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nighted. It will not stand still at our pleasure, but will go its course according to the command of its Governor, and listens not to the follies of men, nor tarries for our delays. Let us then stir up ourselves to call upon our Lord, who is the Lord of Zion, and the protector and safeguard of our Jerusalem. Let us plead with him, as the disciples that were going to Emmaus, "Lord, abide with us, for the evening begins to come, and the day is far spent." Our Saviour did so, and gave them his blessing. He may do so with us likewise. He may return with a rich blessing to our land and church, and abide with us and our posterity till the day of glory break, and all the shadows fly away. Amen.
2 CHRONICLES v. 13, 14.
It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD, and when they lift up their voice, with the trumpets and cymbals, and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good, for his mercy endureth for ever, that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD: So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud; for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of GOD.
THE day of Pentecost excepted, when the Holy Ghost made a visible descent upon the apostles of our Lord, I look upon this to have been the brightest day of heaven upon earth that ever the church of God was favoured with. It is impossible to conceive the joy, the wonder, the ecstasy of these devout worshippers, when they beheld the cloud, that well-known symbol of the Divine
presence, and saw the temple filled with his glory. Solomon himself, as we learn from the 18th verse of the following chapter, was so overpowered with this extraordinary manifestation, that he made a sudden pause even after he had begun to pray; and, like one doubtful whether he should believe the testimony of his own senses, abruptly asks the question; "But will God in very deed dwell with men on the earth? Behold! heaven, and the heaven of heavens, cannot contain thee, how much less this house I have built!"
It appears, from the last chapter of the book of Exodus, that when the tabernacle was first erected in the wilderness, God was pleased to take visible possession of it in a way similar to what is here recorded; and the effects (though not precisely the same) were very much akin to those I have now read to you: For we are there told, that Moses, the man of God, was not able to enter into the tent of the congregation, because the cloud abode thereon, and the glory of the Lord had filled the tabernacle: But here the cloud not only filled the tabernacle but the whole temple; and the Divine presence was displayed with such glory and majesty, that the priests who burnt incense at the golden altar, were obliged, at least for some time, to intermit the service. They could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord had filled the house of God.
I suppose I need scarcely observe to you, that such pompous and visible manifestations of the Divine presence are not to be expected in gospel days. The darkness of the former dispensation required those external aids, and rendered them not only desirable but useful and necessary; but now that the darkness is dispelled, and the dayspring from on high hath visited us; the great objects of faith being freed from the thick vail of types and shadows, penetrate the mind without the assistance of our bodily senses, and make a deeper and more lasting impression upon the believing soul than the most splendid scenes the eye could behold.
Zion's glory doth not now consist in outward pomp and magnificence, but in the spiritual though invisible presence of her King, according to his own gracious promise, "Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world;" and "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." When a divine power accompanies the ordinances of religion; when these waters of the sanctuary are impregnated with a healing and quickening virtue; when the souls of believers are enlightened and purified, revived and comforted, by the use of those means which Christ hath appointed, then is the temple filled with his glory; and there is no need of any visible cloud to convince the devout worshipper that his Lord is with him.
It has long been lamented, (would to God there was less cause for it), that this gracious presence of our Redeemer is sensibly withdrawn from our public assemblies. We have heard with our ears, and our fathers have told us, what work the Lord did in their days, in the times of old; how his steps of Majesty have been seen in the sanctuary, and his arm revealed by its glorious effects, turning the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, enriching and beautifying the souls of his own people with righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.
But, alas! How is the gold become dim, and the most fine gold changed? These blessed fruits of gospel ordinances are rarely to be seen in our day, and therefore is just ground for that mournful complaint, "The bellows are burnt, the lead is consumed of the fire, the founder melteth in vain ; for the wicked are not plucked away from their wickedness." Few, comparatively speaking, are now converted by the means of grace. And even among the few who have a name to live, the decayed and languishing state of vital Christianity is too observable to need any proof or illustration.
To what cause shall we impute this? Is God's arm shortened that it cannot save; or is his ear heavy that he cannot hear? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath the Lord forgotten to be gracious? hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? No,