Page images
[ocr errors]

ought? And do not we sensibly punish ourselves in this neglect? what a dismal chaos is this world while we see not God in it! To live destitute of a divine presence, to discern no beam of the heavenly glory; to go up and down day by day, and perceive nothing of God, no glimmering, no appearance; this is disconsolate as well as sinful darkness. What can we make of creatures, what of the daily events of providence, if we see not in them the glory of a Deity; if we do not contemplate and adore the divine wisdom, power, and goodness, diffused eveery where? Our practical atheism, and inobservance of God, makes the world become to us the region and shadow of death, states us as among ghosts and spectres, makes all things look with a ghastly face, imprints death upon every thing we see, encircles us with gloomy, dreadful shades, and with uncomfortable apparitions. To behold the tragical spectacles always in view, the violent lusts, the rapine and rage of some, the calamitous sufferings, the miseries and ruin of others; to hear every corner resounding with the insultations of the oppressor, and the mournful groans of the oppressed, what a painful continuing death were it to be in the world without God! At the best, ali things were but a vanishing scene, an image seen in the dark. The creation, a thing, the fashion whereof were passing away, the whole contexture and system of providence were mere consusion, without the least concinnity or order: religion an acknowledged trifle, a mere mockery? What, to wink ourselves into so much darkness and desolation, and by sealing up our eyes against the divine light and glory, to confirm so formidable miseries upon our own souls ! How dreadfully shall we herein revenge our own folly, in nullifying Him to ourselves, who is the all in all! Sure there is little of heaven in all this! But if now we open our eyes upon that all comprehending glory, apply them to a steady intuition of God, how heavenly a lise shall we then live in the world! To have God always in view, as the director and end of all our actions : to make our eye crave leave of God, to consult Him before we adventure upon any thing, and implore his guidance and blessing : upon all occasions to direct our prayers to Him and look up: to make our eye wait his commanding look, ready to receive all intimations of his will ; this is an angelic life. To be as those ministers of his that are always ready to do his pleasure : to make our eye do him homage, and express our dependence and trust : to approve ourselves in every thing to Him, and act as always in his presence, observing still how his eye observes us, and exposing ourselves willingly to its inspection and search, contented always He should see through and through us: surely there is much of heaven in this life : so we should endeavor to live here. I cannot omit to give you this instruction in the words of a heathen, Sic certe vivendum esl tanquam in conspectu vivamus, &c. toke

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]


[ocr errors]

Font ties

- the

bese is the

We ought so to live, as always within view, order our cogitations as if some one might or can look into the very inwards of our breast. For to what purpose is it, to hide any thing from man? from God nothing can be hid ; he is continually present to our spirits, and comes amidst our inmost thoughts. &c. Sen. Epist. 83.

This is to walk in the light, amidst a serene, placid, mild light, that infuses no unquiet thoughts, admits no guilty fears, nothing that can disturb or annoy us. To eye God in all our comforts, and observe the smiling aspects of his face, when he dispenses them to us : to eye Him in all our afflictions, and consider the paternal wisdom that instructs us in them; how would this increase our mercies, and mitigate our troubles ? To eye Him in all his creatures, and observe the various prints of the Creator's glory stamped upon them ; with how lively a lustre would it clothe the world, and make every thing look with a pleasant face ! what a heaven were it to look upon God, as filling all in all: and how sweetly would it, ere-while, raise our souls into some such sweet seraphic strains, holy, holy,—the whole earth is full of his glory. Isa. 6. 2. 3. To eye Him in his providences, and consider how all events are with infinite wisdom disposed into an apt subserviency to his holy will and ends : what difficulties would hence be solved! what seeming inconsistencies reconciled! and how much would it contribute to the ease and quiet of our minds ? To eye Him in his Christ, the express image of his person, the brightness of his glory, and in the Christian economy, the gospel revelation and ordinances, through which he manifests himself: to behold Him in the posture wherein He saves souls, clad with the garments of salvation, girt with power, and apparelled with love, travelling in the greatness of his strength, mighty to save : to view Him addressing Himself to allure and win to him

the hearts of sinners, when he discovers himself in Christ, upon that reconciling design, makes grace that brings salvation appear, teaching to deny ungodliness, &c. to behold Him entering into human flesh, pitching his tabernacle among men, hanging out his ensigns of peace, laying his trains, spreading his net, the cords of a man, the bands of love : to see Him in his Christ, ascending the cross, lifted up to draw all men to Him; and consider that mighty love of justice and of souls

