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“ the dead; to an inheritance, incorruptible and “ undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in “ heaven for you, who are kept, by the power of
God, through faith unto salvation, ready to be “ revealed in the last time: wherein ye greatly reç joice, though now, for a season, if need be, ye
are in heaviness, through manifold temptations,”*
I Peter i. 3-6.
THE SAME SUBJECT CONCLUDED.
1 Thess. v. 16.—Rejoice evermore. IN the preceding discourses, we have considered the chief grounds of christian rejoicing. In this, as was proposed under the second general head, we are to state some of its properties. Of these, I shall enumerate four.
1. Christian joy is a rational joy; or a joy suited to a reasonable nature.
2. It is full and satisfying.
4. It is adapted to every station and condition in life.
1. It is a rational joy; or such a joy as is best suited to a rational nature.
Man consists of two parts, of spirit and matter, of a soul and a body, The superiority of the soul and of its faculties, to the body and the bodily senses, no one, who has the right exercise of his judgment, will call in question. The soul, indeed, in its nature and faculties, is so much more excellent than the body, that it may, with propriety, be termed the man; while the body may be denomiņated but its servant. The body is only a useful appendage to the soul, as its instrument of action and perception; and can hardly be considered as more a part of ourselves, than the telescope, by
which we discover objects too remote for the naked eye, or the engine by which we raise weights too great for our native strength, can be called parts of our material frame. The exertions of the mind, therefore, must be accounted far more dignified than those of the body; and the pleasures of the one more excellent in themselves, more suitable to our nature, or, in short, more rational, than those of the other. But of this description are all the christian's pleasures. The objects of his delight are spiritually discerned, and spiritually enjoyed : being intellectual themselves, the sensations which they excite, are of a character the most purely mental. In laying up, therefore, his stores of joy, he“ makes not
provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof."* In his pursuit of happiness, he“ walks not in “ rioting and drunkenness, in chambering and
wantonness.”+ In the just exercise of the powers and dispositions of his mind, he seeks those enjoyments which are proper to his nature.
He * SOWS “ to the spirit;"I and “ the fruit of the spirit is joy " and peace.”
Is memory a faculty of the soul ? the purest pleasures, which the recollection of past events can command, are his. He remembers, with grateful and sublime delight, the ways of providence and grace recorded in the scriptures, the personal deliverances and invaluable favours vouchsafed to him. self.--Imagination also is a power of the mind : and the pleasures which the christian derives from this, are ever varying and ever new. He takes the wings of the morning, and shoots far in thought, across the expanse of creation : rejoicing to think, * Rom. xii. 14.
f Ibid. 13.
Gal. vi, 8.
s Ibid. Y. 229
that wherever fancy can roam, wherever his mortal or immortal destiny may be cast, he is ever present with an ever-present God. Thence he strays through the mazes of the divine dispensations, and wonders at the depth of the Eternal's ways. Again, he darts forward into futurity; and paints the blissful scenes of the land that is afar off.-Judgment, or reason, the noblest faculty of a spiritual being, is also one of the hinges of the christian's joy. Ву it, he searches into the operations of the Almighty : and seeks “ to comprehend, with all saints, what is “the breadth, and length, and depth, and heighth “ of the love of Christ,"* and of the divine perfections, exhibited in the stupendous work, which Christ has wrought. The perfections and operations of the Deity, indeed, surpass the efforts of the human understanding, fully to comprehend them. But this does not hinder the christian from rejoicing in what he is able to know ; or from indulging a pleasing, though solemn emotion, excited by the immensity of what he knows not. As the boundless prospect delights the eye, and fills the soul with grand ideas, while, standing on a lofty shore, we look along the far rolling ocean, and can discern no opposite margin rising to our view ; thus it is, when we enquire into the being and the ways of God. As far as we can discover and understand, we perceive excellence and beauty. But we have a fainter view, that stretches far beyond, of perfection and of glory, which we cannot, from the weakness or the darkness of our nature, completely comprehend: and we stand still, adoring the immensity of the Godhead, and filled with the sublimest
* Eph. iii. 18, 19.
joys of holy admiration.—But why be so particular in stating all the powers and affections of the mind, which are called into. exercise in the christian life, and which become intruments of the believer's joy? There is conscience: and he rejoices in its testimony.* There is hope: and he“ rejoices in hope “ of the glory of God.”+ There is faith: and he is “ filled with all joy in believing.” I There is trust: and he is “ kept in perfect peace, his mind “ being stayed on God.”] There is love: and “ great peace have they who love God's law.” While to love God himself, the most excellent and amiable object in the universe, is at once the most rational, the most exalted, and most delightful exercise of the soul.
Thus, by considering the instruments of christian joy, by observing that it arises, not from the indulgence of bodily appetite, but from the exercise of the 'noblest faculties of the soul, on the purest and the noblest objects, it will appear justly entitled to the character ascribed to it, as a rational joy, or the joy best suited to a reasonable nature.
This will farther appear, if we contrast it with the joys of the sensualist, and the worldling.
To make corporeal or sensual pleasures the object of our pursuit, is to prefer the body to the soul, the mortal to the immortal part, the beast to the man; and to acknowledge that, in point of happiness, we are not advanced above the brutes that perish. Indulgence in sensual delights clouds the understanding, blunts the memory,, impairs the vigour, and checks the activity of the mind. It makes us incapable of, because averse to, pure and intellectual * 2 Cor. i 12. † Rom. v. 2. # Ib. xv. 13. $ Isa, xxvi, 3. Psalm cxix. 165.