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SERM. honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that
- sitteth upon the throne, and to the Lamb for ever
and ever. Apoc. i. 5, Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our
sins in his blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Thess. v. 16.
Rejoice evermore. JOICE evermore! O good apostle, how ac- SERM. ceptable rules dost thou prescribe! O blessed God, XL how gracious laws dost thou impose! This is a rule, to which one would think all men should be forward to conform; this is a law, which it may seem strange that any man should find in his heart to disobey: for what can any soul desire more than to be always on the merry pin, or to lead a life in continual alacrity? Who readily would not embrace a duty, the obseryance whereof is not only pleasant, but pleasure itself? Who is so wild as to affect a sin, which hath nothing in it but disease and disgust ?
That joy should be enjoined, that sadness should be prohibited, may it not be a plausible exception against such a precept, that it is superfluous and needless, seeing all the endeavours of men do aim at nothing else but to procure joy and eschew sorrow; seeing all men do conspire in opinion with Solomon, that a man hath nothing better under the sun than Eccl. viii.
-to be merry. Were it not rather expedient to re- ii. 12, 22. commend sober sadness, or to repress the inclinations ". 18, 20 of men to effuse mirth and jollity ?
SERM. So it may seem; but yet, alas ! if we consult ex
perience, or observe the world, we shall find this precept very ill obeyed : for do we not commonly see people in heavy dumps ? do we not often hear doleful complaints ? is not this world apparently a
stage of continual trouble and grief? Did not the Eccl. i. 14. Preacher, upon a diligent survey of all the works
done under the sun, truly proclaim, Behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit? Where, I pray, is any full or firm content? where is solid and durable joy to be found ?
It is true that men, after a confused manner, are very eager in the quest, and earnest in the pursuit of joy; they rove through all the forest of creatures, and beat every bush of nature for it, hoping to catch it either in natural endowments and improvements of soul, or in the gifts of fortune, or in the acquists of industry; in temporal possessions, in sensual enjoyments, in ludicrous divertisements and amusements of fancy; in gratification of their appetites and passions; they all hunt for it, though following a different scent, and running in various tracks; some in way of plodding for rare notions ; some in compassing ambitious projects; some in amassing heaps of wealth ; some in practice of overreaching subtilties; some in wrecking their malice, their revenge, their envy; some in venting frothy conceits, bitter scoffs, or profane railleries; some in jovial conversation and quaffing the full bowls ; some in music and dancing; some in gallantry and courting; some in all kinds of riotous excess and wanton dissoluteness ; so each in his way doth incessantly prog for joy; but all much in vain, or without any considerable success; finding at most, instead of it,
some faint shadows, or transitory flashes of pleasure, SERM. the which, depending on causes very contingent and su mutable, residing in a frail temper of fluid humours ! of body, consisting in slight touches upon the organs of sense, in frisks of the corporeal spirits, or in fumes and vapours twitching the imagination, do soon flag and expire; their short enjoyment being also tem- , pered with regret, being easily dashed by any cross accident, soon declining into a nauseous satiety, and in the end degenerating into gall and bitter remorse; for, Even, as Solomon observed, in laughter the Prov. xiv. heart is sorrowful; and the end of that mirth is 13. heaviness : and, Though, as it is said in Job, (ch. Sunt quæ
2. dam tristes xx. ver. 12, 14, 20.) wickedness is sweet in the vo mouth—yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is Sen.Ep.6
Quaquathe gall of asps within him: so that indeed the versum se usual delights which men affect are such, that we anima bo
minis, ad should not if we could, and we could not if we dolores fi
mongitur alibi, would, constantly entertain them; such rejoicing præter-*
quam in te. evermore being equally unreasonable and impossible.
iv. 10. Wherefore there is ground more than enough, that we should be put to seek for a true, substantial, and consistent joy; it being withal implied, that we should effect it in another way, or look for it in another box, than commonly men do; who therefore are so generally disappointed, because they would have it upon impossible or undue terms, and least expect it there, where it is only to be had.
It is a scandalous misprision, vulgarly admitted, concerning religion, that it is altogether sullen and sour, requiring a dull, lumpish, morose kind of life, barring all delight, all mirth, all good humour ; whereas, on the contrary, it alone is the never-failing
SERM. source of true, pure, steady joy ; such as is deeply XLIII.
rooted in the heart, immoveably founded in the reason of things, permanent like the immortal spirit wherein it dwelleth, and like the eternal objects whereon it is fixed, which is not apt to fade or cloy; and is not subject to any impressions apt to corrupt or impair it: whereas, in our text, and in many texts parallel to it, we see, that our religion doth not only allow us, but even doth oblige us to be joyful, as much and often as can be, not permitting us to be sad for one minute, banishing the least fit of melancholy, charging us in all times, upon all occasions, to be cheerful; supposing, consequently, that it is in some manner possible to be so, and affording power to effect what it doth require.
Such indeed is the transcendent goodness of our God, that he maketh our delight to be our duty, and our sorrow to be our sin, adapting his holy will to our principal instinct; that he would have us to resemble himself, as in all other perfections, so in a constant state of happiness; that as he hath provided a glorious heaven of bliss for us hereafter, so he would have us enjoy a comfortable paradise of delight here. He accordingly hath ordered the whole frame of our religion in a tendency to produce joy in those who embrace it; for what is the gospel,
but, as the holy angel, the first promulger of it, did Luke ii. 10. report, good tidings of great joy to all people? Rom. xv. How doth God represent himself therein, but as the Epb. 3i. S.. God of love, of hope, of peace, of all consolation, xiii. i13. cheerfully smiling in favour on us, graciously in
0: viting us to the most pleasant enjoyments, bounti
fully dispensing most comfortable blessings of mercy, of grace, of salvation to us? for what doth our Lord
1 Pet.v. 10. Jam. V. II.