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faneness, or professed Atheism, or public persecution, and, perhaps, more than any thing else whatsoever.
But it is not so with true religion, in its genuine beauty That, if it prevails in great power, will, doubtless, excite the rage of the devil, and many other enemies of religion. However, it gives great advantage to its friends, and exceedingly strengthens their cause, and tends to convince or confound enemies. True religion is a divine light in the souls of the saints; and, as it shines out in the conversation before men, it tends to induce others to glorify God. There is nothing like it (as to means) to awaken the consciences of men, to convince. infidels, and to stop the mouths of gainsayers.--Though men naturally hate the power of godliness, yet when they see the fruits of it, there is a witness in their consciences in its favour. " He that serveth Christ in righteousness, and peace, and joy. in the Holy Ghost, is acceptable to God, and approved of men, Rom. xiv. 17, 18. The prevailing of true religion, ever tends to its honour in the world, though it commonly is the occasion of great persecution. It is a sure thing, the more it appears, and is exemplified in the view of the world, the more will its honour, and the honour of its author, be advanced. Phil. i. 11. “ Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God."
The third use may be of exhortation, to seek those distinguishing qualifications and affections of soul, which neither the devil, nor any unholy being, has, or can have.
How excellent is that inward virtue and religion which consists in those !
Herein consists the most excellent expcs riences of saints and angels in heaven. Herein consists the best experience of the man Christ Jesus, whether in his humbled or glorified state. Herein consists the image of God.Yea, this is spoken of in scripture as a communication of something of God's own beauty and excellency. A participation of the divine nature, 2 Peter i. 4. A partaking of his holiness, Heb. xii. 10. A partaking of Christ's fulness, Jobp i. 16. Hereby the saints are filled with all the fulness of God, Eph. iii. 18, 19. Hereby they have fellowship with both the Father and the Son, 1 John i. 3; that is, they communicate with them in their happiness. Yea, by means of this divine virtue, there is a mutual indwelling of God and the saints ; 1 John iv. 16. - God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him.”
This qualification must render the person that has it, excellent and happy indeed, and doubtless is the highest dignity and blessedness of any creature. This is the peculiar gift of God, which he bestows only on bis special favourites. As to silver, gold, and diamonds, earthly crowns and kingdoms, he often throws them out to those whom he esteems as dogs and swine; but this is the peculiar blessing of his dear children.This is what flesh and blood cannot impart.
God alone can bestow it. This was the special benefit which Christ died to procure for his elect, the most excellent token of his everlasting love; the chief fruit of his great labours, and the most precious purchase of his blood.
By this, above all other things, do men glorify God. By this, above all other things, do the saints shine as lights in the world, and are blessings to mankind. And this, above all things, tends to their own comfort; from hence arises that "peace which passeth all understanding," and that "joy which is unspeakable and full of glory.” And this is that which will most certainly issue in the eternal salvation of those who have it. It is impossible that the soul possessing it, should sink and perish. It is an immortal seed; it is eternal life begun; and, therefore, they that have it, can never die. It is the dawning of the light of glory. It is the day-star risen in the heart, that is a sure forerunner of that sun's rising which will bring on an everlasting day. This is that water which Christ gives ; which is in him that drinks it, "a well of water springing up into everlasting life;" John iv. 14. It is something from heaven, of a heavenly nature, and tends to heaven, And those that have it, however they may now wander in a wilderness, or be tossed to and fro on a tempestuous ocean, shall certainly arrive in heaven at last, where this heavenly spark shall be increased and perfected, and the souls of the saints all be transformed into a bright and pure flame, and they shall shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their father. Amen.