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It is said of one of the Roman emperors that he suffered none to go out of his presence sad and surely none can be so who enjoy the presence of Christ. Humble and self-abased they may be: but sorrowful and distressed they cannot be.-It is also quickening and transforming. Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? We all with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image, from glory to glory. Christ's presence puts life and strength into his people. It has the same influence upon the soul, as the sun has upon the vegetable creation. It is the life of duties, and the substance of ordinances: it guards against temptation, supports under affliction, and inspires with undaunted fortitude in death. Simeon, with Christ in his arms, could defy the king of terrors, and wished for death as much as others fear it. No state can make us happy, if without the presence of Christ: no state can make us unhappy, if we enjoy it.
3. Present communion with Christ is an earnest of everlasting fruition. What is hell but a being banished from the presence of the Lord; and what is heaven, but the uninterrupted and everlasting enjoyment of his presence? I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness. The upright shall dwell in thy presence. The present manifestations of Christ are the first fruits of glory; and he who gives the first fruits will bring to the full possession. The promise and oath of God afford strong consolation to believers, and they also have the earnest of the future inheritance: and however men may repent of their bargain, and thereby forfeit their earnest, yet God will not. The sweet communion which saints have with Christ on earth is a foretaste of what will be fully enjoyed in the world
II. A seemingly departing Saviour may be constrained, as it were, to abide with his people.
Speaking after the manner of men, there are three ways of constraining Christ to abide with us.
1. By the exercise of a lively faith. Hence Christ addresses the church: Turn away thine eyes from me, for they have overcome me. This is not an expression of dislike, but of love; not of resentment, but endearment. He could stand it out no longer, but acknowledged that he was overcome. The saint's faith has an effect upon Christ, similar to that of Christ's love upon the saint: his love constrains us to abide with him, and our faith constrains him to abide with us. The king is held in the galleries, as one bound with fetters and chains: it is the eye of faith that charms Christ, and the hand of faith that holds him. Faith not only overcomes the world, but it also overcomes Christ.
2. By fervent prayer Christ may be constrained to abide with us. As God overcomes by the strength of his arm, so do the saints overcome by the omnipotence of prayer. The word Siouai, to pray, comes from dw, to bind. Prayer not only brings, but keeps God and man together. Prayers and tears are powerful orators with God: they are the weapons with which the saints have obtained the most glorious victories. Jacob by his strength had power with God; yea, he had power over the angel, and prevailed: he wept and made supplication unto him. God will not cast us off while we address him with holy importunity he will never leave us while we earnestly entreat him not to do it. Say unto him, Forsake me not, oh Lord my God; and thou shalt have that answer, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
3. By a suitable conduct towards him. If we would have Christ abide with us, we must do what we can to delight him, and make his stay pleasant. As God
commanded Israel that every leper, and every one that had an issue, and whosoever was defiled with the dead should be put out of the camp, because he dwelt in the midst of it; so every idol must be demolished, every corruption mortified, and every rival banished from the heart, if we would be honoured with the continued presence of Christ there. We must especially beware of slightness and formality in religious duties, and of placing too much confidence in them when indulged with some enlargement: for we might as well be dead in duties and dead to them, as to be lively in duties and live upon them.-If we would have Christ abide with us, we must abide with him; walk humbly, circumspectly, and cheerfully before him; avoid every thing that is offensive to him, magnify his grace, and aim at his glory; prize him ourselves, and do all we can to recommend him to others. He is with us while we are with him, and all coldness and indifference begin on our part. 2 Chron. xv. 2.
See here, the love which a true christian bears to his Saviour. A cottage, a wilderness, a prison, a dungeon will do with Christ's presence: but a palace, a kingdom, a paradise, nay heaven itself will not do without it. An awakened sinner desires Christ on any terms, and a true believer would not part with him on any terms. Indeed, if we be not desirous of holding Christ, it is a sign that we never found him.
What has been said of individual believers will also apply to christian churches. To have the King come into his ivory palaces, and to see his goings-forth in the sanctuary, are inestimable privileges: but these are sometimes withheld, and the Lord seems to be departing. Let then his people constrain him to abide with them. But making such a request barely is not sufficient: it must be enforced by the revival of church discipline, and the purity of his worship,
if these have been neglected; by avoiding strife and
Whither, oh whither art thou gone,
Whither hast thou withdrawn thyself,
Where'er thou art, thou still canst hear
Return to me, my dearest Lord,
When earthly friends and comforts go,
Be thou instead of these-Be thou
Much more than these to me!
Sinful Excuses Answered.
LUKE xiv. 18.
They all with one consent began to make excuse.
WHAT could be the reason of such conduct? Were they called to any laborious exercise; or to bear any painful suffering? No: they were invited to a feast, a feast of the Lord's providing; yea, they were to feast with him. But though men are fond of their entertainments, and will go at the first call, and sometimes without a call, yet here they have a rooted aversion. They will go to a tavern, a playhouse, or any other place of vain amusement; but call them to Christ, and they with one consent begin to make excuse.
1. Some men will say they have no need to come to Christ. This arises from insensibility, and ignorance of their lost condition. Some sense of it they may have; but it is neither deep nor lasting: it is not sufficient to make them willing to part with their bosom sins, nor renounce their carnal confidence. They are whole, and need not a physician: need him they do, but do not feel their need; and having slight thoughts of sin, they have also slight thoughts of the Saviour. Being strangers to the spirituality of the divine law, they hope in the mere mercy of God, without any regard to the Mediator, and expect great