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come into his presence, and in suffering the times of its doing so to be at the option of
This has always appeared to me one of the very greatest instances which God has been pleased to give of his love to the human species. This privilege, this angelic privilege, must be contemplated as so very extraordinary, and so very wonderful, by every man who entertains a just and proper
idea of the nature and attributes of the Deity, of his majesty, his power, his wisdom, purity, and holiness, and who is at the same time conscious of the ignorance, impotence, and depravity of man, that, unless he knew by actual and happy experience that he possessed this privilege in common with the angels in heaven, it would have been impossible for him to have conceived that so very great an honour could have been conferred on him., Every man who considers will know how to estimate this heavenly privilege, by reflecting on the misery he would endure should God deprive him of this honour, this honour so much beyond all earthly honours which can be conferred on him ; and he ought to be, convinced, that God himself considers that he does confer a great and important favour on man by this privilege, because, when he pur
posed to express his extreme displeasure against the elders of Israel for their sinful and idolatrous conduct, he says to his prophet Ezekiel,“ Speak unto the elders of Israel, “ and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord “ God, Are ye come to enquire of me? As I “ live, saith the Lord God, I will not be en“ quired of by you.” The greatest of all misfortunes that could possibly be inflicted on any man in this life would be the deprivation of this liberty, so much more justly valuable than any earthly liberty he can enjoy. Had God permitted man once even in his whole life to come into his presence, and to enjoy that holy intercourse and communion with him which he does permit, it would have been a great and glorious privilege allowed him ; had he permitted this once in twenty, once in fourteen, once in seven, or once in one year, every thinking man will admit that God by such conduct would have given a strong demonstration of his condescension and goodness. How much then ought his soul to be penetrated with the consciousness of the love, the affectionate love, God really and truly bears to the human species, when he allows it at all times to do so! For every person of the least reflection must know, that
the prayers or praises of men can neither add to nor diminish the happiness of God; and therefore that, by granting this high privilege, God intends not his own happiness, but that of man; especially when he says, “ Come unto me, all
ye that labour and are heavy laden, “ and I will give you rest;" intending that man, by an holy adoration of and communion with him, should have a suspension from worldly grief and sorrow; for every earthly calamity is lost and absorbed whilst we are in the enjoyment of this heavenly exercise, “for " in thy presence is fulness of joy, and at thy
right hand there is pleasure for evermore.”
This instance of God's goodness is a fine illustration of it; and how much greater is his condescension in this respect, than that of the little vain animal, dressed in “ brief au
thority," whom he has created! With what a haughty and imperious carriage does man often behave towards man, and how difficult, how unreasonably difficult, of access does he often make himself! What earthly monarch is there, who will let the meanest of his subjects come into his presence, at the option of that subject? And what earthly monarch is there, who, if his servant knowingly and wilfully disobeys his commands but for
short time, will not utterly cast him off? But God, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness, though man continues this wilful disobedience for perhaps half a century, does not cast him off; but, on the contrary, during that period gives him great proofs of kindness, shews him continued marks of his infinite goodness, and always invariably offers to pardon his crimes, if he will acknowledge and confess them, and prove the sincerity of his repentance by a relinquishment of them. This conduct on the part of the Almighty is a manifest and demonstrable proof of his being a God of infinite goodness; for otherwise he would speedily take vengeance on every hardened sinner, instead of being thus longsuffering, and affording him the means and opportunity of a restoration to his favour.
In one sense it is impossible to conceive otherwise than that we must ever be in the presence of God, because we all know he is omnipresent, and that there is no place where he is not; but this is not the sense I mean. Though we cannot affix any form of person to the Almighty, there is a faculty in the human mind, which allows it to apprehend his essence to be in a more immediate
and particular manner present on his throne in heaven; to believe that from thence he looks graciously down upon his creatures, and we enjoy the power of directing our prayers and praises to him there, in full persuasion, that, if we endeavour from our hearts to love, honour, and obey him, he hears us as certainly and as distinctly as if we were to address any human being in the same room with us. That God does thus hear the prayers of his creatures, is fully proved by the following extract from Scripture; 66 Then Hezekiah turned his face to“ ward the wall, and prayed unto the Lord ; “ and Hezekiah wept sore.
Then came the 66 word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go and
say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the “ God of David thy father; I have heard
thy prayer, I have seen thy tears," &c. This argument is likewise well supported by Socrates, in a dialogue he held with an atheistical sophist, who excused his atheism, by alleging, that he had never seen God, nor did he know where he was, nor where to be found. Socrates censures the folly of his remark, by observing to him, that he never saw his own soul; and yet, says he, you must be conscious that you have a soul, though you