« PreviousContinue »
The spider's most attenuated thread
THE enjoyment of earthly happiness depends much upon disposition, taste, fancy, and imagination. These are fickle, changeable as the chamelion, and often play truant. Of course, it is not surprising to frequently find the helm of sublunary happiness unshipped, her masts sprung, her anchor dragging, or cable, parted, her sails rent and shivering in the wind, her hull waterlogged, signals of distress out, or her flag at half mast, and sometimes an adverse breeze throws her on her beams end. Her compass, as the red men say of the white, is mighty uncertain, her officers and crew are more uncertain still.
It is not the want of means to be happy, that produces the great amount of unhappiness in the world. Keen misery may be oftener found in the abodes of wealth, than among the peasantry, or even serfs. Earthly happiness has been appropriately compared to the manna of the Israelites. He that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack. It is the result of wisdom, rational design, reasonable desires, and prudent enjoyment. But taste, fancy, and imagination; discard these cardinal points, and fly from them like a tangent line from a radius; and as surely produce misery, as fire burns gunpowder; often producing a ruinous explosion. Artificial and imaginary wants, are as much more numerous than real wants; as shin plasters, a few years ago, were more plentiful than gold eagles; and are of about the same relative value. Disappointment is a harsh old fellow, the sworn enemy of earthly enjoyment, and stands at the threshold of imaginary wants with his cato’-nine tails, and lashes most of those who attain them, and prevents their entrance into the sanctum sanctorum of happiness. Where one enjoys the pleasure anticipated, on the attainment of an object, not indispensably necessary to promote earthly comfort; ninety-nine are so excoriated by disappointment, that they writhe in agony, like a man with the gout. An immortal spirit, if compelled to seek happiness in things earthly alone, is prone to be driven, with centrifugal force, farther and farther from it. To enjoy happiness in this life, in its greatest purity, we must live in constant preparation to enter upon it in “that country, from whose bourne no traveller returns." The great secret of substantial happiness, consists in contentment, and a constant communion with God, and a full reliance on him at all times.
They little know
The physical heart is the great reservoir, from which flow the numerous life streams that support our body. Anatomists suppose each ventricle of the heart to contain from one and a half to two ounces of blood, and that the heart pulsates over four thousand times in an hour, passing over four hundred pounds of blood every sixty minutes. Twenty-eight pounds of blood is supposed to be the quantity in a common-sized person, which passes from and to the heart, from fifteen to twenty times each hour, with a regularity and velocity, of which we can form no full conception.
Dr. Paley has remarked, “ The heart is so complex in its mechanism, so delicate in many of its parts, as seemingly to be little durable, and always liable to derangement-yet may this wonderful machine go, night and day, for eighty years together, at the rate of one hundred thousand strokes every twenty-four hours, having, at every stroke, a great* resistance to overcome, and may continue this action this length of time, without disorder, and without weariness."
But my business is more particularly with the immaterial, or moral heart. With reference to the incumbents of this kind of hearts, we have three kinds of men in community—those with good hearts, those with bad ones, and those without hearts. With all the multifarious machinery of the physical heart, its intricacies bear no comparison with those of the moral heart, which has been declared by Holy Writ, to be desperately wicked, with the significant question-who can know it? a question worthy of serious consideration—yet fearfully neglected. The examination of our own hearts is a repulsive task, and seldom attended to, and more seldom, thoroughly. But few men know their
* Thirteen pounds.-Carpenter.
own powers of mind, and their natural propensities, until they are brought into full action. Here is the solution of the problem, why some particular eras have produced greater men than others. It was the occasion, not the difference in native mental powers. Great occasions ever have, and ever will produce great men. The American revolution developed a blaze of talent that illuminated the world, which, but for such an occasion, would have passed unobserved by the incumbents, and those around them.
More especially are we unwilling to discover and correct the bad qualities of our hearts. If the heart has yielded to the control of the gross passions, we are too apt to permit them to run riot, and lead the whole man astray. Instead of keeping it with all diligence, and putting it under proper discipline by self examination and correction, we are too prone to be more ignorant of this fountain of action, than of any thing else, in or around us. This is radically wrong, and often ruinous. Know thyself, O man!
The heart is the seat of all that adorns our race, as well as of all that deforms it. We are enraptured to meet a man with an open, bold, noble, and generous heart; full of the milk of human kindness, natural affection, beaming in his face and exhibited in his actions. We are pained to meet one, with his heart overflowing with wickedness and vice, a brute in human form. Still more are we pained to meet a man who is heartless, wrapped up in self, no feeling for the pleasures or woes of his fellow men, a snail in embryo, ossified by mean
Their own hearts many will not know, the hearts of others we cannot know, although some ignoramuses have assumed the high prerogative of judging
them. Even actions are no sure criterion, unless we can know all the circumstances that prompted them. In judging from actions, men will vary in their opinions, as physiologists have in the action of the material heart. The resistance to be overcome by each pulsation of the heart, in forcing the blood from the ventricle into the aorta, has been estimated by different authors, from five ounces,* to one hundred and eighty thousand pounds;t a fair illustration of the random verdicts, passed by some persons on others.
If all will recollect, that every tub stands on its own bottom, that each man and woman is individually accountable to God for the action of the moral heart, and look into their own hearts, and weed out their own foul gardens; it will enhance individual and public happiness. For overt transgressions of the laws of social order, we are amenable to earthly tribunals-the moral heart they can never penetrate or scan.
Man may bleed its sensibility, open the gushing fountains of its grief, rouse its latent powers to a foaming fury, dry up its milk of human kindness by base ingratitude; but into its sanctum sanctorum he can never enter—the great Jehovah only has full access there. If our hearts are right with him, if we have fully, freely, and unreservedly surrendered them to him, all will be well; we need not fear what man can do to our bodies—but if they are not right with him, dreadful will be our doom.