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The blessed God shall dwell among them, and lay out upon them the riches of his own all-sufficiency, riches of wisdom, grace, and power, all-suprising, and all-infinite. Divine
Divine power shall then reveal all the glory that has been laid up for them, of old, in the purposes of God, or in the promises of the book of life. But it was fit it should be hidden there, while the time of their probation lasted; it was fit they should live by faith, and under some degrees of darkness, while the ages of sin and temptation were rolling away: It was divinely proper that eternal life should not break forth, nor the splendours of the third heaven be made too conspicuous, till the six thousand years of mortality and death had finished their revolutions round the lower skies, and had answered the scheme of divine counsel and judgment, on a world where sin had entered.
But life and heaven must not be hid for ever. The almighty word, in that day, shall bid the ancient decree bring forth, and the promise unfold itself in public light. What new worlds of unseen felicity! what scenes of delight, and celestial blessings, never yet revealed to the race of Adam! When the rivers of pleasure, that had run under ground from the earth's foundation, shall break up in immortal fountains.
Mercy and truth shall lavish out upon men with an unsparing hand all those treasures of life which were hid in God, and in the gospel for them. The All-wise shall please himself in making so noble creatures, out of so mean materials, dust and ashes. Glorified saints are master-pieces of divine skill; and the blessed original, or first exemplar of them, the man Jesus, is the perfection of the contrivance of God; here he has abounded in all wisdom and prudence. Then the inhabitants of upper worlds shall see an illustrious and holy creation, rising out of the ruins of this wretched globe, involved all in guilt, and weltering in penal fire. When this scene opens, what sounding acclamations shall echo from world to world, and new universal honours be paid to Divine wisdom! The morning-stars shall sing together again, and those holy armies shout for joy. The grace of God descending to earth, in days past, had in some measure prepared his children for glory: But in that day he shall enlarge their capacities, both of sense and of mind, to an inconceivable extent, and shall fill the powers of their glorified nature with the fruits of his love, new and old.
And what if the limits of our capacity shall be for ever stretching themselves on all sides, and for ever drinking in larger measures of glory; What an astonishing state of ever-growing pleasure! What an eternal advance of our heaven! The godhead is an infinite ocean of life and blessedness, and finite vessels may be for ever swelling, and for ever filling in that sea of allsufficiency. There must be no tiresome satiety in that everlasting entertainment. God shall create the joys of his saints ever fresh : He shall throw open his endless stores of blessing, unknown even to the first rank of angels; and feast the sons and daughters of men with pleasures _a-kin to those which were prepared for the Son of God. For verily he took not upon him the nature of angels, but the likeness of sinful Aesh : And when he shall appear the second time without sin to our salvation, we shall then be made like him, for we shall see him as he is. Amen.
HYMN FOR SERMONS IX. and X.
The Hidden Life of a Christian.
LAPPY soul, that lives on high, His pleasures rise from things unseen, While men lie grovelling here !
Beyond this world and time, His hopes are fix'd above the sky, Where neither eyes nor ears have been, And faith for bids his fear.
Nor thoughts of mortals climb. His conscience knows no secret stings, He wants no pomp, nor royal throne While grace and joy combine
To raise his figure here ; To form a life, whose holy springs Content, and pleased to live unknown, Are hidden and divine.
Till Christ his life appear,
He waits in secret on his God;
His God in secret sees :
He dwells in heavenly peace.
He looks to heaven's eternal bills,
To meet that glorious day ;
How long is tby delay!
Nearness to God the Felicity of Creatures.
Psalm Ixv. 4.-Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, and causest to approach unto thee, that he may dwell in thy courts.
THE FIRST PART. It was an elegant address that the queen of Sheba made to Solomon, when she had surveyed the magnificence of his court, and heard his wisdom; “ Happy are thy men, and happy are these thy servants, who stand continually before thee !” 1 kings x. 8. And there was much truth and honour in her speech. But the harp of David strikes a diviner note; Blessed is the man whom thou choosest, O God, that he may approach unto thee, and dwell in thy courts, in the holy sanctuary.
Whether, in these words, the Psalmist blesses those levites and priests, whose duty it was to attend the ark, and to dwell near the tabernacle, or whether he pronounces blessedness on every man of Israel, whose habitation nigh the ark gave him frequent opportunities to attend at that solemn worship, is not very necessary to determine.
Either of these may be called dwelling in the courts of God. But it is most probable, that the sacred writer designs the second sense of the word, and that he includes himself in the desire or possession of this blessedness, though he was neither a priest nor a levite; for he uses the same phrase in several places, and applies it to himself; Ps. xxvii. 4. One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may
dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. Ps. xxii. 6.-I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. By which he intimates, that he would seek the most frequent opportunities of approaching God in public worship.
