網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

There are but two things, which, in my opinion, can reasonably deprive us of this cheerfulness of heart. The first of these is the sense of guilt. A man who lives in a fate of vice and impenitence can have no title to that even. ness and tranquillity of mind which are the health of the foul, and the natural effect of virtue and innocence. Cheerfulness in a bad man deserves

a

harder name than language can furnish us with, and is many degrees beyond what we commonly call folly or madness.

Atheism, by which I mean a disbelief of a Supreme Be. ing, and consequently of a future ftate, under whatsoever title it shelters itself, may likewise very reasonably deprive a man of this cheerfulness of temper. There is something fo, particularly gloomy and offensive to human nature in the prospect of non-existence, that I cannot but wonder with many excellent writers, how it is possible for a man to outlive the expectation of it. For my own part, I think the being of a God is so little to be doubted, that it is als most the only truth we are sure of, and such a truth as we meet with in every object, in every occurrence, and in every thought. If we look into the characters of this tribe of infidels, we generally find they are made up of pride, spleen, and cavil. It is indeed no wonder, that men, who are uneasy in themselves, should be so to the rest of the world ; and how is it possible for a man to be otherwise than uneasy in himself, who is in danger every moment of losing his entire existence, and dropping into nothing.

The vicious man and atheist have therefore no pretence to cheerfulness, and would act very unreasonably, should they endeavour after it. It is impoflible for any one to live in good humour, and enjoy his present existence, who is apprehensive either of torment or of annihilation ; of being miferable, or of not being at all.

After having mentioned these two great principles, which are deltiuctive of cheerfulness in their own nature, as well as in right reason, I cannot think of any other that ought to banish this happy temper from a virtuous mind. Pain and fickness, shame and reproach, poverty and old age, nay, death itself, considering the shortness of their duration, and the advantage we may reap from them, do not deserve the name of evils. A good mind may bear up under them with fortitude, with tranquillity, and with cheerfulness of heart. The toffing of a tempeft does not discom. pose him, who is sure it will bring him to a joyful harbour

A man who uses his best endeavours to live according to the dictates of virtue and right reason, has two perpetual sources of cheerfulness, in the confideration of his own na. ture, and of that Being on whom he has a dependence. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence which was fo lately bestowed upon him, and which, after millions of ages, will be fill new, and still in its beginning. How many felf-congratulations naturally arise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity ; when it takes a view of those improveable faculties, which in a few years, and even at its first setting out, have made fo consider. able a progress, and which will be still receiving an increase of perfection, and consequently an increase of happiness ! The consciousness of such a being causes a perpetual diffusion of joy through the soul of a virtuous man ; and makes him feel as much happiness as he is capable of conceiving.

The second source of cheerfulness to a good mind, is, its confideration of that Being, on whom we have our dependence, and in whom, though we behold him as yet but in the first faint discoveries of his perfections, we see every thing that we can imagine as great, glorious, or amiable. We find ourselves every where upheld oy his goodness, and surrounded with an immensity of love and mercy. In short, we depend upon a Being, whose power qualifies him to make us happy by an infinity of means ; whose goodness and truth engage him to make those happy who desire it of him ; and whose unchangeableness will secure for us this happiness to all eternity.

Such considerations, which every one should perpetually cherish in his thoughts, will banish from us all that secret heaviness of heart, which unthinking men are subject to when they lie under no real afliction ; all that anguilh which we may feel from any evil that actually oppresses us ; to which I may likewise add, those little cracklings of mirth and folly, that are apter to betray virtue than support it ; and establish in us to even and cheerful a temper, as will make us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we con. verse, and to Him whom we are made to please. ADDISON.

SECTION III: Happy effeas of contemplating the works of nature. With the divine works we are in every place surrounded. We can calt our eyes no where, without discerning the hand

D

of Him who formed them, if the grossness of our minds will only allow us to behold Him. Let giddy and thoughtless men turn aside a little from the hauntsof riot. Let them stand still, and contemplate the wondrous works of God; and make trial of the effect which such contem. plation would produce. It were good for them that, even independently of the Author, they were more acquainted with his works ; good for them, that from the societies of loose and dissolute men, they would retreat to the scenes of nature ; would oftener dwell among them, and enjoy their beauties. This would form them to the relish of uncor. rupted, innocent pleasures; and make them feel the value of calm enjoyments, as superior to the noise and turbulence of licentious gaiety. From the harmony of nature, and of nature's works, they would learn to hear fweeter founds than those which arise from “ the viol, the tabret, and the pipe.”

