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COMPLETE DUTY OF MAN.
some remains of them still in ourselves. When the self-denying tempers of the faithful in Christ, their deliverance from the dominion of worldly hopes and fears, their unfeigned love to God and man, and their real imitation of Jesus in the abhorrence of all evil, is the subject before us, in vain shall we read of these spiritual attainments, unless we examine in what degree the infinitely desirable transformation has taken place in our own hearts.
4. Lastly, We must read those portions of Scripture most frequently, which relate to subjects of the greatest moment. For as, in the frame of our body, God has ordained some parts to be absolutely necessary to its life, others to its comfort and ease, and others again to its ornament; in the same manner is the Scripture composed. As our greatest regard therefore is to such parts of the body as are most vital, so our most frequent contemplation must be fixed on those parts of Scripture which most nearly concern the glory of God, our own eternal salvation, and the good of others. The Scriptures therefore which delineate the perfections of God, his jealous regard for his own honor, the necessity of living in willing subjection to his authority, the certain insupportable miseries of the unconverted and unbelieving, the earthly and the sensual, call for our frequent perusal; for in such a world as this, and with hearts disposed as ours are, in vain we attempt to observe the commands of God, if we are not immoveably persuaded of these truths, and constantly reminded of them. The Scriptures also which describe the miseries of our fallen state, the evil bias that is upon our will, our utter impotence on this very account to recover ourselves, are in a very eminent degree deserving of our frequent meditation. Of the same important nature are all those passages in holy writ which declare what the Saviour is in his own personal excellency; what he has done and suffered on earth; what he is now doing in heaven for his church: which acquaints us with his gracious calls and his tender expostulations; which instruct us in the knowledge of our own indispensable need of him in his offices of prophet, priest, and king. No one can look into the Bible, without perceiving with what peculiar emphasis these subjects are treated; how they project to our view, and are insisted upon and extolled as the glorious display of God's wisdom and love. A deep intimate acquaintance therefore with these things is a principal end for which Scripture was given, and, therefore, should be our object in perusing it.
SUNDAY XXXVIII.-CHAP. XXXVIII.
THE SOURCES OF CHRISTIAN HAPPINESS.
Ir is too general an opinion, that men cannot be so
part in the voluptuousness at hand, risking any loss
The system therefore of doctrinal and practical
1. The first source then of happiness peculiar to the faithful in Christ Jesus, is the excellent knowledge they have attained. God the Father in all his adorable perfections, in the works he has made, and in the word he has caused to be written, in the redemption he has provided, and in the blessings he has promised: God the Son in his orign al glory and marvellous humiliation, in all the pa's and most benevolent purposes of his mediation: Gou he Holy Ghost in all his influences, gifts, and graces, with the realities of the invisible, eternal world, constitute the pleasing subjects of meditation to the true believer. Nominal Christians, it is true, hear of all these subjects, perhaps profess constantly to believe in them; but they can neither find time to take any exact survey of them, nor to ponder them in their hearts: therefore" seeing they see, and do not perceive, and hearing they hear, and do not understand." The knowledge of the things of God, on the contrary, which real believers possess, is lively, penetrating, and of course delightful.
No one can question the pleasures of the understanding, while thousands toil for no other reward. In the eyes of all the votaries of science, the discovery of truth has the most bewitching charms, even though the truth only relates to something in this perishing world, and is without any power to produce the dispositions essential to peace of mind. Is such knowledge pleasant? How much more, then, the discovery of truths, which, besides their novelty, have a grandeur capable of engaging the whole mind, and filling it with admiration! This grandeur is no sooner apprehended than the truths of God necessarily become a source of delight. Before, they were either despised or suspected, or blindly assented to, from the force of education;now, they act like themselves; they inspire new resolutions, they kindle ardent desires, they excite abundant hope: in a word, by their spiritual knowledge believers are brought into a new and glorious world, where objects interesting beyond measure, and tending to their honor and exaltation, surround them.
This pleasure, which true believers enjoy from their first acquaintance with divine truths, increase as they advance. There is a very sensible progress in divine, no less than in human science: first a faint or confused view of the truths of God, then a clear perception of their matchless excellence, and various usefulness: first a dependence upon them, mixed with hesitation and fear, afterwards a full assurance of understanding and hope, a comprehending the breadth and length, and height and depth, of what before was very superficially known. Such a progress is inseparable from perseverance in the faith of Christ, and a diligent use of the word of God and of prayer, and it never fails to prove a spring of fresh and increasing delight.
