Billeder på siden

knowledge, esteem, society, power, and happiness ; others are acquired, as the desire of wealth, and its concomitants. A considerable part of true morality consists in the proper regulation of these desires, and in seeking their gratification only in subordination to the divine authority, and to the higher ends of our being. Out of the heart, we are assured, proceed the issues of life ; according to the affections and desires habitually entertained there, will be the tenor of the conduct; and no reformation, therefore, can be effectual which aims not at the thorough melioration of the inward as well as the outward man. “ Either make the tree good and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruits. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth good things; and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things.”

Even desires which are in themselves lawful, must be indulged under the restraints of conscience, and the direction of the purest and the best motives. Unless reduced to this subjection, they will always be prone to mislead, and in many cases they will go beyond the boundaries of virtue. Can the man who is ever fixing his thoughts on the honour of the world, who indulges himself in ambitious views and projects, and whose fancy dwells on the fleeting visions which the love of fame and of distinction calls into existence, have the moderation or the hardihood to withstand temptation, when it addresses itself to the weakness and the corruption of his nature? Will he who makes gold his hope, and who has said to the fine gold, thou art my confidence, who has consecrated his best

thoughts to the love of money, and who connects his happiness with its attainment, be likely to resist the snares which so invariably accompany the immoderate desire of wealth? Though the habitual and inordinate indulgence of an affection should not discover the strength it has acquired by any immorality of conduct, it is not, therefore, innocent in the sight of God. He requires, what he is entitled to receive, the supremacy of the heart ; and no idol should sit


that throne which he claims as his own. In resisting this claim, in yielding to the dominion of any inordinate desire,-such as the love of wealth, or of honour, or of rank, or even to a painful anxiety as to the means of subsistence, we dishonour God, and reflect censure on the providential arrangements of that compassionate parent, whose tender mercies are over all his works, and who is the never-failing refuge of his people.

How numerous are the motives to urge us to the practice of temperance in the various ways which have now been mentioned. The consideration of the health and the happiness which its exercise secures, is no trifling inducement. Did we only consider the inestimable value of this advantage, it seems scarcely possible that we could resist the force of so palpable a motive. Did we remember how much, from the constitution of our nature, our happiness depends on a simple reliance upon God, and on a course of action conformable to his will, we should, for our own sakes, be temperate, not only in the outward act, but in the indulgence of the affections and desires of the mind. How soon may the schemes which gratify ambition, or cherish the inordinate wish for wealth, or that

foster the love of distinction and superiority, be frustrated, and leave their projectors overwhelmed with misery and disappointment: while those who exercise moderation in all things, and who endeavour to devise and to act agreeably to the will of God, by placing their supreme affections on the portion that can never forsake them, have the peace of God amid all the trials and the changes of the world. They shall be, to use the beautiful and expressive language of revelation, " like trees planted by the rivers of waters, that bring forth their fruit in their season, and whose leaves do not wither.” They look for their happiness to sources that are independent of change; they allow their desires to be unchecked only in reference to objects that cannot disappoint them; they have intrusted to the care of omnipotence all that is necessary for their accommodation on earth, and all that is requisite to complete their happiness in eternity; and should they meet with reverses in their lot, they cannot be greatly depressed by evils which are incapable of impairing their incorruptible and unfading inheritance. Thus, from their trust in God, from the value they attach to his love and approbation, are they prepared to say, in the subdued tone of sublime devotion ; “ Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine, the labour of the olive should fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”

[ocr errors]




The influence of contentment on the religious and moral state of the heart, as well as on the manner in which man discharges the duties which he owes to man, places it high in the rank of virtues. It is enjoined on various grounds in the Scriptures : “ Godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world. and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content *. -Be content with such things as ye have; for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee f.”

Contentment is a state of mind resulting from religion, and is to be distinguished from mere indifference, from gaiety of disposition, and from good-humour. In order to exercise this virtue, it is not necessary that we should feel indifferent to the eyils connected with the circumstances in which we are placed. On the contrary, it implies the existence of events not in themselves agreeable to us; but to which we feel it to be our duty to reconcile our minds, by moderating our desires after unattainable good, and by bearing with equanimity and resignation our difficulties and trials. Without the combination of these two exercises of mind,-moderation in our desires for earthly enjoyment, and a sustaining of the burden which Pro

* 1 Tim, vi. 6-8.

+ Heb. xiii. 5.

vidence is pleased to lay upon us with patience and cheerfulness, there can be no contentment. This state of mind is enforced and recommended, by the consi. deration of the virtues included in its exercise ; of the cause from which its opposite, discontent, proceeds; of the immediate advantages which it brings the possessor; of the perishable nature of all earthly enjoyments, and the enduring and eternal happiness of heaven.

I. Contentment is enforced and recommended by the consideration of the virtues which are included in its exercise. It implies a frame of mind so virtuous, that its possessor is at peace with himself. This is an essential pre-requisite to a contented heart, without which there could not be satisfaction on earth,-no, nor in heaven. While the conscience frowns, and directs to a fearful looking for of judgment, how can any outward circumstances please, and how can the mind be peaceful and serene? It must be capable of looking to God with delight, to the future with hope, and to itself with tranquillity, before it can experience the happiness of contentment.

But, besides this, there must be such a conviction of the infinite excellency of the divine government, and such a humble hope of being interested in the divine favour, as will lead to a cheerful acquiescence in all the dispensations of God. The conviction that the supreme government under which we are placed, though it may occasionally seem to us surrounded with clouds and darkness, and though the scenes through which we are called to pass be often perplexing and distressing, is founded in benevolence, as well as in justice and in


« ForrigeFortsæt »