Page images
PDF
EPUB

most pure, substantial, and sublime. They are accompanied with the full concurrence of our rational faculties, and the decided approbation of our consciences. They engage and gratify the best and noblest affections of our souls. What strangers, then, are they to true enjoyment, what enemies to their own happiness, who seek pleasure in the paths of disobedience! How strongly should the consideration, the blissful effects of compliance with God's statutes, confirm our attachment to them, incite us to fidelity in observing them, and quicken our gratitude to their author, for having communicated them to men! Let us regard every temptation to desert our duty, as an engine to destroy our peace. Let us blush that we have so often hearkento the wiles, which lured us to rebellion. As the all-wise God has condescended to mark out for us the path of happiness, and to fence it by his awful authority; let us resolve that, in humble dependence on his grace, we will henceforth pursue it, with unremitting stedfastness and zeal. "Shew "me thy ways, O Lord! teach me thy paths. "Lead me in thy truth."* "Make me to go in "the path of thy commandments: for therein do "I delight."+ "I will run the way of thy com"mandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart."

+ Ibid. cxix. 35.

Ibid. 32.

[ocr errors]

* Psalm xxv. 4, 5.

[merged small][merged small][ocr errors]

1 THESS. V. 16.-Rejoice evermore. HAVING shewn that a willing obedience to the commandments of God is a powerful mean, and copious source of the christian's joy; we shall now endeavour to prove,

II. That his belief in the superintending providence of God, is another great and certain cause of his rejoicing.

Those ideas of the divine perfections, of which men cannot divest their minds, the consideration of our own condition, and the whole analogy of nature, furnish us with proofs, that God does not re'main an indifferent spectator of the affairs of the world but that, as he is every where present, he is continually directing every event. I mean not, however, on the present occasion, to enter into any disquisition on the certainty of a divine Providence : for though men often, but too successfully, keep it out of view in practice, they cannot reasonably deny its existence. I am merely to state to you in what respects it is a ground of rejoicing to believers.

Say, then, O christian, what would be thy feelings, wert thou to be assured that there is, in the universe, no supreme intelligent ruler; that every event is the result of mere chance; and prosperity

and adversity, only the accidental combinations of luckly and unluckly circumstances? Would not every motive to exertion vanish; hope die, and fear and perplexity harass thy soul? Or suppose that the truth lay in the opposite extreme; how would the belief of a blind fate, and uncontroulable necessity, affect thy mind? Despair and terror would seize it; and be ready to hurry thee headlong to the house of death. From these false and gloomy views of the administration of the universe, let us turn, and behold the government upon the shoulder "of "the wonderful Counsellor, the mighty God, "the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."* Let us contemplate unerring wisdom, unbounded power, impartial justice, and infinite goodness, united to order all things well! For the darkness and despondency, which attend the doctrine of fate; for the instability and perplexity created by the belief of chance; light, hope, and joy, spring up in the soul. Instead of a blind and inexorable necessity, a benign and moral government appears: instead of unknowing and capricious chance, order and design arise. Every situation, to which we may be appointed, rises in its value; and even in the worst. condition, we receive a solace from the belief, that we are not overlooked or neglected, by an all-seeing, superintendent Deity.

There are two views, in which we may contemplate divine Providence; in the prosperous, and in what are called the adverse events of life. From both, the christian may derive delight.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

If we direct our attention to prosperity, it may be thought, perhaps, that the christian enjoys the ex

Isaiah ix. 6.

ternal comforts of life, only in common with others. No; he enjoys them more than others. Prosperity comes to him, seasoned with sweets, which they taste not. Their pleasures are in meats and in drinks; in the possession of worldly reputation; and in the delights of their families and friends. But to all these he is as much sensible as they; while in his lot, there are many things comfortable, which they overlook in theirs, nay which, in theirs, cannot be discovered. Every blessing which he enjoys, is to him increased in its value, and in its power of conferring happiness, by the consideration that he receives it from the hand of his gracious creator and preserver. He views it as the free and immediate gift of Providence, nay, as a part of the purchase of his redeemer, through whom he regards all his title to divine mercies as acquired; and thus, as an earnest of richer blessings yet in store. This endears to him every temporal comfort, by stamping it with the mark of the loving kindness of " God, who giveth to all men liberally, “and upbraideth not."* This heightens his enjoyment of it, by making enjoyment a duty; and elevates his soul to praise and thanksgiving.

It is in this view of prosperity, that the inspired writers exhort us to rejoice, in receiving the bounties of Providence. "Every creature of God," saith Paul, "is good, and nothing to be refused, if "it be received with thanksgiving." "O come," exclaims the psalmist, "let us sing unto the Lord: "let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our sal"vation let us come before his presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful noise unto him,

James. i. 5.

† 1 Tim. iv, 4.

6.6

*

"with psalms. For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand."* "O that men would praise the Lord for his good. 66. ness, and for his wonderful works to the children "of men and let them sacrifice the sacrifices of 'thanksgiving; and declare his works with re"joicing."+

To confirm this sentiment of thankful joy, the only joy which duty sanctions, permit me to mention a few of the blessings of Providence, on the recollection or possession of which, christians should dwell with gratitude and delight. Go back to the commencement of your being, when you first came under the care of Providence; and bless, with thank→ ful hearts, the hand which fashioned you in the womb, and brought you safe to the light of life. Meditate, with delight, on the protection, which God afforded you in infancy, while ignorant of his care, from danger, disease, and death. Let us retrace all the way, in which he hath since led us in the world; and rejoice in the remembrance of that kindness, with which each successive step has been accompanied. How often hath he cheered us with hope, when almost overwhelmed; and made light to arise to us out of darkness! When we seemed forsaken, he, by singular combinations of circumstances, hath stirred up friends to protect, and to support us. When we were low on the bed of distress, he hath helped us by inward consolation: and as our day, so has our strength been. From perils, imminent and unforeseen, he hath frequently delivered us; and turned aside the shafts of death, that they should not come nigh us. Beside, + Ibid. cvii. 21, 22.

* Psalm xcv. I, 2, 7.

[ocr errors]

66

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »