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You may have much of this world's comfort ; but this world with the glory of it soon passes away, and then what will become of you? Awake, awake! Be not contented with a mere dream, but let your happiness become
“ A sober certainty of waking bliss,"
true as God's word, and lasting as eternity.
J. F. SHAW, BOOKSELLER, SOUTHAMPTON ROW, AND
PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON; AND
J. & W. RIDER, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, Londou.
John iv. 13, 14.
The conversation of the Saviour with the woman of Samaria, is, throughout, profoundly instructive. It shows his love to souls, in passing over the boundaries of nationality and religion to converse familiarly with a Samaritan; and his humility, in stooping to her ignorance and sin. But while it contains some of the most sublime truths, and some of the clearest revelations of himself, given at that early period of his ministry, the words he spoke, contrasting the water of the well of Sychar with the gift he could bestow, come most fully home to “the businesses and bosoms” of men. “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: but he that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life." Standing by the brink of that well, of which Jacob drank, and his children, and his cattle; which, though it had supplied the inhabitants of that neighbourhood with water for two thousand years, was “living” still; which had connected with it ancestral associations, rendering it peculiarly interesting and valuable in their eyes—though in that clime of burning sun and scarcity of springs this well was the life of the people, and though he himself was fain to drink of its cooling waters after his long fatigue, yet he startles the woman by the announcement of superior water, which should flow in perennial freshness, full and satisfying for ever.
Let that well of Sychar, valuable and valued as it was, stand the representative of all the world contains and holds dear-its wealth, its honours, and its pleasures,—and how true of them the declaration of the Saviour concerning it !
Man seeks for happiness, and is restless till he finds it. It is the indestructible tendency of his nature to seek rest for his soul in that which shall fill its whole capacity and satisfy its vast desire. In pursuit of this he braves dangers, renounces present ease and comfort, circumnavigates the globe, or toils in restless, wearing thought. Men in every rank and condition are struggling in the same race,—the throned monarch, the warrior on the battle-field, the statesman in the senate, the merchant in his counting-house, the emigrant in his distant home, and the peasant at his ill-requited labour. Happiness is the end of all our desires, the goal of our aspirings.
But how few have found it ! The monarch's crown has often been a thorny one ; the warrior's brow, instead of bearing the laurel of victory, has been covered with the damp of death ; the merchant's richest freight has been sometimes scattered on the waves ; and how often has the boldest and most hopeful speculation been the ruin of the adventurer ! The statesman's hopes have been frustrated by some new change of the popular mind, or some unexpected turn in the affairs of nations; the emigrant has looked back over ocean’s trackless waste, with a sigh, towards the home of his youth, in remembrance of its fresh and early pleasures, now for ever gone; and the toiling cottager has folded his arms in sullen despondency as the hope of better days has taken its flight from his worn soul.
It could not be otherwise. If men seek their satisfaction in things of this world, they must be disappointed. The soul of man is boundless in its desires; and how can the finite satisfy it ? It is eternal in its duration ; how can the fleeting and transient be its sufficient portion? It is made for God; how can anything beneath Him content it?
If we examine carefully the various stages of life, we shall find the evidence of dissatisfaction with present enjoyments pervading all. Who has not noticed the conduct even of childhood in this respect ? How soon it lavishes all its regards upon
its toys; how soon they cease to interest, and a demand is made for something new! Restlessness, love of change, of novelty, are its peculiar characteristics. Let us not despise the lesson it imparts. It is but the display of a principle which waits a further development. All the authority used, all the transgression committed, all the penalty exacted, tell us that, even in that time of ignorance and comparative content, the soul is panting to cross the boundary of its present state, and enjoy an undefined and unattained good beyond.
The period of youthful vigour and enterprise still further illustrates our position. The liberty which childhood sought is now attained; but he that drinketh of this water thirsts again." Mark the restless flitting from object to object which characterizes some; the feverish haste, the intense desire to realize all that is attainable, which manifests itself in others. Ever, there is some dissatisfaction with the present; ever, something looming in the future, and drawing them onward. Some period in that future will contain the wished-for satisfaction ; but when this period is reached, disappointment ensues. The heart is as far as ever from happiness; perhaps it is condemned to toil on in hopeless, sterile misery; or if, endowed with peculiar bravery, it still follows the flying phantom, how often does it prove but the mirage of the desert, which mocks the thirsty soul !
