« PředchozíPokračovat »
thus to show us any good-Lord ! says the psalmist, lift up the light of thy countenance upon us.–Send us some rays of thy grace and heavenly wisdom, in this benighted search after happiness, to direct us safely to it.. O God! let us not wander forever without a guide, in this dark region, in endless pursuit of our mistaken good; but enlighten our eyes that we sleep not in death-open to them the comforts of thy holy word and religion- lift up the light of thy countenance upon us,and make us know the joy and satisfaction of living in the true faith and fear of Thee, which only can carry us to this haven of rest where we would be that sure haven, where true joys are to be found, which will at length not only answer all our expectations—but satisfy the most unbounded of our wishes for ever and ever.
There is hardly any subject more exhausted, or which at one time or other has afforded more matter for argument and declamation, than this one, of the insufficiency of our enjoyments. Scarce a reformed sensualist, from Solomon down to our own days, who has not, in some fits of repentance or disappointment, uttered some sharp reflection upon the emptiness of human pleasure, and of the vanity of vanities which discovers itself in all the pursuits of mortal man.But the mischief has been, that, though so many good things have been said, they have generally had the fate to be considered, either as the overflowings of disgust from sated appetites which could no longer relish the pleasures of life, or as the declamatory opinions of recluse and splenetic men, who had never tasted them at all, and, consequently, were thought no judges of the matter. So that it is no great wonder, if the greatest part of such reflections, however just in themselves, and founded on truth and a knowledge of the world, are found to have little impression where the imagination was already heated with great expectations of future happiness; and that the best lectures that have been read upon the vanity of the world, so seldom stop a man in the pursuit of the object of his desire, or give him half the conviction, that the possession of it will, and what the experience of his own life, or a careful observation upon the life of others, does at length generally confirm to us all.
I would not be understood as if I were denying the reality of pleasures, or disputing the being of them, any more than any one would the reality of pain—yet I must observe, that there is a plain distinction to be made betwixt pleasure and happiness. For though there can be no happiness without pleasure—yet the reverse of the proposition will not hold true.-We are so made, that, from the common gratifications of our appetites, and the impressions of a thousand objects, we snatch the one like a transient gleam, without being suffered to taste the other, and enjoy the perpetual sunshine and fair weather which constantly attend it. This, I contend, is only to be found in religion--in the consciousness of virtue—and the sure and certain hopes of a better life, which brightens all our prospects, and leaves no room to dread disappointments because the expectation of it is built upon a rock whose foundations are as deep as those of heaven or hell.
And though, in our pilgrimage through this worldsome of us may be so fortunate as to meet with some clear fountains by the way, that may cool, for a few moments, the heat of this great thirst of happiness—yet our Saviour, who knew the world, though he enjoyed but little of it, tells us, that whosoever drinketh of this water will thirst again :—and we all find by experience it is so, and by reason that it always must be so.
I conclude with a short observation upon Solomon's evidence in this case.
Never did the busy brain of a lean and hectic chymist search for the philosopher's stone with more pains and ardour than this great man did after happiness. one of the wisest inquirers into nature-had tried all her powers and capacities; and, after a thousand vain speculations and idle experiments, he affirmed at length, it lay hid in no one thing he had tried : like the chymists projections, all had ended in smoke, or, what was worse, iñ vanity and vexation of spirit. The conclusion of the whole matter was this—that he advises every man who would be happy, to fear God and keep his commandments.
V.-On the Death of Christ. THE redemption of man is one of the most glorious works of the Almighty. If the hour of the creation of the world was great and illustrious ; that hour, when, from the dark and formless mass, this fair system of nature arose at the Divine command; when - the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy ;”—no less illustrious is the hour of the restoration of the world; the hour, when, from condemnation and misery, it emerged into happiness and peace. With less external majesty it
was attended, but is, on that account, the more wonderful, that, under appearance so simple, such great events were covered.
In the hour of Christ's death, the long series of prophecies, visions, types, and figures, was accomplished. This was the centre in which they all met; this the point towards which they had tended and verged, throughout the course of so many generations. You behold the law and the Prophets standing, if we may so speak, at the foot of the cross, and doing homage. You behold Moses and Aaron bearing the ark of the covenant; David and Elijah presenting the oracle of testimony. You behold all the priests and sacrifices, all the rites and ordinances, all the types and symbols, assembled together to receive their consummation. Without the death of Christ, the worship and ceremonies of the law would have remained a pompous but unmeaning institution. In the hour when he was crucified, “the book with the seven seals” was opened. Every rite assumed its significancy; every prediction met its event; every symbol displayed its correspondence.
