ROMANS, v, ii.

"And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement."

IN the whole passage from the commencement of this chapter, we have an account of the new feelings that are introduced by faith into the heart of a believer. The first is a feeling of peace with God, of whom we could never think formerly, if we thought of Him aught, but with the sensations of disquietude and terror. The second is a feeling of exultation in the hope of some glory and enlargement that are yet unrevealed - whereby we shall attain such an enjoyment in His presence, and in the view of His perfections, as we can never reach in this world. The third is a feeling of exultation, even in the very crosses and tribulations of our earthly pilgrimage, from the process which they give rise to in our own characters - a process that manifests a work of grace here, and so serves to confirm all our expectations of a harvest of glory and blessedness hereafter.

And indeed how can it be otherwise, the apostle reasons. He hath already given us His Son, will He not with Him freely give us all things? He hath already evinced His regard by sparing not His well-beloved - but surrendering Him to the death of a sore and heavy atonement for us, at the time that we were adversaries. And now that He has done so much in circumstances so unlikely, will He not carry on the work of deliverance to its final accomplishment when circumstances have changed ? - when we who at one time stood afar off, have now drawn nigh; and when He, who at one time shuddered with very apprehension at the dark vale of agony before Him, has now burst loose from His imprisonment, and finally escaped from the grief that was put upon His soul - has now a work of grace and of gladness to carry onwards to its full consummation? It is thus that the believer persuades himself into a still more settled assurance of the love of God to him than before; and whereas, in the second verse he only rejoiced in the hope of the glory of God as it will be revealed to him in future - he, in this 11th verse, expresses a present rejoicing in this same God - delighting himself even now in the assurance of His present regard; and approaching Him with affectionate confidence even now, under the sense of a present reconciliation.

The apostle in this passage makes use of such terms, as are expressive of a gradation in the feelings of him who has admitted the faith of the gospel into his mind - each rising above the other, and marking an advance and a progress in Christian experience. It is well, in the first instance, to be set at rest from all that turbulence and alarm which conviction stirs up in the sinner's restless bosom - so as that he has "peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." But it is better still, when he can not only look at God as disarmed of all enmity towards him - but draws near unto Him, in the confidence of a positive favour and friendship towards him, which will afterwards appear in some glorious manifestation. "By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God." And it ar~tues a still higher strength and stedfastness of feeling, when it can maintain itself under visitations, which, to flesh and blood, would be otherwise overpowering. "And not only so, but we glory in tribulation also."

And lastly, when there is both the positive experience of a gift in hand, even the Holy Ghost shed abroad upon us; and the resistless consideration that He who reconciled sinners by death, will, now surely that they are reconciled, fully and conclusively save them, seeing that He is alive again - does the apostle, upon the strength of these, carry forward the believer to a still higher eminence in the divine life, where he can not only see afar off to the glorious regions of immortality and be glad; but where, in foretaste as it were of the joy of these regions felt by him now, he is glad in a sense of the already possessed friendship of God, glad in the intercourse of love and confidence with a present Deity.

There is much, we think, to be gathered from the consideration, that joy in God forms one of the exercises of a Christian mind - a habit or condition of the soul into which every believer is or ought to be translated - a spiritual eminence that may be gained, even in this world, and where the heart of man may experience a relish, and imbibe a rapture, which the world most assuredly knoweth not. To I feel as if you were in the company of God - to have delight in this feeling - to triumph in God as you could do in a treasure that had come into your possession - to dwell upon Him in fancy and with fondness, just as one friend dwells on the pleasing remembrance of another - to reach the ecstacies of devotion, and find that the minutes spent in communion with the heavenly and unseen witness, arc far the sweetest and the sunniest intervals of your earthly pilgrimage - to have a sense of God all the day long, and that sense of Him in every way so delicious as to make the creature seem vain and tasteless in the comparison - to have His candle shining in your heart, and a secret beatitude in Him of which other men have no comprehension - to bear about with you that cheerful trust in Him, and that cherished regard to Him, which children do to a father whose love they rejoice in, and of whose good-will they are most thoroughly assured - to prize the peaceful sabbaths and the sacred retirements, when your soul can wing its contemplation toward His sanctuary, and there behold the glories of His character, at the very time that you can exult in confidence before Him - Thus to be affected towards God, and thus to glory and be glad in Him, is certainly not a common attainment; and yet we do not see how any true saint, any genuine disciple can be altogether a stranger to it.

