« PoprzedniaDalej »
is the pleasure, which we experience in property, health, friends, food, and other gratifications of a similar nature. Such is the pleasure, found in the contemplation of beauty, novelty, and greatness; in the multitude, variety, and sublimity, of the works of Creation and Providence; or in the skill, power, and wisdom displayed by their Author. Such, also, is the satisfaction, experienced in the mere belief, that God is reconciled to us, and become our friend and benefactor.
All these I acknowledge to be innocent and lawful enjoyments. I acknowledge them to be enjoyments which we are not merely permitted, but required, to experience; and to be enjoyments also, in greater or less degrees, experienced by every sanctified mind. Still they may be possessed in a manner, merely natural; and by a mind, utterly destitute of the Evangelical character. When the Christian rejoices in these things, he rejoices virtuously ; because he regards them with just views. But when a sinner rejoices in them, he regards them with erroneous views, and with emotions destitute of virtue. Evangelical joy in these things is one of the fruits of the Spirit. But nothing, experienced by a sinner, can be a peculiar characteristic of a Christian. Nor is any genuine fruit
II. Joy in the Holy Ghost is, however, joy in God.
; seen and acknowledged, in this character, by every virtuous being. In this most pleasing and magnificent manner, he is every where exhibited in the Scriptures. Rejoice in the Lord, O ye righteous ! says the Psalmist. Ps. xxxiii. 1. Thou shalt rejoice in the Lord, saith the Prophet Isaiah, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. Is. xli. 16. I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall be joyful in my God; saith our Saviour ; Is. lxi. 10. Be glad, then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the Lord your God; saith Joel, chapter ii. 23. Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vine ; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat ; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: yet I will rejoice in the Lord; will joy in the God of my salvation. Hab. iii. 17, 18.
The same language is adopted by the Virgin Mary, and by St. Paul, in the New Testament; and is applied by Christ to the Apostles; and to the whole body of Christians; either as an account of facts; or as a precept, directing their duty.
To Revelation, Reason joins her fullest testimony; and easily discerns, when informed of the true character of God by Revelation, that in him the proper, rational, supreme, and eternal joy of his Intelligent creatures must ultimately centre; and that he is the object, to be thus enjoyed, as well as the source whence this enjoyment flows. The eternal
, unchangeable, almighty, all-knowing, the infinitely just, faithful, true, benevolent, and merciful Mind is, in an infinite degree, a more beautiful, lovely, and glorious object
in itself, than any, or than all, others. Of such a Mind all the conduct, all the manifestations, are accordant with its true and essential nature ; are beautiful, glorious, and lovely, like itself. These amazing considerations are also enhanced, in a manner literally boundless, by the great fact, that from this Mind sprang all the objects of admiration, and delight, which are found in the Universe.
In the Power of God, we are presented with an everlasting and unlimited source of joy ; when it is considered as perfect Sufficiency for every great and good purpose ; for the accomplishment of whatever wisdom can approve, or virtue delight in ; and for the accomplishment of this in the manner, which is perfectly desirable.
In the Knowledge of God, there is an endless source of delight; as the original spring, whence have flowed the innumerable beings, and events, of the Universe; together with their attributes, operations, and effects. In the perpetually diversified structure, the wonderful purposes, and the no less wonderful uses, of these, is the state of the infinite Mind, as the Origin of whatever is great and good, presented to us in a manner, perfect in itself, and endlessly delightful to every virtuous beholder. The mineral, vegetable, and animal, kingdoms, even of this world, are full of these displays; and the structure, powers, and operations, of a single being, furnish a field of investigation, altogether too wide for the comprehension of any human understanding.
In the Bounty of God, we behold an amazing source of gratitude, and of the pleasure, always found in that most amiable and delightful emotion. We here discern ample provision made for our continuance in being; for our daily wants; and for all our reasonable wishes. Our food and raiment are most liberally supplied; our innocent desires most richly gratified; our taste delighted with the beauty, novelty, and grandeur, of the world around us ; our eyes charmed with the glorious prospects of the earth and the heavens; and our ears feasted with melody and harmony.