But when the fever of youth is past, and its enthusiasm abated, has satisfaction filled the heart ? When the man of middle age has come clearly to see the stern realities of the world, and that life is a battle-field, where continual action is demanded, and the active alone can be successful; when he has braced his energies to the task, and resolutely set himself to the accomplishment of his design, is he satisfied ? His very attitude tells you he is not. Why all this toil, this ceaseless planning, this early rising and late taking rest? Why that knitted, calculating brow, that stooping form, that hurried step ? What mean the market, the exchange, the factory, the study ? Do they not proclaim to us that the success of yesterday has animated to new enterprise to-day; and that hope, though less enthusiastic than before, and dissatisfaction with the present, though less restless, still influence the man? Is it not forcibly suggested, “He that drinketh of this water shall thirst again”?
But now the evening of life is reached. Its bustle is past. He mingles no more in the strife of business; and, externally, there is quietude. Go ask the aged man, is he satisfied? If he has not succeeded in the world—if his energies have been expended in vain, his tale is easily told. He feels the bitterness of disappointment. The iron has entered his soul. The last trace of the deceitful illusion has vanished, and he stands on the open desert, without a hope, without happiness. How sad, if this world is his all !
But perhaps he has succeeded, and the evening is brightened and warmed with prosperity.
He can tell of many successful engagements ; he enjoys a competence of good things. Surely," you say, “ he has found satisfaction.” But is there no undertone of querulousness in his relation of his life-story, while dwelling on his few disasters, or on some unimproved advantages ? or do you not hear the lament for the friend of his youth removed, or the voices of his loved ones hushed in death? Or, if these are spared, does he not still sadly sigh over the advances of enfeebling age, and the decrease of zest for the pleasures once so eagerly enjoyed ? for “the grasshopper is a burden, and desire fails.” The dimmed eye and faltering limb are his, and the dull ear no longer admits with pleasure the sweet communications of friendship. After all its enjoyments, is not the soul thirsting still for what earth can never give ?
Ask, then, of the various conditions of life:-Are the rich happy? Can riches calm a passion, or kill a sorrow, or restore a diseased body, or heal a wounded heart, or recover a lost character, or silence an accusing conscience ? It is true they can command luxuries, collect around us attendants, win for us the flatteries of the interested, and the homage or friendship of the great—for Mammon is the world's god. But do they bring no disgust ? Do they never “make to themselves wings, and fly away”? The experience of the world has said that wealth and happiness are not identical; and that the desire of wealth is the most inextinguishable of all thirsts. Its cry is ever, “Give, give.” Poets have described, and painters have limned, the features of the miser, the man who loves gold for itself. They have exhibited his clutching hands and burning eye, while moralists have sagely told us how appropriately he is named. And the warning voice of inspiration has said, “ He that trusteth in his riches shall fall,” Prov. xi. 28; and earnestly exhorted, “ Trust not in uncertain riches,” 1 Tim. vi. 17.
Shall we inquire of the great and honourable ? He can count a long line of noble ancestry; his titles are numerous and sounding; his station high; his patrimony great; his influence extensive. But, just in proportion to his honours, his noble aspirations, and the abilities with which he is gifted, are the sources of his disquiet. If he shares in the cares of state, and the ambitions and turmoils of office, how often is his pride wounded by opposition, or mortified by disrespect! Many a Haman has been a king's favourite, whose heart has been discontented because of some unworshipping Mordecai. He stands in slippery places, and knows not when change may come; for cabinets fall, and their counsels come to nought. and though he may have reached the highest post his ambition sought, yet the desire to immortalize his name is but the more intense; the consuming thirst is eating up his vitals. Ponder the history of noble statesmen, and learn, that “he that drinketh of this water shall thirst again ;" a thirst not seldom quenched in a premature decease. “ But is not the man of pleasure happy; he who gives up
his whole existence to enjoyment, and worships her at every shrine ? Surely she will come and satisfy him with herself.” His is truly a gay existence, externally. While health and vigour last, he sports like a butterfly in the sunbeam, Admired in the circles of fashion,--the centre of mirth and joy,-attracting the witching smile of beauty and the envy of baffled imitators; how can he be otherwise than happy? Look at his hectic cheek, and you will see he thirsts. He has tried pleasure, and found it pain; he has quaffed the cup, but its dregs were bitter. When Colonel Gardiner-one of the tribe was in the heyday of his reputation, the admiration of every circle, he declared he would gladly have exchanged places with a dog; while another
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY, 27, RED LION SQUARE, LONDON