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are such, that we should not if we could, and we could not if we would, constantly entertain them; such rejoicing evermore being equally unreasonable and impossible.
Wherefore there is ground more than enough, that we should be put to seek for a true, substantial, and consistent joy; it being withal implied that we should effect it in another way, or look for it in another box, than commonly men do; who therefore are so generally disappointed, because they would have it on impossible or undue terms, and least expect it there, where it is only to be had.
It is a scandalous misprision, vulgarly admitted, concerning religion, that it is altogether sullen and sour, requiring a dull, lumpish, morose kind of life, barring all delight, all mirth, all good humor; whereas, on the contrary, it alone is the neverfailing source of true, pure, steady joy; such as is deeply rooted in the heart, immovably founded in the reason of things, permanent like the immortal spirit wherein it dwelleth, and like the eternal objects whereon it is fixed, which is not apt to fade or cloy; and is not subject to any impressions apt to corrupt or impair it: whereas, in our text, and in many texts parallel to it we see that our religion doth not only allow us, but even doth oblige us to be joyful, as much and often as can be, not permitting us to be sad for one minute, banishing the least fit of melancholy, charging us in all times, on all occasions, to be cheerful; supposing, consequently, that it is in some manner possible to be so, and affording power to effect what it doth require.
Such indeed is the transcendent goodness of our God, that he maketh our delight to be our duty, and our sorrow to be our sin, adapting his holy will to our principal instinct; that he would have us to resemble himself, as in all other perfections, so in a constant state of happiness; that as he hath provided a glorious heaven of bliss for us hereafter, so he would have us enjoy a comfortable paradise of delight here. He accordingly hath ordered the whole frame of our religion in a tendency to produce joy in those who embrace it; for what is the gospel, but, as the holy angel, the first promulger of it, did report, ‘good tidings of great joy to all people ? How doth God represent himself therein, but as the God of love, of hope, of peace, of all consolation, cheerfully smiling in favor on us, graciously
inviting us to the most pleasant enjoyments, bountifully dispensing most comfortable blessings of mercy, of grace, of salvation to us? for what doth our Lord call us to him, but that he may give us rest and refreshment to our souls ;' that he may
wipe away all tears from our eyes;' that he may save us from most woful despair, and settle us “in a blessed hope ;' that we may enter into our Master's joy ;' that our joy may be full,' and such · as no man can take from us?
What is the great overture of the gospel, but the gift of a most blessed · Comforter, to abide with us for ever,' cheering our hearts with his lightsome presence and ravishing consolations ? Wherein doth the kingdom of heaven consist ? ‘not in meat and drink, but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.' What are the prime fruits sprouting from that root of Christian life, the Divine Spirit ? they are, as St. Paul telleth us, 'love, joy, and peace.' Are there not numberless declarations importing a joyful satisfaction granted to the observers of God's commandments; that • light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart ? Doth not our Lord pronounce a special beatitude to the practiser of
And if we scan all the doctrines, all the institutions, all the precepts, all the promises of Christianity, will not each appear pregnant with matter of joy, will not each yield great reason and strong obligation to this duty of rejoicing evermore.'
Wherefore a Christian, as such, (according to the design of his religion, and in proportion to his compliance with its dictates,) is the most jocund, blithe, and gay person in the world; always in humor and full of cheer ; continually bearing a mind well satisfied, a light heart and calm spirit, a smooth brow and serene countenance, a grateful accent of speech, and a sweetly composed tenor of carriage; no black thought, no irksome desire, no troublesome passion should lodge in his breast; any furrow, any frown, any cloud doth sit ill on his face; the least fretful word or froward behavior doth utterly misbecome him ; if at any time it appear otherwise, it is a deflection from his character; it is a blemish and wrong to his profession ; it argueth a prevarication in his judgment, or in his practice ; he forgetteth that he is a Christian, or hath not preserved the in
every virtue ?
nocence belonging to that name. For, if a Christian remembereth what he is, or is sensible of his condition ; if he reflecteth on the dignity of his person, the nobleness of his relations, the sublimity of his privileges, the greatness and certainty of his hopes, how can he be out of humor? Is it not absurd for him that is at peace with heaven, with his own conscience, with all the world; for the possessor of the best goods, and the heir of a blessed immortality; for the friend, the favorite, the Son of God, to fret or wail ?
He that is settled in a most prosperous state, that is (if he pleaseth) secure of its continuance, that is well assured of its improvement; that hath whatever good he can wish in his reach, and more than he can conceive in sure reversion; what account can be given that he should be sad, or seem afflicted ?
