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Let us therefore betake ourselves to him in bumble and earnest prayer. Let us beseech him to grant that we may be "in the Spirit on the Lord's day;" that his grace may be sufficient for us—that we may " worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness"—that we may "not be forgetful hearers, but doers of the word"—that, in waiting upon him, our strength may be renewed—" that we may mount up with wings as eagles—that we may run and not be weary, and walk and not feint"
Such a Sabbath will leave us prepared for the duties and trials of the week. Such a Sabbath will lead us to say, "A day in thy courts is better than a thousand: I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness." Such a Sabbath will be a foretaste of glory, the beginning of heaven. What is heaven? "There remaineth," says the Apostle, "a rest for the people of God." It is in the margin, "a keeping of Sabbath." Such is the representation of the happiness above: and oh! how instructive, how endearing is it, to those who love sabbaths below! By-and-by your week-days will be over, and the Saturday evening of life will come. You will lie down—and fall asleep—and open your eyes on a Sabbath infinitely superior to any we can expect on earth. Here we worship with a few—there we shall join the general assembly—Here we often feel unsuitable frames, and our powers are always unequal to our work—there our faculties will be raised to the highest degree of perfection, and we shall "serve him day and night m his temple." Hero our Sabbaths end, and we soon go down again from communion with God into the vexing, debasing things of the world—there the Sabbath will be eternal ; and we "shall go no more out" "We shall be for ever with the Lord." "Wherefore comfort one another with these words."
But should there be in this little assembly one individual who is a stranger to the pleasures of devotion, and who dislikes the employment of God's holy day, let me ask—Is he qualified for an eternal sabbath, who is now groaning, as he passes from duty to duty, What a weariness it is to serve the Lord! tchen mill the Sabbath be gone? Can he enjoy even the thought of being for ever engaged in religious exercises, who at present feels a day, an hour, a few moments employed in them disagreeable and irksome? The question is awful—may the Lord help yon to lay it to heart Amen.
THE EYE OP GOD ALWAYS
UPON US. "Thou God teett me."—Gen. xvi. 13. These are the words of Hagar, Sarah's
handmaid—and I have read them, hoping that you will individually make the reflection your own. They can easily be remembered, because of their brevity: they should be daily thought of, because of their importance.
Let us see whether this reflection be not founded in trutli; and show, by taking several views of it, how instructive and edifying it may be rendered.
Hagar was convinced that God saw her. Indeed he found her in the wilderness of Shur, where no human eye discerned her. By an angel he admonished her to return, and humble herself under the hand of her mistress; and predicted the character and condition of her child unborn—" He will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him: and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren." On tllis she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, "Thou God seest me."—But how much more striking is this to us! We are able to compare the accomplishment with the prophecy. The descendants of this poor woman's child are the Arabians; and they continue to this day a wandering, uncivilized multitude. They live by treachery and plunder; they are at war with all the world; no conqueror has ever subdued them; while they spread themselves over a vast country, thirteen hundred miles in length, and twelve hundred in breadth. Can any thing be hid from Him who declareth the end from the beginning, and before a babe is born can describe with unerring exactness the disposition and circumstances of his oflspring for a number of ages to come?
His knowledge of all our concerns may be inferred from his universal presence. Eflects prove him to be everywhere—for everywhere life is given and sustained—and this is the work of God only. Now if he be everywhere, what can be placed out of his sight? Hence we read, "Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth! saith the Lord.
Besides, how could he judge the world in righteousness, unless he were perfectly acquainted with all our doings! He could not produce what he had never witnessed—but we know that "God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good or whether it be evil. The Scripture therefore tells us that "his eyes are in every place, beholding both the evil and the good:" that "his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings:" that "there is no darkness nor shadow of death where the workers of iniquity may hide themselves. Hell is naked before him, and destruction hath no covering. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do." Human inspection is very limited, and easily interrupted. I now see you—but place between us only a screen or a curtain, and I see you no more. I now behold you—but let the sun go down, or this candle be extinguished, and for want of a medium of vision the eye seeks you in vain. Think, then, of a Being, of whom it is said, "Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee: but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee."
What use then should we make of this undeniable truth!—"Thou God seest me," is a reflection very pleasing to good men —very dreadful to sinners—and very edifying to all.
First It is Veby Pleasing To Good Men. —Hence, when David had been considering the omniscience of God as compassing his path and his lying down, and as acquamted with all his ways, he exclaims, "How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O Lord! how great is the sum of* them!" His meditation of an all-eeeing God was sweet; and therefore it was frequent How is it with us! If we feel a satisfaction in thinking of this attribute, it is a good evidence of our sincerity. Now this is the case with the Christian—he comes to the light, and instead of shunning scrutiny, he invites it If I am not right, says he, I wish to be set right I know that he will discover in me much that is amiss, but he knows that I am willing to have it cured; and as he alone can heal, why should I wish to keep my physician ignorant of any part if my complaint? "Search mc,
0 God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting."
"Thou God seest me!" This is a pleasing reflection when I fear some hidden corruption which has hindered the answer of prayer, and often deprived mc of comfort, but which
1 cannot, after the most faithful investigation, detect He can discern it—" Show me wherefore thou contendest with me."
