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of the Lord are, in his estimation, the excellent of the earth, with whom he delights to enjoy communion and fellowship with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. In the concerns of life he is one who sets the Lord before him, and acts in the relations he has to fill, “as seeing Him that is invisible.” In a word, he is an object of the everlasting love of God, a subject of the grace of God, an heir of God, and a joint heir with Christ, and the Divine faithfulness is pledged, that she shall be kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation."
Theoph. Forgive me the interruption, Sir, but I cannot help saying, in the words of the Psalmist, Blessed are the people who are in such a case, yea, happy are they whose God is the Lord!"
Phil. Yes, my Theophilus, they are, and shall be for ever blessed. And to this truth even an ungodly Balaam was compelled to yield, “God hath blessed them; and I cannot reverse it.” But, let us proceed in this important subject, and take a view of the present and future pleasures and advantages of true godliness
; and, 1. The godly man has the advantage of the worldling, as he is the happy possessor of a present peace which passeth all understanding; he is taught experimentally to enjoy that promise of his divine Master, “In me ye shall have peace;” and that peace shall reign in his heart, and keep it unto life eternal. In the church, the state, the family, the world, his life and conduct, cxemplify that blessed truth, “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without par
# 1 Pet. i. 5.
tiality, and without hypocrisy.* 2. The gain of true godliness is great, if we consider what a satisfying por. tion it is. Whilst the natural man is continually crying, give, give, who will shew me any good; 'tis the Christian's
cry, “Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me!” and then,
“What others value, I resign,
3. That godliness is the greatest gain of the soul, is evident from the support it affords in times of distress and trouble. Grace can enable us to say with pious Habakkuk of old, “Although the fig-tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines, the labor of the olive shall fail, and the field shall yield no meat, the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there should be no herd in the stalls; yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation.” Should sickness prey upon the vitals, or death lay his cold hand upon the frail tenement of clay, 'tis enough, that he can say with Job, “I know that my Redeemer liveth.” A poet of our own has well described such a scene in these beautiful lines:
“Behold the heir of heav'nly bliss!
His soul is fill'd with conscious peace!
He sees the happy Canaan near.
“His mind is tranquil and serene,
No terrors in his look are seen;
And smooths his passage to the tomb."
* James ii. 17.
4. The conquests obtained by true godliness, justify the assertion of the apostle.
The laurels of a Cesar are weeds, compared with those of the man, who, strong in the power of God, is enabled to overcome sin and self, to brave the malice and rage of Satan and the world, to overcome death, and look beyond the grave, not only with resignation but with triumph.
Theoph. Thanks to my beloved Philemon for the views which he has given me of the present pleasures and advantages of godliness. I am constrained to say, “Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his!”
Phil. That wish is a commendable one, so far as it goes, but it does not go far enough. I trust, grace hath taught you to desire the life, as well as the death of the righteous; for, 'tis in vain that we wish for the holy enjoyments which are reserved in heaven for the saints of God, unless our souls are regenerated and sanctified by the Holy Spirit in the present state.
Theoph. True, my valued friend, and I trust what the Lord hath joined together, we should'not desire to separate. But, you have hitherto only taken a view of the advantages of true godliness on this side the river; the subject now calls our attention beyond the present state, and assures us that godliness hath promise of the life that is to come.
Phil. It is but very little that the best and brightest of God's people in this militant state, know of the glories of a future world, for what mortal can describe, what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath even entered into the heart of man to conceive. There is a fourfold view given us in the Scriptures of the felicities of the heavenly world, which includes all that I am capable of comprehending concerning it.
1. That the blessed inhabitants of that holy state, behold the smiling face of Jesus without a vail: hence, the apostle says, “We know, that when he shall appear, we shall be like Him, for we shall see him as he is;" and again, “They shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads.” And if it be so sweet, and sweet it is, to get a glimpse of Jesus by the eye of faith on earth, what must it be to dwell in his presence above, 2. The Scripture assures us, that, entire conformity to the holy image of Jesus, is another blessed privilege of the saints in light. So long as we are in this vale of misery, we shall more or less be the subjects of sorrow, because we still bear about with us a body of sin and death; every sigh we breathe, and every pang we feel, remind us that this is not our rest, because it is polluted, but, there the blessed inhabitant will no more say I am sick, and the people who dwell there shall have all their 'sins forgiven, and done away
3. We are taught by the sacred record, that happiness without mixture and without measure, is the portion of the church above. They shall be eternally satisfied when they awake up in the likeness of their Lord: and, 4. What crowns the whole is, that inconceivable happiness of which they are admitted to partake in the presence of the Lamb, shall never know an end. “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat, for the Lamb in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them to fountains of living waters; and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes."* "And so, saith the apostle, shall we be for ever with the Lord.”
Theoph. Blessed declaration! and well might that highly favored servant of the Lord, add, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words." Oh, for more of that soul-refreshing presence of our Redeemer, which is the sure earnest of blessing's so great and so undeserved.
Phil. To that prayer, my inmost heart says, Amen! And now, my Theophilus, even from the faint sketch of the godly man's character and comforts, does it not evidently appear, that he alone is the estimable and happy man, who has through Divine grace attained the blessed art of walking humbly with his God; though in a changing world his heart is steadfast trusting in the Lord, he seeks peace and pursues it; and while the giddy herd of empty professors, are perpetually on the wing after something new, and frequently embitter their days, by drinking into an angry and self-important spirit, he possesses an holy indifference to the Shibboleths of party rage, and like a deep river glides smoothly and silently along, following the example of his divine Master.f His delight is to do good unto all men, but especially to the whole household of faith, looking for the mercy of God unto life eternal, not as a profitable servant, but as a pardoned sinner. Thus, my Theophilus, may we go forward, until
is consummated in glory, until we meet to part no more, to “be. hold the King in his beauty, and eternally enjoy that land, which is yet afar off.”
* Rev. vii. 16, 17.
f 1 Pet. ii. 21.