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with God, as with his best friend; but the communion here is liable to many interruptions. If we follow the Lord, like Peter, it is at best but afar off. Death only can complete our nearness, and every day and hour we are drawing nearer and nearer to God. It is but a little while, and all our fears and sorrows, distance and desertions will be at an end. The night is far spent, and the day is at hand. It begins to dawn, and the day-star of eternal glory will soon rise in our hearts. Lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. Behold, O ye saints, I bring you tidings of great joy! It will be but a little while, and you shall for ever solace yourselves in the light of God's countenance, and lay your weary heads on the bosom of Jesus. Well may you rejoice, as Jacob did when he saw the waggons which were to carry him to his son Joseph, Faith gives you an interest in the divine favour, and death will bring you to the full enjoyment of it. Your warfare shall be accomplished, and the victory complete. You shall no more see through a glass darkly, but face to face; shall see as you are seen, and know as you are known.
II. Consider the reasons why this nearness is matter of exultation and joy-" A people near unto him: praise ye the Lord."
1. This nearness is lasting: those who are thus brought near to God shall be for ever near. A seeming distance there may be, but it is only a temporary one: a real and eternal distance there cannot be. Their union with Christ is indissoluble, and his love to them is everlasting. The tokens of it may be sus. pended, but the love itself will never be extinguished. If their iniquities separate between them and God, it shall only be till they are repented of and pardoned. If he contend with them, it will not be for ever; and if he hide his face, it shall only be for a moment, that
he may return to them in loving kindness and in mercy. "Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Rom. viii. 38, 39.
2. Those who are near to God have God also near to them. Is danger near? Are enemies near? Are troubles near? Is death near? God also is near ! He will guide, protect, and comfort his people amidst all their difficulties and dangers. "The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them-As the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people, from henceforth even for ever-The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth." If the believer be forsaken by his friends, and left alone, he may say with his Lord and Master, "I am not alone; for the Father is with me.' Let those therefore, who are in such a case, praise the Lord. "For what nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for ?" Deut. iv. 7. Psal. xxxiv. 7. cxxv. 2. cxlviii. 18.
3. They have blessings and privileges which none else can enjoy. They may hear from him, and he from them; may contemplate his glorious Majesty, and commune with him as it were face to face. Thus Moses saw him who was invisible. Elijah also came near and said, "O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel." Such as are near to God have the most blessed opportunity of knowing his mind and will: the secret of the Lord is with them, and he will shew them his
4. Being near to God, they are also near to heaven. Those who come to him are come within sight of it;
yea, have already entered into the suburbs of heaven. "Ye are come (saith the apostle) to mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the first-born, which are written in heaven; and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant." The presence of God on earth is heaven begun, and the full enjoyment of it hereafter will be heaven complete. Heb. xii. 22-24.
(1.) How vain are all our hopes of happiness without God! While far from him, evil is near to us, and we are near to the greatest of all evils-hell and eternal destruction. They that are far from thee shall perish." Psal. lxxiii. 27.
(2.) Let us be reconciled to those providences which tend to bring us near. The severest trials are often among the means which God employs to bring us to himself; and had it not been for them we might still have been afar off, and without hope. Nor are we likely to be kept near without a similar discipline. Afflictions make us feel our need of mercy, and lead us to seek it. How often, when the christian has departed from God, is he brought back by means of the rod! He restoreth our souls, and leadeth us in the paths of righteousness, for his name sake.
(3.) Let nearness to God be the object sought after in every holy duty, both public and private. Rest not satisfied in acts of worship, but labour to get near to God in them; all else will be unprofitable and vain. We may as well be in Geshur as at Jerusalem, unless we see the king's face.
(4.) Not only let us desire to be brought near in a way of interest, but to keep near in a way of communion. Let our hearts be sacred to the Lord, and neither suffer the world nor sin to have any place there.
Continued nearness to him will be our greatest honour and happiness: it will soften afflictions, heighten our mercies, fortify us against the fear of death, and be our best preparative for heaven.
(5.) If the Lord's people be near and dear to him, let them be so to us. Consider them as objects of his love, and learn to love them for his sake. How kind and affectionate ought we to be towards those who are thus precious in his sight! By this also we shall know that we are passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.
JER. xvii. 17.
Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.
EVERY believer can adopt the former of these expressions, but not the latter. In the one, the prophet deprecates God's wrath; in the other, he declares his confidence in the divine mercy. It was an evil time in which he lived, a time of great calamity, when his country was ripe for ruin and going into captivity. He warned them of the danger; but they hated him for it, and put him into the dungeon. Under these persecutions, he appeals to God, and implores his protection. Behold, they say unto me, Where is the word of the Lord? Let it come now. As for me, I have not hastened from being a pastor to follow thee; neither have I desired the woeful day, thou knowest: that which came out of my lips was right before thee. Be not a terror unto me: thou art my hope in the day of evil.'
This prayer was peculiarly suitable at such a time; and as there are many days of evil to which we also are exposed, it is suitable for us.-Let us consider what is implied in the petition-and in the confidence which is here expressed.
I. In the petition, the prophet deprecates divine wrath : "Be not
terror unto me.