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Occidit miseros crambe repetita. Yet what remedy under the Sun!
16. The sounder judgment, the stronger understanding you have, the sooner you are sated with the world. And the more deeply convinced, all that cometh is vanity ; foolish, insipid, nauseous. You see the foibles of men in so much clearer light, and have the keener sense of the emptiness of life. Here you are, a poor, unsatisfied inhabitant of an unquiet world ; turning your weary eyes on this side, and on that side ; seeking rest, but finding none. You seem to be out of your place : neither the persons nor things that surround you are such as you want. You have a confused idea of something better than all this; but you know not where to find it. You are always grasping for something which you cannot attain, no, not if you range to the uttermost parts of the earth.
But this is not all. You are not only negatively unhappy, as finding nothing whereon to stay the weight of your soul : but positively so, because you are unholy: you are miserable, because you are vicious. Are you not vicious ? Are you then full of gratitude to him, who giveth you life, and breath, and all things ? Not so; you rather spurn his gifts, and murmur at him that gave them. How often has your heart said, God did not use you well! How often have you questioned either his wisdom or goodness? Was this well done? What kind of gratitude is this? It is the best you are master of. Then take knowledge of yourself. Black ingratitude is rooted in your inmost frame. You can no more love God than you can see him; or than you can be happy without that love. Neither (how much soever you may pique yourself upon it) are you a lover of mankind. Can love and malice consist? Benevolence and envy? O do not put out your own eyes. And are not these horrid tem-pers in you? Do not you envy one man, and bear malice or ill-will to another? I know you call these dispositions by softer names; but names change not the nature of things. You are pained that one should enjoy what you cannot enjoy yourself. Call this what you please, it is rank envy. You are grieved, that a second enjoys even what you have yourself; you rejoice in seeing a third unhappy. Do not flatter yourself: this is malice, venomous malice, and nothing else. And how could you ever think of being happy, with malice and envy in your heart? Just as well might you expect to be at ease, while you held burning coals in your bosom.
17. I entreat you to reflect, whether there are not other inhabitants in your breast, which leave no room for happiness there. May you not discover, through a thousand disguises, pride ? Too high an opinion of yourself? Vanity, thirst of praise, even (who would believe it ?) of the applause of knaves and fools ? Unevenness or soreness of temper? Proneness to anger or revenge ? Peevishness, fretfulness, or pining discontent? Nay, perhaps even covetousness -And did you ever think happiness could dwell with these? Awake out of that senseless dream. Think not of reconciling things incompatible. All these tempers are essential misery. So long as
any of these are harboured in your breast, you must be a stranger to inward peace. What avails it you, if there be no other hell? Whenever these fiends are let loose upon you, you will be constrain
ed to own,
“ Hell is where'er I am: myself am bell!" And can the Supreme Being love those tempers, which you yourself abhor in all but yourself? If not, they imply guilt as well as misery. Doubtless they do. Only inquire of your own heart. How often, in the mid career of your vice, have you felt a secret reproof, which you knew not how to bear, and therefore stifled it as soon as possible ?
18. And did not even this point at an hereafter! a future state of existence ? The more reasonable among you have no doubt of this ; you bardly suppose the soul once disengaged, will dwell again in a house of clay. But how will your soul subsist without it? How are you qualified for a separate state? Suppose this earthly covering, this vehicle of organized matter, whereby you hold commerce with the material world, were now to drop off! Now, what would you do in the regions of immortality? You cannot eat or drink there. You cannot indulge either the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eye, or the pride of life. You love only worldly things; and they are gone, fied as smoke, driven away for ever. Here is no possibility of sensual enjoyments; and you have a relish for nothing else. O what a separation is this, from all that you hold dear! What a breach is made, never to be healed! But beside this, you are unholy: full of evil tempers : for you
did not put off these with the body. You did not leave pride, revenge, malice, envy, discontent, behind you, when you left the world. And now you are no longer cheered by the light of the sun, nor diverted by the various objects : but those dogs of hell are let loose to prey upon your soul, with their whole, unrebated strength. Nor is there any hope, that your spirit will now ever be restored to its original, purity: not even that poor hope of a purging fire, so elegantly described by the heathen Poet some ages before the notion was revived among the doctrines of the Romish Church.
