« PoprzedniaDalej »
It was a
the result of consummate wisdom and supreme rectitude: a divine harmony of perfect intelligence and immeasurable love. possession completely independent. None could give it: none could take it away. In the pure, serene, eternal Mind of the Saviour, it dwelt of course, inseparably, and for ever. It was the necessary and immortal offspring of immortal excellence : the coeternal splendour of light eternal. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever he had formed the earth and the world ; then was it by him, as one brought up with him ; and was daily his delight,
n rejoicing alway before him : rejoicing with a divine prescience in the future, habitable parts of the earth, and placing its delights in the sons of men.
In his Mediatorial residence among the children of apostale Adam; amid all his sorrows and labours, amid all the opposition, rejection, and persecution, which he experienced; amid all the living anguish, and dying agonies, which he suffered; this celestial companion, this divine inmate of his bosom, perpetually sustained him; and diffused fortitude and serenity around his soul. Thus sustained, thus tranquillized, he smiled in agony, and triumphed in death.
To us, as to him, it is peace passing all understanding ; peace, which the world cannot give, nor take away. Grace and Mercy descend first in the train of infinite blessings from God our Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ; and Peace enters our doors immediately behind them. A guest, fresh from heaven, and from the presence of God, Peace bears all the characteristics of the world from which she descends ; of the region in which she was born; of the family to which she is allied; and of the Parent, from whom she sprang. Gentle and serene, beautiful and lovely, she becomes a willing companion to every humble, faithful follower of the Lamb; to every genuine child of God. Her own angelic disposition she breathes insensibly into the soul; her softness and gentleness she infuses into the heart; and her living smiles she spreads over the aspect. At once, the man is changed into a new creature. His soul, before the region of darkness and storm, is cleared, at once, of the clouds by which it was overcast. Its tempestuous passions cease to rage, and ravage; and a heavenly sunshine illumines the world within. The universe, to him heretofore a vast kingdom of war and opposition, is converted into a delightful residence of quiet and harmony ; in which an immense multitude of the inhabitants, such as no man can number, are become his friends, and in which the hostilities of the rest will only work together for his good. God, also, seen by him before in clouds and darkness, which were very tempestuous round about him, has unfolded to him the light of his countenance; and given him a lively and transporting earnest of serene, unclouded, everlasting day VOL. II.
CONSEQUENCES OF REGENERATION.-JOY IN THE HOLY GHOST.
Romans siv. 17. For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, bul righteousness,
peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
ON the last Sabbath, I considered the nature and importance of Spiritual Peace. I shall proceed to examine another consequence of Regeneration : viz. Joy in the Holy Ghost.
In the text, the Apostle declares, that the Kingdom of God is formed of Righteousness, Peace, and Joy in the Holy Ghost. By this kingdom he intends, plainly, not the kingdom of Creation, nor the kingdom of Providence, nor, in a strict sense, what is usually called the kingdom of Grace. The word kingdom is here used in a figurative manner; and denotes the Effects of that secret, invisible, incomprehensible influence over the hearts of mankind, which is exerted by the Spirit of Grace in the work of Sanctification. This influence is the great engine of the divine government over the hearts of Intelligent beings; and is often with the utmost propriety termed in the Gospel the kingdom of God. Of this influence, righteousness, peace, and joy in the Iloly Ghost, are effects, primarily important; and in the text are, figuratively, called by a name, which, in simple language, would properly belong to the Cause of their existence. In a similar manner is the term used by Christ, Luke xvii. 20, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation; neither shall they say concerning it, Lo here, or lo there : for the kingdom of God is within you.
Of these three great effects of the energy of the divine Spirit, the first, viz. Righteousness, here used for holiness or Evangelical virtue, is, in the soul, the cause of the two last. From Righteousness, in this sense, spring, of course, the Peace and Joy of the Spiritual character. Joy in the Holy Ghost, therefore, is obviously a consequence of Regeneration. In the text, as well as in the order of nature, it is subjoined to Peace; although we are ever to remember, that they always exist together in the saine mind, and at the same time.
In examining this subject, the following considerations have occurred to me as particularly deserving the attention of a religious assembly.
1. The Joy, spoken of in the lext, is not a mere Natural joy.
By natural joy, I intend the pleasure which is found by the mind in natural or physical good, whether possessed, or expected. Such
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 of the Spirit ever found in an unsanctified mind.
II. Joy in the Holy Ghost is, however, joy in God.
God is the only solid foundation of joy to the universe; and is 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. Ixi. 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 noi 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; I 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 Suficiency 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 ihe 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 apostates. 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.
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. Do 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