« PreviousContinue »
"Were this globe of earth to be surveyed from one end to the other, by some spirit of a superior order, it would be found such a theatre of folly and madness, such a maze of mingled vice and misery, as would move the compassion of his refined nature, to a painful degree, were it not tempered by a clear sight of that wise and just Providence, which strongly and sweetly works in the midst of all; and will in the end bring good out of all evil, and justify the ways of God with man. (p. 362.)
Aparticular View of the Miseries of Man.
"But to wave for the present the sins and follies of mankind, may we not infer from his miseries alone, that we are degenerate Beings bearing the most evident marks of the displeasure of our Maker? (p. 363.)
"View the histories of mankind, and what is almost all history, but a description of the wretchedness of men, under the mischiefs they bring upon themselves, and the judg ments of the Great GOD! The scenes of happiness and peace are very thin set among all the nations: and they are rather a transient glimpse, here and there, than any thing solid and durable. (p. 364) But if we look over the uni verse, what public desolations by plague and famine, by storms and earthquakes, by wars and pestilence! What secret mischiefs reign among men, which pierce and torture the soul! What smarting wounds and bruises, what pains and diseases attack and torment the animal frame!
"Where is the family of seven or eight persons wherein there is not one or more afflicted with some troublesome malady, or tiresome inconvenience? These indeed are often concealed by the persons who suffer them, and by the families where they dwell. But were they all brought to2
gether, what hospitals or infirmaries would be able to contain them? (p. 365.)
"What toils and hardships, what inward anxieties and sorrows, disappointments and calamities are diffused thro' every age and country? Do not the rich feel them as well as the poor? Are they not all teased with their own appetites, which are never satisfied? And their impetuous passions give them no rest. What keen anguish of mind arises from pride, and envy, and resentment? What tortures does ambition, or disappointed love, or wild jealousy infuse into their bosoms? Meanwhile the poor, together with inward vexations and corroding maladies of the mind, sustain likewise endless drudgeries in procuring their necessary subsistence. And how many of them cannot after all, procure even food to eat and raiment to put on? (p. 366.)
"Survey man through every stage. See first what a figure he makes, at his entrance into life! This animal,' says Pliny, who is to govern the rest of the creatures, how he lies bound hand and foot all in tears, and begins his life in misery and punishment.' If we trace the education of the human race, from the cradle to mature age, especially among the poor, who are the bulk of all nations, the wretchedness of mankind will farther appear. How are they every where dragged up in their tender age, through a train of nonsense, madness, and miseries? (p. 367.) What millions of uneasy sensations do they endure in infancy and childhood by reason of those pressing necessities, which for some years they can tell only in cries and groans, and which either their parents are so poor they cannot relieve, or so savage and brutish that they will not? How wretchedly are these young generations hurried on through the folly and weakness of childhood, till new calamities arise from their own ungoverned appetites and impetuous passions? As youth advances, the ferments of the blood rise higher, and the appetites and passions grow much stronger, and give more abundant vexation to the race of mankind,
than they do to any of the brutal creation. And whereas the all-wise God, for kind reasons has limited the gratification of these appetites by rules of virtue; perhaps these very rules, through the corruption of our nature irritate mankind to greater excesses. (p. 368.).
"Would the affairs of human life in infancy, childhood, and youth, have ever been in such a sore and painful situation, if man had been such a being as God at first made him, and had continued in the favour of his Maker? Could divine wisdom and goodness admit of these scenes, were there not a degeneracy through the whole race, which by the just permission of God, exerts itself some way or other in every stage of life? (p. 370.).
"Follow mankind to the age of public appearance upon the stage of the world, and what shall we find there, but infinite cares, labours, and toil, attended with fond hopes almost always frustrated with endless crosses and disappointments, through ten thousand accidents that are every moment flying across this mortal stage? As for the poor, how does the sultry toil exhaust their lives in summer, and what starving wretchedness do they feel in winter? How is a miserable life sustained among all the pains and fatigues of nature with the oppression, cruelty, and scorn of the rich? (p. 371.)
