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the better for all this y and to what purpose have I employ'd myself in such an exercise, if I mould now yield to this temptation? So far will it be from doing me any good, that it will increase my guilt, and aggravate my condemnation. Thus you see how naturally this practice of reading the scriptures tends to break the strength of temptation, and to extinguish the motions of sin. And surely this should recommend it to us.
Religion is not a thing of an indifferent nature, which may be regarded or neglected at pleasure. No: it is of the utmost importance to us all: if we mind it, we are for ever safe and happy; but if we neglect it, we are for ever lost and undone. And if religion itself be a thing of such vast consequence, then it concerns us to be very diligent in the use of the means of it; and we should gladly do any thing that may dispose us to it. Therefore, if we do in good earnest desire to increase in virtue and goodness, let us converse much with our bibles :let the word o/" God dwell richly in us : let us bind it upon our fngers, and write it upon the table of our hearts: let it be our
conconstant companion, when we Jit in the house, and when we walk by the way, when we lie down, and when we rise up; let our delight be in the law os the Lord; and therein let us meditate day and night. SERMON III.
Constant joy the christians duty.
i Thess. V. 16. Rejoice evermore.
IS a spightful objection which some persons make against religion, that it is a dull and melancholy thing, and tends to destroy that chearfulness of temper, which is necessary to make a man easy to himself and agreeable to others. But whoever they are who cast such aspersions upon it, they do but betray their own ignorance. For, to
the glory of religion be it spoken, there is nothing which tends so much to inspire men with joy, as the sincere practice of it. If to acquire any knowledge of God, who is the best and most perfect being, and to maintain communion with him by prayer and praise; if for a man to obtain the victory over his own lusts, and those temptations which assaulc him from without, and to gain any readiness in doing those things which tend to perfect his nature and make him like God; if to have an infinitely wise, good and powerful being for one's friend, with whom one may safely trust all his affairs, and on whom one may firmly rely for succour in times of the greatest distress; finally, if to have hope in one's death from a prospect of eternal happiness in a future state: I say, if these things are just grounds of rejoicing, as certainly they are: then no man has so much reason to be joyful as the religious man. And if this be a duty incumbent on religious men, as such j then we may be sure that christians are not exempted from it. For if they did but live according to the doctrine which they embrace, they
would would be the most holy and religious of all men: and therefore, since the practice of religion is a foundation for joy, by how much christians excel other men in holiness and virtue, by so much also ought they to excel them in a joyful temper of mind. Accordingly we find such a temper frequently recommended in the writings of the new testament, especially in the epistles of Paul. In the text he exhorts christians not only to rejoice, but to rejoice evermore: intimating that the christian's joy should not be fleeting and transitory, like that of the world, which perhaps is raised to a very high pitch one day, and vanishes the next; but should be a settled and habitual thing, even and uniform, and not liable to be disturbed by any accidents which may happen.
But perhaps some persons will object against such rejoicing as this, as being neither practicable nor decent. How is it possible, say they, for men to rejoice in a time of calamity and distress, when they are poor and miserable, when they are full of diseases and pain, when they are friendless and destitute, and when they are despised and hated by their fellow creatures? How can