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Directions Concerning Immoderate Joy for Worldly Comforts - by Christopher Love (1618-1651)

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How should the Christian live in the world, especially in our own day, with so many worldly comforts?

Though Christians must take heed that they are not immoderate in their joy for worldly comforts, yet you must know that you are allowed by God to rejoice in the outward comforts that He gives you here in this world. Solomon says, “There is a time to mourn, and a time to laugh” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). And, “Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart, live joyfully with the wife whom thou lovest” {Ecclesiastes 9:7, 9). So, “In the day of prosperity be joyful” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). And, ‘Ye shall rejoice in all that you put your hand unto” (Deuteronomy 12:7). This conclusion is necessary for sad and melancholy Christians who, though they enjoy an affluence and confluence of worldly comforts, yet will not at all rejoice in them. Beloved, God allows you to rejoice.

Consider that religion does not extirpate or annihilate worldly rejoicing, but only regulates it. It is not like a weeding hook to pluck up your joy by the roots, but like a pruning hook to lop off the luxuriancy of it, and to keep your joy in its due decorum.

Beloved, religion does not annihilate, but regulates your joys; nay, being religious rather increases than in any way diminishes your joys.

Take this conclusion: the worldly joy of a godly man is oftentimes mingled with more inward gripes and grief of spirit than the worldly joy of a wicked man is. As in, “Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful” (Proverbs 14:13). In 2 Corinthians, the apostle there speaks of some who gloried in appearance, but not in heart (2 Corinthians 5:12). The joy of the wicked is but in appearance, not in reality. When they are in their greatest jollity and mirth, even then they have some inward gripes and anguish of conscience that galls and troubles them. A wicked man’s joy is like a godly man’s sorrow. The former’s joy is but in appearance, not in truth. A godly man has something like sorrow, but it is not so indeed; they are but “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing” (2 Corinthians 6:10). “The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and He addeth no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22).

A smaller matter will interrupt the worldly joy of a wicked man than will interrupt the joy of a godly man, I mean, that outward worldly joy that he has here in this world, Ahab, though he had a whole kingdom, yet could take no contentment in it for want of Naboth’s vineyard. A little thing diverts the joy of a wicked man, and therefore their joy is compared to the crackling of thorns under the pot (Ecclesiastes 7:6). They make a noise and blaze for a little while, but are soon put out. Belshazzar, when he was quaffing in his golden bowls, and in the midst of all his jollity, yet a hand writing upon the wall quickly dashed all his joys and made him hang down his head (Daniel 5).

Though it is lawful and allowed by God for you to rejoice in worldly comforts, yet there are some things you are not to rejoice in. I shall give you them in five or six particulars:

1. You must not rejoice in your own sins. The sins you commit must never be a matter of rejoicing to you. But thus wicked men do many times, as in, “When thou doest evil then thou rejoicest” (Jeremiah 11:15). So Solomon speaks of some “who rejoice to do evil” (Proverbs 2:14)? So it is said of Doeg, “Why boasteth thou thyself in mischief, O might)’ man, thou lovest evil more than good” (Psalm 52:1, 3). God does not allow us to boast and rejoice in sin.

2. Neither are you to rejoice in the sins of other men. They are never permitted by God to be matter of your joy. It is said of love that “it rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6). That is, love to any man does not make us to rejoice in that man’s sin, but in his well doing. In Romans 1: 30-32, those are not only condemned by God “that do the same things with wicked men, but those also who have pleasure in them that do them, not only covenant breakers, unmerciful men, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things.” Not only those that commit these things, but they also that delight in those men who commit them are condemned. This is rather a matter of grief than joy. “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because men keep not Thy law” (Psalm 119:136). And Peter says, “Lot vexed his righteous soul with the ungodly conversation of wicked men” (2 Peter 2:7-8).

3. You are not to rejoice at all for the punishment of sin in the unreasonable creatures. And upon this ground Mr. Perkins condemns the use of bull or bear baiting, or cock fighting, because it is a rejoicing in that which is the product of sin. For it was sin that first put an enmity between the bear and the dog, and between creature and creature.

