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SERMON XIII.

ON THE JOY, AND THE BITTERNESS OF THE

HEART.

PROVERBs xiv. 10.

The heart knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth

not intermeddle with his joy.

It is well known, that men have always been much inclined to place their happiness in the advantages of fortune, and the distinctions of rank. Hence these have been pursued by the multitude with such avidity, that every principle of honour, probity, and virtue, have been sacrificed to the attainment of them. At the same time, many circumstances might have convinced men, that supposing them to be successful in the pursuit, it by no means followed that happiness was to be the reward: for if happiness be, in truth, essentially connected with splendid fortune, or exalted rank, how comes it to pass, that many in the inferior stations of life visibly spend their days with more comfort than they who occupy the higher departments of the world ? Why does the beggar sing, while the king is sad? A small measure of reflection on our nature might satisfy us, that there are other principles of happiness or misery, too often overlooked by the world, which immediately affect the heart, and operate there with greater force and power

than any circumstances of rank or fortune. This is the observation of the wise man in the text; and what I now purpose to illustrate. I shall take a view of the chief sources of that bitterness which the heart knoweth, and of that joy with which a stranger doth not intermeddle; and then shall point out the proper improvements to be made of the subject.

If we inquire carefully into the sources of the joy or bitterness of the heart, we shall find that they are chiefly two: that they arise either from a man's own mind and temper; or, from the connexion in which he stands with some of his fellowcreatures. In other words, the circum

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VOL. III.

stances which most essentially affect every man's happiness are, his personal character, and his social feelings.

I. Every man's own mind and temper is, necessarily, to himself a source of much inward joy or bitterness : for every man,

if we may be allowed the expression, is more connected with himself than with any external object. He is constantly a companion to himself in his own thoughts; and what he meets with there, must, of all things, contribute most to his happiness or his disquiet. Whatever his condition in the world be, whether high or low, if he find no cause to upbraid himself for his behaviour; if he be satisfied that his conduct proceeds upon a rational plan ; if, amidst the failings incident to humanity, his conscience be, in the main, free from reproach, and his mind undisturbed by any dismal presages of futurity, the foundation is laid for a placid and agreeable tenor of life. If to this you add a calm and cheerful temper, not easily fretted or disturbed, not subject to envy, nor prone to violent passion, much of that joy will be produced, which, it is said in the text, a stranger intermeddleth not

with : for this is an intrinsic joy, independent of all foreign causes. The upright man, as it is written, is satisfied from himself. Undisturbed by the vexations of folly, or the remorse of guilt, his nights will be peaceful, and his days serene. His mind is a kingdom to itself. A good conscience and good temper prepare, even in the midst of poverty, a continual feast.

But how sadly will the scene be reversed, if the first thoughts which occur to a man concerning himself, shall be of a gloomy and threatening kind ; if his temper, instead of calmness and self-enjoyment, shall yield him nothing but disquiet and painful agitation? In

any

situation of fortune, is it possible for him to be happy, whose mind is in this troubled state? The spirit of a man will sustain his infirmities ; but a wounded spirit who can bear? Vigour of mind may enable a man to sustain many shocks of adversity. In his spirit, as long as it is sound, he can find a resource when other auxiliaries fail. But if that which should sustain him be enfeebled and broken ; if that to which he has recourse for the cure

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of other sorrows, become itself the wounded part, to what quarter can he turn for relief?

The wounds which the spirit suffers are owing chiefly to three causes : to folly, to passion, or to guilt. They frequently originate from folly; that is, from vain and improper pursuits, which, though not directly criminal, are unsuitable to a man's age, character, or condition, in the world. In consequence of these, he beholds himself degraded and exposed ; and suffers the pain of many a mortifying reflection, and many a humbling comparison of himself with others. The distress occasioned by a sense of folly, is aggravated by any violent passion being allowed to take possession of the heart. Even though it be of the class of those which are reckoned innocent, yet, if it have entirely seized and overpowered a man, it destroys his tranquillity, and brings his mind into a perturbed state. But if it be a passion of the black and vicious kind, it is sufficient to blast the most flourishing condition, and to poison all his joys. If to those wounds inflicted by folly, or by passion, you add the wound of guilt,

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