Page images
PDF
EPUB

expressive characteristic of the good things of this life, that they all perish with the using. The charms of youth and beauty quickly fade. The power of relishing natural enjoyments is soon gone. The pleasures of active life, of building, planting, forming schemes, and achieving enterprises, soon follow. In old age none of them will flourish; and in death they are exterminated. The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, the captain of fifty, and the honourable man, and the counsellor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator, all descend, in one undistinguished mass, into oblivion.. And, as this is a truth which no man can dispute, those who have no prospects of a higher nature must often feel themselves unhappy. Contrast with this the joys of the gospel. These, instead of being diminished by time, are often increased. To them the soil of age is friendly. While nature has been fading, and perishing by slow degrees, how often have we seen faith, hope, love, patience, and resignation to God, in full bloom. Who but Christians can contemplate the loss of all present enjoyments with satisfaction? Who else can view death, judgment, and eternity, with desire? I appeal to the hearts of libertines and unbelievers, whether they have not many misgivings and revoltings within them; and whether, in the hour of solitary reflection, they have not sighed the wish of Balaam, Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his.

The following extract from a letter of a late nobleman, of loose principles, well known in the gay world, and published as authentic by a respectable prelate, deceased, will show the dreadful vacancy and wretchedness of a mind left to itself in the decline of life, and unsupported by Christian principle.-"I have seen the silly round of business and pleasure, and have done with it all. I have enjoyed all the pleasures of the world, and consequently know their futility, and do not regret their loss. I appraise them at their real value, which in truth is very low whereas those who have not experienced always overrate them. their gay outside, and are dazzled with their glare; but I have been behind the scenes. I have seen all the coarse pullies and dirty ropes which exhibit and move the gaudy machine: and

They only see

I have seen and smelt the tallow candles which illumine the whole decoration, to the astonishment and admiration of the ignorant audience. When I reflect on what I have seen, what I have heard, and what I have done, I cannot persuade myself that all that frivolous hurry of bustle and pleasure of the world had any reality but I look on all that is past as one of those romantic dreams which opium commonly occasions; and I do by no means wish to repeat the nauseous dose for the sake of the fugitive dream. Shall I tell you that I bear this melancholy situation with that meritori, ous constancy and resignation that most men boast? No Sir, I really cannot help it. I bear it because I must bear it, whether I will or no. I think of nothing but killing time the best way I can, now that time has become my enemy. It is my resolution to sleep in the carriage during the remainder of the journey."

"You see," reflects the worthy prelate, "in how poor, abject, and unpitied a condition, at a time when he most wanted help and comfort, the world left him, and he left the world. Compare these words with those of another person, who took his leave in a very different manner: I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous Judge shall give me at that day; and not to me only, but unto all them also who love his appearing."

It is observable, that even Rousseau himself, though the language certainly did not become his lips, affected, in advanced life, to derive consolation from Christian principles. In a letter to Voltaire he says, "I cannot help remarking, Sir, a very singular contrast between you and me. Sated with glory, and undeceived with the inanity of worldly grandeur, you live at freedom, in the midst of plenty, certain of immortality; you peaceably philosophize on the nature of the soul; and if the body, or the heart are indisposed, you have Tronchin for your physician and friend. Yet with all this you find nothing but evil on the face of the earth. I, on the other hand, obscure, indigent, tormented with an incurable disorder, meditate with pleasure in my solitude, and find every thing to be good. Whence arise these apparent contradictions?

You have yourself explained them. You live in a state of enjoyment, I in a state of hope; and hope gives charms to every thing.”*

:

Finally If nothing deserves the name of happiness which meets not the necessities, nor relieves the miseries of human life, Christianity alone can claim it. Every one who looks into his own heart, and makes proper observations on the dispositions of others, will perceive that man is possessed of a desire after something which is not to be found under the sun-after A GOOD WHICH HAS NO LIMITS. We may imagine our ideas are moderate, and set boundaries beyond which we may flatter ourselves we should never wish to pass; but this is self-deception. He that sets his heart on an estate, if he gain it will wish for something more. It would be the same if it were a kingdom; or even if all the kingdoms of the world were united in one. Nor is this desire to be attributed merely to human depravity; for it is the same with regard to knowledge: the mind is never satisfied with its present acquisitions. It is depravity that directs us to seek satisfaction in something short of God; but it is owing to the nature of the soul that we are never able to find it. It is not possible that a being created immortal, and with a mind capable of continual enlargement, should obtain satisfaction in a limited good. Men may spend their time and strength, and even sacrifice their souls in striving to grasp it, but it will elude their pursuit. It is only from an uncreated source that the mind can drink its fill. Here it is that the gospel meets our necessities. Its lan guage is, Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me; hear, and your soul shall live.—In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.-He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst, How this lan

