Page images

employs, his continual occupation and sound rest, and compares it with his own languor and listlessness; when he reflects how burthensome his time and thoughts are, when he reflects upon his tedious days and wakeful nights—when he takes this view of his own condition, he repines at the superior lot of those whose humble but active station supplies them with employment, and exempts them from care.

Stations of peril and enterprise are generally envied by those who are tired with the slow progress of their fortunes ; while such men, in their turn, regret the situations they have left, or lament that they ever exchanged the plain path of patient industry for scenes of adventure and uncertainty. And all such mutual discontents are governed by the same mistake-each man forgets his own advantages, and magnifies those of others : each party is impatient under his own sufferings, and ignorant of those of his neighbours. Generally speaking, we cannot employ our time or thoughts worse than in comparing our own condition with that of others. For the most part, the fewer of these comparisons we make, the better. Indeed, when the mind is in health, as we may say, when the spirits and temper are properly composed, we seldom concern ourselves with them at all; yet if we will make such comparisons, it is of consequence that we make them

uly. This we can never do, till we learn to allow a great deal for the intimate knowledge we have of our own condition, and the imperfect judgement we can form of other men's—for there is a wide difference between observing an evil or inconvenience in others, and coming actually to experience it ourselves—and lastly, for our imperfect enjoyment of pleasures which are new and unexperienced.

Secondly; the best remedy for discontent is, to learn to attend to those blessings which we enjoy in common perhaps with the rest, or with the generality of mankind—instead of looking for other exclusive or particular privileges which some men possess beyond or above others.

A blessing is in reality not the less valuable because others possess it as well as ourselves ; and yet it requires some generosity of temper to see this. It is for the want or defect of this temper that the love of God obtains so little in the heart of man—that there is so much less gratitude towards Him than might be expected from reasonable creatures to such a benefactor. Health and liberty, the perfect enjoyment of our limbs and reason, the use of our understanding and the faculties of our mind, are blessings beyond all price ; yet because others possess them as well as ourselves, because they are only common to us with almost every man we meet, they are seldom in our thoughts --seldom subjects either of satisfaction to ourselves, or of gratitude to God. Not one man in ten reflects from whom he receives these blessings, or continues to receive them. If we are not indulged with riches and honours, and high stations, with the means and knowledge of luxury and show; unless we are distinguished by those favours which, from the nature of them, must be confined to a few, we can see nothing in our own condition to be thankful for. Could this narrowness of mind be once so far got rid of, as to allow us to estimate the blessings we enjoy according as they are in themselves, and not by the comparison with others, there are few who might not find enough in their condition to excite sentiments of complacency and content, certainly of gratitude towards God.

Discontent, considered in a religious view, besides that it indisposes us for the duties of our station, by making us lazy or careless about them- besides that it sometimes puts men upon advancing themselves by unjust or forcible means—is utterly inconsistent with a religious temper of mind. It destroys, as we have already said, the love and gratitude we owe to God. It is not to be expected that men should be, nor is it found in fact that they are, capable of much affection towards God, whilst they are discontented with the condition in which he has placed them.

When we confer favours, if, instead of observing satisfaction and gratitude in the person obliged, we meet with nothing but impatience, complaint, and discontent, we are naturally and justly offended with such obstinacy of temper : nor do I know any reason why the same temper should not be offensive to God, especially when it is considered that the favours we are able to confer upon one another bear no proportion to those which God has bestowed upon us all.

Discontent, again, argues too great a fondness for the world and for the concerns and advantages of it: a fondness, I mean, greater than is consistent with our expectations and pursuits of a better. Were this world a man's all, it would be difficult to offer any considerations that could abate his passion for it, alleviate his disappointment, or soothe his complaints : but when another, and a better existence, and of longer duration, is held out to us, such a prospect is calculated, one would think, to moderate our attachment to tb present, and our solicitude and concern about it. T differences and distinctions of human life, whic! much affect and perplex is when placed besid great object, appear what they are, too dim

or discontent. For +

to provoke our


finds allereasons, contentment in us Christians appears to be

ndition. our duty as well as our happiness, and as such, is en

etribution joined by St. Paul: “ having food and raiment," he

es a queswrites to Timothy, “ let us be therewith content; and to the Hebrews he commands, " be content with


and after such things as ye have.” But above all precepts does

ith others he recommend this virtue by his own example: “I

) hell-fire. have learnt,” says he, “ in whatsoever state I am, there

ist distrust with to be content. I know both how to be abased,

icide turn and I know how to abound ; every where, and in all

are bound things, I am instructed both to be full and to be

e can be no hungry, both to abound and to suffer need." There

y continue is something very great and affecting in these words, and quite of a piece with that fortitude and firmness of mind which distinguished St. Paul's character upon fe and cerall occasions.

he action in From what has been said, then, it

nce and apwhen we repine at our own condition, and covet other

appears that men's, we, for the most part, impose upon ourselves

mpany every

For he who that we are the dupes of a delusion—natural enough,

ce will soon no doubt, but of which a proper exertion of judgement

e more conand reflection will get the better ; that when we

of a hesitating dulge this fretful, discontented, dissatisfied humour


an instance of we cherish a narrow-mindedness, which overlooks se

t. Paul—" He many and great blessings we enjoy, because in com

imned if he eat ; mon perhaps with most others

, in order to time

tsoever is not of persuasion of the ution applies with le; a sin, if it be reparation and re

e may law. ty to incur

ourselves with the thought of some fare, single advantage which is denied to w;55 frame of mind is both extremely unfaruuskite ad sense of affection and gratitude to God Alusta also too much binds down our souls totis

prevents any due preparation for, and progress

quiry itself, whether a


E E 2





2 Sam. 17. 23.

And when Achitophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and got him home to his house, to his city, and put his house in order, and hanged himself, and died, an was buried in the sepulchre of his father.

The crime of suicide prevailing amongst us beyond the example of any other Christian age or country, and the lawfulness of it being maintained, as it is said, by many, it becomes high time to look into the question, to see whether this practice is, or is not, forbidden to the Christian moralist.

I set out with observing, that to those who regard death as the termination of their being, this question becomes a mere computation of interest, a single comparison of the evils of life with its advantages; and according as one or the other shall appear to preponderate, a wise man will relinquish his existence or preserve it. In which estimate, however, we shall do well to remember that the prospect of many evils is worse than the presence; that though circumstances change not, we shall; that time may dissolve those associations which torment us; that habit accommodates the temper to every variety of situation, and, as the dilated eye discovers glimmerings of light amidst the thickest

« PreviousContinue »