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The Value of Social Life.
GOD, who art the father of us all, how closely
halt thou connected us with each other! How intimately, how inseparably intermingled our con. cerns, our wants, our sorrows and joys! No one can dispenfe with others; no one be accomplished and happy for himself alone ; every one may be useful to others in numerous ways. How were it possible for us here, most merciful Father, to misapprehend thy call to be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, and our designment for social life? No, it is thy determination that we should consort together along the path of life, mutually bear one another's burdens and facilitate the journey to each other, that we should commute thy various gifts and blessings with one another, impart to others of our substance and mutually rejoice in the commutation of benefits and kind offices. By implanting strong focial dispositions in our hearts, what sources of generally useful activity and of ge
nerous pleasure hast thou made them! Oh that no felfish aims, nò misanthropic pallions might weaken or disturb these sources of satisfaction and delight! Might they still flow more clear and pure, still issue more copiously, and diffuse around abundance of true happiness and joy! Do thou then grant us the understanding, the wisdom, the integrity and virtue which in this respect we want. Do thou penetrate and replenish our hearts with those gentle, generous, humane sentiments and dispositions, with that zeal to serve and benefit others, with that warm participation, in the prosperity and adversity of all, which alone can confer a real value on social life. Let us more and more plainly perceive and properly refpeét that worth, and behave in regard to it as is agreeable to thy will and to our appointment. By constantly obeying the laws of justice and humanity, ảnd steadily adhering to truth and integrity; by the mutual exercise of honour and equity, kindness and gentleness, candour and forbearance ; may we and all our fellow-creatures, enjoy the blessings of society in this life, and be trained up for the participation of endless felicity in the life to come! Bless to this end the reflections we are now about to begin on that subject. Let us thoroughly comprehend the leffons of wisdom that are to be delivered to us, impartially apply them to ourselves, and make a faithful use of them in our future conduct. For these blessings we implore thee, fully trusting in the promises given us by Jesus, and, as his followers, 4.
thus further in his name and words with filial confia dence address thee: Our father, &c.
EPHES. V. 15, 16.
See then that ye walk circumfpectly, not as fools, but as
wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
SOME comforts of life there are, universally
known, esteemed, admired, and used, and in the use whereof every one finds pleasure and profit, to the use whereof therefore none need to be stimu. lated or encouraged, and yet which require a certain recommendation if we would perceive their entire value, use them in the best manner, and obtain as much pleasure and profit from them as they are calculated to afford. Of this kind undoubtedly is fo. cial life. Who does not know and feel that man is formed for intercourse with his brethren, for communicating to them of what he is and has, for the exchange of his thoughts and sentiments with theirs ? Who has not tasted the pleasures and joys of social life, and been charmed with the sweets of them? Who does not prefer it to absolute and constant fo. litude? Who then does not find in himself suffi. cient impulse to the use and enjoyment of it? How feldom is it necessary comparatively speaking to caution people against too vehement a propensity to retirement, or to exhort them to go into
. in the ordinary sense of the word! How much more eality, and how much more frequently, upon the whole, do we run into the extreme on this side than on the other!
But whether this sociableness is and procures to us all that it might be and procure? Whether we prize and affect it, not merely from blind impulse, not merely to fly from ourselves, not merely for fol. lowing the prevailing fashion, but on plain and acknowledged principles? Whether we understand and feel what it is that gives it its really great value? And whether it is of that value to us, or affords us all those satisfactions and advantages, which we may seek in it and expect from it? These are matters whereon, notwithftanding the universally strong propensity to social life, perhaps but few people ever reflect, and in regard to which probably but few are able to give themselves a satisfactory account. Man is a social being, since he naturally possesses dispositions and capacities for society, and finds pleasure in it ; fince he hears fociableness praised, and readily complies with the falhion that is most prevalent at certain times and among particular people. But, whether he be social in the best and most ho. nourable manner to the wise and virtuous man, to the christian, and reap from his sociable turn the greatest utility possible, the most harmless and r oft noble pleasures, about this he too seldom concerns himfelf; and hence it is that this very socialness is so often irksome, even to its admirers and encomiasts,
and fo feldom comes up to their expectations. My design at present is to give you a few directions in re. flecting on sociableness, towards a founder judgment and a better use of it. Accordingly, we will inves. tigate together the value of social life.
For more accurately ascertaining it, we shall have two questions to answer. The first is : How must social life be managed in order to render it of a certain value? The other : What gives it this value, or, wherein consists the value of it?
These investigations will teach us how we are to walk circumspectly, according to the apostolical exhortation in our text, and not to behave as fools in regard of social life, but as wife, adapting ourselves to times or circumstances, and making the best use of both,
Sociableness, my pious hearers, is always better than unsociableness ; a defective use of this natural impulse, or this propensity founded in education and improved by intercourse, is better than the total difuse of it. But all fociableness is not rational and christian, every kind of social life is not of great value. Neither all sociableness nor every kind of social life is able to procure us lasting advantage and real pleasure. Principally, by the absence and avoidance of several defects and imperfections; principally by the presence and the united activity of fea veral good properties and virtues, does social life become and afford what it may and ought to be and afford; by this means does it principally acquire that