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in to succor and refresh it ; he has rich cordials for fainting hours; the soul hath had a bitter breakfast, and therefore Christ will give it a comfortable supper : “I will come in to him, and sup with him.”
3. Those that open their hearts to Christ must expect to meet with great troubles and temptations in the new course on which they have entered : their way to heaven lies through much tribulation; all our troubles are not over when we are once in Christ; nay, then commonly our greatest outward troubles begin : “After ye were illuminated, ye endured a great fight of afflictions.” Heb. 10 : 32. Carnal relations scoff, frown, and cast us off; the world hates us and marks us out for persecution. Now, that Christians may not utterly be discouraged when they meet with troubles in the way of duty, Christ will cheer them by these spiritual refreshments. Christ himself had a voice from heaven, “ This is my beloved Son,” Matt. 17:5, a little before his great combat; much more do his people need such consolations, to support and encourage them. God foresees and by this provision prepares for the troubles they are to meet with ; an hour of sealing fortifies the soul for an hour of suffering. It has been the observation of some Christians when they have felt more than ordinary comforts of the Spirit, that some great trial has been near them; and the event has confirmed it. Whatever comforts Christ gives his people at their first entrance into his service, they will have need enough of them all before they finish their course. To these first sealings they will need to have frequent recourse, and all will be little enough to support them in after-trials.
4. Christ comes in to the opening soul with such divine refreshments to defeat the plot of Satan, who has so often discouraged them by representing the ways of Christ as melancholy; telling them they shall never laugh more, never be merry more, after they have espoused the ways of Christ Knooking.
holiness. Their own experience shall confute it, for they now taste that pleasure in Christ, in faith and obedience, which they never tåsted in the ways of sin ; thus that scandalous libel of Satan is confuted. They find they were never truly merry till now ; for all true mirth commences from our closing with Christ: “And they began to be merry." Luke 15:24.
These spiritual refreshments are here called a supper, because the supper among the Jews was their best meal, Luke 14:17, and because it is the last meal. This is not only the best enjoyment that a believer ever had, but upon these spiritual comforts, though much more refined and perfected, he is to feed for ever in heaven. 0 Christian, well mayest thou be contented with thine outward lot of providence, however it shall fall in this world with respect to thy outward man. Will the King of heaven come and sup with thee? Does he feed thy soul with pardon, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost, and seal an earnest of future glory? Then thou livest at a higher and nobler rate than any of thy carnal neighbors do. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ." Eph. 1:3. The same person who thus blesses God with a heart overflowing with joy and comfort, endured as many persecutions, felt as many wants and straits as any man. What if Providence do but meanly clothe your bodies, so that you cannot ruffle it in the splendor that others do? Yet mayest thou say with the church, “ I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.” Isa. 61 : 10. What if thou fare not so deliciously as the great ones of this world do? Yet, if Christ will give thee to eat of the hidden manna which he promiseth, Rev. 2:17, art thou not better clothed and fed than any of the nobles of the world? This takes away all grounds of complaint. It may be you will say, O, but we have bodies as well as souls; if God had created us angels, so that we could live without material food, it were another case. I reply, Christ never thus intended to feast thy soul and starve thy body ; he that feeds thy soul with bread from heaven, will take care for all necessary provisions on earth. Isa. 41:17. You have sought and found the kingdom of God and his rightousness; fear not but all other things shall be added to you.
The doctrine before us is full of instruction : I shall begin with the following.
