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hidest thou thy face; and forgettest our affliction and our oppression? Psalm xliv. 24: still measuring God's nearness to us, by his regard; and, as it were, re-echoing to our prayers.
(3.) A third, and yet nearer and happier approach of God to us, is, in his Grace and Favour: in the other two, as in his word and in our prayers,
he may come near us, little to our avail. He speaks to many in his word, that hear him not; or that hear him to their further judgment: our Gospel is, howsoever, a sweet savour to God; yet a savour of death unto death to many a soul: Woe be to ihce, Chorazin ; woc be to thee, Bethsaida. He hears many speak to him in their prayers, but for their own punishment; and sometimes will not hear, in mercy to the petitioner. The Devil sues to enter into the swine; and is heard: Paul sues to be freed from the buffets of the messenger of Satan; and is, mercifully, not heard : the Israel. ites have quails, according to their desires; but sauced to them with a vengeance. But this third appropinquation of God is never other than cordial and beneficial. It is a sweet word, I will dwell amongst the children of Israel, and will be their God; Exod. xxix. 45. Yea, this is true happiness indeed, that God will so dwell with us, as to be ours. St. Paul told the Athenians most truly, Non longè ab unoquoque; He is not far from every one of us : how should he, when in him we live, and move, and are? But little are we the better for these general favours, which are common to all his creatures; if we do not find in ourselves a special interest, in the presence of his Spirit. If he only call on us as a passenger, or lodge with us as a stranger, or sojourn with us as a guest;
can be small comfort to us: nor any thing less than his so dwelling with us, as that he dwell in us; and that, not as an inmate, but as an owner: Know ye not, that Christ dwells in you, saith St. Paul, unless ye be reprobales ? Know ye not t1.at ye are the Temples of the Living God? his Temples, for a perpetual inhabitation of which he hath said, Here shall be my rest for ever.
(4.) Whereupon, there will be sure to follow, the fourth degree of his apropinquation, which is our Aid, and sweet experience of his merciful Deliverance. It was out of a full sense of God's goodness, that holy David breaks out into that heavenly Epiphonema, The Lord is nigh unto them, that are of a broken heart; and suveth such, as be of a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the rightcous, bu! the Lord delivereth him out of them all; Psalm xxxiv. 18, 19. His salvation is nigh to them that fear him, that glory may dwell in our land; Psalm lxxxv. 9.
So then, the sum of all is this, that if we draw nigh unto God, he will be sure to draw nigh to us, in his Ordinances, in his Audience, in his Graces, in his Aid.
2. But, what shall we say to the ORDER OF THESE TWO APPROACHES? One would have thought he should have said; “God draws near to you, therefore draw you near to God;" for, surely, his approach to us is the cause that we come near to him, and not pur approach to him causeth him to come near to us,
Do not think, that God and man strain courtesy, wlo shall be
gin; or that man hath any power to draw nigh to God, but from God. The true order of our regeneration is that Cant. i. 4. Draw me, and I shall run after thee.
There have been contrary heresies in the Church concerning this point. The Manichees held man in all things dragged by a necessity of destiny: the Pelagians held man led altogether by his will; so as that can alone enab e bim to do good, and teoff him in bles. sedness: and our Semipelag:an Papists go not much less; save that they suppose some help given to the will, which it can thus improve.
The Orthodox Church still hath gone and doth go a mid-way betwixt these: so ascribing all to grace, that it destroys not nature: teaching us, as Bernard well, That we will, is from nature; that we will good and well, is from grace.
But, if it stick with you, that we are bidden to draw nigh to God, and therefore we can do it; else the exhortation were vain and reasonless: know, that these charges show us what we should do, not what we can do; and that he, who bids us, can and doth, together with the word of his invitation, enable us to do what he requires: his Spirit, working with his word, effects what he commands; as a mother or nurse bids the child come to her, but reaches forth a finger to uphold it in the walk. If therefore Wisdom say in the Proverbs, viii. 17. I love them, that love me: yet St. John must comment upon Solomon, Prior dilexit; He loved us first, else we could never have loved him; 1 John iv. 19.
It is true, that, in order of time, there is no difference, betwist God's working and our willing our conversion: so soon as it is fire, it burns; and if it burns, it is fire: But, in order of nature, God's work is before ours, as the cause before the effect. As we, therefore, say sensibly, Blow the fire and it will burn; implying, that our blowing doth not make it to be fire, but helps to intend the heat where fire is: so doth the Spirit of God say here; Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Our first motion of drawing nigh to God, is the work of God. "He, that thus draws our will to him, upon our pliant obedience to his will thus graciously seconds and rewards his own work in us: so, if we draw nigh to him, by his coworking grace; he will draw nearer still to us, by his perfecting grace.
3. And oh, how happy a condition is this; whosoever hath by God's mercy attained unto it! What can that man want, who enjoys him, that possesses all things? In thy presence is the fulness of joy; saith the Psalmist; as, contrarily, in his estranging of himself from us, there is nothing but grief and horror.
