"And These Things Write we unto You, that Your Joy May be Full. "
1 John i.4. -- "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full."

All motions tend to rest and quietness. We see it daily in the motions below, and we believe it also of the circular revolutions of the heavens above, that there is a day coming in which they shall cease, as having performed all they were appointed for. And as it is in things natural, so it is in things rational in a more eminent way. Their desires, affections, and actions, which are the motions and stretches of the soul towards that it desires and apprehends as good, tend of their own nature, and are directed by the very intention of the soul to some rest and tranquillity, some joy and contentation of spirit. If other things that have no knowledge have their centre of rest, how much more must man, who is an understanding creature, have it by the ordination and appointment of God! But there is this wide difference in the point of capacity of happiness between man and other creatures, that they, whatsoever excellent virtues or properties they have, yet know them not themselves, and so can neither enjoy what excellency themselves have, nor have use of what is in others. For to what purpose is it to shine forth, if there be no eye to see? What advantage hath the rose in its fragrancy, if it cannot smell itself? That which is not perceived, is as if it were not. And therefore it is an evident testimony, that all these visible things were created, not for themselves, but for man's sake, who knows them, can use them, and enjoy them. Here is, then, the peculiar capacity that God hath given to man, -- to discern and know what he seeks, what he hath, and possesses, that so he may be able to enjoy it, or use it, according to the nature of it. This is a great point of God's image and conformity with him, whose infinite blessedness and joy riseth from that perfect comprehension and intuitive beholding of himself, and his own incomprehensible riches. So then, man's happiness or misery must depend upon this, -- both what the soul fixeth upon, and what it apprehendeth to be in it. For if that eternal and universal good, the all-fulness of God, be the centre of the soul's desires and endeavours, and there be apprehended and discovered in God that infinite excellency and variety of delights which nothing else can afford so much as a shadow of, then there cannot but result from such a conjunction of the soul's apprehension, suitable to the fulness of God, and of the excellency and goodness of God, suitable to the desires of the soul, such a rest and tranquillity, such joy and satisfaction, as cannot choose but make the soul infinitely happier than the enjoyment of any other thing could do.

This being the thing, then, which all men's desires naturally tend unto, this tranquillity and perfect satisfaction of the heart being that which carries all men's hearts after it, and that which men seek for itself, and which they seek in all other things, the great misery of man is, that he mistakes the way to it, and seeks it where it is not to be found. The generality of men are so far degenerated, both from the impression of a divine majesty, and the sense of an immortal being within themselves, that they imagine to content and ease their own hearts in these outward, inconstant, perishing things, and so their life is spent in catching at shadows, in feeding on the wind, in labouring in the fire. There is nothing so plentifully satisfies our expectations as can quit the cost, and recompense the expense of our labour, toil, grief, and travail about it. There is nothing therefore but a continual, restless agitation of the heart from one thing to another, and that in a round, circling about, from one thing that now displeases or disappoints to things that were formerly loathed, as a sick man turns him from one side to another, or changes beds often, and at length returns, expecting to find some ease where he lay at first. And it may be judged that all circular motions are eternal, and so they can never be supposed to attain their end, -- that is, rest and tranquillity. Therefore a soul thus carried in a round, by the vain imaginations of his heart, is likely never to settle and find solid rest and peace. Nay, how is it possible that they can give that tranquillity and contentation to the heart and soul of man, that are so utterly in their natures disproportioned to it, both because they are only suited to the senses, and likewise for that they are changeable? Now the soul is framed with a higher capacity, and can no more be satiated with visible things, than a man that is hungry can be satisfied with gold; and besides, it is immortal, and must have something to survive all the changes of time, and therefore is likely to rest nowhere but in that which hath eternal stability. Now, though these things cannot truly fill the heart, yet they swell the belly, like the east wind, or like the prodigal's husks, fill it with wind, which causeth many torments and distempers in the soul; and though they cannot give ease, yet they may be as thorns to prick and pierce a man through with many sorrows, as our Saviour speaks. So that there is no more wisdom or gain in this, than in gathering an armful of thorns, and enclosing and pressing hard unto them, -- the more hardly and strongly we grip them, the more grievously they pierce us; or as if a man would flee into a hedge of thorns in a tempest, -- the further he thrusts into it, he is the worse pricked: and that which he is fallen into is worse than that he fleeth from. I am sure all your experiences give a harmonious testimony to this, that there is no solid, permanent, constant, and equable heart-joy and contentation in all the fancied and imaginary felicities that this world adores. There is nothing of these things, that is not lesser, and lower in actual possession, nor in the first apprehension of them afar off. Nothing in them answers either our desires or expectations; and therefore, instead of peace and tranquillity, they breed more inward torment and disquiet, because of that necessary and inevitable disappointment that attends them. Therefore the apostle passeth all these things in silence, when he is to write of purpose, to give a fulness of joy; for he knows that in them there is neither that joy, nor that fulness of joy he would wish for from them; but it is other things he writes for this end.

