Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

As it appears, by examining the natural system of the uviverse, that the greatest and smallest bodies are invested with the same properties, and moved by the same laws; so a survey of the moral world will inforin us, that greater or less societies are to be made happy by the same means, and that, however relations may be varied or circumstances changed, virtue, and virtue alone, is the parent of felicity. We can only, in whatsoever state we may be placed, secure ourselves from disquiet and from misery, by a resolute attention to truth and reason : without this, it is in vain that a man chooses a friend, or cleaves to a wife. If passion be suffered to prevail over right, and the duties of our state be broken through or neglected, for the sake of gratifying our anger, our pride, or our revenge, the union of hearts will quickly be dissolved, and kind. ness will give way to resentment and aversion.

The duties, by the practice of which a married life is to be made happy, are the same with those of friendship, but exalted to higher perfection. Love must be more ardent, and confidence without limits. It is, therefore, necessary, on each part, to deserve that confidence, by the most unshaken fidelity, and to preserve their love unextinguished by continual acts of tenderness; not only to detest all real, but seeming offences ; and to avoid suspicioy and guilt, with almost equal solicitude.

But since the frailty of our nature is such, that we Cannot hope from each other an unvaried rectitude of conduct, or an uninterrupted course of wisdom or virtue; as folly will, sometimes, intrude upon an unguarded hour ; and temptations, by frequent attacks, will, sometimes, prevail; one of the chief

a

[ocr errors]

acts of love is, readily to forgive errors and overlook defects. Neglect is to be reclaimed by kindness, and perverseness softened by complaisance, Sudden starts of passion are patiently to be borne, and the calm moments of recollection silently expected : for, if one offence be made a plea for another; if anger be to be opposed with anger, and reproach retorted for reproach ; either the contest

1 must be continued for ever, or one must, at last, be obliged, by violence, to do what might have been at first done, not only more gracefully, but with more advantage.

Marriage, however in general it resembles friendship, differs from it in this ; that all its duties are not reciprocal. Friends are equal in every respect ; but the relation of marriage produces authority on one side, and exacts obedience on the other; obedience, an unpleasing duty, which yet the nature of the state makes indispensable : for friends may separate when they can no longer reconcile the sentiments, or approve the schemes of each other; but as marriage is indissoluble, either one must be content to submit, when conviction cannot be obia tained, or life must be wasted in perpetual disputes.

But though obedience may be justly required, servility is not to be exacted ; and though it may be lawful to exert authority, it must be remembered, that to govern and to tyrannize are very different, and that oppression will naturally provoke rebellion.

The great rule, both of authority and obedience, is the law of God; a law which is not to be broken for the promotion of any ends, or in compliance with any commands; and which, indeed, never can be violated, without destroying that confidence, which is the great source of mutual happiness; for how can that person be trusted, whom no principle obliges to fidelity ?

Thus religion appears, in every state of life, to be the basis of happiness, and the operating power which makes every good institution valid and effi. cacious : and he that shall attempt to attain happiness by the means which God has ordained, and * shall leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife,” shall surely find the highest degree of satisfaction that our present state allows, if, in his choice, he pays the first regard to virtue, and regulates his conduct by the precepts of religion.

20

SERMON II.

ISAIAH, CHAP. LV. VERSE 7.

Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous

man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

That God is a being of infinite mercy; that he desires not the death of a sinner, nor takes any pleasure in the misery of his creatures; may not only be deduced from the consideration of his nature and his attributes; but, for the sake of those that are incapable of philosophical inquiries, who make far the greatest part of mankind, it is evidently revealed to us in the Scriptures, in which the Sa. preme Being, the source of life, the author of existence, who spake the word and the world was made, who commanded and it was created, is described as looking down, from the height of infinite felicity, with tenderness and pity, upon the sons of men; inciting them, by soft impulses, to perseverance in virtue, and recalling them, by instruction and punishment, from error and from vice. He is represented as not more formidable for his power than amiable for his mercy; and is introduced as expostulating with mankind upon their obstinacy in wickedness, and warning them, with the highest affection, to avoid those punishments, which the laws of his government make it necessary to inflict upon the inflexible and disobedient. “ Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the Lord of Hosts :" Mal. iii. 7.-" Make you a new heart, and a new spirit, for why will ye die, O house of Israel ?" Ezek. xviii. 31. His mercy is ever made the chief motive of obedience to him ; and with the highest reason inculcated, as the attribute which may animate us most powerfully to an attention to our duty. “ If thou, O Lord, wert extreme to mark what is done amiss, O Lord, who shall abide it? But there is mercy with thee, therefore shalt thou be feared.” If God were a Power unmerciful and severe, a rigid exactor of unvaried regularity and unfailing virtue; if he were not to be pleased but with perfection, nor to be pacified after transgressions and offences; in vain would the best men endeavour to recommend themselves to his favour ; in vain would the most circumspect watch the motions of his own heart, and the most diligent apply himself to the exercise of virtue : they would only destroy their ease by ineffectual solicitude, confine their hearts with unnecessary restraints, and weary out their lives in unavailing labours. God would not be to be served, because all service would be rejected; it would be much more reasonable to abstract the mind from the contemplation of him, than to have him only before us as an object of terror, as a Being too mighty to be resisted, and too cruel to be implored; a Being, that created men only to be miserable, and revealed himself to them, only to interrupt even the transient and in perfect enjoy

[ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »