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SERMON XLIII.

REJOICE EVERMORE.

i Thess. v. 16.

Rejoice evermore. REJOICE evermore! O good Apostle, how acceptable SERM. rules dost thou prescribe! O blessed God, how gracious XLII. laws dost thou impose! This is a rule, to which one would think all men should be forward to conformı; 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 observance whereof is not only pleasant, but pleasure itself? Who is so wild as to affect a fin, 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 Eccl. viti. under the sun thanto be merry. Were it not rather expe. dient to recommend sober sadness, or to repress the incli-v. 18, 26. nations of men to effuse mirth and jollity?

So it may seem; but yet, alas! if we consult experience, or observe the world, we shall find this precept very ill obeyed : for do we not commonly fee people in heavy

· 12, 22.

SERM. dumps ? do we not often hear doleful complaints ? is not

XLlll. this world apparently a stage of continual trouble and Eccl. i. 14. grief? Did not the 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 amaffing heaps of wealth ; some in practice of overreaching subtilties; fome 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 confiderable success; finding at most, instead of it, some faint shadows, or transitory flashes of pleasure, the wbich, depending on causes very contingent and mutable, residing in a frail temper of Auid humours of body, consisting in flight touches upon the organs of sense, in frisks of the corpo. real spirits, or in fumes and vapours twitching the imagination, do soon flag and expire; their short enjoyment being also tempered 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; Prov. xit. for, Even, as Solomon obferved, in laughter, the heart is

forrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness; and,

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Though, as it is said in Job, (ch. xx. ver. 12. 14.. 20.) SER M. wickedness is sweet in the mouth-yet his meal in his bowels XLII. is lurned, it is the gall of afps within him : so that indeed Suni quæthe usual delights which men affect are such, that we dam triftes

voluptates. should not if we could, and we could not if we would, Sen. Ep.67. constantly entertain them; such rejoicing evermore being Fu

'B sum se verequally unreasonable and impoffible.

terit anima

... hominis, ad Wherefore there is ground more than enough, that we do Ahould be put to seek for a true, substantial, and consistent gitur alibi, joy; it being withal implied, that we should effect it in quam in te. another way, or look for it in another box, than com- Aug Cons.

ir. 20. monly men do; who therefore are so generally disappointed, because they would have it upon impoflible or undue terms, and least expect it there, where it is only to be had.

It is a scandalous misprifion, vulgarly admitted, cancerning religion, that it is altogether fullen and four, requiring a dull, lumpith, morose kind of life, barring all delight, all mirth, all good humour; whereas, on the contrary, it alone is the never-failing source of true, pure, fteady joy; such as is deeply rooted in the heart, inmoveably 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 fee, 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; suppofing, consequently, that it is in some manner pollible to be fo, 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 fin, 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

Rom. XV.

2 Cor. i. 3. xiii. 11.

Jam. v. 11.

Matt. xx 21.

11. xvi.

24.

16.

SERM. us hereafter, so he would have us enjoy a comfortable paXLIII. radise of delight here. He accordingly hath ordered the

whole frame of our religion in a tendency to produce joy

in thote who embrace it; for what is the Gospel, but, as Luke ii. 10. the holy angel, the first promulger of it, did report, good

* tidings of great joy to all people ? How doth God represent 33. 13. 5. Eph. ii. 4. himself therein, but as the God of love, of hope, of peace, of

*. all consolation, cheerfully smiling in favour on us, graci1 Pet. V 10. ously inviting 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 call us Mat. xi. 28. to him, but that he may give us rest and refreshment to our Apoc. vii. Souls; that he may wipe away all tears from our eyes; 17. xxi. 4. that he may save us from most woful despair, and settle Tit. ii. 13. us in a blessed hope ; that we may enter into our Master's

XIV. joy; that our joy may be full, and such as no man can John xv. take from us?

2. What is the great overture of the Gospel, but the gift John xiv. of a most blessed Comforter, to abide with us for ever,

cheering our hearts with his lightsome presence and ra

vishing consolations? Wherein doth the kingdom of heaRom. xiv. ven consist? not in meat and drink, but in righteousness, and

peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. What are the prime

fruits sprouting from that root of Christian life, the Divine Gal. v. 22. Spirit? they are, as St. Paul telleth us, love, joy, and peace.

Are there not numberless declarations importing a joyful

satisfaction granted to the observers of God's commandPsal. xcvii. ments; that light is fown for the righteous, and gladness

. for the upright in heart? Doth not our Lord pronounce a 11.lxviii. 3. special beatitude to the practiser of every virtue ? And if

we scan all the doctrines, all the institutions, all the precepts, all the promises of Christianity, will not each appear pregnant with matter of joy, will not each yield great reason and strong obligation to this duty of rejoicing evermore?

Wherefore a Christian, as such, (according to the design of his religion, and in proportion to his compliance with its dictates,) is the most jocund, blithe, and gay person in the world; always in humour and full of cheer; continu

17.

11. cxviii 15. xxxii.

ally bearing a mind well fatisfied, a light heart and calm SERM. spirit, a smooth brow and serene countenance, a grateful XLIII. accent of speech, and a sweetly composed tenor of carriage; no black thought, no irksome desire, no troublesome passion should lodge in his breast; any furrow, any frown, any cloud doth fit ill upon his face; the least fretful word or froward behaviour doth utterly misbecome him; if at any time it appear otherwise, it is a deflection from his character; it is a blemish and wrong to his profession; it argueth a prevarication in his judgment, or in his practice; he forgetteth that he is a Christian, or hath not preserved the innocence belonging to that name. For, if a Christian remembereth what he is, or is sensible of his condition; if he reflecteth on the dignity of his person, the nobleness of his relations, the fublimity of his privileges, the greatness and certainty of his hopes, how can he be out of humour? Is it not absurd for him that is at peace with Heaven, with his own conscience, with all the world; for the possessor of the best goods, and the heir of a blessed immortality; for the friend, the favourite, the son of God, to fret or wail ?

He that is settled in a most prosperous state, that is (if he pleaseth) secure of its continuance, that is well assured of its improvement; that hath whatever good he can wish in his reach, and more than he can conceive in sure rever

fion; what account can be given that he should be fad, or E seem afflicted ? . He that hath the inexhaustible spring of good for his • portion; that hath his welfare entrusted in God's most

faithful hand; that hath God's infallible word for his support; that hath free access to him, in whose presence is Psal. xvi. fulness of joy; that hath frequent tastes of God's goodness, ". in gracious dispensations of providence, in intercourses of devotion, in the influences of grace; that bath the infinite beauty and excellency for the perpetual object of his contemplation and affection; that enjoyeth the serenity of a sound mind, of a pure heart, of a quiet conscience, of a sure hope, what can he want to refresh or comfort him?

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