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"Moses, when he was come to years, refused to he called the son of Pharaoh's daughter: choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt : for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward," Heb. xi. 24-26.
PLEASURE. PLEASURE is a fascinating word, and possesses mysterious charms for human beings. The desire of it moves forward every new generation. The world is kept in a constant state of activity, often of fevërish excitement, by its love of pleasure. The reader of these lines is probably conscious of its power-like a fascinating voice, calling from the scenes and objects of the world around; to which the soul from within re-echoes the thrilling sound, " Pleasure yes, it is pleasure, I know, that moves me." It is not to be doubted that the Creator intended us to be happy. The provision he has made for our gratification proves it. The sky, both by day and night; the earth, in its vast expanse, its fair and beautiful scenery; nature, in its fruits, and flowers, and sounds, ministers to every sense, but intimates to the intellectual part that higher pleasures are in reserve for those that seek.
All our pleasures may be comprised under three classes.
First. There are those of the senses, or of sensation. These are a large class, and are frequently the only ones sought or desired. But these cannot raise us above the animals. They
have pleasures of sensation perhaps equal to ours. But we have an intellectual nature, superior to theirs, given us to control the animal, and keep its gratification in a due subserviency. By many persons the pleasures of sense are purchased at the expense of their nobler nature. Then their own understandings resent the insult. Who has not lamented that pleasures have sometimes been too dearly purchased. Pleasure in such a case is a delusion. The grief or humiliation of the mind outweighs it, and we find ourselves really losers. We have grasped a phantom.
Secondly. There is another class of your pleasures, of a totally different kind, and vastly superior. These are the pleasures of the mind, which takes a delight in wisdom and truth. We can amass and communicate knowledge. One generation improves upon the past. Hence man possesses science-knowledge reduced to system, and arranged in principles. This shows the superiority of his faculties. None of the animals possess any such capacities. Their races remain stationary ; our race is in progression. We have pleasures, then, which may properly be called mental. But have we not others still higher? Reader, you are not insensible to those of the moral faculties.
Thirdly. Let us invite your attention to those which are as much superior to the pleasures of mere intelligence as these are above those of sensation. Of this class are all those which belong to your conscience, the approbation of your fellow-men, and, above all, the approbation of God. These, from their very nature, and the sources from which they flow, are the highest of all our pleasures. They have a direct reference to the most important class of our actions. Our most important relations are those we bear to our fellow-creatures, and to the supreme Governor of the universe. The accumulation of knowledge, the exercise of the intellect and the understanding, may be gratifying and ennobling; but the doing of that which conscience approves, and which God commands, is far better. This is the only path to true and permanent delight, fit for an immortal being, and sufficient to satisfy that imperishable longing which distinguishes his nature. Hence the man who is possessed of true piety, who is under the influence of true religion, is a higher style of man than the greatest prodigy of intellect, who is more intent upon knowing what is true than upon doing what is good.
Could this little MESSENGER impart to you the most precious stores of science, the most momentous passages of history, or the most perfect specimens of eloquence, these could not so effectually subserve your happiness as the announcement it may perhaps impressively make to you, of the only infallible source of pleasure, in reconciliation to your Maker. Is your heart reconciled to God ? 2 Cor. v. 20. Perhaps the secret sense of alienation
which in this life flow from his favour, and which are reserved in fuller measure for the heavenly state. This very consciousness of your unfitness to enjoy the pleasures of religion may have made you more eager after the pleasures of sense, or the pursuits of secular knowledge. But ought not this very fact to create a suspicion that you cannot be right in your pursuit of pleasure ?- because you have thought less of its highest source than of its very lowest-you have been more intent upon the world's pleasures than upon the favour of God-conscious of more enjoyment in your animal nature than in your moral.
This cannot be a right state to remain in; certainly not to die in. You have been a “ lover of pleasure more than a lover of God," 2 Tim. iii. 3. That which should have come before pleasure has come after it, or not at all. The law of God, which is the expression of his will, has been disregarded: the gospel of God, which is the expression of his grace towards those who feel they have sinned and come short of his glory, has not been embraced. You cannot imagine that he has left you to pursue pleasure quite at random, and without any rule for its attainment, or any discrimination of its different kinds. You cannot have read your Bible without learning from it, that “in God's favour is life," and " in his presence there is fulness of joy, at his right hand pleasures for evermore," Psa. xvi. 11. And can it be, that he who has so evidently consulted the pleasure of his creatures, has left them without any intimation of his will, without any laws for its attainment ? Can he who bestowed upon us the light of intelligence, be indifferent whether we gather our pleasure from sin, that is opposed to his nature; or from holiness, in which he himself delights? Has he not said, “ If they obey and serve him, they shall spend their years in pleasures ?" Job xxxvi. ll. “ Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life," Rev. xxii. 14.
