« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
reward; it is the best security against the impostures of those who labour to lead us astray by their interpretation of dreams and signs and tokens; it is the surest proof, that we love the Lord our God, with all our heart and all our soul.
ON THE BENEFICIAL EFFECTS OF LABOUR.
PROVERBS xiv. 23.
In all labour there is profit.
To a being encompassed by so many wants, and harassed by so many inconveniences, as man, reflection would naturally suggest some inquiry into the ends for which he was originally exposed to them, and the means by which he may be preserved from them most effectually. But in the progress of philosophical refinement, an easy passage is opened for transition from the ideal exclusion of misery to the ideal consummation of happiness. Hence the ingenuity of conjecture, and the splendour of eloquence, have been employed in researches about the supreme good. Some there are who would place it in a complete exemption from labour; and, by that irresistible propensity we feel to transfer all ideas of excellence from ourselves to superior natures, they have represented the perfection of the Divinity as consisting in serenity and inaction, in the absence of exertion, and of that inquietude by which they assumed that exertion must be accompanied. Others, of more exalted spirits and nobler views, would confine happiness to speculation alone, and have stated every advance of man in knowledge as an approach to the Divine Archetype.
* Sept. 1793.
Now, without imputing rashness or negligence to either class of these reasoners, we may confidently pronounce that they have fallen into great mistakes, both in respect to God and to man; to God, when they would do him honour,-to man, when they would guide him to felicity. In regard to the Deity, we are led up to the knowledge of his very being by the signs of active power and active wisdom displayed in his works; and though, perhaps, it were presumptuous in weak and fallible creatures like ourselves to determine peremptorily in what the happiness of our Creator does consist, we may safely affirm in what it does not; and surely the scenes by which we are surrounded, the various orders of inanimate, and the successive generations of animated beings, the earth on which we tread, the heavens which we behold, are so many illustrious proofs that he acts as well as exists, and that, while his existence is without limits, his works are beyond calculation. By analogy, then, we might be led to conclude that the happiness of all intelligent beings depends upon action; and, indeed, that it does so depend may be shewn by the more direct and satisfactory evidence of facts.
Before we can stretch our understanding to any comprehensive and exalted subjects of speculation,
we must have made some efforts for the preservation and comfort of life. The objects of that speculation themselves, are often series of causes and effects by which life is produced or continued ; and whatever praise be due to those who engage in the most profound and abstruse researches, yet the science of morality is of all others the most important; because the most connected with ourselves, with the right use of our powers, and the known materials of our happiness. Indeed, our moral and our intellectual faculties are not merely quiescent modes of existence to be explored in the dark recesses of abstraction. They are energies, which the exigencies of life call forth every hour, in every situation. They pervade the whole extent of our volitions and intellectual exertions, from the first glimmering of instinct to the full splendour of reason. In all their combinations, and under all their aspects, they imply labour of some mind or other, and in some degree or other they are attended with happiness or the desire of being happy.
For the purpose then of illustrating the proposition contained in my text, I shall first lay before you some remarks upon man as intended for labour, and through labour for happiness, by the very frame of his nature; secondly, I shall point out various proofs both of the profit derived from labour, and of the mischiefs resulting from the want of it in a state of society; and, thirdly, I shall apply such observations as may be suggested by the two foregoing heads, to the very useful and laudable purpose for which you are now assembled.
Having twice published my opinions on the utility of Charity Schools, and having since those publications been twice called upon to preach in behalf of them, I really have found some difficulty in taking a different view of the subject, and in bringing forward
matter which had not occurred to me before.
This consideration will I hope be my excuse with you for the present choice of topics ; and if these topics should appear to any of you too confined and partial, permit me to remind you that the beneficial effects of labour are peculiarly interesting in all discussions which relate to the well-being of the poor; that your own institutions are more immediately calculated for diffusing a spirit of labour among
the poor; and that, in conformity to the purport of the text, I shall be led to speak of that labour only which is connected with honesty and temperance, and therefore is not only profitable but meritorious, not only conducive to true happiness, but auxiliary to true virtue.
Let us then, as I proposed, examine how far man seems to be intended for labour, and through labour for happiness, by the frame of his nature. In vegetable life there is a principle of growth and decay, and an adaptation of the organs to various purposes. The root strikes deep into the ground, the tree climbs aloft to the sky; and yet there is no capacity for change of place, and no appearance of voluntary effort even in the distribution of parts over the space which they are appointed to occupy. But living creatures are capable of motion, and to