"Thou God seest me." This is a pleasing reflection when I feel those infirmities which make me groan. He sees grace, however small; he sees the disadvantages of my situation, the influence of the body over the mind, and of sensible things over the body; he sees that the "Spirit indeed is willing when the flesh is weak." "He knoweth my frame, he remembereth that I am dust"
"Thou God seest me." This is a pleasing' reflection with regard to prayer. I often know not what to pray for as I ought; but he always knows what to give. I cannot express myself properly in words, and words are not necessary to inform him who " knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit—my desire
is before him, and my groaning is not hid from him."
"Thou God seest me." This is a pleasing reflection when I am suffering under the suspicions of friends, or the reproaches of enemies. "Behold, my witness is in heaven, and my record is on high. Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee."
"Thou God seest me." This is a pleasing reflection when I am in trouble. He knows all my " walking through this great wilderness, he knows where the burden presses; he knows how long to continue the trial; and by what means to remove it In no condition am I hid from my heavenly Friend. He saw Jeremiah in the dungeon, and Daniel in the lions' den. My circumstances are perplexing—" I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: on the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him; he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him—But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. The eyes of the I/ird are upon them that fear him, upon them that hope in his mercy."
Secondly. To the Wicked It Is A Vert Awful Reflection. Yes: what can be more awful than the thought—that God sees you rise in the morning, goes forth with you, observes you all the day long—that you have passed under his eye from infancy to youth, and from youth to manhood—that he has beheld every plan you have formed, every bargain you have made—that he has observed not only actions but motives, not only words but thoughts, not only the evil you have committed but the evil you wished to commit; all the filthiness of your imaginations as well as of your lives—all the difficulties you have had to overcome in pursuing a sinful course, every check of conscience, every rebuke of Providence—and has noticed not only the number but aggravations of all your crimes. And what renders all this still more dreadful is this—that he does not forget any thing he has seen. You have forgotten many of your transgressions, but he remembers even the sins pf your youth. Sometimes persons sin from custom and habit; and know not when they do so—for instance, they know not when they lie or swear. If it were possible to secure all their evil words for one month, one year—and read it to them—what a surprise would they express! Well, not one of them has escaped the Divine notice: he has recorded them all in the book of his remembrance. And to complete the terror of this consideration—all he has seen he will publish before the whole world: and he will also punish all that he has seen "with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lordraiid from the glory of his power." Thirdly. The reflection will be found very
USEFUL TO ALL.
Useful as a check to sin. For can a person cin while he realizes thisl can he aflront the Almighty to his very face ?—Impossible. This would restrain us even from secret faults, and make us as pure in the closet as in the sanctuarv, for God is in the one as well as in the other.
•. —o may these thoughts possess my breast,
Where'er 1 rove, where'er i rest;
Nor let my weaker passions dare
Consent to sin—for God is there."
—Useful as a motive to virtue. The presence, the eye of one who is above us, and whom we highly esteem and reverence, elevates our minds and refines our behaviour: and we desire to act so as to gain his approbation. A servant feels this when he is before his master, and a subject when he is before the king. One of the heathen philosophers therefore recommended his pupils, as the best means to induce and enable them to behave worthily, to imagine that some very distinguished character was always looking upon them. But what was the eye of a Cato compared with the eye of Jehovah! Who would not approve themselves unto God ?" In his favour is life."—" I have kept thy precepts and thy testimonies," says David, "for all my ways are before thee."
Finally. Useful as a reason for Simplicity and Godly Sincerity. Oh! let it banish nil dissimulation from our religious exercises; and whether we read, or hear, or pray, or surround the table of the Lord, let us remember that "God weigheth the spirits." If we had to do with men only, a fair appearance might be sufficient; " but the Lord looketh to the heart" And can we play the hypocrite under those eyes which are as a flame of fire? What will a name to live, a form of godliness, avail us with him who is "a Spirit,and seeketh such to worship him as worship him in spirit and in truth?"
Let us then no longer suffer ourselves to be led by tense, but let us live and walk by faith. Let this important truth sink down into our hearts—that the eye of God is always upon us. The truth indeed remains the same, whether we regard it or not—but if we lay hold of it by faith, and keep it present in our thoughts by meditation, it will be found the noblest of all principles; it will preserve us from sin; it will excite us to duty; it will make us "sincere and without offence till the day of Christ"
THE DEATH OF JESUS.
