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with various charms, which fascinate the thoughtless and unwary. She puts on the smiling countenance of a friend, flatters the animal appetites, promises profit and honour and pleasure, and seems to have freedom and joy in her train. Under this engaging vizor, by these treacherous promises, she gains the ear of man, offers him her enchanted cup, inebriates him with the honied poison, gets the mastery of him, binds him in her spell; and commonly he is not aware of her impostures, till he is become a deplorable victim to them, till he feels himself completely enervated, degraded to a slave, and utterly undone.
THINGS OPPOSED TO THE PLEASURES OF HUMAN
Tbro' all the various shifting scene
Of life's mistaken ill or good,
The beautiful vicissitude.
Howe'er unjustly we complain,
Of joy and sorrow, health and pain.
On his eternal will depend,
Would man pursue th' appointed end.
That the Creator intended the pleasure and felicity of his creatures, in the construction of the world, and the tbings in it, is evident by experience and observation. Even the lowest creatures have their enjoyments, and shew more symptoms of ease and delight than of pain and trouble, for the bounty of God is extended to them: he openeth his hand, they are filled with good; he affords a grateful sustenance to the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea; all receive a portion agreeable to their nature.
But as the capacities of the inferior creatures, both with respect to enjoyment and suffering, are far less than those of mankind; so the proofs of the Creator's benevolent intention are proportionably less apparent and certain: and they will be most convincing and satisfactory, if we attentively consider the condition of human life; for here we not only have our own experience for the ground of our knowledge, but also find a more extensive field of evidence : where the effects of the Creator's beneficence, and the proofs of his intentions, are widely diffused, and afford the strongest conviction that this life was designed to be, upon the whole, agreeable and delightful to men.
This, indeed, is so much the natural and universal sentiment of mankind, founded on experience, that nothing is more usual than to hear of the sweetness of life, how dearly men prize it, how unwilling they are to relinquish it, bow ready to sacrifice every thing for the preservation of it: even when deprived of many great comforts and satisfactions, and confined to a very narrow condition, by want of health, loss of sight, extreme poverty, old age, or other afflictions, yet still life has not lost all its sweetness, but retains a certain charm, that makes men love it, and be desirous of preserving it. The kind assistance and company of friends, and the curiosity of learning and knowing current events, with the gratification of th few faculties which remain to them, are circumstances that assuage the pains and lessen the infirmities they labour under, and have a most pleasing flavour, which corrects the bitterness of their cup. So kindly has Providence tempered even the afflicted and distressful periods of life, that they have a mixture of something agreeable, and are not entirely miserable. Besides these mitigating circumstances, such afflictions are short in duration, compared to the seasons in which men live free from such complaints, have the enjoy
inent of their health and faculties, and find life to be an agreeable possession, abounding with various entertainments.
Men may, indeed, as some writers have done, by collecting together, and crowding into the same scene, all the disorders and evils to which the body and mind of man and the state of human society are liable, give a horrible representation of the miseries incident to mankind. But if they intend this for a just description and true picture of life in general, it is a sign only that themselves have a very dark and disordered imagination; or else they find it necessary to misrepresent and blacken the condition of mankind, in order to make the appearances of nature agree with some absurd doctrines, which they want to justify. Nothing can be more partial and false, than to select the worst and most unusual situations to which men are ever reduced, and describe them as the usual and general condition of mankind. For ever adored be the goodness of Divine Providence, that we have such abundant experimental conviction, how much the health of life exceeds all diseases of it; the delights of society, the disquietudes arising from it; and the happy enjoyment of life, in every respect, surpass the pains and troubles of it; and that, in the usual state of things, they who are labouring under grievous afflictions, or oppressed with dire calamities, are very few, in comparison of the multitudes who are rejoicing in health and peace, and the various blessings of life! Is not then the goodness of our Creator sufficiently discovered and proved by the superior prevalence of good and happiness in the whole? And are not all objections arising from the evils and miseries which are in the world, light and inconsiderable, when placed in the balance against such superior weight of evidence?
To suppose that it is inconsistent with the perfection of divine goodness to permit any evils in the world; that is, to create beings, liable by their nature to any degree of suffering, or to bestow any measure of happiness that is not pure and perfect, is a supposition which ought to be rejected as arbitrary and groundless, whilst we are so little capable of judging what may be requisite to the ends of perfect goodness. And it may be justly observed, on the other hand, that, on this very supposition, the Almighty Creator prescribes a rule to himself, which seems to limit the designs of his goodness, and diminish the effects of it; by excluding from the creation those numberless states and kinds of creatures which are possible, and in which the good overbalances the evil. Whereas, if the operations of Omnipotence extend to the production not only of all states and degrees of entire or unmixed happiness, if such are possible, but also of all other states, in which the good exceeds the evil, and which are consequently eligible upon the whole; then his goodness is full, perfect, immense, and productive of all possible good; and the imperfect or mixed states, such as that of mankind and the inferior creatures, are necessarily included in the plenitude of the divine works, and contribute to the perfection of his vast creation.
It deserves to be considered also, that we have no faculties or senses which are not the inlets of delight; and though, in their own nature, they are liable to, and do in fact sometimes become the avenues of, pain and grief, yet those pains are a necessary warning against danger, and a guard for the preservation of life, whilst, at the same time, the frame of the world, and the qualities of all objects around us, are adapted much more to gratify and please, than to offend and burt our faculties of perception; and those elements, which in themselves might as easily contribute to our torment or destruction, are so tempered and balanced, as to be continually ministering, not only to the support, but to the pleasure of mankind.
In the days of health and prosperty, when the spirits are vigorous, and the imagination and affections find many agreeable objects, and all nature seems to present its liveliest colours, and to smile with a beautiful aspect; then, “ It is a fine world;" we desire no other or better : life appears to be a scene of enter
tainment and delight; we are very well satisfied with it, and are ready to think that this pleasure and felicity is the best and only purpose of human life. On the other hand, in the seasons of affliction, when the spirits are enfeebled or broken with distempers or disappointments, when every object is seen in the darkest view, when all nature around us appears to frown, and the prospect before us visibly terminates in the gloomy cavern of death; then, “ It is a dismal world;" “all is vanity and vexation of spirit:” and we are ready to adopt the plaintive expostulation of the Psalmist, “Wherefore hast thou made all men in vain ?"
In both these instances, the sentiments flow, not from reason and judgment, but from temper, fancy, or passion, and are equally weak and groundless; proceeding, in both, upon this false supposition, that our happiness in this life is, or ought to have been, the principal view of the Almighty Creator in our formation. From this false principle, and from self-partiality and prejudice, we first assume a right to complete happiness; and when we find ourselves disappointed, and involved in trouble and perplexity, then assume a right to murmur and complain, even against our Maker himself, and say in our hearts, that God has made the world in vain ? But whether human expectations are answered or disappointed, the ends which the Almighty intended in the creation are always the same.
Nature proceeds uniformly and consistently in its appointed course; and Infinite Wisdom does nothing in vain. Immense designs are in a continual process and execution, from eternal to eternal ages; and there is nothing throughout the boundless regions of the universe, which does not answer some end, and coincide with those infinite and everlasting purposes. Things, that appear to us the most insignificant and useless, may have a use and importance unknown to us. And those things which serve the most to our benefit and pleasure, may answer at the same time other and greater purposes, of which we are wholly ignorant.
The vast and glorious body of the sun was made