, both so eminently conspicuous in that stupendous sacrifice; here to fix our eyes looking to Jesus, and behold in Him, his whom we have pierced : to see his power and glory, as they were wont to be seen in his sanctuaries : to observe Him in the solemnities of his worship, and the graceful postures wherein He holds communion with his saints, when He seats Himself amidst them on the throne of grace, receives their addresses, dispenSes the tokens and pledges of his love : into what transports might these visions put us every day. Let us then stir up our drowsy souls, open our heavy eyes,

[ocr errors]

ghastly, frightsul objects to converse with, amidst those horrors of eternal darkness; when the devil and his angels shall be thy everlasting associates! What direful images shall those accursed, enraged spirits, and thy own fruitful parturient imagination forever entertain thee with, and present to thy view!

[2.] Is it a small thing with thee, to be destitute of all those inherent excellencies which the perfected image of God, whereof thou wast capable, comprehends ? View them over in that (too defective) account some of the former pages give thee of them. Thou art none of those bright stars, those sons of the morning, those blessed, glorified spirits, thou mightest have been. But consider, What art thou? What shalt thou forever be? What image or likeness shalt thou bear?

Alas, poor wretch, thou art now a fiend ! conformed to thy hellish partners: thou bearest their accursed likeness. Death is now finished in thee : and as thou sowest to the flesh, thou reapest corruption. Thou art become a loathsome carcase; the worms that never die, abound in thy putrified, filthy soul. Thou hast a hell in thee. Thy venomous lusts are now grown mature, are in their full grown state. If a world of iniquity, a fulness of deadly poison, tempered by hell-Gire, is here sometimes to be found in a little member, what will there then be in all thy parts and powers !

[3.] Consider, how blessed a satisfaction dost thou lose? how pleasant and delightful a rest, arising both from the sight of so much glory, and so peaceful a temper and constitution of spirit? Here thou mightest have enjoyed an eternal undisturbed rest. But for rest and satisfaction, thou hast vexation and endless torment, both by what thou beholdest, and what thou seelest within thee. Thy dreadful vision shall not let thee rest : but the chiefest matter of thy disquiet and torment is in the very temper and constitution of thy soul. Thy horrid lusts are fuller of poisonous energy, and are destitute of their wonted objects, whence they turn all their power and fury upon thy miserable self. Thy enraged passions would fly in the face of God, but they spend themselves in tormenting the soul that bred them. Thy curses and blasphemies, the envenomed darts pointed at heaven, are reverberated and driven back into thy own heart. And therefore,

[4.] Consider, What awaking hast thou? Thou awakest not into the mild and cheerful light of that blessed day, wherein the saints of the most high hold their solemn, joyful triumph. But thou awakest into the great and terrible day of the Lord (dost thou desire it, for what end is it to thee ?) a day of darkness, and not light; a gloomy and stormy day. The day of thy birth is not a more hateful, than this is a dreadful day. Thou awakest and art beset with terrors, presently apprehended and dragged before thy glorious, severe Judge, and thence into eternal tor

ments. O happy thou, mightest thou never awake, might the grave conceal, and its more silent darkness cover thee forever. But since thou must awake then, how much more happy wert thou, if thou wouldst suffer thyself to be awakened now! What, to lose and endure so much, because thou wilt not now a little bestir thyself, and look about thee? Sure thy conscience tells thee, thou art urged but to what is possible; and lawful, and hopeful, and necessary; methinks, if thou be a man, and not a stone, if thou hast a reasonable soul about thee, thou shouldst presently fall to work, and rather spend thy days in serious thoughts, and prayers, and tears, than run the hazard of losing so transcendent a glory, and of suffering misery, which as now thou art little able to conceive, thou wilt then be less able to endure.