4. You must not rejoice in goods ill-gotten, for in such the Lord never allows you to rejoice. “Rejoice not in robberies, neither in goods ill-gotten” (Psalm 62:10). So the Lord is “of purer eyes than to behold evil. Wherefore lookest Thou upon them that deal treacherously, and boldest Thy tongue when the wicked devoureth the man that is more righteous than he, and makest men as the fishes of the sea, as the creeping things that have no ruler over them. They take up all of them with the angle, they catch them into their net, and gather them in their drag,” that is the poor. And what follows? “Therefore they rejoice and are glad” (Habakkuk 1:13-15). The Lord condemns the rich men because they got their estates by wronging the poor, and by usury and the like. Therefore you have more need to make restitution for what you have injured men and fraudulently taken from them than to rejoice in it, or to build hospitals, and make a great flourish in the world, to advance your pride and vain glory. You may rejoice in your lawful negotiations in buying and selling, and getting gain honestly; these you may rejoice in, but you are not to rejoice in goods ill-gotten. If you can in buying or selling overreach or circumvent a man, and when you have got a good pennyworth then to laugh in your sleeve, that is an evil. “‘It is naught, it is naught,’ saith the buyer; but when he is gone his way, then he boasteth” (Proverbs 20:14). “I hate,” said God, “the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog to be for a sacrifice” (Deuteronomy 23:18). Though the money in itself is good, yet, because it is gotten by wickedness and un-cleanness, the Lord abhors it. The Lord abominates those who bring their wickedness before Him to rejoice in: “All the graven images (in Samaria) therefore shall be beaten to pieces, and all the hires thereof shall be burned with fire, for she gathered it of the hire of an harlot” (Micah 1:7). When Ahab was heavy and dis-pleased because he could not have Naboth’s vineyard (1 Kings 21:7), his wife did very wickedly when she bade him rise up and be merry, because she would get the vineyard for him. It is a very ungodly practice to rejoice in goods ill-gotten by deceiving and defrauding the poor.

5. You must not rejoice for the afflictions and sufferings of God’s people. This is that which the Lord condemned the Edomites for in the prophecy of Obadiah: “Thou shouldest not have rejoiced over the children of Judah, in the day of their destruction, neither shouldest thou have spoken proudly in the day of distress” (Obadiah 12), and so on. And so the Lord threatened Mount Seir and Idumea for their hatred of Israel, and rejoicing over her in the day of their distress. God said, “As thou didst rejoice at the inheritance of the house of Israel, because it was desolate, so will I do unto thee; thou shah be desolate, O Mount Seir” (Ezekiel 35:15). Micah says to the church there, “Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy, when I fall I shall arise” (Micah 7:8). “He that is glad at (other men’s) calamities shall not go unpunished” (Proverbs 17:5).

6. You are not to make the miseries and sufferings of your very enemies to be matter of rejoicing to you. “Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thy heart be glad when he stumbleth” (Proverbs 24:17). Job was so conscientious in this particular that he quite disclaims any such practice: “If I rejoiced at the destruction of him that hated me, or lift up myself when evil found him. Neither have I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul” (Job 31:29-30). Job disavowed such courses as these, and you ought not to make the afflictions and sufferings of the worst enemy you have in all the world to be matter of rejoicing to you. Indeed, if you look upon them as the enemies of God and of His church, then you may rejoice at their destruction as they are God’s enemies. Thus David did: “I hate them that hate Thee, yea I hate them with a perfect hatred.” You must hate no man as he is your enemy / or does an injury to you, but as he is God’s enemy you I ought to hate him, and to rejoice at his destruction. None of these six particulars ought to be the matter of a Christians’ joy.

Take this conclusion: there are some times and seasons wherein it is not expedient to rejoice even in lawful things. I shall name them to you very briefly.

First, in days of public and solemn fasting and humiliation, then the bride must come out of her closet, and the bridegroom out of his chamber. Expressions of joy are then unseasonable.

Second, when a land is made desolate by wasting and ruining judgments (Isaiah 24:8).

Third, when the hand of God lies heavy on any particular man or family wherein he dwells, it should be a house of mourning (Ecclesiastes 7:2).

Fourth, after some great defection or apostatizing from God, after you have fallen into some great and foul sin or transgression, then is no time to rejoice. You have an excellent text for this: “Rejoice not, O Israel, for joy, as other people, for thou hast gone a whoring from thy God” (Hosea 9:1).

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