In the Mercy of God, the soul is assured, that its sins may be forgiven, and its nature renewed; is presented with the most illustrious proofs of divine Love, and the overflowings of infinite tenderness towards a world of a postates. It is here furnished with the greatest and best gift of God; Evangelical Virtue ; and beyond the grave, is secured in the endless possession of unmingled and unfading happiness. From sin, its own most debased character, and from misery, its proper reward, it is here presented with a final deliverance; is instamped with the image of God, and admitted to the kingdom of the blessed.
In the Truth and Faithfulness of this perfect Being, the soul is furnished with entire security, that His declarations are steadfast and immoveable; and that his promises endure for ever. The encouragement, given to it, therefore, of both present and future
good, is encouragement, on which perfect reliance may be placed, and with regard to which disappointment can never arise, either here or hereafter. When we remember, that one of these promises to Christians is, that all things shall be theirs ; and another, that all things shall work together for their good; the importance of this consideration appears to be literally infinite. On these declarations the virtuous Universe reposes with absolute safety, and with reliance which will strengthen for ever.
The Justice of God is seen to be the immensely grand and awful, yet the immensely beneficial, administration of the vast kingdom of Jehovah. In the exercise of this glorious attribute are secured all the rights of intelligent creatures, and their
infallible and complete protection from every ultimate wrong. The least right, and the least wrong, of the least individual, are as firmly assured, as the greatest interests of Angels and Archangels. By this amazing Mind nothing is forgotten, or unregarded. Lazarus, at the gate, is as effectually remembered, as David, on the throne; or Gabriel, standing before God in the highest heavens.
Alone, and to a world of sinners, the Justice of God would be only great and terrible; but, harmonizing with Mercy in all its dictates, it renders, even to our view, the character of the
great Possessor transcendently excellent and amiable. What would become of the universe, were God to be unjust? What creature would for a moment be safe; what interest uninvaded ?
Of these glorious attributes, we need not, in order to find displays, cast our eyes abroad into incomprehensible systems of worlds and beings. At home, by our firesides, in our friends, in our families, in our bodies, and in our minds, they are seen with high advantage and supreme endearment. Are we fed? The hand which feeds us is that of our heavenly Father. Are we clothed ? He made the flax to grow; he formed the fleece; he gave the silkworm skill, to spin her mysterious thread; and brought to us the necessary, and beautiful materials, to form our attire. Are we in health? He preserves in their pristine strength the numerous powers of our bodies ; sends the stream of life through our veins; and animates our hearts with wonderful and unceasing energy. Do we see? He contrived the eye. Do we hear? He fashioned the ear. we think, and choose, and feel? He lighted up the lamp of Reason in our minds. Are we, and ours, virtuous ? He poured out the Spirit of sanctification upon our minds. Have we enjoyments ? He provided them. Have we hopes? They all sprang from his bounty, and are secured by his unchangeable promise.
All these divine considerations are enhanced beyond measure by the nature of those attributes, which may be termed qualifications of these. The Omnipresence of God teaches us, that all these perfections are every where present; every where ready to be employed in the production of good. His Immutability proves to us, that these perfections will never be changed in their nature, de
gree, and operations; and that, as he has thus acted, so he will always act in the same manner. The Eternity of God shows us, that these perfections will know no end; and that, therefore, the enjoyments of his children will endure for ever. Thus what God is here, he is every where; what he is now, he will be through eternity.
In the venerable and endearing characters of the Father, the Redeemer, and the Sanctifier, of mankind, God appears as the source of peculiar joy. As the Father of mankind, he appears as a Sovereign and Lawgiver, offended by our rebellion, but with infinite kindness proffering to us forgiveness and reconciliation; as sending, for this benevolent end, his beloved Son, to expiate our sins, and his holy Spirit, to renew our hearts and lives; and, thus, as opening his arms, unasked and undesired, to receive his penitent and returning children.