Now, indeed, there hath been some wiser than others, that have their apprehension far above the rest of mankind, and have laboured to frame some rules and precepts to lead man into this true rest and tranquillity. And truly, in this they have done much to discover the vanity and madness of the common practice of men, and to draw man from sensible and outward things, to things invisible and spiritual. Yet there is a defectiveness in all the rules that natural reason can reach unto. There is some crookedness withal adheres to them, which shows our departure from our original. There are many excellent discourses of morality in heathen writings, which may be very subservient to a Christian, and useful to the composing and settling of his mind, amidst all the fluctuations and uncertainties of this world. They may come well in as subsidies and guards to a Christian's heart, to preserve that peace and joy it hath from God, and keep out the ordinary tumultuous passions that disturb the most part of men. But here is the lamentable failing, that while they call a man off things without, as adventitious, they lead him but into his own spirit within, as if he could there find that rest in the very enjoyment of his poor, miserable, wretched self. But Christ Jesus calls us into our own spirits, not to dwell there. For O what a loathsome and irksome habitation is a defiled heart and a guilty conscience! But rather, that finding nothing of that joy and refreshment within, we may then freely and fully forsake ourselves, as well as the world without, and transport into God in Christ, the only habitation of joy and delight, that being filled with anguish from the world, and from ourselves, we may more willingly divorce from both, and agree to join unto Jesus Christ, and to embrace him in our hearts, who is the only Fountain of life and joy, who had no other errand and business from heaven, but to repair man's joy, -- as grievous a breach as any in the creation, -- a thing as much missed and sought after as any thing, yea, sought after in all things that are sought. John xv.11. "These things I have spoken to you, that your joy may be full." Therefore the apostle propounds this as the end of his writing on this subject, -- the word of life; these things write I "that your joy may be full;" and the way to attain this fulness of joy, he expressed in the former verse, -- by fellowship with the Father and the Son.

