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that we all knew it better! Direct and frequent efforts may be made to excite and strengthen these bonds of interest. The pastor may see his people often in social gatherings, or meet them in circles at each other's houses, in which all classes shall freely meet and be welcome. Above all, may our private religious meetings be more truly social. A freer atmosphere may pervade them. The subjects introduced may be more various. All the services may have more freedom and freshness, less constraint and less formalism. In this, as in every good work, the pastor must take the lead—and an enterprising pastor will accomplish much.
We deem it of great importance to the prosperity of our churches in every point of view, that the particular church be not displaced from its true foundation, and from the legitimate ground of the union among its members, by any attempt to bring its influence to bear directly and formally upon public opinion, and the decision of matters in discussion among Christians. In this way, narrow and divisive tests are introduced, the appropriate work of the ministry and the church is thrust aside, and the good sense of the community is offended, by seeing the church forget its high vocation. Let Christians do what seems to them wise and good in voluntary societies, and at the ballot-box, to remove all social evils ; but let them welcome to their communion, all whom Christ would receive. Let it be for ever settled, that Christ receives all who are sound in the faith, and prayerful in heart, and unspotted by offences against the recognised laws of morality. Within the sacred enclosures of the church, we meet as fellow-Christians. difference be forgotten-differences of opinion in respect even to what are appropriate Christian duties. Let us forbear with each other, and pray for each other, and remember that a Christian and kindly tolerance of one whom we think greatly in the wrong, is among the last attainments of a soul that is ripening for heaven. Any other course than this, is sure to excite well-grounded prejudice in the community, and to repel from our enclosures those who have sense enough to know what the church was designed to be.*
Here let every
* The Rev. Edward N. Kirk, so advantageously known to many of our readers, delivered an eloquent address at Boston, on the occasion of laying the foundation of a new church for his people in the capital of New England and of Congregationalism, from which we transcribe the following passage, as containing his reasons for holding to the simple polity of our forefathers : “ We do believe that this form of religion is as nearly conformed to the principles of the New Testament, as any other; that it is adapted to the advancing condition of human society; and even the most adapted to promote that advancement. We esteem it as the surest safeguard that mere organisation can present, alike against the tendencies to an artificial aristocracy and an extravagant democracy. We prize it as one of heaven's pledges that prelatical power, that deadliest form of tyranny which has ever afflicted the world, shall not prevail here. We hail its coming in the May-flower, as the arching bow of promise on the storm-cloud of oppression, assuring us that this deluge shall return no more."
SERMON BY THE REV. W. TONG.
REV. MATTHEW HENRY's Mss. Nov. 1, 1696. 1 Peter i. 8. “Whom, having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.”
Most of the ministers of the Gospel look upon it as the most pleasing part of their work to preach Gospel privileges. The terrors of the law are necessary: but we are ministers of reconciliation ; and if people were fit for it, we would preach nothing else. We must, however, sometimes, lay them in Sinai's chains, that they may accept of Christ's bail : and we tremble as much to preach of the privileges of the Gospel as anything else; for, if people sit careless under that preaching, it is a sign they are under the curse.
I would speak from the text, of the present joy of the Holy Ghost which the saints have. It is hard to speak of this, because, indeed, it passeth all understanding: and we are so much strangers to it, and unacquainted with it. It is a matter of experience.
DOCTRINE I. A life of godliness has its pleasures and joys, though not of a carnal, worldly nature.
The ways of God are greatly mistaken in the world, as if they were all deep and dark ; whereas God has told us, and multitudes have found it, that wisdom's ways are pleasantness. People think when they leave their sins, they leave all their joys. No. In Acts ix., it is spoken as a general thing that all the churches, and their members, walked comfortably, ver. 31. And in Acts ii. 46, 47, they are said to eat their meat with gladness. One would have thought, that these men, who had, many of them, been the betrayers and murderers of Christ, should have gone drooping all their days. But no. Though truly penitent, they had joy : their bread and water had another taste ; they never used it with so much gladness, because never with so much singleness of heart. If there be not so much comfort now, it is not because religion is changed, but its professors. Yet there is more of it than the world is aware of.
