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excellency for the perpetual object of his contempla- SERM. tion and affection; that enjoyeth the serenity of a sound mind, of a pure heart, of a quiet conscience, of a sure hope, what can he want to refresh or comfort him?
If a true and perfect Christian hath no care to distract him, having discharged all his concerns on God's providence; if he hath no fear to dismay him, being guarded by the Almighty protection from all danger and mischief; if he hath no despair to sink him, having a sure refuge in the divine mercy and help; if he hath no superstitious terrors or scruples to perplex him, being conscious of his own upright intentions to please God, and confident of God's merciful willingness to accept his sincere endeavours; if he hath no incurable remorse to torment him, the stings of guilt being pulled out by the merits of his Saviour, applied by his faith and repentance; if he hath no longing desires to disquiet him, being fully satisfied with that he doth possess, or may expect from God's bounty, all other things being far beneath his ambition or coveting; if he hath no contentions to inflame him, knowing nought here worth passionately striving for, and being resolved to hold a friendly good-will toward all men; if he hath no repining envy, seeing that none can be more happy than he may be, and that every man's good by charity is made his own; if he hath no fretful discontent, since he gladly doth acquiesce in the condition and success allotted to him, resigning his will to God's pleasure, taking all for best which thence doth occur, being assured that all things shall work together for his good and advantage; if he hath no spiteful rancours to corrode his heart, no boisterous
SERM. passions to ruffle his mind, no inordinate appetites, perverse humours, or corrupt designs to distemper his soul and disturb his life, whence then may sorrow come, or how can sadness creep into him"?
What is there belonging to a Christian, whence Psal. xliii.4. grief naturally can spring? From God, our exceeding joy, the fountain of happiness; from heaven, the region of light and bliss; from divine truth, which illustrateth and cheereth the soul; from God's
Ps. xix. 10. law, which rejoiceth the heart, and is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb; from wisdom, whose Prov.iii. 17. ways are ways of pleasantness, and all whose paths are peace; from virtue, which cureth our afflictive distempers, and composeth our vexatious passions; from these things, I say, about which a Christian as such is only conversant, no sorrow can be derived; from those sweet sources no bitter streams can flow: but hell, the flesh, the world, darkness, error, folly, sin, and irreligion, (things with which a Christian should have nothing to do, from which he should keep aloof, which he doth pretend utterly to renounce and abandon,) these, these alone, are the parents of discomfort and anguish.
Wherefore there is the same reason, the same obligation, the same possibility, that we should rejoice evermore, as that we should always be Christians, exactly performing duty, and totally forbearing sin; for innocence and indolency do ever go together, both together making paradise; perfect virtue and constant alacrity are inseparable companions, both constituting beatitude: and as although from our infirmity we cannot attain the highest pitch of virtue,
a Επιθυμίας ἀπελαθείσης εὔδιος ἡ ψυχὴ, καὶ γαληνιῶσα γίνεται. Just. Mart. ad Græc. Paræn. 2.
yet we must aspire thereto, endeavouring to perfect SERM. holiness in the fear of God; so, though it may not XLIII. be possible to get, yet it is reasonable to seek perpe- 2 Cor. vii. 1. tual joy; which doing in the right way, we shall not i John iii. fail of procuring a good measure of it.
Matt. v. 48.
Indeed to exercise piety and to rejoice are the same things, or things so interwoven, that nothing can disjoin them; religious practice is like that river, Psal. xlvi.4. the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High, that is, every pious soul. No good deed can be performed without satisfaction; each virtue hath a peculiar delight annexed to it: whence the acts of joy, which upon various objects, grounds, and occasions, we may exert, being numberless, I shall only touch a few principal instances.
1. We should evermore rejoice in the exercise of our faith; according to that prayer of our apostle for the Romans, Now the God of hope fill you with Rom. xv. all joy and peace in believing.
Every kind of faith (that which embraceth divine truths, that which applieth God's mercy, that which ensureth God's promises, that which confideth in God's providence, each of them) is a clear spring of joy, ever standing open to us; which he that drinketh shall never thirst.
John vi. 35. vii. 38. iv.
1. The faith which embraceth God's heavenly 14. truth doth not only enlighten our minds, but is apt to affect our hearts; there being no article of faith, or mystery of our religion, which doth not involve some great advantage, some notable favour, some happy occurrence dispensed to us by the goodness of God, the which faith doth apprehend and convey to our spiritual gust, so that we cannot hardly but re- 20.
BARROW, VOL. II.
Phil. i. 25.
SERM. ceive the word with joy. For is it not very sweet XLIII. with faith to contemplate the rich bounty of God in the creation of the world, and producing so goodly a frame, so copious a store of things, with a special regard to our sustenance and accommodation? Is it not satisfactory to believe that God, by his almighty hand and vigilant care, with the same benign regard, doth uphold and govern the same? Is it not extremely pleasant with faith to reflect on that great honour and happiness, which God did vouchsafe to confer on mankind, by sending down from heaven his only Son to assume our nature, and to converse 2 Pet. i. 4. with men, that we might be advanced to a participation of the divine nature, and to an enjoyment of 1 John i. 3. communion with God? How without great delight can we be persuaded that our Saviour, by his meritorious obedience and passion, hath appeased God's wrath, and inclined his favour toward us, hath satisfied justice, hath expiated our offences, hath ransomed and rescued our souls from the dominion of sin and Satan, from death and corruption, from hell and everlasting torment, hath purchased immortal life and endless bliss for us? What comfort is there in being assured, by the resurrection and triumph of our Lord over death, that our souls are indeed immortal, that our bodies shall be raised from the dust, that our persons are capable of an eternal subsistence in happiness? Will it not much please us with an eye of faith to behold our Redeemer sitting in glorious exaltation at God's right hand, governing the world for the benefit of his church, dispensing benediction and grace to us; interceding, as Heb. ii. 17. our merciful and faithful High Priest, for the pardon of our sins, the acceptance of our prayers,
I John ii. I.
the supply of our needs, and the relief of our dis- SERM. tresses? If we be fully convinced that our Lord XLIII. Jesus is the Christ, our Lord and Saviour, the author Heb. v. 9. of eternal salvation to all that obey him, how can we otherwise than follow those, of whom St. Peter saith, Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, 1 Pet. i. 8. though ye now see him not, yet believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory? So from the hearty belief of every evangelical truth we may suck consolation; each of them is food of our soul; and to believe it is to eat it: which how can we do Crede et without a delicious or most savoury relish ? casti. Aug.
2. At least methinks that faith greatly should exhilarate us, which applieth those verities, (so wor- 1 Tim.i. 15. thy of all acceptation,) wherein God doth open his arms wide to embrace us, proposing most kind invitations and favourable overtures of mercy, upon the fairest terms possible; together with effectual remedies for all the maladies and miseries of our souls: for if we are sensible of our heinous guilts, if we are laden with the heavy burden of our sins, if our heart is galled with sore compunction for our misdeeds, if we are struck with the terrors of the Lord, and Ps. xxxviii. tremble with the fear of God's judgments; how 4. cxliii. 4. comfortable must it be to be persuaded that God is fully reconcileable to us, is very desirous to shew us mercy, and gladly will accept our repentance; that we have an advocate with the Father, who hath 1 Johu ii. 1, propitiated for our sins, doth mediate for our peace, hath both full power and certain will, if we sincerely do renounce our offences, wholly to remit them! so that there is therefore now no condemnation to them Rom.viii. 1. which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit; and that being justified Rom. v. 1.
I. vi. I. cii.