"Rejoice evermore," says the apostle of the New Testament; and "the Lord reigneth, let the earth rejoice," says the venerable patriarch of the Old. It is easy to walk in the rounds of a mechanical observation. It is easy to compel the head to obedience, against the grain and inclination of the heart. It is very easy to bear towards God the homage of respect, or fearfulness, or solemn emotion; and to render Him the outward obeisance, and even something of the inward awe of worshippers. It is somewhat natural to feel the dread of His majesty, or to be visited by a sense of His terrors, or to be checked by the thought of His authority and power. And, under the weight of all this impressive seriousness, it is even somewhat natural and easy to pray. But it has been well remarked, that praise is not so natural, nor so common, nor withal so easy as prayer - that delight in God is a rarer and a loftier condition of the soul, than devoutness of feeling to God - that the sigh of repentance may be heard to ascend towards Him in many cases, while the singing of the heart towards Him may only break forth in very few - that to cultivate with God as a matter of duty, is a habit of far greater frequency, than to do it as if by the impulse of a spontaneous feeling - So that to serve Him as a master to whom you are bound in the way of obligation, is more the tendency of nature, than to serve Him as a friend to whom you are bound by the willing affections of a heart that freely and fully and fearlessly loves Him.

Is not the latter the far more enviable habit of the soul, the one to which you would like best to be translated? - to have the spirit of adoption and cry out Abba, Father, rather than to drivel before Him among the restraints and the reluctances of a slave? - to do His will here upon earth, just as it is in heaven, that is, not as if by the force of a compulsory law, or as if under the stipulation to discharge the articles of a bond, or as if pursued by the unrelenting jealousy of a task rnaster, who exacts from you work, just as one man exacts from another the square and punctual fulfilment of a bargain? This is the way in which God's will is apt to be done, or attempted to be done, on earth; but it is really not the way in heaven - where He receives a willing homage from beings of a nature congenial with His own - where the doing of His pleasure is not a drudgery for the performance of which they get their meat and their drink, but where their meat and drink itself is to do the will of God - where, instead of a duty from which they would like to stand acquitted, it is their very heart's desire to be thus employed, and that without respite and without termination - Above all, where the presence of God ever enlivens them, and their own pleasure is just His pleasure reflected back again. To carry onward the soul, from the cares and the exercises and the manifold observations of an outward godliness, to such an inward and angelic godliness as we now speak of, were to work upon it a greater transformation - than to recall it from abandoned profligacy, to the punctiliousness and the painstakings and all the decencies of a mere external reformation.

And we again ask, whether you would not like to break forth upon this scene of spiritual enlargement; and be preferred to this nobler and freer elevation of character; and to walk before God as an attached and rejoicing friend, rather than as the slave of His tyranny amid of your own terrors - in a word, to joy in the light of His benignant countenance, rather than to tremble under the apprehension of His frown; and, instead of submissively toiling at what you feel to be a task, to spring forth on the career of obedience with the alacrity of one whose heart is glad in God, and who takes pleasure in all His will and in all His ways?
You all see the one style of godliness to be of a far higher and more celestial pitch than the other; and therefore, of course, at a greater distance from that state of alienation which you all occupy by nature. The very description of such a godliness may serve to convince us, how wide the disparity is between the moral element of earth, and the moral element of heaven; and this is a lesson which we should like to urge on two classes of hearers - endeavouring to sum up the whole by a practical conclusion, ere we bid a final adieu to a passage on which for so many sabbaths we have detained you.

The first class consists of those who care little - about the matters of the soul and eternity; who have never with any degree of seriousness entertained the question; who have been acting all along, not on tbe computation of those elements into which sin and salvation and death and immortality enter - but have just lived and are continuing to live, as if the visible theatre which surrounds them were their all; and the platform of mortality where-on they walk, and underneath the surface of which they see acquaintances sinking and disappearing every day, were to hold them up and that firmly and prosperously for ever.

Ye are sure we speak to their experience when we say, that all they mind is earthly things, and that their conversation is not in heaven; that joy in God through Jesus Christ is a feeling which they never had, and of which they have no comprehension ; that the ecstacies of those, who are so inspired and so actuated, are beyond the range of their sympathy and understanding altogether. And give them a warm habitation in time, and stock it well with this worlds comforts and accommodations, and surround them with a thriving circle of relations and a merry companionship, and let the animating game of a well-doing business abroad be varied by the flow of kindness and the songs of festivity at home - and they would have no objection, if; thus compassed about and thus upholden, to be done with God and done with eternity for ever.

