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Matth. xxv. 5. Only the man that has peace of conscience is prepared, Isa. xxxiii. 14, 15.
2. Let all who would have their consciences to be their friends, fiee to the blood of Christ, and to lead a holy life.
3. Lastly, Let all those who want it, labour to get it; and they that have it, be exercised to keep it.
III. OF JOY IN THE HOLY GHOST.
* Spiritual joy, or joy in the Holy Ghost, is a benefit flowing from
Now, to shew first of all what spiritual joy is : Joy in general is a pleasing passion, arising from the enjoyment, or hope of joyment of a desired object. Spiritual joy is a joy arising from the enjoyment, and hope of the enjoyment of spiritual blessings.
Here I shall shew,
V. The means the Spirit makes use of to convey it into the hearts of the saints.
VI. The difference betwixt it and the hypocrite's joy.
I. I shall consider the subjects of this joy, who they are that partake of it.
1. It is peculiar to the saints : for they only are blessed with spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus, and no others can have true spiritual joy, Phil. iii. 3. Any may have a sensitive joy, viz. in things grateful to their senses, Acts xiv. 17. Profane men may have a sinful joy, a joy in sin, Prov. xv. 21. Ilypocrites may have a delusive joy, which is a carnal joy in spiritual things, Matth. xiii. 20. But saints only have the true spiritual joy, or joy in the Holy Ghost; for it is peculiar to the subjects of Christ's kingdom, Rom. xiv. 17.
2. Yet the saints have it not at all times, Psal. li. 8. A child of God may be walking in darkness, going mourning without the sun, having no evidence of his interest in Christ : in such a case he cannot have this joy. It is true, there is a seed of joy, in the most bitter sorrows of a spirit, which will spring up in due time, Psalm xcvii. Il. But it seems it may be the case with some of the saints, never to have that joy till they get it in heaven, though I judge it is
very rare, especially under the New Testament dispensation, Heb. ii. 15.
II. I shall shew the objects of this joy, what they joy in.
1. The principal object is God in Christ, Phil. iii. 3. Rom. v. 11. They look to and remember God in Christ, and joy in him. God out of Christ is a most terrible object, IIeb. xii. ult. Our God is a consuming fire.' And a sinner can never truly rejoice in an absolute God. But God in Christ, reconciled to the soul, breathing ont peace and love to the sinner through a crucified Redeemer, is the chief and fundamental, the comprehensive object of bis joy.
2. The less principal, or secondary object, is twofold.
(1.) The precious spiritual privileges they have in hand, which they enjoy for the present in this life, as justification, adoption, sanctification, peace with God, peace of conscience, access to God and communion with him, &c. In these they justly joy, Isa. lxi. 10. Will a man rejoice in the favour of his prince? Surely then a saint may well rejoice in the favour of his God.
(2.) The precions privileges they have in hope, Rom. v. 2. Rejoice in hope of the glory of God. They have heaven and the eternal weight of glory in view : and this hope makes them sing the triumph before the victory. Yet are they not rash and foolish; for it is a sure hope, and will never make one ashamed. One counts his riches, not only by what he has in hand, but what he has in bills and bonds, and joys in the latter as well as the former.
III. I shall consider the grounds of this joy in these things. They are twofold.
1. A suitableness of the objects to the heart and mind of the child of God. These objects are the great desire of a believer, 2 Sam. xxiii. 5. So the receiving of them in hand, or in hope, makes him to joy, Psal. iv. 6, 7. Without this there can be no joy, Prov. xiii. 12. ' When the desire cometh, it is a tree of life.' would make a starving man rejoice, you must give him meat; if a condemned man, a pardon. Holiness and communion with God are sapless to the unrenewed man. God himself is not the object of his desire: neither is the holiness of heaven suited to his mind : therefore he cannot rejoice in these. But it is otherwise with the saints ; so strangers intermeddle not with their joy.
2. A sense of an interest in these objects, John xx. 28. My Lord, and my God.' One has more joy in his own cottage, than in another's palace, because he can say, It is my cottage. Hagar could not rejoice in the well of water, till the Lord opened her eyes to see it. Though a pardon were slipt unawares into a man's pocket, he cannot joy in it till he knows he has it. So a sense of our interest is necessary to spiritual joy.
IV. I shall next consider the Author of this joy. The Holy Spirit of God is the author of it, and therefore it is called “joy in the Holy Ghost,' Rom. xiv. 17. i. e. wrought in the heart by the Holy Ghost, shedding abroad the love of God, in the sense thereof, like a sweet-smelling ointment in the heart of the saint. It is he that administers the reviving cordial to the fainting soul, draws off the saints' sackcloth, and girds him with this gladness.
V. I come now to consider the means which the Spirit makes use of to convey this joy into the hearts of the saints. These are twofold.
1. External means are the word and sacraments. These are the wells of salvation to the people of God, Isa. xii. 3.
(1.) The word of God which brings the glad tidings of salvation from heaven to poor sinners; it discovers the enriching treasure to the soul, Psal. cxix. 162. 'I rejoice at thy word, as one that findeth great spoil.' And no earthly treasure will raise such a joy in one's heart, as a word of promise will do, when the Spirit of the Lord shines on it unto a soul.
