« PreviousContinue »
of peace. There,
There, charity never faileth. SERMON
On Religious Joy, as giving Strength and
NEHEMIAH, viii. 10.
The joy of the Lord is your strength.
NEHEMIAH, the governour of Jeru
salem, 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 de
jection; and exhorts them to prepare them- SERMON selves 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 xpress 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
SERMON 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
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
and beholds them every-where reflecting SERMON some image of his supreme perfection. In the morning dawn, the noontide 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 terrour. 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 bills 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