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The Difference between Prosperity and Happiness.
GOD, thou hast designed us for happiness and
made us capable of the enjoyment of it. We are constantly longing and striving for happiness, and thy parental kindness is ever opening to us the most various and abundant sources of it, Might we not so often thoughtlessly and negligently pass them by, but draw from them as much pleasure and delight as they are able to afford! Alas, we are too often deceived by appearances ! We are often dazzled and milled by the glittering forms of pleasure and happiness, which are not and yield not, what they pretend to be and to yield ! Yes, we frequently spend our strength in vain, and with wearisome, fruitless ardour, seek our happiness where it is not to be found. We frequently shun and avoid, as misery and unhappiness, what would prove a real benefit, a permanent blessing to us. We too often pursue the shadow with childish impetuosity, and let the substance escape. And yet complain of misery A A 4
and want of happiness as of inevitable evils, as neceffary consequences of the present constitution of things. No, Lord, thou art righteous, thou art benignity and love, but we think and act often foolishly, often confound fpecious appearance with reality, and seek not so much what is really true and good and remains true and good forever, as what glitters and shines, and promises us transient, fuga. cious joys and advantages. God, do thou thyself reclaim us continually more from these deviations. Teach us rightly to think and to judge of what has a tendency to render us happy or unhappy, and to chuse between them with true christian wisdom. Let thy light, the light of truth, irradiate our minds, and thy spirit guide and conduct us in all our ways. Biess, to the furtherance of these designs, the exercise of reflection we are now about to begin on these important subjects. Let thy holy spirit in all things direct and rule our hearts, and hearken to our prayer through Jesus Christ, our blessed lord, in whose name and words we address thee as we ought; Our father, &c.
PROV. iv. 20, 21, 22.
My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my
fayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes ; keep them in the midit of thine heart. For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
COULD I call your attention, and make it a mat
ter of confequence to you, my pious hearers, to remark the difference between some few words and the objects they denote, which in all languages are more or less confounded, and used as synonimous, I think I should very much contribute to your moral improvement and your happiness. These words are: Prosperity and Happiness, Adversity and Un, happiness, Fortunate and Happy, Unfortunate and Unhappy. That the objects thereby signified are materially different, may and must be presently difcovered by every reflecting person. Thoughtful however as well as thoughtless persons but too frequently confound words and things in their minds and judgments, in their discourses and actions; and thus the former as well as the latter, though in an inferior degree, are led into numberless errors, false and shallow judgments, into transgressions and fol. lies, into anxieties and troubles. Whoever should constantly avoid this confusion, avoid it in thinking as well as in speaking, in common life as well as in
scientific exercises; whoever in this respect should think precisely and speak precisely : such an one would certainly, in point of satisfaction and happiness, of wisdom and virtue, far excel every other who should not do so. The subject therefore well deserves that we should employ ourselves somewhat longer upon it. It seems at first to relate merely to words; but they are words that have an extraordinary
influence on morals, that create far, far more good or harm among mankind, than is usually imagined. And therefore the fignification and use of them is not an object of idle curiofity, but must stand in the closest connection with the grand concerns of life. May these remarks awaken tention, your continued attention to my present difcourse and induce you to make a diligent application of it! My design is accurately to state the manifold and effential difference between prosperity and happiness and the words and objects relating to them; and then point out to you, what a beneficial infu. ence this distinction must have on your judgments, difpofitions and actions. If, in pursuance of the admonition in our text, in this respect too, we let not wisdom depart from our eyes ; if we hearken to her dictates, and follow her precepts, we shall be happy and prudent, or intelligent persons.
By prosperity, my pious hearers, we understand all outward privileges and endowments, all viciffitudes and events that are correspondent with our wifhes and views, that have a tendency to promote
363 our welfare, that promise us the gratification of our wants, or the removal of our troubles and the cefsation of our sufferings, or means of accommoda. tion, of pleasure and satisfaction ; and the greater and more covetable these things appeared to us, the more we felt the want of them, the less reason wę had to expect them, and the more unexpectedly they fell to our lot: so much the greater in our estimation, is the prosperity that we experience. To such goods of fortune belong riches, fuperfluity, station, rank, eminence, power, honour, authority, health, strength, success in our businesses and undertakings, deliverance from danger and distress, execution of our projects, attainment of our views, and the like. Adversity is the reverse of all this. It is loss of our property and advantages, loss in health and strength, in influence and power : it consists in adverse events, unforeseen obstructions and difficulties, in pain and sicknesses, enemies and perils, and the like. — Ilappiness or unhappiness on the contrary is the state of pleasure or discomfort, of content or of discontent, in which the man is; and which is principally determined by the thoughts, sentiments, desires, propensities, views, appetites, that predominate in him and over him, by the de. gree of his moral goodness and perfection. Hence, my pious hearers, it is already apparent, that profperity and adversity, happiness and unhappiness, are not necessarily connected together, that they are not the same things, that they rather are essentially