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the Good os all his Labours that he taketh under the Sim of all the Days of his Life, which God giveth him, for it is his Portion. And in Chap. 6. ver. i, a. he represents it as a great Evil that he hath seen under the Sun, and yet such an Evil as is common among Men, that a Man to whom God hath given Riches, and Wealth, and Honour, so that he wanteth nothing for his Soul, of all that he de/ireth, yet God giveth him not 'Power to eat thereof, but a Stranger eateth it; this (foith he) is Vanity and an evil Disease.
And there is certainly great Reason in what he faith; for to have a plentiful Portion of the good Things of this Life, and not to have the Heart to make use of them for the Enjoyment of Ourselves and Friends; for the refreshing us under the Toil that this Life doth expose us to; for the promoting Acquaintance and Society, ana the rendring our Condition as easy as may be; is as unaccountable a Folly as we can be guilty of, and makes us really as Poor and Necessitous as those that want Bread, but only not Ib pityable.
Taking now this to be the Sense of Rejoicing in the Text, (as I believe it is) we have from hence a good Warrant for this Day's Meeting; for we come together to Rejoice in Solomon's Sense, that is, to eat and drink, and to enjoy the Good of our Labours, it being the Gift of GodTo to do.
And this Practice of ours is not only reasonable in itself, but is commended to us by the Example of God's People, both under
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Ste Deut. the Law and the Gospel. The Jews, by the Appointment of God himself, wefe to meet every Year Three times at. Jerusalem, .the Capital City of the Nation, to.Feast and to Rejoyce before the Lord, as we have it in the express Words ol.MoJes. And the Christians, for near Two hundred Years after our Saviour, had their Jgapce, their Feasts-of Charity, wherein they met together, both Poor and Rich, to Enjoy and make Merry, one with another. It.is true,. these Feasts were at length left off.by common Consent, because there. grew Abuses in them; they became Occa4 sions of Luxury and Excels; and so Matters of Scandal to our Religion. . But this" was. not an ill Reflection upon the Thing itselfj which was Innocent and Commendable, but upon the Abuse of the Thing: A good and laudable Institution was' perverted ; to evil Purposes. However, this veryiCon-" federation ought to make us very- careful of our Carriage and Behaviour in these our Meetings, lest.vie fall under the.fame Inconveniencics: Which that we may prevent, Two Things arc especially needful, to be taken care of by us.. 'K '. ,
Fir-fl, That we do not exceed the Bounds of' Rcjoycuig, prescribed to Christians; thai is, that we avoid all Excess, and use the Creatures ,os God., soberly and temperately, so as to give. .Offence to none, noriltd make '-Provi/icm for the Flejh, to fulfil the Lusts therms . ...w.i . :i \.\ ..• •!,-!. ,./> ; ;> r ..> tv :•:;• . Ilaocl
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And Secondly, That we take care to j5erform and make good the Ends and Designs of these Feafis of Rejoicings; which Ends, if we will take our Measures from those Laws, that God gave to his own People in the Old Testament, and which the modern Jews themselves, in their Commentaries take notice of; and which are so reasonable! in themselves, that without any Authority, they do recommend themselves to us, are these Four following. - .
First, That we Rejoyce before the Lord, that is, that we make our humble Acknowledgments, and return our due Praises and Thanks to him, for all the good Things he hath blessed us with in our Lives; confessing that all we have, is from his free Bounty and Goodness, and that our Meeting together, is to praise his Name upon that Account. And this was the Thing that was meant by those solemn Sacrifices, that the Jews were bound to offer at Jerusalem,;. at their annual Feasts^. ■•• i V '-<" •, •;- v-:;i .. r- . i i
The Second End of- these Feasts, is to take Occasion from hence to learn our Duty,, to be instructed irr all the Branches of that Obedience we owe unto God. For as Maimonides observes^ that was *one of the principal Reasons of God's calling together all the People of the Jews, to appear at the Feast of Tabernacles, to wit,' that they might hear the Law read unto them; and this Design is,* 1 suppose, pursued by us in our chusing this Place to assemble in. • ; J . ■.;.*'■.. s
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A Third End of these Feasts (as the fame Maimonides tells us) and is manifest from Scripture, is to promote Acquaintance and Friendship, and Brotherly-Love, one with another. And this is a very noble End, and serves many excellent Purposes, and nothing can be beyond it, except,
The Fourth and last End of these Meetings, which is to do Good, to exercise our Charity towards our poor indigent Brethren. No Man, Exod. 2;. at the Solemn Feasts of the yews, was to J*' 'appear before the Lord empty-, He was to bring
his Offering, not only to God by way of Recognition and Acknowledgment to him; but for the Poor also, that they might Rejoice as well as he. This is well observed by Maimonides, from Deut. 16. 14. where it is thus laid, Thou shalt rejoice in thy Yea ft, thou arid thy Son, and thy Daughter, thy Man-servant, and thy Maid-servant, the Levite andlbe Stranger, the Fatherless and the Widow, that are within thy Gates.
This then is the great End of our Assembly, that not only we, but the Fatherless, and the Widow, all of our Country, that need our Charity, may Rejoice with us and for us. And this is that which Solomon joins with Rejoicing in the Text, There is no Good in them, but for a Man to Rejoice and to do Good: And what that Man, who by the Sentence of God, was declared the wisest of all Men, hath thus joined together, let none of us presume to put asunder. These are the Rules, and these are the Ends that we are to observe serve in this our Feast; and let us all for the Honour of Christ's Religion, and for the Credit of our particular Country, charge the Observation of them upon ourselves: Which if we can all resolve to do, I can safely apply to every one of you, that Saying of Solomon in the Ninth Chapter of this Book of Ecckjiastes.> and the Seventh Verse, with which 1 shall conclude; Go thy way, eat thy Bread with yoy, and drink thy Wine with a merry Heart; for Gdd now acfepteth thy Work.