2. But this knowledge of the truth is always connected with the possession of the richest spiritual blessings; particularly the peace of God.
No sooner are believers brought to the knowledge | speaking by his apostle to true believers, "are of Christ so as to depend upon his work and me- yours; whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas," that diation, than they are assured by the promise and is, all means, ordinances, or ministers; For the the oath of God, that there is no condemnation to world," all the creatures and things in it, as far as them that are in him, who walk not after the flesh, they can be of any real service; "or life," as long but after the Spirit. To this truth, the prophets, as its continuance can redound to your good; "or the apostles, and the Redeemer, continually bear death," which will be your everlasting gain; in a witness. In the same proportion therefore as they word," things present, and things to come;" that receive it, their conscience is justly quieted, and is, all temporal and eternal mercies, "are yours, from a sharp accuser is turned into an encouraging and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." friend. It now no longer upbraids them with their 4. Inseparably joined with the knowledge and folly, but commends their wisdom in flying to the privileges already mentioned, there is another stronghold which God hath provided; no longer source of peculiar delight to real believers, namely, haunts them with apprehensions of approaching the exercise of gracious tempers, wrought in them punishment, but registers and attests their cordial by the Holy Ghost. acceptance of the Lord, who is mighty to save; they have now "the answer of a good conscience towards God by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead." In this supernatural fact they can perceive that the indictment which was against them for their transgressions of the law, is taken out of the way, and "they have boldness to enter into the holiest through the blood of Jesus."
In their repentance (how discouraging an aspect soever repentance may wear in the eyes of the world) pleasure still mingles with their tears; because they are tears which flow from a just and sacred principle within. They love to abase themselves before God, to give his holiness, justice, and majesty their due honor; they are happy whilst they feel deep relentings for their past ill conduct towards Him, who does not stand over them with a rod of iron, to execute vengeance on them as they deserve, but holds forth the sceptre of his grace, that they may approach him and live. There is an inconceivable delight felt when the believer, return
3. Another essing accompanying the knowledge of Curists the privilege of adoption into the family of God. To give some just idea of the delight arising from this peculiar privilege of believers, it is necessary to explain the nature of adoption, as the practice of it anciently obtained. It was cus-ing to God, can say, "Lo! I come to thee: thou art tomary, especially in the Grecian and Roman states, for a man of wealth, in default of issue from his own body, to make choice of some person upon whom he put his name, requiring him to relinquish his own family, and dwell from that time in his, and proclaiming him publicly his heir. In this act there was an imitation of nature, and the afflictive failure of offspring from himself, was supplied by something as really compensating for his loss as possible. The person thus adopted, was by law entitled to the inheritance, upon the decease of his adopter, and, however before void of all claim to such a benefit, or cf expectation of it, was invested with the same privileges as if he had been born heir to his benefactor. Suppose then this act of adoption taking place in favor of some desolate orphan, how conspicuous would be his exaltation! how delightful the change of his condition! how happy, in the judgment of the world, the object of such a prosperous providence!
But worse than that of the most destitute orphan is our natural state. Our great Redeemer teaches us that we are "wretched, and miserable, pour, and blind, and naked," till our relation to him by a living faith enriches us with all spiritual blessings, Though the truth of this representation should be disallowed by the world, yet all believers in Christ Jesus acknowledge it to be a faithful picture of their own case. In this condition it was, they heard, and understood, and believed, that the most merciful God" sent his own Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons;" that thus, through faith in his name, they might be come fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; "for to as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God."
Have not these persons then, who attain to this heavenly gift, a source of delight above all others in the world? Have they not the utmost cause to cry out in joyful admiration, Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God! what an height of honor! what an acquisition of true riches! for sinners to be adopted by the Lord God Almighty into a relation with himself, which at once entitles them to all things. For "all things," says God,
the Lord whom I will serve: what I so long, by the basest sacrilege, alienated from thy blessed service, presence, and communion, I now desire to bring back to thee. Take all the powers of my soul and body; possess and employ them only in thy work and to thy glory. When believers in this manner disclaim their own base interests unreservedly, with out intending to keep any thing from God; absolutely, without making any conditions of their own, accepting his with all thankfulness; peremptorily, without halting between two opinions, as if they were inclined to retract the surrender of themselves which they have made; there is much delight interwoven in these exercises of repentance towards God.
