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but what terminates in the grave, no supreme autho rity to which they are accountable, and no heaven of pure felicity in prospect, for which they have any reason to prepare? Look around you, and in place of seeing each discharging the duty which he owes to himself, and impressed with the infinite value of that personal religion which fits erring and guilty man for the presence of his God, you will have too much cause to conclude that many regard its profession as a matter of customary form, or of temporary expediency, and that they do not give half the attention to the moral and spiritual glories of their nature that they willingly yield to the fleeting pursuits and pleasures of this perishable existence.




The inquiry into the chief good or happiness of man has been a favourite speculation with philosophers in all ages. The interest felt in it in Greece and in Rome gave rise to nearly three hundred different opinions on the subject *. These opinions have generally been reduced to three heads, suggested by the peculiar views of the ancient leading sects. While the followers of Epicurus regarded bodily pleasure and pain as the sole ultimate objects of aversion and desire, those of Zeno placed the supreme good in

• Varro asserts that two hundred and eighty opinions had obtained among philosophers concerning this important subject.


rectitude of conduct, without any reference to the event; and the disciples of Aristotle, while they allowed that virtue is the highest good, they neither considered it as the sole good, nor affected a total indifference to external things.

The existence of this inquiry, as well as the variety of opinions to which it has given rise, is, as it appears to me, no inconsiderable proof that man has wandered from the Fountain of happiness*. Had he been drinking at this fountain, he would not have been urged ever and anon by unsatisfied desire to ask, Who will shew us any good ? This cry has proceeded from his sense of want, the conscious absence of real, substantial, and permanent happiness; and evinces that his condition is what revelation describes it to be, alienated from God. The universality of the inquiry can only be considered as the universal acknowledgment of our race, of the unsatisfactory nature of those sources of enjoyment to which it has recourse; and the numerous answers that have been given to this inquiry direct to the fruitless attempt of constituting the mere elements of happiness, many of them casual

• O Happiness ! our being's end and aim!

Good, pleasure, ease, content, whate'er thy name !
That something still which prompts the eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die !
Which still so near us, still beyond us lies,
O'erlook d, seen double, by the fool and wise.
Plant of celestial seed ! if dropt below,
Say, in what mortal soil thou deign'st to grow ?
Fair opening to some court's propitious shine,
Or deep with diamonds in the flaming mine
Twin'd with the wreaths Parnassian laurels yield,
Or reap'd in iron harvest of the field ?
Where grows,—where grows it not ?-If vain our toil,
We ought to blame the culture, not the soil.

and fleeting, the supreme and ultimate good of man. These answers, beside, proceed on ignorance of the constitution of man as a moral agent, of the designs of the Creator in regard to the ends of his existence, and of the relations in which, as an accountable and immortal being, he stands to God, and to a never-ending eternity.

Were there an individual so circumstanced as to have it in his power to subject to the test of experience all the sources of pleasure which philosophers have represented as constituting the chief and ultimate happiness of man ;-of trying them all in succession, or as united, and of pronouncing his verdict upon each,—we should consider his judgment on the point, if not decisive, at least entitled to our serious consideration. Solomon, the king of Israel, was placed in such circumstances; with mental capacities of the highest order ; with attainments in physical and moral science that raised him far above the philosophers of his own, or of any other age; with all the resources of unbounded wealth and power, and with a peaceful reign of forty years, he was able to bring this universal inquiry to the test of experiment. He did so; he turned aside from the fountain of living waters, and gave himself up to those broken cisterns, from which man so fainly and exclusively draws; and in his book of Ecclesiastes his experience and decision are recorded.




“ Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun." The repetition of the language shews the earnestness of the speaker; it conveys the result of his experience, as well as the dictate of divine authority; and it is to be understood as applicable to all sublunary sources of happiness.

I conceive that a material error in the inquiries of philosophers into the chief good of man, has been an overlooking the actual state of the mind. If the under: standing be darkened, and the affections depraved, and the will inconstant, how can any outward circumstances afford permanent happiness? Is it not possible to be surrounded with all the means of gratification, adapted to the various faculties of our nature, and at the same time be incapable of enjoying them? In the midst of a paradise there may be springs of misery in the mind itself, sufficient to give a disrelish for all its fruits, and to present its most beauteous objects under the aspect of deformity; while, on the other hand, to a heart right with God, and right with itself, the sources of enjoyment are continuous and infinite.

Another error connected with this subject is the overlooking the most important part of the constitution

We do not consider his nature aright unless we regard him as a spiritual, intellectual, moral, and sensitive being; and as he is capable of receiving enjoyment in each of these four capacities, his happiness is, of course, incomplete, if any one of them is neglected. The first of these, namely his spiritual character, being the most important, that which is designed to modify and regulate the rest, and which gives to man his highest elevation, any scheme which has his true and abiding happiness in view should mainly include this, and consult the other powers of his nature in subserviency to it. If, indeed, he has been made in the image of God, and fitted and designed to have his happiness in his favour, his service, and in his presence, and that his intellectual and sensitive capacities are to be gratified in accordance with this and in subordination to it, then surely every plan which would aim at securing the chief good of man, by reversing this order and frustrating this design, must be fruitless and vain.

of man.

A third error connected with this subject is, that in the numerous attempts that have been made to point out the chief good of man, the mere elements of happiness have been considered as the supreme and ultimate objects of desire and aversion. This is a material error; and yet it has very generally misled mankind. Because we are encompassed with sources of enjoyment, some of them more fixed, others more fleeting, it is, therefore, supposed that one or other of these, or all of them united, must constitute the real happiness of man; while in truth they are only accessaries to this happiness, and are not essentially connected with it. Every thing, however excellent in

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