« PreviousContinue »
call it by this name, provided we purify the term and guard it by the following limitations; so as to understand by felicity, such a pleasure as is perfect, constant, pure, spiritual, and divine: for never, since I ventured to think upon such subjects, could I be satisfied with the opinion of Aristotle and the schoolmen, who distinguish between the fruition of the chief good, which constitutes true felicity, and the delight and satisfaction attending that fruition ; because, at this rate, that good would not be the ultimate end and completion of our desires, nor desired on its own account; for whatever good we wish to possess, the end of our wishing is, that we may enjoy it with tranquillity and delight; and this uninterrupted delight or satisfaction, which admits of no alloy, is love in possession of the beloved object and at the height of its ambition
LECTURE III. of the Happiness of Man, and that it is really to be found. You will not, I imagine, be offended, nor think I intend to insult you, because I have once and again, with great earnestness and sincerity, wished you and myself a sound and serious temper of mind; for, if we may represent things as they really are, very few men are possessed of so valuable a blessing. The far greater part of them are intoxicated either with the pleasures or the cares of this world; they stagger about with a tottering and unstable pace; and, as Solomon expresses it, The labour of the foolish wearieth every one of them; because he knoweth not how to go to the city; the heavenly city, and the vision of peace,
few have a just notion of or are at pains to seek after. Nay, they know not what it is they are seeking. They flutter from one object to another, and live at hazard, They have no certain harbour in view, nor direct their course by any fixed star. But to him that knoweth not the port to which he is bound, no wind can be favourable; neither can he who has not yet determined at* what mark he is to shoot, direct his arrow aright. That this may not be our case, but that we may have a proper object to aim at, I propose to speak of the chief end of our being.
And to begin at the Father of spirits or pure intelligences
UNIVERSI HAPPINESS. -God, blessed for ever
, completely happy in Combel OT ATTI from all eternity is his own happiness. His self-sufficiency, that eternal and infinite satisfaction and complacency he has in himself, is the peculiar and most complete felicity of that supreme Being who derives his existence from himself, and has given being to every thing else; which Chrysostom has well expressed by saying, that “it is God's peculiar property to stand in need of nothing.” And Claudius Victor beautifully describes him as “ vested with all the majesty of creative power, comprehending in his infinite mind all the creatures to be afterwards produced, baving all the revolutions of time constantly present to his all-seeing eye, and being an immense and most glorious kingdom to himself.”
Yet all we can say of this primary, uncreated Majesty and Felicity, is but mere talking to little or no sort of purpose; for here, not only words fail us, but even thought is at a stand and quite overpowered, when we survey the supreme, self-existent Being, perfectly happy and glorious in the sole enjoyment of his own infinite perfections throughout numberless ages, without angels, men, or any other creature: so that the poet had reason to say, "What eye so strong, that the matchless brightness of thy glory will not dazzle it, and make it close ?”
Let us, therefore, descend into ourselves, but with a view to return to him again; and not only so, but in such a manner, that the end and design of our descending to inquire into our own situation, be, that we may, with greater advantage, return and reascend to God; for if we inquire into our own ultimate end, this disquisition must rise above all other beings, and at last terminate in him, because he himself is that very end, and out of him there is neither begiuning nor end. The félicity of angels, which is an intermediate degree of happiness, we shall not insist on, not only because it is foreign to our purpose, but also because our felicity and theirs will be found upon the matter to be precisely the same.
With regard to our own happiness, we shall first show that such happiness really exists, and next inquire what it is and wherein it consists.
We assert then, that there is such a thing as human felicity. And this ought rather to be taken for granted as a
matter unquestionable, than strictly proved. But when I speak of human felicity, I am well satisfied you will not imagine, I mean such a happiness as may be had from human things, but that I take the term subjectively, and understand by it the happiness of man. Now he who would deny, that this is not only among the number of possible things, but actually attained by some part, at least, of the human race, would not only reoder himself unworthy of such happiness, but even of human nature itself; because he would thereby do all in his power to deprive it of its bighest expectations and its greatest honour: but whosoever allows that all things were produced by the hand of an infinitely wise Creator, cannot possibly doubt that man, the head and ornament of all his visible works, was made capable of a proper and suitable end. The principal beauty of the creation consists in this, that all things in it are disposed in the most excellent order, and every particular intended for some noble and suitable end; and if this could not be said of man, who is the glory of the visible world, what a great deformity must it be! how great a gap in nature! And this gap must be the greater, in that, as we have already observed, man is naturally endued with strong and vigorous desires towards such an end. Yet, on this absurd supposition, all such desires and expectations would be vain, and to no purpose ; and so, something might be said in defence of that peevish and impatient expression which escaped the psalmist in a fit of excessive sorrow, and he might have an excuse for saying, Why hast thou made all men in vain? This would not only have been a frightful gap in nature, but, if I am allowed so to speak, at this rate the whole human race must have been created in misery, and exposed to unavoidable torinents, from which they could never have been relieved, had they been formed, not only capable of a good quite upattainable and altogether without their reach, but also with strong and restless desires towards that impossible good. Now, as this is by no means to be admitted, there must necessarily be some full, permanent, and satisfying good, that may be attained by man, and in the possession of which he must be truly happy.