But still much more in acts of faith towards the Lord Jesus Christ; for in these, there is a lively acknowledgment and habitual consideration of the highest benefits, of the strongest motives to love and obedience, as well as the strongest ground of joy and triumph. What can you imagine more delightful than for men, who see themselves all sin and misery, to look unto Jesus, who says, "he will deliver the poor and needy when they cry unto him, and them that have no helper ?" Their own empti ness they feel, and know his fulness for their relief; they bow at his footstool ready to perish, and he receives them as the father the returning prodigal, to put upon them the best robe; they confess their desert of nothing but wrath, and he freely grants them pardon; they know that without his interposition they must have sunk into hell, but behold he has exalted them into children of God, and heirs of glory. What pleasing emotions must such views of themselves and of him excite in their minds!
With these permanent sources of peculiar delight, all real believers are in some measure ac quainted. Hence they stand independent of the world for their best joys, and can be happy in spite of all disappointments from it.
Judge no longer then after the flesh concerning the source of true happiness; for it is no more per ceptible by sense than the excellences of the mind, than learning or genius. And as you would justly meet with contempt from the world for your ignorance and stupidity, should you dare to say that there is no delight in studying the fine arts, or in making discoveries in nature by philosophical pe
COMPLETE DUTY OF MAN.
netration; because these things are not adapted to the taste, or within the comprehension of the vulgar; because they are neither showy nor palpable, like the pleasures of the sensualist: so you may equally betray your own miserable ignorance in the sight of all the excellent of the earth, when you dare to deny the present delight enjoyed by those who believe to the saving of their souls.
In vindication therefore of this privilege, I shall
1. First then, It is most reasonable to conclude, that real Christians may experience peculiar happiness, because the infinitely glorious God always Pray therefore for a divine knowledge to correct proposes himself, in his own blessed word, to our your depraved apprehensions, and to remove your conceptions under the character of a Father to the grossness and unbelief of heart. Then you will faithful in Christ, in a sense to which none besides perceive that Christians are not more distinguished themselves can lay claim. It would be endless to by purity of practice, than by their superior plea-cite all the passages which assert this important sures: then you will understand (contrary to the low distinction. The Redeemer, in the plainest manner thoughts entertained of the Christian's choice, con- possible, distinguishes all believers, to the end of trary to the impious prejudices abounding every time, from the rest of mankind: "For whosoever," where against it,) that among all the objects of says he, "shall do the will of my Father which is sense never did the eye see any thing so grand and in heaven," that is, in a believing reverential rebeautiful, or the ear hear any thing so delightful gard to me, "the same is my brother, and sister, and advantageous; amongst all the branches of and mother." And when he was going into heaven, science, never did the thoughts of man comprehend he said unto the representatives of the whole body The aposany thing so completely adapted to bless the whole of believers, "I ascend unto my Father, and your soul, "as the things which God hath prepared for Father, and to my God and your God." them that love him, even before the sons of men;" tle makes the very same distinction, and exhorts which things are given to them on this side the grave, those who were wavering, whether they should seas a pledge of what they shall possess in the perfec-parate and come out from the world or not, to shun tion of glory to all eternity.
SUNDAY XXXIX.-CHAP. XXXIX.
THE REASONABLENESS OF EXPECTING CHRISTIAN JOY.
all conformity to the ungodly, from this very motive, that then God would receive them, and be a Father unto them, and they should be his sons and daughters. 2. Cor. vi. 17, 18.