* The Rev. William Tong (born 1662, died 1726-7,) was a very eminent minister of the Presbyterian denomination, and successively pastor at Knutsford, Coventry, and Salter's Hall meeting, London. He was a personal friend of the Henrys, and defended Matthew Henry from the press—wrote a recommendatory preface, with Mr. Shower, of his first volume of “The Exposition," and contributed a commentary on the epistle to the Hebrews and Book of the Revelation, towards the completion of that immortal work, and published “ An account of the Life and Death of the Rev. Matthew Henry.” It is not, therefore, surprising, that notes of Mr. Tong's sermons should be found amongst the papers of that eminent man. We are indebted to Sir J. B. Williams, the industrious author of the most complete Memoirs of Philip and Matthew Henry, for the present interesting outline; and have his kind promise to supply us with others from the same pen.—EDITOR.
Dectrine II. The things that a sanctified heart rejoiceth in, are chiefly things not seen.
Not only may Christians rejoice in earthly things, for they have more reason, having them on a better title, and free from the incumbrances of curse and snare, but that which puts gladness into their hearts, is the favour of an unseen God; union with an unseen Jesus ; fellowship with an unseen Comforter ; the prospect of an unseen glory, 2 Cor. iv. 18; all summed up here in one word-Jesus. The favour of God is through him; the fellowship of the Spirit by him. God in Christ is the object of saving faith and spiritual joy.
Doctrine III. None can thus rejoice in Christ Jesus, and his saving benefits, but those that do sincerely love him.
We cannot rejoice in these things, unless we have an interest in them. Without love to Christ, we can have no rational expectation of them. Besides, unless our spirits be formed to the love of God, and Christ, and unseen things, there is no suitableness and agreeableness; and, therefore, can be no joy. These things are above, nay, opposite to corrupt nature. Delight is the desire accomplished; the earnest of the Spirit, 2 Cor. v.
DOCTRINE IV. This joy is wrought in the soul by the exercise of faith-believing, ye rejoice.
Spiritual joy is one of the fruits of faith ; therefore, according to the strength of our faith will be the measure of our joy, Rom. xv. 13; Phil. i. 25. When the Gospel was believed in Samaria, there was great joy, Acts viii. 8. Not only believe Christ, but believe in him.
DOCTRINE V. The soul that is enabled thus to rejoice in Christ, is expecting to see him at length, though now it see him not.
It is but for the present that he is unseen. Angels and glorified spirits see him now, and the time is coming when every eye shall see him. The saints wait for him, 1 Thess. i. 10. The soul that has once experienced this magnetic touch is moving heavenward, Col. ii. 1. He is hid, and our life is hid with him, as the life of the tree in the root, 1 John iii. 2. It was this which bore up Job's spirit, Job xix. 26.
DOCTRINE VI. This joy is the fruit of the Spirit of God.
It is expressly so called in Gal. v. 22; Rom. xv. 13. The same Spirit brings the soul to rejoice, that brings it to believe ; else the great things revealed to us would rather amaze us. Christ promises to send the Spirit as a comforter. Though he has other work to do, yet thence he takes his title. It is not joy of our own making. That which is so, will come to nothing, Isa. 1. 11. It will vanish when you have most need of it.
DOCTRINE VII. Spiritual joy is joy unspeakable.
It is of a heavenly nature, and we have nothing in this world that we can represent it by. Compare it to the joy of the bridegroom--of harvest-of victory—of jubilee; these come short of the thing. It is high in its degree; it cannot be uttered. Its desires are too big for
expression, Rom. viii. 26. They are too big for one small vent. It is not to be known by hearing of it from others.
DOCTRINE VIII. Spiritual joy is full of glory.
Therefore it is called the kingdom of God, Rom. xvi. 17. Wherever this joy is, it is big with the praises of God, Psa. xvi. 9. If the joy we have do not make us more thankful to God, we have reason to question whether it be right; for if it be, it is full of glorying.
It is a heaven upon earth. It lets believers know something how it is with blessed souls above. It is like the bunch of grapes to let us know, that though there be wants and straits in the world, there is plenty enough in Canaan.
