G. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) Hallock.

The English pulpit : collection of sermons online

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what we need, and that he can take care for us, and provide for us —
why, what comfort does this bring to the mind ! And then, again,
" the people, whose God is the Lord," hope for all the grace they
want, to enable them to be what God commands them to be, and to do
what God commands them to do, and to suifer what God commands
them to endure ; they hope for " grace to help in time of need ; "
they hope for grace to make them holy, as well as make them happy,
and make them happy by making them holy ; and they hope for grace
to make them live well, and grace to make them die well ; and God
has said, " My grace is sufficient for thee." But, then, they look
beyond this world of time and sense. There is the proper object of



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN. 279

hope, and there it sparkles through the sky — " glorv, honor, and
immortality," " eternal hfe," the heaven of God, all that heaven is,
and all that heaven has to give. "Why now, my dear friends, do you
not see the men of this world, when they are hoping for something
which they greatly desire, and when the way seems clear and impedi-
ments removed, and they expect very soon to realize all that which
they desire and hope for — do you not see, that that emotion gives
way to emotions little less than transport ? and yet it is, perhaps,
something perishable and something worthless. What, then, must be
the hope of the Christian, who has " Christ formed in his heart, the
hope of glory," who is hoping, not for an earthly crown, but for a
celestial diadem, and who is hoping for a glorified body as well as a
glorified soul, in a glorious heaven of joy for ever ? Can it be, that
the man who has this hope, can be a wretched man ? I see not how
it can be. Why, it must sweeten all the bitters of Ufe ; it must sus-
tain the man under the pressure of afflictions and trials. Oh ! yes,
this hope administers a cordial in your troubles ; this hope comes like
an angel, and beckons you onward, and points you to the skies yonder;
and you then take courage. The hope of the Christian unites and
brings together the Christian's double heaven ; for we must have a ,
double heaven, or no heaven — heaven here, and heaven there —
heaven on the way, and heaven at home — heaven in reserve, and
heaven enjoyed.

2. Now, then, mark the eminence and the excellence of this happi-
ness. " Yea, happy ; " for the psalmist did not satisfy himself with
simply stating the fact, that the people of God are happy — " happy
is that people, that is in such a case " — but he repeats his words
with stronger emphasis, " Yea, happy is the people, whose God is the
Lord."

Mark the eminence of this happiness, from the circumstance that it
is substantial in its nature. It is not a mere phantom ; it is not a
name without a nature ; it is not a sign without a thing to be signified
thereby. Such, indeed, is all that this world calls bhss ; that is a wild
delirium, that is a delusive dream, that is a sort of phantom in yonder
void, exhibiting itself under various colors and various forms of fascin-
ation, and the eager, infatuated votaries, run after it with all their
might ; and they see it dancing before them at some place of public
amusement or public resort, and there they run with all possible eager-
ness, expecting to lay hold of it — but it eludes their grasp ; and
there, again, is another occasion, when it rises before them, and they
think it looks more inviting than it ever did before, and they run after
it with as much eagerness as if they had never been disappointed



280 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

before — again it eludes their grasp ; and again it appears, and away
they go, in high expectation that they shall obtain it now, and they
grasp the phantom — but they find it air. The bubble is no sooner
touched than it dissolves ; and there is not a drop of happiness obtained.
Ah ! ye worldlings, your own consciences bear me witness, that what
I say is true. It is so, and it must be so, with what this world calls
happiness ; and every thing, under the name of bUss, that is not con-
sistent with truth, and with holiness, and with religion.

But then it is otherwise with religion. This is not a mere bubble,
this is not a mere name ; this is no phantom ; it is a reality, it is sub-
stance. There is something here on which the mind of man can feed;
there is something here to sustain the soul, and nourish the soul, and
support the soul. Oh ! yes, " the favor of God is life^ and his loving-
kindness is better than life." Why, that word does not mean mere
existence ; for bad men exist, but then they have not the favor of God.
Oh 1 the favor of God means real enjoyment, means real happiness.
To have the favor of him, and to look up to him, and enjoy his smile
— what a happiness is this ! The good man has not to rove after hap-
piness all over the world, like mere men of the world ; oh ! no, happi-
ness resides in him ; there is " a well of water " opened there by the
power of the Spirit of God, and it is " springing up," and, springing
up " to everlasting life."

