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with good. The Winter is a solemn display of his majesty. Then the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm; and the clouds are the dust of his feet.
In his own blessings the Christian sees God in a manner still more delightful. His blessings are not mere enjoyments : they are gifts; unspeakably endeared by the Hand from which they flow. When he is in prosperity; The Lord is his Shepherd, who maketh him to lie down in green pastures, and leadeth him beside the still waters ; who prepareth a table before him in the presence of his enemies, who anointeih his head with oil; who causeth his cup to run over, and goodness and mercy to follow him all the days of his life. Is he in adversity? The rod and staff of the same Shepherd support and comfort him. Is he in doubt and darkness, where he is scarcely able to trace the path of life? He hears a voice behind him, saying, This is the way: walk thou therein. Is he mourning in Zion? God appoints to him beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy
? for mourning. Is he sick? God is his physician; and has already taught him to say, Why art thou cast down, O my soul! and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise Him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God. Has he come to a dying bed? Christ has vanquished death and the grave; and has taught him to sing at their approach, O death! where is thy sting? grave! where is thy victory? Has he friends ? God has raised them up. Has he children? They are an heritage from the Lord. Is the land of his nativity safe! God
? is a wall of fire round about it. Does Religion flourish? God is the glory in the midst of it. The Church, to which he is united, is a garden, which the Lord hath planted. Is it enlightened, quickened, and edified? It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts. Is it comforted? The consolations have come down from the heavenly Comforter. tected? The Lord hath created upon Mount Zion, and upon all her assemblies, a cloud and a smoke by day, and a light of a flaming fire by night.
Thus to the Christian all things in heaven and earth are full of God. Wherever he walks, wherever he is, he is surrounded with His presence; and in that presence there is abundance of joy. To Him, in his meditations, and in his worship, he instinctively turns, as the supreme Object of his affections, and of his obedience. In loving, fearing, and serving Him, with all the heart, he finds his chief delight; and becomes continually able, with more and more propriety and truth, to say, Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none upon the earth, whom I desire, beside thee?
Ill. The Christian rejoices in Spiritual things universally.
Spiritual things, are those, in which the power of the Spirit of grace is peculiarly visible; and which, therefore, have a peculiar tendency to improve us in the Christian character. In all things of this nature the Christian finds a peculiar joy. Particularly in
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the Word of God he discovers multiplied streams of pure and increasing pleasure. Here all the transporting things, already mentioned, are made known to mankind. Here are disclosed the character, designs, and works, of the Creator; the rebellion, guilt, and condemnation, of man; and his restoration by forgiving, redeeming, and sanctifying love. Here the means of grace and salvation are revealed; the truths which we are to believe, and the precepts which we are to obey. Here life and immortality are brought to light by the Redeemer; and the path, which leads to them, is pointed out by the finger of God. The Bible is a window in this prison of hope, through which we look into eternity. It is the door of heaven, through which, opened by a divine hand, we cast our view into that glorious region; and behold the beauty, splendour, and happiness, which reign and triumph there for ever.
Here the Christian finds himself most mercifully checked in the hour of temptation by the threatenings of the law, and divinely allured to righteousness by promises and invitations. Behind him, Justice displays its flaming sword, to prevent him from returning to the by-paths of sin. Before him, Mercy calls, with the music of heaven, and the smile of Infinite love, to quicken his course in the highway of holiness.
In the Worship of the same glorious Being, the same delight is experienced, and with enhanced enjoyment. In his closet, like Moses, he converses with God face to face; and, while he spreads all his wants and woes, all his sins and dangers, all his hopes and joys, before him, is assured of an open reward. In his family, when his nearest connexions are around him, he finds every comfort endeared by these beloved objects; and sweetened by the remembrance, that his house is a house of God. In the Sanctuary, he unites with his fellow christians to ask counsel at the mercy-seat, and to present before it prayers and praises, refined and exalted by Evangelical sympathy. Here, also, all his virtuous affections and purposes are purified, and strengthened, by the heavenly influence of the holy day, and the holy place. Here grace is given, and glory anticipated.
At the Table of Christ, and in the celebration of Baptism, his soul is refreshed and revived by the sight of the dying Saviour, expiating his sins, and of the Spirit of God, symbolically poured out as a divine cleansing, to purify his heart from moral pollution. Earth, here, borrows the aspect of heaven; and sublunary things are invested with no small degree of immortal beauty.
In the Church of God, he sees a real, though imperfect, picture of the general Assembly of the first-born. All Christians are his brethren, and fellow-travellers with him towards the heavenly kingdom, in the straight and narrow way that leads to life. Their character, their hearts, their interests, their designs, are one. They are members of one family. They have one Father, even God: they have one Lord, even Christ : they have one Sanctifier, and VOL. II.
one Comforter, even the Spirit of grace. Their hopes and fears, their doubts and discoveries, their joys and sorrows, are the same. On all, the same Divine image is instamped; the same Evangelical beauty is visible. Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their death they are not divided.
