« PreviousContinue »
our souls. For he is always accompanied with the glorious train of his graces, and if they are not received, he himself is not so. It is to no purpose to boast of Christ, if we have not an evidence of his graces in our hearts and lives. But unto whom he is the hope of future glory, unto them he is the life of present grace.
Sometimes it may be, that he is withdrawn from us, so as that we cannot hear his voice, nor behold his countenance, nor obtain any sense of his love, though we seek him with diligence. In this state, all our thoughts and meditations concerning him will be barren and fruitless, bringing in no spiritual refreshment into our souls. And if we learn to be content with such lifeless, inaffecting thoughts of him, as bring in no experience of his love, nor give us a real view of the glory of his person, we shall wither away as unto all the power of religion.
What is our duty in this case, is so fully expressed by the spouse in the Canticles, as represents it plainly unto the minds of believers, who have any experience of these things; chap, iii. 1–5. · By night, on my bed, I sought him whom my soul loveth: I.sought him, but I found him not. I will rise now, and go about the city in the streets, and in the broad ways, I will seek him whom my soul loveth : I sought him, but I found him not. The watchmen that go about the city found me, to whom I said, Saw ye him whom my soul loveth? It was but a little I passed from them, but I found him whom my soul loveth: I held him, and would not let him go.' The like account she gives of herself, and of her behaviour on the like occasion, chap. v.2-8.
This is the substance of what by this example we are instructed unto. The Lord Christ is pleased sometimes to withdraw himself from the spiritual experience of believers; as unto any refreshing sense of his love, or the fresh communications of consolitory graces. Those who never had experience of any such thing, who never had any refreshing communion with him, cannot be sensible of his absence ; they never were so of his
But those whom he hath visited, to whom he hath given of his loves, with whom he hath made his abode, whom he hath refreshed, relieved, and comforted, in whom he hath lived in the power of his
grace, they know what it is to be forsaken by him, though but for a moment. And their trouble is increased, when they seek him with diligence in the wonted ways of obtaining his presence, and cannot find him. Our duty in this case, is, to persevere in our inquiries after him in prayer, meditation, mourning, reading and hearing of the word, in all ordinances of divine worship, private and public, in diligent obedience, until we find him, or he return unto us, as in former days.
It were well if all churches and professors now would manifest the same diligence herein, as did the church of old in this example. Many of them, if they are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin, cannot but be sensible that the Lord Christ is variously withdrawn from them, if ever they had experience of the power of his presence. Yet are the generality of them far from the frame of heart here described in the spouse; for they are slothful, careless, negligent, and stir not up themselves to inquire after him, or his return unto their souls. So was it with Laodicea of old, so was it with Sardis, and so it is to be feared, that it is with many at present. But to return.
Generally, Christ is nigh unto believers, and of a ready access; and the principal actings of the life of faith, consist in the frequency of our thoughts concerning kim; for hereby Christ liveth in us, as he is said to do, Gal. ii. 20. This we cannot do, unless we have frequent thoughts of him, and converse with him. It is often said among men, that one lives in another; this cannot be but where the affections of one are so engaged unto another, that night and day he thinks of him, and is thereby, as it were, present with him. So ought it to be between Christ and believers. He dwells in them by faith; but the actings of this life in them (as wherever life is, it will be in act and exercise) are proportionable unto their thoughts of him, and delight in him.
If, therefore, we would behold the glory of Christ, the present direction is, that on all occasions, and frequently when there are no occasions for it by the performance of other duties, we would abound in thoughts of him and his glory. I intend not at present fixed and stated meditations, which were spoken unto before ; but such thoughts as are more transient, according as our opportunities are. And a great rebuke it ought to be unto us, when Christ hath at any time in a day, been long out of our minds. The spouse affirms, that`ere she was aware, her soul made her as the chariots of Amminadab;' Cant. vi. 12. It so fell out, that when she had no thoughts, no design, or purpose for attendance on communion with Christ, that she was surprised into a readiness and willingness unto it. So it will be with them that love him in sincerity. Their own souls, without previous designs or outward occasions, will frequently engage them in holy thoughts of him, which is the most eminent character of a truly spiritual Christian.