Then mark the eminence of this happiness, too, by the consideration
of its transcendent degree. There is nothing else to compare to it in
this way. If you could, in your own thoughts and imaginations, col-
lect together all the meagre drops of what this world calls happiness,
you would find, that all collected together, they are not worthy to be
compared with the substantial bliss of " the people, whose God is the
Lord." Now, try this for a moment.

What is, or can be, the happiness of those " whose God is their
belly ? " I am afraid there are multitudes of men in this professedly
Christian country, who worship at that shrine, and whose first consid-
eration, on awaking in the morning, is, now what shall I contrive this
day by which I shall get the highest enjoyment ? And then they
call in art, and those who are supposed to have the most skill, and to
dress up things in order to have a keener relish ; and " what shall I
eat? and what shall I drink?" — is their first object day by day.
Why, perhaps, that man's four-footed brethren yonder, browsing on
the herbage of the field — the simple, suitable food which nature has
furnished for them, have a higher relish and a keener zest of the food
which Providence has supplied to them, than that man has with all



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN. 281

his modifications of art. It humbles one in the dust to think one is of
the same species with him.

What is, or can be, the happiness of that man whose god is his
money ? Ah ! what worshippers have found this god — Mammon !
Ah ! and if we were all really ascertained in the hght of truth, and
in the light of God's truth, I am afraid that many more would belong
to them than would be willing to be acknowledged as such. How
many are there who have no idea of any happiness equal to that which
results from increasing their worldly property — as though " a man's
hfe consisted in the abundance of the things that he possesseth " —
happiness in " adding house to house, and field to field " — happiness
in loading themselves with thick clay — happiness derived from what?
— why, from getting all they can, and keeping all they get. What
do you call this man ? why, he has a name in our language, which is
scarcely English indeed, but I can give you the interpretation ; we
call him miser ; and who does not know, that that, being interpreted,
means miserable 9 And it is his proper name ; he is a miserable man,
wherever he exists. ,

Now what is, or can be, the happiness of the man whose god is
honor ? Ah ! there are beings of another class, a different make of
mind, who despise that low and creeping thing called money ; " let
those seek that that like it," say they, " but give us honor, give us
promotion, give us distinction." They aspire after this, and they use
at least all lawful, (would that none of them ever stepped over that
line !) they use at least all lawful means to obtain this world's honor,
and they imagine that that can give happiness to the mind. Why, my
dear friends, I might go on with these remarks ; I might go on to
describe all those different classes of worshippers, " every one walking
in the name of his god ; " and I might show you, that instead of hap-
piness, there is vanity and vexation ; and that, let a man get as much
as this world can give, in the midst of all the heart is not filled —
" What, is this all I am to have ? I thought I was to be happy, I
thought I was to have real, solid bliss, but I find it to be all empty



air



I "



Oh ! but look at the happiness of " the people, whose God is the
Lord." It is a happiness that comes from heaven ; it is a happiness
independent of all things earthly. If, indeed. Providence smiles, as
the context describes, and good men have abundance of temporal
prosperity, why, they know from whom they received it — they use
it with temper and moderation — they pray for the sanctifying bless-
ing of God upon that which they have — and they desire to do good
with it. And, let me say, that real reUgion sanctifies what a man



