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CONSTANT JOY IN GOD THA DUTY OF CHRIS
PHILIPPIANS, IV, 4.-Rejoice in the Lord always : and again I say, Rejoice
I The apostles took peculiar care of the Churches, which they planted, and employed many means to confirm them in their faith, preserve them from error and promote their peace, consolation and growth in grace. They either visited them personally, or wrote to them frequently and directed them to read the epistles they severally received to each oiher, that they might all derive edification and comfort from them. Paul wrote most of his epistles on some particular occasions, in order to rectify some particular error, or to guard against some particular danger, or to reprove some unchristian practice. But he seems to have written this epistle to enforce a particular duty, which all Christians were too apt to neglect; and that is the duty of rejoieing in God. He had said in the first verse of the third chapter in this epistle, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.” And recollecting what he had said before, he still thought it proper to repeat again and again the same injunction in the fourth verse of this fourth chapter, “Rejoice in the Lord always : and again I say,
1 Rejoice.” These repetitions plainly indicate, that Christians in general are very backward to perform the duty, enjoined in the text ; and that their duty of rejoicing in the Lord is not only very important, but needs to be repeatedly and forcibly inculcated upon them. Accordingly it is proposed in this discourse,
I. To consider what is implied in the duty of Chris. tians rejoicing in God always ;
II. To consider the propriety of their being required to perform this duty always ; And,
III. To consider some peculiar reasons, why they should rejoice in the Lord always.
I. Let us consider what is implied in the duty of Christians rejoicing in the Lord always. And
1. This implies that they are pleased, that God does really exist.
All mankind are naturally unwilling, that there should be a God. The foolhath said in his heart, there is no God. Every man, in a state of nature, dreads the thought of the divine existence. And though he cannot resist the weighty evidence of an eternal and self-existent Being ; yet his belief of God insiead of giving him the least pleasure, fills his mind with the same kind of fear and trembling, which ap :state spirits feel. All men naturally wish to be independent, and therefore cannot bear the thought, that there is a Being above them, who can control and dispose of them, according to his pleasure. But Christians, whose enmity to God has been slain, are willing that he should exist. It is impossible, that men should rejoice in a Being, whose existence they disbelieve and dislike. If Christians, therefore, did not believe and like the existence of Gol, they could not rejcice in him. So that their rejoicing in God implies, that they rejoice, that he now exists and always will exist, without the least variableness, or hadlow of turning.
2. The duty, enjoined upon Christians in the text, implies their rejoicing not only that God exists, but that he exists possessed of all divine excellencies and perfections. God is infinitely superior to any other and all other beings in the universe. His power, his knowledge, his wisdom and his goodness are unlimited and incomprehensible. It is the duty of Christians to rejoice, that God is the first, the greatest, the wisest and best of all beings, without the possibility of change, or becoming in the least degree mutable in the essential attributes of his nature. They ought to rejoice, that he always has been and always will be, without
the least imperfection in power, knowledge, wisdom, or goodness. For they could not rejoice in bin, if it were possible, that he should either intentionally, or unintentionally make any mistake,or use any deception.
, But they know, that he cannot deceive and cannot err, because he is immutable in bis natural & moral attributes; and there is as solid ground to rejoice in them, as to rejoice in his necessary existence. They are pleased, therefore, that he is altogether such a Being as he is.
