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from the prefence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to fuffer fhame for his name.'
And Chriftians ought, and cannot but be affected with the fin and mifery of mankind fo far as it comes under their view, and to be pained and grieved, when they attend more particularly to it; for it is in itfelf a great, and to us incomprehenfible evil, and might well fill a benevolent man with infupportable pain and forrow, and fink him into the moft diftreffing gloom and over. whelming grief, were he not certain that all this is under the direction and particular care and regulation of uncontroulable wifdom and goodness, and has taken place because it is neceflary for the greateft good, on the whole, and no more fhall exift than fhall anfwer this end, the glory of God and the greateft poffible happiness of his kingdom; fo that it is on the whole beft there fhould be juft fo much evil in the univerfe as there is and ever will be. But when he attends to this his forrow is in a great measure turned into joy. And could he have as clear and comprehenfive a view of the good that will be the iflue of all the evil that takes place, as the inhabitants of heaven have, all his forrow would entirely ceafe, and nothing would interrupt or abate his pleasure and holy joy. But in this imperfect ftate, where fo much evil is felt, and prefent before our eyes, and the good which will be the confequence of all this, though believed to be certain, is not fo present and in fo full and clear view as the evil, the latter, especially at times, will occasion pain and forrow. The good man, in this very imperfect ftate especially, cannot be equally attentive to every object at the fame time, and when his attention is particularly turned to the evils that take place, and his mind is impreffed with them, he will have pain and forrow, tha.gh he does not doubt that all things are ordered for the beft, and that all the evil will iffue in the greatest good, while the latter is more out of fight, or lefs the object of his attention, and confequently makes a lefs impreffion on his mind. At other times his attention is fixed on Chrift, his character, works
and defigns, and the good he will bring out of all evil, his faith is ftrong, and realizes invifible things, that all things are going on well, and could not be better, as they are guided by infinite wisdom and goodness. His pain and forrow are turned into comfort, joy and praise.
Thus the Chriftian has his joys and forrows in this imperfect, finful ftate: but the latter never takes place to that degree as wholly to exclude the former; but in the midst of forrow he has joy, and, in a sense and degree, rejoices always. So the apofle Paul "had great heavinefs and continual forrow in his heart," in a view of the fin and mifery of his nation; yet in the midst of his forrow he had matter of joy. Therefore he reprefents himself, "forrowful, yet always rejoicing." And he commands Chriftians to rejoice in the Lord always, and repeats the injunction: "And again I fay, rejoice. Rejoice evermore." And our glorious Saviour, when in a fate of humiliation on earth, did in his human nature rejoice in fpirit, in the divine will, and fovereign, wife difpofal of all things and events, refpecting the children of men: [Luke x. 21, 22.] Yet he wept over Jerufalem, when his mind was impreffed with the fin and ruin of the inhabitants of that city. And though he rejoiced and was glad that Lazarus was dead, as it was neceffary for the glory of God and the good of his difciples, yet when he faw Mary and her friends who were with her weeping, he groaned in fpirit, was troubled, and wept.
QUESTION III. We believe a Chriftian may have fuch comfort and joy as has been described; but as fome are doubtlefs deceived, and make great pretentions to this joy, who have only a falfe and fpurious kind of joy, we should be glad to know how, and by what, the former may be diftinguifhed from the latter?
ANSWER. This may be in fome measure illuftrated and decided by the following particulars :
The Chriftian's joy is pure, calm and ferene, and is better felt than, expreffed; therefore does not make him talkative, and forward to tell of his joy, unless
when it appears neceffary for the inftruction and benefit of others; and then he is difpofed rather to speak of the matter and reafon there is of comfort and joy, than to dwell on his own comfort and enjoyment. He is humble, and has a low and mean opinion of himself, in proportion to the degree of his comfort and joy.
2. This joy does not tend to exclude or abate a fenfe of the evil of fin, and the ill-defert of it, and of the misery which takes place in confequence of it: but, on the contrary, the Chriftian has a clear view of his own finfulness, the hatefulness of it, and of his defert of evil, when he rejoiceth in the Lord: his joy does not abate his fenfe of this, but rather increases it. Nor is he infenfible of the evil of fin in general, and of the mifery that comes and will come on men for their fins, while he rejoices that the wrath, even all the fins and mifery, of man, fhall praife God.
