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of the Spirit ever go in company. Where gratitude is, there is love, going forth in every direction and leaving its benevolent traces every where, and there is repentance with her broken heart newly bound up, and faith with her hand on the head of the victim, and hope with her eagle eye gazing on glory, and humility, appareling the soul, and meekness with her pitying eye, and pleading voice, saying, “father, forgive them.” Oh! if gratitude may only be excited, it will be enough. You will mourn over the past. Can you be thankful, without grieving for past unthankfulness? And all the resolutions which we would have you form in view of the future will be formed, and formed in the strength of the Most High. One part of the language of gratitude, as the Psalmist himself has taught us, is “what shall I render to the l.ord for all his benefits ?” This desire to requite is inseparable from gratitude; if you are grateful, you will feel it, and you will ask, "what shall I render ?" “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do.” What render! Thy heart, thy whole heart, and every thing else must go with it, thy mind, thy strength, thy substance, thy influence, all will be devoted. What do! dost thou ask? His word tells you what he will have you do : “Follow holiness, love not the world, be not conformed to it, cease to do evil, abstain from all appearance of evil. Let your light so shine that others seeing your good works, may glorify your father in heaven. Seek those things which are above, be instant in prayer, watch and be sober.”
If you are grateful, you will resolve to do these things, and will strive to keep your resolutions; and
this year you will be more active and engaged in religion, than you have been the last.
You feel something, you think you are grateful, but be not deceived, fellow sinner. Are you contrite ? Is your gratitude accompanied with repentance ?
You think your soul blesses God, does it supremely love him? Are you serving him? Do you mean to serve him from this hour forth? Do you hate his great enemy, sin ? Are you daily striving against sin, and seeking to please God? Oh! this is the test.
Oh! sinner, you are not grateful, your soul does not bless God. It has never blessed him, you have never been grateful, and yet hast lived so long and been loaded with so many benefits, and now hast just completed another year of goodness, and art en. tering on still another under the most auspicious circumstances. God waits to be gracious, shall he wait in vain ? Perhaps this will be the last year of his long suffering and your trial ; it will be to many, why may it not be to you ? and if it shall, and thou remainest unchanged, whither wilt thou go? If to heaven, why art thou not cultivating the spirit, and learning the song of heaven? Why not trying thy wing for this upward flight? Oh ! how canst thou go there, as thou art? Thou canst not. Then why not change, why not begin to-day?
Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice.
PAILIPPIANS vi. 4.
The Christian system is in many, and those its most important aspects, perfectly peculiar. Of these peculiarities the passage selected leads me to remark on this, that it not only declares it to be our privilege to be happy, but makes it absolutely our duty to be happy. We are not merely authorized and allowed; we are commanded to be happy. The language of the text is not permissive, but imperative. The Apostle speaks in the tone of authority and style of command, “Rejoice.” No other system ever did or durst do this; and perhaps you may think Christianity not sufficiently considerate in doing it; for how, it may be asked, can a man be happy by merely willing to be so? Who hath such control over his heart that it shall rejoice on every occasion that he bids it? and if our ability goes not this length, how should our obligation? It would seem to argue an ignorance of the constitution of human nature, to make joy imperative; happy! says one, ah! I would be, but I cannot. I would obey that command, but every fibre of my heart aches, and its whole capacity is occupied with sorrow-how can I? This objection shall be an
swered in the progress of our remarks, when we shall have stated the difficulty in all its length and breadth. For, you will observe that we are commanded not only to rejoice, but to rejoice alway; and, in another place, we are required to rejoice evermore. So that it would seem to be our duty not only to be happy, but to be uniformly and under all circumstances happy; to rejoice under every aspect of Providence, in every position of circumstances, and in every exigency of occasion. This some will think a most extravagant demand, because an impossible performance, and, indeed, an undesirable attainment; impossible, since, as it is made our duty to sorrow on some occasions, as well as to rejoice, it supposes joy and sorrow capable of co-existing in the heart at the same time; and undesirable, because when circumstances call for sorrow, who would rejoice? We can rejoice sometimes, but to rejoice always is impossible, and would be cruel. How, when the body is racked with pain, or the mind distracted with care, or the heart bleeding at its every pore, full of deep and fresh-made wounds, how then can one rejoice? or when a friend is suffering, or having just ceased to suffer, has left us for what seems to us forever, how can we be happy then ?
Having stated the difficulty in its full force, I now affirm, and shall attempt to show, that it is our duty to rejoice, and to rejoice always. And I remark,
1. That God, who requires rejoicing of his people, affords them ample and sufficient reason for rejoicing; and hence the requirement is reasonable, and the fulfillment practicable. It is admitted that we
cannot be happy, and, of course, cannot be obliged to be, without good cause for being so; but we say that the Christian has good cause for being happy; that in being commanded to rejoice, there is that offered him which is able to make him joyful, and in view of which it is entirely reasonable that he should rejoice; he is not required to rejoice without reference to some cause of joy, without any object to rejoice in; nor is he required to rejoice in an object inadequate to make him happy. He is not required to rejoice simply, to rejoice in nothing, nor to rejoice in himself; there is nothing in that object to make him happy; nor to rejoice in the world, in its profit, in its honors, in its pleasures, nor in all these together, nor in the intercourse of friendship, the fellowship of blood and the circle of home, though these afford a happiness not to be despised, though fearfully subject to interruption. No, not in these; but in the Lord, in Jehovah. “Rejoice in the Lord." This is the object in which the soul is to rejoice; and I say that the object is adapted and adequate to the production of joy. It is practicable to rejoice in him, and we are reasonably required to rejoice in him. That such a being exists, a being infinite in power, wisdom, justice, goodness, forbearance and mercy, an absolutely perfect being, and not only exists, but exists every where and forever, occupying all duration and all space; and that he not only exists, but reigns absolute, supreme, and universal sovereign, his providence reaching to all beings and all events, superintending and controlling them, his dominion comprehending all creatures and condescending to