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ON THE HAPPY STATE OF THE BELIEVER, WHO
ENJOYS THE CONSOLATIONS THAT ARE IN CHRIST,
In the Holy Scriptures the characters and conditions of the righteous and the wicked are often in the most striking points of view contrasted with each other. “ So let all thine enemies perish, O Lord, but let them that love him be as the sun when he goeth forth in his might." Thus saith the Lord, “ Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord; for he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh, but shall inherit the parched places in the wilderness, a salt land, and not inhabited. Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is : for
he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, that spreadeth forth her roots by the river.” We read, as descriptive representations, of the tares and the wheat, of jewels and of dross, of the “ vessels of wrath fitted to destruction, and the vessels of mercy prepared to glory.”
What an awful contrast there is between the s citizens of Zion, and strangers who are afar off ; between the friends of Christ, and the enemies of his cross; between the children of God, and the children of the devil!” I shall endeavour to show the opposite states of the saints and of the unregenerate sinner, with respect to their present enjoyments and their future condition.
1. In their present condition, the joys of one to whom Christ is precious are pure, free, satisfying, and permanent; while the pleasures of the unbeliever are polluted, forbidden of God, unsuitable to the soul, and of short continuance.
While the infatuated sinner rushes blindly on in his career of folly, he often wears an air of gaiety, and boasts of his heart's desire. Yet, at his best estate, he is little to be envied, as his happiness is drawn from tainted springs. Poison is poison still, though poured into a costly cup, and mingled with delicious sweets. How debasing and dangerous are the choicest pleasures of vicious men! Sin contaminates, and ruins what. ever it touches. Where this monster reigns, where this plague rages and spreads, there can be no salutary, refined joys. “ Unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure, but even their mind and their conscience is defiled," Tit. i, 5. But view the sincere believer. His enjoyments are in their nature pure. When Christ is precious to the soul, the works of creation impart both instruction and delight. Ten thousand proofs of infinite wisdom, power, and goodness everywhere strike the senses. The order, extent, and magnificence of the heavens ; - the beauty and fertility of the earth; and the countless variety of animated tribes which fill every element, awaken lively and pleasing emotions in the devout breast. When the thoughts are calmly employed, intent in meditation, every field is a school, and every plant and insect a teacher to the Christian. How often does the language of the Psalmist express his feelings? 65.0 Lord, how manifold are thy works ! in wis. dom hast thou made them all; the earth is full of thy riches,” Ps. civ, 24. When Christ is precious to the soul, there is a pure joy in contemplating the mysterious ways, and receiving the unnumbered bounties of Divine Providence. In the dispensations of that Being, who governs heaven and earth, there are, it is true, some things which far surpass our feeble comprehension, yet we know enough to convince us that he is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works. While the “ Lord reigos, let the earth be glad; for even when clouds and darkness are round about him, justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne.” O, how various and valuable are the mercies which our heavenly Benefactor bestows upon us ! To him we are indebted for food, raiment, sleep, health, and every temporal comfort in our lot. But the pure pleasure with which a pious man receives the bounties of an indulgent Providence is heightened by a lively feeling of gratitude.
When Christ is precious to the soul, how pure is the joy which every new covenant privilege affords. Remission of sin, effectual calling, full acceptance and free communion with God, and the hope of everlasting life, are such blessings as cannot fail to gladden the heart, and open the richest springs of consolation. « Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, and whose sin is covered. God hath saved us and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace. Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” He, who knows by ex
perience the blessedness described in these passages, may look with indifference on the highest worldly pleasures, and with heart-felt pity on their deluded followers.
Now, reader, of what nature is your joy? Is it low and selfish, or pure and sublime? The stream will resemble the fountain from which it dows. To centre all your hopes, and seek all your joys in the creature, indicates a grovelling mind and an unsanctified heart. On the contrary, a taste for pleasures, which are spiritual and refined, proves that your affections have a heavenly tendency. Happy is your state, if you
rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.”
2. The enjoyments of the wicked are such as God hath prohibited, but those of the Christian are divinely free.
With what avidity and eagerness do men of corrupt minds pursue their pleasures. Nothing is thought too valuable to be sacrificed for them. And what are those pleasures?" Stolen waters, which a vitiated taste alone can account sweet; forbidden fruits, which by the alluring sophistry of the tempter are made to appear desirable to the eyes ; unlawful delights, which cannot be obtained without breaking down that fence that is armed with the threatenings and