As the great God then stands in this relation of a Father, peculiarly to the faithful, we may assuredly conclude from thence, notwithstanding the distance THERE is nothing perhaps, at first view more unac- between him and us, that his affection towards countable than the strong prejudices which are en- these his children far surpasses the love of earthly tertained against the peculiar delights which spring parents towards their own offspring. But where is from the knowledge of Christ. That the doctrines the parent worthy of that tender name, who does of the gospel should offend, is no wonder; for the not manifest his delight in all his dutiful children haughty spirit of man cannot brook the self-abase--who does not make their state of subjection a ment they requre. That its precepts should be complained of, it is easy to suppose, from the self-denial they enjoin. But that men, who call themselves Christians, should quarrel even with the joys of their own religion; that they should contemn them as at variance with solid reason and sound judgment, is indeed a most surprising fact: since, upon the bare report of such sources of joy, our natural desire of happiness, one would conclude, must strongly prompt us to wish them real; and frequent disappointments from the world must incline us to think it also reasonable, that there should be some friendly sanctuary appointed for man, in which true joy and peace might be found.
But upon closer inquiry, we shall discover the ground of these violent prejudices against the joys of the Christian faith. If these joys were allowed to be real, then those who have no experience of them must by their own confession discover, that they themselves are destitute of true Christianity; they must be compelled to own how low the state of their own religion is, which consists in assenting to Scripture truths without feeling their power; in a round of duties without spiritual life; in being honest, sober, and harmless, without any more delight in God than professed infidels experience. The character, peace, and security therefore of all nominal Christians are at stake, and they are concerned for their own sakes, to cry down that joy as enthusiastic, to which they are themselves strangers. Add to this, that "the spirit that iusteth in us to envy," cannot allow others to receive tokens, of the favorable loving-kindness of God, of which we do not partake ourselves.
From these causes, enforced perhaps by a few instances of real delusion, we may fairly account for the general prejudice against one of the noblest privileges of a Christian, delight and joy in God.
pleasure to them by numerous tokens of parental love? Is it not reasonable then to conclude that the eternal Father may make as sensible a difference between believers and hypocrites, as we do between our duteous children, who deserve and want encouragement from us, and stubborn ones who must be kept under a frown?-that he should manifest himself to the one as he doth not to the other?-that, to use his own words, "his secret should be with them that fear him, and that he should show them his covenant," whilst others remain in a state of distance from him?—whilst utte. strangers to spiritual light, they are left to grovel in the pleasures of sin, and the things of time, which they are base enough to prefer to God, and to the riches of his grace? Certainly this is a most rational conclusion, especially when it is considered that believers are declared through the whole Bible to be the delight and the treasure of God.
2. Further; The reasonableness of supposing believers may experience peculiar delight, will appear more evident from considering in what manner a tender father behaves to his children, who from their relation to him are exposed to the persecution of his foes. Here all the fire of parental love blazes out; here it is the parent's highest gratification to caress his suffering children with all possible demonstrations of his delight in them. If we, then, to use our Lord's inference, being evil, know how in such cases to reward, by an overflowing of affection, our children, how much more shall our heavenly Father in some better manner give tokens zeal to his truth and love to his name? But who of his delight in them, who are sufferers through can be a Christian, according to the Scripture definition of that character, and not suffer for it, whilst the world lieth in wickedness? Who can abstain from all epidemical profaneness and carelessness,
without meeting immediately with much to exer- | whether, in point of fact, they do enjoy it. This incise his patience, to try his courage, and to prove quiry I shall now answer. his Christian fidelity? What young person, especially (and a very great part of the servants of God devote themselves to him in the days of their youth,) what young person, I say, shall dare to be more religious than those about him, without feeling a persecution, which, though domestic and little observed, is very grievous to flesh and blood to bear? In such cases does not sound reason justify the Scripture assertion, and teach us to conclude, that God will afford some immediate counterbalance to what is inflicted upon these confessors for his name and truth-that he will enlighten the eyes of their understanding to know what is the hope of their calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of his power towards them that believe, to save and defend them?
3. Again; It is highly reasonable to conclude that real Christians may enjoy peculiar happiness in this life, because shortly their eternal state will be so immensely different from that of the careless and ungodly. The latter, alas! hardened even unto death, then meet with a full reward for their deeds in the frown of an angry God, and in the feelings of a conscience that can know no rest. The former are no sooner absent from the body, than we are assured they shall be present with the Lord.
