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ment, he receives new tastes of divine goodness, in the unmerited bounties and wise arrangements of providence, in the privilege and the answer of prayer, in the communications of grace, and in the hopes of glory. In such an one, melancholy is ingratitude, and fretfulness, is treason. Israel of old was condemned, because, unmindful of God, they sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to unhallowed mirth. But does he, think you, act more consistently with his obligations to his Maker's kindness, who addresses him, morning and evening, before and after meat; yet all the while groans out the murmurs of discontent? Consider, then, a joyful spirit and deportment, as a proper return due to God for his goodness, as a fit and necessary expression of your gratitude. “ Serve the Lord with gladness; and
come before his presence with singing. Let us “ make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salva“ tion."*
2. Obedience to the precept of the text, is a duty to our fellow creatures.
Good humour, a joyful heart, and a pleasing countenance, in the professors of religion, naturally tend to recommend it to others; while the opposite character and appearances must prejudice them against it. Persons unconverted can know but little of religion : so far, however, as they do know it, '; they find that it forbids every species of enjoyment, in which they are disposed to indulge. They are, hence, ready to conclude, that there can be no enjoyment in it; that there is something dark and malignant in its influence; and that to become religious, is necessarily to abandon all thoughts of pleasure.
* Psalm c. 2; and xcv. I.
Hence, a principle of aversion to piety and seriousness, whose force is every day unhappily exemplified: and how fatally must this principle be confirmed in strangers to religion, when they see so many pretenders to it put on demure looks, and sourness of manners, as if godliness and sadness were twin children? They will be deterred from examining it, by the apprehension of meeting with nothing but what is stern and tyrannical; and will instinctively shrink from it, as the bane of happiness. And, brethren, can you think it consistent with your duty to your fellow men and fellow sinners, thus to frighten them from the relief of their wretchedness, and to increase their natural aversion to the only remedy for their deadly disease ? Ought you not, on the contrary, as a mean to disarm their prejudices, and to win their attention to the gospel, as a mean to increase the number of your Lord's disciples, and so, the number of happy souls--ought you not to shew to the world, that you disclaim the maxims, which connect melancholy with devotion, and the service of God with a spirit of bondage ? Enjoy the bounties of providence without abusing them, Serve God with gladness; and in all the transactions of life, maintain a cheerful heart, and a pleasant countenance. Thus will the unconverted at last believe, in spite of their prejudices, that christianity has a power to produce pleasure ; a pleasure, too, more steady, and therefore, more valuable, than their own. They may come to wish, at last, that they were christians; and may perhaps be led to examine, with some attention and impartiality, the nature and the joys of christianity.
From such an examination, the happiest result may be expected. The slaves of satan, and of sinful pleasure, will become the lovers of God, and of godly joy." To contribute to such effects, what believing soul would not exult? to prevent, or to obstruct them, what christian would not shudder ?
3. The rejoicing, which we inculcate, is a duty that you owe to the religion which you profess.
All the topics, to which your attention has been directed in these discourses, prove, that it is a false idea of religion, which represents it as productive of austerity and gloom. Those, who imagine this to be its character, are ignorant of its nature, and feel not its genuine power. Such an idea, too, is as unfavourable, as it is false. While it causes the native tendency of religion to be mistaken, it brings religion itself into discredit; prevents its light from shining before men, and thus hinders its progress in the world. And can we be so unconcerned for the honour of that gospel, which we profess to embrace, and to prize so highly, as wilfully to promote such a misrepresentation of its character, and so deeply to obscure its lustre ? Joy, the purest and most exalted joy, is its natural effect, when rightly understood, and sincerely embraced. For what is the gospel? It is “ good tidings of great joy, which are " to all people ;” of “ peace on earth, and good " will toward men :"* In what does its dominion consist? in righteousness, and peace, and joy, in the “ Holy Ghost.”+ In what characters is the Almighty therein revealed ? as “the God of love, and “ of peace;"I as the God of hope ;'S as the Father “ of mercies, the God of all comfort and consoa * Luks ü. 10, 14. † Rom. xiv. 17. | 2 Cor, xüïi. .
$ Rom. IV. 13°
" lation :"* “ who hath blessed us with all spiritual “ blessings, in heavenly places, in Christ.”+ In what offices does it make known to us Christ himself? in those of “ the messenger of the cove
nant”ť of peace; of a prophet, to dispel the darkness of your minds; of a priest, to relieve your consciences from guilt and fear, and to bear your curse and punishment far away; of a king, " to reign in
righteousness, of the increase of whose govern“ment and peace there shall be no end.") And who is that Holy Spirit, of whom the gospel so frequently speaks? he is the gift of God ;|| he is the
spirit of promise ; he is the comforter, whom Christ hath sent, that he may abide with us for ever.** What is the effect of faith in the gospel ? it is “ rejoicing, with joy unspeakable, and full of
glory.”++ What is its end ? the salvation of our “souls."If What are the laws of the gospel ? they " are right, rejoicing the heart.”SS What are its promisés ? they are " exceeding great and pre"cious," whereby we may “ be partakers of the “ divine nature ;"! promises of pardon, of peace, and of eternal life. In a word, it calls us to glory, and virtue, and happiness. It offers direction in difficulty, support in trial. It promises immortality; and it secures all by the oath and the immutability of God.
Where, then, mistaking christian, didst thou learn that austerity of manners, that disconsolate look, and clouded brow? It might be in the cloisters of superstition ; but thou didst not acquire them in
2 Cor. i. 3; and Rom. xv. 5. § Isaiah xxxii. ir. 17.. Eph. i. 13. # Eph. i. 3. Mal. ii. 1. || Acts 1. 45 ft i Peter i. 8. Ibid. 9. SS Psalm xix. &. All 2 Peter i. 4.
11 Heb, vi. 16, 17.
** John xv. 26. xiv. 16,
the school of Christ. His voice is that of meekness and love; his doctrine distils like the dew; his religion, in its every part, tends to promote thy present comfort, as well as thy future felicity. Exhibit it, then, in its proper character; display its nature, by its effects upon thyself: do not, by a temper, inconsistent with its spirit, cause it to be mistaken, hated, and reviled: show it to be worthy of esteem, and entitled to a grateful reception, as not only the source of purity, but the parent of peace and joy. Its credit is surely dear to thee: to that of thy own profession, thou canst not be indifferent; and the glory of the beneficent author of thy faith, is implicated in the estimation in which his religion is held, and in the manner in which it is represented to the wošld. If thou forget, then, to
rejoice evermore," thou forgettest thy character and obligations; thou rememberest not that thy name is christian; thou dost injury to the gospel ; and dishonourest thy God, thy Saviour, and thy Sanctifier,
In the prospect of partaking of the Lord's supper, let joy, especially reign in your souls. This gospelordinance was instituted to cheer and gladden your hearts; to promote your “ spiritual nourishment, . and growth in grace.' Go, then,“ unto the altar “ of God," as “ your exceeding joy:""* “ make a
joyful noise unto the Lord : rejoice, and sing “ praise.”+ And let the last words of the Saviour on the cross, be the chorus of your song—“ It is “ finished.”| Transgression is finished ; an end is made of sins; reconciliation for iniquity is completed ; and everlasting righteousness is brought
Psalm aliii. 4 + Ibid. xcviii. 4. John xix. 30.