Images de page

how she hazards herself to the blows of the watchmen; and will take no rest, till she have recovered him! These spiritual desertions are the saddest things, that can befal to a man; for there is a spiritual familiarity of sweet conversation betwixt God and his, which it is a death to forego: they enjoy each other; live in each others' sight; impart their counsels each to other. So then, we draw near to God, when, repenting us of our former aberrations from him, we renew our covenants with him; and put ourselves into an awful acknowledgement of him, still seeing him that is invisible: when we grow into dear, though trembling, acquaintance with him; taking pleasure in his company; interchanging our dulce susurrium cum Deo, as Bernard speaks; and endeavouring to be in all things approved of him. This must needs be a very comfortable and blessed condition. Oh happy, thrice happy are they, that ever they were born, who have truly attained to it! It is a true rule in philosophy, that every natural agent works by a contaction, whether bodily or virtual ; which the weaker or further off it is, the efficacy of the operation is so much the less : as, when we are cold, the fire heats us; but not except we come within the reach of it: if we stand aloof off, it warms us so feebly, that we are little the better for it; but if we draw close to the hearth, now it sensibly refresheth us: even thus also doth God himself please to impart himself to us. However there is infinite virtue in the Almighty, not confinable to any limits; yet he will not put it forth to our benefit, unless we thus draw near to him, Who touched me? saith our Saviour, Luke vii. 45. when the bloody-Auxed woman fingered but the hem of his garment. Lo, many thronged him; but there was but one, that touched him: and, upon that touch, virtue went out from him to her cure. He might have diffused his virtue, as the sun doth his beams, at a distance, to the farthest man; but, as good old Isaac, that could have blessed his Esau in the field or in the forest, yet would have him to come close to him for his benediction; so will God have us to draw nigh to him, if ever we look for any blessing at his hands; according to the charge here given, Draw nigh unto God.

(2.) Now, then, that, from the respect to the presence of God, may descend to consider the Motion of Man;

There are many ways of our appropinquation to God. This people, saith God, draws nigh me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. This is an approach, that God cannot abide. This lipwalk may advance us to hell, for our hypocrisy; but it can never promove us one step towards heaven. God cannot abide mere talkers of religion: let them say Lord, Lord; he shall answer them, I know you not; Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity.

There are three ways of our drawing nigh to God, which he accepts of from us: on our Feet; on our Hands; and on our Knees.

On our Feet, first. Keep thy foot, saith Solomon, Eccl. v. i. when thou goest into the house of God. What are the feet of the


soul, but the Affections ? Then do we, therefore, draw nigh to God, when we are so affected to him as we ought; when we come to him with the foot of Fear. Fear the Lord, all his saints; saith the Psalmist: Serve the Lord in fear; Psalm ii. 11. Fear God, and depart froin evil; saith his son Solomon; Prov. iii. 7. When we come to him with the foot of Love: I sought him, whom my soul loveth; saith the Spouse; Cant. iii. I. When with the foot of Desire: As the embossed hart panteth for the rivers of waters, so doth my soul for thee, O God; Psalm xli. 1. With the foot of Joy: I rejoiced when they said, Come, let us go up to the house of the Lord. With the foot of Confidence: In the Lord put I my trust : how then do ye say to my soul, Flee hence as a bird to the hills?

And, as we must draw nigh to God on the feet of our affections, so also

upon the Hands of our Actions: even as Jonathan and his armour-bearer climbed

up the rock with feet and hands. This is done, when we perform to God all holy obedience; when we serve him as we ought, both in our devotions and our carriage. And this is the best and truest approximation to God: Walk before me, saith God to Abraham, and be upright, Master, saith Peter, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee ; John xxi. 7. and, after that, when he heard it was the Lord, he girt his fisher's coat to him, and cast himself into the sea, io come to Christ. Without this reality of action, all our profession is but idle pretence. I remember our countryman Bromiard tells us of one, who, meeting his neighbour coming out of the Church, asked him; “What! is the sermon done?" “Done!” said the other, “No: it is said; it is ended: but it is not so soon done.” And, surely, so it is with us: we have good store of sermons said, but we have but a few done; and one sermon done, is worth a thousand said and heard: for, not the hearers of the law, but the doers of it are justified; and, if ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them: Glory, honour, and peace to every one that worke'h good; Rom, ii. 10.

