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When Elijah heard it, he knew the symbol of God's spirit; he wrapped his face in his mantle, and worshipped. *

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AFTER so many testimonies given by the sacred writings to the high importance of a meek and peaceable spirit, what shall we think of those, who in their system of religion, make slight account of this virtue ; who are ready to quarrel with others on the most trifling occasions; who are continually disquieting their families by peevishness and ill humour; and by malignant reports, raising dissension among friends and neighbours ? Can any claims to sound belief, or any supposed attainments of grace, supply the defect of so cardinal a virtue as charity and love ?. Let such persons particularly bethink themselves how little the spirit which they possess, fits them for the kingdom of heaven, or rather how far it removes them from the just hope of ever entering into it. Hell is the proper region of enmity and strife. There dwell unpeaceable and fiery spirits, in the midst of mutual hatred, wrath, and tumult. But the kingdom of heaven is the kingdom of peace. There, charity never faileth. There reigneth the God of love; and, in his presence, all the blessed inhabitants are of one heart and one soul. No string can ever be heard to jar in that celestial harmony: and therefore the contentious and violent are, both by their own nature and by God's decree, for ever excluded from the heavenly society. — As the best preparation for those blessed mansions, let us ever keep in view that direction given by an Apostle, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord. * To the cultivation of amity and peace in all our social intercourse, let us join holiness; that is, piety, and active virtue; and thus we shall pass our days comfortably and honourably on earth, and at the conclusion of our days be admitted to dwell among saints and angels, and to see the Lord.

* 1 Kings, xix. 11, 12, 13.

* Heb. xii. 14.

SERMON LXXXVII.

On Religious Joy, as giving STRENGTH and SUPPORT

to VIRTUE.

NEHEMIAH, viii. 10.

The joy of the Lord is your strength.

NEHEMIAH, the governor of Jerusalem, having

assembled the people of Israel immediately after their return from the captivity of Babylon, made the book of the law be brought forth and read before them. On hearing the words of the book of the law, we are informed that all the people wept ; humbled and cast down by the sense of their present weak and forlorn condition, compared with the flourishing state of their ancestors. Nehemiah sought to raise their spirits from this dejection ; and exhorts them to prepare themselves for serving the God of their fathers with a cheerful mind, for, says he, the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Abstracted from the occasion on which the words were spoken, they contained an important truth, which I now purpose to illustrate; that to the nature of true religion there belongs an inward joy, which animates, strengthens, and supports virtue. The illustration of this position will require that I should show, in the first place, that in the practice of religious duties there is found an inward joy, here styled the

joy of the Lord; and in the next place, that this joy is justly denominated the strength of the righteous.

I. Joy is a word of various signification. By men of the world, it is often used to express those flashes of mirth which arise from irregular indulgencies of social pleasure; and of which it is said by the wise man, that in such laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness. * It will be easily understood that the joy here mentioned partakes of nothing a-kin to this ; but signifies a tranquil and placid joy, an inward complacency and satisfaction, accompanying the practice of virtue, and the discharge of every part of our duty. A joy of this kind is what we assert to belong to every part of religion; to characterise religion wherever it is genuine, and to be essential to its nature. - In order to ascertain this, let us consider the disposition of a good man with respect to God; with respect to his neighbours; and with respect to the government of his own mind.

WHEN we consider in what manner religion requires that a good man should stand affected towards God, it will presently appear that rational enlightened piety opens such views of him as must communicate joy. It presents him, not as an awful unknown Sovereign, but as the Father of the universe, the Lover and Protector of righteousness, under whose government all the interests of the virtuous are safe. With delight the good man traces the Creator throughout all his works, and beholds them every where reflecting some image of his supreme perfec

Prov xiv. 13,

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tion. In the morning dawn, the noon-tide glory, and

. the evening shade; in the fields, the mountains, and the flood, where worldly men behold nothing but a dead uninteresting scene; every object is enlivened and animated to him by the presence of God. Amidst that Divine presence he dwells with reverence but without terror. Conscious of the uprightness of his own intentions, and of the fidelity of his heart to God, he considers himself, by night and by day, as under the protection of an invisible guardian. He lifts up his eyes to the hills from whence cometh his aid; and commits himself without distrust to the Keeper of Israel, who never slumbers nor sleeps. He listens to the gracious promises of his word. With comfort he receives the declarations of his mercy to mankind, through a great Redeemer; in virtue of whose atonement provision is made for pardon to human infirmities, and for our reception in the end into a happier world. All the various devotional exercises of faith and trust in God, all the cordial effusions of love and gratitude to this Supreme Benefactor in the acts of prayer and praise, afford scope to those emotions of the heart, which are of the most pleasing kind; and which diffuse a gentle and softening tenderness over the affections. In a word, a truly pious man, who has always before him an object so sublime and interesting as this great Father of the universe, on whom his thoughts can dwell with satisfaction, may be truly said to partake highly in the joy of the Lord.

But it may here be objected, are there no mortifications and griefs that particularly belong to piety? What shall we say to the tear of repentance, and to that humiliation of confession and remorse, which may, at times, be incumbent on the most pious, in

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