Verily, verily, I tay unto you, except a corn of -wheat fall into the ground and die, it abidelh alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,—John xii. 84.
Death—death the most dreadful of all events, has often been rendered a blessing.
The death of a Believer has been useful. It has encouraged and established those who were walking in the way to Zion with many a trembling step, and many a shivering fear how it would go with them at last When they have viewed a dying Christian, and have seen the grace of God, they have been glad: their courage has been revived, and they have rejoiced in hope. Why may it not be so with me? "The Lord is my helper, I will not fear." His looks, his words, his experience, have also made an impression on the minds of the careless, which has never been erased. After turning their backs on a sermon, they have been convinced by a dying bed. There the evidence was too plain to be denied, too solemn to be ridiculed. They have admired and resolved to follow a Master who is so good to his servants, and who does not " forsake them when their strength faileth; but is the strength of their heart and their portion for ever."—And the death of the saint has proved the life of the sinner.
The death of a Parent has been useful. His expiring charge has never been forgotten. The thought of separation for ever from one so loved and valued, has awakened in the son a salutary fear. Returning from a father's grave, he has met with God, saying, " Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My father! thou art the guide of my youth!" and, turning into his closet, he has kneeled, and said, O thou " in whom the fatherless findeth mercy, I am thine, save me."—And the death of the parent has proved the life of the child.
The death of a Minister has been useful. Some of the servants of God have laboured faithfully without seeing the fruit of their labours. One has sown and another has reaped. But the removal of our mercies, by showing us their value, leads us to prize them. It has been so with many a conscientious preacher. Ho has been'little regarded while living, but when dead his word has come with power to the conscience; his addresses, prayers, and tears, have been remembered by. his people; and the expectation of meeting him at the last day has forced them to exclaim, "How shall we escape ?"—And the death of the minister has proved the life of the nearer.
The death of a Martyr has been useful. His patience and fortitude; his joy and triumph; his forgiveness of injuries, and his prayers for his persecutors, have struck beholders, rendered a religion honourable that could produce such marvellous effects, led to an examination of its evidences; and faith and zeal have been the result of inquiry. "The wrath of man has praised God,"—" and the blood of the martyrs has been the seed of the Church."
But where are we now i We have an ex
ample to produce, infinitely greater than all these. Let us leave the disciples, the members of "the household of faith," and behold their Lord, "the author and finisher of laith." Jesus dies, and his death is the "life of the world." The death of the believer has been the life of the einner; the death of the father has been the life of the son; the death of the preacher has been the life of the hearer; the death of the martyr has been the life of the beholder—But our Lord Jesus, as he was going to be crucified, exclaimed, "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me." This is the meaning of the words which I have read: "Verily, verily, I sny unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit"
Go forth and behold the process of vegetation. Take a corn of wheat—how small, how insignificant, how useless it appears! But it is extremely valuable, and with care may be made to stock a field, a country! But how does it thus multiply! Keep it in the granary, and it remains the same. It must be sown, to fructify and increase. Let it be buried under the clods, and perish as to its present form and appearance—and lo! it springs up, and brings forth in some places "thirty, in some sixty, and in some an hundred fold." And behold the mystery of the cross, around which we arc this day assembled! It was equally necessary for our Saviour to suffer and die. In death he becomes the principle of our life. By this he fills heaven with praise, the Church with blessings, the world with followers. This is the "fruit" which by dying he brings forth"—an immense number of Christians.
For you know, a grain of corn multiplies by yielding other grains like itself. "That which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: and that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: but God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body." If therefore Jesus be compared to seed, and he be sown to multiply, he will produce others like himself. If barley be sown, barley comes up; if wheat be sown, wheat appears; if Christ be sown, Christians are brought forth.—This is a very striking and a very useful thought For it may be asked, What are Christians? And the answer is, What was Christ? They are predestinated to be conformed to him: and as they "have borne the image of the earthy, they must also bear the image of the heavenly." Here, indeed, the likeness is not complete— but it will be perfect in due time: they " shall be like him, for they shall see him as he is"—as entirely like him as one grain of corn resembles another, from which it was derived, in substance and in figure. Butlet us re
member that the likeness is now begun, and must be advancing, according to the words of the Apostle, "Beholding ns in a glass the glory of the Lord, we are changed mto the same image, from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."—He was "not of the world;" and Christians " are not of the world." It was his " meat to do the will of him that sent him;" and they also can say, "his commandments are not grievous." "He went about doing good;" and they are endeavouring to "serve their generation according to the will of God." He " was meek and lowly in heart;" and they "are learning of him. "The world knoweth them not for it knew him not"—A Christian springs from Christ; and he is like him.
