« FöregåendeFortsätt »
cession for them; and while he interceded for them there, they were praying without. But Christ by his own blood has entered into heaven to appear in the presence of God for us; and by his blood we now have boldness to enter into the holiest in that new and living way, which he has consecrated. Since we have such an high priest over the house of God, we may come boldly to his seat, and obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Such is the grace of the gospel, that it calls sinners, under an awakening sense of guilt, to apply unto God, as a God of mercy in Christ Jesus, and gives them reason to hope, that their application will not be in vain. But there is a peculiar sense, in which true believers come nigh to him. They have those promises of assistance and acceptance, which others cannot appropriate. The Apostle says, “ Through Christ we have access by faith into this grace, in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”—“ In him we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him."-" The Spirit helpeth our infirmities, and maketh intercession for us according to the will of God.”
What a high privilege do Christians enjoy !— They come daily to God in prayer and praise. They tell him their wants, thank him for his bounties, and solicit farther supplies. They come to him in the name of a Mediator, who has purchased for them all the blessings which they need. They come to him as a covenant God, who has promised that he will never forsake them.
When they have such a clear and sensible view of God's holiness, wisdom, power and grace, as awakens their pious affections, raises them above earthly things, collects and fixes their thoughts, and excites more ardent desires of heaven, greater aversion to sin, and more active resolutions for duty, then may they be said to draw near to God with the heart. Then they enjoy spiritual communion with him. The Psalmist expés rienced in the sanctuary such an intercourse with God as this. There he saw God's power and glory, and felt the communications of divine light and love. This one thing he desired, that he might dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life. This was his lan. guage,
“ Whom have I in heaven but thee? There is none upon earth that I desire besides thee. It is good for me to draw near to God. I have put my trust in him."
VI. Another important circumstance of nearness to God, is the presence of his holy Spirit." The Apostle says,
“ We have access by the Spirit unto the Father."
The grace of the Spirit was granted, for the support and comfort of good men under the Old Testament. David prays, " Take not thy holy Spirit from me--uphold me with thy free Spirit.” But under the gospel, which is a ministration of the Spirit, it is more explicitly promised, and more amply afforded. « God has shed forth the Spirit abundantly through Jesus Christ.“ The Spirit not only makes occasional visits to, but takes a stated residence with humble believers. They are his habitation-his temples. They walk in him, and are led by him. By him they are sanctified, strengthened and comforted. He helps their infirmities in prayer, witnesses to their adoption, and preserves them unto salvation. Christ says to his disciples, “If any man love me, him will my Father love, and we will come and make our abode with him."
This spake he of the Spirit, which the Father would send in his name.
Happy is the good Christian in this nearness to God. Sensible of his own weakness, he rejoices in Christ, in whom all fulness dwells, and of whose fulness he may receive even grace for grace. Paul, when he felt his weakness, found himself strong. He took pleasure in infirmities, because the power of Christ rested upon him : He was contented in every state : He knew both how to be abased and how to abound : Through Christ strengthening him he could do all things. When he was crucified with Christ, he was still alive, because Christ lived in him. He acknowledged, that by God's grace he was made what he was ; and he could say, the grace bestowed on him was not in vain. He labored the more abundantly ; yet not he, but the grace of Christ that was with him.
To judge then, whether we have the Spirit dwelling in us, we must inquire, Whether the works of the Spir• it can be found in us. Paul labored abundantly-was constant in duty--contented in every condition_humble in his thoughts of himself. We then have the best proof, that the grace of God is with us, when we can trace its happy effects.
I have now opened to you the several circumstances of that nearness to God, which
the Apostle mentions as the high privilege of humble Christians.
The first and leading circumstances of this nearness we all enjoy. God's house and worship, his word and ordinances are nigh us. From our childhood we have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make us wise to salvation. Let us give glory to God, who thus has distinguished us from multitudes of our fellow creatures. Let us not, however content ourselves with such a nearness as this ; but improve our favorable condition to a still greater and more important nearness. We
We may be made nigh in respect of privileges, and yet remain in our hearts afar off from God. It concerns us to examine, whether we are partakers of God's holiness, conformed to his will; reconciled to his government, and interested in his pardoning grace. If we are enemies in our minds, it concerns us immediately to renounce our enmity, and accept that gloria ous peace, which is purchased by the Son of God.
Let us praise God for the interposition of his Son, who is our peace. His death on the cross is the foun. VOL. III.
dation of our habitual nearness to God, our actual approaches to him, and our comfortable hopes of the fu. ture enjoyment of him. He suffered for our sins, that he might bring us to God. He took on him our nature, that we might partake of the divine. In our na. ture he ascended to heaven, that we might follow him thither. He appears in the presence of God for us, that we may draw near in the full assurance of faith.
Let none despise the word dispensed, and the ordinances administered in the church. These are the means by which believers come near to God, receive the communications of his grace, and obtain a prepara. tion for glory. However lightly some may esteem these means, pious souls find them highly useful to warm their holy affections, strengthen their good resolutions, improve their virtuous tempers, and bring them nearer to heaven.
Let none imagine, that they are above the need of divine ordinances ; nor yet let any suppose, that relig. ion mainly consists in the observance of them ; but let all regard them as the means of holiness, and attend upon them, with a view to bring their souls nearer to God in the love of his character, and in the practice of every duty. Our subject instructs us, when we may be said to
i enjoy God's presence in religious worship. It is, when we draw near to him in such a manner, that the true end of worship is answered-when a holy temper is increased, holy resolutions confirmed, an aversion to sin strengthened, and faith and humility promoted. It is not merely the elevation of affection in God's wor. ship, which indicates his presence with us : A better proof is the correspondence of our hearts to the design of his worship, which is the promotion of knowledge, fuith, holiness, charity, heavenliness, and constancy in duty. In a word, when we find, that God's ordi. nances make us better, we may conclude that we have Licen with him.
How great is the evil of sin ! It is this which sepa. . rates the soul from God. In nearness to him consists the felicity of rational beings : Distance from him is their misery; all pretences to happiness are vain, while man is a stranger to God. Let him be surrounded with all the riches, honors and joys that the world can give ; still, if he is far from God, he is far from happi.
He who is without God, has no hope. Do the sensual and profane boast of pleasures, when God is not in all their thoughts !-How vain are these pleasures ! How unsatisfying-how transient ! In the moment of death they will vanish forever, and leave the soul overwhelmed with sorrow.
Let us be afraid of every thing that tends to draw us away from God; and love every thing, which brings us nearer to him. Let us seek him with our whole hearts ; preserve daily communion with him ; choose his favor as our happiness, his service as our employment, his word as our guide, his ordinances, as our refreshment, his house as the gate of heaven, and heaven as our eternal home,