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Thirdly, There is consolation in approaching to God. Alas ! in this world, afflictions fo abound, that consolation is often our greatest good. In how few days of this mortal life do we not feel the want of a comforter ? Ever since the introduction of fin into the earth, human life hath been a scene of misery. Man is born to trouble, and sore is the travel which is appointed to him under the sun. We come into the world the most forlorn of all beings; the voice of sorrow is heard from the birth ; man fighs on through every path of future life; and the grave is the only place of refuge, where the weary are at rest. Sometimes, indeed, a gleam of joy intervenes, an interval of happiness takes place. Fond man indulges the favourable hour. Then we promise to ourselves the scenes of paradise; perpetual sunshine, and days without a cloud. But the brightness only shines to disappear; the cloud comes again, and we awake to our wonted anxiety and sorrow.
Not limited to our own personal woes, we are doomed to suffer for forrows not our own. We are not unconcerned spectators of human life. We are interested in every event that befals our fellow men. Sympathy makes us feel the distresses of others, and the best affections of the heart become the sources of wo. How many deaths do we suffer in mourning over the friends that we have lost! While we lament their unhappy or untimely fate, we cut short the thread of our own days. The cords of love are broken, one after another; string after string is severed from the heart, till all our early attachments are dissolved, till our sad eyes have wept over every friend laid in the dust, and till we become lonely and wretched as we at first began.
Under these afflictions, and from these sorrows, devotion opens a retreat; the altar of God presents a place of refuge; the ear of the Eternal is open to thy cry; the arm of the Almighty is stretched out to relieve thee. There is a sanctuary where no evil can approach ; there is an asylum where no enemy can enter. In the pavilion of his presence, God will hide thee in the time of trouble; in the secret of his tabernacle, he will cover thee in the day of danger. There the prisoners rest in peace, and hear not the voice of the oppressor. There are the small and the great, and the servant is free from his master. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
It is some consolation, it is some relief, to open our hearts to men, and tell our sorrows to a friend, who can give us no relief, but by mingling his tears with ours. What consolation, what relief will it
then give to open our hearts, and tell our forrows ' to that Friend above, who is ever gracious to hear, and ever mighty to save ! To that Friend who never fails; who is afflicted in all our afflictions, and who keeps us as the apple of his eye! Art thou therefore oppressed with the calamities of life ; is thy head bowed down with affliction, or thy heart broken with sorrow ? approach to the altar, go to God, present to him the prayer of thy heart, and he will send thee help from his holy hill.
Lastly, In approaching to God, there is preparation for heaven. The objects among which we are conversant, have a wonderful power over the mind, External things make such an impression within, that the character is often formed from the situation.
The foul is assimilated to surrounding objects, and proportions itself to the sphere in which it moves. When employed in little and in low things, it is con tracted; when occupied in earthly matters, it is de. based ; but acquires enlargement and elevation in the presence of what is grand and sublime. By daily converse with the world, and familiarity with material things, the soul is alienated from the life of God, and man, setting his affe&ions on things below, becomes of the earth, earthy. But when we engage in the exercises of devotion, we counterwork the charm of material objects, we retire from the world and its temptations, and shut the door of the heart against every intruding guest that would disturb us in approaching to God. Standing upon holy ground, we put off unhallowed affections, and impure desires. From the presence of the Lord every sinful thought flies away. Our attention is turned from those things that would raise guilty passions in the mind. Pure and spiritual ideas are presented to view, and the perfections of Almighty God are set before our eyes. When these are before us, our admiration of them will increase, our love to them will be kindled, and we will endeavor to resemble them in our own life. Thus, by approaching to God, we become like God. By devotion on earth, we antici. pate the work of heaven. We join ourselves, before. hand, to the society of angels and blessed spirits above; we already enter on the delightful employ. ment of eternity, and begin the song which is heard for ever around the throne of God.
Such, Christians ! are the advantages of approach. ing to God, and encompassing the altar. And if,
with pious affections, and a pure heart, we draw nigh
unto God, God will draw nigh unto us. To the | wide extent of his creation, to the great temple of
heaven and earth, J&HOVAH prefers the heart of the pure and the pious. There he takes up his abode; there he delighteth to dwell, In the divine discourse which our Lord delivered to his disciples, the same night in which he was betrayed, there is a promise rich in consolation. " If a man love me, he will “ keep my words : and my Father will love him, " and we will come and make our abode with him." While this promise sounds in your ears, I hope that your hearts correspond to the strain, and that you recal those precious hours, when God manifested himself to you, so as he does not unto the world. When on former occasions, he sent his light and his truth; when the fountain of living waters has been opened, and the voice came to your ears, “ Drink, and live for ever ;” Did you not feel emotions which came from no created source, and taste a joy which confeffed its origin from heaven ? Who). can describe the blessedness of that time, when a prefent. Deity is felt ? It is the joy of heaven upon earth; the happiness of eternity in the moments of time.
Luke ii. 10.
THE coming of the Messiah is always foretold in scripture as a period of joy and triumph. The Patriarchs rejoiced when they saw his day afar off. All the Prophets take fire at this great occafion, and rise into strains of rapture when they describe the glory of the latter days, and the happiness of the Messiah's reign. In the most beautiful colours they paint its arrival as a new æra of happy time, and as a general jubilee to the world. They represent it as accompanied with univerfal peace and prof. perity ; as effecting a renovation of nature, the return of innocence to earth, and the descent of God to dwell with men. . “ In those days the wilderness 6 and the folitary place shall be glad ; the desert shall “ rejoice and blossom like the rose. They shall blof“ som abundantly: and rejoice with joy and with 6 finging. The glory of Lebanon shall be given 66 unto it; the excellency of Carmel and of Sharon. « The parched ground shall become a pool, and the " dry land springs of water. In the wilderness shall “ waters break out, and streams in the desert.— The “ light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, « and the light of the sun shall be sevenfold.” When the heavens and the earth at first arose in beauty