That which makes all other things disproportioned to the soul of man, to give it this joy, is the extreme unsuitableness between them. The soul hath an infinite capacity, and besides, an immortality of endurance, but they are condemned under impotency to supply that infinite void and inconstancy, by which they must needs perish, and leave the soul without all comfort, and with more anxiety. But in those things written here we find all things suited and proportioned to the very great exigence of the soul. There is a suitableness in them, because of their spiritual nature, whereby they may close immediately with thy spirit. Other things are material and corporeal, and what union, what fellowship can a spirit be supposed to have with them? They are extrinsic, advenient things, that never come to a nearer union with thy soul; and though they could, they would debase thy soul, and not exalt it, because of a baser inferior nature. But these things, Jesus Christ, eternal life in him, these precious promises of the gospel, these spiritual privileges of Son-ship, &c., these are of a more divine nature, and by meditation and faith souls come to close with them. These are inward things more near the soul that believes, than himself is to himself; and so he may always carry them about in his heart, which may be a spring of everlasting joy. This no man can take from him. John xvi.22. For the ground and fountain is inward, seated without the reach of all these vicissitudes and changes. Then, as they have a suitableness, so they have a fulness in them, to create fulness of joy. They are cordials to the heart, things that are in their own nature refreshing to the soul, and apt to beget heart-joy. Other things are not suitable to this, to produce any such inward soul-complacency. The things that are from without reach not so deep as the heart; they make their impressions rather on the outward senses, to tickle and please them, or the countenance, to put some pleasing shape upon it. But the wise man pronounceth all those joys that arise from external things to be superficial, only skin-deep. "In the midst of laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness," Prov. xiv.13. Extrema gaudii luctus occupat.(235) There is no solid recreation to the soul in its retired thoughts, from all the delights of the senses; it is but like the pleasure of the itch, which no man esteems pleasure. But besides, as the things of the gospel affect the heart and soul by bringing soul-mercies and treasures, as forgiveness of sin, hope of heaven, &c., so there is a fulness in them, which may answerably fill all the corners of the heart with joy. There is an unexhaustedness in these things, an universality in Christ; -- all in all, all the treasures of wisdom are in him; and may not this cause surely an high spring-tide of joy? The heart is eased upon the lowest clear apprehension of Christ and the gospel. It gives a heart-serenity and calmness to a troubled soul, that nothing else could do. Yet to make up the fulness of joy, as well as the solidity of it, to extend the measure of it, as well as to beget the true quality of it, it is requisite that not only there be a fulness in the object, -- that is, full, superabundant, ample matter of rejoicing; but there must be a kind of fulness in the apprehension. It must be represented fully as it is, and the clouds of unbelief scattered; and then indeed, upon the full aspect of the gospel, and Christ in it, there is a fulness of joy that flows into the soul, as the sea is filled upon the full aspect of the moon. O that we could believe this, that there is a fulness of joy here, and nowhere else! Certainly, this alone being pondered and sunk into our hearts, would be a powerful reformer in us, and among us. How would it carry men's hearts to a disgracing and despising all the things that are held in admiration by men! How would it turn the channel of men's judgments, opinions, affections, and conversations! For certainly, whithersoever the tide of joy flows, thither the heart is carried, and this it is that all men are seeking, though they take many contrary and divers ways, as their own fancy leads them. Now, if once this were established in thy soul, that here is that truth and fulness of joy, which elsewhere is ignorantly and vainly sought, would it not divert thy desires, and turn the current of thy affections and endeavours, to fall into this ocean of gladness and delight? Elsewhere there is neither true joy nor full joy, -- nec verum nec plenum gaudium. There is no verity in it; it is but an external garb and shadow, and there is no plenty or fulness in it. It fills not the hand of the reaper, it satisfieth not his very hunger. But here, when a soul is possessed with Christ by faith, and dwelleth in God by love, there is both reality and plenty. All the dimensions of the heart may be filled up. Some allegorize upon the triangular composition of man's heart, that no orbicular thing such as this world can fill it exactly without vacuity, but only the blessed and holy Trinity.(236) Truly we may conceive, this fulness of joy, excluding all the latent griefs of the heart and filling up all the vacant corners doth flow from that blessed fellowship of the Father and the Son. Now, though these two be only mentioned yet the Holy Ghost must not be excluded, for the apostolic prayer doth attribute chiefly our fellowship with God to the Spirit, so that it is the Spirit unites our hearts, and associates them to God, and that seems to correspond between him and us. So then there is such a fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, that leaves no vacuity in the heart, that fills all the dimensions and corners of it with peace and joy.

But add unto this in the third place that these things have not only a fulness, but, withal a durableness, not only plenty, but besides, eternity and perpetuity, to correspond to the immortality of the soul. And this, certainly, is a great congruity, and so makes up much beauty and harmony, for what more incongruous and unsuitable than for an immortal spirit to spend itself, and give up itself to that which is not which must leave it, which is mortal, and fading in its own nature, without which it must continue infinitely longer than it can enjoy it? And what more comely than for an immortal thing to associate with eternal things, and to derive its joy from an eternal spring? For, when all things visible are done away, and things mortal abolished, then its joy none can take from it, because it takes its joy from that which must survive all these changes. Suppose any thing could for the present give a fulness of joy, and absolute content to the heart, yet, if we imagine that that thing may be separated and disjoined from the heart, and cease to be, certainly the very expectation of such an eternal separation would almost extinguish all the joy, and make it dry up of the fulness, for, may a soul think, what shall I do for ever when this well dries? Whence shall I draw water of joy? Out of what well? But now, that fear is removed, and the soul needs not lose its sweetness of the present enjoyment of God through anxious foresight of the future, because he may know that the perfect fulness that shall never ebb is but coming, and the sun is but ascending yet towards the meridian, from whence he shall never go down, but stand fixed, to be the eternal wonder and delight of angels and men.

