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Lord is good, they are ready to exclaim with Job, « Oh, that I were as in months past! Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat !” In a word, by getting near to God, or finding him, and coming even to his scat, as expressed in the text, we are to understand getting into that state or frame of soul, in which we have a realizing sense of God's all-surrounding presence, and of his working in all things ; in which we receive special influences of God's spirit, animating our affections and illuminating our hearts, to perceive the excellency and fulness of God, and giving us the spirit and grace of prayer, whereby we may with humble boldness address the throne of grace, take delight in ple: Qing for the advancement of his own cause, and interest in the world ; and with the most cheerful recumbency of soul, rest upon him, and commit ourselves, and all our concerns, to his direction. I proceed
II. To speak of the happiness of those who enjoy this nearness to God, and have free access to the throne of grace ; or who, according to the desire of Job, know where to find him, when under afflictions and trials, and are enabled to approach even to his seat.
Under this head, it will be necessary to offer but little. For that there is a sublime satisfaction and happiness, which the world can neither give nor take away, that there is something which is inexpressible something which may be called a joy unspeakable, and full of glory, in approaching to God in being near to him, as described above, and enabled to pour out the heart before him—will be clenied by none, who have experience in the divine life; and as to those who have not--who have no relish for communion with God, but say in their heart, depart from us, ive desire not the knowledge of thy ways it is expected that such, notwithstanding any description
which may be given, will “ despise, and wonder, and perish,” unless God of his mercy shall shine into their hearts. But I would observe briefly,
1. That the joy and consolation there is in being near to God, and having a sense of his presence and fulness, and the lively exercise of love to him, is lain ample support, under the greatest world!y afflictions, and is the foundation of that desire, which there is in all the children of God to get near him, in their trials. The heart never feels such unspeakable peace, as when holding communion with God, and when its affections go out towards the supreme beauty. How good men of old, under the greatest straits, used to break out in strains of raptula ! “ I will go tinto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy." “ As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O Lord. My soul thirsteth for thee. My flesh longeth for thee, in a dry land wherein is no water ; that I may see thy glory as I have seen it in the sanctuary.” “ Lo ! they that are far from thee perish ; but it is good for me to draw near to God. Whoin have I in heaven but thee ? and there is none on earth that I desire beside thee.” There are but few days, yea there is no day in mortal life, in which we do not stand in need of consolation, above what the world can afford. Ever since sin entered our world, mankind have been subject to sorrows and afflictions, under which they need the supports of religion-under which they need the smiles and presence of God, and here indeed there is at all times consolation. In the pavilion of his presence God will hide his children, in the time of trouble, in the secret of his tabernacle he will cover them, in the day of danger. Surely no Christian while thus near to God, and pouring out his heart be. fore him, with the true spirit and grace of prayer, ever feared what men could do to him, or cared greatly about this world. It is some consolation to
the children of God, to open their hearts to one another, and to tell their sorrows to a friend who can give no relief, except by sympathising with them. What consolation, what relief then must it give to get near to, and pour out their hearts before him, who is a friend, both gracious to hear, and mighty to save ; and who has pledged his perfections, that all things shall co-operate for their good ! But,
2. That there is great joy and happiness in that peculiar nearness to God, which Christians do sometimes, yea, frequently enjoy, expressed by finding him, and coming even to his seat, and that it is an attainment greatly desirable, is evident from the consideration, that it is of the same nature, as the happiness of heaven-yea, that it is heaven begun in the souls even in this life. When we speak of departed saints, we say, they are in heaven-in the immediate and glorious presence of God ; and that their happiness consists in the enjoyment of this presence-in seeing God, and becoming like him. But this enjoyment of God's presence, though inconceivable in degree, yet cannot be different in kind, from that vouchsafed to the children of God on earth. He holds communion with them here, and grants them something of that nearness of access to him, that favorable presence, which, when granted in full, beyond the vail, will give fulness of joy. Christians by being near to God, ever maintaining a close and holy walk with him, become more and more tranaformed into the divine likeness, and more and more fitted for heaven-yea, in the lively performance of humble adoration and praise, they do anticipate the employment of heaven, and join, as it were, beforehand, the society of the blessed. Having endeavored to point out the nature and blessedness of that nearness to God, so much prized by holy Job, under his afflictions ; and which the children of God do frequently enjoy, I proceed,
III. To point out briefly, what prevents Christian's from enjoying nearness to God, or his favorable presence, at all times.
It has already been shewn, by an appeal to the ex. pereence of Christians, and the testimony of scripiure examples, that the children of God are often in the dark, deprived of the light of God's countenance, and unable to get near the throne of grace in prayer; and that this is the reason of their crying out frequently, with Job, “Oh, that I knew where I might find him, that I might come even to his seat.”! Now to the question, what can be the occasion of this token of the divine displeasure, which to the Chistian is a sore affliction ? the answer, in general, i5, it is sin remaining corruption in the heart, especially as act, ed out in gratifying the lust of the flesh, the list of the eye, and the pride of life, whereby the Holy Spirit is quenched, and provoked in a great measure to depart. The sanctification of the heart is the work of the Spirit freeing it, more and more, from corruption, but it is effected in the use of means and, en. deavors on the part of the subject. Hence it is, that Christians are exhorted to a diligent and constant ats tention to the means of grace to attend upon the word of God written and preached to pray without ceasing
to watch unto prayer--to strive to enter in at the strait gait, or to agonize the holy agony, con. flicting with the lusts which war against the soul, and in general; in the use of all appointed means, with an.humble dependence on God, to fight the good fight of faith. Abiding in this course, they may hope for the co-operation of the Spirit of God. But departing from it, in neglecting the use of means, and in suffering their thoughts to be engrossed with the world and its amusements, they quench the Spirit, which otherwise would be like an holy flame abiding in their hearts, cherishing the love of God, exciting a fervent zeal for his glory, and giving them a blessed nearness to God and communion with him,
Particularly, one great means of quenching the Spirit, and consequently of depriving Christiảns of the light of God's countenance, is neglect of prayer. Prayer is to the soul what breath is to the body, it is the Christian's life : and no true Christian will live long without it. Yet it too often happens, that through a criminal coldness, induced by worldly cares, Satan gets an advantage over the children of God, and influences them to put off stated seasons of prayer, either till a more convenient time, or till they may acquire a better frame ; and in so doing, they quench the Spirit, and provoke God, for their chastisement, to leave them to wander, for a time, in the dark, seeking in vain to obtain the light of his countenance.
Another thing which has a very special tendency to quench the Spirit, and prevent that ncarness to God, which is the Christian's desire and duty, is too great an attention to the cares and business of the world. This indeed is the source of many other sins, such as a languid, or a ruffled and discomposed frame in prayer, or in the discharge of any other duty. It is a sin however, that in most cases, very easily besets Christians. They are apt to excuse themselves in an undue attachment to the world, by giving it the name of prudence, industry, and an endeavor to shun the sin of those who are worse than infidels, in neglecting to provide for their own households. Nothins, however, more than an undue attachment to the world, and its enjoyments, or solicitude about its concerns, is opposed to communion with God; and in the indulgence of this temper, the Christian, who ought to rise above the world, and to have his treasure, and his heart and conversation in heaven, will appear to degenerate into the man who is of the earth, earthy. I might enumerate other particulars, such as neglecting religious conversation and serious reficction, indulging in anger, wrath, malice, intemperance, &c. all which have a direct tendency to quench the Spirit, and to interrupt communion with God. Suffice it