THESE words express the way of a Christian's living, and that kind of converse whereby a good man is distinguished from all other men. A good man is not distinguished from other men by any thing without him; by any church-privileges, which are common to hypocrites and sincere Christians; by any external visible performances, in which the disciples of the Pharisees may be more specious than the disciples of CHRIST; much less by any corporal or temporal enjoyment, ornament, strength, beauty, riches, or descent; nor by any carnal relation, though it were to ABRAHAM; (as the Jews boasted of their Father ABRAHAM; (John 8: 33;) but by something internal, and substantial,—by a relation to Con. The character of a good man must be fetched from his correspondence to the Chief Good; and the happiness of a soul must be judged of by its relation to Life, and Love, and Blessedness itself. Things external, corporal, and temporal, make some difference amongst men, but it is but nominal and titular, in comparison. Men are really and substantially made to differ by the relation that they have to GOD. This is the most certain and proper mark of a good man, viz. Communion with GOD: in all other things he may be like other men, but in this he differs from and excels them all.
The ground of my discourse then shall be this short and plain proposition, viz. " A Godly man has communion with GOD." In order to the more distinct treatment of this subject I must briefly premise a few things.
1. The gracious and loving GOD made nothing miserable of all that he made. There are no slaves born in his great house of the world. He made all things out of himself, and he has no idea of evil in himself, so that it was not possible that he should make any thing evil or miserable. Every thing was good, (Gen. 1:) and so in some sense happy. He was free to make the world, or not; but making it, he could not make it evil or miserable. Every thing is the product of almighty love and goodness.
2. The happiness of every creature consists in its acting agreeably to that nature which GOD bestowed upon it, to those ends which he propounded to it, and to those laws which he has given it. These laws were contrived with the greatest suitableness to that nature, and subserviency to those ends. Every creature is in its kind happy, while it acts agreeably to that nature which the wise Creator implanted in it.
3. The happiness of the creature is higher or lower, greater or less, according as it comes nearer to GOD, or is further off from him; according as it receives more or less from him; according to what communion it has with him.
4. There can be no communion without likeness. The sun shines upon a stone-wall, as well as upon man, but a stone-wall has no communion with the sun, because it has no eyes to see the light of it as man has, nor can receive the benign influences of its heat as the herbs do. A log of wood lieth in the water as well as the fish, but it has no communion with the water, nor receives advantage: by it as the fish does. GOD is present, according to his infinite essence, with the Devils as well as with the Angels; but the former have no likeness in nature to him, and so no communion with him, as the latter have.
5. GOD has given a more large and excellent capacity to man, than to any other of his creatures upon earth. GOD has endued man with reason, and so made him capable of a higherlife, and a more excellent communion with his Maker, than all the rest. Of all sublunary creatures, the rational soul alone is capable of knowing, loving, serving, enjoying, and imitating GOD, and so of having a glorious communion with him. The sun, in all its glory, is not so excellent a being as any soul of man, upon this account. And although man, by his fall, lost his actual communion with GOD, yet he is a reasonable creature still; he has not lost his capacity of receiving influences from him, and enjoying communion with him. The world, when it is at the darkest, is yet capable of being enlightened.
6. When the nature of man is, by divine grace, healed of its depravity, and restored to its former rectitude, so as to act suitably to the end for which it was made, and to spend itself upon its proper object, then man comes to have a right communion with GOD, and to be happy. All rational souls are capable of holding communion with GOD; but all do not hold communion with him: but they that know GOD, and live like him, these are his children, and these only converse with him. When the SPIRIT of GOD informs these rational souls, infuses through them the strength of a divine life, and stamps the lively impressions of divine perfections upon them, rendering their hearts, wills, and ways, conformable to that glorious pattern, that infinite good, then do they enjoy a proper communion with him, and are truly blessed; though they are not completely blessed, till this conformity be perfected according to what those souls are capable of.
This is the true notion of man's communion with GOD, which we cannot fully describe, till more fully enjoyed. That soul which truly lives and feeds upon GOD, tastes more than it can tell; and yet it can tell this, that this is the most high, excellent, noble, glorious life in the whole world. This communion, as also the intimacy and closeness of it, are described variously in the Holy Scriptures; as by the similitude of members being in the body, (1 Cor. 12: 27,) and of branches being in the vine; (John 15: 1, 2;) by being formed according to GOD's image, (Rom. 8: 29,) and changed into his image; (2 Cor. 3: 18;) by GOD's dwelling in the soul, and the soul in him; (1 John 4: 16;) by CHRIST'S being formed in the soul; (Gal. 4: 19;) by the soul's having CHRIST; (1 John 4: 16;) by CHRIST'S supping with the soul, and the soul with him. (Rev. 3: 2O.) Because nothing is more one with us, than that which we cat and drink, being incorporated into us; therefore is this spiritual communion between GOD and the soul oft-times, in Scripture, described by our eating and drinking with him.