But to higher and more serious thoughts these works of nature give occasion, when considered in conjunction with the Creator who made them." Let me call on you, my friends, to catch some interval of reflection, some serious moment, for looking vith thoughtful eye on the world around you. Lift yout view to that immense arch of heav. en which encompasses you above. Behold the fun in all his fplendour rolling over your head by day ; and the moon, by night, in mild and serene majesty, surrounded with that host of fars which present to your imagination an innumerable multitude of worlds. Listen to the awful voice of thunder. Listen to the roar of the tempest and the ocean.

Survey the wonders that fill the earth which you inbabit. Contemplate a steady and powerful Hand, bringing round spring and summer, autumn and winter, in regular course ; decorating this earth with innumerable beauties, diversifying it with innumerable inhabitants ; pouring forth comforts on all that live ; and, at the same time, overawing the nations with the violence of the ele. ments, when it pleases the Creator to let them forth. After you have viewed yourselves as surrounded with such a scene of wonders ;

you have beheld, on every hand, so astonishing a display of majesty united with wisdom and goodness; are you not seized with folemn and serious awe? Is there not something which whispers within, that to this great Creator reverence and homage are due by all the rational beings whom he has made ? Admitted to be fpe&ators of his works, placed in the midst of so many great and interesting objects, can you believe that you were brought hither for no purpose, but to immerse your. selves in gross and brutal, or, at best, in trifling pleasures ; lost to all sense of the wonders you behold; lost to all reverence of that God who gave you being, and who has erected this amazing fabric of nature, on which you look only with stupid and unmeaning eyes? No : let the scenes which you behold prompt correspondent feelings. Let them awakerf you from the degrading intoxication of licentiousness, into nobler emotions. Every object which you view in nature, whether great or small, serves to instruct you.

after

The star and the infe&, the fiery meteor and the flower of spring, the verdant field and the lofty mountain, all exhibit a fupreme Power, before which you ought to tremble and adore ; all preach the do&rine, all inspire the fpirit of devotion and reverence. Regarding, then, the work of the Lord, let rising emotions of awe and gratitude call forth from your fouls such sentiments as these ;“Lord, wherever I am, and whatever I enjoy, may I neve er forget thee, as the Author of nature ! May I never forget that I am thy creature and thy subject! In this magnificent temple of the universe, where thou hast placed me, may I ever be thy faithful worthipper ; and may the reverence and the fear of God be the first sentiments of

my heart !"

SECTION IV.

ܪ

BLAIR.

Reflexions on the universal presence of the Deity. In one of my late papers, I had occasion to consider the ubiquity of the Godhead, and at the same time to show, that as he is present to every thing, he cannot but be attentive to every thing, and privy to all the modes and parts of its existence : or, in other words, that his omniscience and omnipresence are co-existent, and run together through the whole infinitude of space. This consideration might furnilh us with many incentives to devotion, and motives to morality ; but as this subject has been handled by fev. eral excellent writers, 1 shall consider it in a light in which I have not seen it placed by others.

First, How disconsolate is the condition of an intellectu. al being, who is thus present with his Maker, but at the fame time receives no extraordinary benefit or advantage from his presence !

Secondly, How deplorable is the condition of an intellectual being, who feels no other effects from his presence, than such as proceed from divine wrath and indignation !

Thirdly, How happy is the condition of that intellectual being, who is sensible of his Maker's presence, from the fe. cret effects of his mercy and loving-kindness !

First, How disconfolate is the condition of an intellectual being, who is thus present with his Maker, but at the same time receives no extraordinary benefit or advantage from his presence ! Every particle of matter is actuated by this Almighty Being which paffes through it. The heavens and the earth, the itars and planets, move and gravitate by virtue of this great principle within them. All the dead parts of nature are invigorated by the presence of their Creator, and made capable of exerting their respective qual. ities. The several instincts, in the brute creation, do like. wise operate and work towards the several ends which are agreeable lo them, by this divine energy. Man only, who does not co-operate with his holy Spirit, and is inattentive to his presence, receives none of those advantages from it, which are perfective of his nature, and necessary to his well-being. "The divinity is with him, and in him, and every where about him, but of no advantage to him. It is the same thing to a man without religion, as if there were no God in the world. It is indeed impoffible for an infinite Being to remove himself from any of his creatures ; but though he cannot withdraw his essence from us, which would argue an imperfection in him, he can withdraw from us all the joys and consolations of it. His presence may perhaps be necessary to support us in our existence; but he may leave this our existence to itself with regard to its happiness or misery. For, in this sense, he may cast us away from his presence, and take his holy Spirit from us. This fingle consideration one would think fufficient to make us open our hearts to all those infusions of joy and gladness, which are so near at hand, and ready to be pour. ed in upon us : especially when we consider,

Secondly, the deplorable condition of an intellectual being, who feels no other effects from his Maker's presence than such as proceed from divine wrath and indignation. We may assure ourselves, that the great Author of nature will not always be as one who is indifferent to any of his creatures, Those who will not feel him in his love, will

« 上一頁繼續 »