There is one thing here which we should not overlook, for it will afford the benevolent mind a delicious pleasure; I mean the largeness of the crop—This corn of wheat, by dying, bringeth forth "much fruit" "Are there few uiat shall be saved V This question was once proposed to our Saviour, and it is observable that he made no reply to it; but he did say to those that asked him, "Strive to enter in at the strait gate; for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in and shall not be able." And by this he has taught us that it is wiser to endeavour to secure our salvation individually, than curiously to inquire after or controvert the number of the saved. If, however, the question were asked properly, we could answer— No. He is leading " many sons unto glory:" and when he has collected them altogether, they will be found "a great multitude which no man can number, of all nations and kindreds and people and tongues." Of him whoee soul was made an offermg for sin, it is said, "The pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand:" "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied." And will a little good, a little success, satisfy the vastness of his benevolence? O how many must be delivered from misery, and restored to happiness, before he will say, H It is enough; I am fully repaid for the anguish I endured in the garden and on the cross!"
Now all those who will be saved, owe their spiritual being and blessedness to his death. This is fully expressed. Had he not died, he would have "remained.alone"—and accordingly while alive, he teas comparatively alone. He had some followers; but they were few in number, and of one nation only: the Gentiles were not addressed.—But lo! when he dies, he brings forth much fruit: he becomes considerable, and renowned as a leader: three thousand were called under one sermon: "and the Lord added to the Church daily such as should be saved." "Mightily grew the word of the Lord, and prevailed." It spread from city to city, from province to province, till it soon reached the boundaries
of the Roman empire. Now this was adapted and designed to show that his suflerings were to precede his glory; and that by dying he was to have a numerous "seed to serve him, which should be accounted to the Lord for a generation."
And does not every thing that enlivens us, and conforms us to our Lord and Saviour, derive its existence and its efficacy from his death?
Is the influence of the Holy Ghost needful to convince us of sin, and renew us in the spirit of our minds! This is the purchase, the reward, the consequence of his death. "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."
Is deliverance from our spiritual enemies necessary to our "serving him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life? Here "he spoils principalities and powers, and makes a show of them openly. Now is the judgment of this world, now is the prince of this world, cast out"
Is it necessary for us to feel a "lively hope" by which we "draw nigh to God?" The cross inspires it "Surely he hath borne our grief and carried our sorrow; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes we are healed. He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?"
Has gratitude an influence in forming the Christian character? Here, here it is inflamed. "For the love of Christ constrainelh us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: and that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."
Finally. Is an example of holiness indispensable? Here we behold a representation of all the graces and the duties he recommended. Here we see an entire obedience and submission to the will of his heavenly Father—humility the most profound—patience the most astonishing—forbearance the most free from revenge—the love of relations and friends the most exquisitely tender.— "He suffered for us, leaving us an example that we should follow his steps."—And thus all the principles and assistances of the Christian life are furnished by the death of the Saviour. Let us conclude by three reflections.
And first Let us render the works of nature instructive and edifying. Let us not be of the number of those of whom the prophet speaks, when he says, "seeing many things, they observe not" Nor let us contemplate the creation with the eye of a naturalist only. Let us go over it as Christians; let us hold communion with "things unseen and eternal," by means of those "which are seen and temporal." Thus our Saviour has taught us to find the influence of the Gospel in the leaven hid in the meal; the agency and comforts of the Holy Ghost in the blowing of the wind, and in rivers of living water; and the efficacy, utility, and necessity of his death in the sowing, corruption, and the revival of corn.
Secondly. "God is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working." His thoughts are not our thoughts, neither are his ways our ways." The enemy supposed he had completely succeeded when our Lord was crucified—"Now (says he) his cause is crushed, his followers will be dispersed and annihilated, and his name will be heard no more." But all this was "according to the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God." Death was the road to life, and shame to everlasting renown. They were sowing him, to make him fruitful. In falling a victim, he conquered, and from the cross he passed to the possession of a throne, in which he reigns king of saints, and will reign king of nations.
Thirdly. What think ye of "Christ crucified?" I know what prophets and apostles thought of it I know the importance his death occupies in the scriptures of truth. I know that when Moses and Elias appeared in glory, "they spake of the decease which he would accomplish at Jerusalem." I know an ordinance is expressly appointed to " show forth his death;" that the preaching of the Gospel is called "the preaching of the cross;" and that the praises of heaven are ascribed to him as "the Lamb that was slain, and has redeemed us unto God by his blood." But what are your views of this interesting subject? "to the Jews" it was "a stumblingblock ;" to "the Greeks, foolishness;" and to thousands now it is a thing of no importance. Is it to you "the wisdom of God" and "the power of God ?"—Our creed and our experience will be found very defective, unless they have much of the sufferings and death of Christ in them.
Spiritof grace and truth! take of the things of Jesus, and show them unto us. May we "know the fellowship of his suflerings." May we "be made conformable unto his death. May we be enabled individually to say, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me."—"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord