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Sometimes it is the desire of enjoying God in a greater measure, and in a richer abundance, and then he says with Asaph, my supreme good is to draw near to God! When shall I come? O when shall I come and appear before God! Psalm. lxxiii. 28. and xlii. 2.
Follow this man in the participation of holy ordinances. Represent to yourselves a man, who after preparing himself some days, or some weeks for the holy communion, bringing thither a heart proportioned to the labour, which he hath taken to dispose it properly; imagine such a man sitting at this table along with the ambitious, the impure, the revengeful, the vain, all the members of this community, suppose this man saying to himself, they are not only men who see and consider me, they are angels, who encamp around such as love God; it is Jesus Christ, who sits amidst his disciples assembled in his name; it is God himself, who sees all, and examines all the dispositions I bring to his table. It is not only an invitation to this table given me by ministers, it is wisdom, who hath furnished her table, mingled her wine, Prov. ix. 1, 2. and who crieth, Ilo, every one that thirsteth come ye to the waters, Isaiah lv. It is my Saviour, who saith to me, With desire, I have desired to eat with you, Luke xxii. 15. It is not only material breaal, that I am receiving, it is a symbol of the body and blood of Christ, it is his fiesh and blood under the elements of bread and wine, It will be not only a little tranquillity of conscience, which I shall receive at this table, if I enter into the spirit of the mystery set before me: but I shall have consolations on my death bed, triumphs after death, and oceans of felicity and glory for ever. God hath not preserved me till now merely to give me an opportunity of sitting here : but to open to me, the treasures of his patience and long suffering : to enable me to repent of my former negligence, of breaking the sabbath, profaring the communion, committing iniquity, forgetting iny promises, and offending my creator,
I ask, my brethren, what is the man, who approaches the Lord's table with such dispositions! Is he a common man? Verily with eyes of flesh, I see nothing to distinguish him from the crowd. I see this man confounded with all others, whom a lax disciple suffers to partake of this ordinance, and to receive with unclean hands and a profane mouth the most holy symbols of our religion ; at most I see only an agitation of his senses, a spark shining in his eye, a look cast towards heaven, emotions, which the veil of humility that
covers him cannot entirely conceal: but with the eyes of my mind I behold a man of a superior order, a man in paradise, a man nourished with pleasure at the right hand of God, a man at whose conversion the angels of God rejoice, a man fastened to the triumphal car of Jesus Christ, and who makes the glory of the triumph, a man who hath the happy art of making heaven descend into his soul ; I behold, amidst the miseries and vanities of the world, a man already justifed, already raised, already glorified, already sitting in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, Rom. viii. 30. Eph. ii. 6. I see a man ascending to heaven along with Jesus Christ, amidst the shouting of the heavenly choir, Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and let the king of glory in, Psálm. xxiv. 7. I see a man with uncovered face beholding the glory of the Lord, and changing from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord, 2 Cor. Hi. 18.
But it is particularly in a dying bed that the pious man enjoys foretastes of the life to come. A worldling is confounded at the approach of that dismal night, which hides futurity from him, or rather despair siezes his soul at the sising of that dreadful light, which discovers to him a dispensation of punishment, in spite of his abstinate denial of it. Then he sees fire, flames, devils, a lake of fire, the smoke of which ascendeth up for ever and ever.
Then he shrinks back from the bitter cup, the dregs of which he must drink ; he tries though in vain to put off the end by his too late prayer, and he cries at its approach, Mountains fall on me, hills cover me! As for the believer, he sees and desires nothing but that dispensation of happiness, which he hath already embraced by faith, possessed by hope, and tasted by the comforts of the holy Spirit in his soul; and hence comes that active fervour, which makes his countenance luminous like that of departing Stephen. I cannot better express such sentiments than in the words of the primitive saints, who sa happily experienced them.
I have waited for thy salvation, O Lord! I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though afier my skin worms dlestroy this body, yet in my flesh I shall see God; whom / shall see for myself, whom mine eyes shall behold and not another. Though thou slayest me, yet will I trust in thee, O God! Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me, thy zod and thy staj they comfort ine. I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded, that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that dayNeither count I my life dear so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord. I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Lord Jesus receive my spirit. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith, henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? In these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God! My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God! When shall I come and appear before God ? How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts? My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the Lord: my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Blessed are they that dwell in thy house, they will be still praising thee? Thine altars, even thine altars, O Lord of Hosts, my king and my God! .
May you all, my brethren, may every one of you know these truths by experience. God grant you the grace. To him be honour and glory for ever.
THE REPENTANCE OF THE UNCHASTE WOMÀN.
Lükt vii. 36.-.-50. And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee's house, and sat down to meat. And behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box of ointment, and stood at his feet behind him weeping, and be: gan to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him, saw it, he spake within himself, saying, this man, if he were a prophet, would have known · who, and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner. And Jesus answering, said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on. There was a certain creditor, which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty. And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most? Simon answered and said, I suppose that he to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, thou hast rightly judged. And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss : but this woman, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with Vol. V.
ointment. Wherefore I say unto thee, her sins which are many, are forgiven ; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him, began to say within themselves, who is this that forgiveth sins also ? And he said to the woman, thy faith hath saved thee : go in peace. LET mie fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mer
cies are great: but let me not fall into the hand of man, 2 Sam. xxiv. 14. This was the request, that David made, in the most unhappy moment of his life. A prophet sent by an avenging God came to bring him a choice of afflictions, I offer thee three things, choose one of them, that I may do it unto thee. Shall three years of famine come unto thee in thy land ? or wilt thou flee three months before thine enemies, while they pursue thee? or that there be three days pestilence in thy land ? Now advise, and see what answer I shall return to liim that sent me, ver. 12, &c.
What a proposal was this to a man accustomed to consider heaven as a source of benedictions and favours ! Henceforth he was to consider it only as a cavern of thunder and lightning, flashing and rolling and ready to strike him dead! which of these punishments will he choose? Which of them could he choose without reproaching himself in future that he had chosen the worst? Which would you have chosen had you been in his place, my brethren? Would you have determined for war? Could you have borne the bare idea of it? Could you have indured to see the once victorious armies of Israel lcd in triumph by an enemy, the ark of the Lord a captive, a cruel and barbarous soldiery reducing a kingdom to ashes, razing fortresses, ravaging á harvest, and destroying in a moment the hope of a whole year? Would you have determined for famine? Would you have chosen to have the heaven become as iron, and the earth brass, the seed dying in the earth, or the corn burning before it was ripe, The locusts eating what the palmer worm hath left, und the canker worm eating what the locust hath left, Joel i. 4. men snatching bread from one another's hands, struggling between life and death, and starving till food would afford no nourishment? Would you have chosen mortality? Could you have reconciled yourselves to the terrible times