Page images
[ocr errors]

ed haven. Let us, therefore, conclude by beseeching Almighty God, in the words of our most excellent church, that we who by baptism were "received into "the ark of Christ's church, being steadfast in faith, joyful through hope, and rooted in charity, may so pass the waves of this troublesome world, that finally we may come to the land of everlasting life," where all the tossings and agitations of human affairs shall cease, or, as St. John expresses it, where there shall be no more SEA.


[ocr errors]




[ocr errors]

PROVERBS, XVII. part of the 22d verse.

merry heart doeth good like a medicine.

AMONG the golden maxims delivered out for the direction of our moral conduct, by him on whom it pleased God to bestow "largeness of heart as the "sand upon the sea shore," we meet with several in different parts of the book of Proverbs to the same effect with that which hath been just now read.— "Heaviness in the heart of a man maketh it stoop; "but a good word maketh it glad. A merry heart "maketh a cheerful countenance; but by sorrow of "the heart the spirit is broken. All the days of the "afflicted are evil; but he that is of a merry heart "hath a continual feast. A merry heart doeth good "like a medicine; but a broken spirit drieth the "bones." To these passages may be subjoined a very fine one from the book of Ecclesiasticus, written in the spirit and style of Solomon-" Give not over thy mind to heaviness, and afflict not thyself in "thine own counsel. The gladness of the heart is "the life of man, and the joyfulness of a man pro

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

longeth his days. Love thine own soul, and com"fort thine heart; remove sorrow far from thee: "for sorrow hath killed many, and there is no pro"fit therein. Envy and wrath shorten the life, and "carefulness bringeth age before the time"."

It is evidently intended in these sentences to discountenance a gloomy discontented cast of mind, and to recommend in its stead that babit of being pleased ourselves, and of pleasing others, which is best expressed in English by the word cheerfulness: I say habit, because herein it stands distinguished from those transient flashes of merriment which are often succeeded by an answerable depression of spirits, and are therefore by our author, in another place, compared to "the crackling of thorns under a pot;" they blaze for a moment, and expire for ever; whereas cheerfulness is even and constant; though it blaze less, it warms more, and has been very properly called the sunshine of life.

The obligations we lie under to cultivate this happy temper of mind affect us, some, as we are men; others, as we are Christians.

The first argument in favour of cheerfulness shall be drawn from the eminent service it is capable of rendering to the body. What powers the soul will possess, or how she will exert them in a separate state, we cannot tell. During her union with the body, she makes use of it as an instrument, and is therefore much concerned to keep it in order, that her own operations may not be impeded. To do this, she cannot take a more effectual way than to

a Ecclus. xxx. 21.

establish and preserve in herself a cheerful disposition. The influence which the mind hath upon the body is well known; insomuch that the writers upon health and long life never fail to take the passions into consideration; of which they tell us, that the more sudden and violent ones produce acute diseases, and the slow and lasting ones those which are styled chronical. Among these latter it is certain that no one is more prejudicial to the health of the body than grief, when long indulged and settled into a habit, whatever may have been its cause, great or little, real or imaginary. It contracts and enfeebles the animal spirits, preys upon the strength, and eats out the vigour of the constitution; the radical moisture is consumed, and the unhappy subject of this passion droops like a flower in the scorching heat of summer. "A "broken spirit," says Solomon, in the words following those of the text, "drieth the bones ;" and, what is worst of all, it prevents the good effects of those medicines which it renders necessary. On the other hand, a cheerful disposition of mind always seconds the endeavours of the physician for the service of the body, and will do half the work in the cure of a distemper; it dilates and invigorates the animal spi. rits, quickens the fluids, repairs the solids, and maketh the bones fat. Such extensive influence in the little world of man, as well as in the larger one of creation, do the superior parts exert upon those which are inferior. Let "the heavens rejoice," and "the "earth will be glad." He, therefore, who would enjoy health while he lives, and live long to enjoy it, must learn to be cheerful.

[ocr errors]

Nor, secondly, does cheerfulness bear an aspect

[ocr errors]

less friendly on the mind itself, which by melancholy is dejected and broken, and becomes unfit for the performance of its functions. Under the dominion of such a temper, a man finds himself unable to bear up against the evils of life, or to taste its blessings, poured in ever so great a profusion around him; he cannot be a partaker of the light which shineth upon others, but walketh on still in darkness. "All his days are evil." The duties of his station are unperformed; he can neither be of service to his brethren, nor help himself. His judgement is perplexed and confounded; it is difficult for him to make a resolution, and still more so to keep it. His imagination is haunted with fears and terrors; his memory serves only to recall the ideas which feed and increase the disorder; and he becomes a burthen to himself and to his friends. But how grievous and pitiable a case is this! Perhaps there are few cases more so in the world. Losses and calamities, pain and sickness, may be, and often are, supported, without any great difficulty or inconvenience, by a sound and vigorous mind; but when the supporter itself falls and covers the ground with its ruins, then the desolation is complete. "The spirit of a man can sustain his in


firmity; but a wounded spirit who can bear?" Would we then avoid so sad a catastrophe? we must shun the steps that lead to it. Would we be easy in our thoughts, and masters of ourselves; would we escape from the tyranny of the most pernicious of passions; would we possess a clear imagination, an undisturbed judgement, and an unruffled temper; would we perform all the social offices with alacrity

[blocks in formation]
« PreviousContinue »