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and God is present as a Friend, whose love has been accepted, and whose conversation is understood with all the intelligence of a kindred nature.
II. In what sense does the presence of God give rest ?
It tends to give rest from the terror incident to a state of condemnation. There is no terror like this. Say, if you will, that it only is the terror of a man who is enslaved by narrow notions, and who trembles before the spectres of his own distempered fancy. Call it the mere effect of " Calvinism," or of a "modified Paganism,” or whatever else you please; but the facts which the Bible discloses, and which the very existence of the gospel implies, justify its utmost extremity. It is not, as many would insinuate, a symptom of insanity, but an evidence of dawning reason. Some penitents have declared themselves unable to describe the intense life, the speechless consternation of that hour, when, like the revelations of the lightning in the midnight storm, the flashes of conviction first set their sins in burning distinctness before their eyes. How many are in these circumstances now ? how many at this moment are vainly seeking rest, -rest from the dismay excited by the first discovery of their helpless sinfulness; rest from anxious forebodings; rest from the weary labour of a life consumed in trying to expiate sin, or to excuse it, or to forget its existence!
“Come unto me all ye who labour and are heavy laden !" When we have obeyed this voice, and sought the sheltering presence of that Saviour who utters it, whose death has exhausted the penal sorrow to which we were sentenced, whose righteousness supplies our title to eternal life, and through whom alone the inconceivable God makes himself known to man,--the promise is fulfilled, “I will give you rest." Nothing need alarm us now. We live in the full sunshine of all those perfections which are represented by the great word “God.” We need no longer wish to deify the separate attribute of love, nor try, as perhaps we once tried, to believe that God is only infinite love personified. We may rejoice, not only in the presence of love, but holiness smiles upon us, justice sanctions our salvation, and the law confirms it. Salvation is a settled thing; pardon is a past act, and not merely a future possibility. When, day by day, we apply for forgiveness, this is but the daily appropriation of that which is already granted, and the successive expression of that faith which is now the habit of our existence. Perhaps we only faintly appreciate our true position. God is with us, but we hardly know it; we therefore know not yet how rich we are ; how happy we ought to be, or how true it is, that “we which have believed do enter into rest." Let us make this fresh “ beginning of days" the beginning of a “closer walk with God;" and seek, through the cultivation of a faith more vivid, the enjoyment of a composure more serene.
The presence of God will give rest from the anguish which springs from a discordant nature. There must be an inward, as well as an outward change, in order to complete our peace. Not the warring elements above the surface, but those beneath it, make the earthquake. It is not the crushing pressure from without alone, but the stormy force within, that creates the anguish of the conscience. The prisoner, restless with fever, requires not only discharge from his confinement, but cure of his malady, to give him rest; there must not only be a work without, but a renovating work within him to hush that moaning breath, and make those tossing arms lie still. While Hercules was wild with agony from the poisoned vest, he might pace the sward beneath the forest arches, plunge into the flowery dingle, climb the mountain steep, and drink the morning breeze, but these outward enchantments could bave no soothing power for him until the poison was expelled. Try change of scene; try gaiety ; try occupation; try, to find some “happy valley” which no anxiety can enter; try, like Milton's evil angels, the charm of music to “mitigate and suage, with solemn touches, troubled thoughts ;" but while there is a deep central discordance, and the very spirit is on fire, and all within is wrong, we may indeed cry, “Peace, peace,” but there will be “no peace.” Everything we need to secure that peace which the world cannot give, is secured by the promise, “My presence sball go with thee," for that tranquil Presence does not merely attend us, it enters the very soul, and sheds its benedictions there. Christians! God is nearer to us than our nearest friend; nearer to us than Christ himself would be, if we only felt the touch of his hand and the sweep of his vesture, for he takes up his abode within us. Plato seemed to have a glimpse of this glorious truth when he said, “ God is more inward to us, than we are to ourselves." What was to him a beautiful speculation, is to us an inspir. ing reality ; for we are the “temples of the Holy Ghost.” He dwells within us as a pitying, purifying friend, to kindle celestial light in our dark. ness, to speak to us with a still, small voice, to bow the will into cheerful, chosen subjection to himself, and by removing the causes of discord, and restoring the equilibrium of the soul, to give us peace at the very seat of life. Irenæus, from his eminent devotion, was called by his companions “The God-bearer;" and wben Trajan said to him, “Dost thou then bear the Crucified One in thy heart ?” his reply was, “ Even so, for it is written, 'I will dwell in them and walk in them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.'” This honour have all the saints, yet all do not seem to be fully conscious of it. Only let us feel it; only let us own that inward authority, and listen to that inward voice; only let us act in obedience to the suggestions of that “Power that worketh within us to will and to do of his good pleasure," and we shall find that in proportion as we are actuated by the life of God within us, shall we feel “his peace.”