Rule 4. Directing to the endeavor of a gradual improvement in such a dis

posedness of spirit (as shall be found in any measure already attained) to wards this blessedness. That it is blessedness begun which disposes to the consummate state of it. That we are therefore to endeavor the daily increase of our present knowledge of God, conformity to him, and the satisfiedness of our spirits therein.

4. That when we find ourselves in any disposition towards this blessedness, we endeavor a gradual improvement therein, to get the habitual temper of our spirits made daily more suitable to it. We must still remember we have not yet attained, and must therefore continue pressing forward to this mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3. 14. Bgation. That prize (not price, as we commonly mis-read it in our bibles) of which the apostle here speaks, is (as may be seen by looking back to verse 8, 9, &c.) the same with the blessedness in the text. Such a knowledge of Christ, as should infer at last his participation with him in his state of glorv; or of the resurrection of the dead. This is the ultimate term, the scope or end of that high calling of God in Christ; so it is also stated elsewhere, Who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesús. 1 Pet. 5. 10. Now we should therefore frequently recount how far short we are of this glory, and stir up our souls to more vigorous endeavors in order to it. Our suitableness to this blessedness stands in our having the elements and first principles of it in us; it is glory only that fits for glory; some

previous sights and impressions of it, and a pleasant complacential relish thereof, that frame and attemper us by degrees to the full and consummate state of it. This is that therefore we must endeavor, A growing knowledge of God, conformity to him, and satisfiedness of spirit therein. What we expect should be one day perfect, we must labor may be, in the mean time, always growing.

(1.) Our knowledge of God. The knowledge of Him I here principally intend, is not notional and speculative, but (which is more ingredient to our blessedness, both inchoate and perfect) that of converse, that familiar knowledge which we usually express by the name of acquaintance. See that this knowledge of him be increased daily. Let us now use ourselves much with God. Our knowledge of him must aim at conformity to him: and how powerful a thing is converse in order hereto ? How insensibly is it wont to transform men, and mould anew their spirits, language, garb, deportment ? To be removed from the solitude or rudeness of the country to a city or university, what an alteration doth it make? How is such a person divested by degress of his rusticity, of his more uncomely and agressed manners ? Objects we converse with, beget their image upon us, They walked after vanity, and became vain, (Jer. 2. 5.) saith Jeremiah; and Solomon, He that walketh with the wise, shall be wise. Prov. 13. 20. Walking is a usual expression of converse. So to converse with the holy, is the way to be holy, with heaven, the way to be heavenly, with God, the way to be God-like. Let us therefore make this our present business, much to acquaint ourselves with God. We count upon seeing him face to face, of being always in his presence beholding his glory ; that speaketh very intimate acqnaintance indeed. How shall we reach that pitch ? What, to live now as strangers to him ? Is that the way? The path of the righteous is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. Prov. 4. 18. The text shews us the righteous man's end, To behold the glory of God's face, &c. it is easy to apprehend then, his way must needs have in it a growing brightness, as he comes still nearer this end. Every nearer approach to a lucid thing infers (to us) an increase of light from it. We should therefore be following on to know the Lord, and we shall see his going forth will be before us as the morning. Hos. 6. S. He will be still visiting us with renewed, increasing light, for such is morning-light, fresh and growing-light,) and ere long it will be perfect day. Labor we to improve our knowledge of God to such a degree of acquaintance as our present state can admit of: to be as inward with him as we can, to familiarize ourselves to him, His gospel aims at this, to make those that were afar off nigh. Far-distant objects we can have no distinct view of. He can give us little account of a person that hath only seen him afar off, so God beholds the proud afar off, that is, he will

« PreviousContinue »