« VorigeDoorgaan »
their offices, and to like even the circumstance of orderly and public meeting. For thither the prayers of consecration, the public authority separating it, and God's love of order, and the reasonable customs of religion, have, in ordinary, and in a certain degree, fixed this manner of his presence; and he loves to have it so.
5. God is especially present, in the hearts of his people, by his Holy Spirit: and indeed the hearts of holy men are temples in the truth of things, and, in type and shadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants: there is his kingdom. The power of grace hath subdued all his enemies: there is his power. They serve him night and day, and give him thanks and praise: that is his glory. This is the religion and worship of God in the temple. The temple itself is the heart of man; Christ is the high-priest, who from thence sends up the incense of prayers, and joins them to his own intercession, and presents all together to his Father; and the Holy Ghost, by his dwelling there, hath also consecrated it into a temple;e and God dwells in our hearts by faith, and Christ by his Spirit, and the Spirit by his purities : so that we are also cabinets of the mysterious Trinity; and what is this short of heaven itself, but as infancy is short of manhood, and letters of words? The same state of life it is, but not the same age.
It is heaven in a looking-glass, dark, but yet true, representing the beauties of the soul, and the graces of God, and the images of his eternal glory, by the reality of a special pre
6. God is specially present in the consciences of all persons, good and bad, by way of testimony and judgment; that is, he is there a remembrancer to call our actions to mind, a witness to bring them to judgment, and a judge to acquit or to condemn. And although this manner of presence is, in this life, after the manner of this life, that is, imperfect, and we forget many actions of our lives; yet the greatest changes of our state of grace or sin, our most considerable actions, are always present, like capital letters to an aged and dim eye: and, at the day of judgment, God shall draw aside the cloud, and manifest this manner of his pre
sence more notoriously, and make it appear, that he was an observer of our very thoughts, and that he only laid those things by, which, because we covered with dust and negligence, were not then discerned. But when we are risen from our dust and imperfection, they all appear plain and legible.
Now the consideration of this great truth is of a very universal use, in the whole course of the life of a Christian. All the consequents and effects of it are universal. He that remembers, that God stands a witness and a judge, beholding every secrecy, besides his impiety, must have put on impudence, if he be not much restrained in his temptation to sin. “ For the greatest part of sin is taken away, if a man have a witness of his conversation : and he is a great despiser of God, who sends a boy away, when he is going to commit fornication, and yet will dare to do it, though he knows, God is present, and cannot be sent off: as if the eye of a little boy were more awful, than the all-seeing eye of God. He is to be feared in public, he is to be feared in private: if you go forth, he spies you; if you go in, he sees you: when you light the candle, he observes you; when you put it out, then also God marks you. Be sure, that while you are in his sight, you behave yourself, as becomes so holy a presence.” But if you will sin, retire yourself wisely, and go where God cannot see: for no where else can you be safe. And certainly, if men would always actually consider, and really esteem this truth, that God is the great eye of the world, always watching over our actions, and an ever-open ear to hear all our words, and an unwearied arm ever lifted up to crush a sinner into ruin, it would be the readiest way in the world, to make sin to cease from amongst the children of men, and for men to approach to the blessed estate of the saints in heaven, who cannot sin, for they always walk in the presence, and behold the face of God. This instrument is to be reduced to practice, according to the following rules.
Rules of exercising this consideration. 1. Let this actual thought often return, that God is omnipresent, filling every place; and say with David, “Whither
" St. Aug. de verbis Dominicis, c. 3.
3 Psal, xiii. 7, 8.
shall I go from thy Spirit, or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, thou art there,” &c. This thought, by being frequent, will make an habitual dread and reverence towards God, and fear in all thy actions. For it is a great necessity and engagement to do unblamably, when we act before the Judge, who is infallible in his sentence, all-knowing in his information, severe in his anger, powerful in his providence, and intolerable in his wrath and indignation.
2. In the beginning of actions of religion, make an act of adoration, that is, solemnly worship God, and place thyself in God's presence, and behold him with the eye of faith ; and let thy desires actually fix on him, as the object of thy worship, and the reason of thy hope, and the fountain of thy blessing. For when thou hast placed thyself before him, and kneelest in his presence, it is most likely, all the following parts of thy devotion will be answerable to the wisdom of such an apprehension, and the glory of such a presence.
