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ing to the various sorrows and difficulties which attend him, so various may his pleadings be for the removal of them. There is not a circumstance which belongs to his affliction, but he may draw some argument from it to plead for mercy; there is not one attribute of the divine nature, but he may use it with holy skill, and thereby plead for grace; there is not one relation in which God stands to his people, nor one promise of his covenant, but may at some time or other, afford an argument in prayer. But the strongest and sweetest argument that a christian knows, is the name and mediation of Jesus Christ his Lord. It is for the sake of Christ, who has purchased all the blessings of the covenant, that a saint hopes to receive them; and for the sake of Christ, he pleads that God would bestow them.
But having treated largely on this subject, in my discourse, intitled, A Guide to Prayer, I shall not repeat the same things 5here, but refer the reader to the first chapter of that book, sect. -It remains that I make a few us ful reflections on the whole foregoing discourse.
Reflection I. What a dull and uncomfortable thing is religion, without drawing near to God! for this is the very business for which religion is designed; the end and aim of religion is getting nigh to God; if it attain not this end, it is nothing.
O the madness of hypocrites, who satisfy themselves to toil in long forms of worship, and appear perpetually in the shape of religion, but unconcerned whether they ever get near to God by it or no! They lose the end and design for which religion was made. What if we know all the doctrines of the gospel; what if we can talk rationally about natural religion; what if we can d educe one truth from another, so as to spread a whole scheme of godliness before the eyes or ears of those we converse with; what if we can prove all the points of christianity, and give incontestible arguments for the belief of them; yet we have no religion, if our souls never get near to God by them. A saint thinks it a very melancholy thing when he is at a distance from God, and cannot tell God his wants and sorrows. Though he be never so much studied in divinity, and the deep things of God, yet if God be not with him, if he does not come near to his mercy-seat, so as to converse with him as his friend, the soul is concerned, and grieved, and never rests till this distance be removed. It is to little purpose that we get into churches, join in the fellowship of the gospel, and attend many seasons of prayer: It is to very little purpose to read chapters, and to hear sermons, one day after another: It is to little purpose all these forms are maintained, if we have not the substance and
of godliness? if our God be not near us, if we never get near to God.
Reflection II. How happy are we under the gospel, above all ages and nations besides us, and before us! For we have advantages of getting near to God, beyond what any other religion has; above what the heathen world ever enjoyed; for their light of nature could never shew them the throne of grace : above what the ancient patriarchs had, though God came down in visible shapes, and revealed and discovered himself to them as a man or an angel: above what the Jews had, though God dwelt among them in visible glory, in the holy of holies. The people were kept at a distance, and the high-priests were to come thither but once a year; and their veil, and smokes, and shadows, did, as it were, conceal God from them, althoogh they were types of a future Messiah; and even their shekinah itself, or cloud of glory, gave them no spiritual idea or notion of godhead, though it was a shining emblem of God dwelling among them.
We have better ordinances, and brighter mediums of converse with God; we have more powerful assistances to raise us heaven-ward; we have the Messiah, the Emmanuel; that is, God in flesh, God come near us, that we may get near to him; we have the promise of the Spirit, which is one of the glorious privileges of the gospel; Eph. ii. 13, 18. Ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh through the blood of Christ: and through him-have we access by one Spirit to the Father. Through Christ Jesus, and the purchase of his blood, and the working of his Spirit, we approach to the Father, we are brought near to God.
And this very method, viz. the atonement of the blood of Christ, and the working of the Spirit by which we are brought near to God in our first conversion, are the ways by which we must draw near him in duty ever afterward: it is by the same atonement, and by the same Spirit. We are continually contracting fresh guilt, and were it not for the perpetuity of the virtue of that sacrifice, our guilt would be an irremovable bar against our coming near to God daily and hourly; and after every new sin, were it not for that Spirit, we could never get near to God again but that Spirit is promised to abide with us; John xiv. 16. and in Heb. iv. 14, 16. Christ is passed into the heavens, is very near to God, and hath shewn us the way thither; Heb. x. 19, 20. Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith.
