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“ The law of God speaks the language of the children of men*.” They speak of this celestial life, under the representations of an heritage, of riches, of a kingdom, and a crown, but with uncommon epithets, and such as are by no means applicable to any earthly glory or opulence, however great. It is an inheritance, but one that is uncorrupted, undefiled, and that fadeth not away ; a kingdom, but one that can never be shaken, much less ruined ; which can never be said of the thrones of this sublunary world, as evidently appears from the histories of all nations, and our own recent experience. Here, ye sons of Adam, a covetous and ambitious race, here is room for a laudable avarice; here are motives to excite your ambition, and, at the same time, the means of satisfying it to the full. But it must be acknowledged, that the belief of these things is far from being common. What a rare attainment is faith, seeing that among the prodigious crowds of those who who profess to believe, in this world, one might justly cry out, Where is a true believer to be found ? That man shall never persuade me, that he believes the truth and certainty of heavenly enjoyments, who cleaves to this earth, nay, who does, not scorn and despise it, with all its baits and allurements, and employ all his powers, as well as his utmost industry, to obtain these immense and eternal blessings.
Nor is there any thing in the way to these enjoyments that can deter you from it, unless holiness in heart and life appear to be a heavy and troublesome task to you: whereas, on the contrary, nothing surely can be named, that is either more suited to the dignity of human nature, more beautiful and becoming, or attended with greater pleasure. I therefore beseech and entreat you, by the bowels of Divine mercy, and by your own most precious souls, that you would seriously consider these things, and make them your principal study. Try an experiment, attended with no danger or expense; make a trial of the ways of this wisdom, and I doubt not but you will be so charmed
* Lex Dei loquitur linguam filiorum hominum.
with the pleasantness thereof, that you will never thenceforward depart from them. For this purpose, I earnestly recommend to you, to be constant and assiduous in prayer. Nay, it is St. Paul's exhortation, that you pray without ceasing. 1 Thes. v. 17. So that prayer may be, not only, according to the old saying, Clavis diei, et sera noctis, The key that opens the day, and the lock that shuts up the night; but also, so to speak, a staff for support in the day-time, and a bed for rest and comfort in the night; two conveniences which are commonly expressed by one single Hebrew word. And be assured, that the more frequently you pray, with so much the greater ease and pleasure will your prayers be attended, not only from the common and necessary connexion between acts and habits, but also from the nature of this duty. For prayer, being a kind of conversation with God, gradually purifies the soul, and makes it continually more and more like unto Him. Our love to God is also very much improved by this frequent intercourse with Him; and by His love, on the other hand, the soul is effectually disposed to fervency, as well as frequency in prayer, and can, by no means, subsist without it.
Of Happiness, its Name aud Nature, and the Desire of it implanted in
the Human Heart.
How deep and dark is that abyss of misery, into which man is precipitated by his deplorable fall; since he has thereby lost, not only the possession, but also the knowledge of his chief or principal good! He has no distinct notion of what it is, of the means of recovering it, or the way he has to take in pursuit of . it. Yet the human mind, however stunned and weakened by so dreadful a fall, still retains some faint idea, some confused and obscure notions of the good it has lost, and some remaining seeds of its heavenly original *. It has also still remaining,
* Cognati semina cæli.
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. * In beatitudinem fertur voluntas, non ut voluntas, sed ut natura.
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 pur. sues 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 myself *.”
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
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
"oux in Hebrew, paraprotns et sudarpovía in Greek, felicitas et beatitudo in Latin.