It is evident, then, that even your pleasures are subject to laws, which you cannot set aside or contravene without incurring the Divine displeasure, nor without defeating your own aims; for it is perfectly certain that no man can be permanently happy in defiance of his Maker. Is it not, then, a momentous question for you to consider-Are you seeking pleasure in God's appointed way? Are you seeking it under the teaching of his word ? or are you seeking it under the impulses of an estranged heart, and a depraved nature? If so, the issue will undoubtedly prove anything but pleasurable.
There is, first, an obvious rule, dictated by the laws of our nature, which says to our love of pleasure, even for the animal nature, “ Thus far, but no further." The very capacities of your frame point to moderation and temperance. You must have felt that the indulgence of pleasure carried to excess degenerates into pain, and tends either to the debility of your powers, or even perhaps to their destruction. The Creator has granted a limited enjoyment, a temperate use; but this liberty is liable to abuse, is indeed constantly abused. Yet those who thus trespass against the laws of their nature lose all enjoyment, and thus punish themselves. What lamentable instances daily occur of this madness of sinners, by which, for one short hour or moment of delight, they sacrifice the calm and moderate enjoyment that might have been protracted through a long and healthful life, and perhaps plunge hastily, and without repentance, into eternal misery! But, again, there is manifestly a law which subjects all pleasures to the higher considerations of duty and obligation. The observance of this law is essential to the attainment of the highest and most lasting happiness. It is so plain, so inwrought into our reason, our moral feelings, and our self-interest, that none ought to disregard it. None can do so without exposing themselves to a painful retribution, alike from conscience and from God. Yet it is constantly violated, under the delusive idea that happiness can be attained in defiance of the law. And so it possibly may; but it is the pleasure of sin, which can be only for a season, to be followed by an unalleviated and interminable pang. The moment the dictates of duty are violated, the law of pleasure is broken, and the seed of sorrow is sown, soon to ripen into bitter fruit. The rule is God's; and he has infused into all his moral laws, as well as into the natural, the mysterious power of avenging themselves upon all contemners.
Finally, let it never be forgotten that, even under the consciousness of many sad transgressions, there is a resource held out to those who are convinced that they have been seeking their happiness in defiance of God. And this gracious remedy still holds out the hope of eternal happiness, if, as penitent sinners, they yet return, by due submission, to seek their pleasure no more in sin, but in the reconciliation which the blood of Christ effects, and in the conformity of their heart to the Divine law, which the Holy Spirit works. Then, by a gracious pardon of past offences, by a redemption from sin through the precious blood of Christ, and the elevation of their desires from sensual to spiritual pleasures, they may yet become children of God and heirs of glory, they may reach the state of perfect and unending felicity. Reader, have you undergone this change in your views of pleasure ? Are you seeking it now in the favour of God, through Jesus Christ, and no more in carnal objects, or intellectual entertainments? If so, give thanks unto God; but if not, repent ere it is too late,
“Then these men [the presidents and princes] assembled. and found Daniel praying and
making supplication before his God," Dan. vi. 11.
· HE WAS PRAYING. What was our Lord Jesus Christ doing when the Spirit of God descended visibly upon him, and his dignity was proclaimed by a voice from heaven?—He was praying. “It came to pass that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased,” Luke iii. 21, 22.
What was Jesus Christ doing when he was transfigured in the presence of his disciples and of visitors from heaven ?-He was praying. “As he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment was white and glistering. And, behold, there talked with him two men, which were Moses and Elias; who appeared in glory, and spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem,” Luke ix. 29, 30.
What was Jesus Christ doing when, in the garden of Gethsemane, an angel was sent to cheer him in the prospect of his final sufferings ?-He was praying. “He was withdrawn from them about a stone's cast, and kneeled down, and prayed, saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless, not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him," Luke xxii. 41-43.