Thus GOD was pleased to allow his people under the Law, when they had offered up a part of their beasts in sacrifice to him, to sit down and feast upon the rest, as a token of that familiarity and oneness that were between him and them. By the like action our Savior shadowed out the same mystery, when, in the Sacrament of his Supper, he appointed them to sit down to eat and drink with him, to intimate their feeding upon him, and most close communion with him: and the state of glory is thus shadowed out too. (Matt. 8: 11; Rev. xix. 9.) And, which is worth noting, I think the sacramental eating and drinking have some reference to that most intimate communion of the saints with GOD in glory: our Savior himself seems to imply as much in that speech of his, (Luke 22: 3O,) " That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom; " in which words he seems plainly to allude to the sacramental eating and drinking, which he had a little before instituted.
I have already, in part, showed you wherein the soul's communion with GOD consists: but, to give you a more distinct knowledge of this great mystery, I shall unfold it in these three particulars.
1. A Godly soul has communion with GOD in his Attributes. When the soul of man is moulded and formed into a resemblance of the divine nature, then has it a true fellowship with him. Now this communion with GOD in his attributes is to be seen in two ways.
(1.) When the soul is in its measure, according to the capacity of a creature, all that which GOD is. This is the communion which the Angels have with GOD: their be-holding of the face of GOD is not to be understood of a mere speculation, or an idle gazing upon the Deity; but they see him, by receiving his image upon themselves, and re-fleeting his glory and brightness; they partake of the goodness, purity, wisdom, and righteousness of GOD, which makes them such glorious spirits; and the want of this makes the others, whom we call Devils, to be what they are. Thus Godly men shall have communion with GOD,—they shall see GOD. (Matt. 5: 8; Heb. 12: 14.) Yea, thus they have communion with him in some measure; they not only see GOD in the world, as the Devils do, and see him in the Word, but they see him in themselves, in the frame of their own souls; they find themselves moulded into his image, and a resemblance of him drawn upon them. This is a beautiful vision of GOD, true and real, though not full and complete. This is described in Scripture, by being " holy, as GOD is holy," (1 Pet. 1: 16;) and " perfect, as GOD is perfect." (Matt. 5: 48.) This our SAVIOR exhorts us to seek after; (Matt. 11: 29;) " Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for 1 am meek and lowly in heart:" and the Apostle says, (Eph. 5: 1,) " Be ye followers of GOD, as dear children." When the nature and perfections of GOD, his holiness, righteousness, and wisdom, are copied out upon our natures, and the same spirit is in us which was in CHRIST JESUS, then have we a communion with GOD, which blessed communion, when the soul becomes all that which GOD is, arises from a conformity of nature.
(2.) When the soul, in its actions as a creature, rightly answers to the attributes of the Creator;—as when the soul answers to the goodness of GOD with suitable affections of love, and joy, and delight; when it corresponds to the sovereignty and wisdom of GOD by the acts of self-denial and resignation; and when it converses with the righteousness of GOD by patience and a holy acquiescence. When the soul rightly exerts those acts which arc proper and suitable to the nature of GOD, then it may be said to hold communion with him in his attributes; the actions and motions of the soul corresponding to the divine nature and attributes. This suitableness of the soul, I intend especially with reference to the incommunicable attributes of GOD, where there is no place for imitation, though it holds good in the rest also.
2. A Godly soul has communion with GOD in his Word. To read or hear the word, is not to hold a real communion with GOD therein: many do so that are strangers to GOD: a man may read my letters, and yet correspond with my enemy. That son, in the Gospel, who heard his father's command, and answered, " I go, Sir," but went not, had no right communion with his paternal authority. But when the soul is ennobled into such a frame as this word does require, then it holds communion with GOD in his word: for example; when the soul puts forth those acts of humiliation, holy fear, reverence, and Godly trembling, which suit the nature of a divine threatening, when the soul answers to the command of GOD with suitable resolutions, repentings, reformations, and real obedience, when it entertains the promise with suitable acts of holy delight, joy, and refreshment, and acquiesces in the same; then does it truly converse with GOD in his word.
3. A Godly soul has communion with GOD in his Works: And that is, when the soul answers to the several Providences of GOD with suitable affections and dispositions. The Godly soul not only views and observes the hand of GOD in all things that fall out, but complies with those providences, and is moulded into that frame, and put upon those duties; which providences call for. Then does the soul rightly hold communion with GOD in his works, when it is humbled under humbling Providences; and is refreshed, strengthened, and made to grow up under prosperous Providences, like those of whom we read in Acts 9: 31, who, having rest given them, were edified, comforted, and multiplied. When the soul rightly comports with every Providence, and the will is moulded into the will of GOD, then do we hold communion with him in his works. This theme is large, because the works of GOD are manifold; works of creation, redemption, and preservation; works towards other men, and towards ourselves; towards our outward and inward man. A Godly soul has communion with GOD in all these; though perhaps not equally in all, yet sincerely and truly.
