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confers the most substantial and lasting benefits. What so invaluable in itself, or so necessary to the peace and happiness of men, as the full and everlasting forgiveness of their sins ", the assurance of God's favour", and the transporting hope of an heavenly inheritancedd ? If a bright expectation of celestial bliss, founded on the absolute promise of God, does not inspire its possessor with "joy unspeakable and full of glory," we are at a loss to conceive from what other source it can flow. All other objects, merely temporal, which can interest the mind, leave men, in the midst of their enjoyment, to feel occasionally an aching void, and wants which nothing earthly can satisfy. Neither the knowledge nor the possession of natural things, though useful enough as far as they regard this imperfect state, will support, much less profit, men who are strangers to God, when they are called to bid a lasting adieu to the present scene. Even the greatest proficients in human knowledge, if not enlightened with the wisdom which cometh from above, must die, as well as other worldly men, at last, in awful suspense and uncertainty respecting their future condition.
But sincere Christians derive from their knowledge of salvation by Jesus, contentment in every condition, victory over evil passions and inordinate affections, a shield against the attacks of Satan, and a supernatural fortitude which bears up their soul in the hour of trial, and a glorious prospect of ineffable felicity to begin, as soon as this mortal life is ended.
Knowledge so divine and beatifying enriches the poorest and lowest disciple in the school of Christ : and, if men of talent and education would have a ec Isa, xliii. 25. "Jer. 1. 20.
Isa. Ivii. 15. lxiv. 5. dd Luke xxii. 28-31. Col. i. 5.
share of its blessings, they must seek it as the free gift of God in Christ, bestowed in the use of the ineans of grace. If sought from a sense of want, and with earnest prayer, it is sure to be found; but, if men neglect or despise it for the vanities of the world, they will find, when it is too late for repentance, that shadows have been exchanged for a substance which endureth for ever. On the other hand, to induce. us to cultivate Divine knowledge with the utmost persevering diligence, it is strongly recommended by one who knew its superlative worth:--" Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandize of it is better than the merchandize of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths. are peace. She is a tree of life to them that lay hold of her; and happy is every one that retaineth here."
Now, they who spiritually understand the word of God, and believe his promises, will, without any hesitation, allow, that the saints have more pleasure than all others; yea, that every enjoyment which does not spring from faith in Christ is only misery in disguise.
2. The faithful in Christ Jesus possess a source of inexpressible pleasure in having God as their Father and constant friend, in a peculiar sense, to which no others but themselves can lay claim.
Many passages of Scripture assert this distinction. They who through grace believed in Christ, and received him as the Messiah,
the Messiah, “to thein gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; who were born not of blood,
. Prov. iii. 13-19.
nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.f.” When Jesus was about to leave the world, he comforted his Apostles and Disciples by saying, “ I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God.”
If Jehovah condescends to bear so near a relation to the faithful, it is rational to conclude that his love for thein far exceeds the affection of earthly parents towards their offspring. Every father, who is worthy of the name, manifests his delight in his children, by many expressions of love ; and thus the harshness of subjection is rendered pleasant to them. And is it not perfectly greeable to reason, to suppose that the Eternal Father may and does make as sensible a difference between his obedient servants, and hypocritical and formal professors of religion, as we do between our dutiful children whom we caress, and our stubborn ones whom we keep in awe ? Is it unreasonable to suppose, that whilst he grants the knowledge of his salvation to them that fear him, he should suffer others to remain at a distance from him, without any spiritual light and understanding, grovelling in the guilty pleasures of sin and the things of time, which they basely prefer to God and all the riches of his grace? Certainly this is a most rational conclusion, especially when it is considered that, throughout the Bible, believers are declared to be the delight and glory of God. It is in vain to object against this doctrine, as implying too great a condescension in him, his as making men of too great importance; because the Scripture account of the communion between God and the faithful strongly affirms that such çondescension and regard are bestowed on them. He, then, who is ready, upon Jolin i. 12. 13,
& John xx, 17.
bela wit GOC I dOL lor
either of the above suppositions, to mock at the mention of the Christian's joy in God, arising froin the near relation which he bears towards him, despiseth not man, but his adorable Creator, who, of his super-abounding goodness, promiseth to render his beloved sons happy both now and evermore. “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people"."
3. Communion with and access to God, at all times, through Christ, is another source of high gratification to the devout believer. As soon as the enmity of our depraved hearts is conquered, and as soon as friendship is established between us and God, he graciously allows us to approach him with filial confidence and affection. To Him we may
, look for comfort in the hour of sorrow and persecution ; to Him we may tell our complaints; and in his bosom pour out our grief, with a certainty that it will be initigated or removed. Indeed there is po demonstration of sincere love, which will be withheld from them that walk uprightly
And who can adequately set forth the peace and joy which believers possess in communion with their God? Is it doubted whether such a privilege can belong to mortals, as to hold spiritual intercourse with Heaven ? Scripture, and the experience of good men, put the matter beyond all reasonable doubt. God's own words will sufficiently vouch for the fact: “ The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him; and he will shew them his covenanti.” Yes, in the ordinances of his house he manifests himself graciously unto his servants. The Prophet Kaiah asserted, from his own knowledge of God's
2 Cor. yi.16. luh Psalm lxxxiv. ll. "ib. xxv. 14.
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dealings with the Church, “Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that re- les member thee in thy waysk.” And St. John, in ope order to establish the belief of the members of the infant Church in the Divinity of Christ, and to animate them to patient suffering in his cause, exhorted
face them to seek communion with himself and the other Apostles, that they might share with them the distinguished favour shewn to those eminent servants of Christ : "For truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ." To be permitted thus to know God as a Father and friend, yea, to hold communion with him, by his Spirit rate dwelling in their hearts, is that common privilege of the saints, which causes them, even amidst the
Su sharpest trials,“ to rejoice in the Lord, and to joy in the God of their salvation.”
4. That nothing may be wanting to console the faithful, and to encourage them “ to press forward to the mark for the prize of their high calling,” God on: grants them a foretaste of the blessedness of heaven. That they may be stimulated to seek the good land itself, they are allowed to taste, by anticipation, itselt fruits, in that measure which will conduce to their spiritual improvement. When faith is in vigorous exercise, the Christian ascends the top of Pisgah", and from thence obtains a view of the Promised Land. And, if some transient glimpses of heaven minister such delight as earth with all its charms cannot boast of, what ecstasy, what rapturous bliss will the enjoyment of Paradise itself afford ! There, what was seen below, as through a glass darkly, will be clearly known and appreciated; and every dis
* Isa. Ixiv. 5. 1 John i, 3. * Deut. xxxiv. 1. Su