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ineffable "joy, with which the stranger intermeddleth not." This is well expressed in the passage before us; from whence I shall take occasion to shew,
I. The light in which we should view divine ordi
Certainly the expressions here used in reference to them are exceeding strong. To a mind not conversant with the subject, they would appear rather like the flights of a poetical imagination than as the dictates of sober judgment. But they are not a whit too strong, if viewed in reference to the object respecting which they treat. Both body and soul may well unite in the feelings here expressed, feelings of intense desire, such as envies the very birds the privilege they enjoy of building their nests around the sacred edifice where God's presence is enjoyed. Truly the tabernacles of the Most High will appear amiable, if we consider that in them,
1. God's presence is vouchsafed
[Formerly God dwelt in his sanctuary by the Shechinah, a bright cloud, the symbol of his presence, which was in itself visible to the eye of sense, though it was seen only by the High Priest, and that only on one day in the year. Now, his presence is visible only to the eye of faith (for there is an eye that "seeth Him that is invisible a"), and by him who possesses a spiritual discernment, even though he be the least and meanest of God's children, the divine presence is both seen and felt. What else is the meaning of those words, "If a man love me, my Father will love him; and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him?" Yes, verily, God will manifest himself to his believing people as he does not unto the world":" he will, in an especial manner, "draw nigh to those who draw nigh to him: "Wherever two or three are met together in his name, he will be in the midst of them;" and to every weeping suppliant he will say, "Behold me, behold me!" "Here I am"."] 2. His blessings are dispensed
[In the days of our blessed Lord, we are informed, that multitudes, labouring under every kind of malady, thronged about him; and that "virtue went forth from him to heal them all." Somewhat similar to this may yet be seen under the ministration of the Gospel. Multitudes, oppressed with
b John xiv. 21-23.
a Heb. xi. 27.
e Luke vi. 19.
c Isai. lxv. 1.
every species of mental trouble, approach the Majesty of heaven, to pour out before him their supplications, and to receive from him a supply for their diversified necessities. The weary and heavy-laden sinner sues for pardon and peace: the soul, harassed with temptations, implores strength whereby to cope with its great Adversary, and to fulfil the will of God: in a word, whatever be men's trials, thither they bring them all; and there they look for aid; and there, through the ministry of the Word, they actually "find mercy and grace to help them in the time of need." To every distinct case God mercifully suits his aid; and the succour afforded by him proves sufficient for them all: so that, as thousands can testify, when they have come hungering and thirsting for the blessings of salvation, they have not been sent empty away, but have been filled and satisfied with the plenteousness of God's house, and had all their sorrows turned into joy.]
3. His name is glorified
[Every one, entering the house of God in a becoming spirit, feels a consciousness, that he is approaching a Father and a Friend; yea, a Friend who is infinitely more willing to give than the most oppressed suppliants can be to ask, and
willing to give exceedingly above all that they can either ask or think." Conceive of millions assembled at the very same instant of time, in every quarter of the globe, thus honouring their God as omnipresent to hear their prayers, and omnipotent to supply their wants. Who must not love those ordinances where God is so exalted? Again, amidst all the millions that have been relieved, there is but one sentiment of gratitude to God as their Almighty and all-gracious Benefactor. Verily, in this respect the tabernacles of the Most High on earth resemble his house above, where all the hosts, whether of saints or angels,. join in one harmonious song of praise to their creating and redeeming God. Say, are not "God's tabernacles amiable" in such a view as this? and can any one long for them with too. intense desire, or enter them with too sublime delight?]
But that this may be more manifest, let us consider, II. The blessedness of those who estimate them aright
As for those who only occasionally visit the house of God, merely for form sake or to perform a duty, it cannot be expected that they should derive much benefit to their souls. But those who, in the habit of their minds, "dwell," as it were, "in God's courts," will find their souls exceedingly elated and comforted. They will acquire, yea, and speedily too
attain, a disposition of mind that is little understood by the world at large, a spirit of praise and thanksgiving, not unlike to that which animates the hosts above.
1. Their occasions for praise will incessantly be renewed
[Not a prayer they offer shall ever go forth in vain. Their access to God will become more intimate, their confidence in him more entire, their communion with him more sweet, and their communications from him more abundant. As every day brings with it fresh temporal benefits, so will their stock of spiritual blessings be daily multiplied, so that it shall appear to them as if a new series of mercies were every day begun; a series, for the acknowledgment of which an eternity of ages would scarcely suffice.]
