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according to the glowing language of St. Peter, of 'living stones, a spiritual house of God, eternal in the heavens.' On him, the sole foundation, the vast structure is erected, to stand for ever.
By the Spirit of truth is this mighty work completed. With infinite kindness and patience he awakens, convinces, renews, and purifies the soul; forms it for endless holiness and endless life; and conducts it through this earthly wilderness to the land of promise beyond the grave.
In all these things, united, is the love of God seen with supreme advantage, as immense, unchanging, and eternal; as endeared with all possible tenderness, as overcoming the most perverse obstinacy, as forgiving the greatest guilt, as flowing out to enemies and apostates condemned by unerring justice, and discarded by the virtuous universe.
To the Christian, in all these respects, is God the source of supreme and unceasing joy. As a Christian, he has become a new creature, entered into a new creation, and enrolled himself as a subject of a new and immortal kingdom. This kingdom is a kingdom in which will be progressively accomplished universal, entire, and everlasting good. For this end it was created. To this end it is uniformly conducted by the all-pervading, all-ruling hand of Jehovah. The subjects of it are universally children of light.' Their intercourse is an endless succession of diversified virtue and loveliness. Purity, dignity, and excellence are their inherent characteristics, and everlasting happiness and glory their final destination. In all that they are, in all that they do, and in all that is done to them, God himself rejoices with intense and eternal joy.
With this new kingdom the Christian has begun an everlasting connection. His union to the members of it and his intercourse with them, instead of terminating, will unceasingly become more intimate, more endearing, more exalted. The views of their minds and his are destined to become perpetually more and more just and comprehensive; their affections and his to be more pure, intense, and noble; their mutual friendship to be more sweet and serene; and their conduct to be, in an unceasing gradation, such as is proper to be exhibited in the house and presence of God.
In accordance with the state of things, therefore, will the
whole scheme of the Christian's future being be formed. His plans will of course be concerted in such a manner as to embrace and promote eternal purposes. They will be the plans of an immortal being, destined to act with immortal beings in a boundless field of existence; the plans of a dutiful and faithful subject of the infinite ruler; of a child, warmed with perpetual and filial piety to his divine parent; of a brother, finally united to the household which is named after Christ;' of a redeemed, sanctified, returning prodigal, brought back, with infinite compassion and infinite expense, to the house of his father, and welcomed with exquisite joy by the family of the first-born. To glorify God, to bless his fellow-creatures, and to be blessed by both, will be the combined and perfect end for which he lives. This end he will pursue in a world where no obstructions ever arise, where no toil ever wearies, where no disappointments ever intrude, where no temptations ever arrest, and where no enemies ever alarm; where his affections cannot be too intense, nor his pursuits too ardent; and where his only professional business will be to be virtuous and happy. As a citizen of this new and heavenly kingdom, the Christian begins his course of spiritual life. All these things are already become his. God is his Father, Christ his Redeemer, the Spirit of grace his Sanctifier, and all the children of virtue are his brethren. In the present world he is only a stranger and a sojourner; he regards it therefore as a mere lodging, and fixes his eye on heaven as his home.
With this new character, all things with which he here converses assume to his eye a new aspect, and are filled with the presence and agency of God. The Heavens declare his glory, and the firmament showeth his handy work. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.' The year,' in all its revolutions, is crowned with his goodness.' The spring is his beauty, blooming in endless varieties of elegance and splendour. Summer and autumn are manifestations of his bounty, filling his creatures with good. The winter is a solemn display of his majesty. Then 'the Lord hath his way in the whirlwind, and in the storm; and the clouds are the dust of his feet.'
In his own blessings the Christian sees God in a manner still more delightful. His blessings are not mere enjoyments; they are gifts, unspeakably endeared by the hand from which
they flow. When he is in prosperity, the Lord is his Shepherd, who maketh him to lie down in green pastures, and leadeth him beside the still waters; who prepareth a table before him in the presence of his enemies, who anointeth his head with oil; who canseth his cup to run over, and goodness and mercy to follow him all the days of his life.' Is he in adversity? The rod and staff of the same Shepherd support and comfort him.' Is he in doubt and darkness, where he is scarcely able to trace the path of life? He hears a voice behind him, saying, This is the way; walk thou therein.' Is he mourning in Zion? God appoints to him beauty for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning.' Is he sick? God is his physician? and has already taught him to say, 'Why art thou cast down, O my soul; and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.' Has he come to a dying bed? Christ has vanquished death and the grave; and has taught him to sing at their approach, O Death! where is thy sting? O Grave! where is thy victory?' Has he friends? 'God has raised them up.' Has he children? They are an heritage from the Lord.' Is the land of his nativity safe? God is a wall of fire round about it.' Does religion flourish? God is the glory in the midst of it.' The church to which he is united is a garden, which the Lord hath planted.' Is it enlightened, quickened, and edified? It is not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.' Is it comforted? The consolations have come down from the heavenly Comforter. Is it protected?
