Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAPTER XII.

IN WHAT THE TRUE HAPPINESS OF MAN CONSISTS.

• Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole honour, interest, privilege, duty, and happiness of man.

For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” All that truly concerns man, as a being formed for immortality, is reducible to this : every thing else is accessory, fleeting, perishing. I observe,

I. That the happiness of man consists in the knowledge, love, fear, and favour of God. Before we can love and fear God, we must know him as he has revealed himself in his word. The object of our adoration and homage must be the true God, and not an imaginary Deity, the mere creation of superstitious dread. The design of the plan of redeeming mercy made known in the Gospel, is to exhibit the character of God in a light calculated to produce penitence and love in the heart of man; and to restore him to true happiness, by restoring him to the favour and friendship of him who is its fountain. To know and to love God in this character of redeeming mercy in which he reveals himself, is to possess happiness; since we are thus put in the possession of that which will relieve our fears, raise our hopes, and give us peace in believing that God is reconciled

to us, and that this God will be our God for ever and ever. If life eternal consist in knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, then such a view of his character and glory as transforms us into his moral image, as produces hatred to sin as the greatest evil, and a supreme delight and satisfaction in God as the chief portion, must fcrun a part of our chief good.

The happiness to which the believer is introduced on earth, though only an earnest of unmingled goo! in heaven, is a joy unspeakable and full of glory; perienced in communion with God; in a deliverance from the wrath which abideth on the children of dis. obedience; in the pardon of all sin; in his adoption into the family of the redeemed ; and in his being kept by a power that will never fail him. This power, working by the word and the providence of the Saviour, does not, indeed, make him indifferent to all outward things, but renders him superior to them, and forsakes him not till it has fitted up for him, amid the splendours of immortality, a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. If it be happiness to know that all the attributes of God are exercised for him—that all events are working together for his good-that angels are sent forth to minister unto him that sin will finally and for ever be subdued in him,--and that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, he has a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens then does this happiness belong to the disciple of the Lord Jesus.

II. The happiness of man consists not only in

enjoying God in all the manifestations of his presence in Christ, but in obeying him. « Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” The moment a moral and intelligent being casts off the authority of God, he departs from real good; he becomes guilty, and consequently miserable. Nor is it possible to escape this misery without returning to obedience. Hence the design of the gospel is to recall men from their wanderings, and to bring them to a cordial acquiescence in the will of God, as well as cheerful submission to it. Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. The purification which he works inwardly by his Spirit is as necessary as the atonement which he made for sin by the sacrifice of himself; nor can there be peace and satisfaction experienced but in connexion with holiness and moral excellence.

When we possess this holiness of our nature arising from the knowledge, faith, and love of God, in Christ Jesus, we have the true happiness of man, even the happiness of heaven, begun: and it is of little consequence what share we possess of the riches, pleasures, and honours that are but of momentary duration. The sources of our great and eternal felicity, are independent of our poverty or wealth, our obscurity or eminence, our learning or our ignorance, our worldly disappointments or successes. Is not our happiness secure in having God for our portion, in enjoying all the blessings of his salvation, in being made meet for the everlasting kingdom which YOL. II.

2 M

he has prepared for us, and which we have the hope of so soon entering, in the certainty that no calamities can essentially injure us, that no enemies can prevail against us? Is not he the happy man who can stand on the confines of both worlds with tranquillity, and say, in the confidence of christian hope,“ henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me, and not to me only, but unto all them also who love his

appearing ?” Of what avail to me are all the sources of enjoyment to which man during his perishable existence has recourse; and what are to me all the ills which he fears !-" For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

III. The complete happiness of man will be found in the world to come. God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be bad. After surveying all the things done under the sun-after we have seen the utter incompetency of human wisdom, and of human means, of wealth, and power, and honour, to give ample and satisfactory enjoyment,-after we have observed, as we suppose, the very unequal distribution of good and evil,—the righteous suffering under poverty and oppression, and manifold calamities, and the wicked largely sharing of the good things of this life, we are referred for an adjustment of the matter to a judgment to come, in which God will apportion to

66

every one according to his character and works. I iş .while looking to this day of unalterable decision, and to the eternity beyond it, that we can emphati, cally pronounce a life of worldliness, with all its greatness and its enjoyments, to be a life of vanity, and terminating in everlasting misery. In what light will such a life appear on reflection, when the Judge of all shall sit upon his throne, and before him shall be gathered all nations; when the books shall be opened, and he shall adduce all the events illustrative of the principles and character of each?—" Rejoice, then, O young man, in thy youth; and let thine heart cheer thee in the days of thy youth; and walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes : but know thou that for all these things God will bring thee into judgment.”

In what light also will a life of faith on the Son of God, of righteousness, and godliness, appear on that great day? It will then be regarded as the only true wisdom, as the only felicity that has survived the wreck of all things, and which will endure through eternity. Then shall the righteous shine as the sun in the kingdom of their Father: the light of their full enjoyment shall never more be clouded, while God shall be their glory, and the days of their mourning shall be ended. The vanity and vexation of spirit, necessarily connected with all that is peculiar to the present state, shall no longer exist; whatever is ad. verse, whatever is defective, whatever is mysterious, in the scene through which we are passing, shall then for ever be removed. They shall hunger no more neither tbirst any more, neither shall the sun light on

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »