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Does the law of God, then, prescribe those duties of devotion, of which he himself is the immediate object? And in acts of devotion, does not the soul approach that being, in whose“
presence is fuiness “ of joy ?"* It meditates on all his excellence. It desires his favour, protection, and blessing. It esteems, loves, and confides in him. It delights in his benignity; enjoys a grateful sense of his loving kindness; and feels what the psalmist enjoins : “Let all those that put their trust in thee rejoice: “ let them ever shout for joy, because thou defend“est them: let them also that love thy name be “ ' joyful in thee.”+ You cannot contemplate infinite beauty, without desire ineffable; and infinite goodness, without receiving delight unmingled. You cannot unite your song with the praises of the spirits of heaven, without feeling a portion of their transports; or draw near to the fountain of life, without tasting of those rivers of pleasure, which make glad the city of our God.
If, from the sublime exercises of devotion, we descend to the common duties, which man is required to discharge to man; how good, and how pleasant also are they? Good will to men is the first fruit of love to God: and, like the stock whence it springs, it is lovely to the eye, and sweet to the taste, Who can indulge benevolence, or perform offices of kindness, without nourishing good humour, strengthening a placid temper, and gratifying the sweetest affections of the soul? without endearing ourselves to mankind, and enjoying the consciousness of growing in resemblance to him, who “ maketh his sun to rise on the evil, and on Psalm xvi. 11:
of Ibid. v. 11.
“ the good; and sendeth rain on the just; and on s the unjust ?** Who can forgive injuries, without possessing the pleasing approbation of his own mind, and that serenity, which attends deliverance from the gnawings of animosity and revenge? without feeling himself an object of divine mercy; agreeably to the assurance of our Lord; “ If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly fa
will also forgive you.”+ Who can cherish the outgoings of complacency toward the prosperous, or, as it is expressed in scripture," rejoice with * them that rejoice,"without receiving delight, superior to that of those whom we congratulate? We thereby make the success of our neighbours our own, and moreover, to his enjoyment, add that of the approbation of our own minds. Who can go, even to the house of mourning, with a charitable intent to “ weep with them that weep,"s without feeling a tender pleasure? We thereby cherish a right temper of mind: we sooth our souls to resignation, and elevate them to gratitude: we receive the blessing of him that is ready to perish: and the consolations, which we administer, are reflected, with tenfold power, upon ourselves.
If we descend farther to those laws which respect our conduct and government as individuals; what is temperance, but a continual feast? Those passions, whose incessant cravings prey on the natural constitution, and whose indulgence ruins it, are subdued; and this is health. Every thing that can disorder the mind is removed: and this is tranquillity. The restless desire of more is extinguished; this is contentment: and contentment raises
7 Ibid. vi. 14. * Rom. xii. 15. § Ibid. xii. 15.
* Matt. V. 45
the cottage to a palace; swells the little store to ample treasure, and transforms the homely fare to luxury. Is victory pleasant? then is it not just subject of joy and triumph, to subdue our evil appetites and passions? Is it flattering to excel others ? It is surely more delightful to improve in temperance and knowledge; and thus to excel ourselves. Is empire desirable? the noblest, most pleasant, and profitable sway, is to govern our own minds.
But, lastly, on this particular, the obedience of God's commandments is a source of joy, from its being an evidence of his favour and friendship.
Whether we reflect on the nature of God, and on the dependent condition of man; or examine the express declarations of holy writ, we shall be led to this conclusion, that, on the part of the Creator, there can be no condition or stipulation, to bind him; and that, in the creature, there can be no merit, and consequently no claim. From this it is evident, that our obedience to the commandments of God is not the procuring cause of his favour: and that we ought not to rejoice in it, nay, cannot draw from it any well-founded satisfaction, when considered in such a light. Nevertheless, what is not a cause may be a concomitant, or effect: and what is not the reason, may yet be the evidence of our state. Now,“ without holiness, no
man shall see the Lord :"* and with respect to " the righteous, it shall be well with him.”+ Yet it is affirmed, that " without Christ, we can do no
thing:"I and our consciences are no sooner enlightened, than they compel us to confess, “ that in us dwelleth no good thing.") The true and + Isaiah iii. 10.
John xv. 5.
$ Rom. vii, 18.
Heb. xii. 14.
scriptural view, therefore, of obedience to God's law is, that it is the work of his Spirit: and as such, both reason and scripture must teach us to account it an expression of his favour, and a part of his salvation. Accordingly, it is written, that those who are born to newness of life, are “ born, not of blood, “ nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, “ but of God ;'* that “ the sons of God are led by “ his spirit;"† and that “ the love of God is shed * abroad in our hearts, by the Holy Ghost, which “ is given unto us."! And obedience is not only begun, it is also maintained and improved, by influences from above. The faithful “ work out their
salvation; because it is God who worketh in them, “ both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” And therefore are we exhorted to " come boldly to “ the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, " and find grace to help in time of need."| To crown all, the grace, which is administered to renew and support, is never withdrawn: and the obedience, which results from it, shåll certainly be perfected. For the holy oracles inform us, that “ the gifts and calling of God are without repent
ance;” and “ that he, who hath begun a good “ work in his people, will perform it, until the day “ of Jesus Christ.”** Now, in this view of obedience to the law of God, what comfort and joy is it not calculated to yield ? It is the work of God on our souls: a certain evidence that he loves us, and will love us to the end. For “ he that keepeth the commandments of God, dwelleth in God, and
#Rom. v.5. | Heb. iv. 16. ** Phil, i. 6. + Rom. viii. 14. S Phil. ii. 12, 13.
s Rom, xi. 29.
. John i. 13.
"God in him: and hereby we know that he abid" eth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.'
What danger, then, or malice can we fear; what trouble or discontent can we reasonably feel ; when we are assured of the friendship of the greatest, and wisest, and best of beings? Is his power almighty? it is the protection and support of them that fear him. Is his wisdom a great deep? it is exerted to order aright all things that concern them. Are the treasures of his goodness infinite ? of “his fulness “ do they all receive, and grace for grace.”+ To love him, who is the source of perfection, is a privilege inestimable, and a joy unspeakable: but to have the assurance of his love is indeed a pleasure, which passeth understanding. Well, then, might the psalmist say, that " he should not be ashamed, “ when he had respect unto all the commandments “ of God.”I With him, let-us“ rejoice at God's
word, as those that find great spoil :”s and since " the Lord is the strength of our life,"|| let us fear no evil.
Christians! Does respectable testimony influence your opinions? Do you eagerly attend to the experience of others, as a guide of conduct? You have the express testimony of scripture, and the uniform experience of the saints, that the way of God's commandments is the way of pleasantness, and that the paths of these, are the paths of peace. Neither is that testimony mere assertion; nor that experience the result of enthusiasm. The nature of things, and every principle of right reason, unite to shew us, that the joys of the divine law, are joys 1 John iii. 24. t John i. 16. ^ Psalm czix. 6. § Ibid. 162. [ Ibid. xxvii, I.