furvey thefe amaciated loohs, and hear thofe groans. v0 iny friends, what a. glorious exchange would, heaven be for thefe! To fly through ) egions unconfined as air, to bafk in the funfhine of eternal blifs, to carol over endlefs hymns of praife, to have no mafter to threaten 6r infiilt lis but the form of goodnefs himfelf for ever in our eyes; wh n I think of thefe things, death bec'mes the ineffenger of very glad tidings; when I think of thefe things , his fharpeft arrow becomes the ftaff of my fupport; when "I think 6f thefe things, what is there in life worth having? when 1 think of thefe things, what is there that fhould not be fpurnedaway? kings in their palaces fhoufd groan for filch

« AnteriorContinuar »