« AnteriorContinuar »
4. O how much easier were it like to go with the church of God if greatness and ungodliness were not so commonly conjunct! But usually, as riches, and dignities, and honours, do much increase their carnal interest, so do they increase their carnal mindedness, and their engagements against that life of faith and holiness which is contrary to their interests ; so that none are such malignant adversaries to godliness, and none have such advantage to execute their malice. Seeing, then, that all such honours and advancements are made by corruption too ordinary instruments of the vilest works of serving Satan, and opposing Christ, and oppressing piety, honesty, and innocence, rejoice not in them as for themselves, nor any way but in subservience to your heavenly rejoicings.
5. And it should much abate our carnal joy to consider that all these things are such as may end in misery, and leave the owner in everlasting wo. He that is feasting in purple and fine linen to-day, may be to-morrow in remediless torments, and want a drop of water to cool his tongue. (Luke xvi.) He that is to-day triumphing over mortal enemies, may to-morrow be led in triumph to hell fire, and lie in chains of darkness till the judgment of the great day. He that is now prophesying in the name of Christ, and casting out devils, and doing many great and wonderful works, may shortly be condemned at his bar with a “ depart from me ye workers of iniquity, I'never knew you.” (Matt. vii, 22, 23.) And who would be merry at a feast that he must cast up again, in griping pain, or mortal sickness? You see now where the great ones of the world do take their places, and how they are admired and honoured by men; but you see not where the tide will leave them, and how they shall be used by infernal spirits, if they have not a better preventive and security than all the renown and dignities of the world. Be cautelous, therefore, in your rejoicing for that which may end in everlasting sorrows.
Yea, more than so, these outward honours and successes may plunge men deeper in perdition than ever they had been without them. And thousands shall wish that they had never known them ; and that they had rather been the lowest and obscurest persons, than by the temptations of prosperity to have been led into that misery. And should you not be very cautelous in your rejoicing in that which you may possibly wish you had never known? You see then the reasons for the prohibition,“ Rejoice not.”
II. But, on the contrary, that the precept “Rejoice that your
names are written in heaven," is backed with such reasons from the nature of the thing, as should much excite us to the practice, is a truth so manifest, that a tedious demonstration of it might seem at best unnecessary, and so
an error, in these straits of time. 1. What should be rejoiced in, if not the Lord of life himself, who is the everlasting joy and glory of the saints? If felicity itself cannot make us happy, and life itself is insufficient to quicken us, and the sun itself cannot illuminate us, it is in vain to expect this light, this life, this happiness and joy from any other. From others we may have joy derivatively at the second hand, but only from God as the original and first
Other things may be means of the conveyance, but : God is the matter of our joy. A creature may be his medicine, but he is our life and health itself, Comfort may be offered by others, but it is he that gives it. • Others may direct us to it, but he effecteth it. If God be not to be rejoiced in, the affection of joy is made in vain; for he is goodness itself, and there is nothing lovely' or delectable but what is in him. And what is heaven but the fruition of God ?
2. It is congruous that we now rejoice in that which we must everlastingly rejoice in. Heaven is the state of everlasting joy, and, therefore, the foresight of it by faith is the only way to rational, solid comfort here. If you knew the place in which you should live but an hundred years in earthly pleasures, or the friend in whom you should as long have sweet delight, , the foreknowledge of it would make that place and friend more delightful to you than any other. Mutable joys are the shame of man, and show his levity, or his folly in choosing these things to comfort him that are insufficient to perform it. But if heavenly interest be the matter of your joy, you may rejoice tomorrow as well as to-day, and the next day as well as tomorrow, and the next year as well as this. If prosperity be your joy, your joy must be short, fór your worldly prosperity will be so. If victory and dignity, and overtopping others, be your joy, it will be short ; for death is ready to leave the conqueror, the honourable, the prince, with the conquered, and the meanest subject. If the solemnity and feasting of such a day as this should be the greatest matter of your joy, the day will have a night, and the feast an end, and so will your joy. But if heaven be the matter of your joy, you may go on in your rejoicing, and every day may be your festival: for God is the same both yesterday, and to-day, and for ever. You only have
But if your
the day that hath no night, and the feast that hath no end, or intermission, unless as it is caused by your errors and misapprehensions. There can nothing fall out of so hurtful a nature as to turn your feast into gall and wormwood, for God will be still God, and Christ still your head, and heaven will be heaven, and nothing is of any considerable moment to put into the scales against your happiness. If once you have a God, a Christ, a heaven to rejoice in, you may rationally indulge a constant joy, and may rationally rejoice in poverty, reproach, contempt, and calumny, in imprisonment, banishment, sickness, or in death, as in a prosperous state: and you transgress the laws of reason if you
do not. 3. Rejoice if your names are written in heaven ; for this is a divine, a pure, a profitable, and a warrantable joy. When God and his ministers rebuke your mirth, it is not this holy mirth that they rebuke, but your dreaming mirth, or waking folly. As we beat down your presumption, but to set up your faith ; and beat down men's deceitful hopes, to prepare them for the hopes that will not fail them, and not to bring them to despair ; so do we call you from your frothy, foolish, childish mirth, that we may lead you to the highest joys. Here is joy that you need not be ashamed of; of which you can scarcely take too much; of which you need not to repent. Be as joyful and merry as you will, if this may but be the matter of your joy. The more you are thus joyful, the more acceptable to God. It is Satan, and not God, that is the enemy of this joy; that pleads against it, and fills a Christian's mind with groundless scruples, and doubts, and objections against it. Othat our souls and our assemblies did more abound with this holy joy! And Q that Christians understood the excellency and usefulness of it, and would set themselves more constantly to the promoting and maintaining of it in themselves! Whoever of you that is most joyful in the Lord, I dare persuade you to be more joyful yet; and so far should you be from checking yourselves for this holy joy, that the rest of your duties should intend it, and
should make it your work by the help of all God's ordinances and mercies to increase it. He is the best Christian that hath most love, and joy, and gratitude; and he that is best at this, is like to be best, in the performance of his other duties, and in the conquest of remaining sins. But more of this in the application.