By what has been said, you understand that real fellow-ship with GOD is not a bare communion of names; to have the name of GOD called upon us, and to be called Christians, or the people of GOD, or to name the name of GOD, and to cry, LORD, LORD, does not make any one really and truly the better man, nor make a soul really happy. It is not enough to cry, " The temple of the LORD, the temple of the LORD," to make our boast in the law, or to call ourselves the children of ABRAHAM, as the Jews did in JOHN THE BAPTIST'S time. These privileges and professions are extrinsical to the soul, and do nothing towards the true ennobling of it. But real fellowship with GOD is a communion of hearts and natures, of will and affections, of interest and ends. To have one heart and will, the same interest and ends with GOD, is to be truly Godly: a GOD-like man is the only Godly man: a CHRIST-like nature brought into the soul does alone de-nominate a man a true Christian. It is not speaking together, but loving and living together, which brings GOD and the soul into one: " I live, yet not I, but CHRIST liveth in me. (Gal. 2: 2O.) And thus, I suppose, you have a fair account why the Apostle JAMES, (chap. 2:,) does so much prefer works before faith; (for indeed no faith is worth any thing, save only that which joins the soul to the object, and makes the thing believed one's own;) as also why the Apostle PAUL prefers love before a faith of miracles. Though indeed a justifying faith is the most miraculous, yet that faith which unites the soul and GOD together is more excellent, and more miraculous, than the faith that removes mountains.
Before I apply the doctrine, give me leave to lay down some rules tending further to explain and clear it.
1. This must be admitted, which I touched upon before, that " there can be no communion between GOD and man, but by a likeness of nature, a new and divine principle implanted in the soul." A beast has no communion with a man, because reason, the ground of such communion, is wanting. Of all the creatures, there was none found that could be a meet help for ADAM, that could be taken into the human society, till EVE was made, who was a human person. So neither can there be any conjunction of the soul with GOD, but by oneness of Spirit: (1 Cor. 6: 17:) " He that is joined unto the LORD IS one spirit."
2. There can be no communion with GOD but by a Mediator; no Mediator but CHRIST JESUS, who is GOD-MAN. Two cannot walk together, nor hold communion, except they be agreed; and there can be no agreement made between GOD and man, but by CHRIST JESUS. Therefore it is said by the Apostle, " Our communion is with the FATHER and the SoN," as if he had said, with the FATHER by the SON; and faith, whereby the soul and GOD are united, is still said to be faith in CHRIST.
3. A soul's communion with GOD cannot be interrupted by any local mutations. It is a spiritual conjunction, and is not violated by any confinement: the walls of a prison cannot separate GOD and the Godly soul; banishment cannot drive a soul from GOD. The blessed Angels, when they are dispatched into the utmost ends of the world upon the service of GOD, are even then beholding the face of GOD, and enjoy as intimate communion with him as ever: the case is the same with all Godly souls, whose communion with GOD does not depend upon any local situation; it is not thousands of miles that can create a distance between GOD and the soul. Indeed nothing but sin does it, or can do it: "Your iniquities have separated between you and your GOD." (Isa. lix. 2.) Nothing but sin is contrary to this divine fellowship, and so nothing but that can interrupt this spiritual society. To speak properly, sin does not so much cause the soul's distance from GOD, as itself is that distance. Man and wife remain one, though at a hundred miles' distance; and believing souls maintain a certain spiritual communion one with another, though in several parts of the world. The society or communion of Godly souls one with another, so far as it is spiritual, cannot be interrupted by bodily distance; much less the fellowship of GOD with the soul which carries about with it, and in it, a divine nature, the image of GOD, a holy GOD-like disposition, whithersoever it goes.
4. This communion with GOD is much better than all outward acts, duties, and ordinances, whatsoever. GOD himself long since decided this matter, that a broken and contrite heart is better than all sacrifices; (Psal. li. 17;) that to obey is better than sacrifice; (I Sam. 15: 22;) that mercy is better than sacrifice; (Hos. 6: 6;) that to do justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with GOD, is to be preferred before thousands of rams, and ten thou-sands of rivers of oil. (1tfic. 6: 7, 8.) It holds in reference even to gospel-duties, though they may seem more spiritual than the oblations of the law. I real communion with GOD, a communion of hearts and natures, of wills and affections, of interests and ends, is infinitely more excellent than all hearing, praying, celebration of sabbaths or sacraments; (James 1: 25;) as the end is more excellent than the means,—for so stands the case between them.
