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senses, the sight, for instance, or the hearing, or the touch, had been in a considerable degree either more blunt, or more acute, than it is at present, what an unhappy change would this have made upon our state ? On the one hand, greater imperfection of the organs would have deprived us of all the comfort and advantage which we now enjoy from such powers. On the other hand, a greater degree of exquisite sensibility in them would have rendered life a burden to us. Our senses, instead of being inlets to knowledge and pleasure, would then have become constant avenues to uneasiness and pain. Their powers, therefore, are skilfully adjusted to that measure of strength, which allows them to answer the purposes of health, safety, and comfort; without either falling short of this line of usefulness, or improperly, and hurtfully, stretching beyond it.
In the mind, appetites and passions were placed, as the moving powers of the soul, to impel its activity. But as their impulse required regulation and restraint, reason was, at the same time, conferred as the directing power. Of all our passions, selflove and the desire of self-preservation were, with the utmost propriety, made the strongest, for a reason which the meanest capacity may comprehend. Every man is most immediately committed by Providence to his own care and charge. He knows his own situation best ; and has more opportunities of promoting his own happiness, than he can have of advancing the happiness of
It was therefore fit and wise, that, by the strongest instinct, he should be prompted to attend to himself. - At the same time, as no man standing alone is sufficient for his own welfare, it was necessary that, by mutual sympathy and social
instincts, we should be drawn to give aid to one another. Here it deserves our particular notice, that the force of those social instincts is, with admirable propriety, proportioned by Providence to the degree of their usefulness and importance.* Thus, that parental affection, which the helpless state of infancy and childhood renders so needful, is made the strongest of them all. Next, come those ties of blood, which prompt mutual kindness among those who are intimately joined toget'ver by brotherhood, and other family connections. To these succeeds that valuable instinct of pity, which impels us to assist the distressed, wherever we behold them. To take part with others in their good fortune belongs to man's social nature, and increases the sum of happiness. At the same time, to take part with the prosperous is less necessary than to sympathise with the unhappy; and therefore the principle which prompts us to rejoice with them that rejoice, is made not to be so strong as that which impels us to weep with them that weep.
But they are not only the laudable and important parts of our disposition, which discover the wisdom of the author of our frame ; even our imperfections and follies are by him rendered subservient to useful ends. - Amidst those inequalities of condition, for instance, which the state of human life required, where it was necessary that some should be rich, and others poor, that some should be eminent and distinguished, and others obscure and mean, how seasonable is that good opinion which every one entertains of himself, that
* See Serm. XXXII. Vol. ii.
self-complacency with which he compares himself to others; and that fond hope, which is ever pleasing him with the prospect of future pleasures aud advantages in life? Without those flattering sensations, vain as they often are, how totally insupportable would this world become to many of its inhabitants ? Whereas, by means of them, Providence hath contrived to balance, in a great measure, the inequalities of condition among mankind. It hath contrived to diffuse pleasure through all ranks; and to bring the high and the low nearer to a level with each other, than might at first be supposed. It hath smoothed the most rugged tracts of human life; and hath gilded with rays of borrowed light its most dreary scenes.
One instance of Divine Wisdom, in framing our nature, is so remarkable as to demand particular attention; that is, the measure according to which God hath dispensed knowledge and ignorance to man. There is nothing of which we are more ready to complain, than of our narrow and confined views of nature, and of Providence, and of all things around us? And yet upon examination, it will be found, that our views extend, on every side, just as far as they ought; and that, to see and know more than is allowed us, instead of bringing any advantage, would produce certain misery.* We pry, for instance, with impatient curiosity, into future events. Happily for us, they are veiled and covered up; and one peep behind that veil, were it permitted, would be sufficient to poison the whole comfort of our days, by the anticipation of sorrows to come. --- In like manner, we often wish with eagerness to penetrate
* See Serm. II. Vol. i. and Serm. LIX. in this Vol.
into the secrets of nature, to look into the invisible world, and to be made acquainted with the whole destiny of man. Our wish is denied; we are enve roned on all hands with mystery; and that mystery is our happiness': for, were those great invisible oba?" jects fully disclosed, the sight of them would confound and overwhelm us. It would either totally derange our feeble faculties, or would engross our attention to such a degree, as to lay us aside from: the business and concerns of this world. It would: : have the same effect, as if we were carried away from the earth, and mingled among the inhabitants: of some other planet. — The knowledge that is allowed to us, was designed to fit us for acting our part in our present state. At the exact point, therefore, where usefulness' ends, knowledge stops, and ignorance commences. Light shines upon us, as long as it serves to guide our path ; but forsakes us, as soon as it becomes noxious to the eye ; and salutary darkness is appointed to close the scene. - Thoughtless and stupid must that man be, who, in all this furniture of the human mind, in this exact adjustment of its several powers to the great purposes of life, discerns not the hand of adorable Wisdom, as well as of infinite Goodness.
In the second place, Let us contemplate the same wisdom as exhibiting itself to us in the moral government of the world. We are informed by revelation, that this life is designed by Providence to be an introductory part of existence to intelligent beings; a state of education and discipline, where creatures, fallen from their original rank, may gradually recover their rectitude and virtue. Under this view, which
is in itself perfectly consonant to all that reason discovers, we shall find the general course of human affairs, confused as it
appear, to have been ordered with exquisite wisdom. - It was necessary to such a state, that all the active powers of man should be brought forth into exercise, and completely tried. It became proper, therefore, that there should be a mixture of characters in the world, and that men should be shown in a variety of situations.* Hence that diversity of tempers and dispositions which is found in society; those inequalities in rank and station, which we see taking place; and those different talents and inclinations which prompt men to different pursuits. By these means, every department in society is filled up; and every man has some sphere prepared for him, in which he can act. He is brought forth as on a busy stage, where opportunity is given for his character to display itself fully.
His life is, with great propriety, varied by interchanges of prosperity and adversity. Always prosperous, he would become dissipated, indolent, and giddy : always afflicted, he would be fretful, dejected, and sullen. There are few persons, therefore, or none, whose lot, shares not of both these states ; in order that every disposition of the heart may be explored, and every mean of improvement afforded. - As man is ultimately designed for a higher state of existence than the present, it was not proper that this world should prove a paradise to him, or should afford him that complete satisfaction which he incessantly pursues. Disappointments, therefore, are often made to blast his hopes; and, even while the comforts of life last, they are always mixed with
See Serm. LIV. Vol.ü,