« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
being whose centre is every where, and his circumference no. where.
15. In the second place, he is omniscient as well as omnipresent. His omniscience, indeed, necessarily and naturally flows from his omnipresence. He cannot but be conscious of every motion that arises in the whole material world, which he thus essentially pervades; and of every thought that is stirring in the intellectual world, to every part of which he is thus intimately united.
16. Were the soul separated from the body, and should it with one glance of thought start beyond the bounds of the creation; should it for millions of years continue its progress through infinite space, with the same activity, it would still find itself within the embrace of its Creator, and encompassed by the immensity of the Godhead.
17. In this consideration of the Almighty's omnipresence and omniscience, every uncomfortable thought vanishes.He cannot but regard every thing that has being, especially such of his creatures who fear they are not regarded by him. He is privy to all their thoughts, and to that anxiety of heart in particular, which is apt to trouble them on this occasion; for, as it is impossible he should overlook any of his creatures, so we may be confident that he regards with an eye of mercy, those who endeavour to recommend themselves to his notice; and, in unfeigned humility of heart, think themselves unworthy that he should be mindful of them.
HAPPINESS IS FOUNDED IN RECTITUDE OF CONDUCT.
LL men pursue good, and would be happy, if they knew how; not happy for minutes, and miserable for hours; but happy, if possible, through every part of their existence. Either, therefore, there is a good, of this steady, durable kin,. or there is not. If not, then all good must be transient, and uncertain; and if so, an object of the lowest value, which can little deserve our attention or inquiry.
2. But if there be a better good, such a good as we are seeking, like every other thing, it must be derived from some cause; and that cause must either be external, internal, or mixed; in as much as, except these three, there is no other possible. Now, a steady, durable good, cannot be derived from any external cause; since all derived from externals must fluctuate as they fluctuate.
3. By the same rule it cannot be derived from a mixture of the two; because the part which is external, will proportionably destroy its essence. What, then, remains but the cause internal? the very cause which we have supposed, when we place the sovereign good in mind-in rectitude of conduct.
VIRTUE AND PIETY MAN'S HIGHEST INTEREST.
1. I FIND myself existing upon a little spot, surrounded every way by an immense unknown expansion. Where am I? What sort of place do I inhabit? Is it exactly accommodated in every instance to my convenience? Is there no excess of cold, none of heat to offend me? Am I never annoyed by animals, either of my own, or a different kind? Is every thing subservient to me, as though I had ordered all myself? No-nothing like it—the farthest from it possible.
2. The world appears not, then, originally made for the private convenience of me alone?-It does not. But is it not possible so to accommodate it, by my own particular industry? If to accommodate man and beast, heaven and earth, if this be beyond me, it is not possible. What consequence then follows; or can there be any other than this: If I seek an interest of my own, detached from that of others, I seek an interest which is chimerical, and which can never have existence.
3. How, then, must I determine? Have I no interest at all? If have not, I am stationed here to no purpose. But why no terest? Can I be contented with none, but one separate and detached? Is a social interest, joined with others, such an absurdity as not to be admitted? The bee, the beaver, and the tribes of herding animals, are sufficient to convince me, that the thing is somewhere at least possible.
4. How, then, am I assured that it is not equally true of man? Admit it; and what follows? If so, then honour, and justice are my interest; then the whole train of moral virtues are my interest; without some portion of which, not even thieves can maintain society.
5. But farther still-I stop not here-I pursue this social interest as far as I can trace my several relations. I pass from my own stock, my own neighbourhood, my own nation, to the whole race of mankind, as dispersed throughout the earth. Am I not related to them all, by the mutual aids of commerce, by the general intercourse of arts and letters, by that common nature of which we all participate?
6. Again I must have food and clothing. Without a proper genial warmth, I instantly perish. Am I not related, in this view, to the very earth itself? to the distant sun, from whose beams I derive vigour? to that stupendous course and order of the infinite host of heaven, by which the times and seasons ever uniformly pass on ?
6. Were this order once confounded, I could not probably survive a moment; so absolutely do I depend on this common general welfare. What, then, have I to do, but to enlarge virtue into piety? Not only honour and justice, and what I owe to man, are my interest, but gratitude, also; acquiescence, resignation, adoration, and all, I owe to this great polity, and its great Governor, our Common Parent.
THE INJUSTICE of an UNCHARITABLE SPIRIT.
