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. christians. Let it not be understood, however, that by happy experience I always mean remarkable high emotions, ecstatic pleasures, or ravishing transports. These are scattered with a sparing hand, and are chiefly reserved for a better world. “Prosperity of soul may exist without them, as the health of the body may be sound without the animal spirits being always lively. Where, indeed, religion flourishes, cheerfulness will not be absent; and, from the nature of soul prosperity, we may conclude that it will produce that pleasure which contrary principles proscribe. Yet let him that is sighing for spiritual health remember that he may attain to it without always experiencing the highest sensible joys. It is, perhaps, necessary to make this remark, as many have mistaken the nature of soul prosperity, and placed it more in strong and unspeakable sensa. tions than in a contrite and humble spirit. That may be termed a happy experience in general in which love to God is the prevailing principle, notwithstanding there may be many discouragements in the way; for where this becomes, as it were, the ruling passion, every thing else will be brought into subserviency to it. The heart will be affected, the thoughts generally conversant about di. vine things, and the deportment such as becomthe gospel of Christ.
But may we not stop here, and ask, Is this the object sought for by the generality of the hu. man race? Is this the utmost wish of their hearts? Is it for this they groan, they toil, they exert themselves ? Ah! sin, what hast thou done! How hast thou inverted every thing; and into what a deluded and dangerous path hast thou directed the footsteps of man! Any kind of pros
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perity is desired in preference to that of the soul. The honour of the world, the accumulation of riches, the decoration of the person, the seat of power, the plaudits of the multitude ; these are objects infinitely more important in the view of most men. These are the idols at whose shrine any sacrifice is made, any inconvenience suffered, so that these gods may be propitious. For what is all the bustle we see in life, that vigorous activity, that deep concern, that painful anxiety? For what that the day is spent in labour, and the night refusing sleep? For what that ingenuity plans her schemes ; that patience waits; that per. severance crowns her labours ? Ah! for what that talents are displayed, opportunities embraced, and zeal, busy zeal, pushing into action? I ask, for what are all these ? For the glory of our Maker ; for the prosperity of the soul; for the promotion of truth, and the enlargement of her em. pire ? 'Ah! no. This activity is all confined to time: the end that stimulates the exertion extends no farther than this world. The concern is for A the body. All this mighty bustle, this laborious service, is for a trifle, a bubble, a nothing; while the improvement of the mind, the care of the soul, the favour of God, are treated with con. tempt, or absolutely forgotten !!!
Thanks be to thy name, however, O Father of Mercies, that while with sorrow we view the degeneracy of man, yet we can rejoice that there are some whom thou hast formed for thyself, and who shall shew forth thy praise ; who, while many are going about, and saying, Who will shew us any good ? are imploring thy favorir, choosing the one thing needful, and with willing feet are running the way of thy commandments. These are the characters who value the health of the mind, who place not their happiness in sensual gratifications, who are truly wise, and shall finally receive that crown of glory which awaits the righteous. Yes, “ These shall walk, O Lord, in the light of thy countenance. In thy name shall they rejoice all the day, and in thy righteousness shall they be exalted. These shall flourish like the palm tree; they shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They shall bring forth fruit in old age. They shall come to the grave in a full age, like as a shock of corn cometh in his season. Yes, these shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. These shall be for ever with the Lord.” Ps. lxxxix. 16. xcii. 10, 11. Job v. 26. Matt. xiii. 43. 1 Thess. iv. 17.
Let us now proceed to consider more particularly the happy experience of a christian, or what may be considered as evidencing prosperity of
And, first, we may observe, that it is attended with increasing knowledge. It is the divine command, “ Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It is the divine promise, “ that the righteous shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall;" and it is a portrait drawn by the divine hand, " that the paih of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and niore unto the perfect day." 2 Pet. iii. 18. Mal. iv. 2. Prov. iv. 18. From all these passages it is evident that the knowledge of a christian is not stationary : it is progressive. He is daily adding to his stock. The sun of truth · rise with increasing radiance on his mind, and, as
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his knowledge is of the best kind, it cannot fail to be productive of the best feelings. It is true, he sees more of his own ignorance, but it leads him to appreciate that light which alone can direct to eternal felicity. The nearer he approaches to the fountain of intelligence, the more he is humbled under a sense of his own contracted powers. This, however, is no barrier to his progress; it rather stimulates him to be more diligent. He does not sit down in indolent carelessness, and say, "I cannot know all ; objects are too vast for my comprehension. The wisest, after all, must remain ignorant. I shall give up the pursuit, and be content with what I have." No; the infinite loveliness of the divine mind appears so delightful and glorious to him, that he desires to know more. The perfections of Je. hovah, though they fill him with awe, yet engage his attention, and excite his study. The glories of the Saviour are continually unfolding to his view. With delight he contemplates the attributes he possesses, the offices he sustains, the relations he bears, and the promises he has made. Here he always finds something new, something wonderful, something beautiful. Like the angels, he is employed " in looking into these things,” but with a pleasure superior to theirs, as he is more interested than they. O what joy does he feel in an increasing acquaintance with the Saviour's love! He sits down under his shadow with great delight, while he exclaims, " Thou art fairer than the children of men, the altogether lovely. Who would not fear, who would not love thee? Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none on earth I desire be. side thee. Thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” Ps. xlv. 2. lxxiii. 25.
As the understanding of the christian becomes more and more enlightened, he discerns more of the excellency and feels more of the energy of the sacred scriptures. The bible contains not only milk for babes, but strong meat for them that are of full age, even those who, by reason of use, have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. The christian is constantly increasing in his knowledge of these divine truths, and perhaps nothing can exceed the pleasure he feels in a growing discovery of the harmony, the unity, the simplicity, the meaning of the word of God. At first, perhaps, he received the bible as divinely inspired, merely upon the assertion of others, or because it was the book received among the community with whom he was brought up; but now, having examined it for himself, he is fully convinced that the marks of divinity are upon it. Formerly there were many parts, which, at a distance, appeared like so many barren spots, but, on a nearer approach, he has found fruitful and pleasant. The older he grows, and the more experience he has, the more he sees that this is the only sure guide. He finds himself cautioned by its warnings, encouraged by it promises, established by its doctrines, directed by its precepts, animated by its examples, and consoled by its prospects. He finds himself amply repaid in the contemplation of its various contents. Its richness, its simplicity, its purity, its effect, render it an invaluable treasure in his estimation. “I rejoice in thy word,” said David, as one that findeth great spoil. The entrance thereof giveth