صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the medium through which it appears, and the feelings in which it is received, are changed. No one can deny but that the agreeable impression of outward things is impaired by infirmity and sickness of body. But many are not aware, that it may be equally injured by a disorder of the soul. Yet so it is. A pain in the tooth, or in the joint, will no more preclude enjoyment than the workings of jealousy, or suspicion, or envy, or anger, or revenge. Under the corrosion of these evils, a man must be wretched in all the entertainments of a palace, and all the scenery of a paradise. But religion forbids and subdues these self-tormenting, as well as vile tempers. It teaches the man to love his neighbour as himself. It enables him to rejoice in another's welfare. It renders him an Israelite indeed in whom there is no guile; and enables him to confide in others by judging of them from his own feelings of sincerity and harmlessness.—Why is that man so cheerless and uneasy? Is he poor? Has he been robbed of his estate ? Look at his portion. What one more thing can he desire ? But all will not bend to his humour. All will not respect him as the first man in the neighbourhood. He has the sorrow of the world that worketh death. A Christian does not feel this disease. He is meek and lowly in heart; and finds rest unto his soul. Here is another dissatisfied and peevish mortal. Nothing pleases him. He reflects upon every one around him. His house is the hospital of ill-nature, and every ward is filled with complaint. What is the cause ? He will not own it : but guilt makes him fretful. He is conscious of some duty he has neglected ; some sin which he has committed ; some restitution which he ought to make ;


some connexion which he ought to succour. This consciousness makes him uneasy. When censured, he knows he deserves it ; when praised, he feels he is unworthy of it. He is a burden to himself. But a good man, says Solomon, shall be satisfied from himself. His rejoicing, though not his dependence, is the testimony of his conscience. He is not free from infirmity ; but he can say, with David, " I was upright before Him, and have kept myself from mine iniquity.”

Religion makes a man grateful: and gratitude is a lively and cheerful temper: and though to be under obligation to the mean and worthless, or to an enemy, be trying ; nothing can be more delightful than to feel and acknowledge what we owe to one we greatly esteem and love, and who is worthy to be praised. David therefore speaks of the “ pleasant harp :" and says, “ Praise ye the Lord; for the Lord is good : sing praises unto his name; for it is pleasant.” And to show what a connection this exercise has with happiness, we are assured that it will continue in heaven, and perfect the enjoyment of the glorified.

Religion also makes a man beneficent; and this also contributes to his happiness. What do the selfish know of the pleasure of prosperity, compared with those who love to do. good and to communicate? Is it not more blessed to give than to receive ? Can any gratification be so pure, so cordial, so divine, so fresh and interesting in review, as that which is reflected back into the bosom from the feelings, and tears, and joy, of the partakers of your bounty ? What voluptuary from his most studied and costly procurements ever tasted luxury like Job's ? 6.When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had done to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me : and I caused the widow's heart to sing for joy. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor : and the cause which I knew not I searched out."

There is one view more to be taken of the subject; it is, the confidence in God which religion inspires. “ Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee, because he trusteth in thee.” Why do not many enjoy what God has given them? They are anxious and foreboding. They suspend their satisfaction on some future occurrence —they may meet with losses—they may come to want : thus - they are not in quiet from the fear of evil.” But the soul of the Christian dwells at ease. He knows not what a day may bring forth ; nor does he desire it. He has nothing to do with events. He lives by the day; and knows that he is under the providence of his heavenly Father, who is able and engaged to make all things work together for his good.

But this implies the previous adjustment of a case most awfully interesting. Belshazzar's entertainment was destroyed as soon as he saw a hand writing against the wall. Then neither the wine, nor the music, nor the company of a thousand of his lords, had the least power to charm : and though he was ignorant of the meaning of the inscription, he fore. boded evil; and the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. If a man


was at the most enchanting banquet, with a sword hanging over his head by a small and rotten ligature, he could not enjoy it; or if he did, it must be by forgetting his jeopardy while yet his danger continued. The sinner is the enemy of God, and the child of wrath; and there is but a step between him and eternal death. The thought of this—the reflection that I must soon, and may every moment exchange all my good things here for the worm that never dies, and the fire that never shall be quenched—why surely this is sufficient to turn all my joy into sadness and horror. To enjoy therefore, in this state, I must forget my exposure. Conscience tells me I have no right to take comfort. I must therefore creep forth and steal, while conscience is asleep. But will it, can it sleep always? How quickly may it be awakened 1 And then trembling takes hold upon me. My enjoyment, if it deserves the name, depends therefore on delusion; and this delusion is at the mercy of a thousand disturbers. If therefore I am not always in bondage, I am always subject to bondage through fear of death; and there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked. But the Christian being justified by faith, has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. His anger is turned away; and as soon as He smiles every thing smiles. In his favour is life. Tell me, ye who are unpardoned and unrenewed—Can you, you who have no hope of a better world, and no certainty of continuing an instant in this—Can you enjoy the comforts of life like one who knows that whenever he dies, to die is gain? That he has in heaven a better and an enduring substance? That he has a covenant right to all he possesses? That it comes to

him with the good will of his God and Saviour? saying, as he partakes—“Eat thy bread with cheerfulness, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, for God hath accepted thy works?”

“He looks abroad into the varied field
“Of nature, and though poor perhaps, compared
“With those whose mansions glitter in his sight,
“Calls the delightful scenery all his own.
“His are the mountains, and the valleys his,
“And the resplendent rivers. His to enjoy
“With a propriety that none can feel,
“But who, with filial confidence inspired,
“Can lift to heaven an unpresumptuous eye,
“And smiling say—“My Father made them all!”
“Are they not his by a peculiar right,
“And by an emphasis of interest his,
“Whose eye they fill with tears of holy joy,
“Whose heart with praise, and whose exalted mind
“With worthy thoughts of that unwearied love,
“That planned, and built, and still upholds a world
“So clothed with beauty for rebellious man?
“Yes—ye may fill your garners, ye that reap
“The loaded soil, and ye may waste much good
“In senseless riot; but ye will not find
“In feasts, or in the chase, in song, or dance,
“A liberty like his, who, unimpeached
“Of usurpation, and to no man's wrong,
“Appropriates nature as his Father's work,

“And has a richer use of yours than you.”

We have seen how religion befriends Prosperity, by raising and increasing its enjoyments. But you ask, can it preserve? Yes. It insures the continuance as far as it is good for us. But we are not going to deny that every thing here is precarious. “Truly light is sweet, and a pleasant thing it is for the eyes to behold the sun; but if a man live many years,

« السابقةمتابعة »