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I. We are to describe the nature of that approach to God, which is a fruit of the divine choice and savour. .
When we are said to approach to God, our approach cannot respect his essential presence, which is equally alike in all places. God is necessarily near to all his creatures, he is intimately present with every one of us; for in him, as the apoitle expresses it, we live and move, and have our being. In this sense» therefore, we cannot be said to draw near to God, as we are always in his presence, and cannot withdraw from his Spirit. But the expression, approaching to God, plainly respects his gracious presence, which is discovered in the blessings and benesits it bestows on mankind. In some sense, indeed, the gracious presence of God, as well as his essential presence, is common to all; "for he makes his sun to rise on the "evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just "and on the unjust." But it is in a peculiar manner afforded to a sew, even to sincere and good men, by the protection, assistance, and consolation it communicates to them. In this sense, God is said, in scripture, to dwell in the hearts of the righteous, and with them that are of a humble and contrite spirit; and his people may be said to draw near to him, when they inwardly adore and exalt him; when they admire and bless his glorious name; when their minds are possessed with awsul and delightsul thoughts of his persections; in a word, when they exercise the various graces and virtues of the divine' lise, by which an intercourse is maintained between God and the foul. This is the approaching to God mentioned in the text; the peculiar privilege of those pious and devout fouls, who are chosen to this blessing, and by divine grace made partakers of it. But, more particularly,
1. We may be said to approach God in the duties of his worship, when we contemplate the divine persections and providence, with the sirm belief of their glory and excellence. Faith is the leading virtue ot the Christian lise, absolutely essential in every approach to God, and indeed the very foundation of religion in the heart. "Without saith," s-.ys the apostle to the Hebrews, " it is impossible to please ** him ; for he that cometh to God, must believe that "he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that dili"gently seek him (a)." By the exercise os this heavenly grace, Christians raise their affections above this world, and converse with things unseen anil eternal: they see him who is invisible to the eye of sense, and, in contemplating his glorious persections, they obtain some degree of resemblance to them in their own hearts; " beholding, as in a glass, the glory of the "Lord, they are changed into the same image, from "glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord." Faith represents him to the Christian in the most awsul, and at the same time in the most amiable and en
f;aging light, not as possessed of almighty power and upreme dominion alone, but of insinite wisdom and persect goodness; not only as righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works, but as abundant in mercy, of tender compaffion, and ready to forgive; as a Spirit, who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth j as a lover of mankind, but a greater lover of holiness: And under such views as these of the glory of God, the Christian inwardly adores him, and pays him that homage which is due to his insinite Majesty. Faith enables him to survey the discoveries he has made of himself in his works, with admiration and delight. Even those dispensations of Providence, which seem to us dark and intricate, and on some occasions inconsistent with insinite wisdom and persect goodness, appear to the eye of saith to be conducted in the best and wisest manner.. Amidst all the uncertainty and seeming impersection in which he is involved, the Christian considers the secret hand of God as guiding the affairs of this world; and he rests fatissied, that justice and judgment are the habitation of his throne, and that mercy and truth go before his
x f-ice. (a). HA. xi. 6.
sace. But especially we draw near to God, when, by faith, we ,view the method of our salvation through Jesus Christ; that wondersul dispensation of divine grace to sinners, in which mercy and truth are met together, righteousness and peace have embraced each other. It is here the Christian has the sweetest and most intimate access to God; he approaches under the shelter of a divine Mediator, and lifts up his eyes, with humble considence, to his God, and his Saviour.
