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You would discover every where some cause of dissatisfaction with the present state of things. You would hear every one complain of some drawback to happiness in his own circumstances, whatever those circumstances might be. One man would tell you, “ I am suffering under poverty and persecution ; with all my labour and industry, I can scarcely obtain food enough to support me, or clothing to keep me warm. How can you ask me therefore, if I am satisfied with my condition? I see all the luxuries and ease which others enjoy, without the least hope of ever tasting them myself. Oh, that I was in his situation, who without the necessity of toil and exertion, is 'clothed in purple and fine linen, and feasts sumptuously every day,' who can say to his soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years, take thine ease, eat, drink, and
Go then and enquire of this apparently happy man, whom the other so much wishes to resemble, whether he thinks himself worthy of this
Perhaps you will find him labouring under some bodily infirmity, which he would give all his wealth to be relieved of; or mourning for the loss of some dear friend, whose return to life he would gladly buy with all his possessions ; or perhaps you would find him vexed and irritated
at the disappointment of some favourite scheme, agitated with dismal apprehensions of some disaster, of some loss or failure that threatens his property, thwarted in his prospects by the success of some wealthier and more fortunate rival, distressed by the extravagance and disorderly conduct of children, full of cares and anxieties of some sort or other, produced by those very riches in which his happiness is falsely supposed to consist.
I will not take up your time with detailing all the various reasons which different people would give for being dissatisfied with their condition, should you go about the world making the enquiry which I have supposed. I will only say in general, that I am confident you would find every person, from the lowest to the highest, from him who, in the sweat of his brow, is toiling for a scanty subsistence, to the opulent idler, who studies nothing but his pleasure and amusement, from the beggar by the way-side to the king that sitteth upon his throne, with his own burthen upon him, with some thorn in his side, some bodily suffering or mental anxiety which would compel him to acknowledge that he stood in need of some comfort and relief, which he could not obtain from any earthly source.
For even supposing you should come at length
to a man who had nothing to complain of in his present circumstances, who had all the advantages heaped up in his own person that are more commonly divided and scattered in separate portions among a number; suppose you should at length meet with such an one as this, one who was possessed of youth, of health, of riches, of great abilities, of kind friends, of the applause and respect of the world, without a single impediment or interruption to the enjoyment of all these things, and with a cheerful mind, capable of feeling to the fullest extent the satisfaction and delight which it is in their power to administer ; yet you might put a question to him, which should discompose even this happy man, and remind him that he too has his burden. Ask him for how long a time his present blessings are secured to him? This, my brethren, is a question, which when maturely weighed, and seriously reflected on, must be fatal to the most perfect happiness that depends on the world and this life only. For what is the real value of any thing which we are not sure of for a day, and which we know we must at all events resign in a few years ? Granting that such a man as I have represented, is equally prosperous in worldly circumstances, and all his means of enjoyment rather increased than diminished, yet nature runs mentary all
her accustomed course, the end arrives, the happy man must yield up all those things in which his soul delighted. And will not the thought of this continually mingle itself with his happiness? Will not this evil demon be for ever whispering into his ear, Foolish man! how vain, how frivolous, how worthless is your life! how useless all your most busy pursuits! how fleeting, how mo
your enjoyments! “This very night thy soul may be required of thee."
I have imagined the best case of worldly happiness that can possibly exist; and yet see only what a great deficiency is here. The happy man is mortal, and so turns out to be nothing more than a poor insignificant creature, dressed up and adorned for exhibition, for a few years only, and then to be stripped of all his decorations, and hidden in the earth, because too loathsome an object to be seen.
Let a man be ever so happy in every other respect, yet this one circumstance, that he must die, and that very shortly, is surely enough to convince him of the vanity of human life, and to make him wish that if nothing better is to come, he had never been suffered to experience the enjoyments which he knows are so soon to be taken from him. But this, as I have said already, is the best case of worldly happiness that can be
imagined. It is the condition of very few; most of us have our pains of body or of mind, our diseases, our cares, our anxieties, our distresses, our disappointments; most of us “ labour, or are heavy laden,” if not throughout our whole life, yet for so large a portion of it, as hardly to feel ourselves repaid by the intervals of comparative ease and repose, which now and then occur; and numbers are altogether children of affliction, and are never disencumbered of the heavy load which life has imposed upon them, until they lay down that load and their being both together.
And can this be a true representation of human life? You may ask-What, has the merciful God really made so miserable a race of beings? Has lie, who is perfectly happy in himself, and who might so easily have communicated a larger share of happiness to bis creatures, yet chosen rather to afflict and torment them? brethren, be assured this is not God's doing ; it was not his design to create a world of woe and misery; you can conceive no motive that could induce a being of perfect goodness, to take pleasure in producing such a creature as this; it would be contrary to his nature, contrary to his most essential attributes, to do so ; none but a cruel, a malevolent deity, could purposely design to frame a state of things that should be productive