« 前へ次へ »
inquiries after happiness to this world, where it is not to be had; so that the first conclusion of reason from this allowed principle, that the things which are seen are temporal,' is this, that the things of this world being temporal, and our desires adapted to the fruition of things eternal, this world can never make us happy; the
consequence of which is, that we must seek out for another abiding place, if haply we may find it, where we may meet with objects suited to our desires ; the only means by which we can ever arrive at complete and perfect happiness. So that the voice of nature speaks the same language with our blessed Saviour, and calls out to us in his words, ó Set not your affections on things below, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but set your affections on things above, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through and steal :' that is, place not your desires on this world, which has nothing that can satisfy them; but place your desires above, where God has prepared a happiness answerable to the impressions he has given to the souls of men.
That the things which are seen are temporal, is indeed no sufficient proof that there are things which are not seen which are eternal; though it is a great presumption that, since God has not fitted this world to our desires, he has fitted our desires to another world ; and has not given us these cravings of nature merely to vex and torment us, without any possibility of their being satisfied; but thus far we prove, from the things of this world being temporal, that they cannot make us happy. And this makes religion to be a very serious concern, since all our hopes of happiness depend on it : for if religion cannot furnish objects adapted to our natural desires, nothing else can; and therefore men should think soberly and maturely before they reject religion, and divest themselves of all the hopes they have or can have of being happy. Who would not be glad to live for ever, and to be for ever happy? Is it not then very unnatural to see a man rejoice and triumph in the thoughts that there is neither a life nor liappiness which is eternal ? It is indeed better not to be, than to be miserable; and therefore the thoughts of dropping into everlasting silence and darkness may be the refuge of guilty fear, but never can be a natural joy or comfort to the
soul of man, which longs for nothing so much as life for ever
The only reason any man can possibly have to wish that there
may be no other world is, that he may with the more freedom enjoy this; and this must needs appear to be a wise reason, if we consider the value of this world and the worth of these things, which are no sooner seen but they are gone, and their place is no more found. I should not wonder, were this world to last for ever, to see men of low and abject spirits setting up their rest, and giving up the hopes of more exalted glory and happiness ; but now that the world must last but a little time, and we much less, to see men sacrifice their hopes of glory and immortality to the mean and poor enjoyments of this world, is such an absurdity as would puzzle any one to account for, who knew nothing more of man than that he is a reasonable creature. It is so little men gain by gaining this world, and so little they lose by losing it, that the concerns of this world would weigh but light in this question, were not men guided more by the violence of passion than either by reason or the regular desires of nature.
For suppose, secondly, that religion were very uncertain, and a man were liable to be deceived in his expectations of future rewards ; let us examine again by this rule, that 'the things which are seen are temporal,' what the consequence of this mistake would be, and how much a man would be a sufferer by it. As to the ordinary course of the world, in which a man may profess his religion without disturbance or persecution, the pleasures which are consistent with innocence and virtue will be found to have more of real satisfaction than the vicious man can ever find from the gratification of his sensual desires and appetites. But we will waive this topic, because the text goes on the supposition that we must give up this world, and submit to many hardships and inconveniences in it, in order to obtain the other; and at all times there is difficulty enough in submitting to the restraints of religion, till men have got to be masters of their own passions and appetites, and have learned to use this world as not abusing it.
Say then, that a man loses the pleasures of this world, in following after the pleasures of another : his loss must be valued according to the worth of the thing which is lost. Now things
of this world being very uncertain possessions, which are often hardly obtained, and seldom long preserved, the loss of these things cannot be set very high. It is evident that the men of the world do not always succeed in their designs: they are liable to a thousand disappointments, which cut them short in their prospects, and render all their pains and labor abortive. Of the many who seek the honors and glory of this life, but a very small number attain to the end of their desires. Since then to follow the world and the good things of it is no sure way of obtaining the world, it may happen that he that pursues the glories of another world to the neglect of this, may lose just nothing at all; for, possibly, had he given himself up to this world, he might have got no share in it: for such is the mutable condition of these things, and so many the chances they are liable to, that a man can have no security from all his pains and toil of enjoying the thing he pursues: and if by following the world he might possibly have got nothing, then possibly by not following the world he may lose nothing: for a man cannot be said to lose more than he might have got. And therefore in this question it is a great mistake to reckon up all the good things of this world together, and then to say, these things do we lose by religion ; for if we had no religion, we should never be able to get the hundredth part of these fine things ; and we cannot be said to relinquish more of the world than we might have got had we not relinquished it.