282 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

possesses in this world — gives him a far higher enjoyment of it than
the wicked can possibly have with all their unsanctified possessions.
But then this is a bliss which depends not upon the smiles of mortals ;
this is within the reach of the poor man, as well as the rich man ; this
is within reach of the man in the mud-walled cottage, as well as in the
most splendid mansion. Yes, for it comes from God ; and God " will
look to this man, that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and that tren*
bleth at his Word." And were we to examine every case, perhaps
we should find a great deal more happiness in the humble walks of
life — certainly we should where there is piety — than in the higher
walks, where piety is not found. And then there is something in this
that is so satisfactory, something that leaves no sting behind, something
that will bear reflection, something that never palls upon the senses,
something tha,t makes us, the more we enjoy, the more we would
enjoy — and the more we would enjoy, the more we may enjoy. Oh !
how greatly does it transcend every thing of an earthly nature ! Why
did the clusters of the grapes of Canaan excel the onions and garlics
of Egypt ? not more than the happiness q^ religion excels all earthly
bliss. Does the transparent stream excel the vile, stagnant pool ? and
does the rich and delicious kernel excel the hard and empty shell ? not
more than the happiness of God's people excels all other kinds of
enjoyment. And, finally, does the sun, in the zenith of his splendor,
outshine the feeble glow worm ? not more than the transcendent happi-
ness of religion rises above all earthly happiness.

Mark, again, the eminence of this happiness by the consideration that
it is ever present in its fruition. I remember the celebrated Hannah
Moore, (who deserved well of her country, and whose works will live
and be read while the English language is spoken or read,) in some of
her valuable works has this remark — " This world's happiness is always
in the future tense." True ; it has no past tense, it has no present
tense. The mere man of this world, who never had religion, cannot
honestly say, " At such a time I was positively happy ! " The man of
the world, that knows nothing of religion, cannot now say, " I am
happy ! " Oh ! no, it is always in the future tense ; so that those two
lines, that have been so often reprobated from the pulpit and the press,
are true, after all, in the proper application of them —

" Hope springs eternal in the human breast ;
Man never is, but always to be blessed."

" Always to he blest." The man who thinks that the gratification
of his palate will make him happy, if you go to him and ask, " when
was it so ? " " Oh ! it is not what I have already received, but it is



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN. 283

something more exquisite that I expect ; " so that it is " to 6g." The
man who looks to money to make him blest — why, now he told you,
some years ago, that if he could but realize a certain sum, he would
retire from the toils of his business or his profession, and go and live
in the country, and be happy the rest of his days ; well, he has realized
a much larger sum, and you go and ask him, " are you happy ? " ah !
the truth comes out again ; he tells you, a neighbor of his has been
more successful than him, and realized almost twice as much as he has,
and he will not be happy till he has as much ; so that it is always " to
6e." And then go again to the man who told you some time ago, that
if he could but obtain this world's honor, and especially if he could be
ennobled — if he could get a title — it would be the consummation of
his happiness ; well, this man actually succeeds ; he goes from one post
to another, and pushes his way in society, till at last he obtains a title ;
now you go to him — if you can get an introduction to him you go to
him — and you address him by his title, and you say, " My lord, you
told me, at such a time, if you could but get a title, you should be
^happy ; and now you have got it, I am come on purpose to know whether
it has made you happy ; " ah ! he falters too, and he says, " why, no, I
cannot say I am happy at present ; for a neighbor of mine has a higher
title, and another has a string of titles — and I cannot be happy till I
rise as high as them ; " so that you see again —

Man never is, but always to be blest.

But, thank God, it is not so with all. No, no ; the happiness of
God's people has a present tense, and a past, as well as a future. Oh !
yes, the text is in the present tense ; " happy is the people that is in
such a case : yea, happy " — not shall be, or hope to be, but — " happy
is that people, whose God is the Lord." Already does the favor of
God beam upon their spirits, and diffuse essential joy through their
souls. Already does " the peace that passeth understanding," overflow
their bosoms. Already is " the love of God shed abroad in their hearts,
by the Holy Ghost given unto them." Already they rejoice in the
prospect of everlasting life.

And then let me say, too, that this happiness is purifying in its influ-
ence and tendency. Not so those things called bliss, which are incon-
sistent with religion and holiness. All unhallowed pleasures have a
ruinous tendency ; they enervate the human intellect, they dim the eye
of the understanding, they vitiate and deprave the heart ; they leave a
deadly sting behind ; the cup may be painted and its contents may
appear inviting, but, depend upon it, there is poison in the cup, if it be
inconsistent with holiness. Oh ! but the pleasures of religion do not



284 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

contract the intellectual powers, they do not cloud the understanding,
they do not deprave the heart. These pleasures are holy, and they
tend to make us holy ; this happiness is spiritual, and it tends to make
us spiritual. This happiness comes from God, and it leads to God.

