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institution, Mat. xviii. 20. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." Shall we ndt gladly embrace such opportunities, as those who have ardent desires to meet our blessed Lord?
8. In strong desires after the nearest and fullest enjoyment of him in heaven. Indeed the belief of his love to us, may justly make a Christian satisfied to stay his Master's time for this: but a true love to him can hardly consist with an absolute contentment to be here always in this state of separation, or of very imperfect and inconstant enjoyment: no, there will be aspirings to be with him where he is, as far better than any thing of earth, or even than the most of God, and Christ, and heaven, that is to be enjoyed upon earth. Want, or weakness of affection to Christ is the ordinary reason, why that is the temper of so few Christians in our time, which the apostle declares to have been his own, 2 Cor. v. 8. "Willing rather to be absent from the body, and present with the Lord."
Now it will be our wisdom impartially to examine our love to Christ, the sincerity or the strength of it, by such plain scripture marks as these. It is not our calling him Lord, Lord, without these practical and genuine expressions of a sincere and supreme value for him, that will either secure his acknowledgement of us at the great day, or rise up to joy unspeakable now.
REJOICING IN CHRIST.
1 PET. i. 8.
JP'hom, having not seen, ye love : in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
WO branches of the Christian disposition toward the
blessed Jesus, have been particularly discoursed of from
this passage; believing in him, and love to him. One yet remains to be considered.
III. REJOICING in Christ; which as well as the other, is affirmed here by the apostle, to have been the frame of the primitive Christians. “In whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of lory.” g o, in him is an advance upon our faith and love. It imorts a rest and satisfaction of mind, upon the apprehension we have of his real excellence, and of the benefits accruing to us by him. The word used in another place, Phil. iii. 8. to express this temper, zauxāşal, signifies to glory, or triumph. in Christ: and so our translators render it, in Gal. vi. 14. “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of Christ.” The apostle observes of the Jews, that they “rested in the law, the Mosaical law, and they made their boast of God,” Rom. ii. 17. The same word is there used; they gloried in God; that is, they gloried in their visible relation to God, as eminently their God, beyond what he was to the heathen world, by virtue of the covenant of peculiarity made with
their nation, upon their consent to observe the law of Moses, Exod. xix. These Christians on the other hand, of whom the apostle speaks in the text, upon their conversion from Judaism to Christianity, gloried and rejoiced in Christ, as opening the way to a more distinguishing relation to God, than that to which the Jewish nation was admitted by virtue of the Mosaical covenant. They esteemed Christ to bring glad tidings of greater joy than Moses did, to be more full of grace and truth; and therefore rejoiced in him, as having found the best treasure. The two characters given of their joy, intimate the high degree of it. It was joy unspeakable, more than they could express; they could hardly apprise others what a joy they felt. And it was full of glory. The word exactly rendered, is glorified joy; it was akin to the joy felt by those in the glorified state. But it may be said, though these primitive believers thus rejoiced in Christ, is this to be esteemed a necessary part of every true Christian's character 2 I answer, The gospel gives reason to all who entertain it for such a high degree of joy; certainly it may be attained, and is a frame fit to be aspired at by all Christians, since it is left upon record, as the actual character of these primitive examples. But I am far from thinking it in such a large measure, to be an essential character of a Christian. And yet a prevalence of this temper, as well as of faith and love, must be understood as a discriminating mark of every sincere Christian: for so St Paul represents it, Phil. iii. 3. “We are the
circumcision, (the true people of God,) which worship God *
in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus.” I shall therefore consider, 1. The grounds which a Christian has for joy in Christ. And, 2. How far it may be esteemed the necessary temper of every true Christian. And then make some reflections. First, I am to consider the grounds, which a Christian has for rejoicing in Christ. And upon this head I would observe, that, 1. The gospel revelation furnishes the materials of his joy. 2dly, His faith in that revelation is the principle of his joy. 3dly, The efficacy of his faith, as working by love, gives him ground for still a more special joy.
I. The gospel-revelation furnishes the materials of his joy;
the good news, the glad tidings contained in the blessed gospel. For instance,
1. The kind and gracious design upon which Jesus came into the world. One, which had the most comfortable aspect upon mankind, of any thing' which was ever manifested since the apostacy. It was to testify the good will of an offended God toward men, and to open a way for the free communication of it; which was accordingly proclaimed at his birth by the heavenly host, Luke ii. 14. "God sent his Son not to condemn the world as our guilty fears might have surmised, if notice had been given of his approach, without any account of the design of it; "but that through him the world might be saved," John iii. 17- "To seek and save them that were lost," Luke xix. 10. And not only such as had been guilty of less offences, but even the "chief of sinners," 1 Tim. i. 15. "To save them from their sins themselves," Mat. i. 21. "And from the wrath to come," due upon that account, 2 Thess. i. 10.
What a subject of joy is this! considering the greatness of the evils in which we were involved, and to which we were farther liable. We were alienated from God, under the sentence of condemnation, ready to fall into the hands of the living God. And at the same time we were utterly unable to help ourselves. We had destroyed ourselves; but in God alone, if any where, our help must be found. We could neither resist his Almighty vengeance, nor atone his just displeasure. All other ways which carried an air of relief, were insufficient to reach their end. There were sacrifices under the law to put away sin; but they were not sufficient to purify, as pertaining to the conscience. "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldst not, (says the Son of God :) Then I said, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God," Heb. x. 5, 7- And yet when this grace was intended us, we were altogether unworthy of any instance of compassion; and therefore have the more abundant reason to rejoice, that notwithstanding that, a saving design is set on foot.
2. The capacity and fitness of Jesus to accomplish this gracious design, is a farther ground of joy in him. "Help, is laid upon one mighty to save, able to save to the uttermost all those that come unto God by him."
The constitution of his person admirably qualified him for this province. The dignity of his divine nature ennobled his offering, so that "the church was fully redeemed by his blood," Acts xx. 28. By his having been in the bosom of the Father, he was every way furnished to reveal him, his will and grace to the world, John i. 18. On the other hand, by his condescending to be made flesh, "he had wherewith to offer," Heb. viii. 3. A body was prepared him, that he might "bear our sins in his own body on the tree." By the same means, when he became our instructor, the terrors which must have seized us, had God himself in his glory spoke to us, were prevented. And his government is become more suitable, as he is "bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh."
The full commission which he received to be our Mediator, enters into Ids capacity to be a Saviour. None but God our ruler and judge, could authorise and make valid any expedient For our relief: he might have insisted on our bearing in our own persons, the punishment we had deserved. It is therefore matter of great joy, that he hath commissioned the Saviour, sent him on the errand, and laid himself under engagements, that when he should make his soul an offering for sin, he should see his seed.
The furniture and qualifications of his human nature for the performance of his undertaking, are a most grateful discovery of his meetness: that he was " holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners and that he received the most perfect unction of the Holy Spirit; for "such an high priest became us," Heb. vii. 2(3.
He was invested in all the offices, which our condition required. That of a prophet, to relieve our ignorance: of a priest, to remove our guilt: and of a king, to subdue our enmity, and by his power to overcome the many enemies of our souls. By his priestly office to procure our salvation, in his prophetical to reveal it, and by his regal to confer it.
This is a foundation of joy, that a person is sent to be the Saviour, who was fully capable of the province.
3. The several parts of his work in prosecution of this design, one way or other subserve it, and so may heighten the Christian's joy. By his doctrine he acquainted us with the counsel of God, explained the spirituality and perfection of his law, introduced a more reasonable service, and opened a door of hope for us, sinners of the Gentiles. By his holy and use