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The Converted Soul the House of God.
This house of thine, my God, is not built of earthly, nor of any such heavenly, but corporeal matter, as the orbs above are formed of; but is spiritual and immortal, without flaw or decay. For thou hast set it fast for ever and ever, and founded it upon
a decree which shall not be broken. Thou hast given it a duration equal to thy own, and end it shall have none, though it had a beginning. For wisdom was created in the beginning : not that essential Wisdom, co-eternal with the Father, by whom all things were made, but that which is a created but spiritual substance, the rational and intellectual mind, which is light by contemplation of light, and in a qualified sense styled wisdom, though it be finite and created. But as there is a mighty difference between original Light, and that which is derived from, and caused by the reflection of it; so is there between thee, the perfect uncreated Wisdom, and that which is thy creature, and thy image. Thus also we distinguish between the righteousness which justifies, the righteousness of Jesus Christ thy Son, in which the Apostle says, we are made the righteousness of God, and that personal holiness which the Holy Spirit gives to every converted soul.
But having received both, freely by thy grace, the renewed soul is so closely united to thee, the true, the eternal God, that though it be not of the same eternity from the beginning, yet no length of
future time, no change of fortune or affairs, shall ever dissolve or loosen it; but it shall rest and be employed for ever in the ravishing contemplation of thy Divine excellences. For thou, O God, art bountiful to all that love thee; and wilt reveal thyself to such as seek thee, in measures large as their capacities admit, or at least as their necessities require. This keeps thy servants steady to thee and to themselves. This preserves the soul in the same happy state, while its eyes are ever intent, its affections ever fixed upon thee; while it beholds and loves and delights in that God, who is true light' and pure love. O blessed noble creature, a holy immortal soul, the first and best of all the works of God! but then most blessed, when dwelling upon thy Master's blessed perfections; then happy beyond all expression, when entertaining that Divine inhabitant, and illuminated with the beams of that glorious day-spring from on high ! always transported with the pleasure of beholding the Divine glory: always fixed upon God, without admitting any rival or partner in its love.
This indwelling of God, in this spiritual house, forms the happiness which blessed spirits enjoy. This is their heavenly satisfaction in heavenly places. This the foretaste of future joys, and the assurance of every way-faring soul, that though it sojourn at present in a strange land, and at a great distance from thee, yet if it thirst and pant after God, if the dwelling above hereafter all the days of its life be its constant wish and endeavour, its longing shall one day be satisfied with the pleasures of his house, and all its pious mournings turned into joy. From this bliss then and the duration of their own joys let our souls raise themselves, to form such ideas of
thine as their present condition can receive: for what notions must we have of this blessedness, and how vast is thy eternity, when even this created house of thine, when keeping at home with thee, by its union with its glorious Maker and inhabitant, stands proof against all chance of time; and, persevering by thy gracious influences, is firm, notwithstanding the possibility of change to which it is subject. Secured by thy presence, and those liberal communications of thy grace, which it drinks in, and feasts upon continually, it looks at nothing beyond thee, as a future addition to its happiness ; it is afflicted with no troublesome remembrances of any thing past, which should embitter or lessen the present, but is entirely blessed with the enjoyment of that God, who hath in mercy made it like himself, and knit it to himself with the strongest bond of inviolable love, and such a fulness of satisfaction, as neither suffers nor desires a change.
The pious Soul longing for Heaven. LORD! how have I loved the habitation of thy house, and the place where thine honour dwelleth! O glorious seat! the residence and the workmanship of the great, the mighty God. Let me continue, let me increase in this love of thee more and more. Let this weary pilgrimage be spent in advancing daily towards thee, and may the gasping of my soul after thee sanctify and comfort the labours of each day, and refresh my waking thoughts by night. Let my heart be always where my treasure is already. And, in this dry and desolate wilderness, may I feel no other wish than that of arriving at my heavenly Canaan, and partaking in the society and the joys of that happy people, who have the Lord for their God. O may that God who made both me and thee possess me in thee! Not that I dare presume to hope for thy beauty and bliss upon the account of any deserts of my own; but yet, the humblest sense of my own unworthiness will not sink me into despair of it, when I reflect upon the blood of him who died to purchase this mansion for
Let but his merits be applied to me; let his intercessions make up my want of worth, and then I am safe; for those merits cannot be overbalanced by my sins, nor were, nor can those prayers be ever offered up to God in vain.
For my own part, I confess with shame and sorrow, that I have gone astray like a sheep that is
lost; drawn out my wanderings and my miseries to a great length; and am cast out of the sight of my God into the blindness and darkness of a spiritual banishment. In this forlorn estate I sadly bewail the wretchedness of my captivity, and sing mournful songs when I remember thee, o Jerusalem. As yet I am at an uncomfortable distance, and at best my feet stand only in the outer courts of Sion. The beauties of the sanctuary are behind the veil, and kept hid from my longing eyes: but I am full of hope, that the builder of this sanctuary, and the gracious shepherd of souls, will carry me home in his arms, that I may there rejoice with that joy unspeakable and full of glory, which all those happy saints feel, who are already admitted into the presence of their God and Saviour: the Saviour who hath opened this royal palace to all believers, by abolishing the enmity in his flesh, and reconciling all things in heaven and earth by his own blood.
He is our peace, who hath made both one, and broken down the middle wall of partition, promising to give us the same degree of happiness in his own due time, which is already enjoyed by, and in thee. For thus he hath declared, that they who are worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, shall be equal unto the angels. 0 Jerusalem, the eternal habitation of the eternal God! mayest thou be the second object of my soul's desire, and only he be preferred before thee in my affection, who shed his blood to make me worthy of thee. Be thou the joy and comfort of my languishing mind, my great support in hardships and distresses; may the remembrance of thee be ever sweet, and the mention of thy name a holy charm to drive away all sorrow from my soul.