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and every created object must be subordinate in the aftections, before solid happiness can be attained. Till this is the case, the mind is empty, and all enjoyments are vain.
Happiness is the grand object of all our pursuits, from infancy to old age. We never lose sight of it for a moment. Are we covetous of riches? It is because we imagine they will make us happy. Do we aim at honour? It is that we may possess happiness. Are we seeking sensual pleasures ? It is for the sake of the fancied happiness which they will afford. But our pursuits of happiness are foolish and vain. We turn this way and that way; but cannot find the desired object. One thing says, It is not in me. And another, It is not in me. But we still go on, and find vanity written upon every thing we obtain. Then, we blame the works of God, and the constitution of human nature; though we understand neither the one nor the other. Wearying ourselves with vain pursuits, we sink into a discontented and murmuring temper, not reflecting that the cause of all our disappointments is our own folly.
When we turn to God, by repentance and faith, a new scene presents itself to our view. The world appears beautiful, and all the creatures good. Everything stands in its proper place, and yields that kind and degree of pleasure which was designed in its original formation. The soul being renewed by grace, is easy and happy, and sweetly enjoys God in all his works and ways. Painful worldly anxieties are banished; and tormenting grief, for the loss of creature good, is felt no longer. In this state every temporal enjoyment is viewed as the rich bounty of an indulgent God, and care is taken to improve these bounties to the best of
purposes. The creatures lead to the Creator, who is seen, felt, and enjoyed, at all times, and in all things; and he fills the soul with pure and lasting pleasure. When this is our experience we can say with David, “ Thou preparest a táble before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever,"
Thus, pure religion brings man back, in some degree, to his primitive state ; and he again tastes the joys of paradise. Not that he rises so high either in enjoyment or glory as man did when he was first formed; but he is in a measure like him, and is rising to a higher state. Heaven will soon be open to him, and the redeemed
of the Lord, in Zion, will receive him as a friend and a brother.
Let us, then, complain no more of the world in which we live ; but bless God for all his glorious works. Let all our works resemble those of God, and then we shall never work in vain. Let us attentively study our own character and state as men, that we may not be deceived with ourselves. Let us examine all our weaknesses, sins, and follies; and we shall soon see a need of that salvation which is offered to us through Christ Jesus. Confiding in his merit, he will lead us to the enjoyment of all we can reasonably desire, both in this world and the next : he will lead us to the fountain of happiness, and while we drink the living streams, God will be our father, friend, and portion.
Neglecting this plan, all will still be vanity and vexation of spirit; and we shall go on from one degree of vanity to another, till it will be too late to rectify our mistakes. Let us now consider these things, and lay them to heart. Let us open our eyes, and turn away from vanities and lies. Let us seek God earnestly, nor rest till we find him; and may we enjoy him as our chief good for ever! Amen.
Growth in Grace and Knowledge.
2 Pet. iii. 18. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our
Lord Jesus Christ.
THE christian life is perpetually exposed to danger, and cannot be preserved without constant watchfulness and prayer. In the verse preceding our text, the apostle Peter gives a solemn caution to the christians of that day: “Beware lest ye being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness. As much as if he had said, Beware of those dangers which encompass you on every side; and proceed in your christian course with the utmost caution: and that you may not fall from your steadfastness, use all those means which will enable you to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ."
Here are two things: first, we must grow in grace; and, secondly, we must grow in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ,
1. WE MUST GROW IN GRACE.
The divine life, like that of plants and animals, is small in its beginning. Our Sáviour compares it to a grain of mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds; but which, by a regular growth, becomes a great tree.
Thus our graces, though small at first, may grow till they become great.
The word grace generally signifies favour, kindness, and good-will; and the grace of God signifies that merciful-kindness which appears in the redemption and salvation of sinners by Jesus Christ. But, in our text, the word grace is applied to holy tempers and dispositions, which are the effects of God's mercy and love; for, such is our state by nature, that we never could have acquired holy tempers without the grace of God.
When a man is born of God, every grace is planted in him, though in a small degree, which he ever will possess ; just as a plant or animal, however small, possesses every property of vegetable or animal nature. We are not, therefore, to grow by the addition of new graces; but by an improvement of those which we now enjoy.
The principal graces in which we must grow, are faith, hope, love; patience, meek