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The advanced Christian reminded of the Mercies of God, and exhorted to the Exercises of habitual Love to Him, and Joy in Him.
An holy Joy in God, our Privilege as well as our Duty, §. I. The Christian invited to the Exercise of it; §. 2. (1.) By the Representation of Temporal Mercies, §. 3. Q2.) By the Consideration of Spiritual Favours, §.4. (J.) By the Views of Eternal Happiness; §. 5. And, (4.) Of the Mercies of God to others, the Living and the Dead, §. G. The Chapter closes with an Exhortation to this heavenly Exercise, §. 7. and with an Example of the genuine Workings of this grateful Joy in God.
§. 1. iL WOULD now suppose my reader to find, on an examination of his spiritual state, that he is growing in grace, And if you desire that this grace may at once be acknowledged and promoted, let me call your soul to that more affectionate exercise of love to God, and joy in him, which suits and strengthens, and exalts the character of the advanced christian; and which I beseech you to regard, not only as your privilege, but as your duty too. Love is the most sublime, generous principle of all true and acceptable obedience; and with love, when so wisely and happily iixed, when so certainly returned, joy. proportionable jov, must naturally be connected. It may justly grieve a man that enters into the spirit of christianity, to see how low a life even the generality of sincere christians commonly live in this respect. Rejoice then in the Lord, ye righteous, and give thanks at the remeynbrance of his holiness*', and of all those other perfections and glories, which are included in that majestic, that wonderful, that delightful name, The Lord thy God! Spend not your sacred moments merely in confession, or in petition, though each must have their daily share: but give a part, a considerable part, to the celestial and angelic work of praise. Yea, labour to carry about with you continually an heart oversowing with such sentiments, warmed and inflamed with such affections.
§. 2. Are there not continuallv ravs enough diffused from the great Father of light and love, to enkindle it in our bosom? Come, my christian friend and brother, come and survey with me the goodness of our heavenly Father. And Oh that he would give me such a sense of it, that I might represent it in a suitable manner; that while I am viusing the fire mat/ burn in
* Psal. xcui. 12.
my own heart”, and be communicated to yours! And Oh that it might pass with the lines I write, from soul to soul; awakening in the breast of every christian that reads them, sentiments more worthy of the children of God, and the heirs of glory: who are to spend an eternity in those sacred exercises, to which I am now endeavouring to excite you! § 3. Have vou not reason to adopt the words of David, and say, How many are thy gracious thoughts unto me, O Lord / How great is the sum of them / When I would count them, they are more in number than the sand F. You indeed know where to begin the survey; for the favours of God begun with your being. Commemorate it therefore with a grateful heart, that the eye which saw your substance, being yet imperfect, beheld you with a friendly care, when you were made in secret, and have watched over you ever since; and that the hand, which drew the plan of your members, when as yet there was nome of them i ; not only fashioned them at first, but from that time has been concerned in keeping all your bones, so that not one of them is broken S: and that, indeed, it is to this you owe it, that you live. Look back upon the path you have trod, from the day that God brought you out of the womb, and say, whether you do not (as it were) see all the road thick set with the marks and memorials of the divine goodness. Recollect the places where you have lived, and the persons with whom you have most intimately conversed; and call to mind the mercies you have received in those places, and from those persons, as the instruments of the divine care and goodness. Recollect the difficulties and dangers, with which you have been surrounded; and reflect attentively on what God hath done to defend you from them, or to carry you through them. Think, how often there has been but a step between you and death; and how suddenly God hath sometimes interposed to set you in safety, even before you apprehended your danger. Think of those chambers of illness, in which you have been confined, and from whence perhaps you once thought you should go forth no more ; but said, with Hezekiah in the cutting off of your days, I shall go to the gates of the grave, I am deprived of the residue of my years!. God has, it may be, since that time, added many years to your life; and you know not how many may be in reserve, or how much usefulness and happiness inay attend cach. Survey vour circumstances in relative life; how many kind friends are surrounding you daily, and studying how they may contribute to your comfort. Reflect on those remarkable circumstances in Providence, which occasioned the knitting of some bonds of this kind, which next to those which join your soul to God, you number among the happiest. And forget not in how many instances, when these dear lives have been threatened, lives perhaps more sensibly dear than your own, God hath given them back from the borders of the grave, and so added new endearments arising from that tender circumstance^ to all your after converse with them. Nor forget, in how gracious a manner he hath supported some others in their last moments, and enabled them to leave behind a sweet odour of piety, which hath embalmed their memories, revived you when ready to faint under the sorrows of the first separation, and, on the whole, made even the recollection of their death delightful.
* Psal. xxxix. 3. + Psal. cxxxix. 17, 18, : Psal. cxxxix. 15, 16. § Psal. xxxiv. 20. I.ai. xxxviii. 10.
