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great fury, but very soon dieth away, and is no
We cannot rejoice evermore, in things of fo vain and transitory a nature, which are of no value, nor of no continuance.
But this we all may, this we ought to do, and this the apoftle meant to enjoin us: In whatever fiate of life we are, therewith to be content. To be grateful in our acknowledgments of those mercies which are bestowed upon us, to enjoy and to praise God for them, to Thew a pleasure and satisfaction in serving so good and so gracious a master, to obey his commands with chearfulness and alacrity, to come before his presence with thanksgiving, and shew ourselves glad in him. Nothing can doubtless be more preju. dical to religion, or more highly injurious to the great author of it, than to suppose it four and melancholy; that it should enjoin sorrow, and make self-affliction the test of our obedi. ence. Religion on the contrary, is the source of all true joy, the foundation of all happiness, graciously imparted to mankind to footh his griefs, foften his. calamities, and adminifter comfort and confolation to him in
ftation and circumstance, and which only can indeed give him to rejoice evermore both here and here. after.
I shall'endeavour therefore, in the subsequent discourse, to enforce this short but amiable precept, by a few of those numberless arguments which may be produced in support of it, both from reason and revelation, and to shew that it is the duty of every Christian to rejoice evermore; a duty which he owes to God,
and to his Saviour, whose yoke is easy and his burthen light. And it may perhaps at this time be more particularly necessary to vindicate the religion of Christ from the imputation of feverity, in an age when a set of men have sprung up amongst us, whose gloomy austerity and frantic enthusiasm, have saddened and afflicted the minds of the weak and splenetic, and endeavoured to establish strange and ridiculous notions without the least authority from that scripture which they read, that faith they profess, or that master whom they pretend so diligently to serve, and fo implicitly to obey.
Whenever God hath pleased to reveal himself to mankind, hath he ever required any thing at our hands but a reasonable and chear. ful fervice? Human ordinances will ever have fome flaw in them, some partiality, or injuftice; but when God is the law-giver, all which he enjoins is tempered with that tenderness and mercy which is over all his works. In confirmation of which, we need but for a moment look back on the Jewish and Christian dispensations, and compare them with the wild and incoherent notions of the Pagan world concerning religion and morality.
What a glorious pre-eminence did the Jews enjoy over the whole race of mankind whilst God was their king and governor! Joy was enjoined them as a duty, and festivity a part of their religion. Whilst the priests of Baal, those who made the idols, and were like unto them, were tearing their flesh in honour of
their lifeless deities, the ministers of Jehovah were lost in holy raptures, and chanting hallelujahs: whilst the worshippers of Thammuz were lamenting the death of their fancied divinity, the daughters of Israel were far otherwise employed with their psaltries and timbrels, the lute, the harp, and the well-tuned cymbal, repeating joyful hymns to the Father of love and mercy: the bloody Moloch commands his votaries to facrifice their own beloved offspring, but the God of the Hebrews calls for old men and children, young men and maidens, to join in the easy task of praise, and fill
the chorus of thanksgiving. I will have mercy, and not sacrifice, faith the Lord; Thinkest thou that I delight in burnt offerings? Such were the glorious privileges which God's chosen people so long enjoyed, and so little deserved; for though they had of all men most reason to rejoice evermore, yet were they evermore complaining, and easy as the yoke was, yet did they continually groan beneath the weight of it. But if we have reason to con, demn the ingratitude of the Jews to their divine law-giver, fo visibly shewn in their un just murmurs against him, what shall we say to those Christians who so unwillingly enter into, and so negligently perform that service which is perfect freedom? Can we complain our master's commands are grievous, or his Jaws unjust? Are not chearfulness and good, nature, tenderness and generosity, perpetually inculcated in the precepts of our blessed Lord and Redeemer? Doth he seem to rejoice in
any thing more than in seeing us love and serve each other? Does he enjoin any duties that are irksome and burthensome to human nature? On the contrary, do not all his commands carry with them the utmost pleasure and satisfaction in the performance of them?
With regard to our own private situation and circumstances in life, it may be advanced, that it is not always possible to comply with the injunction of the apostle; that there are fome situations and events which would undoubtedly rather incline us to weep than to rejoice; and that it is the lot of many to be always, and with too much reason, unhappy. But to this it may doubtless, on the other hand, be replied, that we are very seldom, if ever, able to judge ourselves, what may be best and most convenient for us. That which we are most apt to rejoice in, is frequently that which we ought rather to lament and be sorry for; and that which gives us the most uneasiness, is what, if rightly understood, we should be molt satisfied with.
The hand of God is always operating for us, and though unseen by us, is not therefore less powerful; but men wilfully shut their eyes, and will not see his goodness, nor glorify their Maker.
The various beauties and wonders of nature, though they are every day and every hour before our eyes, (and perhaps indeed because they are so) are seldom taken notice of or admired. Very few contemplate or investigate, and still fewer understand, her works. She
clotheth herself in verdure to refresh the eye; she dictates every song that delights the ear;, she ordereth the sun to rule by day, and the moon by night; the stars to glitter in the firmament, and the earth to bring forth her increase, for our use, for our pleasure, for our instruction; and yet man is not mindful of her, neither doth the son of man regard her; and so it is with that particular and continual providence of God, which is appointed to watch over and protect us, and without which, furrounded as we are with dangers we can neither foresee nor prevent, we could not poffibly subsist; and yet how few are there who feem in the least sensible of it? how very few who confide or who rejoice in it?
Had we leisure sufficient to examine into the human mind, unbiassed by pride and partiality, we should perhaps discover, that, abstracted from the difference which arises from habit, education, and circumstances in life, men are much more upon a level in regard to their understanding than is generally acknow, ledged: and it is not improbably the same in point of happiness, which is, for the most part, pretty equally. distributed amongst us; not confined to any clime or nation, to any particular set of men, to titles, rank, or profession, but flowing through various channels; and like that divine Being, by whom it is imparted, shedding its gracious influence over the whole creation. It becometh well the just, therefore it becometh the happy, to be thankful; and when our almighty Benefactor showers down