DOCTRINE IX. The methods of God in giving joy to his people, are various and different.
As to the persons; many of more solid judgment want this joy, wbile persons of weaker abilities have it. As if God made up natural defects with this. Some that have been long in possession, old disciples, hang the head, and young converts are rejoicing.
It is usually given by the word. It is the fruit of the lips. Sometimes by affliction. As afflictions abound, consolations abound: as that confessor said, I was in prison, till I was in prison.
Some enjoy this peace all their days, and want it at last. Their sun sets under a cloud. Others go mourning all the day, but it is light at evening.
The apostle prayed for the Ephesians, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, would give unto them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him. Eph. i. 17. Now, this was not meant of saving knowledge, but the comfortable knowledge of Christ. This is given by the Spirit as a Spirit of wisdom and revelation.
Sometimes God gives spiritual knowledge, that is, peace and comfort in a way of spiritual wisdom ; in the use of means gradually. Sometimes, in a way of revelation ; not in a way of vision, but by sudden impulses. All of a sudden the clouds break, the windows are thrown open, “or ever we are aware.” To those who want the help that others have, God sometimes makes up the want by spiritual illapses. See the case of Mr. Glover, in the Book of Martyrs.
Uses. I. Let this justify God and the ways of God in the sight of the world.
You see that God is no hard master. Truly God is good to Israel. Tell it abroad, said a dying saint, that God deals familiarly with men. You may see the saints sorrowing, but if you inquire into it, they are yet always rejoicing; and if they have but some glimmerings of this joy, it is far beyond all the mirth of the world. The gleaning of these grapes is better than the world's vintage. Let me expostulate with vain worldlings. “Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which satisfieth not? Hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness." Isaiah lv. 2. If God do not give you better joy than that which you are persuaded to lay down, then say that your ministers and your Bible have deceived you.
II. Whence is it, that now there is so much profession among us, there is so little of this joy?
We read much of it in the Acts and Epistles; whereas, now it is become so rare, that it is doubted by some, whether there be such a thing. But there were several things in those primitive churches which are wanting now. See Acts ii. 42. There was among them a great contempt of the world: they sold their possessions, and thus God made it up to them. The world that eats out the power of religion eats out the comfort of it. There was among them a great deal of Christian love and kindness. This catholic spirit is lost, and professors are become selfish and partial. That which banishes Christian love excludes spiritual joy. They that dwell in God, dwell in love; and they have “joy unspeakable.”
III. Exhortation to those that truly desire this joy.
1. Inquire whether there be a good foundation for your joy, else you had as good be without it. The foundations of it are faith and love. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Psa. cxxvi. 5. God sends comfort to the mourners. Isa. lxi. 3.
2. Put a high value upon it. Psa. iv. 6, 7. Psa. xlii. 1, 11. He begins the Psalm with strong desires, and ends with joyful hopes. David found his heart so drawn out after this joy, that thence he concludes in God's time he should have it.
3. Learn to disclaim other joys as nothing in comparison of this. If you cannot say Father, say Fatherless, and then you come under the promise of “mercy to the fatherless." If you cannot claim, disclaim. Lord, I must have spiritual joy, or else have none.
4. Remember that the spirit of consolation is a holy spirit; and if ever you have it, it must be in the way of strict holiness. Eph. i. 13. “Sealed with the Spirit of promise :” that “holy” one, so it may be read, intimating that the sealing work is done by sanctification. John xiv. 16, 17. None can receive the Spirit as a comforter, till they have seen him and known him as a sanctifier.
It is desirable that all the people of God should have this joy. God would be glorified, religion honoured, duty would go on the better, and it is an earnest of the fulness of joy that is at God's right hand, “life unto life.” 2 Cor. ii. 16.
No other burden is laid upon those that have this joy, than to hold it fast. Be tender of it. You may have special occasion for it. It is designed for an hour of trial. It is but a bad philosopher that cannot be merry without music; and he is a bad Christian that must go down to the Philistines to sacrifice to his God. Sam. x. 8.