When the preacher tries to demonstrate the utter wofulness and worthlessness of their spiritual condition, we know what the kind of question is with which they are prepared to assail him. We pay our debts; we can lift an open and unabashed visage in society; we follow the occasional impulses of a compassionate feeling towards the necessitous ; we love our children ; there is nothing monstrous about us, possessed as we are of all the instincts of humanity, and maintaining the full average of its equities and its decencies and its kindnesses. What then is the charge, on which you would stamp a sort of moral hideousness upon our characters; and on which you pronounce against us the awful doom of an angry God and an undone eternity? The charge is that you joy in the creature, and not at all in the Creator; and, to verify the doom, we have only to read in your hearing, the future history of this world, in as far as it is made known to us by experience and revelation. That scene, on which you have fastened your affections so closely that you cannot tear them away from it, will soon be torn away from you ; and this world, on whose fair surface it is that sense and time have spread out their bewitching allurements, and decked them forth in colours of fascination, will soon be broken up; and your hold, as well as I that of all our species on the present system of things, with all its pleasures and all its interests, will be everlastingly dissolved. It is then that God will step in between your soul and those creatures after which it has ever longed, but which are now swept away.

And had your joy been in Him, then the heaven where He dwells would have been your fit because your joyful habitation. But as the tree falleth so it lies ; and you rise from the grave with the taste, and the character, and the feelings which you had when you breathed your last upon your death-bed; and so all that is in your heart, carrying upon it a recoil from Him with whom alone you have to do, will meet with nothing there but that which must give dread and disturbance to your carnal affections; and these affections will wander in vain for the objects which solaced them upon earth. This intermediate place between heaven and hell will no longer be found; and the unhappy exile from the one, will meet with the other alternative as his portion for evermore.

It is thus that he who soweth to the flesh, shall of the flesh reap corruption. The materials of his gratification will be withheld; and the sordid appetite remain unsated and restless and ever pursuing him through-out all eternity: And whatever the outward inflictions may be which a God of vengeance will lay upon him - there will, in the heats and the passions and the disappointed feelings of his own unregenerate bosom, be element enough to constitute, a worm within that cannot die, and a fire within that never can be quenched. This may perhaps convince the first class of hearers of their exceeding distance from a right habit of soul for death and the eternity beyond it; and give them some understanding of the greatness of that transition which there is from the carnal to the spiritual; and bring even their own experience to testify for this announcement of the Bible, that unless they are born again they shall not inherit the kingdom of God. And it may lead some such to bestir themselves; and to beat as it were upon the confines of that spiritual region, the occupiers of which have a taste for God, and so a foretaste of heaven in their souls; and many a weary struggle may they make after this regeneration; and perhaps, baffled in all their attempts, have the same distaste for God and godliness as ever. For how can that which is bitter become sweet unto me? how can this religion which is a weariness become a delight? How can I attain a relish and a capacity for its spiritual exercises ? or share in a joy which I have never yet felt, and which certainly no method of compulsion can establish within me?

Now this leads us to a second class of hearers, who, instead of being careless, are making the interest of their soul a topic of great care and great cogitation; who have recourse to active measures in the prosecution of this great interest; and are all alive, to the great object of being right with God. It is indeed a most natural forth-setting of the whole man on such an occasion, to proceed on the principle of work and win; and thus do they strive to establish a righteousness of their own, and by much labour to lay up a claim for wages on the day of reckoning; and in so labouring, they just feel as an ordinary workman does. It is not his work that gives him pleasure. It is only the receipt of his wages that gives him pleasure. He has no rejoicing in his master or in his service. His only rejoicing is in the reward that he is to get from him, and which is distinct from his service. And in like manner, is there many a seeker after life eternal, toiling with all his might, in the spirit of bondage and of much carefulness, who has no joy in God - Satisfied if he can escape hell and reach the undefined blessedness of heaven; but who does not reflect, that it is altogether essential to this blessedness, to have such a taste for the divine character as to be glad in the contemplation of it - to have such a liking for the divine life, as that the life itself, with the necessary pleasure annexed to it, shall be reward enough for him - to have such a delight in the Being who made him, that he counts himself rich in the simple possession of His friendship, and in the breathings of a heart that glows with regard and gratitude to the person of the Divinity. Without this, all he can do is but the bodily exercise that profiteth little; and that, instead of heightening his affection for God, may only exasperate the impatience, and aggravate the weariness and distaste that he feels in his service.