2. We draw near to God in the duties of his worship, when we cultivate in our minds a supreme and prevailing love for him. This, indeed, is the natural consequence of .a steady saith in the glory and excellence of his persections; for love reigns and attracts the foul to God, when true saith influences the heart, and a sense of the divine glory possesses the mind. On this account, when the apostle Peter is celebrating that servent love which the first Christ* ians bore to Christ, he speaks of it as kindled in their breasts by saith; " whom having not seen ye "love, in whom, though-now.ye see him not, yet "believing, ye rejoice, with joy unspeakable." Love is the very essence and persection of religious wof* ship; it brings the foul near to God; and, in proportion as our love is great, our devotion is more in-' tense. If we are strangers to this heavenly affection, we will think ourselves happy at a distance from him, and perhaps happiest when least disturbed by the thoughts of his presence. But it is sar otherwise with devout and serious Christians. They never think themselves too near; for they seel in their hearts that love, which is the most intimate, as well as the sweetest bond of the soul's communion with God. The saints of God cannof cease to love him: the beauty and excellence os his nature, and the obligations which they owe, are circumstances which excite their highest afsection and regard. We love him, says the apostle, because he sirst loved us. Love is a noble and divine grace, the great source of happiness in out Communion with God on earth, and the essential and . . vigovigorous principle of immortal lise. It enters into the happiness within the vail; and is the very element • in which the saints in heaven live, and move, and have their being: for God is love, and he that dwelleth in love, d .velleth in God, and God in him.
3. We draw near to God in the duties of his worfliip, when we earnestly desire an interest in his favour, and intimate communion with him. This is the natural effect and constant expression of genuine love. The Christian knows that God alone is an object worthy of his best affections ; and in him he sinds every thing requisite for gratifying his most enlarged desires. He sees that his savour, which is better than lise, can only be the satisfying portion of an immortal foul; and therefore he ardently desires an interest in him. His language is, " I intreated thy savour "with my whole heart. Lord, lift upon me the "light of thy countenance. I desire no greater, ll0 "other reward than this. The men of this world "may call the savourites of fortune happy ; the great, "the rich, and the prosperous: but may I be ac** cepted of God, and I am satissied. This is the sum "and the ultimate tendency of my wishes, which I ** would not exchange for all the sading honours and ** perishing enjoyments of the present lise.'' To the same purpose are the devout breathings of the pious Psalmist. "As the hart panteth aster the water ** brooks, so panteth my soul aster thee, O God: "My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God; ** when shall I come and appear before God? 0 "God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: "my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for "thee, in a dry and thirsty land where no water "is, to see thy power and thy glory, so as I have "seen thee in the sanctuary (a)." Thus the pious foul will naturally express its breathings aster God; and this is the very language of true devotion.
4. We approach to God in the duties of his worship, when we exercise a spiritual joy and delight in
* him. This is thJhighest, and most exalted instance, of the divine lise in the foul. To rejoice in God, and maintain a sense of our interest in him, is the nearest approach we can make to God in this world. Hence, we sind, this has been the exercise of the saints in every age. The Psalmist, whose writings every where abound with devotion, is remarkable for his joy in God. "My foul," says he, "shall make "her boast in the Lord; O magnify the Lord with• "me, and let us exalt his name together." The prophet Isaiah, whose predictions discover so much of an evangelical spirit, declares his resolution to joy in God: ** I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my "soul shall be joysul in my God («)." And to the same purpose the apostie Paul; "We also joy in God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Christian knows, that the persections of God are the proper foundations of his joy; and he seels an inward complacency, in contemplating the divine character. But still, it is the sense of an interest in him, which gives him the highest and most satisfying delight: this is that which transports the foul, and makes it break forth in the language of David, "The Lord "is the portion of mine inheritance, and of my cup; "thou mairitainest my lot. The lines are sallen to "me in pleasant places; I have a goodly heritage." In a word, this spiritual delight in God, in the duties of his worship, bears a near resemblance to the employment of heaven; it is a foretaste of future happiness, and the beginning of eternal joy.
II. We proceed, secondly. To represent the blessedness of such an approach to God; or to shew you, that this drawing nigh in the duties of his worship, is attended with great pleasure and advantage to the soul. This will appear, if we consider,
i. The great and glorious Being to whom we approach. God is the source whence all things are derived, and the sirst cause of the material and IntelliG gent (-) ise. U!. r*.