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sword? How are we prepared to be turned out of our house, and deprived of what we call our property ? Could we say with St. Paul, Having nothing, yet I possess all things ? It is a case which may happen any day, which certainly will happen one day. That day is certainly not very distant when we shall say,
“ All that I have gathered I am now leaving. These things will solace me no more. Others must possess them. Naked I came, naked I return. I brought nothing with me. I carry nothing away.” Now we should accustom ourselves to this, and say, “ I have nothing. I have no rejoicing but in the Lord. All my rejoicing cometh from Him. He giveth me my enjoyments and my capacity of enjoying them, but the chief excellence of these enjoyments is that they come from Him with whom I have to do, from Him to whom it is my chief desire to go. Is it happiness now to trace his footsteps, to behold and think of his goodness in his works ? Has He given this happiness to my soul while in this mortal sinful body? Then when at his bidding I leave this body to be buried in the earth, will He not continue to give me this happiness in a different or in a greater degree? Is not the life more than meat? Is not my soul his own workmanship, and will He not take care of his own? Though the earth be removed, and the mountains cast into the sea, yet will I not fear.”
But though the extremity of the case which the prophet supposes be that of losing life itself and
what is necessary to life, common necessary food, the fields yielding no meat, and the flocks and the herds cut off, he also supposes the failing in the first instance only of luxuries and delicacies, the blossoming of the fig-tree, the fruit of the vine, the labour of the olive. This should teach us to learn to need few things, to inure ourselves to the want of superfluities, not to make our belly our God, not to place our happiness in meats and drinks, in fig-trees, vines, or olives, not to mind earthly things, not to trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God who giveth us richly all things to enjoy.
For although we be not, as the prophet supposes, denuded of our wealth, we may soon very probably lose our health, which is the same thing, as to lose the capability of enjoyment is the same thing as to lose the enjoyment itself. My brethren, the day is very speedily coming upon all of us when we shall say I have no pleasure in these things. Let us not then have to make acquaintance with the Lord when we shall most need his friendship. The soul that places its trust in Him is still fresh and green though all be withered about it. But if we lean on other things we must fall when they fall. If we lean upon our house it shall not stand. Our hope will be cut off, and our trust as a spider's web. O remember then thy Creator in the days of thy youth.
The prophet supposes a joy independent of fields, of flocks and herds, of fig-trees, vines and
have set up
olives, that is of earthly possessions and worldly pleasures. Though these things be taken from me, yet says he, I will rejoice. I will rejoice is what we all say; we aim at nothing else, supposing that a man hath nothing better under the sun than to be
merry. One says I will rejoice in music and dancing, in sports and entertainments, in dissipation, riot, sensuality and sin. Another says I will rejoice in house and lands, in horses and chariots, in farms and gardens, in cattle and agriculture. Another
says, I will rejoice in my friends and children. Another says, I will rejoice in my own works. Is there not a great Babylon that I have built? Is there not a golden image that I
heart to worship? This rejoicing is not in the Lord, but in the vanity of the mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God. Another will rejoice in study, another in trade; but how few are there who will rejoice in the Lord! The Lord is the only source of pure and steady joy. How does the Lord reveal himself to us but as the God of love, of hope and of all consolation? What is the Gospel but good tidings of great joy unto all people? Why did our Lord leave the brightness of his Father's glory, but that He might give rest and joy to our souls? Why will we not accept the joy that He offers us? It is because we will not open our eyes. He would anoint our eyes with eye-salve. He would counsel us to buy of Him gold tried in the fire; but we fancy ourselves to be rich, and to have need of nothing and know not that we are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. If we be not joyful, it is not because we cannot have joy, but because we will not seek it. Christ knocketh at the door, that we may let him in to sup with us. But no! We have some sinful desire which we know that He condemneth, and which, come what may, we will not relinquish. Or we are so much engrossed with other things that we can find no leisure to prepare our heart to receive Him. Of what joy do we not thus deprive ourselves! He would be within us as a soul within the soul, a well of water springing up into everlasting life, the principle of eternal life within us, a never-ceasing spring of happiness. He would be nearer to us than any bosom friend, imparting such counsel, love, and consolation as no friend could ever impart. Why is He not then thus present with us? Has He not promised to dwell within us? Does He not stand and knock at the door? Why will we not receive him? Why will we not open the door? O it is because we will not prepare the house, we will not purify the heart so as to make it a fit receptacle for Him to dwell in ! Would we but do this, we should then understand what it is to rejoice in the Lord. We should be at peace with all the world, with our own conscience and with Him. We should have a light heart and serene countenance. We should fear nothing, having Almighty power within us to protect us; we should be careful for nothing, having Almighty wisdom to direct and govern us; and we should no more doubt about being in a state of grace than a man doubts about being warm when he feels the beams of the sun. The certain assurance of our sins being forgiven would rouse us from sleep. Where there is no hope, there is no endeavour; but where there is both sure and certain hope and an intimate persuasion of friendship and union with Christ, this makes us rejoice in the Lord, and go on our way rejoicing. Why should a Christian not rejoice in the Lord? What is there to deject him? Do you say his sins? He could indeed shed tears of blood for them, but because he bitterly repents of them, he knows that through Christ they are forgiven. What is there then to hinder him from rejoicing in the Lord ? Not sin, for it has no more dominion over him: not affliction, for he knows it is light, and but for a moment: not the world, for it is not his home, and he knows nothing in it worth contending for: not his infirmities, for he has at hand a powerful succour against them: not his temporal blessings, for they are but foretastes and testimonies of the goodness of Him in whom he rejoices, and helps to advance him on his journey to his inheritance.