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God that is not imagined to be a witness of his actions? Who would worship a God at a distance both from the worship and worshipper? Let us believe this truth, but not with an idle faith, as if we did not believe it; let us know, that as wheresoever the fish moves, it is in the water; wheresoever the bird moves, it is in the air; so wheresoever we move we are in God: as there is not a moment but we are under his mercy; so there is not a moment that we are out of his presence. Let us therefore look upon nothing, without thinking who stands by, without reflecting upon him in whom it lives, moves, and has its being. When you view a man, you fix your eyes upon his body, but your mind upon that invisible part that acts every member by life and motion, and makes them fit for your converse. Let us not bound our thoughts to the creatures we see, but pierce through the creature to that boundless God we do not see: we have continual remembrances of his presence, the light whereby we see, and the air whereby we live, give us perpetual notices of it, and some weak resemblance: why should we forget it? yea, what a shame is our unmindfulness of it, when every cast of our eye, every motion of our lungs, jogs us to remember it! Light is in every part of the air, in every part of the world, yet not mixed with any; both remain entire in their own substance. Let us not be worse than some of the heathen, who pressed this notion upon themselves for the spiriting their actions with virtue, That all places were full of God.* This was the means Basil used to prescribe, upon a question which was asked him, "How shall we do to be serious?" "Mind God's presence." How shall we avoid distractions in service? "Think of God's presence." How shall we resist temptations? Oppose to them the presence of God. This will be a shield against all temptations. "God is present," is enough to blunt the weapons of hell: this will secure us from a ready compliance with any base and vile attractives, and curb that headstrong principle in our nature, that would join hands with them; the thoughts of this would, like the powerful presence of God with the Israelites, take off the wheels from the chariots of our sensitive appetites, and make them, perhaps, more slow, at least towards a temptation. How did Peter fling off the temptation which had worsted him, upon a look from Christ! The acted faith of this would stifle the darts of Satan; and fire us with an anger against his solicitations, as strong as the fire that inflames the darts. Moses's sight of him that was invisible, strengthened him against the costly pleasures and luxuries of a prince's court, Heb. xi. 27. We are utterly senseless of a Deity, if we are not moved with this hint from our conscience, "God is present.' Had our first pa
2 Omnia Diis plena.
rents actually considered the nearness of God to them, when they were tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit, they had not probably so easily been overcome by the temptation. What soldier would be so base as to revolt under the eye of a tender and obliging general? Or what man so negligent of himself, as to rob a house in the sight of a judge? Let us consider, that God is as near to observe us, as the devil to solicit us, yea nearer: the devil stands by us, but God is in us; we may have a thought the devil knows not, but not a thought but God is actually present with, as our souls are with the thought they think; nor can any creature attract our heart, if our minds were fixed on that invisible presence that contributes to that excellency, and sustains it, and considered that no creature could be so present with us as the Creator is.
It will be a spur to holy actions. What man would do an unworthy action, or speak an unhandsome word, in the presence of his prince? The eye of the general inflames the spirit of a soldier. Why did David keep God's testimonies? because he considered that all his ways were before him, Psal. cxix. 168; because he was persuaded his ways were present with God, God's precepts should be present with him. The same was the cause of Job's integrity; "Does not he see my ways?" Job xxxi. 4. To have God in our eye is the way to be sincere; "Walk before me," as in my sight, "and be thou perfect,' Gen. xvii. 1. Communion with God consists chiefly in an ordering our ways as in the presence of him that is invisible. This would make us spiritual, raised, and watchful in all our passions, if we considered that God is present with us in our shops, in our chambers, in our walks, and in our meetings, as present with us as with the angels in heaven; who though they have a presence of glory above us; yet have not a greater measure of his essential presence than we have. What an awe had Jacob upon him when he considered God was present in Bethel! Gen. xxviii. 16, 17. If God should appear visibly to us when we were alone, should we not be reverent and serious before him! God is every where about us, he does encompass us with his presence; should not God's seeing us have the same influence upon us as our seeing God? He is not more essentially present if he should so manifest himself to us, than when he does not. Who would appear besmeared in the presence of a great person? or not be ashamed to be found in his chamber in an indecent posture by some visitant? Would not a man blush to be catched about some mean action, though it were not an immoral crime? If this truth were impressed upon our spirits, we should blush more to have our souls daubed with some loathsome lusts, swarms of sin, like Egyptian lice and frogs, creeping about our heart in his sight. If the most sen
sual man be ashamed to do a dishonest action in the sight of a grave and holy man, one of great reputation for wisdom and integrity; how much more should we lift up ourselves in the ways of God, who is infinite and immense, is every where, and infinitely superior to man, and more to be regarded! We could not seriously think of his presence, but there would pass some intercourse between us; we should be putting up some petition upon the sense of our indigence; or sending up our praises to him upon the sense of his bounty. The actual thoughts of the presence of God is the life and spirit of all religion; we could not have sluggish spirits, and a careless watch, if we considered that his eye is upon us all the day.
