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But you will remember, that a good man does not rest in such a cold assent to the truth of those doctrines, like that he gives to propositions which he studies only for amusement. No, but they descend into the mind with a due energy, and he realizeth them to himself with the utmost seriousness. "Oh my soul," does he often say," it is not a precarious conclusion, or a mere probable hypothesis, that there is a God, and such a God as I profess to believe; but it is a certain and evident truth. I do not more clearly see the meridian sun by his own rays, nor more surely know, that I myself think, and exist; than I see God by his works, and know him as the original author of my being, and of these thinking powers which are now enquiring after him. There is, there is, an eternal and immutable Jehovah. He reigns on an exalted throne above, and the highest potentate of that shining world was infinitely more inferior to him, than superior to the meanest insect on earth. God is there, and he is here; he surrounds all his creatures with his immensity, and preserves them all by his influence. In him I live, and move, and have my being *; on him angels and worms are equally dependant; nor is there a motion in the material, or a thought in the intellectual world, to which he is not most intimately conscious. Behold him, Oh my soul, with reverence and love; for be is a most awful Being, in whom unsearchable wisdom, and almighty power, are joined with unerring justice, unspotted holiness, and invariable truth; but remember he is also the most amiable. There is a beauty in all these perfections; and it is softened and sweetened by the overflowings of goodness and mercy; those rich and gentle streams, which not only water paradise, but visit these regions of guilt and darkness."
Such views as these are familiar to the mind of the believer: And this firm and affectionate persuasion of the being and attributes of God, is the foundation, both of natural and of revealed religion; and the root, from whence all the branches of moral virtue, and evangelical faith and holiness, must spring.
2. Coming to God must also imply, "an earnest desire of a share in the divine favour, as our highest interest and happiness."
And methinks, this is a necessary consequence of the former. We are indeed too apt To lift up our soul unto vanity†, and to grow fond of these empty shadows: But it is because God is forgotten; as we admire the stars, because the sun is absent.
But surely, when the mind is thus possessed with a sense of God, it will feel a kind of indignation, that any other object should have ever been compared with him, though it were only to be postponed, as inconceivably less valuable. Much more will it be displeased, and ashamed to think, that it has ever preferred these to God. "Alas," will such a soul say, "whither have I wandered? Into what a wilderness am I come? I look round about me on the creatures, and I see no shelter nor refreshment. They are like Broken cisterns, or deceitful brooks* whose waters fail me, when I need them most. What then, O Lord, do I wait for? my hope is in thee +; for thou art The fountain of living waters: All sufficient for my happiness, and only sufficient for it. If I were a poor abandoned outcast, if I had not a friend or helper on earth; if I knew not where I should look for my next lodging, or my next meal; if, at the same time, my body were worn out with pining illness, and every member of it the seat of pain; yet if I could but look up, and see thy face through this cloud, if I could but call thee my Father and my God, I were happy still; and might pity the most prosperous monarch on earth, that was a stranger to thee, and thy love. There are many that say, who will shew us any good? Oh that thy Spirit may teach them true wisdom! But as for me, I will say, Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon me. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee§." In consequence of this,
3. Coming to God implies, "a readiness to forsake every thing which can stand in opposition to him."
My brethren, what I have been describing, is, in a good man, not merely a conviction of the understanding, but a sentiment of the heart. He would abhor the hypocrisy, the impiety, and the folly, of owning the incomparable excellence of the divine Being, and yet practically chusing something else before him. 66 Lord," does he sometimes say, "I have often done it; and for ever blessed be thy name, that thou didst not finally chuse those my delusions. It grieves me to think, how I injured thec, and dishonoured and wronged my own soul, when Other Lords had dominion over me: And they would detain me in their ignoble servitude; but in answer to all their unreasonable claims, I make mention of thy name¶. Thou requirest, that I should give thee my very heart**, and should be
Psal. iv. 6. lxxiii. 25.
*Job vi. 15. || Isa. Ixvi. 4.
Psal. xxxix. 7.
Jer. ii. 13.
** Prov. xxiii. 26.
ready to leave all and follow thee; Lord, I would cheerfully consent, and hope that through grace I can say, None of these things move me, neither should I, in such a cause, count my life dear unto me+."
4. Coming to God does farther import, a willing subjection to his service."
"Lord," does the christian say, "I would come to thee, not to sit down under thy shadow, indolent and unactive. My faculties were made for employment; and it is my joy to think, that they shall be employed for thee. I love thee With all my heart, and with all my soul; and therefore, by the aids of thy grace, I will serve thee with all my might, and with all my strength. I would gladly yield myself to thee, as alive from the dead, and use my members as instruments of righteousness§. Thy promises are my delight, as I trust they are my portion; but, Lord, they are not the only part of thy word that I love; for I Delight myself in thy statutes, and love thy commandments above gold, yea, above fine gold. I account thy service, mine honour, and my happiness; I desire always to keep the eye of my soul directed towards thee, to wait the intimations of thy gracious pleasure; and if I am distinguished from others by any advantages of nature, or of circumstances, I would chiefly rejoice in them, as they are capable of being improved for thee."