Now, though it be true that Christians here have neither that plenty nor that perpetuity of this joy that the object of it gives ground for, though their hearts be often filled with griefs and sorrows -- partly from outward, partly from inward evils and afflictions, -- yet, certainly, this ariseth but from the dark apprehension, dim belief, and slight consideration of those things that Christ spoke, and his apostles wrote unto us. We might, no question, keep our hearts in more peace and tranquillity, in all the commotions of the times or alterations in ourselves, if we did more steadfastly believe the gospel and keep more constant fellowship with God. But, however it be, there is radically a fulness of joy in every believer's heart. That seed is sown that shall one day be ripe of fulness of joy, it is always lying at the root, and reserved for them. O let us lay these things to heart, which, being laid to heart, and laid up in the heart, will fill it with this sweet fragrant perfume of peace and joy. They are written for this end, let us hear them for this end too, that our joy may be full. It is true, indeed, that this fulness of joy suits only the life to come, when the vessel is both enlarged and strengthened to contain it. Things that have strong spirits in them must have strong new bottles such as our crazy mortal bodies are not, therefore the Lord hath reserved the just fulness, the overflowings of this joy, for the time that the soul shall be purified from all sin, and the body delivered from all corruption. Because that sin lurks in many corners of the heart now, therefore this joy cannot fill up the heart and all the vacuities of it, for it is of so pure and heavenly a nature that it will not compound and intermingle with sin or sinful lusts. But when nothing of that remains in the heart then it flows in apace, and leaves no corner of the heart unsatisfied and unsupplied. I would have you, who get some tastes of this joy and peace by the way, not disquieted and troubled, because it abides not to be ordinary food. If you be set down again to your ordinary spare diet of manna in the wilderness and have not these first fruits and grapes of Canaan sent to you, think it not strange, for the fulness which you seek you are not capable of here, but you shall be capable of it hereafter. You ought, with patience, to wait for that day when your joy shall be full. As Christ is full, full measure heaped up and running over, will he mete out unto you then, and this shall be without the fear of any ebb or diminution of it for all eternity. Neither shall this fulness, and constant fulness, cloy the soul, or breed any satiety in it. There is fulness of joy without surfeit, without satiety, that which they have they shall always desire, and that which they desire they shall always have, everlasting desire and everlasting delight being married together in their fulness. But yet so much is attainable here as may truly be called fulness in regard of the world. The fulness of joy that all the pleasures of this earth can afford is but scarcity and want to the inward fulness of joy and contentation the poorest believers may have in God, reconciled in Christ. That which the wise man gives as the character of all earthly joy suits well, "I said of laughter, It is mad, and of mirth, what doeth it?" Eccl. ii.2. Truly it cannot be supposed to be more real than that which is the ground and spring of it. It must be a perfunctorious,(237) superficial, and empty joy that is derived and distilled from such vanities. Nay, there is a madness in it besides, for men's apprehensions to swell so excessively towards poor, narrow, and limited things. It is a monster in reason to put such a value upon nothing, and make ourselves glad upon our own dreams and fancies. There is such a manifest abuse and violation of reason in it, that it can be supposed to proceed from nothing but a distemper in men's hearts. But, besides this, there are two other characters of it given (Prov. xiv.13.), "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful, and the end of that mirth is heaviness." There is no pure earthly joy, for it hath always a mixture of grief and sadness in the inward retired closet of the heart. It is of such deadness and inefficacy that it drives not out of the heart all discontentments and anxieties, but if the most jovial man, that seems to be transported with his delights would but retire within and examine his own conscience, he would find those delights have but little power to affect his heart. He would find terrible and dreadful representations there, that his joys may well for a time darken them, but cannot drive them away. And then it is the very natural law and fatal necessity that grief follows those joys at the heels, yea, is perpetually attending them, to come in their place. God hath so conjoined them together, and so disposed them, that men's joy shall be mingled with grief, but their grief is pure and unmixed, and that he who draws up joy to him from the creatures, must draw grief and vexation in that same chain, inseparably annexed to it by the wise ordination of God.

But there are joys of the Holy Ghost arising from the intimation and apprehension of the gospel, from the consideration of the grace and goodness of God manifested in it and the experience of that in the soul, which are of another stamp and nature. These, indeed, affect the heart, and give the answer of a good conscience, in the blood of Christ, which is a continual feast. These drive out the bitter and dreadful apprehensions of sin and wrath. These sweeten and refresh the soul in all worldly afflictions and griefs. The heart of man knoweth his own bitterness, and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy, Prov. xiv.10. Indeed, the torments and perplexities of a troubled soul are better felt by itself than known by others, and so are the joys of that heart that apprehends Jesus Christ and peace purchased in him. They are such as no man that is a stranger to such things in his experience can apprehend. It is a joy unspeakable. O what unspeakable content gives it to the heart! And truly if you did not interpose the clouds of unbelief and sin between you and his shining countenance, there needed not be so often an eclipse in the joys of believers. Yet the day is coming that ye shall see him fully as he is, and nothing be interposed between you and him, and then your joy shall be full &c.

sermon vii and truly our
Top of Page
Top of Page