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certain triumph and insolence of heart, that are inconsistent with a life which is every moment obnoxious to the greatest dangers.
Cheerfulness of mind is not liable to any of these excep tions. It is of a serious and composed nature. It does not throw the mind into a condition improper for the present state of humanity; and is very conspicuous in the characters of those, who are looked upon as the greatest philosophers among the heathens, as well as among those, who have been deservedly esteemed as saints and holy men among Christians.
If we consider cheerfulness in three lights, with regard to ourselves, to those we converse with, and to the great Author of our being, it will not a little recommend itself on each of these accounts. The man who is possessed of this excellent frame of mind, is not only easy in his thoughts, but a perfect master of all the powers and faculties of the soul: his imagination is always clear, and his judgment undisturb ed; his temper is even and unruffled, whether in action or in solitude. He comes with a relish to all those goods which nature has provided for him; tastes all the pleasures of the creation which are poured around him; and does not feel the full weight of those accidental evils which may befall him.
If we consider him in relation to the persons with whom he converses, it naturally produces love and good-will towards him. A cheerful mind is not only disposed to be affable and obliging, but raises the same good humour in those who come within its influence. A man finds himself pleased, he does not know why, with the cheerfulness of his companion : it is like a sudden sunshine that awakens a secret delight in the mind, without her attending to it. The heart rejoices of its own accord, and naturally flows out into friendship and benevolence, towards the person who has so kindly an effect upon it.
When I consider this cheerful state of the mind in its third relation, I cannot but look upon it as a constant habitual gratitude to the great Author of nature. An inward cheerfulness is an implicit praise and thanksgiving to Providence under all its dispensations. It is a kind of acquiescence in the state wherein we are placed, and a secret approbation of the divine will in his conduct towards man.
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 state of vice and impenitence, can have no title to that evenness and tranquillity of mind, which are the health of the soul, 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 Being, and consequently of a future state, under whatsoever title it shelters itself, may likewise very reasonably deprive a man of this cheerfulness of temper. There is something so 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 almost 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 impossible for any one to live in good humour, and enjoy his present existence, who is apprehensive either of torment or of annihilation; of being miserable, or of not being at all.
After having mentioned these two great principles, which are destructive 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 sickness, 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 tossing of a tempest does not discompose a man, who is sure it will bring him to a joyful harbour.
He who uses his best endeavours to live according to the dictates of virtue and right reason, has two perpetual sources
of cheerfulness, in the consideration of his own nature, and of that Being on whom he has a dependence. If he looks into himself, he cannot but rejoice in that existence, which was so lately bestowed upon him, and which, after millions of ages, will be still new, and still in its beginning. How many self-congratulations naturally arise in the mind, when it reflects on this its entrance into eternity; when it takes a view of those improvable faculties, which in a few years, and even at its first setting out, have made so considerable 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 consideration 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 by 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 affliction; all that anguish 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 so even and cheerful a temper, as will make us pleasing to ourselves, to those with whom we converse, and to Ilim whom we are made to please. ADD ON.
Happy effects of contemplating the works of nature.
WITH the Divine works we are in every place surrounded. We can cast our eyes no where, without discerning
the hand 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 haunts of riot. Let them stand still, and contemplate the wondrous works of God; and make trial of the effect which such contemplation 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 uncorrupted, 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 sweeter sounds 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 with thoughtful eye on the world around you. Lift your view to that immense arch of heaven which encompasses you above. Behold the sun in all his splendour rolling over your head by day; and the moon, by night, in mild and serene majesty, surrounded with that host of stars 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 inhabit. 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 elements, when it pleases the Creator to let them forth. After you have viewed yourselves as surrounded with such a scene of wonders; after you have beheld, on every hand, so astonishing a display of majesty united with wisdom and goodness; are you not seized with solemn 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 spectators 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 yourselves 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 awaken 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. The star and the insect, the fiery meteor and the flower of spring, the verdant field and the lofty mountain, all exhibit a supreme Power, before which you ought to tremble and adore; all preach the doctrine, all inspire the spirit of devotion and reverence. Regarding, then, the work of the Lord, let rising emotions of awe and gratitude call forth from your souls such sentiments as these: "Lord, wherever I am, and whatever I enjoy, may I never 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 worshipper; and may the reverence and the fear of God be the first sentiments of my heart!"
Reflections 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 furnish. us with many incentives to devotion, and motives to morality; but as this subject has been handled by several excellent writers, I shall consider it in a light in which I have not seen it placed by others.
First, How disconsolate 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!