It is with God and the soul, as betwist the sun and the earth: in the declining of the year, when the sun draws afar off from us, how doth the earth mourn and droop! how do the trees cast off the ornaments of their leaves and fruit ! how doth the sap of all plants run down to the root; and leave the bare boughs seemingly sere and dead! But, at the approach of it, in the rising of the spring, all things seem revived: the earth decks herself in her fresh habiliments
of blossoms, leaves, flowers; to entertain those comfortable heats and influences. So and more is it, in the declining or approach of this all-glorious Sun of Righteousness. In his presence, there is life and blessedness; in his absence, nothing but dolour, disconsolateness, despair. If an earthly king do but withdraw himself from us for a time, we are troubled: how much more, if the King of Glory shall absent himself from us in displeasure. Surely, nothing but our sins can estrange him from us: our miseries do rather attract him to us: our sins are only they, that separate between God and us.
III. That we may, therefore, shut up in some APPLICATION, there is the same reason of a particular soul and of a whole Church: one of these is but an abridgment of the other: there is, therefore, the same consideration of God's absence from, or presence with both.
And, certainly, if sins can alienate a people from God, and God from a people, we have cast ourselves miserably aloof from him: for, which of his commandments, have we not shamefully violated} Woe is me, how is our patient God affronted by us every day! by our atheous profaneness; by our frequent oaths and blasphemies; by our wilful disobediences; by our pride, excess, drunkenness, uncleanness, usury, cozenages, oppressions, lying, slanderous detractions as if we would utterly cashier the ninth commandment out of the Decalogue! Yea, what evil is there under heaven, that we can wash our hands of?
But, withal, we are so much the further off from God, by how much we either were or should have been nearer. Of a people, that knew not God, that could not know him, no other could be expected. Had we had the Gospel of the Kingdom locked up from us, and been kept hood-winked from the knowledge of his royal Law; the times of such ignorance God had not regarded: but now, that we have had so clear a light of God's truth shining in our faces; and such importunate solicitations from God, to reclaim us from our wicked ways, by his messengers, rising early and suing to us; and yet have, as it were, in spite of heaven, continued and aggravated our wickednesses, alas, what excuse is there for us? how can we do other than hang down our heads, in a guilty confusion: and expect a fearful retribution, from the just hand of God?
Thus have we done to God: and, whilst we have gone away from him, hath he done other to us? Hath he not given too just testimonies of withdrawing his countenance from us? Hath he not, for these many years, crossed us in our public designs, both of war and peace! Hath he not threatened to stir up evil against us, out of our own bowels? Nay, which is worse than all this, hath he not given us up to a general security, obduredness, and insensibleness of heart; so as we do not feel either our own sins, or our dangers, or relent at all at his judgments?
Alas, Lord, thou art too far off from us; and we have deserved it: yea, we have too well deserved, that thou shouldest turn thy face away from us for ever; that thou shouldest draw near to us in thy vengeance, who have so shamefully abused thy mercy,
But, what shall we say? whatsoever we be, we know thou wilt be ever thyself; a God of mercy and compassion, long-suffering, and great in kindness and truth. So bad as we are, could we have the grace to draw nigh to thee in an unfeigned repentance, thou wouldst draw nigh to us in mercy and forgiveness: could we turn away from our sins to thee, thou wouldst turn away from thy judgments to us. Lord, what can we do to thee, without thee? Oh, do thou draw us unto thee, that we may come.
Do thou enable us to draw nigh unto thee, upon the Feet of our Affections, upon the Hands of our Actions, upon the Knees of our Prayers; that so thou mayest draw nigh to us in thine Ordinances, in thine Audience, in thy Grace and Mercy, in thine Aid and Salvation. All this for thy mercy sake, and for thy Christ's sake: To whom, with thee, O Father, and thy good Spirit, One Infinite God, be given all praise, honour, and glory, now and for ever. Amen.
THE SIN AND PUNISHMENT OF GRIEVING THE
A SERMON PREACHED ON WHITSUNDAY, JUNE 9, 1644, IN THE GREEN.
YARD OF NORWICH.
BY JOSEPH, BISHOP OF NORWICH
EPH. iv. 30. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, by which ye are sealed to the
day of Redemption. It was a rule of some wise heathen of old, That he was a great master of morality, that had learned to govern his tongue, his gut, his concupiscence; these three: and, well might it be so, when Christianity hath so far seconded it, as that the Spirit of God hath singled out one of these for a trial of the rest; He, that offends not with his tongue, is a perfect man; James iii. 2: so as that triplicity is reduced to an unity. And, indeed, if a man have attained to an exact government of this loose and busy film, which we carry in our mouths, it is a great argument of his absolute mastership over himself in the other particulars.
Whereupon it is, that the Apostle hath hedged in my Text, with this charge: before my text, inhibiting all corrupt communication; after it, all bitterness and clamour and evil-speaking; and betwixt both, enforcing this vehement and heavenly dehortation, And grieve not the Holy Spirit: intimating, in the very contexture of the words, that that man can never hold good terms with the Spirit of God, what profession soever he makes, that lets his tongue loose to obscene and filthy communication, or to bitter or spiteful words against his brethren; and, in these words, dissuading us, both from this and all other beforementioned particularities of wickedness, by an argument drawn from unkindness: “ Look to it; for, if you shall give way to any of these vicious courses, ye shall grieve the Holy Spirit of God; and that will be a shameful and sinful ingratitude in you, forasmuch as that Holy Spirit hath been so gracious unto you, as to seal you to the day of redemption;" a motive, which, how slight soever it may seem to a carnal heart, and by such a one may be past over and pisht at, in imitation of the careless note of Pharaob, “ Who is the Spirit of God, that I