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this for him, whose province it was to prepare the minds of men for the Gospel, by repentance and self-denial, to till and dress the soil, to kill in it every rank and noxious weed, to render it clean and pure, and moist with the tears of contrition, fit for the reception of that good seed which his illustrious follower was in a short time coming to sow in it. When he appeared, the scene was changed. The Saviour of the world came (as he himself is pleased to express it) “ eating and drinking.” He came with all the marks of good-humour and good-will to men. He went to marriage feasts. The very first miracle he worked was to promote their cheerfulness; and he mingled in those happy meetings with so much ease and freedom, with so little affectation of moroseness or reserve, that his enemies gave him the name (a name which he treated with the most sovereign contempt) “ of a gluttonous “ man, and a wine-bibber, a friend of pub“ licans and sinners.”* Every mark of respect and attention that was shown him, he accepted with the most engaging and grace
* Matth. xi. 19.
ful condescension; nor did he even disdain the rich perfume, which the liberal hand of Mary poured upon him, notwithstanding the ill-timed murmurs of his more fastidious followers. Although he himself, by his own example, plainly countenanced the practice of fasting at proper times, and under proper restrictions, yet he would not suffer his disciples to fast while he was with them. The time would come, he told them, when they would have abundant occasion to fast. But when the bridegroom was with them, they ought to know nothing but joy; and that joy should not be interrupted by unseasonable severities and anticipated sorrows. He reproved the hypocritical Pharisees for the ostentatious sadness of their countenances on such occasions; and enjoined his own followers, whenever they did practise an extraordinary abstemiousness, to preserve, even in the midst of their humiliations, their wonted neatness of attire and cheerfulness of appearance. “ The hypo“ crites,” says he, “disfigure their faces, " that they may appear unto men to fast: “ but thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine « head and wash thy face: that thou appear 6. not unto men to fast, but unto thy Fa“ .ther which is in secret: and thy Father " which seeth in secret, shall reward thee “ openly."* His discourses were of a piece with his deportment: they were soothing, comfortable, refreshing. The form of words which he made use of generally when he cured diseases, was, “ Son, be of good cheer, thy sins be forgiven thee.” He was constantly endeavouring to support the drooping spirits of his disciples by the most encouraging expressions; and when he found himself at length obliged to explain to them the hardships they were to undergo for his sake, the conclusion was, “In the world ye “ shall have tribulation ; but be of good “ cheer; I have overcome the world.” †
The same spirit diffused itself to the apostles, evangelists, and disciples, who maintained, throughout the whole course of their ministry, a certain vigour and vivacity of mind, which no calamity could depress.
Their writings are full of exhortations “to “ rejoice evermore; to shew mercy with * Matth. vi. 16, 17.
+ John, xvi. 33.
6 cheerfulness; to count it all joy even when “ we fall into temptation.” The language of the text, the language of the whole Gospel, is, “ Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again “ I say, Rejoice.” Hence it is plain, that a constant cheerfulness is the distinguishing character of the Christian religion : that it animated both the precepts and the conduct of those who taught it, and was considered by them as a necessary concomitant in the performance of every part of our duty.
But the Gospel does not stop here. It not only commands us to be cheerful; this it might very easily do; but what is of still more importance, it assists us in becoming so; it affords the best and most effectual helps toward obtaining that happy and satisfied temper, that constant serenity and composure of mind, without which all the wealth and grandeur of the world are insipid and worthless things.
I. The first assistance of this kind it gives us is, that constant and enlivening employment which it finds for our thoughts. The human mind, we all know, is restless and active; and if not otherwise engaged, will turn its activity inward, will prey upon and devour itself, and become the destroyer of its own happiness. A very large proportion of the evils which press the heaviest upon us, are purely imaginary, are the creation of our own hands, and arise from no other cause than the having nothing else to do, but to sit down and make ourselves as miserable as we possibly can. One great means, therefore, of promoting cheerfulness is, to keep our thoughts constantly and usefully employed. The pursuit of any important and worthy object is in itself enlivening. Every advance we make in it, is a new accession of pleasure: we feel ourselves animated with a growing delight; and go on with increasing ardour and alacrity to the attainment of the end we have in view. A succession of worldly pleasures and occupations may, for a time, engage our attention; but that delusion is soon over, and they leave a void behind which nothing can fill up, but those great and noble purposes of action which the Gospel presents to our minds : the conquest of our passions ; the improvement of our nature; the exalt