When we revolve these things in our minds, do we not feel within a powerful impulse, exciting us to set aside all
other cares, that we may discover the one chief good, and attain to the enjoyment of it? While we inhabit these bodies, I own, we lie under a necessity of using corporeal and fading things; but there is no necessity that we should be slaves to our bellies and the lusts of the flesh, or have our affections glued to this earth; nay, that it should be so, is the highest and most intolerable indignity. Can it be thought that man was born merely to cram himself with victuals and drink, or gratify the other appetites of a body which he has in common with the brutes ?—to snuff
the wind, to entertain delusive and vain hopes all the days of his life, and, when that short scene of madness is over, to be laid in the grave, and reduced to his original dust? Far be it from us to draw such conclusions. Thereis certainly something beyond this, something so great and lasting, that, in respect of it, the short point of time we live here, with all its bustle of business and pleasures, is more empty and vanishing than smoke. “I am more considerable,” says one, “and born to greater matters, tban to become the slave of my diminutive body.” With how much greater truth might we speak thus, were we regenerated from heaven! Let us be ashamed to live with our heads bowed down, like groveling beasts gazing upon the earth, or even to catch at the vain and airy shadows of science, while, in the mean time, we know not, or do not consider, whence we took our rise and whither we are soon to return; what place is to receive our souls, when they are set at liberty from these bodily prisons. If it is the principal desire of your souls to understand the vature of this felicity, and the way that leads to it, search the scriptures, for from them alone, we all think, or profess to think, we can have eternal life. I exhort and beseech you, never to suffer so much as one day to pass, either through lazy negligence or too much eagerness in inferior studies, without reading some part of the sacred records with a pious and attentive disposition of mind; still joining with your reading fervent prayer, that you may tbiereby draw down that divine ligbi, without which spiritual things cannot be read and understood. But with this light shining upon them, it is not possible to express how much sweeter you will find these inspired writings, than Cicero, Demosthenes, Homer, Aristotle, and all the
other orators, poets, and philosophers. They reason about an imaginary felicity, and every one in his own way advances some precarious and uncertain thoughts upon it; but this Book alone shows clearly, and with absolute cer, tainty, what it is, and points out the way that leads to the attainment of it. This is that which prevailed with St. Augustine to study the scriptures, and engaged his affection to them. “In Cicero, and Plato, and other such writers,” says he, “I meet with many things wittily said, and things that have a moderate tendency to move the passions; but in none of them do I find these words, Come unto me, all ye that labour, and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
LECTURE IV. Of human Felicity, and that it cannot be found either in
the Earth or earthly Things. We are all in quest of one thing, but almost all of us out of the right road; therefore, to be sure, the longer and the more swiftly we move in a wrong path, the further we depart from the object of our desires: and if it is so, we can speak or think of nothing more proper and seasonable, than of inquiring about the only right way, whereby we may all come to see the bright Fountain of goodness. I know you will remember, that on the last occasion we proposed the most important of all questions, namely, that concerning our ultimate end, or the way to discover true (happiness; to which, we asserted, all mankind do aspire with a natural, and therefore a constant and uniform ardour; or rather we supposed, that all are sufficiently acquainted with this happiness, nay, really do, or at least may feel it within them, if they thoroughly know themselves: for this is the end of the labours of men; to this tend all their toils. This is the general aim of all, not only of the sharp-sighted, but the blear-eyed and shortsighted; nay, even of those that are quite blind, who, though they cannot see the mark they propose to themselves, yet are in hopes of reaching it at last: that is to say, though their ideas of it are very confused and imperfect, they all desire happiness in the obvious sense of the