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preceding verses ! ver. 11, 12, “This is the testimony, that God hath given us eternal life; and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; [the eternal life here spoken of;] and he that hath not the Son, [of God,] hath not (this) life." As if he had said, This is the sum of the testimony which God hath testified of his Son, that God hath given us, not only a title to, but the real beginning of eternal life: and this life is purchased by, and treasured up in his Son; who has all the springs and the fulness of it in himself, to communicate to his body, the church.
5. This eternal life then commences, when it pleases the Father to reveal his Son in our hearts; when we first know Christ, being enabled to " call him Lord by the Holy Ghost;" when we can testify, oar conscience bearing us witness in the Holy Ghost, “ The life which I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me,
himself for me." And then it is that happiness begins; happiness real, solid, substantial. Then it is that heaven is opened in the soul, that the proper heavenly state commences, while the love of God, as loving us, is shed abroad in the heart, instantly producing love to all mankind; general, pure benevolence, together with its genuine fruits, lowliness, meekness, patience, contentedness in every state; an entire, clear, full acquiescence in the whole will of God; enabling us to "rejoice evermore, and in every thing to give thanks."
6. As our knowledge and our love of him increase, by the same degrees, and in the same proportion, the kingdom of an inward heaven must necessarily increase also; while we “grow up in all things into Him, who is our head.” And when we are Ev ausw readinpausvos, complete in him, as our translators render it; but more properly, when we are filled with him; when“ Christ in us, the hope of glory," is our God and our all; when he has taken the full possession of our heart; when he reigns therein without a rival, the Lord of every motion there; when we dwell in Christ, and Christ in us, we are one with Christ, and Christ with us; then we are completely happy; then we live "all the life that is hid with Christ in God." Then, and not till then, we properly experience what that word meaneth : “God is love; and whosoever dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him."
III. I have now only to add a few inferences from the preceding observations.
1. And we may learn from hence, first, that as there is but one God in heaven above and in the earth beneath ; so there is only one happiness for created spirits, either in heaven or earth. This one God made our heart for himself; and it cannot rest, till it resteth in him. It is! true, that while we are in the vigour of youth and health ; while our blood dances in our veins; while the world smiles upon us, and we have all the conveniences, yea, and superfluities of life, we frequently have pleasing dreams, and enjoy a kind of happiness. But it cannot continue ; it flies away like a shadow; and even while it does, it is not solid or substantial : it does not satisfy the soul. We still pant after something else, something which we have not. Give a man every thing that this world can give, still, as Horace observed near two thousand years ago
Curte nescio quid semper abest rei.
“ Amidst our plenty something still,
That something is neither more nor less, than the knowledge and love of God; without which no spirit can be happy either in heaven or earth.
2. Permit me to recite my own experience, in confirmation of this : I distinctly remember, that, even in my childhood, even when I was at school, I have often said, “They say, the life of a school boy is the happiest in the world : but I am sure, I am not happy: for I am not content; and so cannot be happy.” When I had lived a few years longer, being in the vigour of youth, a stranger to pain and sickness, and particularly to lowness of spirits; (which I do not remember to have felt one quarter of an hour ever since I was born ;) having plenty of all things, in the midst of sensible and amiable friends, who loved me, and I loved them, and being in the way of life, which, of all others, suited my inclinations; still I was not happy. I wondered why I was not, and could not imagine what the reason was. The reason certainly was, I did not know God, the source of present as well as eternal happiness. What is a clear proof that I was not then happy, is, that upon the coolest reflection, I knew not one week which I would have thought it worth while to have lived over again; taking it with every inward and outward sensation, without any variation at all.
3. But a pious man affirms, “When I was young I was happy; though I was utterly without God in the world.” I do not believe you: though I doubt not but you believe yourself. But you are deceived, as I have been over and over. Such is the condition of human life :-
“ Flowrets and myrtles fragrant seem to rise :
All is at distance fair; but near at hand,
With thorns, and desert heath, and barren sands." Look forward on any distant prospect: how beautiful does it appear! Come up to it; and the beauty vanishes away; and it is rough and disagreeable. Just so is life. But when the scene is past, it its former appearance; and we seriously believe, that we were then
very happy, though, in reality, we were far otherwise. For as none is now, 80 none ever was happy, without the loving knowledge of the true God.