"Let us follow on the track to the close of life. What a scene is presented us in old age? How innumerable and how inexpressible are the disasters and sorrows, the pains and aches, the groans and wretchedness, that meet man on the borders of the grave, before they plunge him into it?
"And indeed is there any person on earth, high or low, without such distresses and difficulties, such crossing, accidents and perplexing cares, such painful infirmities in some or other part of life, as must pronounce mankind upon the whole a miserable being? Whatever scenes of happiness seem to attend him, in any shining hour, a dark cloud soon casts a gloom over them, and the pleasing vision vanishes as a dream!
“ And what are the boasted pleasures which some have supposed to balance the sorrows of life? Are not most of them owing in a good degree, to some previous uneasiness? It is the pain of hunger which makes food so relishing; the pain of weariness, that renders sleep so refreshing. And as for the blessings of love and friendship, among neighbours and kindred, do they not often produce as much vexation a's satisfaction? Not indeed of themselves; but by reason of the endless humours and follies, errors and passions of mankind. (p. 373.)
"Again. Do not the very pleasures of the body, prove the ruin of ten thousand souls? They may be used with innocence and wisdom; but the unruly appetites and passions of men, continually turn into a curse, what God originally designed for a blessing. (p. 374.)
“Think again how short and transient are the pleasures of life in comparison of the pains of it! How vanishing the sweetest sensations of delight? But in many persons and families, how many are the days, the months, the years, of fatigue, or pain, or bitter sorrow? What pleasure of the animal frame is either as lasting, or as intense as the pain of the gout of stone? How small is the proportion of ́sensible pleasure, to that of pain or trouble, or uneasiness? And how far is it over-balanced by the maladies or miseries, the fears or sorrows of the greatest part of mankind ?”
"As for intellectual pleasures, how few are there in the world, who have any capacity for them? And among those few, how many differences and contentions, how many crossing objections, bewildered inquiries, and unhappy mistakes are mingled with the enjoyment? So that 'he who increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow,' saith the wisest of men, and upon the whole computation, he writes on this also, Vanity and vexation of spirit.'
"To talk then of real happiness to be enjoyed in this life (abstracted from the foretaste of another) is contrary to all the common' sense and experience of every thinking Without this taste of the powers of the world to
come,' I know not what wise man would willingly come into these scenes of mortality, or go through them with any patience. (p. 376, 377.)
"What, to be trained up from infancy under so many unavoidable follies, prejudices, and wretched delusions through the power of flesh and sense? To be sunk into such gross ignorance both of our souls, our better selves, and of the glorious Being that made us? To lie under such heavy shades of darkness, such a world of mistakes and errors, as are mingled with our little faint glimpses, and low notices of God our Creator? What, to be so far distant from God, and to endure such a long estrangement from the wisest and best of Beings, in this foolish and fleshly state, with so few and slender communications with or from him?
"What, to feel so many powerful and disquieting appetites, so many restless and unruly passions, which want the perpetual guard of a jealous eye, and a strong restraint over them? Otherwise they will be ever breaking out into some new mischief.
“What, to be ever surrounded with such delights of sense, as are constant temptations to folly and sin? To have scarce any joys, but what we are liable to pay dear for, by an excessive or irregular indulgence? Can this be a desirable state? For any wise being who knows what happiness is, to be united to such a disorderly machine of flesh and blood, with all its uneasy and unruly ferments? (p. 878.)
"Add to this another train of inbred miseries which attend this animal frame. What wise spirit would' willingly put on such flesh and blood as ours, with all the springs of sickness and pain, anguish and disease in it ? What, to be liable to the racking disquietudes of gout and stone, and a thousand other distempers? To have nature worn out by slow and long aches and infirmities, and lie lingering many years on the borders of death, before we can find a grave?