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energy. He is now a joint heir with Christ, and the destined inhabitant of heaven; the gates of glory and of happiness are already opened to receive him, and the joy of saints and angels has been renewed over his repentance; all around him is peace-all before him purity and transport. God is his Father; Christ his Redeemer; and the Spirit of truth his Sanctifier. Heaven is his eternal habitation ; virtue is his immortal character; and cherubim and seraphim and all the children of light, are his companions for
Henceforth he becomes of course a rich blessing to the universe; all good beings, nay, God himself, will rejoice in him for ever, as a valuable accession to the great kingdom of righteousness, as a real addition to the mass of created good, and as an humble, but faithful and honourable instrument of the everlasting praise of heaven. He is a vessel of infinite mercy; an illustrious trophy of the cross; a gem in the crown of glory, which adorns the Redeemer of mankind."*
Who, my children, can read this animated description of the privileges of true piety (and it is not an exaggerated account) without secretly longing to be a child of God? What are all the brightest distinctions of an earthly nature, after which envy pines in secret, or ambition rages in public, compared with this ? Crowns are splendid baubles, gold is sordid dust, and all the gratifications of sense but vanity and vexation of spirit, when weighed against such splendid immunities as these.
5. Consider the consolations it imparts.
* Dwight's Sermon on Regeneration.
Our world has been called, in the language of poetry, a vale of tears, and human life a bubble, raised from those tears, and inflated by sighs, which, after floating a little while, decked with few gaudy colours, is touched by the hand of death, and dissolves. Poverty, disease, misfortune, unkindness, inconstancy, death, all assail the travellers as they journey onward to eternity through this gloomy valley; and what is to comfort them but religion?
The consolations of religion are neither few por small; they arise in part from those things which we have already mentioned in this chapter; i. e. from the exercise of the understanding on the revealed truths of God's word, from the impulses of the spiritual life within us, and from a reflection upon our spiritual privileges : but there are some others, which, though partially implied in these things, deserve a special enumeration and distinct consideration.
A good conscience, which the wise man says is a perpetual feast, sustains a high place amongst the comforts of genuine piety. It is unquestionably true, that a man's happiness is in the keeping of his conscience; all the sources of his felicity are under the command of this faculty. "A wounded spirit who can bear ?" A troubled conscience converts a paradise into a hell, for it is the flame of hell kindled on earth; but a quiet conscience would illuminate the horrors of the deepest dungeon with the beams of heavenly day; the former has often rendered men like tormented fiends amidst an elysium of delights, while the latter has taught the songs of cherubim to martyrs in the prison or the flames. Religion furnishes a good conscience; by faith in the blood of Christ it takes away guilt towards God, and by a holy life it keeps the conscience clear towards man. It first makes it good by justification, and then keeps it good by sanctification. What trouble may not a man bear beneath the smiles of an approving conscience ! If this be calm and serene, the storms of affliction, which rage without, can as little disturb the comfort of the mind, as the fury of the wintry tempest can do, to alarm the inhabitants of a well-built, well-stored mansion.
In addition to this, religion comforts the mind, with the assurance of an all-wise, all-pervading Providence, so minute in its superintendence and control, that not a sparrow falls to the ground without the knowledge of our heavenly Father; a superintendence which is excluded from no point of space, no moment of time, and overlooks not the meanest creature in existence. Nor is this all; for the word of God assures the believer that “all things work together for good to them that love God, who are the called according to his purpose." Nothing that imagination could conceive is more truly consolatory than this, to be assured that all things, however painful at the time, not excepting the failure of our favourite schemes, the disappointment of our fondest hopes, the loss of our dearest comforts, shall be overruled by infinite wisdom for the promotion of our ultimate good. This is a spring of comfort whose waters never fail.
Religion consoles also by making manifest some of the benefits of afliction, even at the time it is endured. It crucifies the world, mortifies sin, quickens prayer, extracts the balmy sweets of the promises, endears the Saviour; and to crown all, it directs the mind to that glorious state, where the days of our mourning shall be ended : that happy country where God shall wipe every tear from our eyes, and there shall be no more sorrow or crying. Nothing so composes the mind, and helps it bear the load of trouble which God may lay upon it, as the near prospect of its termination. Religion shows the weather-beaten mariner the haven of eternal repose, where no storms arise, and the sea is ever calm ; it exhibits to the weary traveller the city of habitation, within whose walls he will find a pleasant home, rest from his labours, and friends to welcome his arrival: it discloses to the wounded warrior his native country, where the alarms of war, and the dangers of conflict, will be no more encountered, but undisturbed peace for ever reign. In that one word, HEAVEN, religion provides a balm for every wound, a cordial for every care.
Here then, is the pleasure of that wisdom which is from above ; it is not only enjoyed in prosperity, but continues to refresh us, and most powerfully to refresh us, in adversity; a remark which will not apply to any other kind of pleasure.
In the hour of misfortune, when a man, once 'in happy circumstances, sits down, amidst the wreck of all his comforts, and sees nothing but the fragments of his fortune for his wife and family, what, in this storm of allliction, is to cheer him but religion ; and this can do it, and enable him to say, " although the fig-tree shall not blos
neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall
yield no meat; the flocks shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls, yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation !" What but religion can comfort the poor labourer in that gloomy season when times are bad, and work is scarce, and he hardly knows where to procure his next meal ! What can comfort the suffering female in that long and dreadful season, when, wasting away in a deep decline, she lies, night after night, consumed by fever, and day after day, convulsed by coughing ? Tell me what can send a ray of comfort to her dark scene of wo, or a drop of consolation to her parched and thirsting lips, but religion ? And when the agonized parent, with a heart half broken by the conduct of a prodigal son, exclainıs—“O! who can tell how sharper than a serpent's tooth it is to have a thankless child !" what, in that season of torture, can pour a drop of balm into the wounded spirit but religion ? And when we occupy the bed side of a departing friend, “the dreadful post of observation darker every hour," what but religion can sustain the mind, and calm the tumult of the soul ? what, but this, can enable us to bear with even tolerable composure, the
separation ? And we too must die : and here is the excellence of piety; it follows us, where no other friend can follow us, down into the dark valley of the shadow of death, stands by us when the last hand has quitted its grasp, reserves its mightiest energies for that most awful conflict, presents to the eye of faith the visions of glory rising up beyond the sepulchre, and angels advancing to receive us from the hand of earthly