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Africa, beyond the limits of Egypt, was then known; America was not discovered; the vast regions of northern and eastern Asia were not reached; and, though his empire was deemed of almost immeasurable extent, its boundaries were far within those of man's utmost habitation.
Rome, at the height of its power, had under its influence, or within its empire, the whole of what had once acknowledged Alexander, and comprehended, besides, nearly the whole of continental and insular Europe, much of northern Africa, and vast additional regions in Asia; but, after all, it did not embrace one half the territory of the globe. To "gain the whole world,” in a literal sense, is not the thing in question. The thing supposed must be one of possible attainment. It is, the enjoyment of all the satisfaction which the world can afford to an intelligent being. The text, then, puts the question, What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain, for a life-time, uninterruptedly, all the pleasures of sense and intellect, and, in the end, forfeit his own soul?
To follow out the propositions of our text, we must state (so far as we can do it) and place in opposition, what the world can give, and what we lose by an exclusive pursuit of its gifts; in a word, the "profit and loss" of having our heaven in this world, what are the pleasures to be obtained, and what is the risk to be incurred. There is a remark which ought to be made before we proceed farther. It is this: many pious men have, we fear, injured the cause of pure and undefiled religion, by denying the very existence of any pleasure, short of that which is to be found in communion with God. Now the hearer is conscious that, the matter is not fairly stated, and that he has really derived much
gratification (I will not call it solid, or noble, or pure, or permanent, but) much delight of its kind, from things of a worldly nature. It has emanated from a variety of objects and engagements; and the knowledge that this has been the case will steel his mind against the impression which otherwise might be made. It is true, an enlightened conscience would mar all the sensual delights of its possessor. It is true, a tender conscience would shrink with pain from all approach to sinful pleasures. But the conscience of many is neither tender nor enlightened; they sin without remorse or apprehension; and, could we stop to dwell upon the subject, we might prove, that to be possessed of only so much religion as enlightens the conscience without changing the heart is to be in a condition more wretched and less secure, more guilty and more hopeless, than when a deceived heart hath led a man unknowingly astray.
I. Let us sum up, and place in order, the happiness of the man who has gained the whole world. And
1. He has every natural endowment and advantage, such as health, vigour, hilarity, grace, and symmetry. His health is unbroken and uninterrupted, or only experiences such slight and passing intervals of indisposition as make his enjoyment of a sound and undisturbed constitution more sensible and more exquisite. He has the vigour of a powerful frame, capable of sustaining exertion without exhaustion, and of commanding all the pleasures which strength alone can ensure. He is a stranger to deformity and weakness. There is a buoyancy of spirit, and a liveliness of animal feeling, like the exuberance of the principle of existence. And, in truth, next to the favour of God and a good conscience, there is no one blessing more desirable than cheerfulness. This man's spirits have suffered no shock,
have experienced no waste or decay from disappointments, privations, bereavements, family afflictions, losses, insult, or fear. Then he has the inferior advantages of a form all symmetry, an action untaught but graceful, a countenance full of expression, beaming with thought and emotion.
2. The next class of worldly happiness consists of accidental advantages, such as rank and wealth. No one in this land can divest himself entirely of reverence for superior birth and station. The man who has gained the whole world as his portion may be supposed to hold a station not inferior to the throne, or, if inferior, that of the premier of his country, and he may be imagined to claim all the honours that belong to a distinguished ancestry. He may, farther, be understood to have all the wealth that heart could wish, or art could employ. The man we speak of has all the happiness that wealth and station can, in the most favourable cases, procure for their possessor.
3. Next take into the account every natural indulgence. All the refinements of luxury, and all the ingenuity of art, are put in requisition to minister to his appetite. He is an epicure, and science is taxed to contribute to the pleasures of his table and his festive board. To-morrow he trusts shall be as this day and more abundant. He is an elegant and accomplished voluptuary; all the grossness is separated from the indulgence, by the modern refinements of polished sensuality.
4. But farther, he hath learned to give himself unto wine, and yet acquaint himself with wisdom. His taste is rich and cultivated, his talent vast and varied, his acquirement bounded only by the circle of science. By taste I mean the rare faculty of perceiving the
beauty and proportion of objects; the fine perception which discerns at once, not only the fitness and the truth of a representation in their broader features, but the nicer and minuter shades and lineaments which bespeak in the artist a delicate and sensitive mind.
The studies of taste are music, poetry, painting, sculpture, and eloquence. Music is so charming a science, the art has such a power to fascinate and overcome the feelings, as to be a very dangerous one to gain the ascendancy in the heart. The man who has gained the world is possessed of this rare endowment of taste, He can enter into the very spirit of richly varied sound; he can command all the pleasure it can give; and he can enter into the soul of poetry; music embodied in thought, from its lightest to its deepest productions. He can dwell with rapture on the poetry that meets the eye, the productions of the pencil; he can gaze on nature itself with the eye of the painter, and dwell on the majestic and calmer scenes around him, with a feeling he would not part with for hidden treasure. He can apprehend and detect, with a master's eye, the beauties of sculpture, and dwell with delight on the attitude and expression of marble chiselled into form. He is equal to all the beauties, and open to all the delights of eloquence; poetry set loose from all the fetters of rhyme and metre; he has the well turned period, and the well tuned voice; the charm of figure, the art of illustration, the power to move men's minds, are all at his command.
Again, his talents are enriched with all that science and literature can supply. He may be skilled in mathematical science, from numeration up to the fluxionary calculus;-in mechanics, from the fundamental maxims up to the intricacies of the theory of motion; in optics
and astronomy, as far as Newton and Herschel could accompany him; of electricity and magnetism, he may know all that research has ascertained; in the science of fluids, in motion or at rest, he may be read in all the wisdom of the schools; he may be furnished with the splendid discoveries of modern chymistry; he may be eminently stored with information about the functions and the organs of the human frame, their health and their disease; he may be a profound scholar in the principles and the detail of law; the rights and privileges of individuals, and the equipoise which secures the harmony, and the provisions which maintain the wellbeing of society; he may be deeply read in the science of political economy; may accurately discern what makes the happiness of a state, and what direction affairs are about to take; he may be wondrously intimate with the ways of men, so as to pursue his own advantage with the clearest foresight of which humanity is capable; he may have a capacity for language equal to that which he has for science; he may be so profound an adept in the learned tongues as to analyze and compound ideas in all the variety of terms by which they are expressed.
Lastly, let us mention the enjoyments which intellect commands, in addition to those already mentioned. These are praise, fame, and power; and it were superfluous to say that such a man as we have supposed must have all the gratifications of intellectual indulgence, let them be of what kind they may.
But to complete the picture, you must suppose this man, whose excellent endowments are the ministers of his pleasures, a stranger to the distress of an awakened conscience; he sleeps on and takes his rest; he hath no forebodings of an after reckoning, no disturbance of