4. We may learn hence, secondly, that this happy knowledge of the true God is only another name for religion; I mean Christian religion ; which indeed is the only one that deserves the name. Religion, as to the nature or essence of it, does not lie in this or that set of notions, vulgarly called faith ; nor in a round of duties, however carefully reformed from error and superstition. It does not consist in any number of outward actions. No: it properly and directly consists in the knowledge and love of God, as manifested in the Son of his love, through the eternal Spirit. And this naturally leads to every heavenly temper, and to every good word and work.
5. We learn hence, thirdly, that none but a Christian is happy; none but a real inward Christian. A glutton, a drunkard, a gamester, may be merry; but he cannot be happy. The beau, the belle, may eat and drink, and rise up to play; but still they feel they are not happy. Men or women may adorn their own dear persons with all the colours of the rainbow. They may dance, and sing, and hurry to and fro, and futter hither and thither. They may roll up and down in their splendid carriages, and talk insipidly to each other. They may hasten from one diversion to another: but happiness is not there. They are still “walk
ing in a vain shadow, and disquieting themselves in vain.” One of their own poets has truly pronounced, concerning the whole life of these sons of pleasure :
" 'Tis a dull farce, an empty show : :
Powder, and pocket glass, and beau." I cannot but observe of that fine writer, that he came near the mark; and yet fell short of it. In his Solomon, (one of the noblest poems in the English tongue,) he clearly shows where happiness is not; that it is not to be found in natural knowledge, in power, or in the pleasures of sense or imagination. But he does
not show where it is to be found. He could not; for he did not know it himself. Yet he came near it, when he said,
“Restore, great Father, thy instructed son ;
And in my act may thy great will be done !" 6. We learn hence, fourthly, that every Christian is happy; and that he who is not happy is not a Christian. If, as was observed above, religion is happiness, every one that has it must be happy. This appears from the very nature of the thing: for if religion and happiness are in fact the same, it is impossible that any man can possess the former, without possessing the latter also. He cannot have religion without having happiness; seeing they are utterly inseparable.
And it is equally certain on the other hand, that he who is not happy, is not a Christian : seeing if he was a real Christian, he could not but be happy. But I allow an exception here in favour of those who are under violent temptation; yea, and of those who are under deep nervous disorders, which are indeed a species of insanity. The clouds and darkness which then overwhelm the soul, suspend its happiness, especially if Satan is permitted to second those disorders, by pouring in his fiery darts. But, excepting these cases, the observation will hold, and it should be well attended to,-Whoever is not happy, yea, happy in God, is not a Christian.
7. Are not you a living proof of this ? Do not you still wander to and fro, seeking rest, but finding none ?-Pursuing happiness, but never overtaking it? And who can blame you for pursuing it? It is the very end of your being. The great Creator made nothing to be miserable, but every creature to be happy in its kind. And upon a general review of the works of his hands, he pronounced them all very good; which they would not have been, had not every intelligent creature, yea, every one capable of pleasure and pain, been happy in answering the end of its creation. If you are now unhappy, it is because you are in an unnatural state : and shall you not sigh for deliverance from it ? " The whole creation” being now “ subject to vanity,” “ groaneth and travaileth in pain together." I blame you only, or pity you rather, for taking a wrong way to a right end : for seeking happiness where it never was, and never can be found. You seek happiness in your fellow creatures, instead of your Creator. But these can no more make you happy, than they can make you immortal. If you have ears to hear, every creature cries aloud, "Happiness is not in me.” All these are, in truth, “ broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” Oh turn unto your rest! Turn to him, in whom are hid all the treasures of happiness! Turn unto him, “who giveth liberally unto all men;" and he will give you "to drink of the water of life freely."
8. You cannot find your long sought happiness in all the pleasures of the world Are they not "deceitful upon the weights ?” Are they not lighter than vanity itself? How long will ye "feed upon that which is not bread ?” Which may amuse, but cannot satisfy. You cannot find it in the religion of the world : either in opinions, or a mere round of outward duties. Vain labour! Is not God a Spirit? and therefore to be “worshipped in spirit and in truth?”? In this alone can you find the happiness you seek; in the union of your spirit with the Father of spirits; in the knowledge and love of him who is the fountain of happiness, sufficient for all the souls he has made.