This was the hour of the abolition of the Law, and the introduction of the Gospel; the hour of terminating the old, and of beginning the new dispensation of religious knowledge and worship throughout the earth. Viewed in this light, it forms the most august era which is to be found in the history of mankind. When Christ was suffering on the cross, we are informed by one of the evangelists, that he said, " I thirst ;" and that they filled a sponge with vinegar, and put it to his mouth.
66 After he had tasted the vinegar," knowing that all things were now accomplished, and the scripture fulfilled, he said, “It is finished ;' that is, this offered draught of vinegar was the last circumstance predicted by an ancient prophet that remained to be fulfilled. The vision and the prophecy are now sealed: the Mosaic dispensation is closed. 66 And he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.”—Significantly was the veil of the temple rent in this hour ; for the glory then departed from between the cherubims. The legal high priest delivered up his Urim and Thummim, his breastplate, his robes, and his incense: and CHRIST stood forth as the great High Priest of all succeeding generations. By that one sacrifice which he now offered, he abolished sacrifices for ever. Altars on which the fire had blazed for ages were now to smoke no more. Victims were no more to bleed. 66 Not with the blood of bulls and goats, but with his own blood, he now entered into the Holy Place, there to appear in the presence of God for us.”
This was the hour of association and union to all the worshippers of God. When Christ said, “ It is finished,” he threw down the wall of partition which had so long divided the Gentile from the Jew. He gathered into one, all the faithful, out of every kindred and people. He proclaimed the hour to be come, when the knowledge of the true God should be no longer confined to one nation, nor his worship to one temple ; but over all the earth, the worshippers of the Father should 6 serve him in spirit and in truth.” From that hour, they who dwelt in the uttermost ends of the earth, strangers to the covenant of promise,” began to be brought nigh.” In that hour, the light of the gospel dawned from afar on the British islands.
This was the hour of Christ's triumph over all the powers of darkness; the hour in which he overthrew dominions and thrones, "Jed captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.” The contest which the kingdom of darkness had long maintained against the kingdom of light, was now brought to its crisis. The period was come, when “the seed of the woman should bruise the head of the serpent.” For many ages, the most gross superstition had filled the earth. " The glory of the incorruptible God was," every where, except in the land of Judea, “ changed into images made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and beasts, and creeping things.” The world, which the Almighty created for himself, seemed to have become a temple of idols. Even to vices and passions altars were raised; and what was entitled Religion, was, in effect, a discipline of impurity. In the midst of this universal darkness, Satan had erected his throne : and the learned and polished, as well as the savage nations, bowed down before him. But at the hour when Christ appeared on the cross, the signal of his defeat was given. His kingdom suddenly departed from him; the reign of idolatry passed away: He was 6 beheld to fall like lightning from heaven.” In that hour, the foundation of every Pagan temple shook; the statue of every false god, tottered on its base; the priest fled from his falling shrine; and the heathen oracles became dumb forever.
Death also, the last foe to man, was the victia of this hour. The formidable appearance of the spectre remained, but his dart was taken away : for in the hour when Christ
expiated guilt, he disarmed death, by securing the resurrection of the just. When he said to his penitent fellowsufferer, “ To-day thou shalt be with me in paradise," he announced to all his followers the certainty of heavenly bliss. He declared " the cherubims” to be dismissed, and the “flaming sword” to be sheathed, which had been appointed at the fall 6 to keep from man the way of the Tree of life.” Faint, before this period, had been the hope, indistinct the prospect, which even good men enjoyed of the heavenly kingdom.-- Life and immortality were now brought to light.” From the hill of Calvary, the first clear and certain view was given to the world, of the everlasting mansions. Since that hour, they have been the perpetual consolation of the believers in Christ. Under trouble, they sooth their minds; amidst temptations, they support their virtue ; and, in their dying moments, enable them to say,
660) death! where is thy sting? O grave' where is thy victory?
ELOQUENCE OF THE SENATE. 1.-Speech of the Earl of Chesterfield, in the House of Lords,
February 22, 1740, on the Pension Bill. MY LORDS,
IT is now so late, and so much has been said in favour of the motion for the second reading of the Pension Bill, by Lords much abler than I am, that I shall detain you but a very short while with what I have to say upon the subject. It has been said by a noble Duke, that this bill can be looked on only as a bill for preventing a grievance that is foreseen, and not as a bill for remedying a grievance that is already felt; because it is not asserted, nor so much as insinuated in the preamble of the bill, that any corrupt praciices are now made use of, for gaining an undue influence over the other House. My Lords, this was the very reason for bringing in the bill. They could not assert, that any such practices are now made use of, without a proof; and the means for coming at this proof, is what they want, and what they propose to get by this bill. They suspect there are such practices, but they cannot prove it. The crime is of such a secret nature, that it can very seldom be proved