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Happiness in the next; for these light Afflictions 2 Cor. 4. (as St. Paul tell us) which endure but for a 37. Moment, do work for us a far more exceeding
weight of Glory.
This, then, is the joy that we are to endeavour after in the Firit Place, To be con ftantly well-pleas'd and contented with our present Condition, whatever it be; and these are the Ways to attain to it.
But, Secondly, There is another more particular Notion of Rejoicing, and which, I conceive, Solomon doth chiefly intend in the Words of the Text; and that is, The free and comfortable Enjoyment of the good Things of this Life, that God hath blessed us with, in Opposition to a pinching and penurious way of Living. This, I say, seems to be the Notion of Rejoicing that the Text speaks of, as appears by the following Verse. Solomon having told us in the Text, That there is nothing better for a Man than to Rejoice and do Good; he adds, by way of Explication of what he meant by Rejoicing, these Words, That every Man should eat and drink, and enjoy the Good of all his Labours, for it is the Gift of God. And frequently in this Book of Éccleşaftes, doth he persuade to this kind of Rejoicing. Thus in Chap. 2. ver. 24. There is nothing better for a Man, than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his Soul enjoy Good in his Labour ; this also I saw it was from the Hand of God. And in Chap. 5., ver, 18. Behold that which I have seen, it is good and comely for one to eat and drink, and to enjoy the
Good of all his Labours that he taketh under the Sun of all the Days of his Life, which God giveth him, for it is his Portion. And in Chap. 6. ver. 1, 2. he represents it as a great Evil that he hath seen ander the Sun, and yet such an Evil that is common among Men, that a Man to whom God hath given Riches, and Wealth, and Honour, lo that he wanteth nothing for his Soul, of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not poiver to eat thereof, but a Stranger eateth it; this (faith he) is Vanity and an evil Disease.
And there is certainly great Reason in what he saith; 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 En. joyment of Ourselves and Friends; for the refreshing us under the Toil that this Life doth expose us to; for the promoting Acquaintance and Society, and the rendring our Condition as 'easie 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 so pitiable.
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 God fo 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 H 2
See Deut.the Law and the Gospel. The Jews, by the 16.
Appointment of God himself, were to meet every Year, Three Times at Jerusalem, the Capital City of the Nation, to Feast and to Rejoice before the“ Lord, as we have it in the express Words of Moses. And the Christians for near Two hundred Years after our Saviour, had their Agape, their Feafts of Charity, wherein they met together, both Poor and Rich, to Enjoy and make Merry; one with another. It is true, these Feafts were at length left off by common Consent, because there grew Abuses in them; they be. came Occasions of Luxury and Excess; and so Matters of Scandal to our Religion. But this was not an ill Reflexion upon the thing itself, which was Innocent and Commendable, but upon the Abuse of the Thing: A good and laudable Institution was perverted to evil Purposes. However, this very Consideration ought to make us very careful of our Carriage and Behaviour in these our Meetings, left we fall under the fame Inconveniencies: Which, that we may prevent, Two Things are especially needful, to be taken Care of by us ;
First, That we do not exceed the Bounds of Rejoicing, prescribed to Christians; that is, that we avoid all Excess, and use the Crea. tures of God soberly and temperately, so as to give Offence to none, nor to make Provision for the Flesh, to fulfil the Lufts thereof.
And, Secondly, That we take care to per. form and make good the Ends and Designs of these Feasts 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 fol. lowing:
First, That we Rejoice before the Lord, that is, that we make our humble Acknowledgments, and return our due Prạises 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 bis 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.
The Second End of these Feafts, is, To take occasion from hence to learn our Duty, to be instructed in 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, I suppose, pursued by us in our chusing this Place to assemble in.
A Third End of these Feasts (as the same 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 ferves 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, at the Solemn Feasts of the Jews, Exod. 23. was to appear before the Lord empty; He was
to bring his offering, not only to God by way of Recognition and Acknowledgement 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 faid, Thou fhalt rejoice in thy Feast, thou and thy Son, and thy Daughter, thy Man-fervant, and thy Maid-servant, the Levite and the 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.. 100: Good in them, but for a Man to Rejoice and 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