Page images
PDF
EPUB

blessings of this holy day. Should older men become demoralized; should grave senators trample on this institution of heaven's wisdom and mercy; there is a redeeming spirit in the young. I repeat the thought, let it be one of the great principles of your conduct, wherever and whatever you may be, to uphold the authority and plead the cause of this holy institution. Let no change of condition, or place, or pressure of business, tempt you to profane the Sabbath. No one external observance will exert so powerful an influence on your moral character as a scrupulous and cheerful regard to the Lord's day. You cannot become abandoned while you revere the Sabbath. You cannot become useless members of society, so long as you regard the Sabbath. You cannot put yourselves beyond the reach of hope and heaven, so long as you treasure up this one command, “ Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.

LECTURE XIII.

THE INFLUENCE OF THE BIBLE ON HUMAN

HAPPINESS.

The Bible possesses an unmeasured pre-eminence in the influence it exerts in promoting human happiness. If the world is indebted to a supernatural revelation for its language and its letters; for its history and its literature: for its laws and its liberties; for its social institutions and the mitigation of its more public calamities; for its morality and religious knowledge ; for a religion that satisfies the conscience, renovates the heart, and fits the soul for heaven; for a standard of excellence and loftiness of character, to which it must otherwise have been a stranger; for the divine power which accompanies its truths, as well as for the benign and hallowed influences of its day of rest; then has the great book of which we have spoken, conferred unspeakably greater benefits on the world, than any other-nay, than all other books. But I do not purpose to illustrate the leading thought of the present lecture, by recapitulating the substance of that which has, already, I fear, been too greatly extended.

Some of the ancients, indeed, endeavoured to form the mind to virtue, but it was a virtue based on interest, or a vain love of approbation. The “honestum, ” or “To kalov" of the Greek and Roman philosophers is defined by Aristotle to be that which is praise worthy; and by Plato that which is pleasant, or profitable. Their virtue had no broader foundation than the hopes and desires of the present life. Some of them appeared to have a wish to benefit their fellow men,

and to be in earnest in their researches after the truth. To such minds, what a relief would the perusal of this book have afforded, while it clearly disclosed that for which they had so long been seeking, and enabled them to exchange the distant glimpses they had obtained, for the full light revealed in lines that could leave no doubt of their heavenly origin! How would they, had they been taught of God, have thrown their poor speculations to the winds, and recognized the virtue for which they had so anxiously sighed, in the divine precepts! But it was not granted them. They lived in error and darkness, for the day-spring from on high had not yet arisen upon

their land. Sinful emotions are the source of disquietude, dissatisfaction, remorse, and misery. Envy and unkindness, suspicion and jealousy, lawless appetites, malignant and stormy passions, infuriated rage, reciprocated treachery, mutual crimination and bitterness, what so much as these distract the heart, and dry up its joys? There is nothing that can make such a mind happy. Perturbed and unhallowed affections form no inconsiderable part of the misery of that world, where the worin does not die, and the fire is not quenched. Angels could not be happy in heaven, when their bosoms became such a “troubled sea as this. Our first parents must be doomed to a life of toil, to a world of thorny care and the grave, when they yielded to such a spirlt. Ahab, on the throne of Israel, “ refuses to eat bread," because he could not possess himself of the vineyard of Naboth. Haman, in high

favour at the court of Persia, makes himself miserable because, “ Mordecai the Jew, sat at the king's gate.” Who can feel himself at peace when such passions reign in the soul? aud where is the bosom in which they may not be found, unless it has been purified by the power of the gospel ? Wealth, pleasure, and fame, are the three idols of this world, and the love of these, the predominant passions of the heart. And yet they are the most contentious, mischievous, debasing passions, and the niost prolific source of individual, social, and public calamity. Vanity and ostentation without, are very apt to be the index of poverty and wretchedness within. The rich, the voluptuous, the ambitious, the great, are not the men who are happy. Marcus Crassus antedating his fall by grasping at the wealth of Parthia, Tiberius concealing his cruelty and lust amid the retreats of Capræa, and Alexander on the throne of the world, weeping because there was not another world to conquer, are melancholy proofs, that amid joys like these, and in the highest gratification of the unhallowed passions which this world can furnish, men not only never can be happy, but may and must be miserable.

There is nothing that allays and cures this febrile action of human depravity like the influence of the Bible. Let any one compare the present state of human society, notwithstanding all its imperfections, with its true character only a few centuries past, and he cannot fail to see how many exciting causes of human misery it has subdued; how many a heart it has kept from acting out, and giving unrestrained license to, its irritated selfishness; how often it has held the fierce passions of men in check, and extinguished the flame which otherwise would have burned with indomitable phrenzy. Affections that are bland and virtuous, are uniformly the source of tranquillity and joy. They are like “rivers of water in a dry place." They are living fountains within, springing up to purify and refresh the mind. The Bible alone tells us in what true happiness consists, and how it may be attained. It is not without reason that it admonishes us of the danger of mere earthly comforts, because the very desire after them is ordinarily so intense as to become the source of inward corruption, and in their enjoyment we forget our highest good. I have been not a little interested in the faet, that the Saviour, at the commencement of his public ministry, and in the first paragraph of his first discourse, should have so entirely countervailed the commonly received notions of men, in regard to the sources of true happiness. He who formed the human mind, is acquainted with its large desires, and is familiar with every avenue to its joys, has said, “ Blessed are the poor in spirit; blessed are they that mourn ; blessed are the meek; blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness ;

blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” What a rebuke to the spirit of this world! What a contrast to the restless solicitude of grasping covetousness; to the dissipation of the gay; to the resentment of the implacable; to the degradation of the impure; and to those senseless joys of ambition, when some new flame ignites its hopes to quench them in darkness! The Bible distinctly teaches iis, that he is the happiest man, who possesses most of its peculiar spirit and character. Not because he has the most wealth, for he may be poor, and, like his Divine Master, “ have not where to lay his head.” Not be. cause he “ seeks honour from men,” but because he seeks “ that which cometh from God only." Not because he is a voluptuary, but a Christian. Not because he has the greatest capacity, but because he possesses an internal spirit, a state of mind and heart

« PreviousContinue »