4. The next direction is, that all our thoughts concerning Christ and his glory, should be accompanied with admiration, adoration, and thanksgiving. For this is such an object of our thoughts and affections, as in this life we can never fully comprehend ; an ocean whose depths we cannot look into. If we are spiritually renewed, all the faculties of our souls are enabled by grace to exert their respective powers towards this glorious object. This must be done in various duties, by the exercise of various graces, as they are to be acted by the distinct powers of the faculties of our minds. This is that which is intended, where we are eommanded 'to love the Lord with all our souls, with all our minds, with all our strength. All the distinct powers of our souls, are to be acted by distinct graces and duties, in cleaving unto God by love. In heaven, when we are come to our centre, that state of rest and blessedness which our nature is ultimately capable of, nothing but one infinite invariable object of our minds and affections received by vision, can render that state uninterrupted and unchangeable. But whilst we are here, we know or see but in part, and we must also act our faith and love, on part of that glory, which is not at once entirely proposed unto us, and which as yet we cannot comprehend. Wherefore, we must act various graces in great variety about it; some at one time, sone at another, according unto the powers of all our renewed faculties. Of this sort, are those mentioned of adoration, admiration, and thanksgiving ; which are those acts of our minds wherein all others do issue, when the object is incomprehensible. For unto them we are enabled by grace,
One end of his illustrious coming unto the judgment of the last day, is, that he may be admired in all them that believe;' 2 Thess. i. 11. Even believers themselves shall be filled with an overwhelming admiration upon his glorious appearance. Or if the meaning be, not that he shall be admired by them, but admired in them, because of the mighty works of his grace and power in their redemption, sanctification, resurrection, and glory, it is to the same purpose, he comes to be admired.' And according to the prospect which we have of that glory, ought our admiration to be.
And this admiration will issue in adoration and thanksgiving; whereof we have an eminent instance and example in the whole church of the redeemed, Rev. v. 9-14. They sang a new song, saying, Worthy art thou to receive the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast bonght us unto God by thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation; and hast made us kings and priests unto God, and we shall reign upon the earth. And I saw and heard the voice of many angels round about the throne, and of the living creatures, and of the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands ; saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature that is in heaven, and in the earth, and under the earth, and that are in the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and power, and glory, be unto him that sits on the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.'
The design of this discourse is no more, but that when by faith we have attained a view of the glory of Christ, in our contemplations on his person, we should not pass it over as a notion of truth which we assent unto, namely, that he is thus glorious in himself; but endeavour to affect our hearts with it, as that wherein our own principal interest doth lie; wherein it will be effectual unto the transformation of our souls into his image. But some, it may be, will
at least I fear some may truly say, that these things do not belong unto them, they do not find that ever they had any benefit by them; they hope to be saved as well as others by the mediation of Christ; but as unto this beholding of his glory by constant meditation and actings of faith therein, they know nothing of it, nor are concerned in it. The doctrine which they are taught out of the Scripture concerning the person of Christ, they give their assent unto ; but his glory they hope they shall see in another world, bere they never yet inquired after it.
So it will be. It is well if these things be not only neglected, because the minds of men are carnal, and cannot discern spiritual things; but also despised, because they bave an enmity unto them. It is not for all to walk in these retired paths. Not for them who are negligent and slothful, whose minds are earthly and carnal. Nor can they herein sit at the feet of Christ with Mary, when she chose the better part, who, like Martha, are cumbered about many things here in this world. Those whose principal design is to add unto their present enjoyments (in the midst of the prosecution whereof, they are commonly taken from them, so as that their thoughts do perish, because not accomplished), will never understand these things. Much less will they do so, whose work it is to make provision for the flesh to fulfil it in the lusts thereof.
They must make it their design to be heavenly-minded, who will find a relish in these things. Those who are strangers unto holy meditation in general, will be strangers unto this mystery in a peculiar manner.
Some men can think of the world, of their relations, and the manifold occasions of life; but as unto the things that are above and within the veil, they are not concerned in them.
With some it is otherwise. They profess their desire to behold the glory of Christ by faith ; but they find it, as they complain, too high and difficult for them. They are at a loss in their minds, and even overwhelmed, when they begin to view his glory. They are like the disciples, who saw him in his transfiguration; they were filled with amazement, and knew not what to say, or said they knew not what. And I do acknowledge, that the weakness of our minds in the comprehension of this eternal glory of Christ, and their instability in meditations thereon, whence we cannot steadfastly look on it, or behold it, gives us an afflicting,