IV. The Christian finds an exalted pleasure in the good, enjoyed by others.
In his view no truth is clearer, than that it is more blessed to give, than to receive. With this truth he cheerfully accords; and finds in doing good to others a humble share of the same delight, which is enjoyed by the universal Benefactor in the overflowings of Infinite beneficence to the Creation. Nor is his enjoyment less exquisite, when good is done by those around him. In them, as in him, real, disinterested beneficence is a proof of sanctification. If the beneficence be not disinterested; he still possesses the joy of seeing his fellow-creatures made happy.
In the diffusion of the divine beneficence, also, he experiences a perpetual delight; while he beholds the illustrious exhibitions of the goodness of God, and shares in the comfort of all, on whom it descends. Especially is this enjoyment exquisite, when sinners are brought out of darkness into marvellous light, and from the power of Satan unto God. Then, souls, guilty and debased, condemned and ruined, are redeemed from everlasting sin and wo. Then, heaven is enlarged by the accession of new inhabitants ; and the joy, which is felt in that benevolent world over repenting sinners, trembles delightfully through his own bosom. The sight of a sanctified mind, of a redeemed and forgiven sinner, of endless virtue and immortal life begun, is the fairest and most enchanting prospect, ever seen in the great kingdom of Jehovah.
V. The Joy of the Christian, in this world, is the beginning of Everlasting Joy.
To be spiritually minded is both life and peace. This mind is the mind of every Christian. Of course, life and peace eternal are begun in him, while he resides in this evil and melancholy world.
There are, indeed, many interruptions, diminutions, and preventions, of this glorious possession, accomplished by remaining sin, and its inseparable companion, sorrow of heart. But in the midst of all these he finds consolation, often abundant, almost unceasing, and always sufficient for his wants. The promises of the Gospel
, are continually before him. God he knows, will never leave him, nor forsake him. Christ, he knows, will always be with him unto the end. He may, indeed, be cast down, but he will not be destroyed: he may be afflicted, but he will not be forsaken. The Father of the spirit may, indeed, smite him in his wrath for a small moment, yet with everlasting kindness will he have mercy on him. In every gloomy and distressing day there will be gleams of sunshine, and openings of a serene, unclouded heaven. In the dry and thirsty ground, where there is apparently no water, and in the midst of a
desolation visibly without limits, the wilderness will suddenly rejoice and blossom as the rose.
His piety is a seed, sown here in an unkind, barren soil indeed, and under a wintry climate ; but it will live, and grow, until it shall be transplanted to a happier region beneath a more friendly sky: where it will shoot forth in its native strength and beauty. The flame of divine love, kindled feebly in his heart, will never cease to burn, until it shall rise, and glow, with unextinguishable ardour, beyond the grave. The light, which here dawns in darkness, and feebly illumines the surrounding gloom, will perpetually shine brighter and brighter, unto the perfect day. All his sins and sorrows will continually lessen, and recede, and fade : all his graces, consolations, and hopes, will expand, and improve : until the imperfect good, which he finds in this vale of tears, shall be lost in the everlasting beauty, happiness, and glory, of heaven.
CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.INCREASE OF GRACE.
PROVERBS iv. 18.- The path of the just is as the shining light, which shineth more
and more unto the perfect day.
IN the last discourse I considered at large the fourth Consequence of Regeneration. I shall now proceed to examine two other Consequences of this great change in man; commonly termed, Increase of Grace, and Perseverence to the end.
In the text the progress of the renewed man in holiness of character, is compared to the dawning light of the morning; which, barely perceptible at first, increases by gradations, also barely perceptible, until the Sun, ascending above the horizon, sheds over the face of the earth the full beams of day.
By this image we are naturally taught the following things.
The views, which David, who uttered the instructions, contained in this chapter, and which Solomon, who under the influence of inspiration repeated them to us, formed of this evangelical subject, are sufficiently manifested in the text. It is here compared to the most beautiful of all the objects in the natural world, presented to us in the most beautiful form: viz. the light of the sun, succeeding the darkness of the night, and advancing through a most elegant and delightful progress to the splendour of the perfect day. What this illustrious object is in the natural system, the holiness of the Christian is in the moral system.
In a similar manner it is spoken of throughout the Scriptures. It is styled by Christ the pearl of great price. It is said by David to be more precious than thousands of gold, and of silver. It is said by Job, that it cannot be gotten for gold ; that silver shall not be weighed for the price thereof; that it cannot be valued with the gold of Ophir ; the precious onyt, or the sapphire ; that no mention shall be made of coral, or of pearls ; that the price of wisdom is above rubies ; and that its fame has been repeated in the regions of death and destruction. It is styled by Moses the beauty, and glory, of God himself. Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children: And let the beauty of the Lord our God be
In conformity to these declarations, those, who possess this character, are styled the excellent of the earth, in whom God delights ;