5. Though communion with GOD concerns the whole soul, and all the faculties, ape/ions, and motives of it, (for it is GOD's spreading his influences, and exercising his sovereignty, over all the powers of the soul, and their mutual spending of themselves upon him, and conforming to him,) yet the great acts of the soul, whereby it holds communion with GOD, are loving and believing. Love is the joining and knitting of the soul to GOD; faith is the soul's laboring after more intimate conjunction with him, receiving influences from him, and participations of him. We may say that faith fetches in supplies from heaven, and love enjoys them; faith receives sweetness and virtue from CHRIST, and love feeds upon them. Certainly these two eminent graces grow, live, and thrive together, and are inseparable companions. It is some-what difficult to distinguish them, or to assign to each its proper place and work in the soul; they seem mutually to act, and to be acted upon by each other: perhaps the Apostle might have respect to this mystery, when he speaks so doubtfully, (Gal. 5: 6,) ~isls a'syan;,is EVEeytsFVn, which words may be translated, either faith acting by love, or faith acted by love. We know, indeed, that in the state of perfect communion, which we call glory, love shall abide and flourish more abundantly, and there shall be no room for faith there, as to the principal act of it; but which of them has the greater part in maintaining our communion with GOD in this world, it is not easy to determine. The soul is the most proper temple wherein GOD dwells, according to that declaration of the Apostle, (2 Cor. 6: 16,) " Ye are the temple of the living GOD:" faith and love are the Jachin and Boaz, the two great pillars which keep up the soul as a temple; take away these, and it remains a soul indeed, but the soul does not remain a temple to the LORD.
6. The communion that is between GOD and the soul is altogether different from that communion that is between creatures. I might show you how it excels that, in many respects; but i shall not insist upon any of those particulars, nor indeed upon any of those many differences that are between them, save only upon this one: the communion that is between creature and creature is perfect in its kind, and consequently gives mutual satisfaction; I mean, it terminates the expectations, so that nothing remains to be enjoyed. The creature is shallow, and is soon fathomed; we soon come to the bottom of it: a finite can grasp a finite being, and enjoy it, as I may say, all at once. A man may come so near to his friend, that he can come no nearer, may enjoy him as fully as he is capable of enjoyment, or the other of being enjoyed: created sweetness may be exhausted to the very bottom.
But the soul's communion with GOD does not give it any such satisfaction, though it gives a satisfaction of a much higher kind. This may be a certain mark, whereby to judge of the truth of communion with GOD; it is not glutting to the soul, but will certainly manifest itself in incessant hungerings: the soul is in the midst of plenty, and yet cries out, as if it were ready to starve for want. GOD is infinite; and therefore, though the soul may be ever grasping, it can never comprehend him: and yet the soul finds him to be infinitely good, and so cannot cease grasping at him. The Godly soul sees that there is yet much more to be enjoyed of GOD, and in him; and therefore, though it be very near to him, yet cries out, and complains of its distance from him,—" Oh when shall I come and appear before him!" Though it be united to him, yet it longs to be in a closer conjunction. The Godly soul forgets, with PAUL, what it has received, not through disingenuousness and unthankfulness, but through a holy ardor and covetousness: all that it has of GOD seems little, because there is yet so much to be had. Though the soul drink of the fountain, yet that is not enough, it would he down by it; though it he down by it, yet neither is it satisfied, except it may hase itself, and even be swallowed up therein. Behold a paradox! The Godly soul is most thirsty, though, according to CHRIST'S promise, it thirsts no more: it is most restless, though, according to his promise, it has rest. It is peculiar to GOD alone, to rest in his love; for the creature cannot rest in this imperfect state: by this we know that we are not yea in heaven; for that is a state of perfect rest, not of sloth, or cessation, but of satisfaction. Faith is the fever of the soul, rendering it more thirsty by so much the more as it drinks of the water of life, the living streams that flow forth from the throne of GOD and of the Lamb. The waters of the sanctuary are described by the Prophet, as growing deeper and deeper; (Ezek. xlvii.;) so hope, which is the soul's appetite, grows larger and larger, and cannot be satisfied, till the soul's capacity be filled up.
The doctrinal part being thus briefly dispatched, it will be easy to infer some things by way of corollary. I shall content myself with three only, amongst many.
1. All wicked men are strangers to GOD. We know, indeed, that GOD, according to his infinite essence, is present with all his creatures. Not only men, but even Devils too, have their being in him; He has spread his omnipotence as the foundation whereupon the whole creation does stand; He reared up the world in himself, and in Him it subsists at this day. However angels and men have sadly fallen from GOD, yet they may be truly said to live in Him still; and although all wicked souls straggle off from GOD, as to their dispositions and affections, engrafting themselves into another stock by sin and wickedness, yet they cannot possibly straggle from him as to their subsistence, as the Apostle teaches the Athenian philosophers: (Acts 17: 27:) " He is not far from every one of us," though few feel after him or find him. Every thing that has a being has a relation to that infinite and supreme Being; and every living thing may be rightly said to have communion with him who is Life itself. And all those several excellencies that are in the creatures are effluxes from GOD, who has fixed various prints of his own beauty and perfection upon every thing that he has made. GOD's making a thing is no other than the communicating of himself unto it. And therefore, when you look into the world, do not view any creature in the narrow point of its own being, but in the unbounded essence of GOD, and therein love and admire it. But, upon the immortal soul of man, GOD has copied out his divine perfections more clearly and gloriously than upon any other creature in this world. GOD could not make a rational soul without communicating of his own infinite wisdom, power, life, and freedom unto it: so that there is more of the divine nature to be seen in the understanding and will of any one man, than in the whole fabric of heaven and earth.