--Aliæ tenduntur inanes
Æthereum sensum atque aurai simplicis ignem. 19. What a great gulf then is fixed between you and happiness, both in this world and that which is to come! Well may you shudder at the thought! More especially when you are about to enter on that untried state of existence. For what a prospect is this, when you stand on the verge of life, ready to launch out into eternity! What can you then think? You see nothing before you. All is dark and dreary. On the very best supposition, how well may you address your parting soul in the words of dying Adrian:
“Poor, little, pretty, Auttering thing,
Must we no longer live together?
To take thy dight thou koow'st not wbither?
is all neglected, all forgot ;
Thou bop'st, thou fear'st, thou know'st not what." 6 Thou know'st not what!” Here is the sting, suppose there were no other. To be thou knowest not what? Not for a month, or year, but through the countless ages of eternity! What a tormenting uncertainty must this be! What racking unwillingness must it occasion, to exchange even this known vale of tears, for the unknown valley of the shadow of death! " And is there no cure for this?" Indeed there is an effectual cure: even the knowledge and love of God. There is a knowledge of God which unvails eternity, and a love of God which endears it. That knowledge makes the great abyss visible; and uncertainty vanishes away. That love makes it amiable to the soul, so that fear has no more place! But the moment God says, by the welcome angel of death, “Come thou up hither,” she
“ Claps the glad wing and towers away,
And mingles with the blaze of day." 20. See ye not what advantage every way a Christian has over you ? Probably the reason you sawọit not before was, because you knew none but nominal Christians; men who profess to believe more, (in their way of believing) but had no more of the knowledge or love of God than yourselves. So that with regard to real, inward religion, you stood upon even ground. And perhaps in many branches of outward religion, the advantage was on your side. May the Lord, the God of the Christians, either reform these wretches, or take them away from the earth! That lay this grand stumblingblock in the way of those who desire to know the will of God!
O ye who desire to know his will, regard them not! If it be possible, blot them out of your remembrance. They' neither can nor will do you any good. O suffer them not to do you harm. Be not prejudiced against Christianity by those who know nothing at all of it. Nay, they condemn it, all real, substantial Christianity; they speak evil of the thing they know not. They have a kind of cant word for the whole of the religion of the heart. They call it Enthusiasm.
I will briefly lay before you the ground of the matter, and appeal to you yourselves for the reasonableness of it.
21. What a miserable drudgery is the service of God, unless I love the God whom I serve! But I cannot love one whom I know not. How then can I love God till I know him ? And how is it possible I should know God, unless he make himself known unto me? By analogy or proportion? Very good. But where is that proportion to be found? Whạt proportion does a creature bear to his Creator? What is the proportion between finite and Intinite ?
I grant the existence of the creatures demonstratively shows the existence of their Creator. The whole creation speaks that there is a God. But that is not the point in question. I know there is a God. Thus far is clear. But who will show me wbat that God is 3 The more I reflect, the more convinced I am, that it is not possible for
any all the creatures, to take off the vail which is on my heart, that I might discern this unknown God; to draw the curtain back which now hangs between, that I may see him which is invisible. This vail of flesh now hides him from my sight. And who is able to make it transparent ? So that I may perceive through this glass, God always before me, till I see him “face to face.”
I want to know this great God who filleth heaven and earth: who is above, beneath, and on every side, in all places of his dominion, who just now besets me behind and before, and lays his hand upon me. And yet I am no more acquainted with him, than with one of the inhabitants of Jupiter or Saturn. O my friend, how will you get one step farther, unless God reveal himself to your soul?
