« PreviousContinue »
GOD OUR HAPPINESS.
"There is one Mind, one omnipresent Mind,
This is indeed to dwell with the most High!"
*Every religion is false, which, as to faith, does not worship one God, as the Author of all things; and which, as to practice, does not love one God, as the Lord of all things.”—Pascal.
HAPPINESS is a word that is frequently on the lips of most men. Our first desire is to be happy. This is our object in all our plans and pursuits. But yet, Is it not a fact, that only few are happy? Is it not evident that men in general mistake certain agreeable feelings and gay fancies for happiness? They are happy. Why? Because they win their objects, execute their plans, succeed in business, enjoy amusement, are animated by
company, and, in short, gratify their peculiar
Supposing that happiness consists in a certain frame of mind and heart which implies satisfaction and delight, how will the case stand? The man of the world is happy when he increases his wealth. The sensualist, the man of gaiety, the votary of ambition, are happy when they possess their beloved objects. The man of intellect is happy when he successfully pursues his speculations: the poet, when he can paint the dreams of his imagination in glowing colours: the sensitive person, when he muses and weeps over the tales of fiction: the indolent, when he reposes without interruption on the couch of sloth.
Let us admit that these persons have a certain sort of happiness; yet is it not possible for them to be really unhappy beings? This is no enigma. If a man be truly happy, he must be so, not merely as a prosperous man in the world, not merely as gratifying his senses, his ambition, his intellect, his fancy, or his sensitive feelings, but as a spiritual, immortal, and accountable being: he must be happy in his soul; happy as the creature of God; happy in God.
Wealth, pleasure, intellect, fancy, and so forth, impart a certain description of delight: but it does not follow, that this delight is happiness. A man, to be truly happy, must, as I have just observed, be happy in his soul: and then I hope you will
admit, that an immortal soul cannot derive its happiness from mortal things; from any thing but the immortal God. Now all that is visible and tangible only belongs to the mortal or material man. God is, the only adequate object for his immortal soul. The eye, the ear, the taste, the touch may be satisfied with material objects. The intellect and the imagination may dwell on material or immaterial things; on what is seen and unseen, real or possible. But the soul turns from created things and from fancied forms: it cannot rest in any of them: it has no adequate object but God; no true happiness but from and in Him. God is our happiness; and if we live strangers to Him, we may fill our cups at a thousand springs, but we do not fill them at the only Fountain of bliss.
This is the conviction which I wish to be fixed in your minds. As the mere creatures of this world, you may be happy from this world's objects. Nay more, you may fancy yourselves to be truly happy-especially in the morning of your days, when you can smile on all things, and when all things smile on you. Animated in your feelings, bright in fancy, eager in pursuit, sanguine in hope, attending to little with close reflection, far more the creatures of the heart than of the mind, you may enrol yourselves in the number of happy beings:-and most undoubtedly you may be happy, according to the common ideas of happiness.
But recollect, that you are only viewing a part of your nature. You are spiritual, immortal, and responsible creatures. Your true happiness essen'tially consists in the happiness of the noblest part of man-the soul. But the happiness of the soul does not, and cannot, flow from created things-it flows from the Creator, and from Him only. When, therefore, you are happy in and from God, then, and only then, you are truly happy.
A child is amused with his gewgaws, sports, and games but surely, to be a happy child he must enjoy the love of his parents. If they be displeased with him, or if he cherish wrong thoughts and feelings respecting them, you would not account him a happy child, merely because you saw him laughing over his play, and quite delighted with his baubles. Gay and alert he may be-but happy he cannot be, until there be a restoration of mutual love between his parents and him, and all the endearing intercourse which such love cannot fail to produce. In like manner, then, a man may be pleased and delighted, be gay and alert, may jest and laugh, and may account himself happy, in his inconsiderateness, while his worldly objects and delights are around him, and while his worldly pursuits engross his time and his faculties. But he forgets God: there is no love, no union, no intercourse, between God and him. The fact is, he dislikes God, and God is displeased with him. I maintain, therefore, that he cannot be really happy
until there is reconciliation, friendship, union, and communion between God and his immortal soul.
This statement addresses itself so clearly to your reason, that you have no inclination to dispute it. You reflect on your nature and circumstances, and readily admit that God is the happiness of man: and you may be prepared to repeat the words of a poet;
"Father of light and life, Thou Good Supreme!
From every low pursuit; and feed my soul
With knowledge, conscious peace, and virtue pure;
But now another view of the subject is to be taken. If deism were the true religion, I have no hesitation in admitting, that man is naturally a religious being. To acknowledge the existence of an Infinite Spirit, and to speak in high terms of his majesty and goodness, are certainly not uncongenial to our common reason. As long as we are only called upon to contemplate and acknowledge the existence of a Being of infinite grandeur and perfection, and are allowed to live, in a great measure, as we please, concluding that this glorious Being is satisfied with any homage that we may render to Him, and will be indulgent to the faults and frailties of His feeble creatures, I know of nothing in man's constitution that rises up against such sentiments. But when we hear that this