It is sufficient to my present purpose, that the holy Psalmist makes the blessedness of man to depend upon his near approaches to God.
Here we should remember that God is necessarily near to all his creatures, by his infinite knowledge, by his preserving and governing power : He is not far from every one of us: for in him we live, and move, and have our being ; Acts xvii. 27, 28. But the privilege which David speaks of in my text, is a peculiar approach of a creature to God, which is a fruit of divine choice and favour. The souls who enjoy this blessing are chosen to it, and by divine providence and merry are caused to approach him. What further explication of this phrase is necessary, will be sufficiently given in the following parts of the discourse.
Let this then be the doctrine which I shall attempt to confirm and improve, viz.
Doctrine. Nearness to God is the foundation of a creature's happiness.
This may be proved with ease, if we consider, what it is that makes an intelligent being happy: and how well such an approach to God furnishes us with all the means of attaining it. The ingredients of happiness are these three: 1. The contemplation of the most excellent object : 2. The love of the chiefest good : 3. And a delightful sense of being beloved by an all-sufficient power, or an almighty friend.
1. The contemplation of the most excellent object. . And he who is nearest to God, has the fairest advantages of this kind. The understanding is a noble faculty of our natures ; truth is its proper food; and truth, in all the boundless varieties and beauties of it, is the object of its pursuit, when it is refined from sensualities.
This is the delight of the philosopher, to search all the hidden wonders of nature, and pursue truth with a most pleasurable and restless fatigue : For this he climbs the heavens, traces the planetary and the starry worlds : For this he pries into the bowels of the earth, and sounds the depths of the ocean; and when, with immense toil of mind, he has found. out some unknown natural truth, how are all the powers of his soul charmed within him, and he exults, as it were, in a little paradise !
But the souls who are admitted to draw nearest to God, contemplate infinite truth in its original. They converse with that divine artificer, who spread abroad these curtains of heaven, who moulded this globe of earth, and furnished the upper and the lower worlds with all their admirable varieties. He is a God of glory and beauty in himself, as well as the author of all the beauties of nature. All his perfections, as well as his works, yield heavenly matter for contemplation : He eminently contains in himself all the amazing scenes of nature, and the more transporting wonders of the world of grace; those mysteries wherein he has abounded in all wisdom and prudence: How the ruined sons of Adam were rescued from death, by the Son of God dying in their stead; hový Satan was baffled in his most subtle designs, and the deepest policies of hell undermined, when the prince of VOL 1
darkness destroyed his own kingdom, by persuding 'men to put the Son of God to death.
What a divine pleasure is it to converse with that wisdom which laid the eternal scheme of all these wonders, and of ten thousand more unknown beauties in the transactions of providence and grace, with which the blessed minds above are feasted to satisfaction! And besides all these God has reserved in himself a hidden world of new scenes to open hereafter, and an everlasting profusion of new wonders to display before the eyes of his favourites. Ileaven is described by seeing God, by beholding him face to face, and by knowing him in the way and manner in which we are known; 1 Cor. xiii. 12. And he is pleased to indulge some taste of this felicity to his children in this life, by mediums and glasses, by types and figures, by his word and ordinances, under the enlightening beams of his spirit. This is the brauty of the Lord, for the view of which David desired to dwell in the sanctuary ; Ps. xxvii. 4. that lie might see the power and glory of God continually, as he had sometimes seen it there : that he might behold his beauty, and talk of his glorious goodness in his holy temple. O how great is his goodness! and how great his beauty; Zech. ix. 17.
But contemplation alone cannot make a creature happy : This only entertains the understanding, which is but one faculty of our natures : the will and affections must have their proper entertainment too. Their beatific exercise may be comprized ini the word love, either in the out-goings, or the returns of it: And this leads me to the following particulars :
II. The next ingredient of a creature's happiness, is, the love of the chiefest good. And those whom God chooses, and causes to approach himself, when they are under divine illuminations, see so much beauty and excellency in his nature, his power and wisdom, and so many lovely glories in his overflowing grace, that they cannot but love him above all things; and this love is a great part of their heaven. What sweeter pleasure is there in this lower world, than to give a loose to the affectionate powers of the soul, to converse with the most amiable and most desired object, to feed upon it without ceasing, and to dwell with it perpetually? But the most relishing enjoyments of this kind that mortality admits of, in the pursuit or possession of created good, are but faint and feeble shadows of the blessedness of holy souls in the love of God, who is the most amiable, and the best of beings: Therefore they love him with all their heart and soul, reith all their mind and strength; and if they had more powers in nature that could be employed in love, they should all be laid out in the search and fruition of this first and best-beloved : for there are endless stores, and treasures of unknown loveliness in the Godhead, to excite and entertain for ever the fresh efforts of the