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us? Can we think this is a tolerable evil, or suffer with patience such a distemper of spirit ? Methinks it should make us even weary of ourselves, and solicitous for an effectual, speedy redress.
The redress must be more in our own doing, (striving with our souls and our God for them) than in what any man can say. Most of the considerations under that foregoing rule, are with little variation applicable to this present purpose. I shall here annex only some few subordinate directions; which may lead us into this blessed state of life, and give us some joyful fore-tastes of the future blessedness, according as our spirits shall comply with them. But expect not to be cured by prescriptions, without using them; or that heavenly joy can be the creature of mortal, unregarded breath; we can only prescribe means and methods through which God may be pleased to descend, and in which thou art diligently to insist and wait. And because I cannot well suppose thee ignorant, where much is said to this purpose; I shall therefore say little.
[1.] Possess thy soul with the apprehension, that thou art not at liberty in this matter? but that there is a certain spiritual delectation, which is incumbent on thee as indispensable duty. Some, whose moroser tempers do more estrange them from delights, think themselves more especially concerned, to banish every thing of that kind from their religion, and fancy it only to consist in sour and righteous severities. Others seem to think it arbitrary and indifferent; or that, if they live in a continual sadness and dejection of spirit, it is only their infelicity, not their fault; and apprehend not the obligation that is upon them by a divine law, otherwise to manage and order their spirits. But what then, Are such words thought to be spoken at random, Her ways are ways of pleasantness. Prov. 3. 17. The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance. Psal. 16. 5. The lines are fallen to me in pleasant places, (or, in the midst of pleasantness, as the expression hath been noted to signify ?) Do such precepts carry no sense with them; Delight thyself in the Lord. Psal. 37. 4. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; Phil. 4. 4. with many more? Do all passages of this kind in Scripture stand for cyphers, or were they put in them by chance? Is there such a thing as an aptitude to delectation in our natures; and doth the sanctification thereof entitle the joy of saints to a place among the fruits of the Spirit; (Gal. 5. 22.) and yet is the exercise of it to have no place in their hearts and practice? Do not think you are permitted so to extinguish or frustrate so considerable a principle of the divine life. Know, that the due exercise of it is a part of the order and discipline of God's family: that it is a constitution of the divine goodness and wisdom both to cherish his own, and invite in strangers to Yea, that is the scope and aim of the whole gospel reveVOL. 1.
lation, that what is discovered to us of the word of life, was purposely written to draw souls unto fellowship with the Father and Son, that their joy might be full; (1 John 1. 4.) that the ministers of this gospel are therefore styled the helpers of their joy. 2 Cor. 1. 24. Therefore, though here it be not required por allowed, that you should indulge a vain, trifling levity, or a sensual joy, or that you should rejoice you know not why, (imitating the laughter of a fool,) or inopportunely, when your state admits it not, or when the Lord calls to mourning; yet settle however this persuasion in your hearts, that the serious, rational, regular, seasonable exercise of delight and joy is matter of duty, to be charged upon conscience, from the authority of God; and is an integral part in the religion of christians. And then sure you will not think any object more proper and suitable for it to be exercised upon, than the foreseen state of blessedness, which is in itself a fulness of joy ; (Psal. 16. 11.) the joy of our Lord. Mat. 25. 21. And is, in the pre-apprehensions of it, a more considerable matter of joy than our present state affords us beside ; and without relation whereto we have no matter of rational joy at all.
[2.] Keep faith in exercise; both in that act of it which persuades the soul of the truth of the gospel revelation, and that act of it which unites it to God through the Mediator. The apostle prays on the behalf of his Roman christians, that they might be filled with joy and peace in believing; (Rom. 15. 13.) and we are told, how effectually (as to this) it supplied the place of sight.
