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nessed by St. Paul, when he saith, Gal. v. “The
fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, &c. It cannot be that a person rejoiceth in the Lord, who hath not yet believed in him! Therefore, where there is no faith, there can be nothing but fear, trembling, horrour, and sadness, as often as they think on God, or hear his name mentioned. Yea, hatred and enmity toward God remaineth in such hearts ; being void of faith, they find themselves defiled with sin, and therefore remain in unbelief.
The wicked are troubled, cast down, fearful, and greatly terrified, thinking that the vengeance of God every moment hangeth over them. Solomon saith, “The wicked flee when no man pursueth.” Again, it is said in Deut. xxviii. “ The Lord shall give thee a trembling heart, and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee.” Such a heart can have no joy in the Lord; it always feeleth that the revenging hand of God is heavy upon it. This joy belongeth to the righteous ; to those that are upright in heart. It is said, Psalm xxxii. “Be glad in the Lord, and rejoice, ye righteous; and shout for joy, all ye that are upright in heart.” It is manifest that this Scripture was not written for sinners, but for the righteous. Sinners must first be shown how they may be delivered from sin, and obtain God's favour: which, when they have learned, and obtained, it followeth that they of their own accord rejoice in the Lord, being delivered from remorse of conscience.
If any demand, how one may be delivered from remorse of conscience, and have God become merciful unto him, we will answer, He who seeketh after these things, must not begin with his own works, (as do the papists,) tormenting his conscience and increasing the wrath of God, but let him despair of himself and all his works, and embrace the promises of God in Christ, having faith that he
shall receive whatsoever is promised in the gospel The promises of the gospel are, that Christ should make an atonement for our sins, and become our high priest, mediator, and advocate before God: that we may not doubt but that our sins are forgiven through his merits, and that we are reconciled to God.
When such a faith possesseth the heart, and the gospel is thus received, God appeareth pleasant, and altogether lovely. The heart enjoys his grace and favour, and hath a strong confidence in him : it is quiet, and free from the fear of his vengeance: it is cheerful, and exulteth in the goodness of God, manifested through Christ the Saviour. From such love proceedeth faith, joy, peace, gladness, giving of thanks, praise, and a marvellous delight in God our heavenly Father, who dealeth so kindly with us, and poureth forth his grace in such abundance upon those who do not deserve it.
This is the joy of which St. Paul speaketh, when he saith, Rejoice in the Lord always. He doth not tell us to rejoice in gold or silver, gluttony or drunkenness, in health, knowledge, wisdom, power, glory, friendship, favour, nor in good works, or whatsoever is without God; for these afford but deceitful and vain joy, which cannot satisfy the heart. The joy which believers have, is putting their trust in God, committing themselves to his care, and relying upon him as their kind and tender Father.
Whatsoever joy is not after this sort, the Lord contemneth and rejecteth. Jeremiah saith, chap. ix. “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth, glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me. And Paul saith, 2 Cor. x. “ He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” We must rejoice lways. Some will rejoice when all things go according to their wishes; but when adversity cometh,
they change joy for sadness and sorrow. But it is said in the xxxiv Psalm, “I will bless the Lord at all times : his praise shall continually be in my
Who shall hurt him unto whom God is merciful ? surely sin shall not harm him, neither shall death or hell: wherefore it is said, Psalm xxiii. “ Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.”
And again Paul saith, Romans viii. 6 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Again I say, rejoice. This repetition of the apostle confirmeth his exhortation : and truly not without cause ; for we live in the midst of sin and tribulation, which move us to sadness and heaviness. Wherefore the apostle, endeavouring to comfort us, exhorteth us to rejoice in the Lord always, though we sometimes fall into sin. Joy in the Lord ought always to have the first place in our hearts, and overcome the sorrow and sadness occasioned by reason of our sins. We must always think of what is written in 1 John ii. “ If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous : and he is the propitiation for our
The apostle hath already informed us how men ought to behave themselves toward God; namely, that they serve him with a cheerful heart, and rejoice in him continually. He now declareth in few words, how the believers ought to behave themselves toward men; saying, Let your moderation be known unto all men. That is, be joyful toward God, always rejoicing in him; but toward men, be of a patient
mind, and so conduct yourselves, that ye be ready to suffer all things, and yield in every thing as much as possible, without transgressing the commands of God.
We must endeavour to please all men in that which is good; we must interpret aright the sayings of others, and accept the part which is good ; that men may see that we are of those who would not disagree with any man for any cause whatever; who are rich with the rich, and poor with the poor; rejoicing with those that rejoice, and weeping with those that weep : in short, that we are all things to all men, that they may acknowledge that we are grievous to none; but agreeable, of a patient mind, and obedient in all things. We must endeavour to order and apply ourselves unto all, according to their capacity and ability: we must be ready to permit, to take in good part, to obey, to give place, to do, to omit, to suffer all things, for the benefit of our neighbour ; even though we suffer hinderance, loss of substance, name, and body, thereby.
In order to make these things more plain, we will introduce an example. Paul, speaking of himself, saith, 1 Cor. ix. “Unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak : I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save
We here see the patient and pliant mind, rightly observing those things which are here commanded. The apostle did sometimes eat and drink, and do all things as a Jew; sometimes he did eat and drink with the Gentiles, and did all things as free from the law; for only faith in God, and love toward our
neighbour, are necessarily required ; all other things are free ; and we may freely observe them for one man's sake, and omit them for the sake of another.
It is contrary to this moderation or meekness, when one, having an impatient mind, trusteth to his own knowledge, and contendeth that one thing among the rest is absolutely necessary or unnecessary, applying himself to none, but endeavouring to have all others apply themselves unto him : in this he perverteth the softness and meekness here taught ; yea, and the liberty of faith also. We read in Matthew and Mark, that Christ suffered his disciples to break the sabbath ; and he himself did also break it, when the case so required : when it was otherwise, be kept it, for which he gave this reason; The Son of man is lord also of the sabbath. Which is as much as to say, the sabbath is free, that thou mayst break it for one man's sake and convenience, and for the sake and convenience of another, thou mayst keep it.
Paul caused Timothy to be circumcised, because of the Jews ; for they thought it of importance toward their salvation : again, he would not have Titus circumcised, because certain Jews urged it unjustly; so that the circumcision of Titus would have been a confirmation of errour unto them, rather than profit. Paul, therefore, would keep circumcision free; that he might sometimes use it, and at other times omit it, as he should perceive it to be commodious and profitable to others.
Every one ought to behave himself toward all men according to this doctrine, and the examples before mentioned; not to be selfish and stubborn, but to regard those things that will be acceptable to his neighbour. When it doth not hinder thy faith, and will profit thy neighbour to yield somewhat of thy own right, if thou do it not, thou art without charity, and neglectest that christian patience spoken of