And here let me first refer you to the example of primitive Christians. Immediately after that great conversion on the day of Pentecost, their behavior is described in several particulars, and their state of mind, which indeed showed itself in their actions, is sufficiently signified by two words, gladness or exaltation and singleness of heart. In the same book of the Acts, after Philip's preaching in the city of Samaria is mentioned, it is remarked, "there was great joy in that city." When the jailor who had St. Paul in custody had heard him once speak the word of the Lord, besides his actions, which plainly implied great alacrity of heart, it is expressly added in the close, "that he rejoiced." The same account is given of the Ethiopian eunuch. As soon as Philip had preached Jesus unto him, he was baptized; and though his heavenly-appointed guide was snatched from him, yet the doctrine taking place in his heart, "he went on his way," it is not said reasoning, or deeply meditating only, but "rejoicing." Indeed we have reason to think that all who heard the gospel to any good purpose, heard it with the same sentiments of joy. They behaved at first like persons quite amazed and surprised with the grace of God. Before habit or improvement could have had time the pure joy of the gospel above this world, and ready as yet to manifest themselves, they were raised by in its defence to embrace the martyr's stake. I would ask then, is it not most reasonable to sup- But besides the united testimony of prophets, apospose that some kind of anticipation of this bliss is tles, and the Saviour himself, in proof that real beenjoyed, before the fulness of it is revealed to their lievers in his name do actually enjoy peculiar delight transported souls; that those blessed heirs of salva- in his service, there is the evidence of daily fact.tion, who are soon to inherit the promises should For how can we otherwise account for the total alhave a delightful acquaintance with their meaning teration both of choice and conduct in some persons and appropriation beforehand, and some degree of of all ranks, and of all ages, and of all tempers, as joy in their God, the same in kind with what is resoon as they really behold the glory of the gospel? served for them in heaven?-that those, whom the All these are unanimous in avowing they never King of kings will confess before men and angels, knew what true happiness meant before they beand reward with everlasting honors, should in lieved. Whatever they found formerly from the their own consciences rejoice in the hope of glory, pleasures of sin, they confess to be now rendered and, as the Scripture affirms, should be sealed of despicable by their spiritual joy. Hence, long after God, and have the earnest of the Spirit in their the terrors of the Lord have ceased to work upon hearts? Is not this much more reasonable than the their fears, they keep at a distance from sin and supposition, that those who are very soon to be as vanity, from persons, things, and amusements on widely distant from each other as heaven from hell, which they once doated, in order to enjoy more of should be at present alike destitute of any sensible what now makes them happy. Nor can this be enjoyments of the divine favor?-that both should owing to notions put into their heads, or to the force be left to go on till the day of death and final sepa- of imagination working up fantastic joy; because ration; the one no more than the other experienc- great numbers have had no idea that there was any ing the comfort of God's Spirit, the light of his such thing as delight in God, till it sprung in their countenance, and the joy of his salvation? Cer-own hearts, at once the object of their surprise, and tainly there can be no greater absurdity than to imagine this.
What has been offered may, we hope, suffice to prove that it is not in the least degree enthusiastic to conclude that the faithful in Christ Jesus may have peculiar gratifications of their own; and it may convince us that the experience of these delights too often exploded as delusive, will appear upon closer examination to be perfectly rational.
SUNDAY XL-CHAP. XL.
THE CERTAINTY OF CHRISTIAN JOY.
Ir is of so much importance to give a just impression of the happiness of the service of our Redeemer, that we have been very full in explaining the sources from which it arises, and the reasonableness of expecting it; but however reasonable it may be that Christians should expect it, still it will be inquired, I
the cause of their preference of the service of the Lord to all other things. Add to this, that many, who notwithstanding their meek and prudent carriage, are obnoxious to their relations for their godliness, and treated with hardship on that account, are still far from desiring to make their peace at the expense of becoming gay, foolish, and careless, as they once were. They can find a sweetness in secret prayer, reading and meditation, which even under these disadvantageous circumstances is better to them than all their former idle mirth and vain laughter, with the friendship and good countenance of the family to reward it.
These evidences in proof of the reasonableness and certainty of the joy of believers are sufficient to satisfy all, I trust, who will submit to the authority of Scripture, and to deductions clearly drawn from it. I shall add therefore nothing more, but only caution against the wrong use of this doctrine, and exhort all persons, as they love their own happiness, to seek in the first place, the enjoyment of the blessings of the gospel.