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“ Although the fig-tree do not blossom, and there be no fruit in the vine, though the labour of the olive fail, and the fields do yield no meat ; though the flocks be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stall; yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.” (Hab.iii. 17.) Other joys 'must end at death---and may, often do, end before ;---but joy in God improves by adversity ; grows brighter and stronger at the approach of death; and it will flourish in full perfection when earth, and earthly joys, shall totally disappear. :- This is the good man's joy. May I now ask, What is yours? What is it that in your esteem and relish exceeds all other things ?---Much depends upon this question; for the answer determines your character. The text is only suited to a good man's mouth : it: were adding insult to impiety, for any to "say, “ God is my exceeding joy,” when all the world knows there are many things which you take more delight in than ever you did in God..--I shall not waste your time in laying down marks in so'plain a case, for it may be seen at a glance. · When I put the question, if you would let conscience speak out, I should hear one'say, My greatest joy is in fine clothes,' another," " My greatest joy is in a full table ;' another, My greatest joy is in entertaining company, and spending the evening in social mirth and play :' and here and there, perhaps, I should hear one say, My greatest joy is in fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.'---Which is the most respectable character---yea, and which is the happiest man --I may leave it to yourselves to des termine.
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Improvement. 11 11. How faulty must they be, either as to state or frame, whó 'never go to God but with regret and reluctance! ( If our principal duty and principal blessedness consist in communion with God, what can they have to say for themselves, 'who care not whether they ever speak to him or hear from him, and, if God would have nothing to do with them, 'would have nothing to do with God ? Must there not be a great defect somewhere? Perhaps your state is bad.
You “ were by nature children of wrath, even as others :" it may be you are so still: God may to this hour have a cona troversy with you, and your carnal minds may be yet enmity against God. And then how can it be expected that you should rejoice in the Lord ? "Can two walk together, except they be agreed? What communion hath light with darkness, or what concord hath God with Belial!"-- Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee." · Or, perhaps the defect may be in your frame. You niay have been renewed in the spirit of your minds ; you may have been turned from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God: but there may have been sad declensions in the life and power of godliness ; and you may be able to look back to former times, and cry, Oh that it were with me as in months past! Then I could go to God, and take delight in so doing : it was, indeed," the joy and rejoicing of my heart. But ever since I indulged myself in such and such practices; ever since I kept such and such company; I have lost my relish for communion with God. I go to him as usual, but it is in a cold and formal manner; more like å visit of ceremony, than an interview between friends : so that I seldom or never find any joy therein.?.
O Christians, (for so it seems I must call you notwithstanding) when you have found out the cause of this unhappy alteration, away with it as fast as you can, be it never so agreeable to flesh and blood. Cut off a right hand, pluck out a right eye; and do not give over, till you can go to God with the same freedom, and experience the same joy, as formerly.
2. How greatly are we obliged to the Lord Jesus Cbrist for our access to God and joy in him !
To sinners, “ God is a consuming fire:” and " the law hath. concluded all under sin," and " the whole world is become guilty before God:” so that, instead of running to him as our Friend and Father with a respectful eagerness and joy, we should naturally tremble at his approach, like our guilty progenitors, who endeavoured to hide themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.---O what love, what thanks, what praises, are due to him who hath “ made peace by the blood of his cross,” and opened a way for mutual freedom and fellowship--who became our Surety, our Ransom, our Advocate, our elder Brother: and so procured for us an interest in his Father and our Father, his God and our God !---If ever, therefore, you can go boldly to the Throne of Grace; if ever you find a pleasure in approaching to God ; if ever he receive you with a smile, and send you away with a blessing ; ascribe all “ to
the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made you accepted in the Beloved.” :3. Let us long for heaven
Where there shall be nothing to intercept our approaches to God, and nothing to abate our joy. Here, we often go to the altar of God with our sacrifices of prayer or praise ; but our sight of him is very imperfect, and our enjoyment, (if any we have) is mixed and momentary.
Let us be thankful for that. When we look round, and see how very few know any thing about communion with God, or have any desires after it; when we observe how contented the generality are with the increase of their corn and wine, and care not whether God lift up the light of his countenance upon them or not: if it be otherwise with us; if our heart and flesh are crying after God; if a day in his courts be better to us than a thousand spent elsewhere; and all our desire is before him; it was grace that made the difference; and, therefore, if we have but little glimpses and glances, and sips of joy now, let us be thankful for that: there is joy enough waiting for us in his temple above:
« There we shall see his face,
And never, never sin:
Drink endless pleasure in.” Let us so manage, that when we come to die, it may be with this text in our mouths ;--that when We are taking leave of the world, and all our com. forts in it; we may have better comforts in view ;--that when the language of Nature is, 'I am going from relations whom I dearly love;' the language of Grace may be, 'I am going to God, my exceeding joy.'
We will remember thy love more than wine. 1.'
- Before I begin to open the interesting and af, fecting contents of this passage, methinks I would fain know how the first mention of it was received, If I might presume to look into your hearts, I should probably find that some of you heard this text without any emotion at all : your curiosity was less raised, your attention less fixed, by it, than if it had been, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” or any the most common, and comparatively insignificant verse in the Bible. Perhaps the first thought that occurred to you upon hearing it was, “It is a short text, and easily remembered ; and, as it is Sacrament day, may be well enough suited to the occasion. This will be a sermon entirely for the communicants, but it is nothing to me: I will try to sleep, or think of some thing else the while'- What is this nothing to you?-True, you are not communicants; but do you not intend to be so ?. Are
Are you resolved you never will be communicants? Is the love of Christ nothing to you ?--that love, which made him leave the bosom of his Father, and all the glory of hea.