Such as had not seen Christ, (which was the privilege of many other christians of that time,) yet believing, did rejoice with joy unspeakable and glorious. 1 Pet. 1. 8. Faith directly tends, in that double office before-mentioned, to excite and foment this joy. As it assents to the truth of the gospel revelation, it realizes the object, is the substance and evidence of the invisible glory. Heb. 11. 1. As it unites the soul with God through Christ, in a fiducial and obediential closure, it ascertains our interest therein, and is our actual acceptance of our blessedness itself; for when we take God through Christ to be our God, what is it, but to accept him as our eternal and satisfying portion, whom we are after fully to enjoy, in the vision and participation of his glorious excellencies and infinite sulness? Which two acts of faith we have mentioned together in one text,—they were persuaded of the promises, and embrace them; the former respecting the truth of the promises, the latter the goodness of the thing promised. And hereupon they confessed themselves (as it follows) pilgrims and strangers on earth ; which abdication of the earth as none of their country, could not be, but that through their faith they had a joyous pre-apprehension of that better state. That confession did manifestly involve in it a lively joy, springing from the sight and embrace of that more taking, distant good which the promise presented them with ; whence they could not think it enough, to be such to themselves in their own thoughts and the temper of their minds ; but they cannot forbear (so overcoming were their sights and tastes) to give it out, so speak, and look, and live, as those that were carried up in their spirits above this earth, and who did even disdain to own themselves in any other relation to it than that of foreigners and strangers.
Set thy faith on work, soul, and keep it at work, and thou wilt find this no riddle; it will be so with thee too; we have much talk of faith among us, and have the name often in our mouths, but how few are the real lively believers ? Is it to be thought that such blessedness should not more affect our hearts ; nay would it not ravish away our very souls, did we thoroughly believe it? And were it our present daily work, to renew the bonds of a vital union with the blessed God, in whom we expect to be blessed forever, could that be without previous gusts of pleasure ? It is not talking of faith but living by it, that will give us the experience of heavenly delights and joys.
[3.] Take heed of going in thy practice against thy light; of persisting in a course of known or suspected sin, that states thee in a direct hostility and rebellion against heaven; and can never suffer thee to think of eternity and the other world with comfort; will fill thy mind with frightful apprehensions of God, render the sight of his face the most terrible thing to thy thoughts thou canst imagine ; and satisfaction with his likeness the most impossible thing. Let a good understading and correspondence, be continued between God and thee, (which is not possible, if thou disobeyest the dictates of thy conscience, and takest the liberty to do what thou judgest God hath forbidden thee) that this may be thy rejoicing; the testimony of a good conscience; that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not according to fleshy wisdom, but by the grace of God thou hast had thy conversation. Take God for a witness of thy ways and walkings; approve thyself to his jealous eye; study to carry thyself acceptably towards him, and unto all well pleasing. Let that be thy ambition, to stand right in his thoughts, to appear gracious in his eyes. Hold fast thine integrity, that thy heart may not reproach thee as long as thou livest. If iniquity be in thy hand, put it away; then shalt thou lift up thy face without spot and without fear. Be a faithful subject of that kingdom of God, (and here conscience rules under him,) which consists first in righteousness, and then in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Thou wilt, so, daily behold the face of God in righteousness and with pleasure ; but wilt most of all please thyself to think of thy final appearance, before him, and the blessedness that shall ensue.
[4.] Watch and arm thyself against the too forcible strokes
and impressions of sensible objects. Let not the savour of such low, vile things corrupt the palate of thy soul. A sensual, earthly mind and heart cannot taste heavenly delights; they that are after the flesh do savour the things of the flesh; they that are after the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. Labor, to be thoroughly mortified towards this world and the present state of things. Look upon this scene and pageant as passing away ; (1 Cor. 7. 31. 1 John. 2. 17.) keep natural appetites under restraint, (the world and the lusts of it pass away together :) sensuality is an impure thing. Heavenly, refined joy cannot live amidst so much filth. Yea, and if thou give thy flesh liberty too far in things that are (in specie) lawful it will soon get advantage to domineer and keep thy soul in a depressing servitude. Abridge it then, and cut it short, that thy mind may be enlarged and at liberty, may not be thronged and prepossessed with carnal imaginations and affections, “Let thy soul” (if thou wilt take this instruction from a heathen, Max. Tyr. in disser. si oi déos xard II átwvos on the nature of the gods according to Plato,) “look with a constant erect mind into the undefiled light, neither darkened nor borne down towards the earth ; but stopping its ears, and turning its eyes and all other senses back upon itself; and quite abolishing out of itself, all earthly sighs, and groans, and pleasures and glories and honors and disgrace; and having forsaken all these, choose for the guides of its way, true reason and strong love, the one whereof will shew it the way, the other make it easy and pleasant.”