And now I am approaching to a closer application, I hope I may suppose that I have removed the objection that met me in the beginning, and that by this time you see that I am not unseasonably suppressing your warrantable joy; hut, 1. Preventing that which is unwarrantable; and, 2. Showing you the higher joys, which must animate these, or they will be but dead, corrupted things; it is only the regulation and the exaltation of your joys that I am endeavouring : and, for the first, my text affordeth me so full instruction, that you may see this observation meeting you in the first perusal of the words.
That when the Lord hath vouchsafed us matter of rejoicing in his wonders of mercy, and our great successes, the best of us are too prone to take up a selfish, carnal joy, and have need of Christ's prohibition or caution, "rejoice not in this."
The soul is active, and will be doing; and there is nothing that it is more naturally inclined to than delight. Something or other, which may be suitable to it, and sufficient to answer its desires, it fain would be rejoicing in. And the spiritual part of all our mercies is pure and refined, and too subtle for the dis cerning of our carnal minds, and, therefore, is invisible to the dark, ungodly world; and, also, it is contrary to the interest of the flesh, and to the present bent of man's concupiscence : and therefore it is that spiritual mercies are not perceived, nor relished by the flesh; yea, that they are refused, as food by a sick stomach, with eninity and loathing, as if they were judgments or plagues, and not mercies; and hence it is that a carnal mind doth as unwillingly accept of any mercies of this sort, as if it were some heavy service that made God almost beholden to him to accept them. But the objects of sense, the matters of commodity, or honour, or sensual pleasure, are such as the worst of men are more eager after than any other; they are things that flesh itself doth savour, and can judge of, and is naturally, now, too much in love with. And, therefore, there being too much of this concupiscence yet within us, the best have need, as to be excited to the spiritual part of their rejoicing, so to be warned and called off from the carnal part. Our successes, and our other common mercies, have all of them both a carnal and a spiritual part; somewhat that is suited to our bodies, and somewhat to our souls. And as we are all too prone to be sensible and regardful of our bodily affairs and interests, and too insensible and neglectful of the matters of our souls ; so we can easily pick out so much of providences and mercies as gratify and accomodate our flesh; and there we would stop and know no more; as if we had no spiritual part to mind, nor the mercy of any spiritual part to be improved. To rejoice in mere prosperity and success may be done without grace, by pride, and sensuality, as eaşily as a drunkard can be merry with his cups, or any other sinner in his sin. Think it not needless, then, to hear this admonition, take heed that you rejoice not carnally in the carcass, or outside only of your mercies; as such an outside religion, consisting in the shell of duty, without God, who is the life and kernel, is not religion indeed, hut an hypocritical, self-deceiving show; so you inay turn a day of thanksgiving into a day of fleshly mirth, more sinful than a morris-dance or may-game, because of the aggravation of conjunet hypocrisy, if you set not a faithful guard upon your hearts.
For the rectifying, therefore, and elevating of your joys, I am first to tell you, that there is matter of far greater joy before you than all the successes or prosperity of the world : and if it be not, yet being freely offered you, your acceptance may quickly make it such. Eternal joy and glory is at hand, the door is open, the promise is sure, the way made plain, the helps are many, and safe, and powerful ; you may have the conduct of Christ, and the company of thousands, (though the smaller number,) if you will go this way: there are passengers every day going on, and entering in; many that were here the last year, are this year in heaven; yea, many that were yesterday on earth, are in heaven to day. It is another kind of assembly and solemnity than this that they are now beholding, and you may behold. One strain of that celestial melody doth afford more ravishing sweetness and delight than all that ever earth could yield. If a day in God's courts here, be better than a thousand in common employments or delights, then, sure, a day in heaven is better than ten thousand, That is the court; and (except the church, which is a garden that hath some celestial plants, and is a seminary or nursery for heaven) this world is the dunghill. There all is spiritual, pure, and perfect; the soul, the. service, and the joy; but here they are all so mixed with flesh, and, therefore, so imperfect and impure, that we are afraid of our very comforts, and are fain, upon the review, to sorrow over many of our joys. We come now from cares and troubles to our feasts; and our wedding garments smell of the smoke ; and a secret disquietness in the midst of our delights doth tell us, that the root of our troubles doth remain, and that yet we are net where we should be, and that this is not our resting place,