Therefore they whofe religious joy arifes from a belief that there is no great evil in fin, and that God cannot justly, or if he could, will not, punish it with everlafting destruction, have only a groundless and false joy.
3. This joy is fo far from making perfons careless, slothful and inactive in religion, that it is attended with directly the contrary. They hate fin, and endeavour to avoid it, and feek deliverance from it, and strive to prevent and fupprefs it in others as far as they have opportunity and ability. They are fervent in fpirit, ferving the Lord. When they rejoice that he is praised, they feek to honor and praise him in all poffible ways. These cannot be separated, as it would imply an exprefs contradiction. They not only praise God, but pray to him. Their comfort and joy is not inconsistent with engagedness and pleasure in prayer; for the latter is implied in the former. They pray for deliverance from all that which appears to them to be evil, and for all things which they judge defirable for themfelves and others, and which appear moft for the glory of God, and the advancement of his intereft and kingdom among men.
But, in all their defires and prayers, they are refigned to the will of God. They fubordinate all to that, and. fay, If it be confiftent with thy will-defiring that his will may be done, which they know is beft, moft wife and good, however contrary it may be to their partial views and particular defires. And in this refignation to the divine will, and acquiefcence in it, there is implied an earnest defire and prayer. "Thy will be done," may: be a ftrong and earnest petition, and always is fo, when it is attended with a proper fenfe of the defirableness and importance that it fhould be done in all inftances, as implying the greateft poffible good, and with a dif pofition to rejoice in it.
It is therefore certain that they are ftrangers to the joy of true Chriftians, who, under a pretence of believing that all things and events are fixed by the will of God, and take place in the best manner, and that whatever is is right and beft, are wholly careless and easy with regard to their own ftate and conduct, and whatever fins and evils take place; have no defires to cross any of their inclinations, and to be virtuous and holy, living in the neglect of fervent devotion, prayer and praise.
On the whole,
This fubject is fuited to excite Chriftians to attend to and improve the truth contained in the text which has been explained, fo as conftantly to enjoy the fupport and comfort which they need, and which is offered to them, in the prefent dark and feemingly evil ftate of things in this world. Were it not for this truth, there would be no fupport for Chriftians, but their minds would be involved in the moft painful gloom, in the view of their own finful state, and the fin and misery which abound in the world, directly tending to the difhonour of God, and the ruin of all that is defirable; attended with diforder and confufion, of which no bounds or end can be realized or known, or fo much as conjectured. The good man would have no place on which he could fet his foot, to prevent his finking and being overwhelmed in darkness and despair.
But when the Chriftian attends to this truth, and feels the certainty of it, his feet ftand on a folid foundation, on a rock which cannot be moved: he feels calm, and has divine fupport and comfort, in the midst of the ftorms and raging waves which tofs themfelves as if they would overwhelm the world. He looks above all these threatening appearances, and beholds a ferene fky, and knows the form will foon be over, and the dafhing waves will ceafe, and the fun will fhine more bright and pleafant than if there had been no ftorm. The Chriftian, whofe mind is firmly eltablished in this everlafting truth, and is fure that all things will iffue well, and that it is beft they fhould take place just as they do, that good will be the flue of all the evil, though he cannot but be affected with the evils, moral and natural, with which he is furrounded, and that more or lefs at different times, yet will have fufficient fupport, and be filled with comfort and joy, efpecially at times, knowing that the Lord reigns, that the wrath of man fhall praife him, and the remainder of wrath he will reftrain.
It therefore becomes Chriftians, as their duty and intereft, to attend to this truth, taken in the whole extent of it, to keep it in their minds, and maintain a conftant affurance of it, whatever appearances there may be to the contrary. It is to be feared that many Chriftians are greatly deficient in this. They dwell too much, if not wholly, on the dark fide of things, on the evils which are in their view, and fuffer much gloom, dejection and pain of mind, for which there is no good reason, and which they might efcape, if they looked more at the bright fide, prefented in the truth which has been confidered, and kept it always in view; and their tears of forrow would be in a meafure dried up, and fucceeded by tears of joy. It is obfervable that Chriftians, when they meet with great difappointments and calamities, either perfonal or public, in which the intereft of the church and religion is concerned, are obliged to make ufe of this truth for their fupport and comfort