Now, that we may supply both those other approaches on our feet and hands, we must, in the third place, draw nigh to God on our Knees; in our earnest supplicatio!is to him, for his enabling us to them both. Doth any man want wisdom, and this is the best im. provement of wisdom that may be, to shelter ourselves under the wings of the Almighty, let him ask of God, who giveth liberaily, and upbraideth no man; James i. 4. Let us sue to him, with alí holy importunity: Oh, that my ways were made so direct, that I might keep thy stalutes: Teach ine, O Lord, the way of thy statutes, avid I shall keep it to the end: 0 stublish thy word in thy servant, that I may fear thee: Psalm cxix, 5, 33, 38. Thus !et us seek the Lord early and fervently; and pour out our hearts before him. It is not for us to fear, that we can offend in an over-bold access to the Throne of Grace, in bouncing too hard at his mercy-gate; for, lo, his goodness hath invited us, and animated our bashfuluess. When Moses approached to the burning bush, he heareth Come not near; for he came out of curiosity and wonder, not out of devotion; but

God calls us to this approach; Ho, every one that thirsteth, come: Come to me, all ye that travail, and be heavy laden, and I will refresh you : and, therefore, we cannot come with too much confidence, nor fail of success in coming. It is a holy and well-grounded expostulation, which the Psalmist hath; How long wilt thou be angry wilh thy people that prayeth? implying, that, while we can pray, we may make just account of favour and protection.

So then, upon the Feet of our Affections, upon the Hands of our Actions, upon the Knees of our Devotions, we must draw nigh unto God. But, that we may

do so, our care must be, that the hindrances of our approach may be removed.

And, First of all, we must draw off from the world. That is like a rock of load-stone, that draws our iron hearts to it; and holds them close to itself: so as it is not easily quit. It is like the father of the Levite's concubine, that holds us on with a pleasing entertainment, till there be a danger of miscarriage in the return. But ye remember what the Psalmist says, Hearken, o daughter, and consider : thou must leave thy father's house. We must in our affections leave the world, if we would betake ourselves to God. “Tush,” ye are ready to say, “we shall hold in with both, and do well enough.” Be not deceived, Brethren: The love of the world is enmity with God. Ye cannot serve two masters, God and Mammon: one of them you must forsake. Abraham must leave his Ur of the Chaldees, his native country and his father's house, if he will have the clear vision of God. "The Israelites must go out of Egypt, ere they can offer an acceptable sacrifice to God. We must, with Elisha, forsake our team, if we will be fit attendants for a Master that is rapt up to heaven.

We must forsake our nets and follow Christ, if we will be meet disciples of his.

In the Second place, we must give strong denials to our own core rupt desires. These are like some leaden weights, that hang upon our heels, and keep us from mounting up into our heaven. These, like to Potiphar's wanton wife, hang upon Joseph's sleeve, to draw him unto folly: and they must be shaken off, if ever we would draw nigh unto God. If father, or mother, or wife, or child lie in thy way, Per calcatum vade patrem, “ Trample upon thy father's breast in thy passage to thy Father in Heaven. Our self-love, and selfrespect, lies, like a huge mountain, betwixt God and us: we must either, by the power of our faith, say to this mountain, Be thou removed, and cast into the midst of the sea; or, else, we must climb over it, by the painful practices of a constant and effectual mortification. Shortly, as men, Peregrinamur a Domino, We are here absent from the Lord; 2 Cor. v. 6: but, as sinners, we are, with the prodigal, gone into a far country, quite out of the ken of our Father's house; and there, having spent our patrimony and debauched ourselves, we are feeding upon the husks of vanity. Oh, let us take up, at the last, serious resolutions to return home, though by weeping; and put ourselves into our way: we shall be

sure, that our indulgent Father will espy us afar off; and meet us in our passage ; and welcome ys with a kiss: according to this word in my Text, Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

II. And so, from the Duty enjoined, we descend to the INDUCEMENT proposed.

But, indeed, what needs any inducement at all? There are actions, that carry their reward in their mouth: such is this we have in hand. It is a great honour to us, wretched creatures, that we may be allowed to draw nigh to the Lord of Glory. If there do but an earthly prince come over, though we have no relation to him at all; yet, what pressing there is to see him! so as there is need of ushers or wbifflers, to stave off the multitude. But if our own would allow all his subjects to repair to his Court, with expectation of favour and countenance from him, what thronging would there be to his gates! what ambition to enter! And, lo, the God of Heaven gives us this gracious liberty of a free access; and yet, withal, backs it with a strong motive of advantage; He will draw nigh unto you.