(2.) The sacraments, which seal and confirm the word of grace to the soul. This is plain from the exercise of the eunuch, Acts viii. 39. who, when he was baptised, went on his way rejoicing; and of thousands who have met with that joy at sealing ordinances, which they never could find in all earthly things; and no wonder, for then is the great seal of heaven set unto the covenant betwixt the Lord and his people.
2. The internal mean is faith, Rom. xv. 13. The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing.' 1 Pet. i. 8.-- Believing ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.' Faith receives and applies the glad tidings brought by the word, and confirmed by the sacraments. The Spirit of the Lord works faith at first and excites and strengthens it : and so the peace which the Lord speaks to his people is firmly believed by the saint, and thus his heart is filled with joy.
VI. I come now to shew the difference betwixt this joy and the joy of the hypocrite. That a hypocrite may have a joy in spiritual things, is evident from Matth. xiii. 20. and it is confirmed by the case of many deluded souls, who may have their joys, as well as sorrows which are unsound as well as themselves.
1. True spiritual joy riseth in the heart, ordinarily after the word has had a precedent effect on the heart, to rend it for sin, and from it, Psal. cxxvi. 5. "They that sow in tears, shall reap in joy.' Matth. v. 4. “Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.' But delusive joy springs up more quickly, while yet the
heart is not rent for sin, at least not from it, Matth. xiii. 20. Compare Jer. iv. 3. Much pains the husbandman is at ere he can expect a crop; but weeds will grow up without pain or labour for them.
2. True spiritual joy comes by the word, and that rightly understood; but delusive joy comes either without the word, or by misunderstanding of the word. The channel of divine communications is the word of God, Isa. lix. 21. That joy which comes by pretended revelation, dreams, or impressions, without the word, and regard to it, is most likely to be the effect of a heated fancy; and people had need to beware of being beguiled with these things. The written word is particularly the channel of spiritual joy, 1 John i. 4. “These things write we unto you, that your joy may be full.' And if an angel from heaven would speak joy to one whom the written word does not give ground of joy to, it would be but a deceit, Isa. viii. 20. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.'
3. True spiritual joy is lasting; but delusive joy vanishes away, and comes to nothing, as wanting a root, Matth. xiii. 20, 21. It has a season, and when that is over it is extinguished, John v. 35. • Ye were willing for a season to rejoice in his light.' I own a child of God may lose his joy too; but here lies the difference. The ground of the believer's joy, sense of interest, is sometimes removed out of his sight, and so he must needs lose his joy. But though the ground of the hypocrite's joy continue, namely bis fancied interest in the favour of God, and privileges of the gospel, yet the joy goes : those things grow stale and sapless with him, which mightily affected him when they were new to him.
4. True spiritual joy humbles the soul, and fills it with high and honourable thoughts of God; but delusion never ceases to puff up, Gen. xxviii. 17. 'How dreadful is this place ! this is none other but the house of God, and this is the gate of lieaven.' Exod. xxxiv. 8. • Moses made haste, and bowed his head toward the earth, and worshipped.' 2 Cor. xii. 11. Compare Col. ii. 18. For all the divine communications tend to empty men of themselves, to make Christ and his free grace all to a man; and holy familiarity with God impresses an awe on one's spirit, in so far as the more one sees of God, the more he must admire and adore him. But nature will always build up nature.
5. Lastly, True spiritual joy is sanctifying, makes one the more tender and holy, the more he has of it. But delusion will never sanctify, Phil. iii. 3. Delusion is a cover to and nourisher of inward lusts, which get a peaceable shelter under it: but true spiritual joy makes one forward in the duties of universal obedience, Psal. cxix. 32. 'I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.' And it makes one tender in moral duties towards God, and towards man.
Inf. 1. Unjustified persons cannot intermeddle with this joy, for it is a benefit that flows from justification. It is a privilege peculiar to the saints; children's bread that is not cast to the dogs. Ye may rejoice in the worldly comforts ye have, saying, This clothing, this money is mine ; but you cannot say, This God is mine.
2. When created streams are dried up, the joy of the ungodly is quite gone : but it is not so with the godly, Job vi. 13. ' Is not my help in me? and is wisdom driven quite from me?' Hab. iii. 17, 18. The great ground of the saints' joy, and the objects of it, are beyond the reach of men, so that they cannot take them from them.
3. Most groundless is the prejudice against religion, that it is a melancholy thing, Prov. iii. 17. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.' None have such reason to rejoice as the believer has. If the poor wretched and condemned creature has more ground to rejoice than he that is pardoned aud enriched with his prince's favour, then the wicked has as much ground to rejoice as the believer who is justified by grace. 0! if the ungodly saw their state, they would never rejoice; and if the godly saw theirs, they would never despond.
4. It is not God's allowance for his children to harden themselves in sorrow, and refuse to be comforted, Phil. iv. 4. “Rejoice in the Lord always : and again I say, Rejoice.' As it is uncomfortable to themselves, it is dishonouring to God, and is the fruit of unbelief.
5. 0, unconverted sinners, let the joy of religion draw you to it. Come to Christ, in a way of believing on him, that ye may be justified. Close with the way of holiness, in renouncing all known sin, and complying with all known duty, that ye may have this spiritual joy, 2 Cor. i. 12.
6. Lastly, Let the godly strive to attain this spiritual joy, and to maintain it for God's honour, and their own comfort and usefulness.