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God is unchangeably the same yesterday, to-day, and forever, without any variableness or shadow of turning. He is the rock, his work is perfect, and all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and inviolable fidelity. The blame, my brethren, lies at our own door. Our iniquities have separated between us and our God, and withhold good things from us. We do not cry to him with our hearts; we do not stir up ourselves to call upon God; our prayers are cold and lifeless; our praises languish and die on our lips; we rush upon ordinances without any serious preparation, and are neither suitably concerned to obtain the Divine presence, nor duly affected when we miss it.
That this is too frequently the case cannot be denied. Our own observation and experience must convince us of the truth of it. But may I not be allowed to hope that some, nay that many, have come up to this solemnity with longing desires to behold and admire the beauty of the Lord, and to feel the power of his grace in the sanctuary? May I not hope, that there is a goodly number in this large assembly, who have been pleading, like Moses, in their secret retirements, “I beseech thee, O Lord, shew me thy glory ?”
Well, then, to such the passage I am now to discourse upon affords matter of useful and seasonable instruction, as it not only relates an ex. traordinary manifestation of the divine glory to his ancient church, but likewise informs us how
the worshippers were employed at the time when that extraordinary manifestation was made. And I think the inference is perfectly just and natural, That if we desire and expect to share in their privilege, we ought, in so far as the difference of our circumstances will permit, to follow their example, and do what they did.
“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.”
Where you may observe, in the
1. place, That the glory of God began to appear when the assembly were employed in praise and thanksgiving. This is a striking circumstance, and deserves our peculiar attention. Much time had been spent in solemn duties of another kind. Numerous and costly sacrifices had been offered up, as we read in the 6tb verse of this chapter, even sheep' and oxen that could not be told for multitudes. But these ritual parts of worship were all concluded before the cloud enVoc. III.
tered into the Temple. God delayed to honour them with this token of his favour till the spiritual and heavenly exercise of praise was begun. This is befar the most acceptable service we can be engaged in, “ Whoso offereth praise,” says God,“ glorifieth me.” David knew this when he said, Psalm lxix. 30, 31, &c. " I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving. This also will please the Lord better than ox or bullock that hath horn or hoof.” Praise honours God, and therefore he puts a distinguishing honour upon this duty. Prayer is an expression of our indigence and weakness. Thanksgiving expresseth our relish of the sweetness of benefits received; but praise rises above all selfish regards, and directly terminates on the greatness and amiableness of God himself. He loves our prayers, he loves our penitential tears and groans ; but nothing pleases him so much as the cheerful adoration and praise of his people. Nay, penitential tears are no otherwise valuable than as they purge our eyes from the filth of sin, that we may behold more clearly the lovliness of God, and give him that glory which is due to his name. All the other duties of devo. tion are only means of preparation for this sublime exercise. The habitations of the blessed continually resound with the high praises of God. There the most perfect creatures, in their most perfect state, have this for their constant un
wearied employment, they rest not day nor night, saying, Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.”
We are too backward, my brethren, to this heavenly exercise, and perhaps that is one reason why we enjoy so little of heaven upon earth. Did we praise God more, he would give us greater cause to praise him; but this we seldom think of. We beg hard for relief when we feel our necessities ; but alas, how slowly do we return to give glory to God. Let me therefore entreat you, in all your addresses to the throne of grace, to give praise and thanksgiving their due proportion. In days of humiliation, or in some special cases of distress, our sins and our dangers may have the greater share; but ordinarily, as much of our time and thoughts should be employed in the humble and thankful adoration of the divine greatness and goodness, as is spent in confessing our sins, or begging those supplies which our wants require. That excellent model of devotion which Christ hath left to his church lays a solid foundation for this remark. It both begins and ends with adoration ; and of the six petitions which make up the body of the prayer, three directly relate to the advancement of God's glory. Nay, these three are first in order ; and we are taught to pray that God's name may be hallowed, his kingdom come, and his will done on earth as it is in heaven, before we ask any thing for our
selves in particular. Would we then feel the divine presence, would we see the glory of God in his Sanctuary, let us address ourselves to this high and heavenly work. The occasion of our meeting gives us a fair invitation to it. object which this day presents to us is the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. We are to behold Christ in the holy sacrament, evidently set forth as crucified before our eyes. And can we refrain from adoration and praise, whilst we contemplate Him who is the brightness of his Father's glory, and the express image of his person? Should we not rejoice and give thanks, when we are called to commemorate the unspeakable gift of God to men ? Every Lord's day bespeaks our praise and thanksgiving; but the peculiar language of a communion Sabbath is evidently this, “ Let Israel rejoice in him that made him: Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. Praise ye the Lord, for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant, and praise is comely.”
II. It deserves our notice, that the subject of praise, which God honoured with this token of his acceptance, was his own goodness and ever. lasting mercy. And this, my brethren, is a most encouraging circumstance; for it plainly enough tells us, that God is best pleased with our praises, when we adore and celebrate those perfections of