And now you may learn, from the nature of worldly possessions and your own experience, what sort of chance a man has of being satisfied with the enjoyments of life, supposing him to take the utmost pains for them : possibly he may never get them; for there are so many pretenders, that they are ever jostling one another out; and possibly too, if he does get them, they may leave him before he has half done with them ; or, it may be, when he has got them, he may not like or relish them; for many things which look well at a distance, and raise and inflame the desires, lose their value by being possessed, and appear to be, what in truth they are, empty and vain allurements. Now this chance for worldly happiness is all that a man quits for religion ; for you cannot say that he quitted the good things of life, without knowing whether he ever could
have had them or no. It is ten to one against you, that if you follow the world you get nothing, or but little by it; and therefore there are the same odds on the other side, that if
follow religion you lose little or nothing by it. So that supposing religion to be uncertain, yet -a man does not venture much for it, or put himself into a much worse condition than he was in before, by reason of the uncertain condition of the world.
And on the other side, this may be said, that if religion reaches no farther than this life, yet one good effect of it here is evidently this, that it makes men easy and contented under the disappointments of this life : so that whatever the loss of the world may be to a worldly man, yet to a truly religious man it is inconsiderable, because he is not equally affected with such losses, being strengthened and confirmed against them by the hopes he has entertained of more lasting and solid enjoyments. So that add this to the account, and it will appear that religion in this world is the surest step you can take, if not towards happiness, yet towards ease and contentment: for since so many who follow the world must necessarily be disappointed by following the world, we expose ourselves to all the uneasiness and pain of losing it; and as things go, it is well if the pain and uneasiness of losing the world be not all we get by pursuing it. But religion is the art of governing and ruling the passions, of making ourselves easy without being gratified with the pleasures of this life ; and when we are thus prepared, not to enjoy the pleasures is no great mischief. So that if there be no other world but this, yet by religion we are sure of getting the second best thing that can be had in the world, that is, contentment. Admit that the first thing is to have and enjoy the things we want; yet certainly the next best thing is to be easy without them. The first the world but rarely grants; the next religion never denies. And thus far we may argue from the nature of worldly things, without entering into the comparison between them and the things of another life; which extremely alters the state of the question, and makes it reasonable not only to forego the pleasures, but even to choose and embrace the sorrows of life for the sake of future glory : • For the things which are not seen are eternal.'
As to the nature of the happiness of another life, we know
but little of it: the descriptions we meet with in Scripture are figurative, and lead not to the true knowlege of the glories they describe. Possibly this world affords no notions or ideas proper to express the happiness of Heaven ; which can therefore only be described in figures taken from the present sense we have of pleasure and enjoyment: hence the happiness of Heaven is sometimes painted under the figure of a marriage feast, which is a time usually stolen from sorrow, and dedicated to mirth and good humour. Sometimes the description is grounded on our notions of power and dignity, which are great darlings to mankind : hence we read of crowns of glory, which cannot be shaken, which fade not away, which are reserved for us in the highest heavens. From hence we only argue that the happiness is very great, and exceeding much the glories of this world, which are but faint images, and scarcely serve to represent the glories of Heaven: but we have a clear notion of duration; and therefore to this point the Scripture speaks plain, and tells us that these are pleasures for evermore; that they are eternal, and eternally the same without changing. Nothing likewise is more usual than to express the happiness of Heaven by life, by everlasting life : Whosoever,' says our Saviour, • believeth in me shall live, though he die; and whosoever believeth on me shall not die eternally. This then is the natural happiness of man, since it alone can answer the natural desires of man; for nothing less than eternal life can satisfy that desire of life which is implanted in man; and nothing can be more evident to sense than this is to reason, that something has been from all eternity, and something shall be to all eternity : so that our desires of eternity are not loose ill-grounded desires ; but there are evidently objects in nature fitted to them. Since then we cannot possibly live without desiring to live for ever, and to enjoy eternal happiness; since likewise it is clear to a demonstration that there are things eternal; is it not agreeable to the very instinct of nature to endeavor after these things, which can only make for our happiness, if by any means we may attain to them? To lead us to the possession and enjoyment of these things is the work and business of religion; and therefore to be employed in the work of religion is to be em