2. In the exercise of praise they will abound more and more
[I say not that they will cease to pray; for their need of prayer will never cease, till they arrive in heaven itself. But their devotions will more assume the character of praise: their view of the divine perfections will be greatly enlarged; and their sense of God's mercies be deepened, insomuch that they will see mercy in every thing, and be disposed "in every thing to give thanks." Their very trials and afflictions will be regarded as tokens of God's love, and as incentives to praise Him "who giveth songs in the night." If their tribulations be great, they will glory in them, as contributing both to their present and eternal welfare. Behold the Apostles just dismissed from scourging and imprisonment! they go forth" rejoicing that they are counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ's sake." Behold Paul and Silas also with their feet made fast in the stocks, whilst their backs are yet bleeding by the stripes just recently inflicted on them! Do they mourn and weep? No,
they sing praises unto God at midnight." Now, all this was the fruit of communion with God: and in proportion as we also live nigh to God in prayer, we shall surely find, whether in life or death, little else than occasions of praise. In whatever state we be, we shall be uttering thanksgivings to God; yea, come what may, we shall "be still praising him."] SEE, then, I pray you,
1. The happiness of the saints
[I may appeal to you, whether the worldling has any source of joy that can be compared with this? No, verily; the first monarch upon earth that is ignorant of God, feedeth f Rom. viii. 28. g 2 Cor. iv. 17, 18.
only upon husks: whereas the true saint, though poor as Lazarus himself, eateth of "angels' food"
2. The blessedness of heaven
[If such be God's courts below, what must heaven itself be? Well may we long to be there. Well may we" desire to depart and be with Christ," where we shall "behold him face to face.” I need not say, how blessed are that choir who day and night incessantly sing praises to God and to the Lamb. But may we so anticipate that employment, that we may be prepared to join in it to all eternity! Amen, and Amen.]
GOD'S ORDINANCES PRECIOUS.
Ps. lxxxiv. 10. I had rather be a door-keeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.
IN matters of doubtful disputation, it is of great advantage to have some established ground, to which reference may be made; and some adjudged case, on which arguments may be founded, without any farther appeal. In my text, the point at issue is, Which is preferable, the service of God, or the service of the world? On this subject there is a great diversity of opinion; some accounting the world the only true source of happiness, whilst others conceive that there is no happiness but in God. But we have in the very words before the text an adjudged case, which may well determine the point for ever. The Psalmist expressly declares, that "a day in God's courts is better than a thousand" elsewhere. If a doubt arise whether he was competent to decide the matter, I answer, that, as a King, he knew all that attached to royalty and to the splendour of earthly courts; and, as a Saint, he knew what was to be found in the exercises of piety and devotion: and, consequently, he was a proper person to hold the scales, and to declare on which side true happiness preponderated. Besides, his particular situation at this time qualified him in a more than ordinary way to form a just judgment: for he was driven (it is supposed) by Absalom both from his throne and from the house of God: and consequently he could declare, from his own experience, which of the two losses was the
heavier, and which was the greater subject of regret. Under these circumstances we read not one word of complaint respecting the loss of his kingdom: his mind was wholly occupied about the ordinances of God, of which he was deprived. "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." He envies the very birds the facility which they enjoyed of approaching the altars of the Lord, and more especially the priests who had constant opportunities of officiating there; as also the people, who could come, though with great difficulty, from the extremest parts of the land to worship there at the appointed feasts". He then begs of God to restore him to the enjoyment of these lost privileges; and declares, that, in his judgment, " one day spent in his courts was better than a thousand" elsewhere; and that he would rather be a door-keeper in the House of God, than to dwell amidst the richest enjoyments that the tents of wickedness could afford him.
The case being so clearly determined by him, I will endeavour to point out,
I. The grounds of his judgment
He preferred the lowest office imaginable in the House of the Lord, before the highest that was merely secular; for he deemed it,
1. More honourable
[In earthly palaces, dwell "men of like passions with ourselves:" but in Mount Zion God himself dwells: there he holds his court: there he sits upon his throne: thither all his servants come to behold his glory, to worship at his footstool, and to receive the tokens of his gracious favour. There, though invisible, are assembled all the hosts of heaven; so that the humble worshipper, when coming thither, is justly said to have "come unto Mount Zion, 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 that are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than the blood of Abeld."
a ver. 1, 2. b ver. 3-7.
c ver. 8, 9. d Heb. xii. 22-24.