Notwithstanding this, wicked men are strangers to GOD. They live and move in GOD indeed, but they consider it not; they act as if they had no dependence upon him, no relation fo him. Though they have some kind of communion with GOD, as creatures, yet this makes them not at all happy: for they have departed from GOD in their affections and dispositions, they have degenerated from that subserviency and subordination to the divine will, which is the proper perfection of the creature, and are " alienated from the life of GOD," as the Apostle speaks. (EA. 4: 18.) It is not the soul's moving in GOD, that makes it truly and happily nigh unto Him, but its moving towards GOD, as the chief object, and according to the will of GOD, as the chief rule; and therefore wicked men, who pitch upon other objects, and walk by other laws, even the lusts of their own flesh, are strangers to GOD, and miserable. He is not properly said to know GOD, who has a notion of Him in his head, but he whose heart and will is moulded into a conformity to GOD, and a delight in Him; so that a wicked man, though he know, and believe, and tremble, as much as any of the Devils, yet not loving nor delighting in GOD, as his chief good, not being conformed to his image, as the highest and purest perfection, he may be truly said to be estranged from Him; which is a state of hell, and death, and darkness.
2. The life of a true Christian is the most high and noble life in the world; it exceeds the life of all other men, even of the greatest men. The character that is here given of the Godly man is the highest that can be given of any man, or indeed of any creature. It is the highest glory and excellency of the creature, to partake of the life of GOD, of the perfections of the CREATOR; and such is the description that the SPIRIT of GOD here makes of the Godly man. What an unreasonable and senseless reproach is that which the world casts upon religion, calling it a low and despicable thing, and upon religious and Godly men, calling them low-spirited people. Can a man be better spirited, than with the SPIRIT of GOD Can any thing more truly ennoble a soul than a divine nature Can a man be raised any higher than unto heaven itself So noble is the Godly soul. " The way of life is above to the wise; " (Prov. 15: 24;) and, consequently, all wicked men lead a low life, and are bound under chains of death and darkness: the righteous man is of a high and divine original, born of GOD, born from above; and therefore is more excellent than his neighbor, than any of his neighbors, even a king himself being judge. (Prov. 12: 26.) What a hellish baseness is that sinful gallantry of spirit, what a brutishness is that sensuality of living, which the degenerate sons of ADAM so much magnify! True goodness and excellency of spirit must be measured by the proportion which they bear to the supreme good, the infinite pattern of all perfection. What excellent persons were those renowned saints of old, of whom the Apostle says, " the world was not worthy," (Heb. xi, 38,) although they were thought not worthy to live in the world What a noble and generous spirit of truly Christian valor, patience, meekness, con-tempt of the world, and self-denial, was that, which was to be seen in the blessed Apostles, though they were esteemed as the filth and sweepings of the world, the " off-scouring of all things" Of which of the noble, wise, or mighty men of the world, as such, did GOD ever say, "These are the men that have fellowship with me; these are the men that lead a noble and divine life" No, no! " not many noble are called;" and when they are called, they arc made more noble than ever they were by birth or descent, by places of preferment or command. The life of every wicked man, of what rank or station soever he may be in the world, is but a low life, a life in most things common to the very beasts. If the main of his business and delight be to eat, and drink, and work, and sleep, and enjoy sensual pleasures, what does he, what. enjoyeth he, more than " the beasts that perish" But the life of the meanest soul, that has spiritual communion with GOD, is a life common to him with the blessed Angels, those " sons of the morning," the flower of the whole creation. This is the true and only nobleness of spirit, when all the powers and faculties of this immortal soul are exalted and advanced into a true and vital sympathy and communion with the Chief Good, formed according to his will, and conformed to his image.
And O that wisdom might be more " justified of her children!" O that the life of GOD did but clearly manifest itself, and shine forth, in the lives of them that call themselves Christians! Alas that ever GOD himself should suffer reproach by reason of the low-spiritedness and laziness of his servants! For this cause is religion evil spoken of. The LORD awaken and enable us to express and show forth the divine life with all power and vigor, to live as high as the calling wherewith we are called, and so to roll away this reproach!
