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ON THE WAY TO LIVE HAPPILY UNDER
ALL GOVERNMENTS, AND IN ALL SI-
The Foundation of the Happiness here proposed,
must be laid in Peace of Conscience, and in holy and well-regulated Affections.
DVERY plan of happiness that depends La on external circumstances, is neither practicable in its nature, nor, if practicable, would be of long duration. Let us suppose (as some have supposed) that a perfect system of legislation and government was sufficient to render every individual of
a nation happy; yet where shall we find such a system? and, if found, how shall we 'secure its continuance? A single tyran
enough to derange the whole fabric, and lay it prostrate in the dust.
We must therefore, in our search after happiness, learn to extend our view beyond all the contrivances of human wisdom, and the efforts of human power; and, if with seriousness and humility we thus prosecute the inquiry, it will not ultimately be in vain. For since next to the glory of God, happiness is the great end of human existence; and since so many notices of divine philanthropy, confirmed and ratified by express declarations of scripture, appear through all the works of creation and providence; we have reason to believe, notwithstanding the apostasy of our nature, that no man's condition, without his own great default, ever becomes so utterly hopeless and wretched, but that some path lies from it, which, if pursued with persevering diligence, will bring him at last out of darkness and misery into a state of light and comfort.
The chief sources of man's infelicity are to be found in his guilty conscience, and his disordered passions; and till some effectual remedy be applied to these evils, he cannot long be at rest under any government or in any situation.
I. A sense of guilt naturally produces fear; fear of divine displeasure, and of its awful consequences beyond this life. It is to relieve themselves from this anxiety that men turn towards every quarter, and apply to every resource; to the engagements of business, or the dissipations of pleasure; to philosophic speculations, or to some species of religion or of superstition.
1. To assert that men often have recourse to business as a relief to that inward disquiet which arises from an unpacified conscience, is to assert what charity must be pained to admit, but what I fear is unquestionable fact. When Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, we are told that he dwelt in the land of Nod, eastward of Eden * ; or, as it might be rendered, he was a wanderer in the land eastward of Eden. The next news we hear of him is, that he built a city; which some suppose to have been with intent to divert his attention from settling on himself, in his present reduced state of guilt and fearful apprehension. Whether this interpretation be just or not, it is certain that much of the building and planting, and other busy occupations that are going forward in the world, can be ascribed to no higher or better origin. It must be granted, indeed, that a natural love of employment, together with that love of variety which arises less from guilt than from imperfection, constitute two powerful springs that set the world in motion. But after this deduction is made, there still remains a considerable portion of human activity that must be resolved into the cause of which we are speaking; and whose chief object it is to divert the mind from painful reflections on its own moral situation.
* Gen. iv. 16.
expectation, must be obvious to all. Theatres and masquerades, with other spectacles and mummeries of which the wits of men are so strangely inventive, whatever positive gratification they may be supposed to afford, are doubtless, at times, resorted to merely as so many diversions of uneasy thought; or as charms and opiates to suspend or lay asleep the secret reproaches of a guilty mind, and its fearful bodings of what may come hereafter. The inefficacy of these, or similar devices, to answer such purposes, we find strongly pictured in the stories of Damocles and of Belshazzar; of whom the former, (it is said) at the court of Dionysius, when provided with every thing that was suited to regale the sense, or enchant the imagination, could find no relish for his entertainment, on account of a pointed dagger which he observed suspended over his head *; and the latter, we know, amidst a magnificent banquet, and before a thousand of his lords, shook with con
* Cic. Tusc. Disp. lib. v. c. 21.