[blocks in formation]

guage has been verified, all who have made the trial can testify. To them, as to the only competent witnesses, I appeal.

It is not merely the nature of the soul however, but its depravity, from whence our necessities arise. We are sinners. Every man who believes there is a God, and a future state, or even only admits the possibility of them, feels the want of mercy. The first inquiries of a mind awakened to reflection will be, how he may escape the wrath to come; how he shall get over his everlasting ruin. A beathen, previously to any Christian instruction, exclaimed, in the moment of alarm, What must I do to be saved? And several Mahometans, being lately warned by a Christian minister of their sinful state, came the next morning to him with this very serious question, Keman par hoibo?" How shall we get over?" To answer these inquiries is beyond the power of any principles but those of the gospel. Philosophy may conjecture, superstition may deceive, and even a false system of Christianity may be aiding and abetting; each may labor to lull the conscience to sleep, but none of them can yield it satisfaction. It is only by believing in Jesus Christ, the great sacrifice that taketh away the sin of the world, that the sinner obtains a relief which will bear reflection; a relief which, at the same time, gives peace to the mind and purity to the heart. For the truth of this also, I appeal to all who have made the trial.

Where, but in the gospel, will you find relief under the innumerable ills of the present state? This is the well-known refuge of Christians. Are they poor, afflicted, persecuted, or reproached? They are led to consider Him who endured the contradiction of sinners, who lived a life of poverty and ignominy, who endured persecution and reproach, and death itself, for them; and to realize a blessed immortality in prospect. By a view of such things their hearts are cheered, and their afflictions become tolerable. Looking to Jesus, who for the joy set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God, they run with patience the race that is set before

*Acts xvi. 30.

+ Periodical Accounts of the Baptist Missionary Society, No. IV. p. 326.

them. But what is the comfort of unbelievers? Life being short, and having no ground to hope for any thing beyond it, if they be crossed here they become inconsolable. Hence, it is not uncommon for persons of this description, after the example of the philosophers and statesmen of Greece and Rome, when they find themselves depressed by adversity, and have no prospect of recovering their fortunes, to put a period to their lives! Unhappy men! Is this the felicity to which ye would introduce us? Is it in guilt, shame, remorse, and desperation that ye descry such charms? Admitting that our hope of immortality is visionary, where is the injury? If it be a dream, is it not a pleasant one? To say the least, it beguiles many a melancholy hour, and can do no mischief; but if it be a reality, what will become of you?

I may be told, that if many put a period to their lives through unbelief, there is an equal number who fall sacrifices to religious melancholy. But to render this objection of force, it should be proved that the religion of Jesus Christ is the cause of this melancholy. Reason may convince us of the being of a God, and conscience bear witness that we are exposed to his displeasure. Now, if in this state of mind the heart refuse to acquiesce in the gospel way of salvation, we shall of course either rest in some delusive hope or sink into despair. But here, it is not religion, but the want of it, that produces the evil; it is unbelief, and not faith that sinks the sinner into despondency. Christianity disowns such characters. It records some few examples, such as Saul, Ahithophel, and Judas: but they are all branded as apostates from God and true religion. On the contrary, the writings of unbelievers, both ancient and modern, are known to plead for suicide, as an expedient in exextremity. Rosseau, Hume, and others, have written in defence of it. The principles of such men both produce and require it. It is the natural offspring of unbelief, and the last resort of disappointed pride.

Whether Christianity, or the want of it be best adapted to relieve the heart under its various pressures, let those testify who have been in the habit of visiting the afflicted poor. On this subject the writer of these sheets can speak from his own knowledge. In this situation characters of very opposite descriptions are

585995

« PreviousContinue »