Page images

kind of languid sense of its misery and indigence, with affections suitable to those obscure notions. From this imperfect sense of its poverty, and these feeble affections, arise some motions and efforts of the mind, like those of one groping in the dark, and seeking rest every where, but meeting with it no where. This, at least, is beyond all doubt, and indisputable, that all men wish well to themselves, nay, that they all catch at, and desire to attain the enjoyment of the most absolute and perfect good; even the worst of men have not lost this regard for themselves, nor can they possibly divest themselves of it. And though, alas! it is but too true, that, as we are naturally blind, we run ourselves upon misery, under the disguise of happiness, and not only embrace, according to the common saying, “ a cloud instead of Juno *,” but death itself instead of life: yet, even from this most fatal error, it is evident that we naturally pursue either real happiness, or what, to our mistaken judgment, appears to be such. Nor can the mind of man divest itself of this propensity, without divesting itself of its being. This is what the schoolmen mean, when, in their manner of expression, they say, “That the will is carried towards happiness, not simply as will, but as naturet."

It is true, indeed, the generality of mankind are not well acquainted with the motions of their own minds, nor at pains to observe them, but, like brutes, by a kind of secret impulse, are violently carried towards such enjoyments as fall in their way: they do but very little, or not at all, enter into themselves, and review the state and operations of their own minds; yet, in all their actions, all their wishes and desires, (though they are not always aware of it themselves,) this thirst after immortality exerts and discovers itself. Consider the busy part of mankind, hurrying to and fro in the exercise of their several professions, physicians, lawyers, merchants, mechanics, farmers, and even soldiers themselves ; they all toil and labour, in order to obtain rest, if success attend their endeavours, and

* Nubem pro Junone.
of In beatitudinem fertur voluntas, non ut voluntas, sed ut natura.

any fortunate event answer their expectations. Encouraged by these fond hopes, they eat their bread with the sweat of their brow. But their toil, after all, is endless, constantly returning in a circle; and the days of men pass away in suffering real evils, and entertaining fond hopes of apparent good, which they seldom or never attain. Every man walks in a vain shew; he torments himself in vain. Psal. xxxix. 6. He pursues rest and ease, like his shadow, and never overtakes them; but, for the most part, ceases to live before he begins to live to purpose. However, after all this confused and fluctuating appetite which determines us to the pursuit of good, either real or apparent, as it is congenial with us, and deeply rooted in the human heart, so it is the great handle by which Divine Grace lays hold, as it were, upon our nature, draws us to itself, and extricates us out of the profound abyss of misery, into which we are fallen.

From this it evidently follows, that the design of Sacred Theology is the very same with that of human nature, and he that rejects it hates his own soul; (for so the wise king of Israel emphatically expresses it, Prov. viii. 36,) he is the most irreconcileable enemy to his own happiness, and absolutely at variance with himself; according to that of St. Bernard, “ After I was set in opposition to Thee, I became also contrary to my. self *.*

These considerations have determined me to begin these instructions, such as they are, which, with Divine assistance, I intend to give you concerning the principles of the Christian religion, with a short disquisition concerning the chief or ultimate end of man. And here it is to be, first of all; observed, that the transcendent and supreme end of all, is, the glory of God; all things returning, in a most beautiful circle, to this, as the original source from which they at first took their rise. But the end of true religion, as far as it regards us, which is immediately connected with the former, and serves, in a most

[ocr errors]

* Postquam posuisti me contrarium tibi, factus sum contrarius mihi.

glorious manner, to promote it, is, the salvation and happiness of mankind.