1. A SUSPICIOUs, uncharitable spirit, is not only inconsistent with all social virtue and happiness, but it is also, in itself, unreasonable and unjust. In order to form sound opinions concerning characters and actions, two things are especially requisite, information and impartiality. But such as are most forward to decide unfavourably, are commonly destitute of both. Instead of possessing, or even requiring, full information, the grounds on which they proceed are frequently the most slight and frivolous.· ́
2. A tale perhaps which the idle have invented, the inquisitive have listened to, and the credulous have propagated; or a real incident, which rumour, in carrying it along, has exaggerated and disguised, supplies them with materials of confident assertion, and decisive judgment. From an action they presently look into the heart, and infer the motive. This supposed motive they conclude to be the ruling principle; and pronounce at once concerning the whole character.
3. Nothing can be more contrary both to equity and to sound reason, than this precipitate judgment. Any man who attends to what passes within himself, may easily discern what a complicated system the human character is; and what a variety of circumstances must be taken into the
account, in order to estimate it truly. No single instance of conduct whatever, is sufficient to determine it.
4. As from one worthy action, it were credulity, not charity, to conclude a person to be free from all vice; so from one which is censurable, it is perfectly unjust to infer that the author of it is without couscience, and without merit. If we knew all the attending circumstances, it might appear in an excusable light; nay, perhaps, under a commendable form. The motives of the actor may have been entirely ditferent from those which we ascribe to him; and where we suppose him impelled by bad design, he may have been prompted by conscience and mistaken principle.
5. Admitting the action to have been in every view crimi nal, he may have been hurried into it through inadvertency and surprise. He may have sincerely repented; and the virtuous principle may have now regained its full vigour.Perhaps this was the corner of frailty; the quarter on which he lay open to the incursions of temptation; while the other -avenues of his heart were firmly guarded by conscience.
6. It is therefore evident, that no part of the government of temper deserves attention more, than to keep our ininds pure from uncharitable prejudices, and open to candour and humanity in judging of others. The worst consequences, both to ourselves and to society, follow from the opposite ́spirit.
MISFORTUNES OF MEN MOSTLY CHARGEABLE ON THEMSELVES.
1. We find man placed in a world, where he has by no means the disposal of the events that happen. Calamities sometimes befal the worthiest and the best, which it is not in their power to prevent, and where nothing is left them, but to acknowledge, and to submit to the high hand of HeaFor such visitations of trial, many good and wise reasons can be assigned, which the present subject leads me not to discuss. But though those unavoidable calamities make a part, yet they make not the chief part of the vexations and sorrows that distress human life.
2. A multitude of evils beset us, for the source of which we must look to another quarter. No sooner has any thing in the health, or in the circumstances of men, gone cross to their wish, than they begin to talk of the unequal distribution of the good things of this life; they envy the condition of others; they repine at their own lot, and fret against the Ruler of the world.
3. Fall of these sentiments, one man pines under a broken constitution. But let us ask him, whether he can, fairly and honestly, assign no cause for this but the unknown decree of Heaven? Has he duly valued the blessing of health and always observed the rules of virtue and sobriety? Has he been moderate in his life, and temperate in all his pleasures? If now he is only paying the price of his former, perhaps his forgotten indulgencies, has he any title to complain, as if he were suffering unjustly?
4. Were we to survey the chambers of sickness and distress, we should often find them peopled with the victims of intemperance and sensuality, and with the children of vicious indolence and sloth. Among the thousands who languish there, we should find the proportion of innocent sufferers to be-small. We should see faded youth, premature old age, and the prospect of an untimely grave, to be the portion of multitudes, who, in one way or other, have brought those evils on themselves; while yet those martyrs of vice and folly have the assurance to arraign the hard fate of man, and to "fret against the Lord."
5. But you, perhaps, complain of hardships of another kind; of the injustice of the world; of the poverty which you suffer, and the discouragements under which you labour; of the crosses and disappointments of which your life has been doomed to be full. Before you give too much scope to your discontent, let me desire you to reflect impartially upon your past train of life.
6. Have not sloth or pride, or ill temper, or sinful pássions, misled you often from the path of sound and wise conduct? Have you not been wanting to yourselves in improv ing those opportunities which Providence offered you, for bettering and advancing your state? If you have chosen to indulge your humour, or your taste, in the gratifications of indolence or pleasure, can you complain because others, in preference to you, have obtained those advantages which naturally belong to useful labours, and honourable pursuits?
7. Have not the consequences of some false steps, into which your passions, or your pleasures have betrayed you pursued you through much of your life; tainted, perhaps your characters, involved you in embarrassments, or sunk you into neglect? It is an old saying, that every man is the artificer of his own fortune in the world. It is certain, that the world seldom turns wholly against a man, unless through his own fault. Religion is," in general, "profitable unto all things."