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come the friend of the Almighty. Truly your fellowship is with the Father, and his Son Jesus Christ. If it be great and honourable to be near the person and round the throne of an earthly king, how truly glorious are they whom the King of heaven delighteth to honour! No wonder then, that though exalted to the highest dignity which the world can bestow, the king of Israel was ambitious of higher still: "One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will 1 seek after, that I may dwell in the hou^e of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beiiuty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple."
Secondly, There is joy in approaching to God. "I will go to the altar ot God, to God my exceeding joy." The idea of a perfect being is the most joyful subject of contemplation that can be presented to man. Moral qualities, even when they shine in a lesser degree, have a charm for the soul. The prospect of natural beauty is not more pleasant to the eye, than the contemplation of moral beauty to the mind. A great and good action, a striking instance of benevolence, of public spirit, ot magnanimity, interests us strongly in behalf of the performer, and makes the heart glow with gratitude to him, although he be unknown. We take delight in placing before our eyes the illustrious characters that stand forth in history, wise legislators, unah:.k«.-n patriots, pubjic benefactors of mankind, or models of goodness in private life, whose virtues shone to the past, and shine to piesent times, whose lives were glorious to themselves, and beneficial to the world. If an imperfect copy gives so much satisfaction, how will we be affected at the contemplation of the great Original? If a few faint tiacesar.d lmeaments of goodness, scattered up and down, yield us so to much pleasure, the pleasure will be supreme, when we contemplate Hisnature m whom every excellence, eveiy moral perfection, all Divine attributes, reside as in their native seal, flow as from their eternal source, and ever operate as vital and immortal principles. For all created beauty is but a shadow of that beauty which is uncreated; all human excellence but an emanation of that excellence which is Divine: all finite perfection but a faiut copy of perfections which are infinite; and all the traces of goodness to be lbuud among meu or angels, but a few lami rays- hum the Father of lights, the uncreated, unclouded, and unseitmg Sun of nature, who at first gave life to the universe, who kindled the vital flame which is
.still glowing, who supplies all the orbs of heaven with undiminished lustre, and whose single smile spreads joy over the moral world.
Thus, the very idea of a perfect Being is a source of high pleasure to the mind; but to us there is more implied in the idea of the Deity. For these perfections arc not dormant in the Divine nature; they are perpetually employed for the happiness of man. This glorious Being is our Father and our Friend. He called us into being nt first, to make us happy; he hath given us many proofs of his goodness, and he hath allowed us to hope for more. He is soon to give us an opportunity of commemorating the most signal display of his grace, his noblest gift to the children of men. And, if he spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up to the death for us all, may u not be depended upon, that with him he will give us all things? Entering into these ideas, and animated with this spirit, the pious map is never so much in his element, as when he is drawing nigh to God. The mind never makes nobler exertions, is never so conscious of its native grandeur and ancient dignity, as when holding high converse with its Creator. The heart never feels such unspeakable peace, as when it is fixed upon him who made it, as when its affections go out on the supreme beauty, as when it rests upon the Rock of ages, and is held within the circle of the everlasting arms.
Hence, the good men of old, in approachnig to God, broke forth into the language of rapture, "As the heart panteth after the water-brook, so panteth my soul after thee, O Lord. O God, thou art my God, early will I seek thee. My soul thirsteth for thee. My flesh longeih for thee in a dry and parched land, wherein no water is: that I may see thy glory as I have seen it in the sanctuary. Because thy loving kindness is better than life, my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips. Surely we shall be satisfied with the goodness of thy house, and thou wilt give us to drink the river of thy pleasures.—Whom have we in the heavens but thee, and what is there upon the earth that we can desire beside thee? My flesh and heart shall fail, but thou art the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever."
Thirdly, there is consolation in approaching to God. Alas! in this world afflictions so abound, that consolation is often our greatest good. In how few days of this inortal life do we not feel the want of a comforter? Ever since tlie introduction of sin into the earth, human life hath been a scene of misery. Man is born to trouble, and sore is the travel which is appointed to him under the sun. We come into the world the most forlorn of all beings; the voice of sorrow is heard from the birth ; man sighs on through every path of future life, and the grave is the only pir.ee of refuge, where the weary arc at rest. Sometimes, indeed, a gleam of joy intervenes, an interval of happines lakes place. Fond man indulges the favourable hour. Then we promise to ourselves the scenes of paradise,—perpetual sun-shine, and days without a cloud. But the brightness only shines to disappear; the cloud come> again, and we awake again to our wonted anxiety and soi row.