[5.] Having voided thy mind of what is earthly and carnal, apply and turn it to this blessed theme. The most excellent and the vilest objects are alike to thee, while thou mindest them not. Thy thoughts possibly bring thee in nothing but vexation and trouble, which would bring in as soon joy and pleasure, didst thou turn them to proper objects. A thought of the heavenly glory is as soon thought of as an earthly cross.
We complain the world troubles us; then what do we there? Why get we not up, in our spirits, into the quieter region? What trouble would the thoughts of future glory be to us? How are thoughts and wits set on work for this flesh ? But we would have our souls flourish as the lilies, without any thing of their
Yea, we make them toil for torture, and not for joy, revolve an affliction a thousand times before and after it comes, and have never done with it, when eternal blessedness gains not a thought.
[6.] Plead earnestly with God for his Spirit. This is joy in the lloly Ghost; or whereof he is the author. Many christians ( as they must be called) are such strangers to this work of imploring and calling in the blessed Spirit, as if they were capable of adopting these words, we have not so much as heard whether there be a Holy Ghost. That name is with them as an empty
sound, How hardly are we convinced of our necessary dependance on that free Spirit, as to all our truly spiritual operations ? This Spirit is the very earnest of our inheritance. The foretastes and first fruits we have here of the future blessedness, the joy and pleasure, the complacential relishes we have of it before-hand, are by the gracious vouchsafement and work of this blessed Spirit. The things that eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, are revealed by this Spirit. Therefore doth the apostle direct his prayer on the behalf of the Ephesians, to the Father of this glory that he would give this Spirit of wisdom and revelation-to enlighten the eyes of their understanding, that they might know the hope of his calling, and the riches of the glory of his inheritance in (or among) the saints. Eph. 1. 18. And its revelation is such as begets an impression; in respect whereof, it is said also, to seal up to the day of redemption. Therefore pray earnestly for this Spirit; not in idle, dreaming words of course, but as being really apprehensive of the necessity of prevailing : and give not over till thou find that sacred fire diffusing itself through thy mind and heart, to enlighten the one and refine the other, and so prepossess both of this glory, that thy soul may be all turned into joy and praise. And then let me add here, (without the formality of a distinct head) that it concerns thee to take heed of quenching that Spirit, by either resisting or neglecting its holy dictates or, as the same precept is otherwise given, of grieving the Spirit : he is by name and office the Comforter. The primitive christians, it is said, walked in the fear of God, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost. Is it equal dealing, to grieve him whose business it is to comfort thee? Or canst thou expect joy where thou causest grief? Walk in the Spirit; adore its power. Let thy soul do it homage within thee. Wait for its holy influences, and yield thyself to its ducture and guidance ; so wilt thou go as the redeemed of the Lord, with everlasting joy upon thy head till thou enter that presence, where is fulness of joy and pleasures for evermore.
Nor do thou think it improper or strange, that thou shouldst be called upon to rejoice in what thou dost not yet possess. Thy hope is instead of fruition; it is an anticipated enjoyment. We are commanded to rejoice even in the hope ; (Rom. 12. 12.) and saints have professed to do so, to rejoice even in the hope of the glory of God. Rom. 5. 2. Nor is it unreasonable that should be thy present highest joy. For though yet it be a distant thing, and indistinctly revealed, the excellency of the object makes compensation for both, with an abundant surplusage. As any one would much more rejoice to be assured by a great person, of ample possessions he would make him his heir to, (though he knew not distinctly what they should be,) than to see a shilling, already his own, with his own eyes.