Though I should not tell you, what is to be understood by the term happiness or felicity in general, I cannot imagine any of you would be at a loss about it. Yet, I shall give a brief explication of it, that you may have the more distinct ideas of the thing itself, and the juster notions of what is to be further advanced on the subject. Nor is there, indeed, any controversy on this head; for all are agreed, that by the terms commonly used in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin * to express happiness or felicity, we are to understand that perfect and complete good, which is suited and adapted to intelligent nature. I say, to intelligent nature, because the brute creatures cannot be said to be happy, but in a very improper sense. Happiness cannot be ascribed to horses or oxen, let them be ever so well fed, and left in the full possession of liberty and ease. And as good in general is peculiar to intelligent beings; so, more especially, that perfect good, which constitutes felicity in its full and most extensive acceptation. It is true, indeed, in common conversation, men are very prodigal of this term, and, with extravagant levity, misapply it to every common enjoyment of life, or apparent good they meet with, especially such as is most suited to their present exigencies; and thus, as Aristotle, in his Ethics, expresses it, “The sick person considers health, and the poor man riches, as the chief good. It is also true, that learned men, and even the sacred Scriptures, give the name of felicity to some symptoms and small beginnings of future happiness. But, as we have already observed, this term, in its true and complete sense, comprehends in it that absolute and full perfection of good, which entirely excludes all uneasiness, and brings with it every thing that can contribute to satisfaction and delight. Consequently, that good, whatever it be, that most perfectly supplies all the wants, and satisfies all

in Hebrew,

T, Haragiotus et sudarovía in Greek, felicitas et beatitudo in Latin,


the cravings of our rational appetites, is objective felicity, as the schools express it; and actual, or formal felicity, is the full possession and enjoyment of that complete and chief good. It consists of a perfect tranquillity of the mind, and not a dull and stupid indolence, like the calm that reigns in the dead sea; but such a piece of mind as is lively, active, and constantly attended with the purest joy: not a mere absence of uneasiness and pain; but such a perfect ease as is constantly accompanied with the most perfect satisfaction, and supreme delight: and if the term had not been degraded by the mean uses to which it has been prostituted, I should not scruple to call it pleasure*. And, indeed, we may still call it by this name, provided we purify the term, and guard it by the following limitations; so as to understand by felicity, such a pleasure as is perfect, constant, pure, spiritual, and divine. For never, since I ventured to think upon such subjects, could I be satisfied with the opinion of Aristotle and the school-men, who distinguish between the fruition of the chief good, which constitutes true felicity, and the delight and satisfaction attending that fruition; because, at this rate, that good would not be the ultimate end and completion of our desires, nor desired on its own account: for whatever good we wish to possess, the end of our wishing is, that we may enjoy it with tranquillity and delight; and this uninterrupted delight or satisfaction, which admits of no alloy, is, love in possession of the beloved object, and at the height of its ambition.


Of the HAPPINESS of Man, and that it is really to be found.

You will not, I imagine, be offended, nor think I intend to insult you,

because I have once and again, with great earnest

* Η ευδαιμονία ηδονή αμεταβλητός : Happiness in pleasure perpetuated. Vol. IV.


ness and sincerity, wished you and myself a sound and serious temper of mind; for, if we may represent things as they really are, very few men are possessed of so valuable a blessing. The far greater part of them are intoxicated either with the pleasures or the cares of this world; they stagger about with a tottering and unstable pace; and, as Solomon expresses it, The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; because he knoweth not how to go to the city: Eccle. X. 15:—the heavenly city, and the vision of peace, which very few have a just notion of, or are at pains to seek after. Nay, they know not what it is they are seeking. They flutter from one object to another, and live at hazard. They have no certain harbour in view, nor direct their course by any fixed star. But to him that knoweth not the port to which he is bound, no wind can be favourable; neither can he who has not yet determined at what mark he is to shoot, direct his arrow aright. That this may not be our case, but that we may have a proper object to aim at, I propose to speak of the chief end of our being.

And to begin at the Father of Spirits, or pure intelligences, God, blessed for ever, completely happy in Himself from all eternity, is His own happiness. His self-sufficiency; [AutégnElx,] that eternal and infinite satisfaction and complacency He has in Himself, is the peculiar and most complete felicity of that Supreme Being who derives his existence from Himself, and has given being to every thing else. Which Chrysostom has well expressed by saying, 66 That it is God's peculiar property to stand in need of nothing *." And Claudius Victor beautifully describes Him as “ vested with all the majesty of creative power, comprehending in His infinite mind all the creatures to be afterwards produced, having all the revolutions of time constantly present to His all-seeing eye, and being an immense and most glorious kingdom to Himself t."

* Θεού μάλιστα ίδιον το ανένδεες. .
*Regnabatq. ; potens in majestate creandi,

Et facienda videns, gignendaq.; mente capaci,
Secula despiciens, et quicquid tempora volvunt
Presens semper habens : immensum mole beata
Regnum erat ipse sibi.

« PreviousContinue »