9. But where is he to be found ? Shall we go up into heaven, or down into hell to seek him ? "Shall we take the wings of the morning," and search for him " in the uttermost parts of the sea ?” Nay, Quod petis, hic est! What a strange word to fall from the pen of a heathen! What you seek, is here!” He is “about your bed.” He is “about your path.” He “besets you behind and before." He “ lays his hand upon you.” Lo! God is here! not afar off. Now,
ve and feel him near! May he now reveal himself in your heart! Know him! Love him! and you are happy.
10. Are you already happy in him ? then see that you " hold fast whereunto ye
have attained !” “Watch and pray,” that you may never be "moved from your steadfastness.” “Look unto yourselves, that ye lose not what ye have gained, but that ye receive a full reward." In so doing, expect a continual growth in grace, in the loving knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. Expect that the power of the Highest shall suddenly overshadow you, that all sin may be destroyed, and nothing may remain in your heart, but holiness unto the Lord. 'And this moment, and every moment, “present yourselves a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God," and "glorify him with your body and with your spirit, which are God's!"
SERMON LXXXIII.-On Spiritual Idolatry.
"Little children, keep yourselves from idols,” 1 John v, 21. 1. THERE are two words that occur several times in this epistle ; παιδια and τεχνια ; both of which our translators render by the same expression, little children. But their meaning is very different. The former is very properly rendered little children; for it means, babes in Christ: those that have lately tasted of his love, and are, as yet, weak and unestablished therein. The latter might, with more propriety be rendered, beloved children; as it does not denote any more than the affection of the speaker to those whom he had begotten in the Lord.
2. An ancient historian relates, that when the apostle was so enfeebled by age, as not to be able to preach, he was frequently brought into the congregation in his chair, and just uttered, “Beloved children, love one another." He could not have given a more important advice. And equally important is this which lies before us; equally necessary for every part of the church of Christ. “Beloved children, keep yourselves from idols."
3. Indeed there is a close connection between them : one cannot subsist without the other. As there is no firm foundation for the love
of our brethren, except the love of God, so there is no possibility of loving God, except we keep ourselves from idols.
But what are the idols of which the apostle speaks ? This is the first thing to be considered. We may then, in the second place, inquire, how shall we keep ourselves from them?
I. 1. We are first to consider, What are the idols of which the apostle speaks? I do not conceive him to mean, at least not principally, the idols that were worshipped by the heathens. They to whom he was writing, whether they had been Jews or heathens, were not in much danger from these. There is no probability that the Jews now converted, had ever been guilty of worshipping them: as deeply given to this gross idolatry as the Israelites had been for many ages, they were hardly ever entangled therein after their return from the Babylonish captivity. From that period, the whole body of Jews had shown a constant, deep abhorrence of it; and the heathens, after they had once turned to the living God, had their former idols in the utmost detestation. They abhorred to touch the unclean thing; yea, they chose to lay down their lives, rather than turn to the worship of those gods, whom they now knew to be devils.
2. Neither can we reasonably suppose, that he speaks of those idols that are now worshipped in the church of Rome: whether angels, or the souls of departed saints, or images of gold, silver, wood or stone. None of these idols were known in the Christian church, till some centuries after the time of the apostles. Once, indeed, St. John himself "fell down to worship before the face of an angel” that spake unto him; probably mistaking him, from his glorious appearance, for the Great Angel of the Covenant; but the strong reproof of the angel, which immediately followed, secured the Christians from imitating that bad example: “ See thou do it not:" as glorious as I appear, I am not thy Master. “I am thy fellow servant, and of thy bretlīren the prophets : worship God," Rev. xxii, 9.
3. Setting, then, pagan and Romish idols aside, what are those of which we are here warned by the apostle ? The preceding words show us the meaning of these. “This is the true God;" the end of all the souls he has made ; the centre of all created spirits ;—" and eternal life;" the only foundation of present as well as eternal happiness. To him, therefore, alone, our heart is due. And he cannot, he will not quit his claim, or consent to its being given to any other. He is continually saying to every child of man, “ My son, give me thy heart!" And to give our heart to any other is plain idolatry. Accordingly, whatever takes our heart from him, or shares it with him, is an idol ; or, in other words, whatever we seek happiness in, independent of God.
4. Take an instance that occurs almost every day: A person who has been long involved in the world, surrounded and fatigued with abundance of business, having at length acquired an easy fortune, disengages himself from all business, and retires into the country,—to be happy. Happy in what? Why in taking his ease. For he intends now,
Somno et inertibus horis
To sleep, and pass away,