In the endearing character of the Son, he appears with boundless benignity, as making an end of sin, finishing transgression, and bringing in everlasting righteousness; as becoming man, that we might again be united to God; as dying, that we might live; as rising from the dead, ascending to heaven, assuming the government of all things, and interceding before the throne of infinite Majesty, that we might rise, hereafter, incorruptible and immortal; might follow him to the heavens; enjoy the infinite blessings of his administration; and be accepted as his faithful friends at the final day. Christ is the Corner stone of this living and glorious building, formed, according to the glowing language of St. Peter, of living stones a spiritual house of God, eternal in the heavens. On Him, the sole Foundation, the vast structure is erected, to stand for
By the Spirit of truth is this mighty work completed. With infinite kindness and patience he awakens, convinces, renews, and purifies, the soul; forms it for endless holiness, and endless life; and conducts it through this earthly wilderness to the land of promise beyond the grave.
In all these things, united, is the Love of God seen with supreme advantage, as immense, unchanging, and eternal; as endeared with all possible tenderness; as overcoming the most perverse obstinacy; as forgiving the greatest guilt; as flowing out to enemies and apostates, condemned by unerring justice, and discarded by the virtuous universe.
To the Christian, in all these respects, is God the source of supreme and unceasing joy. As a Christian, he has become a new creature; entered into a new creation; and enrolled himself as a subject of a new and immortal kingdom. This kingdom is a kingdom in which will be progressively accomplished, universal, entire, and everlasting good. For this end it was created. To this end it is uniformly conducted by the all-pervading, all-ruling, hand of Jehovah. The subjects of it are universally children of
light. Their intercourse is an endless succession of diversified virtue and loveliness. Purity, dignity, and excellence, are their inherent characteristics; and everlasting happiness, and glory, their final destination. In all that they are, in all that they do, and in all that is done to them, God himself rejoices with intense and eternal joy.
With this new kingdom the Christian has begun an everlasting connexion. His union to the members of it, and his intercourse with them, instead of terminating, will unceasingly become more intimate, more endearing, more exalted. The views of their minds and his are destined to become perpetually more and more just and comprehensive; their affections and his to be more pure, intense, and noble; their mutual friendship to be more sweet and serene; and their conduct to be, in unceasing gradation, such as is proper to be exhibited in the house, and presence, of God.
In accordance with this state of things, therefore, will the whole scheme of the Christian's future being be formed. His plans will, of course, be concerted in such a manner, as to embrace, and promote eternal purposes. They will be the plans of an immortal being, destined to act with immortal beings in a boundless field of existence : the plans of a dutiful and faithful subject of the infinite Ruler; of a child, warmed with perpetual and filial piety to his divine Parent; of a brother, finally united to the household which is named after Christ; of a redeemed, sanctified, returning prodigal, brought back with infinite compassion, and infinite expense, to the house of his father, and welcomed with exquisite joy by the family of the first-born. To glorify God, to bless his fellow-creatures, and to be blessed by both, will be the combined and perfect end for which he lives. This end he will pursue in a world where no obstructions ever arise; where no toil ever wearies; where no disappointments ever intrude; where no temptations ever arrest; and where no enemies ever alarm: where his affections cannot be too intense, nor his pursuits too ardent; and where his only professional business will be to be virtuous and happy. As a citizen of this new and heavenly kingdom, the Christian begins his course of spiritual life. All these things are already become his. God is his Father; Christ his Redeemer; the Spirit of Grace his Sanctifier; and all the children of virtue are his brethren. In the present world he is only a stranger and a sojourner: he regards it, therefore, as a mere lodging; and fixes his eye on heaven as his home.
With this new character, all things, with which he here converses, assume, to his eye, a new aspect; and are filled with the presence and agency of God. The heavens declare his glory, and the firmament sheweth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. The year, in all its revolutions, is crowned with his goodness. The Spring is his beauty, blooming in endless varieties of elegance and splendour. Summer and Autumn are manifestations of his bounty; filling his creatures