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His going away
ful life, he gave us a perfect and a moving pattern. By his miracles he proved his divine mission. His death was a full propitiation for our sins, the price of our redemption, a foundation for conquest over all our enemies, and a necessary step to all the advantage we can hope for from his exaltation and kingdom. Surely then we have reason to “glory in the cross of Christ,” Gal. vi. 14. His resurrection succeeded, to open all the springs of joy, as the great evidence of his divine character, and of the sufficiency of his death. into the unseen world, “ was expedient for us,” John xvi. 7. He entered heaven as our forerunner: and his work there from his entrance to the end of time, is of the most signal advantage to his church. When he ascended into the heavenly places, he sent down his Spirit ; not only to give the last attestations to the gospel, and to enable the apostles to complete the revelation of it, but to carry on the saving design, and to supply all remaining wants, which he had not provided for in person.' He ever lives above, as our advocate with the Father to make intercession for us. And as “all power in heaven and earth is committed to him," so he exercises it for the good of his servants; for he is head over all things to the church, or for the benefit of his church “ He can be touched above with the feeling of our infirmities” on earth. And when we have served our generation, he is ready to receive our departing spirits. But while we may look back with complacence upon
past work on earth, and look up with pleasure upon his present work in heaven ; how much more may we look forward with joy to his future work, when“ he shall come the second time without a sin-offering to salvation," to the final and complete salvation of all his followers ? when he “shall be glorified in his saints, and admired in all them that believe?"
4. The privileges, with which he hath invested his church at present, are reasons for rejoicing in him. These exceed all that were afforded in any former dispensatioń.
A more spiritual and rational worship is set up by him ; more worthy of God, and conducive to our edification. And we are discharged from that yoke, which the fathers were not able to bear.
We are allowed a freer access to God. Every Christian has a fuller liberty of coming to God, than the high priest himself had in the former dispensation ; being allowed to come in the prevailing name of Christ, and with a spirit of adoption. But this is so considerable a branch of the Christian temper, that I intend to treat of it hereafter distinctly; and therefore prosecute it no farther here.
And beside all this, a clearer view is given us of the future happiness, by this finishing revelation, to raise our joy to a higher pitch. Which leads me to observe in the last place,
5. The promises given us by Christ are most comfortable and joyful." God has given us by the gospel, “ exceeding great and precious promises,” 2 Pet. i. 4. “This better covenant is established upon better promises,” than the Jewish covenant, Heb. viii. 6. Upon promises better in their nature, than that as a national covenant was ratified by; for those were only temporal promises ; and upon promises, better in 'respect of clearness and fulness, than the promises of grace under the Old Testament reached to.
The promise of pardon is more clear, and full, and extensive than before, to all sins and sinners. By Christ, all that believe are justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the law of Moses,” Acts xiii. 39.
The felicity of the intermediate state before the resurrection for all good men, is a thing we hear not so much of under the Old Testment, as in the New. And the greatness and certainty of the final happiness, is much more clearly brought to light, 2 Tim. i. 10.
And the same must be said of the influences of the Holy Spirit. Though good men before the coming of Christ, were not utter strangers to any of these things, yet they saw them but in a glass darkly, in comparison of our light about them. And then, all the promises of God have had such a peculiar ratification by the blood of Christ, as makes the comfort of them exceedingly greater ; for they are
for they are “yea, and amen in him,” 2 Cor. i. 20. They are become God's New Testament to us, or his covenant with us“ in Christ's blood," Luke xxii. 10.
These are some of the principal materials of a Christian's joy in Christ. Now,
II. His faith in this revelation of the gospel concerning Christ
, is the principle of his joy. “In whom believing ye rejoice.” Unless credit is given to the testimony of the gos
pel, all this blessed discovery will not affect the soul ; and the degrees of our joy can only be in proportion to the strength or weakness of our faith. Because the faith of the primitive Christians was at a higher pitch, than that of the generality of Christians now; therefore their joy in him was more elevated. But equal faith would produce equal joy : such a faith, as shall answer the apostle's description, Heb. xi. 1. " that it is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” Such a firm reliance upon the testimony of God in the gospel, that what is related there concerning Christ's past work on earth, and his present employment in heaven, and what is foretold of his second appearance, is esteemed as real, and sure, and substantial, as if we had the evidence of sense or reason in the case : a faith that gives present existence in our minds to the things revealed of him, whether invisible in their nature, or long since past and gone, or now doing beyond the bounds of our world, or not to be accomplished till the end of time. The nearer approaches our faith makes to this height, so much the more will our joy rise. When St Paul would wish a singular enlargement to the joy of the Romans, he prays for it as attainable only by the mediation of faith, Rom. xx. 13. “The God of hope fill you with all joy and
in believing, that ye may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Ghost.”