And the question recurs - how shall he be translated into this right spiritual temperament? It is not by the laboriousness of the service that he will ever work himself into the habit of rejoicing in that master who appoints the service, and yet without the rejoicing there is no adaptation of the soul for paradise - no kindred quality with the atmosphere of the upper regions - none of that cordial delight in God which gives to heaven all its freeness and all its felicity - and, with all the drudgeries of outward obedience, no growing meetness whatever for the inheritance of the saints in light. Now what is the sum and the practical conclusion of this whole matter? We trust you all perceive how it leaves you no other alternative, than that of just shutting you up unto the faith. There is a high ground of spiritual affection, and of joy in God, and of celestial delight in the sense of His presence and fellowship, to which you would like to be elevated. But you see nothing between you and that lofty region, saving a range of precipice that you cannot scale, and against which you vainly wreak all the native energies that belong to you.

Let one door hitherto unobserved be pointed out, open to all who knock at it, and through which an easy and before unseen ascent conducts you to the light and purity and enjoyment of those upper regions after which you aspire; and what other practical effect should all the obstacles and impossibilities you have before encountered have upon you, than just to guide your footsteps to the alone way of access that is at all practicable? And this is just the conclusion you should come to on the matter under consideration. Strive as painfully as you may to work out a righteousness of your own, and you will ever work among stumbling-blocks; and peace be at as great a distance from you as ever; and, so far from joy in God being attained by such a process, it is far the likeliest way of accumulating upon your souls a distaste both for Him and for His service; and, in these circumstances, we know of nothing through which to ensure your translation to this desirable habit of the soul, than just the open door of Christ's mediatorship. It has been objected to the economy of the gospel, that it exacts from its disciples an unnatural and unattainable elevation of character; and this is a most likely objection to proceed from him who looks at this economy with half an eye. The very same people may also, on looking at another side of this dispensation, be heard to object to the freeness of the gospel; to the immediate way in which any sinner may strike, even now, an act of reconciliation with the God whom he has offended; to the method of his justification by faith, and not by the works of the law; and, in a word, to the whole character of its ministrations, by which it is reduced to a matter of giving upon the one side, and of confident receiving and relying upon the other.

Now the two parts which are thus objected to singly, are those which give consistent support and stability to each other. It is just by faith, and in no other possible way, that you enter upon peace and hope and love and joy. is just through Jesus Christ, not by working for the atonement, but simply by receiving the atonement, that you are translated into this desirable habit of the soul. It is just the freeness of the gospel, which conducts its disciples to all the peculiar affections of the gospel. If you remain on the ground of legality where work and win is the order of the day, you never will win the length of firmly confiding in God as your friend, or of rejoicing in Him as the life and the dearest treasure of your existence. It is only by walking in that open way of access to which you are invited; and proceeding on the words of Christ, that, " by him if any man enter in he shall be saved ;" and laying hold of that covenant of peace on which he is desirous that all of you should lay a full and a sure reliance - It is only thus that the tastes and affections of the heart, will be led freely out to the God who thus calls and thus manifests Himself.

Let us therefore sound in your hearing the invitations of the gospel; and make it known to you, that your only chance for being translated into that angelic love of God and joy in Him which obtains in paradise, is simply by believing in their honesty, and trusting and triumphing and hoping and rejoicing accordingly. You can never be too sure of God's truth. You can never be too sure of the saving efficacy of the blood of his Son. You can never be too sure of your having received such an abundance of grace, as will exceed the measure of all your abounding iniquities. You can never be too sure of the faithfulness and infinite compassion of your Creator who is in heaven; and the more you cherish all this sureness, the more will you rejoice in Him, the shield of whose protection is over you, and the arms of whose everlasting love are round about you. This sureness is, in fact, the high road to all that enlargement of sacred and spiritual delight, which in every other way is totally inaccessible. And we are not afraid of spoiling you into indolence by all this proclamation; or of lulling you into a habit of remissness in the exertions of duty by it; or of gendering a deceitful Antinomianism in your hearts; or of turning any one of you into the disgusting spectacle of one who can talk of peace with God, while purity and principle and real piety are utter strangers to his unregenerated bosom. It is this freeness, and this alone in fact, which will make new creatures of you; which will usher the love of God into your hearts; which will bring down the Holy Ghost upon you from heaven; which will inspire a taste for spiritual delight that you never before felt; and furnish motive and impulse and affection for bearing you onward in the way of active and persevering duty, on the career of moral and spiritual excellence.
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