3. Let every thing you see, represent to your spirit the presence, the excellency, and the power of God; and let your conversation with the creatures lead you. unto the Creator; for so shall your actions be done, more frequently, with an actual eye to God's presence, by your often seeing him in the glass of the creation. In the face of the sun, you may see God's beauty; in the fire, you may feel his heat warming; in the water, his gentleness to refresh you: he it is, that comforts your spirit, when you have taken cordials: it is the dew of heaven, that makes your field give you bread; and the breasts of God are the bottles, that minister drink to your necessities. This philosophy, which is obvious to every man's experience, is a good advantage to our piety; and, by this act of understanding, our wills are checked from violence and misdemeanour.
4. In your retirement, make frequent colloquies, or short discoursings, between God and thy own soul. “ Seven times a day do I praise thee: and, in the night season also, I thought upon thee, while I was waking.” So did David; and every act of complaint or thanksgiving, every act of rejoicing or of mourning, every petition and every return of the heart in
» Boeth, 1. 5. de Consol.
these intercourses, is a going to God, an appearing
in his presence, and a representing him present to thy spirit and to thy necessity. And this was, long since, by a spiritual person called, “ a building to God a chapel in our heart.” It reconciles Martha's employment with Mary's devotion, charity and religion, the necessities of our calling and the employments of devotion. For thus, in the midst of the works of your trade, you may retire into your chapel, your heart; and converse with God by frequent addresses and returns.
5. Represent and offer to God “ acts of love and fear;" which are the proper effects of this apprehension, and the proper exercise of this consideration.
For, as God is every where present by his power, he calls for reverence and godly fear: as he is present to thee in all thy needs, and relieves them, he deserves thy love: and since, in every accident of our lives, we find one or other of these apparent, and, in most things, we see both, it is a proper and proportionate return, that to every such demonstration of God, we express ourselves sensible of it, by admiring the Divine goodness, or trembling at his presence; ever obeying him, because we love him, and ever obeying him, because we fear to offend him. This is that, which Enoch did, who thus “ walked with God."
6. Let us remember, that God is in us, and that we are in him: we are his workmanship, let us not deface it; we are in his presence, let us not pollute it by unholy and impure actions. God hath “ also wrought all our works in us i:" and because he rejoices in his own works, if we defile them, and make them unpleasant to him, we walk perversely with God, and he will walk crookedly towards us.
7. “ God is in the bowels of thy brother;" refresh them, when he needs it, and then you give your alms in the presence of God, and to God; and he feels the relief, which thou providest for thy brother.
8. God is in every place: suppose it therefore to be a church : and that decency of deportment and piety of carriage, which you are taught, by religion, or by custom, or by civility and public manners, to use in churches, the same use in all places : with this difference only, that, in churches, let your deportment be religious in external forms and circum
i Isa. xxvi. 12.
stances also; but there and every where, let it be religious in abstaining from spiritual indecencies, and in readiness to do. good actions : that it may not be said of us, as God once complained of his people, “ Why hath my beloved done wickedness in
house ?"k 9. God is in every creature: be cruel towards none, neither abuse any by intemperance. Remember, that the creatures, and every member of thy own body, is one of the lesser cabinets and receptacles of God. They are such, which God hath blessed with his presence, hallowed by his touch, and separated from unholy use, by making them to belong to his dwelling
10. He walks as in the presence of God, that converses with him in frequent prayer and frequent communion; that runs to him in all his necessities, that asks counsel of him in all his doubtings; that opens all his wants to him; that weeps before him for his sins; that asks remedy and support for his weakness; that fears him as a judge; reverences bim as a lord; obeys him as a father; and loves him as a patron.
The benefits of this exercise. The benefits of this consideration and exercise being universal upon all the parts of piety, I shall less need to specify any particulars; but yet, most properly, this exercise of considering the Divine presence is, 1. an excellent help to prayer, producing in us reverence and awfulness to the Divine Majesty of God, and actual devotion in our offices. 2. It produces a confidence in God, and fearlessness of our enemies, patience in trouble, and hope of remedy; since God is so nigh in all our sad accidents, he is a disposer of the hearts of men and the events of things, he proportions out our trials, and supplies us with remedy, and, where his rod strikes us, his staff supports us. To which we may add this; that God, who is always with us, is especially, by promise, with us in tribulation, to turn the misery into a mercy, and that our greatest trouble may become our advantage, by entitling us to a new manner of the Divine presence. 3. It is apt to produce joy and rejoicing in God, we being more apt to delight
Jer. xi. 15. sccun. vulg. edit.