Page images
PDF
EPUB

That from the bosom of the Spring,

Starts into life and beauty once again,

every object that strikes the sense or that awakens fancy, raises in such a mind trains of ideas the most soothing, the most elevating, and the most delightful. And yet that a pile of ruins, “some Abbey's mould'ring tow’rs,” that the productions of Art or the discoveries of Science, that Painting, Music, Poetry, Eloquence, Phi. losophy, should excite or recall pleasurable emotions, is no more a necessary consequence of the exertion of the mental faculties, than that a beautiful colour or an harmonius sound should agreeably affect its appropriate sense. Pleasure is gratuitously superadded by the abounding goodness of the Creator. And when the pure nature of that pleasure is considered, the abundance of the objects and the frequency of the occasions which excite it, together with its wonderful tendency to expand the mind, and thereby to enlarge the capacity it supplies, it is surely impossible not to admire and adore the goodness which, in thus constituting the human faculties, has made such ample and unfailing provision for human enjoyment.

The second fact upon which the benevolence of the Deity is founded is, that there is more happiness than misery through the whole of the animal creation. Were it not so, we

should see all animals tired of life, and eager to throw off the burthen of existence. But the reverse is the fact.

What exertions do they not all make to prolong their being! How are all their faculties continually upon the stretch to preserve themselves from danger! How various, how wonderful are their resources ! How tenaciously do they cling to existence even to its latest moment !

What a scene of enjoyment does the tribe of insects, of fishes, of all the inferior animals, exhibit from the beginning to the end of life! Those whose conformation fits them for motion, how delighted are they to run, to fly, to leap, to swim; how incessantly are they gliding from place to place, without any apparent object, deriving gratification from the mere exercise of their limbs! Those which delight in rest, how happy are they in the loneliness of the shade

i in basking in the sun or grazing in the field In a summer evening how exhilarating is it to the spirits, to leave for a while the busy hum of men, and wander beneath the clear blue sky, and amidst Nature's own works! What millions of happy creatures every where surround us ! Above, around, beneath, every thing is in motion and every thing is happy. The air, the earth, the water, every tree, and every shrub, and every little blade of grass teems with delighted existence. Scarcely can we fix the eye upon a single

a

spot in which there is not life and happiness ! Which of the millions of creatures that press upon our sight is in pain? Which of them does not by every movement declare, that, to the full measure of its capacity, it is happy ?

This felicity seems to belong to, and to characterize animal life, during the whole period of its existence. It is exempt from almost all the sources of infelicity which impair the happiness of man, and fill him with gloom and sorrow. It is not subject to much disease, and that which accident or natural decay does induce, is of short continuance. It spends the measure of its days in sportiveness and pleasure, and when its last moment comes, it arrives without giving any previous indication of its approach, and all consciousness ceases suddenly, and with little pain.

Now when we consider the extent and the fulness of creation; when we remember that it is scarcely possible, as has just been observed, to fix the eye upon the minutest spot where there is not life; when, under this impression, we endeavour to calculate how many creatures there sometimes are upon one single leaf; upon all the leaves on one tree; how many, therefore, in one field; how many in all the fields which the eye can take in at a single glance; how many in all the fields in one country; when we remember that each of these creatures is in a state of positive happiness, and then endeavour

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

to calculate the collective sum of enjoyment in one country, can we help exclaiming, What an effort of benevolence was creation ! Can we doubt the goodness of its Author ?

Even among men there is in reality much less misery than is commonly imagined. Many persons can recount every period of their life in which they were unhappy: others can scarcely mention a single misfortune which ever befel them; and those on whom the afflictive dispensations of heaven have fallen more heavily, how distinctly are these days of visitation marked in their memory! But can they recount with equal facility their days of happiness? Can they number up, not their moments or their hours, but even their weeks and their months of enjoyment? They have forgotten the periods of their happiness: they remember those only in which they were miserable. The reason is obvious. The one is a common occurrence, the usual and ordinary state of things: the other is a singular event: it happened only at distant intervals, was quite out of the general course, and therefore the mind distinctly marked, and the memory retains it.

retains it. We notice an eclipse, we talk of it, but we do not so much observe the daily splendor of the sun. We may enjoy its light and heat many months without thinking of it, and the reason is the same in both cases. We observe what is unusual, but that which is

familiar makes no remarkable impression. This consideration alone is sufficient to convince us that we enjoy infinitely more than we suffer.

But we are able to go much farther, and to affirm, that even in those periods, few as they are, in which we were unhappy, and which we have been accustomed to consider as distinguished by misery alone, we really suffered very little compared with what we have been in the habit of believing We are seized, let us suppose, with an acute disease. It attacks some vital organ, induces extreme debility, and threatens the speedy extinction of life. All this time the bodily suffering inflicted is often slight. The most violent diseases, that is, those which most surely and suddenly destroy life, are by no means painful : indeed, those which occasion great pain, are remarkably few; and those which produce both severe and constant pain are still

Yet from the general mode of expression, and perhaps from the prevailing impression of the mind, it would seem as if much suffering were experienced from the commencement till the complete termination of a disease; but this is certainly not the case. In many diseases of a most afflictive nature, hour after hour passes away without any thing being felt which can justly be termed pain : paroxysms of suffering sometimes occur, but it is seldom that they last long: rest and ease speedily suc

more

rare.

« PreviousContinue »