He that hath the inexhaustible spring of good for his portion; that hath his welfare entrusted in God's most faithful hand; that hath God's infallible word for his support ; that hath free access to him, “in whose presence is fulness of joy;' that hath frequent tastes of God's goodness, in gracious dispensations of providence, in intercourses of devotion, in the influences of grace; that hath the infinite beauty and excellency for the perpetual object of his contemplation and affection ; that enjoyeth the serenity of a sound mind, of a pure heart, of a quiet conscience, of a sure hope, what can he want to refresh or comfort him ?
If a true and perfect Christian hath no care to distract him, having discharged all his concerns on God's providence; if he hath no fear to dismay him, being guarded by the Almighty protection from all danger and mischief; if he hath no despair to sink him, having a sure refuge in the divine mercy and help; if he hath no superstitious terrors or scruples to perplex him, being conscious of his own upright intentions to please God, and confident of God's merciful willingness to accept his sincere endeavors; if he hath no incurable remorse to torment him, the stings of guilt being pulled out by the merits of his Saviour, applied by his faith and repentance; if he hath no longing desires to disquiet him, being fully satisfied with that he doth possess, or may expect from God's bounty, all other things being far beneath his ambition or coveting; if he
hath no contentions to inflame him, knowing nought here worth passionately striving for, and being resolved to hold a friendly good-will toward all men; if he hath no repining envy, seeing that none can be more happy than he may be, and that every man's good by charity is made his own ; if he hath no fretful discontent, since he gladly doth acquiesce in the condition and success allotted to him, resigning his will to God's pleasure, taking all for best which thence doth occur, being assured that all things shall work together for his good' and advantage; if he hath no spiteful rancors to corrode his heart, no boisterous passions to ruffle his mind, no inordinate appetites, perverse humors, or corrupt designs to distemper his soul and disturb his life, whence then may sorrow come, or how can sadness creep into him ?
What is there belonging to a Christian, whence grief naturally can spring ? From God, our exceeding joy,' the fountain of happiness; from heaven, the region of light and bliss; from divine truth, which illustrateth and cheereth the soul; from God's law, which rejoiceth the heart, and is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb;' from wisdom, whose · ways are ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths are peace;' from virtue, which cureth our afflictive distempers, and composeth our vexatious passions; from these things, I say, about which a Christian as such is only conversant, no sorrow can be derived; from those sweet sources no bitter streams can flow : but hell, the flesh, the world, darkness, error, folly, sin, and irreligion, (things with which a Christian should have nothing to do, from which he should keep aloof, which he doth pretend utterly to renounce and abandon,) these, these alone, are the parents of disconfort and anguish.
Wherefore there is the same reason, the same obligation, the same possibility, that we should rejoice evermore, as that we should always be Christians, exactly performing duty, and totally forbearing sin; for innocency and indolency do ever go together, both together making paradise ; perfect virtue and constant alacrity are inseparable companions, both constituting beatitude : and as although from our infirmity we cannot attain the highest pitch of virtue, yet we must aspire thereto, endeavoring 'to perfect holiness in the fear of God:' so, though it may not be possible to get, yet it is reasonable to seek perpetual
joy; which doing in the right way, we shall not fail of procuring a good measure of it.
Indeed to exercise piety and to rejoice are the same things, or things so interwoven that nothing can disjoin them; religious practice is like that river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High, that is, every pious soul. No good deed can be performed without satisfaction ; each virtue hath a peculiar delight annexed to it: whence the acts of joy which on various objects, grounds, and occasions, we may exert, being numberless, I shall only touch a few principal instances.
1. We should evermore rejoice in the exercise of our faith ; according to that prayer of our Apostle for the Romans,
Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.'
Every kind of faith (that which embraceth divine truths, that which applieth God's mercy, that which ensureth God's promises, that which confideth in God's providence, each of them) is a clear spring of joy, ever standing open to us; which he that drinketh shall never thirst.'
1. The faith which embraceth God's heavenly truth doth not only enlighten our minds, but is apt to affect our hearts; there being no article of faith, or mystery of our religion, which doth not involve some great advantage, some notable favor, some happy occurrence dispensed to us by the goodness of God, the which faith doth apprehend and convey to our spiritual gust, so that we cannot hardly • but receive the word with joy.' For is it not very sweet with faith to contemplate the rich bounty of God in the creation of the world, and producing so goodly a frame, so copious a store of things, with a special regard to our sustenance and accommodation ? Is it not satisfactory to believe that God, by his almighty hand and vigilant care, with the same benign regard, doth uphold and govern the same? Is it not extremely pleasant with faith to reflect on that great honor and happiness which God did vouchsafe to confer on mankind, by sending down from heaven his only Son to assume our nature, and to converse with men, that we might be advanced to a participation of the divine nature,' and to an enjoyment of communion with God ? How without great de