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PREPARATION TO MEET GOD.
Amos iv. 12.
“ Prepare to meet thy God."
The Holy Scriptures are so wonderfully contrived, that although every part of them is so deep that the wisest of men can never reach the bottom of it; yet at the same time there is no part in which the most unlearned cannot understand something ; indeed, in which he may not by attention gain very much for his good and for his soul's health. And one thing that tends much to produce this effect among many others is this, that they are full of numberless little sayings and proverbs; so that if a person does not understand the meaning of a chapter, and perhaps knows little of all the history that it alludes to, yet there will occur every now and then some expression like that of the text, which a good man, although ever so ignorant, cannot fail to understand, and recognize as a voice of God to himself. And again, such little passages are wonderfully suited to assist the memory; so that, although we could not remember a whole chapter, even if we understood it; yet a word of warning like that we are now considering, (and with such Holy Scripture abounds,) may be at all times called to mind. And a good man, who is earnestly bent to know and to do God's will, although he is no scholar, yet in the understanding of such passages will arrive much more at the true meaning of the SPIRIT, than they who are most learned, and yet have not the fear of God.
Now this is very much the case with the Prophets, which are at this season read every day in the Church; they are in general like St. Paul's epistles, as St. Peter says of them, “hard to
be understood," and sometimes they may seem to speak of other things and matters than concern ourselves; but every now and then they speak in plain and distinct words, so that all cap understand ; and so loud and clear as to be enough to startle every one from one end of the world to the other, with the great and concerning truth which they bring to mind. They come out like the fiery characters seen by midnight on the wall; or, like the words which dropped from our Saviour's own sacred lips, which each man felt were spoken by One Who knew the very secrets of his own heart; as if by them the Sacred Spirit said to him, “ Thou art the man !” This is
much the case with this short sentence in the Prophet Amos, which is now being read in the daily Service. For is there any man in the whole world who can say that the words are not spoken to himself? Prepare to meet thy God." This is as much spoken to every one of us as if we heard it by a voice from Heaven, speaking to us in the stillness of the most secret chamber. Indeed, the whole business which we have in the world is this; it is the one and only reason why we are born, and the one and only reason why we are born again in Holy Baptism; it is in order that we might“ prepare to meet our God.” It is the great reason why God has set up His holy Church in the world, and sends His ministers to us. It is indeed the meaning of the whole Bible, that we should “prepare to meet our God:” to warn us of this, and to afford us every assistance and encouragement in this preparation. Indeed, some of our Lord's most solemn discourses and most striking parables are directed particularly to this one end,to warn us of His certain and speedy approach, and the necessity of our readiness to meet Him. It is the subject which we have to think of at all times and places, whatever we say or do: and God has so wonderfully contrived it in His Divine Word, that this warning may always sound in our
The whole chapter it may be difficult to remember, but these few words may be carried home and called again to mind in the stillness of midnight on our beds, in the midst of company, in our daily labours ; when we eat or drink, when we lie down or rise
up, this ought to be the first and the last thought in the minds of us all, to“
prepare to meet our God.” These words should ever be like a trumpet sounding in our ears, prepare to meet thy God.”
Indeed, the trumpet, the mention of which occurs so often in these Prophets, like a warning voice, is the very sign which our Lord has taken to express this His call to us; for as it is often said that He shall descend "with the sound of a trumpet," and send forth His Angels "with a great sound of a trumpet ;” so He appointed that the children of Israel should be called together especially with the sound of a trumpet : this denoted their calling of assemblies ; the movement of their armies ; their new moons and new years ; as a token and sign of the Day of Judgment, the calling of the last great assembly, the movement of all the armies of Heaven and earth in the great Day; the new year, the beginning of the new Heavens and new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Therefore the voice of His Prophets is likened to this awakening sound, as where it is said, “Lift up thy voice like a trumpet;" and in this Prophet Amos, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid ?” This is the great sound which God has chosen to denote His coming; and this is what His Holy Word and His ministers are calculated to be; for their great object is to call together all mankind, to "prepare them to meet their God."