5. Coming unto God does also imply," the keeping up a constant correspondence with him."
I before observed, that this phrase, in the present connexion, seems particularly to refer to our approaching him in the solemnities of religious worship: And when it is spoken of as a part of the christian's character, it plainly intimates a frequent and constant care in these duties. Thus good men under the old law are described, as a Generation of them that seek Godq, "Lord," does every child of God often think and say, "It is indeed good for me to draw near unto thee**. What is my great final hope, but to dwell in a state of everlasting nearness? In the mean time, the nearer I am to thee, the more of heaven is brought down to earth; the more I enjoy of thee, the more do I enjoy myself, and relish my being. I make my visits to thy throne, not merely to pay an homage which thou requirest, but to seek an entertainment which I prefer to any
Luke xviii. 28. + Acts xx. 24.
+ Luke x. 27.
§ Rom. vi. 13,
other. Far from looking upon it as a disagreeable condition, with which my expectations from thee are clogged, I count the opportunities of such converse, and my inclinations towards it, in the number of my greatest obligations to thy goodness." Should God say to the christian, "I will for the future dispense with thine attendance; thou shalt retain thine interest in me, though thou shouldest call upon me no more; and shall meet me as thy friend at death, though thou forgettest me in life;" the good man would not be able to bear such a dismission. He would rather say, "Lord, if I were to live only on these terms, it were much better for me to die. I should with Moses, in another case, Pray thee to kill me out of hand*, rather than leave me here under such a burden as life would seem, if it might not be sweetened by communion with thee, in the closet, in the family, and in public ordinances."
These, my brethren, are important parts of the christian's character, yet they are far from being the whole of it. With this temper he comes to God; but how should he be encouraged to such an approach, if the great Redeemer were forgot? We add therefore,
II. That all, to whom salvation is promised in the gospel, "make their approach to God through Christ," or, as the text expresses it, they come unto God by him.
You will no doubt be willing, that I should open this important article pretty largely ; and I shall do it under the following particulars. Coming to God by Christ implies, a deep sense of our need of a Mediator, in order to our comfortable intercourse with God;—a persuasion of the power of Christ,— and a confidence in his grace;-a cordial approbation of the method in which he bestows salvation ;—and a constant care to maintain proper regards to Christ, in the whole course of our walking with God. This is that evangelical faith, to which the promises of gospel salvation are appropriated, by the text before us, and the whole tenour of scripture.
1. Coming to God by Christ implies, " a deep sense of our need of a Mediator, in order to a comfortable intercourse with God."
Christianity is the religion of sinners; and it will never be really welcome to a soul, that is not sensible of the evil, and
Numb. xi. 15.
malignity of sin. The natural pride of our hearts would first lead us to forget God, and not to seek after him at all: But if conscience be in any measure awakened to see, what it is strange every rational creature should not always see, our dependance on him, and our need of an interest in his favour, pride finds a second refuge, in a fond conceit of bringing something of our own to recommend us to it. And if at length men are sensible, they have nothing of this kind, which they can call their own, they are ready to think of casting themselves immediately on the mercies of an offended God, rather than of multiplying their obligations, and their dependance, by coming to him through a Mediator. If we must own ourselves sinners, we are prone to extenuate our guilt; and if we cannot look upon it as indifferent, would at least represent it, as an excusable thing, which is worthy of compassion, rather than of indignation. How difficult is it to view it in a true light! To see what insolence and baseness it carries in it, and what danger and ruin it exposes us to! But divine grace makes way for the gospel into our hearts, by displaying the justice and the holiness of God, as equally essential to his nature, with his wisdom and goodness : And then, when we consider ourselves as appearing in his presence, convicted of ten thousand aggravated offences, we cry out from a deep and inward sense, "Who is able to stand before this holy Lord God* ! Wherewith shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before the high God+ ? Surely I need some perfectly righteous Mediator, high in his favour, to introduce me to him, and to render my access safe and comfortable, by appearing as a Days-man betwixt us, to lay his hand upon us both."
2. Coming to God by Christ farther implies, "a full persuasion of his saving power."
We have been endeavouring to prove it at large; and the conviction of it enters deep into the believing soul. He assents to this most concerning truth with full satisfaction, though there be something in the foundation of it which feeble reason cannot fully comprehend. Important as he sees his everlasting concerns to be, he can courageously venture them here; he can cry out, Lord, I believe, though a mixture of unbelief may cost him many a tears. "Lord," does he often say, "I am sure, that If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean]. Though jew and gentile may reject thee, I humbly own thee, as the