And here let me say one word, my dear friends. Value this happi-
ness, not merely for its own sake, because it is delightful to enjoy ; but
value it because of its hallowing tendency and effect. All the pleasures
that are to be found in religion are designed and calculated to make us
more spiritual and heavenly, more dead to this world, and alive to that
which is to come. See to it, then, that while you behold the glory of
the Lord beaming from the face of the Eedeemer, you catch the
impression arid are " changed into the same image, from glory to glory,
even as the Spirit of the Lord."

And then, here is another circumstance ; this pleasure — this happi-
ness — is unending — an unending bliss. It not only is to continue
with us, while we are in this world, but it is to go with us through the
vale of death, and it is to be enjoyed and possessed by us for ever and
ever. Now " the pleasures of sin" (make the most of them) are but
" for a season." And that season, alas ! how short, and how uncertain !
Longer than this short life they cannot last ; up to its final close, they
seldom, if ever, remain. Behold the man whom this world has called
happy. Ah ! he called his wish, and it came ; and then he called
another, and another, and they came, and he lived according to the
sight of his eyes, and according to the desire of his heart, and he went
on through scenes of sensuality for a few years ; but it is over now ; his
poor body is wasted by excessive intemperance, he is dragging about
with him an emaciated frame, and his angry conscience, like a spectre,
meets him at every turn, and stares him in the face, and makes his
guilty blood creep through his veins — while his irritated passions,
which can no longer be gratified, gnaw his very soul. And is this the
consummation of this world's happiness ? " Oh, my soul, come not
thou into their secret ; " with such men, " mine honor, be not thou
united." But then the happiness of religion, being pure and undefiled,
is " incorruptible and fadeth not away." Here is a happiness that goes
with us through the varied scenes of life ; here is a happiness that the
rough hand of death cannot strip us of. Death calls upon the man of
this world to strip and die, and this world can take away what it gave ;
but the world did not give the good man his happiness — it came from
God ; and the world cannot take it away, and death cannot take it
away. And it sometimes happens, that his happiness at that hour rises
higher than ever. Oh! the joy of the Christian is a joy which death
increases, and eternity crowns. Then he will drink, and be satisfied ;



THE HAPPY MAN A KELIGIOUS MAN. 285

he will have access to rivers of pleasure at God's right hand for ever-
more, where there will be all sunshine, and no cloud or storm ; where
there will be a day that shall never be followed by a night, where the
sun shall rise that shall never set, and where " the days of mourning
shall be ended."

" ye blest scenes of permanent delight,

Full, above measure I lasting beyond bound !

Aper-petuity of bliss is bliss.

Could you, so rich in rapture, fear an end,

That ghastly thought would drink up all your joy.

And quite unparadise the realms of light."

Why, the very thought would spread a gloom through the celestial
mansions, and cover all heaven with sackcloth. But no ; there is no
end ; there is no thought, there is no dread of an end. In short, there
is futurity for ever future — Ufe, happiness, heaven beginning still
whei'c computation ends.

II. What, then, are the objections which are urged to the
DOCTRINE, which my text contains, and which I have endeavored to
state ?

1. Why, some have said, in the first place, " We remember to have
heard you, when you selected another text, insist upon it that a religi-
ous course begins with sorrow and grief and mourning ; and we have
heard you quote such texts as this : " Be afflicted, and mourn and weep ;
let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness ; "
where, then, is this happiness in religion, of which you speak ? "

Why, my friends, that, in the commencement of a religious course,
there must be a " sorrow after a godly sort," we not only admit, but
for this we must strongly and strenuously contend ; but it follows not
from this, tnat a religious life is not a happy one. For, let me reply to
this in the first place, that, even in this bruisedness of spirit, this contri-
tion of heart, and these prayers and tears and supplications, there is a
relief, there is a satisfaction, far exceeding anything that can be found
in a course of sin and intemperance ; why, there are tears that delight,
there are sighs that waft to heaven ; and Jesus Christ has said,
"Blessed" — not wretched — "are they that mourn." There is a
blessedness even in mourning ! there is such a thing as " the joy of
grief." And let me reply to this, secondly, by saying, that this peni-
tent is not mourning and weeping because he has religion, but because
he wants it ; he does not mourn and weep because he finds the favor of
God, but because he feels himself under the sentence of the law of
God, and knows that the sentence must be averted ; he does not mourn
and weep because he loves God, but because he does not love God, and



