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only such a gratification of them as goes beyond the bounds of nature, and lays the foundation of pain and misery. As far as they were designed by our Maker to yield pleasure, we are at liberty to indulge them; and further we cannot go without an admixture of pain. It is a truth generally acknowledged, that the regular and moderate indulgence of appetite is more agreeable than any forced and exorbitant gratification of it. Excess in every way is painful and pernicious. We can never contradict nature without suffering and bringing upon ourselves inconvenience. Are there any to whom food and sleep are so pleasant as to the temperate? Are the mad and polluted joys of the fornicator and adulterer equal to the pure and chaste delights of the married state? Do pampered palates afford as much delight as appetites kept under discipline, and never sated by riot and licentiousness? Is the vile glutton, the loathsome drunkard, or the shattered debauchee, as happy as the sober and virtuous man, who has a healthful body, a serene mind, and a fair character ?
Thus Virtue is a friend even to appetite; improving all the blessings of life, removing those internal evils which pollute and impair the springs of enjoyment; rendering the mind easy and satisfied, more susceptible of delight, and more open to all agreeable impressions. It is a common observation, that the degree of pleasure which we receive from any objects de pends on the disposition we are in to receive pleasure. Nothing is sweet to a depraved taste; nothing beautiful to a distempered eye. This observation holds with particular force in the present case. Vice destroys the relish of sensible pleasures. It takes from the fruit its flavour, and from the rose its hue. It tarnishes the beauty of nature, and communicates a bitter tincture to every enjoyment. Virtue, on the contrary, sweetens every blessing, and thi'ows new lustre on the face of nature. It cbases away gloominess and peevishness; and, by strengthening the kinder affections of good humour and tranquillity, makes every pleasapt scene and occurrence doubly interesting
ul to a dister force in the pleasures.
· Virtue has many peculiar joys to bestow, which nothing else can give. We may recollect, first, those joys which necessarily spring from the worthy and generous affections. The love of the Deity, benevolence, meekness, and gratitude, are, by their nature, attended with pleasure. They put the mind into a serene and cheerful frame, and introduce into it some of the most delightful sensations. Virtue consists in the exercise and cultivation of these principles. They form the temper, and constitute the character, of a virtuous man; and therefore he must enjoy pleasures to which men of a contrary character are strangers. It is not conceivable, that a person, in whom the mild and generous affections thrive, should not be in a more happy state than one who counteracts and suppresses them; and who, instead of feeling the joy which springs up in a heart where the heavenly graces and virtues reside, is torn and distracted by anger, malice, and envy. .
Peace of conscience is another blessing peculiar to Virtue: it reconciles us to ourselves, as well as to all the world. As nothing can be so horrid as to be at variance with one's self, so nothing can be so delightful as a mind conscious of tranquillity. If we are unhappy within our own breasts, it signifies little what external advantages we enjoy. If we want our own approbation, it is of little consequence how much others applaud us. Virtue secures to us our own approbation. It reduces to harmony, under the dominion of conscience, all our jarring dispositions. It makes our reflections agreeable to us; and the mind a fund of comfort to itself.
A sense of God's favour is another source of pleasure which is peculiar to Virtue. The Divine government is an object of terror to a wicked man. He cannot think of it without trouble. But it is thence that a virtuous man derives his chief consolation. He is conscious of acting in concert with the Deity, of obeying his laws, and of imitating his perfections. He, therefore, exults in the assurance of having God on his side, and of being under his almighty protec
tion. He knows that the Sovereign of the universe loves him, and is his unalterable friend.
A i virtuous man possesses the hope of a future reward. Every one knows how mighty the power of hope is to invigorate and cheer the mind; and there is no hope like that of the virtuous man! He hopes for a perfect government in the heavens; and ..this comforts him among all the disorders of earthly government. He hopes for a resurrection from death to a blessed immortality. He expects soon to take possession of a treasure in the heavens that fadeth not; to receive an incorruptible inheritance; to exchange ignorance for knowledge; and to be fixed in a world which is the seat of superior beings. Here he will grow more wise, and good, and great, and happy, till he rises to honours and powers, which are so far beyond his present conception, as the powers of an angel are beyond the conception of a child in the womb. This is indeed an unbounded and delightful hope; and if there be any truth in Christianity, we have abundant reason to indulge it. Christ came into the world to raise us to it, and the most distant glimmering of it is enough to eclipse all the glory of this lower world.
There is nothing that the ancient philosophers have taken so much pains to inculcate, as the importance of placing our happiness only in things within our power. If we place it in fame, or money, or any external good, it will have a most deceitful foundation, and we shall be liable to perpetual disappointment: whereas, if we place it in the exercise of virtuous affections, in tranquillity of mind, in regular passions, in doing God's will, and the hope of his favour; we shall have it always at our ccmmand. We shall never be liable to disappointments.
The happiness of the virtuous man continues with him even in affliction :
If ye would know
Sailing alone, doth cross in her career
SOUTHEY. There is, in this respect, a most striking difference between the condition of the virtuous and vicious man. In adversity, the vicious man becomes completely wretched. He has no comfortable reflections to support him; no protecting Deity to trust in; no prospect of future blessings to encourage him. Whereever he turns his eyes, all is confusion and distress. Reason and conscience have him to themselves, and inflict the sharpest sufferings. Let us then despise every thing that can come in competition with real sterling Virtue. It is that tree of life whose leaf never withers, and whose fruit will revive us in every hour of dejection, cure all our maladies, and prolong our existence to endless ages; for, as St. Paul speaks, “ if we have our fruit unto holiness, our end will be everlasting life.”
What solid joy, what calm delight
Possess the manly mind,
BENEVOLENCE is an inestimable jewel, and one of the most graceful ornaments of human nature. It is the grand cement of society, and is of the highest importance to its welfare. It is also a source of the purest intellectual pleasures, of the most refined enjoyments of social life, of the best affections of the heart. We are so constituted, by our benevolent Creator, that the more pleasure we communicate to others, the more we enjoy in our own bosoms; and “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” When we make others happy, the sunshine of celestial joy is reflected back on our own hearts :
Hail, source of pleasures ever new!
I taste a joy sincere;
Their wishes and their care.
Which still thy hand sustains :
And discord gnash'd in chains.
All nature owns thy rod;
From nothing e'en to God.
Thy charms divine expel :
To native night and hell.
With kindness large and free,
And aid the feeble knee.
Do thou my heart incline;
And make me wholly thine.