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omnipotence in this world compensate for the loss of immortal glory in the next!
Suppose every wish of the heart could bere be gratified ; suppose there were here “neither sorrow, nor crying, nor any more pain,”-though this never can be the lot of an imperfect and intirm creature,-still it is a condition that must shortly elapse, and what therefore would be the advantage of it, if when it terminated, there only remained to the immortal soul the prospect of that awful retribution in an eternal world, when the Lord “shall pour out his wrath upon those that have not called upon his name ;" when that God “ to whom vengeance belongeth” shall show himself and judge all his assembled creatures according to their works.”
“If God so loved the world, as to give his only begotten Son to die for its redemption, that we might inherit everlasting life through him; is it consistent with our sacred obligations to the Creator, that we, after such a transcendant manifestation of his mercy, should so love the world as to exclude from our hearts all love of him ? Can we have the right to deprive him of even the least portion of that love which so abundantly belongs to him, and which too he so jealously claims from us, as beings whom he has designed to communicate with him in the blessings of eternity? If we show a greater regard for this world, notwithstanding our utter inca
pacity to order or control its events, than for the next, can we have any well grounded expectations of entering upon the glories of the latter, when the fashion of the former shall have passed away ? Can we deserve to possess what we estimate so far below its value, and use such inadequate endeavours to obtain ? It is as certain as there is truth in the gospel, that the day of the Lord will come, when all who have despised him “shall be lightly esteemed ;" when the lovers of this world, that is they who have loved it exclusively, shall be brought into “everlasting contempt;" when there shall be “wo to the wicked, for the reward of their deeds shall be given them.”
We shall proceed to consider, secondly, that happiness in this life is not necessarily associated with any of those external circumstances which are so often and so earnestly desired as a presumed means of establishing it. With respect to happiness, in the abstract signification of the term, no finite nature can possess the capacity of enjoying it ; because it will not admit of interruption. It is only happiness whilst it is perfect, and the very consciousness which must ever accompany our highest enjoyments, that they are not certain to us beyond the passing period, will always render our most agreeable moments subject to the interpositions of sorrow.
The fact is that happiness, strictly considered, is the essential attribute only of a perfect creature. It cannot exist but in a state of perfection; because infirmity must interrupt it, and when it is interrupted it at once loses its identity; for imperfect happiness implies a contradiction, because the very term supposes a perfect good. It is moreover the great object in heaven which we are here to render ourselves fit to enjoy, and nothing imperfect can enter there.
There is little probability therefore that what was exclusively designed for the next world should ever be possessed in this. For man was born to trouble; it is the condition of mortality; though there is an essential mercy even in this, since had he never suffered, he would perhaps have known less how to enjoy. Taking happiness however in its most ordinary acceptation, we do not find that it is at all necessarily improved by any circumstances relating to our mere temporal state. What we strive after as the means of happiness, may turn out to be utterly inefficient when obtained; therefore “let not the wise man glory in his might; let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth the Lord; that it is He which exerciseth loving-kindness, judgment and righteousness on the earth, for in these things he delighteth."
Now we every day see that the acquisition of riches is not necessarily accompanied with additional happiness. The rich man is not exempt from any of the accidents of life. In proportion as his wants are obviated, his desires encrease. To him are opened the avenues of a thousand ills which are unknown to the poor man. The latter has not so many cares.
He has fewer desires, fewer expectations, fewer wants. He is content with less. But without extending the parallel, we know that a man may possess riches and yet be altogether without the means of enjoying them, He may be miserable in the midst of his plenty, and will positively be so, if he has excluded from his mind the consolations of religion. As riches then can of themselves confer no happiness, so neither can any one human acquisition, which has no immediate tendency to advance our progress towards spiritual perfection. Honors may qualify us for the negative glories of this world, but they will never advance us to the positive glories of the next. Besides, in the midst of all our dignities we are still surrounded by the infirmities of nature. We are still subject to the accidents of disease, to the numerous casualties of time, to great and sudden disappointments, to unexpected cares and perplexities; so that unhappiness may overtake him who is most honored at every turn, and the couch of his glory, under all its ostensible splendours, may be a bed of thorns, upon which his slumbers shall be broken, and from which the dreams of bis earthly felicity shall be banished.
Since then happiness, in its mere relative or secondary sense, is uncertain under any and every condition of our mortality, and since it positively is to be obtained by us in its primary sense, when “ this mortal shall have put on immortality,” if we only strive as we should do to obtain it; do we act consistent with that reason which the Deity imparted to us, when he made us only “a little lower than the angels,” in running after the shadow and thereby missing the substance, when the former will incessantly evade our grasp and the latter is always within our reach? If while we devote ourselves exclusively to the acquisition of mere temporal happiness, we put ourselves in the way of missing that which is eternal, do we not incur a hazard which no reason can justify, no sophistry can excuse ? And shall we imagine, while we spend the best part of our lives in pursuing the fugitive joys of this world, that the immutable blessings of the next will be obtained with less care or less endeavour ? If the less elude our most strenuous exertions, shall we hope to secure the greater without any ? or indeed by only making a few cold and unwilling efforts? If eternal happiness be worth enjoying, it is surely worth our