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SERM. So it may seem; but yet, alas! if we consult exXLIII. perience, or observe the world, we shall find this precept very ill obeyed: for do we not commonly see people in heavy dumps? do we not often hear doleful complaints? is not this world apparently a stage of continual trouble and grief? Did not the Eccl. i. 14. Preacher, upon a diligent survey of all the works done under the sun, truly proclaim, Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit? Where, I pray, is any full or firm content? where is solid and durable joy to be found?
It is true that men, after a confused manner, are very eager in the quest, and earnest in the pursuit of joy; they rove through all the forest of creatures, and beat every bush of nature for it, hoping to catch it either in natural endowments and improvements of soul, or in the gifts of fortune, or in the acquists of industry; in temporal possessions, in sensual enjoyments, in ludicrous divertisements and amusements of fancy; in gratification of their appetites and passions; they all hunt for it, though following a different scent, and running in various tracks; some in way of plodding for rare notions; some in compassing ambitious projects; some in amassing heaps of wealth; some in practice of overreaching subtilties; some in wrecking their malice, their revenge, their envy; some in venting frothy conceits, bitter scoffs, or profane railleries; some in jovial conversation and quaffing the full bowls; some in music and dancing; some in gallantry and courting; some in all kinds of riotous excess and wanton dissoluteness; so each in his way doth incessantly prog for joy; but all much in vain, or without any considerable success; finding at most, instead of it,
some faint shadows, or transitory flashes of pleasure, SERM. the which, depending on causes very contingent and XLIII. mutable, residing in a frail temper of fluid humours of body, consisting in slight touches upon the organs of sense, in frisks of the corporeal spirits, or in fumes and vapours twitching the imagination, do soon flag and expire; their short enjoyment being also tempered with regret, being easily dashed by any cross accident, soon declining into a nauseous satiety, and in the end degenerating into gall and bitter remorse; for, Even, as Solomon observed, in laughter the Prov. xiv. heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is heaviness: and, Though, as it is said in Job, xx. ver. 12, 14, 20.) wickedness is sweet in mouth—yet his meat in his bowels is turned, the gall of asps within him: so that indeed usual delights which men affect are such, that should not if we could, and we could not if we dolores fiwould, constantly entertain them; such rejoicing præterevermore being equally unreasonable and impos- quam in te. sible.
we anima ho
Aug. Cons. iv. 10.
(ch. Sunt quæthe voluptates.
the versum se
Wherefore there is ground more than enough, that we should be put to seek for a true, substantial, and consistent joy; it being withal implied, that we should effect it in another way, or look for it in another box, than commonly men do; who therefore are so generally disappointed, because they would have it upon impossible or undue terms, and least expect it there, where it is only to be had.
It is a scandalous misprision, vulgarly admitted, concerning religion, that it is altogether sullen and sour, requiring a dull, lumpish, morose kind of life, barring all delight, all mirth, all good humour ; whereas, on the contrary, it alone is the never-failing
SERM. source of true, pure, steady joy; such as is deeply XLIII. rooted in the heart, immoveably founded in the reason of things, permanent like the immortal spirit wherein it dwelleth, and like the eternal objects whereon it is fixed, which is not apt to fade or cloy; and is not subject to any impressions apt to corrupt or impair it whereas, in our text, and in many texts parallel to it, we see, that our religion doth not only allow us, but even doth oblige us to be joyful, as much and often as can be, not permitting us to be sad for one minute, banishing the least fit of melancholy, charging us in all times, upon all occasions, to be cheerful; supposing, consequently, that it is in some manner possible to be so, and affording power to effect what it doth require.
Such indeed is the transcendent goodness of our God, that he maketh our delight to be our duty, and our sorrow to be our sin, adapting his holy will to our principal instinct; that he would have us to resemble himself, as in all other perfections, so in a constant state of happiness; that as he hath provided a glorious heaven of bliss for us hereafter, so he would have us enjoy a comfortable paradise of delight here. He accordingly hath ordered the whole frame of our religion in a tendency to produce joy in those who embrace it; for what is the gospel, but, as the holy angel, the first promulger of it, did Luke ii. 10. report, good tidings of great joy to all people? Rom. xv. How doth God represent himself therein, but as the Eph. ii. 4. God of love, of hope, of peace, of all consolation, cheerfully smiling in favour on us, graciously in1 Pet. v. 10. viting us to the most pleasant enjoyments, bounti
Jam. v. 11.
fully dispensing most comfortable blessings of mercy,
17. xxi. 4.
John xv.11. xvi. 22, 24.
call us to him, but that he may give us rest and re- SERM. freshment to our souls; that he may wipe away all XLIII. tears from our eyes; that he may save us from most Matt. xi. woful despair, and settle us in a blessed hope; that Apoc. vii. we may enter into our Master's joy; that our joy Tit. ii. 13. may be full, and such as no man can take from us? What is the great overture of the gospel, but the gift of a most blessed Comforter, to abide with us John xiv. for ever, cheering our hearts with his lightsome presence and ravishing consolations? Wherein doth the kingdom of heaven consist? not in meat and drink, Rom. xiv. but in righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. What are the prime fruits sprouting from that root of Christian life, the Divine Spirit? they are, as St. Paul telleth us, love, joy, and peace. Gal. v. 22. Are there not numberless declarations importing a joyful satisfaction granted to the observers of God's commandments; that light is sown for the right- Ps.xcvii.11. eous, and gladness for the upright in heart? Doth not our Lord pronounce a special beatitude to the lxviii. 3. practiser of every virtue? And if we scan all the doctrines, all the institutions, all the precepts, all the promises of Christianity, will not each appear pregnant with matter of joy, will not each yield great reason and strong obligation to this duty of rejoicing evermore?
cxviii. 15. xxxii. II.
Wherefore a Christian, as such, (according to the design of his religion, and in proportion to his compliance with its dictates,) is the most jocund, blithe, and gay person in the world; always in humour and full of cheer; continually bearing a mind well satisfied, a light heart and calm spirit, a smooth brow and serene countenance, a grateful accent of speech, and a sweetly composed tenor of carriage; no black
SERM. thought, no irksome desire, no troublesome passion should lodge in his breast; any furrow, any frown, any cloud doth sit ill upon his face; the least fretful word or froward behaviour doth utterly misbecome him; if at any time it appear otherwise, it is a deflection from his character; it is a blemish and wrong to his profession; it argueth a prevarication in his judgment or in his practice; he forgetteth that he is a Christian, or hath not preserved the innocence belonging to that name. For, if a Christian remembereth what he is, or is sensible of his condition; if he reflecteth on the dignity of his person, the nobleness of his relations, the sublimity of his privileges, the greatness and certainty of his hopes, how can he be out of humour? Is it not absurd for him that is at peace with Heaven, with his own conscience, with all the world; for the possessor of the best goods, and the heir of a blessed immortality; for the friend, the favourite, the son of God, to fret or wail?
He that is settled in a most prosperous state, that is (if he pleaseth) secure of its continuance, that is well assured of its improvement; that hath whatever good he can wish in his reach, and more than he can conceive in sure reversion; what account can be given that he should be sad, or seem afflicted?
He that hath the inexhaustible spring of good for his portion; that hath his welfare intrusted in God's most faithful hand; that hath God's infallible word Psal. xvi. for his support; that hath free access to him, in whose presence is fulness of joy; that hath frequent tastes of God's goodness, in gracious dispensations of providence, in intercourses of devotion, in the influences of grace; that hath the infinite beauty and