« PreviousContinue »
in vigour, and capable of relishing outward pleasures, this docile season is no more, and all the truths whicle relate to another world become grating and offensive to your ears, like the sound of an instrument out of tune, I have only to add, on this head, that were your mirth, such as it is, to endure for any time, I should wonder the less at your rejecting this admonition. But, alas! to be jocund, or even happy, for a day, and then to lie down in endless torment, is a dismal prospect indeed. To see a man laugh and play, and brave it out, in a vessel which is so swiftly running down a stream which terminates in a gulf of endless horror, is a shocking spectacle, and calls loudly on every one who sees it to warn the unhappy person of bis danger. This hath been my office to you; and could I be your friend if I did less? If I did not obtest to you with all the earnestness of which I am capable, to secure your interest in another world than this, and to derive your joys from something better than the portion of the sensualist?
Let us now turn our eyes to a more agreeable object, and survey those solid grounds of joy which belong to the people of God.-For the
Second proposition which I proposed to illustrate was, that the light of God's countenance is sufficient to gladden the heart of a saint in all circumstances what. soever. For this purpose let us consider from what sources the joys of a saint proceed.
1st, Then, he is possessed of the joy which results from comparing his present happy condition with the misery in which he was once involved. He remembers a time when, like others, he wandered in the vanity and darkness of his mind, still putting the anxious question, “ Who will shew me any good ?” When, like a sheep, he went astray, in the dark and howling wilderness;
when he fed upon mere husks, and spent his money for that which is not bread. “ But now he is returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of his soul.” He is passed from death to life: the Judge of the universe is at peace with him, and hath cast all his sins into the depths of the sea. He hath got within the walls of the city of re
fuge, where the avenger of blood cannot enter; the sword ř of justice is put up in its scabbard; and that Almighty
being, upon whom he constantly depends, bath laid aside his wrath, and beholds him with a pleasant coun. tenance. And, therefore, “ Although the fig.tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no
meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there I
shall be no herd in the stalls; yet will he rejoice in the Lord, he will joy in the God of his salvation.”—But a
2d Source of joy to a child of God consists in the actual honours and privileges conferred upon him. He is advanced to tbe dearest and most intimate relation to God, adopted into his family, and invested with all the rights of a son. In him that life is begun, which, being bid with Christ in God, shall be preserved and improved, till at length it be perfected in the heavenly world. “ Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” To you it belongs to come bodily to a throne of grace, in the assured hope that you shall obtain mercy, and find grace to help you in
every time of need: by the blood of Jesus you can enter into the holiest, and in every thing by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God; casting all your care upon him, because he careth for you. He is yours who possesseth all things, and what can you want? He is yours who can do all things, and what should you fear? He is yours who is
goodness and love itself, how then can you be miserable, or what imperfection can there be in your felicity? His faithfulness is pledged to make all things work together for your good. The most afflictive events, like the fur. nace or pruning hook, shall only purge away your dross, or render you more fruitful. So that you may glory in tribulation, “knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience, and experience hope that maketh not ashamed." To conclude this detail of the privileges of a saint, bear bow the Apostle to the Corinthians describes them, (1 Corinth. iii. 21.) “ All things are yours, whether Paul, or Appollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are yours; and ye are Christ's; and Christ is God's.” Once more,
3dly. The joy of a saint proceeds from the contempla. tion of those future blessings which as yet are only the objects of hope. But in speaking of these, where shall we begin? Sball I pass beyond the dark and lonely grave, which Job hath styled “the house appointed for all living,” and lead you upwards at once to the realms of light and joy, to survey that house, with many mansions, whither Christ is gone to prepare a place for his people? .No; in the passage I last quoted, we find death reckoned among the possessions of believers. To those who belong to Christ, death ceaseth to be the king of terrors. The stroke he gives doth indeed put an end to the existence of the old man; but by that very stroke, the fetters which galled the new man in Christ are broken asunder, and the life imparted by the second Adam comes to full maturity, when that which was derived from the first Adam concludes. When, therefore, we view death and the grave as consecrated by Christ, who died and was buried, they are no more to be ranked
among the articles of the curse denounced against the original apostacy, but fall to be enrolled among the < things to come;" of which every believer may say, They are mine. In this light did Paul behold them, when he said, “To me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.—I desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.” —" While I am at home in the body, I am absent from the Lord. I am, therefore, confident and willing, rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord.”—“0 death, where is thy sting? 0 grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be unto God who giveth us the victory, through Jesus Christ our Lord."
But it is the resurrection which shall complete the triumph of the saints, when that which is sown in weakness, in dishonour, and corruption, shall be raised in power, in glory, and incorruption. In that day of the manifestation of the sons of God, when our vile bodies shall be changed and fashioned like unto Christ's glorious body, " when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortali. ty, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is writ. ten, Death is swallowed up in victory." But how shall we speak of the glory yet to be revealed, “which eye hath not seen, nor ear beard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man to conceive.” Should I attempt any de. scription of it, I should only “ darken counsel by words without knowledge.”—“It doth not yet appear,” saith the apostle John, “ what we shall be: but this we know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” Here, then, let us stop. 'To be made like the Son of God, to behold his unveiled glory, and to be for ever with him: these particulars must sure. ly include every ingredient which can belong to the highest perfection and happiness of a creature. With this great object in our eye, how well doth it become us to adopt the language of the apostle Peter, and to say with fervent gratitude, as he did, " Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope, by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away.”
These are the peculiar sources from which the godly man derives his joy. And may I not now appeal to yoo, whether they are not of such a nature, as that no outward distress or calamity can take them away? Even when the heavens shall be rolled together like a scroll, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, he will be able to look at the mighty desolation, and say, when all these materials are consumed, I shall have lost nothing; “God liveth, blessed be my rock." “ The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance," and in him I
possess and enjoy all things.
And now what improvement are we to make of this subject?-In the
1st place, Let us inquire which of the characters described by the Psalmist belongs to us. Are we among the many that say,
" Who will shew us any good ?" or are we among the happy few who seek the light of God's countenance above all things? There is no neutral person in this case. Every man that liveth upon the earth is either "carnally minded, wbich is death; or spiritu. ally minded, which is life and peace;" either a child of God, or a drudge and slave to the world. To wbich par. . ty, then, do you belong? What are your hearts princi. pally set upon, and whither do you bend your chief and