The presence of God will tend to give rest from the cravings of an unsatisfied spirit. The spirit, like the body, requires not only freedom, not only health, but food-food suited to its noble nature. If no provision were made for the hunger and thirst of the spirit, and no appropriate sphere assigned for it, it would still be wakeful with the torture of its disappointed faculties, and weary for its native home. Everything else in creation finds its own element, and, when there, finds rest. The prophet points to “ the beast that goeth down into the valley" as the very image of quiet satisfaction.* The cattle down in the green dell, where they find the pool, the deep grass, and the shade from the blazing day, are at rest, for they have all their nature asks for. The birds that dip in the stream, soar in the light, and twitter from the bough, are at rest, for they are in their own right element. The insect that wavers in the still air, or clings to the sunny spray, is at rest, for it is at home. But man, while apart from God, has exploring thoughts, mysterious aims, and anxious aspirations, which he himself can scarcely interpret, and which earth can never satisfy. “Give, give !" is the ceaseless cry of the spirit. “Is the child happy?" asks one of our Puritan fathers. “He will be, when he is a man. Is the peasant satisfied ? He will be, when he is rich. Is the rich man satisfied? He will be, when he is ennobled. Is the noble
man satisfied ? He will be, when he is a king. Is the king satisfied ? Listen ! for one is speaking...... that I had the wings of a dove, for then would I fly away and be at rest !""
Mere material good can never satisfy a mental nature, nor mere mental good a nature which is born, not for thought alone, but for love, for worship, and for heaven. Well might Augustine say, “ O Lord, thou hast made us for thyself; and our hearts are restless till they rest in thee !" If we understand this promise and are ready to receive what God has in these words declared himself ready to bestow, we have found that which will satisfy the mighty want of our life; we have found the “ Desire of all nations ;" we have found Him who has said, “He that cometh to me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on me shall never thirst." There is no finality to the attainments of godliness; there is no bound to the joy of holiness—the joy of knowing, loving, and serving God; there will never be a period in eternity when the spirit will have to say, “ Life is now a blank to me, my portion is exhausted, and my rest is gone."
The presence of God will tend to give us rest from the distraction felt amidst uncongenial scenes and associations. We are naturally more alive to his presence in some scenes than in others. The lonely voyager, pacing the deck when nought is seen around him but the expanse of the moonlit sea ; or the traveller in the desert, who finds himself alone amidst the holy silence and stainless purity of nature; will sometimes feel the solemnity of the unseen presence more than he well can bear. When pausing amidst the hedge-rows of some solitary lane, you often say, Surely “God is here." When fevered with study, or worn with midnight watches by some dying friend, you step out into the starlight, look round on the hushed and sleeping earth, and up into the gulf of silence, the vault of awful beauty, the depth of mysterious perspective; you say, " God is here, I am sure that I feel his presence now.” When cast on the bed of weakness, and the chamber seems to be all your world, you say without surprise, “ God is here,” “this is none other than the gate of heaven.” But amidst the coarse cares and in the crowded thoroughfare, amidst the tumult and hurry of the wrangling mart and the throng of hard, stern faces intent on gain, you are in danger of feeling as if God could not be so truly there. But is he not so? “ Is he a god of the hills, and not of the valleys ?" Is he in the dead waste, and not in the crowded city ; in lonely nature, and not in human life? Since the world is the sphere in which the greater portion of our existence must be spent, the field where the fight of faith is fought, and the enterprise of conscience carried on, can this be unconsecrated ground, and must we indeed go out from the presence of man if we would go into the presence of God ? Surely not; for he has said, "My presence shall go with thee.” Recollect his presence, and listen for his voice. Know that when your hand is upon the ledger, your eye upon the balance, and your mind strained to its utmost tension in the crisis of duty or the conflict of skill, you speak in his audience, act under his inspection, and may, if you will, be quickened with his inspiring strength. Feel that you have a Mentor, a Prompter, a Comforter, infinite in all his adorable perfections, and nearer than the nearest life that you can see ; that you can turn to him at any moment, and look to him in every climax of embarrassment ;-feel this, as you have a right to feel it, and then, will you not have rest?
“It is the presence of the king that makes the court, let the house be never so mean in which he resides. Heaven itself is not heaven merely because its scenes and associa
tions are congenial and inviting to our spirits. He that shall read in the Book of the Revelation of a city or place that has no temple in it, nor no sun or moon to shine in it, and then break off, would sooner conjecture that he was beginning the description of some forlorn place under the northern pole, than of the heavenly Jerusalem. But when he shall understand that God and the Lamb are the temple of it, and the glory of God and the Lamb the eternal light shining in it, he will then say, as an awaked Jacob, Surely this is none other than the house of God, and the place where he himself dwelleth.'"*
If God indeed be with us now, and with us everywhere, although the senses may be only alive to the distractions of an uncongenial sphere, we dwell in the court of the King; and if we seek it, there will be "rest for our souls" there, for he is the “Prince of Peace."
