Sunday, November 17, 2019

God Wishes Us To Be Happy And Holy! #JesusFollowers

The peculiar happiness designed for us by our Creator is holiness - the pursuit of moral excellence. In this alone can we find a substantial and soul-satisfying pleasure. In this alone can we make continual advances and continually find new objects presented commensurate with our increased power of acquisition and new gratifications to fill our enlarged capacity of enjoyment.

The same goodness, which imposed on the inferior animals the law of instinct, imposed on human beings this moral law, and for the same purpose, for the promotion of happiness. 

We are not indeed bound like animals to a necessary obedience. But this freedom is an attribute of our superior nature. It is this which makes each of us an improvable being, which if it renders us capable of error, it also gives us the capacity for exalted virtue, if it gives us the ability to sin, it also confers on us the power of repentance and reformation.

What are we taught was the great object of the mission of Jesus? It was to save us from sin. He came indeed to save us from the misery and ruin which are the consequences of our sins, and to save us from these by saving us from sin itself, the necessary and invariable cause of unhappiness - by revealing such truths, presenting such motives, inculcating such precepts, setting such a pure and perfect example, as should lead us to abhor and forsake our sins, and enter on the paths of holiness, peace and happiness.

And accordingly, those who have embraced his Gospel, and have begun to govern their hearts and lives by its truths and precepts, have already entered into eternal life and enjoying a foretaste of the happiness of Heaven.

If happiness is intimately dependent on character, it follows that no condition of salvation can be substituted for a holy life, and that with this no other condition can be necessary. Are we conscious of a habitual and devoted obedience to the law of God and of joy and peace in our obedience? Our present happiness is a foretaste of our eternal future. The character which produces such blessed fruits here, will accompany us to Heaven; and there it will bring forth more abundantly.

On the other hand, if we are conscious of no such obedience, it is folly to lay our hopes on any other foundation. So long as we retain a sinful character, we cannot be happy, either in this life or in the future. Our only resource, our only hope is in a change of character. And that change can be done only by ourselves.

Every man's character is the work of his own hands. If our salvation be ever wrought out, the work must be accomplished by our own free will. No other being can accomplish it for us.  Jesus may set before us the pure precepts of his gospel, he may present to our minds its glorious truths and commanding motives end exhibit his own living example of spotless holiness, but after all it remains with ourselves, whether we will obey those precepts, and open our understandings to those truths, and our hearts to the love and imitation of that perfect character.

The idea that we can be made either better or worse without an act of our own wills is utterly inconsistent with our whole moral Nature. The supposition of our being happy without holiness is equally foolish. Unless we make ourselves good, omnipotence itself - I speak it with reverence - Omnipotence itself cannot make us happy.

That unbounded and ever restless desire after perfect happiness which is continually prompting so many mad endeavors would be fixed and concentrated upon the pursuit of real excellence. Instead of anxiously inquiring how little is absolutely essential to be done, we should be eager continually to learn more of our duty that we might be able to obey more perfectly and feel more of the joy of obedience. What folly, on this view of the subject, is every moment's delay of attention to religion.

I ask what can we do better for present and immediate happiness than to enter into a religious life? From what can we expect purer pleasure? What can yield us a fuller satisfaction? In what pursuit can we embark with a more perfect assurance against disappointment? What a strange error concerning the true nature of religion and our own happiness, to talk of deferring our attention to religion till we have tasted a little more of the pleasures of the world.

Here is the true, essential happiness which God designed for our souls, placed within our reach, soliciting our acceptance, and every moment we neglect to put forth our hand to take it is lost to the true purposes of our being - and shall we madly play about in pursuit of a vain and delusive phantom?

My friends, let us make haste and delay not to enter on those ways which alone are ways of pleasantness and paths of peace.

Adapted from a sermon (ca. 1833) by Rev. Cazneau Palfrey (1805-1888)

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