And, indeed, what inducement can there be equally powerful to this, that God will draw nigh to us? There is nothing in us, but want, misery, infirmity, deformity: there is nothing in God, but perfection and glory: and, therefore, for us, vile wretches, to draw nigh to him, what can it be other, than an honour too high for us? but for him to draw nigh to us, what can it be, but a kind of disparagement to him?

Ye know what a construction was set upon our Saviour for this very point, that he did eat and drink with Publicans and Sinners; and how that proud Pharisee censured him, when that humble pe. nitent made an ewer of her eyes, and a towel of her hair, for the feet of Christ. Oh, saith he, if this man were a prophet, he would have known what manner of woman this is that toucheth hini; for she is a sinner; Luke vii. 39: as if the suffering himself to be touched by a sinner were disgrace enough; and yet the God of Heaven will descend to us so low, as, notwithstanding our extreme sinfulness and unworthiness, to draw nigh unito us.

God will be so to us, as we are to him. As face answers to face, 60 doth God to us. When ye look upon your glass, if you smile upon it, it will smile upon you again : if you frown, it will so do also. Even so doth God with us: with the pure, thou wilt be pure; with the merciful, thou wilt be merciful; with the froward, thou wilt shew thyself froward. If thou run away from God, he will run away as fast from thee: If thou draw nigh unto God, he will draw nigh to thee.

1. And now WILL GOD DRAW NIGH UNTO US? In his Ordinances; in his Andience; in his Graces; in his Aid and Salvation.

(1.) In his Ordinances. For God hath graciously, as it were, tied his presence to them; as under the Law, so no less under the Gospel. When Jethro, Moses his father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifice for God; Aaron came, and all Israel with him, to eat

[ocr errors]

bread with Moses his father-in-law, before the Lord; Exod. xviii. 12. I Where was that, but before the testimony of his presence, tie Cloudy Pillar? And that is very pregnant, which God hath, Exod. xxix. 42: This shall be a continual burnt-offering, throughout yut generations, at the door of the Tabernacle of the Congregation, beture the Lord; where I will meet you, to speak there with thee. Lo, G: meets us in the holy assemblies. Meets us? yea, stays with us there; Zech. ii. 10. The prophet, speaking of the days of the Gospel, Sing and rejoice, saith he, ( daughter of Sion; for, lo, I come and will dwell in the inidst of thee, saith the Lord. Contrarily, when he withdraws from any people the ordinary means of salvation, he is truly said to depart from them; but this, perhaps, not at once, but by degrees: as, in Ezekiel's vision, he removes first to the threshold, and from thence to the door of the east-gate. And this I would have you know to be done, not only in a mere silence; but in a corruption of doctrine: not only, when faithful mouths are stopped; but when men's mouths are lawlessly opened, to the venting, whether of Popish fancies, or satirical invectives against authority. For you may not think, that all discourses are preacbing, or all preaching Gospel: when men preach themselves and not Christ, when they utter their own impetuous fury and not the glad tidings of peace, how shall we call this the message of God? No; God was not in the wind; he was not in the fire; he was in the soft voice. And he, that walks betwixt the golden candlesticks, doth not go away, only when the light is quite out; but when the snuff burns unsavourily in the socket. Shortly, where the sincere milk of the Gospel is given to God's babes, and the solid meat of true orthodoxy and saving doctrine is set before the stronger men, there God visits his people in mercy, and is drawn nigh to them in his holy ordinance.

(2.) In his Audience. We use to say, “Out of sight, out of mind:” and those, that are out of distance, what noise so erer they make, are not heard. The ravished virgin in the field, saith God, cried out, and there was none to save her; Deut. xxii. 27. But when we come near, the least groan, and sigh, is heard. Thus God, who is never but with us, is said to come near us, when he gives proof to us, that he comes, not only with the ken of our necessities, but within the hearing of the softest whisperings of our prayers. So David, every where: The Lord hath heard my supplication; the Lord will hear my prayer; Psalm vi. 9. The Lord wil hear me, when I call upon him. The tender mother is never away from the bed-side of her sick child: but, if she perceive the disease to grow dangerous, now she is more attentive; and lays her ear to the mouth of it, and listens to every breathing that it fetcheth. So doth our Heavenly Father to us: The Lord is nigh to all that call upon him; saith the Psalmist: nigh them indeed; for he puts into them those holy desires, which he graciously hears and answers. Contrarily, when that Sweet Singer of Israel finds some stop made of his audience, he is then in another tune: Wherefore

« PrécédentContinuer »