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he comes near to the seat of his majesty! Behold, saith Abraham, I now have taken upon me to speak unto thee, I who am but dust and ashes; Gen. xviii. 27. This is the language of a saint when got near to the seat of the majesty of God," Before I had seen thee as such a sovereign, I was restive and stubborn in times past I quarrelled with God because of difficult duties imposed upon me, and because of the difficult dispensations I was made to pass through; but now I behold God so infinitely my superior, that I can quarrel no more with any duty, or any diffi-. culty; I submit to all his will: whatsoever he will have me be, that I am; whatsoever he bids me do, that I do; for it is fit he should be a sovereign, and I should be a subject. I give myself to him afresh, and for ever, that he may dispose of me according to his own will and for his own glory: I would be more regardless of myself, and more regardful of my God; it is fit he should be the ultimate end of all that I can be, and all that I can do, for he is my sovereign."
Again, when a soul is near to God, God appears in the glory of his holiness; for the seat of his majesty is called the throne of his holiness; Ps. xlvii. 8. And then the heavens are not clean in his sight: aud the soul cries out with those worshipping seraphims, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory: and joins with Isaiah, the worshipping saint, in that humble language, who is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, &c. You see the character of a saint getting near to God, and standing before the seat of his majesty; Is. vi. 3, 4. where the angels and the prophet worship together with the deepest humility. "I have heard of thy holiness before, says the soul, and I have heard before of thy glory afar off; but now mine eyes see it, and I abhor myself in dust and ashes; Job xliii. 6.
2. His seat is to be considered as a seat of judgment; for God is not only a king, but a judge and Job has, without doubt, a reference to this in my text, because the language which he uses, seems suited to a throne of judicature, a throne of justice. "If I could get near his seat, I would order my cause before him, I would plead with him." The soul that gets near to God, sees him sitting upon a seat of judgment, as an omniscient God: he looks like the judge of all the earth, and his eyes are like a flame of fire to search our souls to the centre, and to know our most hidden thoughts: the soul then attempts no more to conceal itself, no more to hide its guilt or its wretchedness; for it beholds those eyes of God that see through all things, that search into the deepest hypocrisy, and it is impossible that any thing should be concealed from him. "Behold I am before that God, says the soul, before whom nothing can be hid; before whom all things are naked and open; and it is with him that I have to do; there
fore I open my heart before him, and I spread open all my inward. powers, for he sees and knows them all, should I attempt to conceal them." "I behold him in his infinite and inflexible justice, as well as in his all-seeing knowledge; and I cry out, If thou, O Lord, shouledst mark iniquity, O Lord who should stand?" Ps. exxx. 4. This is the language of the holiest saint getting near to God here on earth, as seated upon a seat of judgment.
The soul beholds him also as girt with resistless power to execute his own laws; and the thunder of his power, says Job who can understand? xxvi. 14. He has armies of angels, ministers of fire, attendants on his tribunal, and swift to execute the sentence of his mouth. The saint sees him thus invested, thus surrounded, and adores and fears before him. The soul beholds him with rewards in one hand, and punishments in the other; infinite rewards, and infinite punishments; distributing to the " I unseen world perpetual blessedness, and perpetual pains. behold him arrayed in this glory, saith the saint, I expect my sentence from his lips, from whence eternal blessings, and eternal curses, are dispensed to all the regions of heaven and hell; but he will not plead against me with his great power; the sentence that comes forth from his mouth, I trust, shall be on my side."
3. He appears as sitting upon a throne of grace. jesty and judgment that belong to his seat, do not forbid mercy to attend him; he sits upon a seat of mercy, and there, says Job, the righteous might surely dispute with him; xxiii. 7. and there I should be delivered from his terrors as an avenging God; there, though he judge me, yet he will plead my cause; for the same Judge that sits upon a throne of glory, has taken upon him to become my Advocate. "There I behold him, says the soul, with millions of pardons for vile transgressors, and with abundant favour for rebels; such a rebel am I, and such a transgressor, and yet there is pardon and grace for me. I behold there riches and raiment for the poor, the needy, and the naked, and help for the weak believer." There goodness appears in the face of God,, in all the sweet variety of its divine forms. There appears longsuffering for old sinners, and patience for repeated guilt, and pity for the miserable, and free grace for those that deserve nothing but vengeance. All this discovers itself in the face of God, to a soul that gets near him, even to his mercy-seat; and the soul bows, and wonders, and worships, and makes still nearer approaches, and receives the grace, and rejoices in the salvation.
The soul puts in for a share in this mercy with faith and hope, and will not be denied, will not be excluded; then he uses that holy boldness, that nappnoia, or liberty of speech; Heb. iv. 16. And this is the language of faith, when the soul gets near to God: "Since there are so many millions of pardons with thee
for sinners, I will not go away without one; since there is such a righteousness as that of thine own Son to clothe the naked, I will not go away without being clothed with this righteousness; since there are such supplies of strength for the weak, I will not leave thy seat till I get some strength." The soul then wrestles and pleads, and makes supplication as Jacob did when he came near to God; Gen. xxxii. 22. I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. The soul beholds in God mercy enough for the largest multitude of sinners, and pardons large enough for the blackest offences; it sees Paul the persecutor and blasphemer so near to the right-hand of God in glory, that it cries out with a joyful faith, "All the aggravations of my guilt shall no more divide me from the mercy-seat, shall no more prevent my hope and help in God; for there sits Paul the persecutor and blasphemer; and he was set forth as an example how full God is of mercy!" 1 Tim. i. 16. I obtained mercy, that in me first Christ Jesus might shew all long-suffering, for a pattern to believers. This is the temper, this is the voice, and this is the language of a soul that gets near to God, even to his seat, considered as a seat of majesty, of judgment, and of grace.