22. And why should this seem a thing incredible to you? That God, a Spirit, and the Father of the spirits of all flesh, should discover himself to your spirit, which is itself the breath of God. Divinæ Particula Auræ ? Any more than that material things should discover themselves to your material eye. Is it any more repugnant to reason, that spirit should influence spirit, than that matter should influence matter? Nay, is not the former the more easily intelligible of the two? For there is the utmost difficulty in conceiving, how matter should influence matter at all. How that which is totally passive should act. Neither can we rationally account either for gravitation, attraction, or any natural motion whatsoever, but by supposing in all the finger of God, who alone conquers that Vis inertiæ which is essential to every particle of matter, and worketh in all.
Now if God should ever open the eyes of your understanding, must not the love of God be the immediate consequence? Do you imagine you can see God without loving him ? Is it possible in the nature of things ? Si virtus conspiceretur oculis, said the old heathen, mirabiles amores excitaret sui. How much more if you see him who is the Original Fountain, the great Archetype of all virtue, will that sight raise in you a love that is wonderful, such as the gay and busy world know not of!
23. What benevolence also, what tender love to the whole of the human kind, will you drink in, together with the love of God, from the unexhausted source of love! And how easy is it to conceive, that more and more of his image will be then transfused into your soul! That from disinterested love, all other divine tempers will, as it were, naturally spring! Mildness, gentleness, patience, temperance, justice, sincerity, contempt of the world ; yea, whatsoever things are venerable and lovely, whatsoever are justly of good report.
And when you thus love God and all mankind, and are transyou will
formed into his likeness, then the commandments of God will not be grievous ; you will no more complain, that they destroy the comfort of life. So far from it, that they will be the very joy of your heart; ways of pleasantness, and paths of peace ! You will experience here that solid happiness, which you had elsewhere sought in vain. Without servile fear or anxious care, so long as you continue on earth, you will gladly do the will of God here, as the angels do it in heaven. And when the time is come that you should depart hence, when God says, - Arise and come away,”
with joy unspeakable out of the body, into all the fulness of God.
Now does not your own heart condemn you, if you call this religion Enthusiasm ? O leave that to those blind zealots, who tack together a set of opinions and an outside worship, and call this poor, dull, lifeless thing, by the sacred name of Christianity. Well might you account such Christianity as this, a mere piece of empty pageantry, fit indeed to keep the vulgar in awe, but beneath the regard of a man of understanding. But in how different a light does it now appear! If there be such a religion as I have sketched out, must not every reasonable man see, there is nothing on earth to be desired in comparison to it !--But if any man desire this, let him ask of God: he giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.
24. May you not ask, quite consistently with your principles, in some manner resembling this : 0 thou Being of beings, thou Cause of all, thou seest my heart ; thou understandest all my thoughts. But how small a part of thy ways do I understand ! I know not what is above, beneath, on every side. I know not my own soul. Only this I know, I am not what I ought to be. I see and approve the virtue which I have not. I do not love thee, neither am I thankful. I commend the love of mankind; but I feel it not. Thou hast seen hatred, malice, envy, in my heart. Thou hast seen anger, murmuring, discontent. These uneasy passions harrow up my soul. cannot rest while I am under this yoke. Nor am I able to shake it off. I am unhappy, and that thou knowest. Have compassion upon me, thou whose years do not fail ! On me, who have but a short time to live. I rise
I fee as it were a shadow. Yet a little while, and I return to dust, and have no more place under the sun. Yet I know thou hast made my soul to live for ever.
But I know not where; and I am unwilling to try. I tremble, I am afraid to go thither, whence I shall not return. I stand quivering on the edge of the gulf; for clouds and darkness rest upon it. O God! must I go always “creeping with terrors, and plunge into eternity with a peradventure !"
O thou Lover of men, is there no help in thee? I have heard (what indeed my heart cannot conceive) that thou revealest thyseli to those that seek thee, and pourest thy love into their hearts: and that they who know and love thee, walk through the shadow of death and fear no evil. O that this were so ! That there were such an unspeakable gift, given to the children of men! For then might I hope for it. O God, if there be, give it unto me! Speak, that I may see