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Then I will go unto the altar of God, unlo God my
· And then I shall be happy; heaven only, can make me happier. O! if I can but get near, to God, and procure a smile from him, all the world will be as nothing to me. A busy world, a smiling world, a frowning world - I shall be indifferent, I shall be insensible to it all. Being inwrapt, as it were, in God; and my whole attention fixed on the contemplation of infinite Wisdom, infinite Power, infinite Goodness, and unchanging Faithfulness; I shall be in a manner blind and deaf to the trifling occurrences of time: I shall rejoice as though I rejoiced not, and I shall weep as though I wept not:-in short, let the world go how it will, none of these things will move me: joy in God swallows up every inferior affection,
“ Great All in All, eternal King,
Let me but view thy lovely face,
Thine endless grandeur, and thy grace." This Psalm is dated from the wilderness, and speaks distress in every part of it. Here are the same arguings with his soul, and almost the same
prayers to God, as in the former Psalm ;-which (by the way) may teach us, that God hath not forgotten us, though our afflictions be pot presently removed; for many times he continues our trou. bles for the exercise of faith and patience.How pathetically doth the Psalmist bemoan himself! and how earnestly doth he bestir himself! “ As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God ..... My tears have been my meat day and night, while they say daily unto me, Where is thy God? .... Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy water spouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me." Then darts in a ray of hope: " Yet the Lord will command his loving-kindness in the day-time; and in the night his song shall be with me, and my prayer to the God of my life. I will say unto God my rock, Why hast thou forgotten me? Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? .... Why art thou cast down, O mny soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? Hope thou in God; for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.”
A happy frame this, to meet trouble in! when the soul is deeply affected, and afflicted, on account of its distance from God; or, at least, for want of sensible and delightful communion with him as formerly; and yet doth not rebel, or peevishly cry out, “ This evil is of the Lord; why should I wait for the Lord any longer ?" but keeps on looking, longing, waiting, and hoping for brighter days.--As I said just now, God may delay déliverance on purpose to see if we will wrestle with him for it; and so prepares us for the mercy he intends to bestow. When he hath broken our hearts, then he comes and heals them; when he hath brought us down, under a humbling sense of our unwortbir ness, then he kindly raises us up: and so doubles the mercy by the manner of bestowing it. We are generally more careful of any thing which we have acquired with great difficulty and labour : so when we have smarted long under the hidings of God's face, if the Lord be pleased to lift up the light of his countenance again, we are more cautious than ever to avoid those sins which have cost us so dear.
But, to return :-I was observing, that the Psalmist was at this time banished from his country, from his family and friends, and every thing that was dear to him in this world; but he doth not speak a word about that. All his grief was, that he was at such a distance from the house of God:- and therefore this was the burthen of his prayer; “ When shall I come and appear before God?... O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me,
let them bring me to thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles. Then will I go to the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy."
In which words we have,
1. The good man's Duty-expressed by going to God; and,
II. His Blessedness-expressed by rejoicing in God.
We bave, : I. The good man's Duty-expressed by going to God. .: The guilt and misery of our natural state consist in going off and keeping off froin God. Immediately
upon the rebellion of our first parents, it is said, “God drove out the man;" and 'ever since the poor wandering exile has kept at a distance, and bis carnal mind has been enmity against God ::" therefore they say unto the Almighty, Depart from us; for we desire not the knowledge of thy ways." (Job xxi, 14). “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.” (Psalm 8.4.) They will not pray to him for any thing they want; they will not thank him for any thing they have; they will not consult him in any thing they do:«In short, they affect to live without God in the world, as prayerless and as fearless as if there were no such Being. The first signs of grace in the soul, are an inquiring after God, and a desire to go to him. So the Prodigal: when he came to himself, he said, $. I will arise, and go unto my father.”
The expression of going to God, implies Submission and Friendship. Prad. Submission.
• I will go and pay my homage to him, as my sovereign ; I will go and hear what he says ; I will go and receive his orders.' - Pharaoh spoke the language of every natural man when he said, “ Who is the Lord, that I should obey him?" They know not the Lord, and will not submit to his authority. “Our lips are our own" (say they); “who is Lord over us?” So that, let God command what he will, if it doth not suit their inclinations, his precepts go for nothing. They love to keep as far off from God as they can; to be from under his eye'; and if it were possible, to have nothing to do with him. But to gracious souls, distance from God is
their greatest trouble; and the recollection of theit former apostacy and rebellion fills them with shame and grief: and therefore, the moment they bear Mercy call to them, “ Return, ye back-sliding chil. dren, and I will heal your backslidings," they hasten to throw themselves at his feet. I'lgo (says the penitent Prodigal) –
“I'll go, and with a mournful tongue
Fall down before his face:
Nor can deserve thy grace," 6" Other lords besides thee have had dominion over me, but henceforth I will make mention of thy name only." “ Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” “ Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth.” I will be all submission and compliance. Command me what thou wilt, let it be never so humbling, never so hazardous: thy will shall determine mine in every thing. I have walked long enoughalas ! too long !-after the ways of my own heart; and have smarted severely for it; now, Lord, I will acknowledgethee in all my ways; and do thou direct my paths.'
I will go and consult him and converse with him as a friend ; and be thankful, that, in such a troublesome and ensnaring world, I have such a friend to advise with. My heart would have burst long ago, if I could not sometimes have given it vent in prayer. There are, to be sure, a thousand and a thousand precious texts in the Bible; but there are very few that come oftener into use than that which occurs in Phil. iv.6; “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and suppli