3. The life of a Christian is not a heavy, sluggish thing, but active and vigorous; as the phrase, " communion with GOD," imports. Religion is a communication of life and vigor from Him, who is Life itself; which makes the truly GOD-like soul to be quick and powerful in its motions. Every thing is by so much the swifter and stronger in its motions, by how much the nearer it is to its centre. Certainly by how much the nearer any man is to GOD, who is the centre of souls, by so much the more does he covet after more intimate communion with him, and the more eagerly lay hold upon him. Communion necessarily implies re-action or reflection: the soul that receives of GOD, and his fullness, will certainly be emptying itself into him again. Communion, in the very force of the phrase, implies a mutualness; we cannot suppose a soul partaking of GOD, but it must needs mutually render up itself to him again. There can be no commerce nor correspondence without returns. But what return can the Godly soul make unto GOD Why, it renders up its whole self unto Him. Faith is a giving grace as well as a receiving one; it gives the soul back to CHRIST, as well as takes CHRIST into the soul; it imbibes strength and grace from GOD, and spends the same, and the whole powers of the soul, upon him. O shake off that lazy and drowsy spirit, which has so benumbed many in this stupid age of the world; and work out your salvation with care and diligence! If your religion be nothing but a spiritual kind of sleep, your heaven will prove nothing but a pleasant dream.
Communion with GOD speaks something divine, active, vigorous. The life of a Christian does not consist only in cessation from evil, reformation from sin, or dying thereto; mortification is but one part of regeneration. It is the conceit of many, that if they can but keep up a regular, even spirit and conversation, free from gross and scandalous sins, they are happy enough; their utmost ambition is to be innocent and harmless. This indeed is necessary; but surely the happiness of a soul lies higher. Thus happy are all the creatures that keep in the station, and keep up the order prescribed them of GOD: thus happy is the sun in the firmament, running its race continually, and never departing from the office which is asigned to it. But the soul of man is capable of a higher kind of happiness, viz, communion with God; which is, when the faculties thereof, being awakened, refined, and acted upon by the SPIRIT of GOD, do reciprocally act and spend themselves upon him, longing to be perfectly swallowed up in him, and to be all that which GOD himself is, as far as the creature is capable of acquiring the perfections of the CREATOR.
I proceed to the next way of improving this doctrine, which shall be by way of conviction or reprehension.
I. " Our fellowship is with the FATHER," says ST. JOHN. This reproves them that can take up with a shall be, a heaven to come. I am not now speaking to the worst of men, whose very souls are swallowed up in sensual enjoyments: for these men either think of no heaven at all, or else place their heaven and happiness in the enjoyment of themselves, or of the creature. Nor do I speak to those men who, being persuaded of a future state, do indeed wish for a heaven to come, but then it is a poor kind of low and earthly heaven, consisting in ease, rest, safety, and freedom from troubles or torments, which is the best happiness that most men understand. But I am speaking to a better and finer sort of souls than these, that are verily possessed with a sense of a pure and spiritual heaven in the world to come; yea, they are so overpowered with the foresight of it, that they earnestly expect and wish for it, and the hopes of it sustain their hearts under the manifold temptations and persecutions of this present world. But, in the mean time, they dwell too much upon heaven as a future state, and comfort themselves only in a happiness to come; not longing and laboring to find a heaven opened within themselves, a beginning of eternal bliss brought into themselves: they are too well content with a certain reversion; and do not eagerly enough endeavor to obtain a present possession, and to be actually instated in so much of the inheritance of souls as may fall to their share even in this lower world. This slothful temper and inactivity I condemn wherever it is found; yea, though it be in my own soul. Every thing in the world, by a natural principle, thirsts after its proper rest, and a happiness suitable to the nature of it; no creature can be content, though it may be constrained, to be at a distance from its centre. And why then should a Godly man, who is GOD’s only new creature in the world, be content with a state of imperfection Why should not he as eagerly covet, and as earnestly pursue, the most intimate communion and conjunction with his GOD, as they do with their respective centres Can any sensual man be content with an inheritance in reversion, so as to suspend his minding the world till hereafter Can any ambitious spirit, who places his happiness in popular estimation and worldly greatness, be content to stand gazing at preferments Will he be willing to sit still, and wait till they drop into his mouth No, no! there is a raging thirst in the soul, which will not suffer it to be at rest, but is still awakening and provoking all the powers of the whole man, till they arise and fetch in water to quench it. And is there any reason to be given, why that divine principle, which GOD puts into regenerate souls, should not carry them as hastily and forcibly to a present fruition of their proper happiness, (so far as at present it may be enjoyed,) as that corrupt and degenerate nature does hurry on them, in whom it ruled', towards the satisfaction of their beastly lusts The life and power of faith are most eminently exerted in a real bringing down of GOD and heaven into the soul. The truth is, heaven is a state of perfect communion with GOD, a state of love, joy, peace, purity, and freedom; and as far as any soul is in such a state upon earth, so far he may be said to be in heaven. Therefore a rightly active soul, that truly understands its proper and spiritual heaven and happiness, cannot be content to stay for all its happiness till the world to come,—cannot be content to be unhappy, no, not for an hour,--but is still growing up in GOD, and springing up into everlasting life. (John 4: 14.)
