« ForrigeFortsæt »
the mind of the man whose case is here supposed, to unveil objects to his sight in all their truth and sublimity, he would have continued to enjoy his wonted repose. He would have contented himself, amid the gratifications of sense and intellect, without God. He would have gone on to seek distinction and happiness to himself, in running the high career of ambition, or in earning a reputation of benevolence and usefulness, or he would have employed himself in conversing with the ideal forms which people the regions of imaginative feeling and fancy, or humbler and less refined in his views, perhaps, he would have sought and found his enjoyments amid the endearments of objects of affection in domestic life. In the possession of health and of spirits all this may do well enough, and no great want may be felt, and no serious evil may be apprehended. But there is a certain hour, which one would wish all undisturbed and bright, and that is when we die, “when hence we go, ne'er to be seen again !" and where, then, are the sources of gratification with which this individual contented himself while living? where are they the moment after his immortal soul is separated from this fleeting scene for ever? If they have contributed nothing to his fitness to appear before God, and to the well-being of eternity, then must they be pronounced to be altogether different from the true, substantial, and imperishable happiness of man.
IN WHAT THE TRUE HAPPINESS OF MAN CONSISTS,
" Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter : fear God, and keep his commandments; for this is the whole honour, interest, privilege, duty, and happiness
For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” All that truly concerns man, as a being formed for immortality, is reducible to this : every thing else is accessory, fleeting, perishing. I observe,
I. That the happiness of man consists in the knowledge, love, fear, and favour of God. Before we can love and fear God, we must know him as he has revealed himself in his word. The object of our adora. tion and homage must be the true God, and not an imaginary Deity, the mere creation of superstitious dread. The design of the plan of redeeming mercy made known in the Gospel, is to exhibit the character of God in a light calculated to produce penitence and love in the heart of man; and to restore hiin to true happiness, by restoring him to the favour and friendship of him who is its fountain. To know and to love God in this character of redeeming mercy in which he reveals himself, is to possess happiness; since we are thus put in the possession of that which will relieve our fears, raise our hopes, and give us peace in believing that God is reconciled
to us, and that this God will be our God for ever and ever. If life eternal consist in knowing the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he has sent, then such a view of his character and glory as transforms us into his moral image, as produces hatred to sin as the greatest evil, and a supreme delight and satisfaction in God as the chief portion, must form a part of our chief good.
The happiness to which the believer is introduced on earth, though only an earnest of unmingled good in heaven, is a joy unspeakable and full of glory; experienced in communion with God; in a deliverance from the wrath which abideth on the children of disobedience; in the pardon of all sin; in his adoption into the family of the redeemed ; and in his being kept by a power that will never fail him. This power, working by the word and the providence of the Saviour, does not, indeed, make him indifferent to all outward things, but renders him superior to them, and forsakes him not till it has fitted up for him, amid the splendours of immortality, a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. If it be happiness to know that all the attributes of God are exercised for him—that all events are working together for his good—that angels are sent forth to minister unto him—that sin will finally and for ever be subdued in him,—and that when the earthly house of this tabernacle is dissolved, he has a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavensthen does this happiness belong to the disciple of the Lord Jesus.
II. The happiness of man consists not only in enjoying God in all the manifestations of his presence in Christ, but in obeying him. “ Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” The moment a moral and intelligent being casts off the authority of God, he departs from real good; he becomes guilty, and consequently miserable. Nor is it possible to escape this misery without returning to obedience. Hence the design of the gospel is to recall men from their wanderings, and to bring them to a cordial acquiescence in the will of God, as well as cheerful submission to it. Christ gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people zealous of good works. The purification which he works inwardly by his Spirit is as necessary as the atonement which he made for sin by the sacrifice of himself; nor can there be peace and satisfaction experienced but in connexion with holiness and moral excellence.
When we possess this holiness of our nature arising from the knowledge, faith, and love of God, in Christ Jesus, we have the true happiness of man, even the happiness of heaven, begun: and it is of little consequence what share we possess of the riches, pleasures, and honours that are but of momentary duration. The sources of our great and eternal felicity, are independent of our poverty or wealth, our obscurity or eminence, our learning or our ignorance, our worldly disappointments or successes. Is not our happiness secure in having God for our portion, in enjoying all the blessings of his salvation, in being made meet for the everlasting kingdom which
he has prepared for us, and which we have the hope of so soon entering, in the certainty that no calamities can essentially injure us, that no enemies can prevail against us? Is not he the happy man who can stand on the confines of both worlds with tranquillity, and say, in the confidence of christian hope, “ henceforth
, there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me, and not to me only, but unto all them also who love his
appearing ?” Of what avail to me are all the sources of enjoyment to which man during his perishable existence has recourse; and what are to me all the ills which he fears ?—“ For I am persuaded that neither life nor death, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor things present, nor things to come, nor any other creature shall be able to separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
III. The complete happiness of man will be found in the world to come. God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be bad. After surveying all the things done under the sun,-after we have seen the utter incompetency of human wisdom, and of human means,- of wealth, and power, and honour, to give ample and satisfactory enjoyment,--after we have observed, as we suppose, the very unequal distribution of good and evil,--the righteous suffering under poverty and oppression, and manifold calamities, and the wicked largely sharing of the good things of this lifewe are referred for an adjustment of the matter to a judgment to come, in which God will apportion to