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ing. But it often signifies the being favoured with the knowledge of his will and gracious designs of goodness for his creatures; on which account our Lord says, comparatively speaking, that no man had seen God but himself, because he had the fullest communications of knowledge and divine powers above all other men.
It implies also what the sacred writer would signify when he says, "Acquaint thyself with God, and be at peace;" if, with reverence be it always spoken, the creature may use such familiar language of its great Creator.
It is seeing him as one whom we have a supreme pleasure in approaching and feeling ourselves the objects of his condescending goodness, as living in his presence and under his protection, and with whom also we have hope to be for ever: to which St. Paul alludes when he says, (Heb. xii.) "Without holiness no man shall see the Lord."
Every thought of this Almighty parent, every attention of mind towards such a gracious being, will minister joy and pleasure to well disposed, virtuous minds; as they know that while they thus sincerely endeavour to purify their hearts before him, they are advancing
vancing higher and higher in his favour, whose loving kindness is better than life.
When they reflect on his Almighty power, by which he gave birth to all that vast plan of things contrived by his infinite wisdom, and by which the universe is sustained and preserved, they are persuaded that these divine attributes are employed for their guardianship and support; and that, if God be with them, they need not to fear what may befall them from others. But in his goodness they will more especially repose themselves, knowing that he could not bring any creature into existence but to make it happy; and that no being can obstruct or prevent the execution of his purposes: at the same time they will be persuaded, that his very goodness must turn him against any of his creatures whilst they continue wilfully wicked, to make them feel his displeasure and suffer for their sins, to reform and amend them: for the wicked, whilst they continue in their evil dispositions, cannot come near to him.
All those records which we read in the sacred history, and in other histories, of the serenity, joy, and courage, with which the servants of God in all ages have been supported
in their sufferings for his truth, and other conflicts no less hard to be borne, in their passage through this vale of trial, show that these supports have all been owing to their thus seeing him who is invisible, and trusting in him; which faith was the fruit of their humble hope and consciousness that their hearts were pure before him ;-not free from all spot or stain of evil, but from every wilful sin or evil persisted in, with a constant desire and endeavour to be freed from every remaining infirmity and corruption.
Lastly: As purity of heart does thus fit us for the highest possible satisfaction here, in the assurance of the divine favour, and in a holy intercourse and communion with him :
So it is to be observed, on the other hand, that indulgence in sinful pleasures, and especially impurity of all kinds, takes away this source of the sublimest pleasure belonging to our nature, and utterly unfits and indisposes us, whilst we remain in them, for all communications with our Maker.
For such a person, so far from having any delight in the thought of an holy all-seeing God, who inspects the heart and requires puF 2 rity
rity there, will endeavour to remove such unwelcome reflections from him:
If such a person ever pray to God in public or private, it must be the mere result of fashion and form without thought; for, unless his reason were impaired by his excesses, he must know that whilst he lives in open violation of his laws, his pretence of a regard to God, and of worshipping him, is adding the guilt of hypocrisy, or of a shameless insensibility, to his other crimes, and carries to others an appearance as if he thought that God approved sin and wickedness.
Even those who do not give into any wilful breach of the divine laws, but relax only in their care and vigilance over their spirits, and gradually suffer themselves to be drawn to neglect their wonted application to God, do afterwards find, on a close review of their state and conduct, that they have lost ground,that they cannot look to God with such full and filial confidence, as when they suffered not vain and unprofitable things to divert their due attention to him, and to his continual presence with them. May we then all be careful of the inward state of our minds, that all be pure and right there!
Unto God be glory and thanks for his providential goodness and care over us!
O Thou sovereign eternal Spirit, the kind author of our beings, the Father of our spirits who art full of compassion and good ness towards thy sinful returning creatures; but who requirest purity of heart and sincerity in all that come nigh unto thee and look for thy favour!
We acknowledge with deep regret, many of us, before thee, that our sins have justly kept us at a distance from thee, and hindered us from seeing thee, and taking pleasure in thy reviving presence with us, who art the life and joy of thy whole rational creation.
But help us, O Lord our God, at the last, so effectually to watch over our infirmities and passions, that we may overcome the many snares and temptations to evil, which it pleaseth thee to put in our way for our trial and confirmation in that which is good; and being purified from all vicious habits and wrong desires, and forwarded in every thing' thou requirest of us, we may become unceasingly the objects of thy favourable countenance and regards.