INFERENCE 1. It is a vile and groundless slander upon religion, to say or insinuate that it deprives men of the comfort and joy of life. The devil, in design to discourage men from the ways of God, puts a frightful mask on the beautiful face of religion, pretending there is no pleasure to be expected therein; but this is abundantly confuted in the text : “I will come in to him, and sup with him.” Solomon tells us, “A feast is made for laughter." Eccl. 10:19. I am sure the soul that sits with Christ at such a feast as has been described above, has the best reason of any man in the world to be merry. Religion indeed denies us all sinful pleasure, but it abounds with spiritual pleasure. No rational, solid mirth can come before Christ : the unsanctified rejoice in things of naught, and their joy will be soon ended; they are hastening to the place where they will find that to be verified of the wages of sin, which they now falsely impute to the wages of holiness ; they shall never rejoice more, never be merry more: but believers shall find this scripture attested by their daily experience : “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace,” Prov. 3 : 17 ; and that there are such pleasures in the ways of God, as they never experienced in the ways of sin. Is it a solid
ground of comfort to a man to be out of debt and all fears of arrest; and is it not much greater to have our debts paid to God by Christ our surety ? “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matt. 9:2. Is it matter of joy to have a sufficiency of all things for the supply of every want ? He that is in Christ has this : “All are yours; and ye are Christ's.” 1 Cor. 3 : 22, 23. Is it a joyful life to border upon heaven, to be on the confines of blessedness itself? Then it is joyful to be in Christ; for they that are so may rejoice in the hope of glory. Rom. 5:2. Is it matter of joy to have the Comforter himself, who is the Spirit of all consolation, taking up his residence in thy heart, comforting and refreshing it with cordials unknown in all the unbelieving world? Then certainly the life of a Christian and the ways of holiness must be most comfortable. Let none therefore, that are looking towards Christ, be discouraged in their way by the slanderous reproaches designedly cast upon religion. Christ and comfort dwell together.
2. Hence, in like manner it follows, that Christians usually meet the greatest difficulties at their first entrance into religion. The first work of religion is wounding and weeping work. Thus religion usually begins. Acts 2:37 ; 16: 29. The soul seems to be struck dead, in the giving up of all its former vain hopes : “When the commandment came, sin revived, and I died,” Rom. 7:9; but afterwards come pardon, peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. They that go forth weeping, bearing precious seed, now come back rejoicing, bringing their sheaves with them. Psa. 126 : 6. Now the blessing is realized : “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:4. “Light is sown for the righteous, and gladness for the upright in heart.” Psa. 97: 11. It is quite contrary in the ways of sin ; all the pleasures of sin come first, the terrors of conscience come after. Sin comes with smiles in its beginning, but a sting in its end. Pleasures lead the van, hell and destruction bring up the rear. “Though wickedness be sweet in his mouth, though he hide it under his tongue ; though he spare it, and forsake it not, but keep it still within his mouth; yet his meat in his bowels is turned, it is the gall of asps within him.” Job 20 : 12–14. But here conviction and humiliation come first, these prepare the way for Christ; and with him come rest and peace. Their sorrow is turned into joy. John 16 : 20.
OBJECTION. But is this always true? Do not the worst things of religion many times come last? How many Christians go out of the world in an unhappy manner.
ANSWER. Whatever the after-sufferings of Christians may be, the worst is past when they are in Christ. Great and sharp sufferings they may endure, but the Lord sweetens them with answerable consolations : “I am filled with comfort, I am exceeding joyful in all our tribulation.” 2 Cor. 7: 4. The lowest ebbs are followed by the highest tides; the greatest troubles need not give interruption to peace.
3. Hence it follows, that no man can be truly happy till he be in Christ. Comfort and refreshment in the natural order follow faith ; it is the vainest imagination in the world to expect solid, spiritual comfort before union with Christ; you may as well expect a harvest before a seedtime. I do confess there are two sorts of comforts found in the world without Christ. First, men may have sensitive and sinful comforts without Christ; these are common in the unregenerate world, where you may daily see rich men taking comfort in their riches, and voluptuous men in their pleasures : “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth.” James 5:5. But these are pleasures common to brutes, and beneath the immortal spirit of a man. Second, hypocrites have their delights and comforts in an imaginary happiness, which they fancy to themselves; but this is a vanishing shadow. They take comfort from their groundless