2. This doctrine reprehends them that make a stir about the kingdom of CHRIST in the world, and men's being brought into the communion of the church, but advance not his kingdom in their own souls, nor long to have their own souls advanced into this noble state of communion with the FATHER, and with the SON JESUS CHRIST. There is, doubtless, a generation of such popular Christians, who, being strangers to the life, and power, and spirit of true religion, endeavor to set off themselves to the world, and commend themselves to their brethren, by a pre-tended zeal for the kingdom of CHRIST in the world, and for the glorious manifestation of it, as they speak. I know, indeed, that it is worthy of the cares, and prayers, and utmost diligence of every serious Christian, to spread the knowledge of the Gospel, and to pour out the ointment of CHRIST'S name far and near: a more pure and spiritual administration of all gospel-ordinances throughout the world is highly desirable: yea, and I think an indifferent and careless disposition towards the worship of GOD argues much of’an earthly and atheistical mind. But I fear that kingdom of CHRIST, and those glorious manifestations, which are so much pretended to by many, if they should be thoroughly examined, would be, at length, resolved into nothing else but the advancement of some one party, or the exchanging of an old form and dress of religion for a new one; and that this zeal would be found little better than the blazings of self-love, a fire kindled not by a coal from the altar, but by a spark of their own. But be it so, that this disposition of theirs is sincere and spiritual, should not this charity begin at home The most proper kingdom of CHRIST is that by which he rules in the hearts of men: the most excel-lent worship is when the soul itself becomes a temple for the living GOD to dwell in, and receives and reflects the manifestations of his glory; when a fire of divine love is kindled in it, and therein it offers up unto Con, not bulls and goats, no, nor so much prayers and meditations, as indeed itself, which is a reasonable service, as the Apostle speaks, far more glorious than the Mosaical or evangelical dispensation either, if you consider it in the letter only. Whatever men may pretend, no man can be rightly studious of the advancement of the kingdom of GOD in the world, who has not first felt the mighty power and blessed effects of it in his own soul. Communion with the church is only so far to be valued, as it lies in order to a real and spiritual communion with GOD; which communion with GOD, if we indeed sincerely wish for others, we shall more abundantly labor to promote in ourselves. I cannot believe that he does heartily seek the happiness of others, who himself sits still, and is content to be miserable, especially when their happiness and his is one and the same.
3. This doctrine condemns them as no Christians, whose fellowship is only with their fellow-creatures. We have seen that this is the character, the distinguishing character, of a Godly man, to have fellowship with Gov; it must necessarily follow then, that those degenerate souls that rise no higher than the world, that converse only with creatures, are strangers to true Christianity, whatever their confidence or presumption may be. Christians, tell me not what you profess of CHRIST, what you believe of the Gospel, what orthodox opinions you hold, what an honest party you side with, how many specious duties you perform, no, nor what hopes or wishes you have of going to heaven; but, tell me, where is your principal communion What do you mainly mind, follow, and converse with What rule do you live by What object do you ultimately aim at The whole world of worldly men does hasten after another GOD, as the Psalmist's phrase is, though not all after the same GOD; they spend their souls indeed upon various objects, and use different methods to obtain rest, but yet all their happiness and contentment may be ultimately resolved into creature-communion. The dreadful sentence, which the Apostle delivers concerning all men, is to be limited to all wicked men, and of them it is undoubtedly true; (Phil. 2: 21;) "All seek their own, and none the things of JESUS CHRIST I" and of all these it is that the Psalmist's "many" is to be understood; (Psal. 4: 6;) "There be many that say, Who will show us any good," 1: e. any creature-good, as the words following explain it. All unregenerate souls are bound up in the creature, some creature or other; and therefore the noblest of them, whatever boast they may make, is low and ignoble; their main converse is but with their fellow, creatures, and indeed creatures much inferior to them-selves:—" corn and wine," says the Psalmist; " earthly things," says the Apostle; (Phil. 3: 19;) " Who mind earthly things." In a word, though it be true, as the Apostle says in one place, that all men in the world live " in GOD," (Acts 17: 28,) yet it is also true, that most men, as the same Apostle speaks elsewhere, do live " without GOD in the world," have their hearts staked down to one creature or other, and so fall short of this honorable character which the Apostle here gives of Godly men, " Our fellowship is with the FATHER, and with his SON
And now I shall comprehend the remainder of this discourse in an humble request and earnest expostulation. Reckon not upon any happiness below this communion. There are many things which a Christian may take as comforts; but only one, this one, that he ought to take to be the happiness of his life. I design not to speak any thing to the prejudice of natural or civil ornaments or accomplishments, much less to the disparagement of any of those endowments or employments which are, in a sense, spiritual, and are commonly called gifts and duties: but, I must confess, it is one of the great wonders of the world to me, to see such a noble and intelligent being, as the soul of man is, attending to and pursuing after things either extrinsical or inferior to itself, and in the mean time carelessly forgetting, or wilfully rejecting, its main happiness, principal end, and proper perfection. As for sensual persons, those mere animals, whose souls