It is this in which mankind differ from all other creatures of God which we know of. Angels have not this call made to them ; for they see God as He is, and tremble before Him. And the brute creatures have not, that we know of, to appear before Him; but every man that is born must come at last to appear in the presence of Him, of whom it is said in Holy Scripture, that He is “a consuming fire." And “who may abide the day of His coming ?” And “who shall stand when He appeareth ?” We are all to prepare
“to meet our God;" this is our Lord's warning, "Be ye ready,” or, Be ye prepared ; Be ye ready, that is to say,
before God, “ for at such an hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh.” And “ let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning ; and ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their LORD.” Nor is it merely stated that we are to prepare to meet our God; but the occasion for which we are to meet Him is always set before us in Scripture. We must all appear before the Judgment seat of CHRIST, that we may “receive the things done in the body,” whether they be good or whether they be evil. And again, “every one must give an account of himself to God." What it will be “ to meet our God," no heart of man can conceive : for what thought of man can ever understand what God is ? The sea, and mountains speak of Him, and of His power and greatness; and the sky above us, and the sun, and stars, and storms, and thunder ; all these speak of Him when they appal the heart of man, and make him to be amazed and lost in ad. miration of them. And all the creatures of His hand speak of Нім. . And the wonderful powers which He has given to man speak of Him, Who gave him the power to speak, and to see, and hear, to understand and to remember. Every corner of the world which He fills with His awful presence ;—and the heart of every man in which He is wonderfully present, speak of Him. But what must the ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF be ? and what must it be to meet Him, and to appear before Him? How must He understand all things Who has given the power of understanding to man? How must He remember all things Who has given to man the power of memory? How must He behold all things and hear all things Who has given to man eyes to see, and ears to hear? Of objects in nature, that to which He is most likened in Holy Scripture, is fire : fire gives life, or destroys it. Again in Him is light, and no darkness at all. And of all properties in the human heart, that to which He is most likened is love, for it is said, “ God is love." But still from these things we cannot comprehend Him; all that we can know is, that He is to be feared and loved above all things, beyond all fear and love that we can entertain ; and that he who fears and loves Him most is better than all other objects that we can see; and that he who thus loves and fears God, has that within him which will keep him from perishing when the Heavens and the earth vanish away. Man cannot know Him, nor comprehend Him, excepting so far as he is taught by the Spirit of God; so far as man does know Him, he must love and fear Him more and more; they who do not fear Him above all things, know Him not; and most miserable are they! And the reason why Holy Scripture approves most of those who are meek and merciful, and of those who mourn and are penitent, is because they are most of all aware of what God is. But who can sufficiently humble and abase themselves before HIM? Who can deplore himself and his own sinfulness enough in His sight? Who can come to know his own nothingness, and the tremendous Majesty of God, “the great and terrible God,” Who “chargeth His angels with folly," and in Whose sight"the Heavens are not clean ?” Who will make all things that we behold to vanish away from before Him into nothing, because they are marked with sin, and the breath of His displeasure has past upon them? Who shall be prepared to meet this pure and holy, this all-knowing and all-powerful God? And yet of all things future none is so certain as this, that we must meet our God, and appear one by one before Him. In a very few years, even they who live the longest must meet Him, whether they are prepared for it or not; must meet Him in reality, at whose very Name the best of men are bowed down with awe and reverence. But though the ALMIGHTY God is so infinitely beyond us, that with our highest thought we cannot conceive what He is, for the knowledge of Him is higher than Heaven above, and deeper than hell below; yet we may come to know Him even in this world far more than we think we can, as He is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. Even the disciples themselves could not believe how much in Jesus Christ they might behold the Father, the unseen God, Whom no man can see and live.
* If ye had known ME,” said our Lord to His disciples, "ye should have known My FATHER also; and from henceforth ye know Him, and have seen Him. Philip saith unto Him, LORD, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us. JESUS saith unto him, Have I been so long with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hath seen ME, hath seen the FATHER, and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the FATHER, and the Father in ME?" Even the disciples themselves knew not how much they beheld in the lowly ways of Jesus Christ, and His unwearied love and goodness ;—that this was in fact the highest and best manifestation we could have made to us of the Great invisible God. As it had been shown to the Prophet Elijah, God was not in the wind, nor in the earthquake, nor in the fire, but in the still small voice," the humble teaching of Jesus Christ, as man conversing with man. For heathens of old were made to acknowledge the power of God in the storm, and earthquake, and lightning; but the Spirit of God only can lead us to see Him, and to hear His voice in JESUS Christ: and even good Christians are not sufficiently aware how much God Himself is to be seen in works of mercy and meekness; so that at the last, our LORD HIMSELF tells us, those His sheep, who will be set on the right hand, will be surprised to find how much such actions of lowliness and charity are remembered by