286 THE ENGLISH PULPIT.

cannot be happy till he does love him. And then let me reply to this,
thirdly, by saying, Let this man continue to seek, and continue to ask,
and continue to knock, and let him cry at mercy's door by faith and
prayer ; and, depend upon it, the door will be opened, and depend upon
it, God, whom he seeks, will come to his soul, and he will turn his
mourning into joy, and his midnight into day. The Lord will appoint
to these mourners in Zion " beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourn-
ing, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness ; " for " they that
sow in tears shall reap in joy." So that we find it true, after all,
" Happy is that people whose God is the Lord."

2. But then it is urged, again, from another quarter, " How can a
religious life be a happy one, when you sometimes tell us of the
restraints of religion, and of the arduous duties of religion ; how, then,
is happiness consistent with all this ? "

Restraints of religion ! austerities of religion ! sacrifices of religion I
Let me say to the mere man of this world, it is with an ill grace that
he brings forward this objection ; it is with an ill grace that
he says a word upon the subject ; why, who does not know what kind
of life he is living — a life ten thousand times more severe ? What
mean all those sacrifices of time, and sacrifices of property, and sacri-
fices of health, he is making in the way of the god he serves ? what
mean all those days of hurry and confusion ? ah ! and what mean all
those sleepless nights, not only of folly, but of dissipation ? I say that
it is with an ill grace that a man of the world, who is devoted to its
follies and its vanities, says a word about the restraints of religion.
But admitted religion does impose restraints upon man ; but from what
does it restrain him ? — from sin. Its restraints are all salutary. It
forbids nothing but what, if pursued, would be a curse to the man, and
not a blessing. It forbids sin under all its forms and modififations, and
religion does require that a man be " temperate in all things." And I
put it to the good sense of this assembly, which has the most enjoyment

— the man that eats and drinks till his very indulgences pall upon the
sense, and fill him with disgust — or the man who " lets his moderation
be known unto all men ? " Common sense knows very well how to
answer this question.

Admitted again — duties of religion, duties of piety, duties of justice,
duties of charity. But then does it follow, that the people of God are
not happy ? Why, they have to read the Bible ; does that make them
unhappy ? oh ! how I " love thy law ! " "it is sweeter to me than
honey and the honey-comb ; " is that the way a man is made unhappy

— when he tastes the honey dropping from the comb ? A good man
has to pray to God ; does that make him unhappy ? Oh ! prayer opens



THE HAPPY MAN A RELIGIOUS MAN. 28T

heaven, and lets the stream of mercy down. A good man has to
worship God with his family ; and does that make him unhappy ?
"What ! when the God he loves smiles upon him, and the fire from ahove
comes down to kindle the sacrifice ? A good man has to reverence the
Sahbath ; does that make him unhappy ? Oh ! he counts " the Sabbath
a dehght, holy of the Lord and honorable." A good man has to go to
the sanctuary ; does that make him unhappy ? " Lord, I have loved
the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honor dwelleth."
A miserable infidel, with his book in his hand, sat opposite to me in
Lincolnshire, the other day, and there he was reading a book, purport-
ing to be written and published by a German, and he read some
passages to this effect — that we English people are the most joyless,
mopish people on earth, and that even the little birds we shut up in a
dark room, lest they should profane the Sabbath by singing, and that
we go to church, not once, but even twice, and many three times in
the day, and make it a day of gloom and wretchedness. Why, I said,
in the first place, it is not true ; we do not shut little birds up, for fear
they should profane the Sabbath by singing. In the second place, you
and your author talk about things you do not know the nature of ; it is
true that we go to places of worship, but we do not go merely because



Online LibraryG. B. F. (Gerard Benjamin Fleet) HallockThe English pulpit : collection of sermons → online text (page 32 of 45)