O how should we value our acquaintance with Christ, and pray earnestly for his Spirit! one makes a way for our coming near to God, and the other actually brings us near. How glorious would churches be, if there were more of this Spirit poured
down upon us! When an assembly of saints, all joining together in one act of worship, shall at once rise by the same Spirit, and approach to the mercy-seat, and order their cause before God; what might not such a worshipping assembly obtain at the hands of God? What beauty would appear in the worship of christians then? What glory would be found in a society of saints, if this Spirit were but there? Christianity has had these ornaments, and these honours: let us pray that God would restore them again.
Reflection III. This doctrine will not suffer us to confine ourselves or others, merely to a set prescribed form of words in prayer. For as the cases and concerns of soul or body, which we spread before God, are almost infinitely various, so must we express those cases and concerns before God in proper words, and plead for relief with a variety of arguments, as the Spirit of God shall assist us: I would order my own cause before him, says Job, and my mouth shall be filled with arguments. It is not possible that a Prayer Book should be drawn up with forms particularly suited to every complaint, and every sorrow, that a holy soul wants to pour out, and spread before the mercy-seat. And the christian, that knows the pleasure of getting near to God in prayer, cannot content himself to wrap up all his special and dearest concernments in a few general sentences.
"What! when I am brought so nigh to my God, my Almighty and compassionate friend; when I am taken, as it were, by the hand, and led into his secret place; when I have the ear of God so near me, shall I not tell him my secret and particular grievances? When I feel such a sweet freedom of soul in his presence, shall I not unbosom my whole self to him? Shall I check the devout appetites and affections of my heart, because I do not find words in my Prayer Book fit to express them? Shall I quench the blessed Spirit thus, and limit my converse with God?"
I allow forms of prayer well composed, to be useful helps for younger or meaner christians; or, indeed, for all persons, when the spirits are low and languishing, and the heart in a heavy or cold temper: But at such a glorious season to confine a holy soul to a few good expressions, written down before, how great an injury would it be to its divine pleasure and profit?
Reflection IV. How comfortable a consideration may be drawn from my discourse, by those that have never a friend upon earth, that there is a friend in heaven, to whom they may tell all their circumstances, and all their sorrows! There are some persons, in this world, so mean and so wretched, that they are ready to think, at least, that they have never a friend, and are
apt to complain that they are altogether friendless. But there is a God, one that they may be sure is their everlasting friend, when they are willing to enter into a state of friendship with him: when they have commenced friendship with him by the blood of Jesus the great Reconciler, and by the working of the reconciling Spirit; then let them improve this consideration with sweet joy. They have a friend in heaven, before whom they can spread all their sorrows, though they be friendless on earth; though they are forced to say of their souls, "There is no refuge for them in the world," yet they can say, God is their refuge: They can express to him their various sufferings, and their several difficulties, and they can be sure of a helper
Reflection V. Lastly, That future state of glory must be blessed indeed, where we shall be ever near to God, even to his seat, and have no sorrows to tell him of. If it be so delightful a thing to come near the seat of God here upon earth, to mourn before him, and to tell him all our circumstances, and all our sorrows; how pleasurable a blessedness must that of heaven be, where we shall be ever rejoicing before him, as Christ Jesus was before the world was made, rejoicing daily before him; and our delight shall be with that God who created the sons of men: Where we shall be for ever telling him our joys, and our pleasures, with humble adoration of his grace, and everlasting gratitude. It will be a sweet redoubling of all the delights and enjoyments of heaven, to tell him, in the language of that world, what infinite satisfaction we feel in his society; what enjoyments and delights we derive from his immediate influences; how full our hearts are of love to him, and how full they are of the sense of his love: There his love communicated to us, shall be, as it were, reflected back again from our souls to God; and in the perpetual communications and reflections of knowledge, joy, and love shall our heaven consist.
O that I could raise your souls, and mine, to blessed breathings after this felicity, by such representations. But how infinitely short must the brightest description fall of this state and place: May you and I, who speak and hear this, may every soul of us be made thus happy one day, and learn the extent and glory of this blessedness, by sweet and everlasting experience. Amen.