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With a propriety which none can feel
And smiling say, 'My Father made them all." The man who loves God enjoys more consolation in affliction than he who acknowledges not the providence of God. He has the assurance that he is chastened in love, that he may be made a partaker of true holiness, Heb. xii. 5-11, and that all things work together for his good, Rom. viii. 28. On the occasion of great losses or troubles there will be the first ebullition of grief, and there may be frequent painful recollections; but the love of God will produce the calmest submission to the Divine will, and the most cheerful acquiescence in the Divine dispensations. * There lies my prince,” said the amiable Fenelon, “and all my earthly happiness lies dead with him; but if the turning of a straw would bring him back to life, I would not, for ten thousand worlds, be the turner of that straw, in opposition to the will of God.” If we cannot at the present moment discover the benefit that is to be derived from the affliction, there is a voice which says, “ What I do thou knowest not now, but thou shalt know hereafter;" and this satisfies the mind.
The man who loves God anticipates more joy in the prospect of death than he who realizes not the great salvation. Death separates us from all we love and all we enjoy below. But, if we love God, it brings us into nearer communion with him; and to a fuller enjoyment of his favour. “ His servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their forehead.” Hence, to such characters, death is gain. But without love to God the thought of death cannot be desirable. Whither am I going ? will be a painful question at such a momentous season, but a question which will naturally occur to every reflecting mind. Nor can the pleasures of the world relieve the pain which a foreboding suspense on this point must necessarily occasion. A condemned malefactor would not be comforted though his friends were allowed to make him a feast before his execution. But bring him a pardon from his prince, and inform him that he is to be taken into his immediate service, and you give him real joy. Thus the sinner who confesses his sins and finds God faithful and just to forgive him his sins, who knows the love of God and enters upon the service of God, can triumph in the prospect of death. “God hath heard my petitions, said the excellent Hooker, when dying, “and I am at peace with all men, and he is at peace with me; and from this blessed assurance I feel that inward joy which this world can neither give nor take away from me; my conscience beareth me this witness; and this witness makes the thought of death joyful.” “I were without excuse," said the pious Doddridge,
if I could not trust my oft-experienced and almighty Friend. If I survive my voyage, well; if not, all will be well; and I hope I shall embrace the wave that, instead of wafting me to Lisbon, shall land me in heaven. I am more afraid of doing wrong than of dying. The Lord is my God; I have a cheerful well-grounded hope, through the Lord Jesus Christ, of being received to everlasting mercy." “ Thanks be unto God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The knowledge and love of God will be followed by obedience; and happiness will be found,
III.-IN THE SERVICE OF GOD. Where there is faith or confidence in God through Christ, there will be a union of heart to him, and this is love; and when we perceive his loving-kindness in Christ, we repose under the shadow of his wings, and are influenced by gratitude. A lively sense of favours conferred will excite ardent desires to return such acknowledgments as our nature, our talents, and our opportunities will admit. This is the true service of God. There is then an abhorrence of that which is evil, and a cleaving to that which is good. By the mercies of God we are constrained to present ourselves to him as a living sacrifice, which is our reasonable service, Rom. xii. 1. And in this service there is perfect freedom. A speculative knowledge may have its flash of joy, but this practical knowledge shall be attended with durable pleasure. In keeping his commandments there is great reward, Psalm xix. 11. The apostle from experience spoke of this pleasure. rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by ihe grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world," 2 Cor. i. 12. And the Saviour has expressly declared, “If ye know these things, happy are you if you do them," John xiii. 17. On the contrary, wilful sin leaves a sting behind. For however specious the temptation, or alluring the opportunity, the expected pleasure or profit will ultimately issue in vexation and disappointment, because it
will be found that a hook was concealed under the bait, and pain and misery will follow as a sure and necessary consequence. “ Sin when it is finished, bringeth forth death." But the service of God terminates in real happiness. “If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my servant be : if any man serve me, him will my Father honour," John xii. 26.
It has pleased God to include in bis service our neighbour's benefit. 'He graciously requires that we should love one another and share in each other's joys. And great is the pleasure which arises out of those kind offices and that affectionate intercourse which true religion prescribes. By mutual forbearance, and kindness, and disinterested regard, how might the evils of life be lessened and its sorrows alleviated! By a Christian discharge of relative duties, how might the comforts of life be increased, and its benefits extended ! Affectionate parents and dutiful children, kind masters and willing servants, obliging neighbours and faithful friends, are terms of an endearing nature, and with such the ideas of happiness and comfort are readily and necessarily associated. But the miseries which result from the indulgence of wrong tempers and unkind treatment, and from the neglect of social duties and relative attachments, let the sorrows of our unhappy world declare.
The service of God then is a conformity to the will of God; and a cheerful compliance with the will of God carries pleasure with it. He commands nothing but what is for our good, and when we live in his love and in obedience to his will we have a continual feast, 1 John v.3; whereas the pleasures of sin are but for a season. Frequently at the very time of enjoyment their vanity is deeply and feelingly impressed upon the mind.
“Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness,” Prov. xiv. 13. But “Godliness is profitable unto all things, having the promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come,” 1 Tim. iv. 8. Would you then be happy? Seek happiness in the knowledge, in the love, and in the service of God. If you will not be thus happy, you cannot be happy at all. dark will be the closing scene of life when the recollection of times and opportunities lost will occasion bitter reproach, and the looking forward to eternity will be attended with those gloomy apprehensions of future judgment of which the Holy Scriptures have given us such solemn warning, 2 Cor. v. 10. May the Holy Spirit direct you in your choice, that you may
Shall we say
walk in wisdom's ways which are ways of pleasantness, and in her paths, which are paths of peace, Prov. iii. 17.--See Henry on the Pleasantness of a Religious Life.
As it is the object of this tract to direct you in these paths, so let it reason with you if you are not walking therein. Who amongst us has not had abundant experience of the insufficiency of every thing, except true religion, to make us happy? And shall we yet persist in our error ? Shall we never cease to “hew out to ourselves broken cisterns,” when we might have access to “the fountain of living waters ?” Shall we still grasp at a shadow while we lose the substance? What reason can we assign to ourselves for such obstinacy? And what shall we assign to God when he shall inquire of us respecting it in the day of judgment ? Shall we plead a want of information ? God has informed us. that this blessedness was out of our reach? God has freely offered it to us. Nor is it any thing but the indulgence of a self-righteous or worldly spirit that can deprive us of it. Alas ! and shall we seek our happiness in self-applauding reflections on our own goodness, or in the pursuit and enjoyment of earthly things ? And can we attain abiding satisfaction in such courses ? Will not the comfort derived from such things fail us in the hour when we most need it?
Have they ever proved a source of solid peace ? And will any satisfaction arise from the remembrance of them when we stand at the bar of judgment? If, therefore, we turn a deaf ear to the voice of mercy, if we refuse to be happy in the way
in which alone our rational and immortal nature can be happy, how justly might the Lord say, “ Because I have called and you have refused, I have stretched out my hand and no man regarded, but you have set at nought all my counsel and would none of my reproof, I also will laugh at your calamity, I will mock when your fear cometh,” Prov. i. 24; “ This shall you have of my hand, you
shall lie down in sorrow, Isa. i. 11. But let the writer of this tract hope better things of you ; let him hope that you will read your Bible, and pray for the Holy Spirit to ach you, that you may come to the knowledge, and love, and service of God, in which alone true happiness can be found.
THE ENGLISH MONTHLY TRACT SOCIETY,
27, RED LION SQUARE.
J. & W. Rider, Printers, 14, Bartholomew Close, London.