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God especially covenanted with Christ, as a recompence for his sufferings, to give him a people who should be to him for an everlasting joy and crown. "When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand'."
Now, if those whom God thus gives to Christ for an unalienable inheritance "may make shipwreck of the faith and of a good conscience," and be eventually lost without recovery, then may also the promise of God fail, his covenant be broken, and the grand object of Christ's death be altogether frustrated.
The Holy Spirit, also, as the sanctifier of God's peculiar people, is concerned in their preservation. Would he lay in their hearts the foundation of a spiritual temple, if he meant at last to leave that for the abode of devils which he has been so long forming for an habitation for himself? If this were to be the case, then would his work of grace, in regenerating the soul, be rendered useless and nugatory; and thus the redeemed, instead of being glorified with angels, might share with the wicked the insufferable torments of hell.
How secure, how happy are the saints! "Called and preserved in Christ Jesus'," they will, on their departure out of this world, obtain "an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away; reserved in heaven for them who are kept, by the power of God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be revealed in the last time"."
3. It is incumbent, however, on those "who possess a good hope through grace," to remember that God has provided certain means for insuring their
Isa. liii. 10-12. 'Jude 1.
1 Cor. vi. 19. " 1 Pet. i. 4,5.
preservation. These are, a constant perusal of his word; the exercise of devotion, prayer, and meditation; resistance of sin, watchfulness, endeavours to increase in spiritual wisdom, holiness, and strength; and to walk agreeably to their heavenly vocation. In the diligent use of such means of grace, God supports the spiritual life in the souls of believers. Would you, Christians, maintain "the assurance of hope unto the end?" then "give all diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall; for so an entrance shall be administered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ"."
X * 2 Pet. i. 10, 11.
ON THE JOYS AND PLEASURES PECULIAR TO A REAL
Psalm lxxxix. 15-18. Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance: in thy name shall they rejoice all the day; and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted.
THE religion of Jesus may appear, to those who are strangers to its nature, and to the happiness which it imparts to its votaries, a melancholy system, contrived for the very purpose of robbing us of every pleasure, and of making us wretched and gloomy through the whole course of our earthly existence. Now, the reason why unbelievers and sensualists thus undervalue and disparage the Gospel, the excellence of which they do not understand, is easily accounted for bySt.Paul:-"The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are
foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." "If, then, our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost; in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them".
But that men who call themselves Christians should revile the very joys which Christianity was revealed to inspire, is truly astonishing: but such is the fact, that the pleasure which God has promised, and which he really vouchsafes to his obedient people, is decried by some as an enthusiastical delusion,
"The ground of this prejudice against the divine joys springing from the faith of Christ, is easily discovered. If that joy be real, as it assuredly is, then those who are destitute of it must be only counterfeit Christians, by their own confession; and they must perceive at once how despicable is their religion, which consists in a cold assent to Scriptural truths without feeling their power, in a round of duties without spiritual life, or in seeking to be honest, sober, and harmless, without any more delight in God than infidels experience." So that, on the admission of God's favour to his chosen, the peace and security of the formalist and the self-justifying pharisee are disturbed. Hence, to preserve their own quiet, they cry down, as the rankest enthusiasm, those joys to which themselves are strangers. A carnal man is not able to endure the thought of others receiving tokens of love from God, with which he himself is unacquainted.
To such causes, aided by a few instances of deception and hypocrisy, may be ascribed those general 2 Cor. v. 3, 4.
1 Cor. ii. 14,
and stubborn prejudices against one of the sweetest privileges of a Christian-joy in God.
In vindication of this privilege, we shall endeavour to shew that sincere believers do experience much comfort and delight in God, during their abode in this vale of tears. From whence it will be evident, that the obedient people of God, so often pitied as miserable on account of their self-denial and strictness of life, which separate them from the licentious world, do really enjoy more pleasure than any people on earth.
1. The knowledge of God the Father, in his adorable perfections, in his word, and the various works of his omnipotent hand, in the covenant which he has made with them, and the everlasting benefits which it provides,-of Christ the Son of God, in his original glory and amazing humiliation, in his redemption, sufferings, exaltation, and mediation,of God the Holy Ghost, in his miraculous gifts of old, his perpetual influences and consolations, together with the grand realities of the eternal world,―are subjects of meditation which afford the most devout pleasure to the minds of true believers. How excellent is such knowledge of Divine Truth! It is not like a barren speculation, which may fill the head without affecting the heart and life; but is lively and powerful in its operation, penetrating the inmost soul, and yet ministering the greatest delight.
Attainments in science so charm those who make them, that they cheerfully submit to the severest toil and study in the pursuit of them. The discovery of truths relating only to objects of time and sense, is highly gratifying, though they have no power to give bb Heb. iv. 12.
the dispositions which are essential to peace of mind. If such knowledge be pleasant, how must our joy be increased by the perception of spiritual truths which possess grandeur enough, independent of their great importance, to fill the soul with unceasing admiration!
Believers are brought, by the happy change made in their condition, into a new and glorious world, which presents to the eye of their faith a thousand objects interesting beyond measure, tending to their honour and exaltation. And, in proof of the advantage they derive from their knowledge of them, the agreeable transition from night to day is chosen to represent their joy, on seeing themselves delivered from the power of Satan, and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son. "Ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord."
The pleasure believers enjoy from their first acquaintance with sacred truths, increase as they advance in Christian perfection. There is a sensible progress in divine, as well as in human knowledge. At first they obtain a faint and confused view of the Gospel scheme of salvation; but afterwards a fuller discovery is made to them, of its use, excellence, and benefits. At first they receive the truth with fear and hesitation; but afterwards, being more enlightened by the Spirit, they come to a full assurance of understanding and hope, and comprehend that which before was but superficially known. Such progress is inseparable from perseverance in the faith of Christ, and always proves a spring of satisfying pleasure.
The knowledge possessed by the Christian, of things spiritual, is peculiarly satisfying, because it
Eph. v. 8.