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the light of God's countenance puts more gladness into their hearts, than in the time that their corn and wine increased. Psalm 4:6, 7. Nay, the wisest Christians, on trial of both, have rightly determined, that the worst things in religion are infinitely to be preferred to the best things belonging to sin; the very sufferings and afflictions of the people of God have been pronounced better than the pleasures of sin for a season. Heb. 11:25. Could you but see with their eyes, and were you capable of making a right judgment as they did, there would not need a word more to persuade you to deny your most pleasant lusts, in exchange for Christ and his beneficial sufferings.
(2.) The doctrine also affords various exhortations to the regenerate, who have opened their hearts to Christ, and are thereupon admitted into this comfortable state. It is found in experience a difficult thing, for souls after conversion to bear their own comforts, as it was to rightly manage their troubles at conversion. My business here is to advise souls under the first operations of the Spirit, how to improve their spiritual comforts, that they may abide with them and be growing continually in their souls. . ADVICE 1. See that you humbly admire and adore the condescending goodness of God to you, in all the comforts of the Spirit which refresh you. O that God should comfort such a soul as thine, that has so often grieved himthat Christ should be a joy to thee, who hast been a sorrow to him. In Paul's epistle to the Ephesians you will find the spirit of the apostle filled with admiration of this mercy, which breaks forth into this rapturous expression : “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. Some never enjoy an ordinary degree of earthly comforts, Job 30:3–5; others enjoy abundance of earthly, but no spiritual comforts. Psalm 17 : 14. There are others for whom God intends everlasting consolation in the world to come, who are kept low as to spiritual comforts in this world. Psalm 88:15. What cause have you to admire the bounty of God to you, for whom there is not only fulness of joy prepared in heaven, but such precious foretastes and earnests of it communicated in the way thither.
ADVICE 2. Cleave fast to Christ and those duties of religion in which you have found the best comforts that ever your souls knew. This is one thing God intends in the communication of these spiritual refreshments, to attach your souls fast to the ways of holiness. The Lord knows that temptations will befall you; discouragements enough you will be sure to meet with ; but the enjoyments of God, which you have met with in prayer and hearing, in meditation and sacraments, should engage your hearts for ever to the ways of obedience. You never found that sweetness in the ways of sin which you have found in repentance and faith. When a temptation comes baited with sinful pleasures, think of Jotham’s parable of the trees, and of the answer of the olive, the fig-tree, and the vine, Judges 9:8–13, and say, in reference to thy spiritual enjoyments, Shall I leave such soul-refreshing comforts as these for the pleasures of sin ? God forbid.
ADVICE 3. Communicate the spiritual comforts you enjoy, for the benefit and refreshment of others. The Lord never intended you should engross the comforts of his Spirit to yourselves, nor eat your pleasant morsels alone. He comforts us, that we may be able to comfort them that are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. 2 Cor. 1:4. It is true, religion lays not all open; nor yet does it conceal all. There needs a great deal of wisdom, humility, and caution to secure us from pride and vanity in spirit, while we communicate our comforts to others. Both ostentation and self-appropriation of our comforts are against scripture law; he may be justly
suspected that opens all, and so may he too that conceals all. Spiritual comforts are not diminished, but improved by a wise and humble communication.
ADVICE 4. Be frequent in renewing the acts and exercises of faith. Your first faith brought in your first comfort; your renewing and repeating those precious acts of faith, will bring you in greater stores of comfort than you yet enjoy. We are not to look upon faith as a single, but a continued act : "To whom coming as unto a living stone." 1 Pet. 2:4. Thy soul, Christian, is to be in a continual motion towards Christ ; the more you believe, the more you will rejoice. You see the door through which comfort comes into your soul. Joy is the daughter of faith, Rom. 15:13; your present comfort is the first offspring of faith; but there are many comforts more which will yet be born to your souls, if unbelief prevent it not.
ADVICE 5. Take heed that you be not a grief to Christ, who hath already brought so much comfort to you. It will be a sad requital if, after he hath given you the joys of heaven to drink, you shall give him that which is as wormwood and gall; the Lord write that caution upon thy soul : “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.” Eph. 4:30. The argument of the apostle in this place strongly infers caution from comfort. Christ hath been all joy, all peace, rest, and comfort to you; take heed you be not a grief and shame to him. The intermission of thy duties, the falling of thy affections in duties, thy rash adventures upon sin, will be a grief to the heart of Christ, who hath filled thy heart with so much comfort; and if you grieve him, you cannot expect he should comfort you. A little sin may rob you of a great deal of comfort.
ADVICE 6. Be not dejected if the first comforts Christ gives you should afterwards abate, or be taken away for a time. This is a common thing in the experience of most
Christians. You must not think your first comforts are such fixed, settled things, that there is no hazard of losing them; alas, nothing is more liable to change than the joys of a Christian. You will be apt to lose your first love, Rev. 2:4; and if you lose your first love, no wonder that you lose your first comforts. Yet if it should so fall out, be not cast down and discouraged; Christ is not gone, though comfort be gone; and though comfort be gone, it is not gone for ever; renew thy repentance, faith, and obedience, and try if God will not renew thy comfort. There is a former and a latter spring of joy; God will make thy comforts spring again. Besides, thy justification is steadfast, though thy consolation is not so. There are two things which belong to a Christian: one to his being, namely, union with Christ; another to his well-being, namely, comfort from Christ. The latter is contingent, the former fixed and steadfast. . . ADVICE 7. Be filled with compassion to others who lack the comforts you enjoy, especially such as God has united to you as natural relations. Art thou a father or mother, to whom God has given the comforts and soul-refreshments that have been opened in this discourse? And hast thou no compassion for thy children, who never yet tasted one drop of these spiritual consolations? It will do a man little good to be feasted abroad, while his wife and children are starving at home. Say to them as Paul, in another case, “I would to God, that not only thou, but also all that hear me this day, were both almost and altogether such as I am, except these bonds.” Acts 26:29. Religion creates bowels of compassion. O tell them what sweetness there is in the ways of godliness; counsel, plead, and pray that those who are yours may also be Christ's.
ADVICE 8. As ever you expect the continuance and enlargement of your comforts, see that you walk circumspectly. It is as much as all your comfort is worth to give way to a little carelessness. That is a remarkable expression
of the psalmist,“ I will hear what God the Lord will speak; for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints : but let them not turn again to folly.” Psalm 85:8. Sin, in this text, is fitly called folly; for indeed it is the greatest folly and madness in the world to divest ourselves of such sweet peace and comfort by returning to sin, which has cost us so much sorrow before. Are you willing to be in your former darkness and troubles—to exchange the pleasant light you now enjoy for the horrors you formerly felt? This you must do, if you return again to folly.
ADVICE 9. Long for heaven, where is the fulness of those joys of which these you now taste are but the earnest and first-fruits. One design of God in giving them, is to set us a longing after heaven, to help our conceptions, and raise our affections : if these be so sweet, what must those be? “ Ourselves also, which have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” Rom. 8:23. We are not to sit down satisfied, and say we have enough of these first-fruits; they are given to make us long after the fulness of those enjoyments. This answers God's end in giving. . • ADVICE 10. Improve every spiritual comfort you have from Christ to greater cheerfulness in the paths of obedience to Christ. This is another end for which God communicates them, that our souls being refreshed by them, we might move the more' nimbly in the paths of duty. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Psalm 119:32. God expects that you pray more frequently, meditate more delightfully, and perform every duty more cheerfully; this is the way to perpetuate your comforts. How many Christians go on droopingly in the ways of duty for want of the encouragements you enjoy.