The Lord hath created upon Mount Zion, and upon all her assemblies, a cloud and a smoke by day, and a light of a flaming fire by night.'
Thus to the Christian all things in heaven and earth are full of God. Wherever he walks, wherever he is, he is surrounded with his presence; and in that presence there is abundance of joy. To him in his meditations and in his worship he instinctively turns, as the supreme object of his affections and of his obedience. In loving, fearing, and serving him with all the heart,' he finds his chief delight; and becomes continually able, with more and more propriety and truth, to say, • Whom have I in heaven, but thee? and there is none upon the earth whom I desire beside thee.'
III. The Christian rejoices in spiritual things universally. Spiritual things are those in which the power of the Spirit of grace is peculiarly visible, and which therefore have a peculiar tendency to improve us in the Christian character. In all things of this nature the Christian finds a peculiar joy. Particularly in the word of God he discovers multiplied streams of pure and increasing pleasure. Here all the transporting things already mentioned are made known to mankind. Here are disclosed the character, designs, and works of the Creator; the rebellion, guilt, and condemnation of man, and his restoration by forgiving, redeeming, and sanctifying love. Here the means of grace and salvation are revealed, the truths which we are to believe, and the precepts which we are to obey. Here' life and immortality are brought to light' by the Redeemer, and the path which leads to them is pointed out by the finger of God. The Bible is a window in this prison of hope, through which we look into eternity. It is the door of heaven opened by a divine hand, through which we cast our view into that glorious region, and behold the beauty, splendour, and happiness which reign and triumph there for ever.
Here the Christian finds himself most mercifully checked in the hour of temptation by the threatenings of the law, and divinely allured to righteousness by promises and invitations. Behind him, justice displays its flaming sword, to prevent him from returning to the bye-paths of sin. Before him mercy calls, with the music of heaven and the smile of Infinite love, to quicken his course in the highway of holiness.
In the worship of the same glorious Being the same delight is experienced, and with enhanced enjoyment. In his closet, like Moses, he converses with God face to face;' and, while he spreads all his wants and woes, all his sins and dangers, all his hopes and joys, before him, is assured of an open reward.' In his family, when his nearest connections are around him, he finds every comfort endeared by these beloved objects, and sweetened by the remembrance, that his house is a house of God. In the sanctuary he unites with his fellowchristians to ask counsel at the mercy-seat, and to present before it prayers and praises, refined and exalted by evangelical sympathy. Here also all his virtuous affections and purposes are purified and strengthened by the heavenly influence of the
holy day and the holy place. Here grace is given, and glory anticipated.
At the table of Christ, and in the celebration of baptism, his soul is refreshed and revived by the sight of the dying Saviour expiating his sins, and of the Spirit of God, symbolically poured out as a divine cleansing, to purify his heart from moral pollution. Earth here borrows the aspect of heaven, and sublunary things are invested with no small degree of immortal beauty.
In the church of God, he sees a real though imperfect picture of the general assembly of the first-born.' All Christians are his brethren, and fellow travellers with him towards the heavenly kingdom in the strait and narrow way that leads to life.' Their character, their hearts, their interests, their designs, are one. They are members of one family. They have one Father, even God;' they have one Lord,' even Christ; they have one Sanctifier, and one Comforter, even the Spirit of grace.' Their hopes and fears, their doubts and discoveries, their joys and sorrows, are the same. all the same divine image is instamped, the same evangelical beauty is visible. Lovely and pleasant in their lives, in their death they are not divided.'
IV. The Christian finds an exalted pleasure in the good enjoyed by others.
In his view no truth is clearer than that it is more blessed to give than to receive.' With this truth he cheerfully accords; and finds, in doing good to others, a humble share of the same delight which is enjoyed by the universal Benefactor, in the overflowings of infinite beneficence to the creation. Nor is his enjoyment less exquisite when good is done by those around him. In them, as in him, real disinterested beneficence is a proof of sanctification. If the beneficence be not disinterested, he still possesses the joy of seeing his fellow creatures made happy.
In the diffusion of the divine beneficence also he experiences a perpetual delight, while he beholds the illustrious exhibitions of the goodness of God, and shares in the comfort of all on whom it descends. Especially is this enjoyment exquisite when sinners are brought out of darkness into mar