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whom we behold toiling through the vale of life, in such an infinite diversity of occupation, and disparity of views. But the misfortune is, that we seek for happiness where she is not to be found, and the cause of wonder, that the experience of ages should not have guarded us against so fatal and so universal an error.
It would be an amusing speculation to consider the various points after which our fellow mortals are incessantly straining, and in the possession of which they have placed that imaginary chief good, which we are all doomed to covet, but which, perhaps, none of us, in this sublunary state, can attain. At present, however, we are led to considerations of a more important nature. We turn from the inconsistencies observable in the prosecution of our subordinate pursuits, from the partial follies of individuals, to the general delusion which seems to envelope the whole human race ;---the delusion under whose iufluence they lose sight of the chief end of their being—and cut down the sphere of their hopes and enjoyments to a few rolling years, and that too in a scene where they know there is neither perfect fruition nor permanent delight,
The faculty of contemplating mankind in the abstract, apart from those prepossessions which, both by nature and the power of habitual associations, would intervene to cloud our view, is only to be obtained by a life of virtue and constant meditation, by temperance, and purity of thought. Whenever it is attained, it must greatly tend
to correct our motives—to simplify our desires-and to excite a spirit of contentment and pious resignation. We then, at length, are enabled to contemplate our being, in all its bearings, and in its full extent, and the result is that superiority to common views, and indifference to the things of this life, which should be the fruit of all true philosophy, and which, therefore, are the more peculiar fruits of that system of philosophy which is called the Christian.
To a mind thus sublimed, the great mass of mankind will appear like men led astray by the workings of wild and distempered imaginations--visionaries who are wandering after the phantoms of their own teeming brains, and their anxious solicitude for mere matters of worldly accommodation and ease, will seem more like the effects of insanity than of prudent foresight, as they are esteemed. To the awful importance of futurity he will observe them utterly insensible, and he will see, with astonishment, the few allotted years of human life wasted in providing abundance they will never enjoy, while the eternity they were placed here to prepare for, scarcely employs a moment's consideration. And yet the mass of these poor wanderers in the ways of error, have the light of truth shining on their very foreheads. They have the revelation of Almighty God himself, to declare to them the folly of worldly cares, and the necessity of providing for a future state of existence. They know by the experience of every preceding generation, that a very small portion of joy is allowed to the poor
sojourners in this vale of tears, and that too, embittered with much pain and fear; and yet every one is willing to flatter himself that he shall fare better than his predecessor in the same path, and that happiness will smile on him which hath frowned on all his progenitors.
Still it would be wrong to deny the human race all claim to temporal felicity. There may be comparative, although very little positive happiness ;---whoever is more exempt from the cares of the world and the calamities incident to humanity--whoever enjoys more contentment of mind, and is more resigned to the dispensations of Divine Providence-in a word, whoever possesses more of the true spirit of christianity than his neighbours, is comparatively happy. But the number of these it is to be feared, is very small. Were all mea equally enlightened by the illuminations of truth, as emanating from the spirit of Jehovah himself, they would all concur in the pursuit of virtuous ends by virtuous means—as there would be no vice, there would be very little infelicity. Every pain would be met with fortitude, every affliction with resignation. We should then all look back to the past with complacency, and to the future with hope. Even this unstable state of being would have many exquisite enjoyments—the principal of which would be the anticipation of that approaching state of beatitude to which we might then look with confidence, through the medium of that atonement of which we should be partakers, and our acceptance, by virtue of which, would be sealed by that purity of mind of which human nature is, of itself, incapable. But it is from the mistakes and miscalculations of mankind, to which their fallen natures are continually prone, that arises that flood of misery which overwheims the whole race, and resounds wherever the footsteps of man have penetrated. It is the lamentable error of placing happiness in vicious indulgencies, or thinking to pursue it by vicious means. It is the blind folly of sacrificing the welfare of the future to the opportunity of immediate guilty gratification, which destroys the harmony of society, and poisons the peace not only of the immediate procreators of the errors--not only of the identical actors of the vices themselves, but of all those of their fellows who fall within the reach of their influence or example, or who are in any wise connected with them by the ties of blood.
I would therefore exhort you earnestly—you who are yet unskilled in the ways of the world—to beware on wbat object you concentre your hopes. Pleasures may allure-pride or ambition may stimulate, but their fruits are hollow and deceitful, and they afford no sure, no solid satisfaction. You are placed on the earth in a state of probation-your continuance here will be, at the longest, a very short period, and when you are called from hence you plunge into an eternity, the completion of which will be in correspondence to your past life, unutterably happy or inconceivably miserable. Your fate will probably depend on your early pursuitsit will be these which will give the turn to your character and to your pleasures. I beseech you therefore, with a meek and lowly spirit, to read the pages of that book, which the wisest and best of men have acknowledged to be the word of God. You will there find a rule of moral conduct, such as the world never had any idea of before its devulgation. If you covet earthly happiness, it is only to be found in the path you will find there laid down, and I can confidently promise you, in a life of simplicity and purity, a life passed in accordance with the divine word, such substantial bliss, such unruffled peace, as is no where else to be found. All other schemes of earthly pleasure are fleeting and unsatisfactory. They all entail upon them repentance and bitterness of thought. This alone endureth for everthis alone embraces equally the present and the futurethis alone can arm a man against every, calamity-can alone shed the balm of peace over that scene of life when pleasures have lost their zest, and the mind can no longer look forward to the dark and mysterious future. Above all, beware of the ignis fatuus of false philosophy: that must be a very defective system of ethics, which will not bear a man through the most trying stage of bis existence, and I know of none that will do it but the christian.