are in their senses, and seem to perform no higher office in the world than the souls of beasts, that is, to carry about their bodies, and who value themselves by their bodies, or, which is baser, by the apparel that clothes them, or the estates that feed them, I shall not now trouble myself about them, but leave them to be chastised by SENECA or PLUTARCH, or indeed any ordinary Philosopher. I shall rather apply myself a little to a sort of higher-spirited people, whom, by a condescension of charity, we call Christians, and who, valuing themselves by external professions, privileges, and performances, may indeed be said to be somewhat more scrupulous and curious, but no less mistaken than the former: for if the grosser sort of sensualists deny, and professedly abjure their own reason, and the finer sort of hypocrites do more cunningly bribe theirs, each method amounts to no more than a cheat; and both parties will be alike miserable, save that the latter will be somewhat more tormented in missing a happiness for which they looked and hoped. It is not proper to my present discourse, to speak so highly and honorably of these externals of Christianity, nor to press unto them so zealously, as I do at all times when I have fit occasion; for I value all ordinances of CHRIST, and duties of GOD's worship, at a high rate; nay, I know not any serious and truly Godly soul in the world, but is of this same persuasion with me: but I must confess, I think it is one of the greatest and most pernicious cheats in the world, for men to feed upon the dish instead of the meat, or to place their happiness in those things which GOD has only appointed to be means of conveying it. This was the great destruction of the Jewish church; by this they perished: thus they are every where described in Scripture, as a people resting in their privileges and performances, and boasting of their sacrifices and temple-service; they made account of a strange kind of flesh-pleasing heaven, something distinct from them, and reserved for them, to be given them by way of reward for the righteousness which themselves had wrought by the mere power of their own free-will; which righteousness, if we look either into their own writings, or GOD's writings concerning them, we shall find was nothing else but a strict observance of the precepts of the Law, according to the letter and external dispensation of it. Such a low and legal spirit was generally found amongst the Jews; I wish the greatest part of us, who are in profession and name evangelical, be not found as truly legal in spirit and temper as they were. If we cry, "The Gospel of CHRIST, the Gospel of CHRIST," with the same spirit at they cried, " The Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD," our confidence will as surely betray us into final misery as theirs did. Indeed, prayers, sacraments, sermons, are somewhat finer words than the old obsolete ones, the Law, sacrifices, ceremonies; but, alas! they are but words; at least they are not GODs, and no more fit to terminate our devotions and affections than these.
I beseech you therefore, Christians, be not mistaken in this matter. True Christianity is not a notion, but a nature: that is not religion which is wrapped up in books, or laid up in men's brains; but it is laid in the very constitution of the soul, a new principle implanted by GOD in the highest powers of the soul, refining and spiritualizing all its faculties, and rendering them as like to GOD himself, as such a creature can resemble its Creator. It is a truth, as clear as the sun, that nothing can make a soul really happy, but what is wrought into the nature of it; and that must be somewhat more excellent than itself, and can be nothing less than something divine, even the image of the blessed GOD. If you be Christians, in deed and in truth, value all the ordinances of GOD, and the duties of the Christian religion, but value not your-selves by these, nor estimate your happiness by these. Attend upon them all for the maintenance and increase of real fellowship with GOD: for though these are not that fellowship, yet they are the way wherein it pleases GOD to give it. Drink the sincere milk of the word, but let it be only with a holy design of growing thereby, of growing up into GOD, and a divine life. Away with those low and base thoughts of happiness; the happiness of a soul is a high, excellent, and indeed a divine thing; it is in some sense common to GOD and the soul; GOD is happy in himself krone, and the soul can only be happy in him. What contentment, what real happiness, Christian, can the rising of thy party in the world, or the rising of thy name, bring thee, if, in the mean time, you harborest any carnal will, any self-interest, which rises up in opposition to the pure and perfect will and nature of GOD How art you happy in thy prayers, if you cast sin out at thy mouth, and, in the mean time, a fountain of iniquity be springing up in thy heart Of what avail, towards a state of perfection, are the most orthodox opinion, the most honest society, the fairest profession, and the most plausible performances, if the soul be, in the mean time, alienated from the life of GOD, and be feeding upon some earthly trash or other, which destroys the native powers and vigor of it, and keeps it under a perpetual languor Even just so much as a silken stocking upon a gouty leg, or a princely diadem upon an aching head, avails towards a state of ease and soundness of body. Let nothing limit your ambition, but a state of GOD-like perfection; let nothing set bounds to your loving and longing souls, but a real fruition of GOD himself: nay, let not even that bound them, but the more you enjoy, see, and taste, the more let your love be strengthened, after the manner of fire, which the more it is fed, the more hungry and devouring it grows. In a word, let nothing satisfy you lower than the highest character that can be given of mortal man, to be men " after GOD's own heart," to have GOD dwelling in you, to be filled with his fullness, to have this real and excellent "communion with the FATHER, and with his SON JESUS CHRIST:" to whom be all honor, praise, and glory, for ever and ever!