|« Prev||Chap. IV. Of the Division of Happiness,||Next »|
Of the Division of Happiness.
Though the supreme and chief Happiness of Man consists in the knowledge and love of God, yet there are other things which contribute to the completion of it, especially in this World, viz. Those which tend to the making our present condition easy and comfortable to us; such as Health, Wealth, Friends, Reputation; the contrary whereto; as Sickness, Bodily-pain, Hunger and Thirst, Disgrace, &c. would render it grievous and unpleasant. The former of these are eagerly pursu’d by a great part of Mankind, as their chief good and happiness. Could we therefore demonstrate (and I think it not difficult to do) that Holiness or obedience to God’s Commands, is the most effectual means to procure and secure these outward Enjoyments to us, so far as there is any good in them; I think we should need no other consideration to recommend a Holy Life and Conversation to all sorts and conditions of Men.12
Which that we may do the more clearly and satisfactorily, it will be convenient to make a division of Happiness according to the several states of Man, and his several parts, and the particular ingredients, which make up the happiness of each part, in each state.
And because I cannot think of a better, I shall make use of that of Dr. Wilkins, late Lord Bishop of Chester, in his Treatise of Natural Religion.
The Happiness then of Man is either that of this present Estate, which determines at Death; or that of a future Estate, which commences at Death, and continues to all Eternity.
The Happiness of this present Estate may be divided into, 1. External, or, that of the Outward Man: Or, 2. Internal, or that of the Inner Man.
External Happiness consists principally in, 1. Health, 2. Safety, Liberty and Quiet. 3. Riches. 4. Pleasures. 5. Honour and Reputation. 6. Friends. Under which Name I comprehend also Natural Relations; As Wife, and Children, and Parents, who are usually called so in common speech; as when we say, Such a Man hath good Friends, or his Friends are well to live.13
Internal Happiness consists in the knowledge and love of God, manifested by our obedience to his Commands; the improvement of all our Faculties; inward peace of Conscience, Joy and Tranquillity of Mind.
The Happiness of the future Estate, is the clear Vision of God, likeness to him, and union with him by perfect love: 1 John 3. 2. We shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. This differs chiefly in degree from the precedent.
Before I run over these Heads in particular, I shall premise two things in general.
First, That keeping of God’s Commandments is every way for the good, benefit and advantage of the whole world, and Mankind in general. Sin, 1 which is the breach of God’s Law, is the only procuring and productive cause of all the Evils and Miseries, Troubles and Distresses that are in the world. Did Men generally obey God’s Laws, the whole Earth, which is now for the most part an Akeldama, or Field of Blood, would be turn’d into a very Paradise, into a Heaven: Men would then beat their Swords into Plowshares, and their Spears into Pruning-hooks. Men who now are Wolves and Tygers one to another, who bite and devour one another, 14would then be a protection and defence, and mutual help one to another. Whence come wars and fightings among you, (saith the Apostle James) come they not hence, even of your lusts, which war in your members? Running over all the Commandments of God, I might easily deduce and demonstrate in particular, that each of them conduces to the publick good and benefit.
Secondly, The Commandments of God are not grievous or uneasy; his Law is holy, and just, and good, his Precepts equal and reasonable; nay, so suitable and agreeable to the Nature and Reason of Man, that I will be bold to say, They ought upon their own account to be observed and obeyed by us, were there no Heaven to reward our Obedience, no Hell to punish our Disobedience.
This is the foundation of that Stoical Doctrine, That Virtue is its own Reward, and that Happiness consists in the very doing of Virtuous Actions: And therefore a wise Man is satisfied with the Conscience of well-doing, and will not do any dishonest or wicked thing, to avoid any Suffering or Torment whatsoever. The reason is, because God hath imprinted in our Nature an aversation from Vice, and dislike of it; 15so that we cannot but condemn our selves for doing any thing that is dishonest or unjust: Se judice nemo nocens absolvitur: No nocent person is absolved, himself being Judge. Nor can any terrour or torment acquit us from blame, if to avoid it we do any vile or dishonest action. But on the contrary, if we resolutely stick to that which is good, whatever we suffer for it, we satisfy our own Consciences, and rejoice in having done so, and gain the approbation and applause of all Men. The Evil of Sin is greater, and more to be avoided than the Evil of Pain or Suffering, tho’ that be a great Evil too; and that man be far from being happy, who labours under extreme Bodily Pain, especially if without hope of deliverance: Such a Man’s very Being would be a Burthen to him; it being a true saying, Præftat non esse quàm miserum esse: Better not to be, than to be miserable.
But our gracious God hath not put us off with such a Reward as this; (which notwithstanding the Apostle saith of the Christians of his time, That if in this life only they had hope, they would be of all men the most miserable:) but hath promised to recompense our Obedience with Eternal 16Life and Happiness; and particularly our Sufferings for his Cause, and for Righteousness sake, with a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. And for our encouragement hath permitted us to have a respect to this recompence of reward; as Moses, that Man of God, and others of his Servants mentioned Heb. 11. had.
|« Prev||Chap. IV. Of the Division of Happiness,||Next »|
►Proofing disabled for this book
► Printer-friendly version