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of darkness and sorrow, expressed by being absent from God, or deprived of the light of his countenance. And this was eminently the situation of holy Job, at the time when he spake the words of the text. For the trial of his faith and patience, and to display the goodness and faithfulness of God, he was visited with great afflictions and temptations. Under these he complained or mourned ; but did not mourn to excess, nor murmur against God. As he says in the verse preceding the text, “ Even to day, is my complaint bitter: my stroke is heavier than my groaning ;' that is, though my complaint is bitter, and my groaning great, yet not greater than my stroke ; not greater than might be expected, from a frail worm, under such complicated affiction: as in Chapter vi. 2. “Oh, that my grief were thoroughly weighed, and my calamity laid in the balances together! For it would be heavier than the sand of the sea. Therefore are my words swallowed up. For the arrows of the Almighty” says he, Chapter vi. 4.“ are within me, the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.”
A principal part of Job's sorrow and distress of soul arose from the thought, that God had a controversy, and had in a great measure withdrawn from him his favorable presence. He could not find that communion with God, and that nearness of access to him by prayer, which he wished, and which at times he had enjoyed. Yea, he complains in the context, that he could not have that realizing sense of God's working, in all things, and of the hand of God being in all his afflictions, which he ought to have. And even that he could not have that sense of God's omniscience and omnipresence which he desired; but was as one wholly left of God : and though possessed of a desire, yet unable to approach him.
Behold,” says he,“ Igo forward, but he is not there : backward, but I cannot perceive him. On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot
see him.” In this situation he exclaims, as in the text, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might approach even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” We may make from the words this
It is the great desire of :he children of God, at all times, and especially under straits and difficulties, whether temporal or spiritual, to get near to God and pour out their hearts before him. For the proof of this proposition, I need only appeal to the consciences and experience of the children of God, and adduce a few testimonies from scripture, or instances in which it was verified. This was the desire of David in all his afflictions. He looked to God alone for help, and seemed to delight in nothing more than to follow after God, and to be able to pour out his heart in prayer and supplication. How evidently does this appear in the hundred forty-third Psalm.. “ My soul followeth hard after thee, O God.. I stretch forth my hands to thee : my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Hear me speedily, O Lord, for my spirit faileth : hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down to the pit.” And in Psalm cxlii. how plain is it, that all his. desires and comfort in trouble, were in getting near to God, and pouring out his heart before him. “I cried unto the Lord with my voice. I poured out my complaint before him. Then my spirit was overwhelmed within me. I shewed before him my trouble. I cried unto thee, () Lord, I said, thou art my refuge and my portio:., in the land of the living.” The same thing appears also in the example and conduct of Job. As for me, says he, is my complaint to man? i. e. Do I look to miserable mor. tals iike myself, for support and consolation, when my soul is filled with sorrow and trouble, under affliction, and the hidings of God's face ? “ Miserable
comforters are they all.” And further on, friends, says he, scorn me; but mine eye poureth out tears unto God. Oh, that one might plead for a man with God, as a man pleadeth for his neighbor;" referring here undoubtedly, to the mediator, through whose mediation and intercession, alone, he expected access to God, and the throne of grace.
Again, as in the text, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments.” The idea is, that he would plead before God with a holy, submissive boldness; not his own merit, for, as he had said, in chapter ix. vr. 2. “ How should man be just with God ? If he will contend with him he cannot answer him one of a thousand.” But he would plead before him, with a humble boldness, the riches of his grace. According to the exhortation of the apostle, Heb. iv. 16. “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." These examples of the conduct and desires of the saints of old, when under trials, as well as the experience of all Christians, establish the truth of the doctrine, that it is the great desire of the'. children of God, at all times, and especially under straits and difficulties, whether temporal or spiritual, to get near to him, that they may pour out their hearts be- ' fore him. But in order more fully to illustrate and improve the subject it may be proper, ,
I. To show briefly what we are to understand by getting near to God, or enjoying his presence.
II. The happiness of those who enjoy this nearness, or who, according to the desire of Job, know where to find him, and are enabled to approach even to his seat. Anc
III. What prevents Christians from enjoying this nearness to, or favorable presence of God, at all times.
I. Then, what are we to understand by getting near to God, or enjoying his presence? And here, I would observe, that the presence of God-approaching his presence-having the light of his countenance, &c. as also, the absence of God, withdrawing himself from us, hiding his face, and the like, are figurative expressions, and spoken after the manner of men.
1. The presence of God, when understood in one sense, must refer to his omnipresence ; which is a necessary perfection of his nature. But, when used in this sense, it would be absurd to speak of coming near to God, or approaching his presence; or, of being absent from him. For he is necessarily in all things, and pervades all things. Do I not fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord. The Psalmist also acknowledged and enquired, “ Whither shall I go from thy spirit, or flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there. If I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost part of the sea, even there shall thy land lead me, and thy right hand hold me.” But,
2. There is another sense, in which we speak of the presence of God, and may figuratively speak of approaching his presence ; that is, when we reflect upon him, and address ourselves to him : whereby he becomes present to our minds. Thus, when we enter the house of God, and attend on public worship, or when we attempt to address him in prayer, whether public or private, we are said to be in, or come into his more immediate presence.
Again, by the presence of God, and enjoying his presence, we sometimes understand the goodness of God, or rather the communications of divine good
Whatever is a real good comes from God. And all who receive any good from God, do enjoy just so much of the divine presence and favor. But further, there is a still higher and peculiar sense, in which the children of God do frequently and constantly desire to enjoy his presence, to which I now chiefly refer. They not only receive natural or temporal good, at the hand of God, which is common both to the just and unjust ; but they enjoy communications of moral and spiritual good. God gives his spirit to dwell in them, divinely illuminating their minds, enabling them to hold spiritual communion or intercourse with him, to perceive the true character of God, and the beauty and propriety of the divine conduct ; which perception gives joy and consolation, and raises above the world. This is to have the light of God's countenance, to enjoy his presence, and be near to him. The spirit of God, dwelling within them, quickens and animates their affections, by his enlivening, sanctifying, and comforting influences, and gives them joy and peace in believing, He also gives them utterance, and enables them to pour out their hearts in prayer and praise to God, under all circumstances, in the most easy, affectionate, and submissive manner. The moment of the nearest access of mortals to God in this life, is when employed in spiritual prayer and praise, and this is their resort under afflictions and trials. They order their cause before God, and fill their mouths with arguments. And when they have wandered from God, negiceted duty, and fallen into sin, so that to chastise them, God takes from them the light of his countenance, or withholds, in a great measure, the influences of his spirit, leaving them to grope in the dark, and greatly to decline in the spirit and grace of prayer ; then it is, that having once tasted that the