§. 4. But it is more than time that I lead on your thoughts to the many spiritual mercies which God hath bestowed upon you. Look back, as it were, to the rock from whence you were heron, and to the hole of the pit from whence you were digged*. Reflect seriously on the state wherein divine grace found you: under how much guilt, under how much pollution! In what danger, in what ruin! Think what was, and Oh think with yet deeper reflection, what would have been the case! The eye of God, which penetrates into eternity, saw what your mind, amused with the trifles of present time and sensual gratification, was utterly ignorant and regardless of: it saw you on the borders of eternity, and pitied you; saw, that you would in a little time have been such a helpless, wretched creature, as the sinner that is just now dead, and has to his infinite surprise and everlasting terror met his unexpected doom, and would like him stand thunder-struck in astonishment and despair. This God saw, and he pitied you; and being merciful to you, he provided in the counsels of his eternal love and grace a Redeemer for you, and purchased you to himself with the blood of his Son: a price, which if you will pause upon it, and think seriously what it was, must surely affect you to such a degree, as to make you fall down before God in wonder and shume, to think that it should ever have been given for you. To accomplish these blessed purposes, he sent his grace into your heart; so that though you were once darkness, you are now light in the Lordf. He made that happy change which you now feel in your soul, and by his holt/ spirit which is given to you, heshedabroad that principle of love I, which is enkindled by this review, and now flames with
• Isai. li. 1. f Eph. v. 8. } Rom. v. 5.
greater ardour than before. Thus far he hath supported you in your christian course; and having obtained help from him it is, that you continue even to this day”. He hath not only blessed 3you, but made you a blessing+; and though you have not been so useful, as that holy generosity of heart which he has excited, would have engaged you to desire ; yet some good you have done in the station in which he has fixed you. Some of your brethren of mankind have been relieved, perhaps too some thoughtless creature reclaimed to virtue and happiness by his blessing on your endeavours. Solne in the way to heaven, are praising God for you; and some perhaps already there, are longing for your arrival, that they may thank you in nobler and more expressive forms for benefits, the importance of which they now sufficiently understand, though while here they could never conCelve it.
§. 5. Christian, look round on the numberless blessings of one kind, and of another, with which you are already encompassed; and advance your prospect still farther, to what faith yet discovers within the veil. Think of those now unknown transports with which thou shalt drop every burden in the grave, and thine immortal spirit shall mount, light and joyful, holy and happy, to God, its original, its support, and its hope; to God, the source of being, of holiness, and of pleasure; to Jesus, through whom all these blessings are derived to thee, and who will appoint thee a throne near his own, to be for ever the spectator and partaker of his glory. Think of the rapture with which thou shalt attend this triumph in the resurrectionday, and receive this poor mouldering corruptible body transformed into his glorious image; and then think, “These hopes are not mine alone, but the hopes of thousands and millions. Multitudes, whom I number among the dearest of my friends upon earth, are rejoicing with me in these apprehensions and views: and God gives me sometimes to see the smiles on their cheeks, the sweet humble hope that sparkles in their eyes, and shines through the tears of tender gratitude; and to hear that little of their inward complacency and joy, which language can express. Yea, and multitudes more, who were once equally dear to me with those, though I have laid them in the grave, and wept over their dust, are living to God, living in the possession of inconceivable delights, and drinking large draughts of the water of life, which flows in perpetual streams at his right hand.”
* Acts xxvi. 22. + Gen. xii. 2. WOL. I. 3 H
S. 6. O christian, thou art still intimately united and allied to them. Death cannot break a friendship thus cemented, and it ought not to render thee insensible of the happiness of those friends, for whose memory thou retainest so just an honour. They live to God, as his servants; they serve him, and see his Jace”; and they make but a small part of that glorious assembly. Millions, equally worthy of thine esteem and affection with themselves, inhabit those blissful regions: and wilt thou not rejoice in their joy and wilt thou not adore that everlasting spring of holiness and happiness, from whence each of these streams is derived Yea, I will add, while the blessed angels are so kindly regarding us, while they are ministering to thee, O christian, and bearing thee in their arms, as an heir of sal.vation+, wilt thou not rejoice in their felicity too And wilt thou not adore that God, who gives them all the superior glory of their more exalted nature, and gives them a heaven, which fills them with blessedness, even while they seem to withdraw from it, that they may attend on thee §. 7. This, and infinitely more than this, the blessed God is, and was, and shall ever be. The felicities of the blessed spirits that surround his throne, and thy felicities, O christian, are immortal. These heavenly luminaries shall glow with an undecaying flame, and thou shalt shine and burn among them, when the sun and the stars are gone out. Still shall the unchanging Father of lights pour forth his beams upon them; and the Instre they reflect from him, and their happiness in him, shall be everlasting, shall be ever growing. Bow down, O thou child of God, thou heir of glory, bow down, and let all that is within thee unite in one act of grateful love; and let all that is around thee, all that is before thee in the prospects of an unbounded eternity, concur to elevate and transport thy soul, that thou mavest, as far as possible, begin the work and blessedness of heaven, in falling down before the God of it, in opening thine heart to his gracious influences, and in breathing out before him that incense of praise, which these warm beams of his presence and love have so great a tendency to produce, and to ennoble with a fragrancy resembling that of his paradise above. The grateful Soul rejoicing in the Blessings of Providence and Grace, and pouring out itself before God in vigorous and affecting Erercises of Love and Praise. “O MY God, it is enough ' I have mused, and the fire burneth 1/ But Oh, in what language shall the flame break
* Rev. xxiii, 3, 4. f Heb, i. 14. : Psal. xxxix. 36