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He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide
under the shadow of the Almighty.
We live in a dangerous world-our substance is exposed to fire and storm—our limbs to casualties and wounds--our bodies to sickness and death, and our souls to temptations and snares. Many of the dangers which attend us are too secret to be foreseen, too sudden to be avoided, and too violent to be resisted. It
ers can do to secure us. Go where we will, still dangers surround us-dwell where we can, evils await us. What then shall we do? Must we live in perpetual anxiety and fear? No: our text points out a method of personal safety and mental serenity. Let us repair to God, and we shall be secure under his protection. He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High, shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.
We will consider, what is intended by dwelling in God's secret place—and the safety arising from thence, expressed by adding, under the shadow of the Almighty.
I. We will first consider, what is intended by dwelling in the secret place of the most High.
The words teach us, that God has provided a place of safety to which we may resort--that it is a secret place, which many disregard, or overlook--that it is the place of the most High, and to find it we must direct our eyes above this world—and that we must dwell there—not merely cast an eye, or make a visit to it, but take up our abode. The expression imports nearness to God, and constant communion with him.
1. They who dwell in God's secret place, have, in their hearts, entered into his covenant.
pair. The prophet says, “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him, and he will shew them his covenant.” In the coyenant of grace, God offers himself to us to be our God. This is the great and comprehensive promise which it contains, “I will be your God, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.” This comprises every blessing that we need, or can reasonably desire. Such as the pardon of all our sins free access to him in prayerthe supporting and comforting grace of his Holy Spirit-the guidance and protection of his providence, and a title to eternal life. They who are within the covenant of God, are interested in all these privileges.
The condition of our interest in the covenant, is the dedication of ourselves to him, or a submission to him as our God. And this is a secret transaction. There are, indeed, in covenanting with God, some visible and external acts. But the main substance of it is internal. It is a secret intercourse between God and the soul. ..
Repentance of sin is one thing implied in choosing God for our God. If we yield ourselves to him, we renounce every thing which is contrary to his will. If we submit to his government we disclaim all other lords. He is a holy God, and if we choose him for our God, we choose him in this character; and consequently we forsake all the ways of sin; for these are contrary to his will.
In repentance there are some things external. Confession of sin, reformation of life, and attendance on religious instructions, are in some measure visible acts; but the main and leading exercises of repentance, are inward and secret—they belong to the hidden man of the heart-such as meditation on God's holy law, convictions of guilt-humiliation for sin-godly sorrowing under a sense of its evil nature and tendency-resolutions against it earnest desires of, and supplications for the sanctifying grace of God-conflicts with carnal lusts and criminal passions—watchfulness against the corruptions of the heart and the temptations of the world. These are exercises which belong to repentance. Of these the penitent soul is conscious in itself—but they are invisible and unknown to others.
Faith is implied in our entering into covenant with God. The covenant of grace is in the hands of a mediator. Jesus Christ is this mediator. He has by his atonement and intercession procured for us all the blessings which it contains. It is in him, that God reconciles the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses. It is through him, that he condescends to become the God and Father of unworthy creatures. It is by faith in Christ, that we draw near to God and become his children and the subjects of his grace and mercy. The works of faith are visible-but faith itself is a secret and humble grace—it is an inward exercise of the soul which the world cannot see. That humiliation and selfabasement—that view and apprehension of the worthiness of Christ and of the mercy of God in him—that consent of soul to receive him in all his characters that reliance on his righteousness and strength-and that desire of conformity to his character, which are all included in saving faith, are secret and unseen.
So also is self-dedication a secret thing. They who are in covenant with God, have devoted themselves to him to serve and honor him with all their powers, and through all their existence. They give themselves to him to be his forever. They serve and honor him in an open and visible manner. But the dedication of themselves to him is an inward exercise. The view of God's perfections—the love of his character—the approbation of his commands--the choice of his service-the reliance on his
promises—the submission to his government, which are included in this dedication, are tempers and exercises, which none immediately know but they who feel them.
In these respects, they who take hold of, and embrace the covenant of God, come into the secret of the most High.
2. The promise in the text is to them who dwell in God's secret place.
To be in a state of security, we must not only consent to, but also abide in God's covenant. That temper with which we enter into this covenant, must be an abiding temper. Repentance, faith and self-dedication are not the whole extent and compass of religion; they are rather the beginning of religion. If we really repent of sin, we renounce it forever. If we sincerely believe in the Saviour, we commit our whole souls and all that we have to his keeping. If we truly dedicate ourselves to God, we give ourselves to him to be his in life and through eternity-we no more reckon ourselves to be our own, but to be wholly his.
Conversion to God is not merely an occasional and temporary transaction—but it is entering upon a new manner of life to be continued through our existence. That temper which begins in conversion is an abiding temper, and the main exercises of it are secret; as secret, in future, as they were at first.
The penitent walks humbly with God. He watches against sin and temptations—he laments his remaining corruptionshe seeks pardon for daily offences, and he trusts in the aids of divine grace in his conflicts with spiritual enemies. He goes on through life in a penitent and humble manner.
The believer lives by faith. The same faith by which he embraces the Saviour, still operates in his soul, and strengthens and animates him in the religious life. It brings to his view the great motives of religion and gives them an influence on his heart. It is the continual spring of his comfort, resolution and hope.
The convert serves God in newness of spirit as well as of life. He maintains the exercise of love to God. He meditates on the Divine perfections and commands-examines himself to discover his remaining sins, watches his steps to see his deviations from the path of duty--thinks on his ways, and when he finds he has gone
astray, he makes haste to turn his feet into God's testimonies. He often renews his self-dedication, and his holy resolutions, and gives diligence to make improvements in the virtues and works of religion.
In these secret exercises the power of godliness principally consists.
3. To assist these exercises he attends with diligence and constancy on the secret duties of religion.
From the ordinances of the sanctuary he derives great benefit and delight. By attendance on these, his religious knowledge is improved-his pious affections are enlivened, and his benevolence is extended and enlarged. But these alone are not sufficient. There are many things of immediate and personal concern which require a more secret intercourse with God. In his closet he can open to God his own complaints-he can confess and lament his own sins-his own deadness and stupidity-his weakness of faith
his vain thoughts—his unruly passions—his in-dwelling corruptions—his coldness and indifference in God's service, and the particular sins and temptations which most easily beset him and he can seek that grace which is more peculiarly adapted to his own case. He therefore is careful to keep up a stated communion with God in the devotions of the closet. If he feels not that
neglect them. For he derives advantage from them, even in cases, where the life and spirit of devotion rise not to that height, that he could wish. Nor does he confine this sacred intercourse to the stated hours of retirement. His heart is often with God in the seasons of secular business. He aims to walk daily with God, and to be in the spirit of religion all the day long. Thus he dwells in the secret place of the most High.
The subject teaches us,
II. The happiness of those who thus dwell in God's secret place. “ They abide under the shadow of the Almighty."
The expression imports two privileges, protection and comfort.
1. It imports protection and safety. For so it follows, “I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in