It will quell distractions in worship. The actual thought of this would establish our thoughts, and pull them back when they began to rove; the mind could not boldly give God the slip, if it had lively thoughts of it; the consideration of this would blow off all the froth that lies on the top of our spirits. An eye taken up with the presence of one object, is not at leisure to be filled with another. He that looks intently upon the sun, shall have nothing for a while but the sun in his eye. Oppose to every intruding thought the idea of the Divine omnipresence, and put it to silence by the awe of his majesty. When the master is present, scholars mind their books, keep their places, and run not over the forms to play with one another. The master's eye keeps an idle servant to his work, that otherwise would be gazing at every straw, and prating to every passenger. How soon would the remembrance of this dash all extravagant fancies out of countenance! just as the news of the approach of a prince would make the courtiers bustle up themselves, huddle up their vain sports, and prepare themselves for a reverent behaviour in his sight. We should not dare to give God a piece of our heart, when we apprehend him present with the whole; we should not dare to mock one that we knew was more intimately acquainted with us than we are with ourselves, and that beheld every motion of our mind, as well as action of our body.
[2.] Let us endeavour for the more special and influential presence of God. Let the essential presence of God be the ground of our awe, and his gracious influential presence the object of our desire. The heathen thought themselves secure if they had their little petty household gods with them in their journeys. Such seem to be the images Rachel stole from her father, Gen. xxxi. 19, to accompany her travel with their blessings. She might not at that time have cast off all respect to those idols, in the acknowledgment of which she had been educated from her infancy; and they seem to have been kept by her, till God called Jacob to Bethel, after the rape of Dinah,
when Jacob called for the strange gods, and hid them under the oak, Gen. xxxv. 4. The gracious presence of God we should look after in our actions, as travellers that have a charge of money or jewels, desire to keep themselves in company that may protect them from highwaymen that would rifle them. Since we have the concern of the eternal happiness of our souls upon our hands, we should endeavour to have God's merciful and powerful presence with us in all our ways. "In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths," Prov. iii. 6; acknowledge him before any action, by imploring; acknowledge him after, by rendering him the glory; acknowledge his presence before worship, in worship, after worship. It is this presence makes a kind of heaven upon earth, causes affliction to put off the nature of misery. How much will the presence of the sun outshine the stars of lesser comforts, and fully answer the want of them! The ark of God going before us, can alone make all things successful: it was this led the Israelites over Jordan, and settled them in Canaan. Without this we signify nothing. Though we live without this, we cannot be distinguished for ever from devils; his essential presence they have, and if we have no more we shall be no better. It is the enlivening, fructifying presence of the sun, that revives the languishing earth; and this alone can repair our ruined soul. Let it be therefore our desire, that as he fills heaven and earth by his essence, he may fill our understandings and wills by his grace; that we may have another kind of presence with us, than animals have in their brutish state, or devils in their chains: his essential presence maintains our beings, but his gracious presence confers and continues a happiness.
ON GOD'S KNOWLEDGE.
PSALM CXLVII. 5.-Great is our Lord, and of great power: his understanding is infinite.
It is uncertain who was the author of this psalm, and when it was penned; some think after the return from the Babylonish captivity. It is a psalm of praise, and is made up of matter of praise from the beginning to the end; God's benefits to the church, his providence over his creatures, the essential excellency of his nature.
The psalmist doubles his exhortation to praise God, " Praise VOL. I.-58
ye the Lord-sing praises to our God," ver. 1; to praise him from his dominion as Lord; from his grace and mercy as our God; from the excellency of the duty itself, it is good, it is comely: some read it comely, some lovely or desirable, from the various derivation of the word.
Nothing does so much delight a gracious soul, as an opportunity of celebrating the perfections and goodness of the Crea
The highest duties a creature can render to the Creator are pleasant and delightful in themselves; they are comely, Praise is a duty that affects the whole soul.
The praise of God is a decent thing; the excellency of God's nature deserves it, and the benefits of God's grace require it.
It is comely when done as it ought to be, with the heart as well as with the voice: a sinner sings ill though his voice be good; the soul in it is to be elevated above earthly things.
The first matter of praise, is God's erecting and preserving his church," The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel," ver. 2. The walls of demolished Jerusalem are now re-edified; God has brought back the captivity of Jacob, and restored his people from their Babylonish exile, and those that were dispersed into strange regions he has restored to their habitations. Or it may be prophetic of the calling of the gentiles, and the gathering the outcasts of the spiritual Israel, that were before as without God in the world, and strangers to the covenant of promise. Let God be praised, but especially for building up his church, and gathering the gentiles, before counted as outcasts, Isa. xi. 12; he gathers them in this world to the faith, and hereafter to glory.
From the two first verses observe,
All people are under God's care; but he has a particular regard to his church. This is the signet on his hand, as a bracelet upon his arm; this is his garden which he delights to dress; if he prunes it, it is to purge it; if he digs about his vine, and wounds the branches, it is to make it more beautiful with new clusters, and restore it to a fruitful vigour.
All great deliverances are to be ascribed to God, as the principal author, whosoever are the instruments. "The Lord doth build up Jerusalem: he gathereth together the outcasts of Israel." This great deliverance from Babylon, is not to be ascribed to Cyrus or Darius, or the rest of our favourers; it is the Lord that does it; we had his promise for it, we have now his performance. Let us not ascribe that which is the effect of his truth, only to the good will of men: it is God's act; not by might, nor by power, nor by weapons of war or strength of horses, but by the Spirit of the Lord. He sent prophets to comfort us while we were exiles; and now he has stretched out his