I proceed now to the second sign or attendant of holy nearness to God in prayer.
II. When a soul comes near to God in prayer, there will generally be some sweet taste of the special love of God, and warm returns of love again to God from the soul. The soul that comes near to God is not satisfied merely with low degrees of faith and hope, with some feeble dependance, and some faint expectations of mercy; it can hardly leave God till it has an assurance. Faith and hope in the mercy of God, are different from that joy that arises from the immediate sensations of divine love. The Psalmist in the lxiii. Psalm, ver. 1, 2, &c. seems to have a reference to both these particulars together, which I have already mentioned. My soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee -to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. "I have seen thee in the sanctuary as sitting upon a throne of majesty, on a seat of judgment and of grace; I have seen thy power and thy glory there, and I have seen something more than this, I have tasted some special-loving-kindness, and that loving-kindness is better than life, therefore my lips shall praise thee. I have had a sense of the special love of God shed abroad in my soul, I have known his love is exercised toward me, therefore my soul is full of praise." soul is full of praise." God will seldom let a soul that is got so near him by holy labour and fervency of spirit, go away merely with hope and dependance, without some sacred delight and joy.
A saint that has drawn near to God in worship, will tell you his own rich experience, and say, "When I found him whom my soul loveth, I was constrained to break forth into these sweet expressions, I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine: for I love him above all things, and my love is but the effect of his. In that blessed hour I felt, and I was assured of that mutual relation between God and me: I found so much of his image stamped on me, that I knew I was the Lord's: whence I rejoice in the full persuasion of his love. I know he loves me, for his sanctifying Spirit hath witnessed with my spirit, that I am one of his children; and I know that I love him, for my spirit witnesseth also as an echo to his Spirit, that I have chosen him for my Father, my Ruler, and my God, and have surrendered myself to him on his own terms; and I address him as my Father, with words of the choicest affection, and of most endeared sentiments of soul."
When a person in whom grace is wrought, gets so near to God, and sees this God in his own loveliness, and in his kindest perfections, there are some new divine passions kindled in the soul towards this God, towards this first beauty, towards this original of all perfection and goodness; and God will seldom let one come so near him, without shewing him the love of his heart; and the name of the devout worshipper graven, as it were, on the palms of his hands, or in the book of his mercy. He speaks to the soul in his own divine language, "Son, or daughter, be of good cheer, thy sins are forgiven thee. O man, thou art greatly beloved. I am your God, and you are my people. I have bought thee dear, and thou art mine. I have created thee, O Jacob; I have formed thee, O Israel; I have redeemed thee, O believer, and thou art for ever mine." And such discoveries of the love of God to the soul, draw out still more love from the soul towards God, and raise more sacred exercices of divine love in one hour, than a whole year of common devotions can do; and the saint learns more of this sacred sensation of the love of God, than years of cold and common devotions would teach him,
III. When the soul gets near to God in prayer, there will be a hatred of sin at the very thoughts of it, and holy meltings and mournings under the remembrance of its own sins. "How hateful does sin appear, will the soul say, now I am come so near to the seat of a Holy God! Never did I see sin in so dark and so odious colours, as this hour reveals and discovers to me; never did I so sensibly behold the abomination that is in all sin, as now I do ; I never saw it so contrary to all that is in God, to his holiness, to his glory, to his justice, and to his grace. O wretch that I am, that I should ever have indulged iniquity! that I should ever have borne with such an infinite evil in my heart? that I should ever take delight in such mischief against God! Now I hate and abhor
myself because of sin. O that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night, because I have been such a sinner so long, and because I am so much a sinner still!" The heart of a saint that comes near to God, is pained at the memory of old sins; and together with a present sweetness of divine love, there is a sort of anguish at the thoughts of past iniquities. A present God will make past sins look dreadful and heinous; therefore it is that sin looks so little to us, and appears so light a thing, because we seldom get near to the seat of God, and bring our iniquities to that divine light.
It is a very common instance, and you all know it, that a blot or spot on a paper or garment, looks so much deeper, when the place you view it in is lighter; at noon,day, and in the eye of the sun, those smaller blemishes appear, which at other times are utterly unseen, and every greater spot, every fouler stain, looks most odious and disagreeable. Just thus it is with the soul, when it is displayed under the eye of the Sun of Righteousness; every blemish, every defilement appears, and the soul hates itself so far as it is sinful, while sin itself looks infinitely more odious. Therefore Job says, ix. 30. Should I wash myself in snowwater, and make myself never so clean, thou wouldest plunge me in the ditch, and my own clothes would abhor me; that is, "should I use all the methods of cleansing that are possible, and then enter into thy immediate presence, that light of thy presence would discover so many spots and defilements upon me, as if I had just plunged myself in a ditch, and my garments had been all over defiled:"
[This sermon, if too long, may be divided here.]
IV. At such a time there is a power and virtue enters into the soul, coming from a present God, to resist sin, and to oppose great temptation." "I can do all things, if Christ be near to strengthen me, says the apostle; Phil. iv. 13. When I was afflicted with the buffeting of Satan, says the same apostle; 2 Cor. xii. 8, 9. for this I applied myself to the mercy-seat, and I got near to the throne of grace; there I pleaded with my God, and I received this answer from him; My grace is sufficient for thee; then, says he, I could glory in infirmities, and in persrcutions for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong; when I feel my own weakness, and see Almighty strength near me, and engaged on my side, then I grow strong in courage, and with success encounter, my most powerful adversaries. I will not fear, says David, though thousands have set themselves together against me, if thou art with me, my strength and my rock: I will walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil; Psal. xxiii. 4. for thou art with me." Divine courage and fortitude are increased abundantly by coming so near to the throne of God.