The presence of God will tend to give rest from the disquietude which results from want of human sympathy. We yearn for sympathy, and soon become weary and spiritless without it. We need the presence of some being with whom we can exchange ideas, and who will receive the confidence of our most secret life; whose quick, responsive, appreciating spirit, will be sure to know us, although “the world knoweth us not," and whose glance of intelligence will rightly interpret us, even in those seasons of gloom and perplexity when we misinterpret ourselves. Many a Christian has often to say, “I am a stranger on the earth-a stranger, not only to the distant multitude, but to those whom my daily life seems to touch.” Such “a stranger on the earth," was the man to whom these words of promise were spoken. “His soul was like a star, it dwelt apart." He was solitary in the midst of six hundred thousand men. Perhaps not one in that vast multitude had full communion with his spirit, and no man knew him while he was living, as “no man knoweth his sepulchre unto this day." Great prophet as he was, there were times when this want of sympathy made his courage faint, and woke up the distracted complaint-“What shall I do unto this people, for they be almost ready to stone me?” “Wherefore hast thou afflicted thy servant? .... I am not able to bear all this people alone, because it is too heavy for me. .... Kill me, I pray thee, out of thy hand, if I have found favour in thy sight; and let me not see my wretchedness !" There were times when even the mighty spirit of Elijah died within him from a sense of utter loneliness. “I have been very jealous for the Lord of Hosts," thought he, “because the children of Israel have forsaken his covenant, thrown down his altars, and slain his prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away." These thoughts stole away his strength; and, as he sat under the juniper tree, he said, " It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life. There were times when Luther, with all his majestic independence, felt heart-broken to be misunderstood by his companions; and there was a passage in his life which he called his “ Gethsemane;" “for,” said he, "in this black night all the disciples have forsaken me and fled.” If the greatest of the sons of men have felt this longing for sympathy, and this distress without it, no wonder if the same experiences should be felt by many of the weakest and most obscure. Many a child in an unbelieving family, whose faith blooms like "a lily amongst thorns," which lacerate the beauty they conceal; many a Christian mechanic amongst his scoffing comrades; and many a student amongst his sceptical companions; may be at this moment ready to say, “No one understands me. No man careth for my soul.' I have thoughts which are as a fire shut up within me, but they must remain unspoken. I can pour my sorrows into no human ear.
* Dr. W. Spurston, 1666.
I am assailed with unbidden doubts, which constantly bring me to a stand, and make pauses in the process of conviction, but which, if known, would only bring upon me the brand of infidelity."
But One there is above all others, who understands the sick and suffering spirit; who has himself felt the “heart of a stranger;" who, in in the days of his flesh, " trod the wine-press alone," and was heard to say, "I am alone, yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me." That glorious Friend has said, “I will not leave you orphans, I will come unto you." Why do you not more fully trust him ? why think of him, as if he were a thousand miles away? Look up, and you will see the light of his countenance. Listen, and you will hear him say, “My presence shall go with thee;" and surely the presence of no mortal friend can brace the spirit with such strength, or touch it with such soft, magnetic thrills of pleasure.
The presence of God will tend to give rest from apprehensions regarding the future. Up to the time when these words were spoken to the Hebrew prophet, God had shown his presence to the chosen tribes by signs and wonders. He had thus been with them as their supporter; and in a region where there was no fountain for the thirsty lip, and no green thing to sustain existence, he had given them bread from heaven and water from the flinty rock. He had been with them as a guide; and had led them along paths of mystery by the symbol of his presence.
“By day, across the astonish'd lands,
The cloudy pillar glided slow;
Return'd the fiery column's glow."
But now, by the worship of the golden calf, they had broken the oath of allegiance to their heavenly King, had set up the banner of independence, and had invited by their sins the final inflictions of judicial severity. Moses was struck with consternation, for he knew that God might righteously withdraw his presence, suspend the action of those miracles by which they had hitherto been fed and guided, and leave them to die in the deep eternal silence of the desert. To calm these fears and give his troubled spirit rest, Jehovah said, “ My presence shall go with thee."
We are as immediately dependent upon God as were those tribes in the trackless, shadeless waste. Our life is moment by moment as much at his mercy-our bread is as much the gift of his power, as was theirs ; whether our supplies come in some flash of miracle, or through a million intervening agencies, they come from him, and from him alone. When he gives the showers and sunbeams that melt the snow-wreath, tempt forth the tender leaf, and mature the golden grain; when he gives us work to do and power to do it; when he gives those affections of parent or friend which nurse us in our feebleness or feed us in our want, he gives us our daily bread as truly as if he gave it from the clouds. “ Hitherto the Lord bath helped us." “ The God before whom our fathers did walk, the angel which redeemed us from all evil, hath fed us all our life long unto this day."
But now, perhaps, you have your misgivings. Bleak sights without, bleak thoughts within; winter in the scenery, winter in the soul, winter everywhere, may combine to make this a dreary day to you. Times may be hard; old age may be coming on; and freezing fears of helpless debt may turn your heart into ice. But only let the Lord be "your shepherd," and you will not want. Cbrist's messages to the poor disciple