Page images

day, and propagated their kind, this little spot of earth had many ages since been over peopled, and could not have subsisted without transplanting some colonies of the most divine and purified souls into the other world.

But however that be, it is certain, that being removed out of this world, and living in heaven is not the curse : this fallen man had no right to ; for he, who by sin hac forfeited an earthly paradise, could not thereby gain a title to Heaven. Eternal life is the gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord : it is the reward of good men, of a well spent life in this world, of our faith and patience in doing and suffering the will of God; it is our last and final state, - where we shall live forever, and therefore the argu.

ment is still good, that this world cannot be the happiest place ; for then heaven could not be a reward. Though all men are under the necessity of dying, yet if this world had been the happiest place, God would have raised good men to have lived again in this world; which he could as easily have done, as liare translated them to heaven.

Now if this world be not the happiest place, if present things be not the most valuable, as appears from this very consideration, that we must leave this world, (for to this I must confine my discourse at present) there are several very good uses to be made of this : as, I. To rectify our notions about present things. II. To live in expectation of some better

things. III. Not to be over concerned about the shortness of our lives here.

1. To rectify our notions about present things : 'tis our opinions of things which ruin us : for what mankind account their greatest happiness, they must love, and they must love without bounds or measure : and it would go a great way to cure our extravagant fondness and passion for these things, could we persuade ourselves that there is any thing better. But this, I confess, is a very hard thing for most men to do, because present things have much the advantage of what is absent and future. Some who believe another life after this, whatever great things they may talk of the other world, yet do not seem thoroughly persuaded, that the next world is a happier state than this ; for I think they could not be so fond of this world, if they were : and the reason of it is plain, because happiness cannot be so well known, as by feeling ; now men feel the pleasures and happines of this world, but do not feel the happiness of the next, and therefore are apt to think, that this is the greatest happiness, which does most sensibly affect them : But would they but seriously consider things, they might see reason to think otherwise, that the unknown joys and pleasures of the other world are much greater


any pleasures, which they feel here. For let us thus reason with ourselves : I find I am mortal, and must shortly leave this world ; and yet I believe, that my soul cannot die, as my body does, but shall only be translated to another state : whatever I take pleasure in, in this world, I must leave behind me, and know not what I shall find in the next: but surely the other world, where I must live forever, is not worse furnished than this world, which I must so quickly leave : for has God made me immortal and provided no sorts of pleasures and entertainments for an immortal state, when he has so liberally furnished the short and changeable scene of this life? I know not indeed what the pleasures of the next world are ; but no more did I know, what the pleasures of this world were, till I came into it ; and therefore that is no argument that there are no pleasures there, because I do not yet know them; and if there be any pleasures there, surely they must be greater than what are here, because it is a more lasting state : for can we think, that God has emptied all his stores and treasures into this world ? nay, 'can we think, that he has given us the best things first, where we can only just taste them, and leave them behind us? which is to excite and provoke an appetite, which shall be restless and uneasy to eternity. No, surely! the other world must be infinitely a inore happy place than this, because it will last infinitely longer: the divine wisdom and goodness has certainly reserved the best things for eternity ; for as eternal beings are the most perfect, so they must be the most happy too, unless we can separate perfection and happiness: and therefore I cannot but conclude, that there are greater pleasures, that there is a happier state of life than this, because there is a life which lasts forever.

2. This will naturally teach us to live in expectation of better things, of greater, though unknown and unexperienced pleasures, which methinks all men should do, who know, that there are better things to be had ; and that they must go into that state, where these better things are to be had : for can any man be contented with a less degree of happiness, who knows there is a greater ? This is stupidity and baseness of spirit ? an ignoble mind, which is not capable of great hopes : ambition and covetousness indeed are ill names, but yet they are symptoms of a great and generous soul, and are excellent virtues, when directed to their right objects, that is, to such objects as are truly great and excel. lent, for it is only the meanness of the object, which makes them vices : to be ambitious of true honor, of the true glory and perfection of our natures, is the very principle and incentive of virtue ; but to be ambitious of titles; of place, of some ceremonious respects, and civil pageantry, is as vain and little as the things are which they court. To be covetous of true and real happiness, to set no bounds nor measures to our desires or pursuit of it, is true greatness of mind, which will take up with nothing on this side perfection ; for God and nature have set no


bounds to our desires of happiness; but as it is in nato ural, so it ought to be in moral agents, every thing grows till it comes to its maturity and perfection ; but then covetousness is a vice, when men mistake their object, and are insatiable in their desires of that which is not their happiness ; as gold and silver, houses and lands; what is more than we want, and more than we can use, cannot be the happiness of a

And thus it is on the other hand , though humility be a great virtue, as it is opposed to earthly ambitions, as it sets us above the little opinions and courtship of the world, which are such mean things, as argue meanness of spirit to stoop to them ; yet it is not humility, but sordidness, to be regardless of true honor : thus to be contented with our external fortune in this world, what ever it be ; to be able to see the greater prosperity and splendor of other men, without envy, and without repining at our own meanness, is a great virtue ; because these things are not our happiness, but for the use and conveniences of this present life, and to be contented with a little of them for present use, is an argument, that we do not think them our happiness, which is the true excellency of this virtue of contentment; but to be contented, if we may so call it, to want that which is our true happiness, or any degree or portion of it, to be contented never to enjoy the greatest and best things, is a vice which contradicts the natural desires of happiness; and you may call it what

« PreviousContinue »