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to be nourished, to grow, to fall into decay? Is this life? The life of the body merely ; life in one of its lower forms ; mere animal existence. But there is a spirit in man, a rational principle, capable of thought and affection. Life, in a moral view, is the vigor, perfection, and use of his whole nature. It is made up of several parts, or functions. It is sense and motion in the body, it is perception, fancy, knowledge, in the understanding ;'* it is love and aversion, joy and sorrow, with the whole train of passions and feelings that agitate the heart. It is the full employment of all the faculties and senses about their appropriate objects. It is to distinguish, to desire, to pursue man's chief good, his truest honor, dignity and happiness. It is activity of the intellect, will, and affections ; of the whole man.
Such is life. It is incompatible, first, with indolence, which gradually eats out our time, and darkens, enfeebles, and destroys the faculties. To walk the earth, to draw a certain number of breaths, to sleep, to wake, to sleep again—this is not to live in the true sense of the term. It is to have the capacity of life only. "He was born, he died;' so many a record informs us ; he appeared, he passed away. But what time did he live? What fruits of existence did he gather ? Life is occupation and enjoyment, emotion, choice, pursuit. It 'standeth not in length of time,' it is not computed by days, months and years, but by thought and action. It is a journey on which we are sent out to compass a particular object, which makes it necessary that we should diligently employ
* Lucas’ · Enquiry after Happiness,' which suggested the train of thought here pursued.
ourselves, observe, and reflect, as we pass on. If like indolent and thoughtless travellers, we allow ourselves to be passively borne along, inattentive to the forms and events which present themselves, or which occur, and to the instruction which every stage of our progress, every day, and hour enables us to collect, we do not use, we waste and abuse the term and privileges allotted to us. We hide the talent given us in the earth. How then shall we escape a mournful doom? If we have not been faithful in that which is least, in the conduct of this temporary and fleeting life, how can we expect that the eternal felicities of the world to come will be committed to us ? Are our sluggish souls fit to ascend to heaven ? Have we done any thing to deserve the prize of immortality ? Our lives have resembled the desert, where no moisture is, where no bloom nor verdure springs, but all is waste and barren, deformed and hideous. What title have we to a reward? We have slumbered out our days ; we can show nothing we have won, nothing we can be said to have lived for. We have been slothful, and a slothful is a wicked servant.
Life does not consist in repose, sluggishness, apathy. No more, in the next place, does it consist in the riot of the appetites and passions, in sensuality and unrestrained indulgence. The lovers of pleasure claim a title to be called happy. They would persuade us that they alone understand the true art of living ; that they know how to cull the sweets of existence, while they reject the bitter. But it is not so. Besides that the delights they seek are fugitive and uncertain, and usually terminate in regret and pain, they are delights of the grosser, coarser kind. They have their seat in the in
of our natures. He who gives himself up to gratifications of sense, so far divests himself of the prerogative of a rational being. He reverses the
proper order of things. He permits the appetites, which were formed to obey, to usurp the mastery, and the understanding, the governing principle, to become enslaved. His taste is vitiated, his sensibility becomes blunted, and his affections narrowed and chilled. He finds no relish in moral and intellectual gratifications, and therefore discards them. Is this to lead a life becoming a being partaking of a spiritual and imperishable nature ? To pamper the body and neglect the mind, to make the understanding the minister of the senses, to allow the soul to be without knowledge, and without good affections, to take no pleasure in truth and virtue, to be wedded to earth, and hold no communion with the skies is this to live? It is to abuse life, it is to pervert the most precious gifts of God. Why were we formed to know, to perceive the charms of excellence, and become enriched with the possession of it, to find complacency in wisdom and goodness, and sorrow in folly and vice, to recal the past, and hope and fear for the future, but that moderating our love of sensual indulgence, we might seek and obtain a higher good, by cultivating the understanding, forming the heart, and raising and perfecting all our faculties?
Again, there are those who are neither sluggish, nor sensual. They are anxious and full of labor ; they rise early, and late take rest, and eat the bread of carefulness and sorrow. They are the worldly, those who are occupied exclusively with the interests of the passing scene, with the cares of wealth and earthly goods, as if a man's life consisted in the abundance of his possessions. These may be said to consume their days in preparing to live. They sow but never reap. They strive hard to furnish themselves with the means of enjoyment and usefulness, but omit to use them. They are servants of the world, and slaves to avarice, at a time when they should be devoting themselves to the rational ends of existence. They die and leave their treasures, they give up their mortal breath, and where are they? What profit or advantage have they of that they have gathered together ? Truly, they walk all their days in a vain show, and they disquiet themselves in vain.
The indolent, the sensual, and the worldly make a false estimate of life. He only views it as
He only views it as he ought, who seeks happiness in the perfection of his rational nature, in the order and discipline of the passions, the subjection of the appetites, and the possession and exercise of pure and benevolent affections; who can despise the allurements of sense, the temptations of gain, the world's frowns and flattery; who aspires to get wisdom and understanding, who listens to their counsels, and follows where they point the way. He is not led by fancy, caprice, foolish custom, and evil example. He does not bestow his chief care on his perishable part. He submits to reason, and aspires after excellence over which death has no power. He lives not for earth, for time ; he seeks an unearthly and indestructible good; he has his conversation and citizenship in heaven. He searches after truth, and aspires to obey it when found. He has recourse to religion for guidance and solace ; and finds in her the assistant of his virtue, and minister of comfort and happiness. He labors to remedy his imperfections and weaknesses, to strengthen his capacities, to mould his temper and affections, and enrich his soul with all generous and godlike qualities. He alone understands the true uses of life, and can be happy in any condition. Without may be adversity and storms and strife, but within are sunshine and joy. His pleasures survive when the senses become dull, and time has taught the hollow nature and emptiness of all earthly distinctions. They have their spring in the soul, and remain, when its fleshly tabernacle is dissolved, and itself ascends to God who gave it.
Having formed a correct estimate of life, we shall be able to decide how far we have attained its ends, and adopt measures for appropriating well the remnant which is left us. The great art to be acquired, is, as as it has been expressed, to live much in little time.' We cannot retard the advances of age. Years insensibly steal upon us, and nature hastens to decay and dissolution. The spring and the summer escape, and we perceive the approaching winter of our days, when the senses become impaired, or shut, the spirits languid and slow, and we are left to bow the head and die. What then remains for us but to endeavor to compensate for the shortness of life by its excellence, to hasten its fruits that we may gather the harvest before our strength becomes weakness, and our labor sorrow ?
Have we imperfections to lay down, and deficiencies to supply; are our tempers revengeful or peevish, our wills refractory and stubborn, our hearts cold, insensible, and selfish ; are our affections im