3. The efficacy of his faith, as working by love, gives a Christian reason for the most special and appropriating joy.
Indeed a faith in the general revelation, may justly produce a lively joy in the breast of a convinced sinner. To have the good will of God to lost sinpers proclaimed, by sending his Son to save them ; to be assured that all things are ready in virtue of what he hath done and suffered, that the greatest benefits are offered to all without distinction, that we are encouraged to ask for the Holy Spirit ; in a word, that our salvation is made possible, and we are yet in a state of trial : such discoveries may justly set open the springs of joy; though it should be certain, that we are not yet in a state of salvation : and especially, though it should be doubtful, whether we are
What gladness may we suppose it would produce in damned spirits, could the same things be proposed to them, with the same degrees of hope in their case? We find such general notices were entertained by many of the Gentiles with great pleasure of mind, even before they were arrived at a complete faith. When St. Paul acquainted them, Acts xiii. 47, 48. that the Lord commanded him and the other apostles to let them know, that “ Christ was set to be a light to the Gentiles, that he should be for salvation to the ends of the earth. (We are told that,) when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord : and as many as were ordained, or disposed, and fitted to eternal life, be lieved.” They entertained the first tidings with gladness, which by the grace of God prepared and disposed the minds of many to believe to the saving of their souls.
so or not.
But then there is a higher and more satisfying joy, resulting from the sense of actual interest in Christ, and a hope that we are already in the way of salvation by him. Now in order to this, not only the general assenting act of faith is necessary, but the consenting acts also, that Christ shall be all that to us, for which he is offered in the gospel : our faith must produce love, and that love prove itself genuine by such proper fruits of it as were mentioned in the last discourse. This is the way, under the influences of the divine Spirit, to arrive at a special and distinguishing joy in Christ. Our rejoicing in ourselves is not inconsistent with this appropriating joy in Christ, but necessary to it, that is, a joy in the grace of God found in ourselves, Gal. vi. 4. “Let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another."
III. I proceed to shew, how far it may be esteemed the essential temper of a true Christian, that he rejoices in Christ.
1. A special and appropriating joy is not necessary to the being of a Christian ; though it is very needful to his wellbeing and usefulness. It is every Christian's duty, as well as his interest, to “give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,
» 2 Pet. i. 10. So he will be able to walk more cheerfully and comfortably with God, the duties of the Christian life will be more pleasant, and death more welcome. “So an entrance will be ministered to him abundantly, into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," ver. 11. By this means he will adorn the gospel, and recommend it to the esteem and acceptance of an observing world.
But yet this peculiar joy cannot be pronounced essential
to a Christian, without excluding many from that character, whom I doubt not our Lord will receive; who cannot so rejoice in Christ, because they are not assured that he is theirs.
Some are full of doubts about their state, “from mistaken apprehensions of the terms of the gospel-covenant,” when in truth they have good reason for better hopes. They are really in Christ, or true Christians, whose faith in him hath such a measure of strength, as engages them heartily to give up themselves to his instruction and conduct, and to rely upon him as an all-sufficient Saviour ; whose love is unfeigned, superior to their affection to other things, so as to make them wil. ling to do his commandments, fearful of offending him, grieved when they do so, and resolved to part with any thing rather than lose his favour : who make conscience of every part of his will as far as they know it, without a stated reserve for the chosen practice of any known sin, or an allowed 'deliberate exception against any known duty. All such are true Christians, and certainly accepted of God. But there are many, to whom these characters belong, and whose consciences upon
the strictest examination bear witness to thus much, who yet cannot be satisfied through the weakness of their judgment, and their fears of being mistaken in a matter of such importance. If they are asked the grounds of their doubts and fears, they appear to be no more than the ordinary imperfections, which more or less attend all good men in this life : they cannot be so lively and fixed in holy duties as they would ; they are not always in the same devout frame; vain and evil thoughts dart into their minds : their love to God and Christ are not at the pitch they would have them ; they find remains of sin still in being, to occasion their daily watchfulness and warfare. But the gospel-covenant doth not exclude men from a relation to Christ for such things as these ; it is the fruit of a pious mind, that they are so burdensome ; but a weakness attending them if that concern so far prevails, as to make them overlook the substantial evidences, they might discern of a sincere devotedness to God. Yet while their weakness induces them to exclude themselves out of the number of God's children, God forbid we should imagine that for that reason he will exclude them.
Others have much more reason for their fears. Their grace and holiness, in the substantial parts of it, is really so