Not limited to our own personal woes, we are doomed to suffer for sorrows not our own. We are not unconcerned spectators of human life. We are interested in every event that Details our fellow men. Sympathy makes us feel the distresses of others; and the best affections of the heart become the sources of woe. How many deaths do we suffer in mourning over the friends that we have lost I While we lament their unhappy or untimely fate, we cut short the thread of our own days. The chords of love are broken, one after another; string after string is severed from the heart, till all our early attachments arc dissolved, till our sad eyes have wept over every friend laid in the dust, and till we become lonely and wretched as we at first began.
Under these afflictions, and from these sorrows, devotion opens a retreat; the altar of Cod presents a place of reluge; the ear of the Eternal is open to thy cry; the arm of the Almighty is stretched out to relieve thee. There is a sanctuary where no evil can approach, there is an asylum where no enemy can enter. In the pavilion of bis presence, God wili hide thee in the time of trouble; in the secret oi his tabernacle, he will cover thee io the day of danger. There the prisoners rest in peace, and hear not the voice oi the oppressor. There are the small and the great, aud the servant is free from his master. There the wicked cease from troubling, and the weary are at rest.
It is some consolation, it is some relief, to open our hearts to men, and tell our sorrows to a fricud, who can give as no relief but by minding his tears with ours. What consolation, what relief will it then give to open our hearts, and tell our sorrows to that Friend above who is ever gracious to hear, and ever mighty to save ! — To thai Friend who never fails; who is afflicted in all our afflictions, and who keeps us as the apple pfhis eye! Art thou therefore oppressed with the calamities of life; is thy head bowed down with affliction, or thy heart broken with sorrow? Approach to the altar; go to God; present to him the prayer of thy heart, and he will send tbee help from his holy hill.
Lastly, In approaching to God, there is preparation for heaven. The objects, among which we are conversant, have a wonderful power over the mind. External things' make such an impression within, that the character is often formed from the situation. The soul is assimilated to surrounding objects, and proportions itself to the sphere in which it moves. When employed in little and in low things, it is contracted: when occupied in earthly matters, it is debased; but acquires enlargement and elevation, in the presence of what is grand and sublime. By daily converse with the world, and familiarity with material things, the soul is alienated from the life of God; and man setting his affections on things below, becomes of the earth, earthy. But when we engage in the exercises of devotion, we counterwork the charm of material objects; we retire from the world and its temptations; and shut the door of the heart against every intruding guest that would disturb us in approaching to God. Standing upon holy ground, we put off unhallowed affections, and impure desires. From the presence of the Lord every sinful thought flies away. Our attention is turned from those things that would raise guilty passions in the mind. Pure and spiritual ideas are presented to view, and the perfections of Almighty God are set before our eyes.— When these are before us, our admiration of them will increase, our love to them will be kindled, and we will endeavour to resemble them in our own life. Thus, by approaching to God, we become like God. By devotion on earth, we anticipate the work of heaven. We join ourselves before band to the society of angels and blessed spirits above; we already enter on the delightful employment of eternity, and begin the song which is heard fur ever around the throne of God.
Such, Christians! are the advantages of approaching to God, and encompassing the altar. And if with pious affections, and a pure heart, we draw nigh untoGod, God will draw nigh unto us. To the wide extent of his creation, to the great temple of heaven and earth, Jehovah prefers the heart of the pure and the pious. There he takes up his abode; there he delighteth to dwell. In the divine discourse which our Lord delivered to bis disciples, the same night in which he was betrayed, there is a promise rich in con=olation;—" If a man love me, he will keep roy words; and my Father will love him, and we will come and make our abode with him." While this proraise sounds in your ears, I hope that your hearts correspond to the strain, and that you recal those precious hours, when God manifested himself to you, so as he does not unto the world. When on former occasion, he sent his light and his truth; when the fountain of living waters has been opened, and the voice came to your cars, •» Drink and live for ever;" did you not feel emotions, which came from no created source, and taste a joy, which confessed its origin from heaven? Who can describe the blessedness ol' that time, when a present Deity is felt? It is the joy of heaven upon earth ; the happiness of eterniiy in the moments of time. , ,
Luke ii. 10.
—Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.—
rpHE coming of the Messiah is always foretold in Scrip-*- ture as a period of joy and triumph. The patriarchs
* Or the following Sermons some are incomplete; owing partly to their having Urn left in that state by the Author, and partly to the manuscripts bring loot or illegible •
'1 he candid reader, in farmmg a judgment of their merits, will keep then unfavourable circumstaom in reoicubrancr.