3. Their duty, enjoined in the text, requires them to rejoice, that he formed the most wise and just and benevolent designs from eternity. They would have no reason to rejoice either in the existence, or perfections of God, if he had not immutably determined to employ all bis natural and moral attributes in promoting the greatest, the wisest and best designs. Had he never determined to act out and display his great and amiable character in the works of creation, providence and redemption, there would have been no ground or reason of rejoicing in him. Strip God of all bis wise and holy designs and we strip him of all his moral excellencies ; and when he is divested of these,
; his natural perfections lose all their lustre, and are no longer objects of complacency and delight, but only of fear and dread. To rejoice in God, therefore, implies rejoicing in all his wise and holy purposes, re. specting himself and every creature, object and event, that ever have existed, or ever will exist. Nor can Christians sincerely rejoice in God, unless they are pleased, that he is in one mind, that his counsel shall Sund and that it is as impossible, for any created being to frustrate, counteract, or defeat his purposes, as to destroy his existence. 1 may add,
4. To rejoice in God is to rejoice, that he is constantly and irresistibly carrying into effect all his original and eternal designs, or that he is working all things after the counsel of his own will - The Lord reigns, Jet the earth rejoice.” If it be desirable, that the greatest, the wisest and best of beings should govern the universe, then it is desirable, that he should direct every event & dispose of every object, just as he origiaally intended, before the foundation of the world. And Christians cannot do their duty to rejoice in God, unless they heartily rejoice in all the dispensations of his prov- . idence and grace. In all these respects, Christians are required to rejoice in God and to rejoice in him always. So runs the divine command. “Rejoice in the Lord always.” God's existence is always the same; his perfections are always the same ; his designs are always the same ; and he always governs all things according to his designs ; and therefore we must suppose the command in the text requires Christians to rejoice in the Lord, at all times, in all places and under all circumstances whatsoever. Let us now inquire,
II. Whether there be a propriety in the precept, which requires Christians to rejoice in the Lord always.
There is no question whether God may, with propriety, require men to rejoice in him sometimes ; but it may be a question, whether there be a propriety in requiring them to rejoice in him always, or at all times. He certainly requires men to mourn sometimes. Solomon says, that there is a time to weep and a time to laugh : a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Men are required “to weep with them that weep, as well as to rejoice with them that rejoice.” In Joel's day God said to his people, “ Turn ye even to me with all your heart and with fasting and with weeping and with mourning : Let the priests, the ministers of the Lord weep between the porch and the altar, and let them say, Spare thy people, O Lord and give not thine heritage to reproach.” Now, since God expressly requires men to mourn, it must unquestionably be their duty to obey this command. But how is it possible, that we should obey his command to rejoice always and yet obey his command to mourn sometimes. His command to mourn sometimes seems to forbid our rejoicing always. Where then is the propriety of the precept to rejoice always ? Certainly we have no right to call the propriety of this precept in question ; and
; of course we must believe, that it is consistent with he precept to mourn ; and that its consistency may
be known and made to appear. It cannot be denied, that there have been, from the beginning of the world to this day, thousands and millions of things, under the divine government, which are proper objects of regret sorrow and mourning. Every natural and moral evil, that has ever taken place, in any part of Gd's exiensive dominions is an object of mourning aud sorrow. The sin and misery of the fallen angels, the sin and misery of Adam and of all his posterity and all the pains and groans of the animal creation are to be regretted and lamented, as disagreeable and undesirable evils, in themselves considered. There is an essential difference between evil objects and goou objects in themselves considered. Good objects are matters of joy; and evil objects are matters of sorrow.
Holiness and happiness are good objects ; but sin and misery are evil objects. There is always a good reason to rejoice in holiness and happiness; but no good reason ever to rejoice in sin and misery. It is one thing to rejoice in God and another thing to rejoice in the holiness and happiness, which he causes to exist. And it is one thing to rejoice in God and another to rejoice, in h s introducing sin and misery into his moral system. There is always reason to rejoice, that God is what he is and does what he does. He rejoices in himself on both these accounts. i'e says, “I form the light and create darkness :
I make peace and create evil. 1, the Lord, do all these things.” Now it is easy to see a good reason to rejoice in what God is and in what he does. He is good in himself and he always acts from wise and good motives, whether he forms light, or creates darkness ; whether he makes peace, or creates evil : that is, whether he produces natural, or moral good, or whether he produces natural or moral evil. Hence there is a propriety in his requiring us to rejoice in himself always ; but there is no propriety in bis ever requiring us to mourn in himself. Nor do we find a single command to mourn in the Lord. The ground of mourning is entirely different from the ground of rejoicing in all cases.
There is ground of rejoicing in God and in all the natural and