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CHAPTER XII.

COMMUNION BETWEEN CHRIST AND BELIEV.

ERS ON EARTH-CONTINUED.

"I WILL COME IN TO HIM, AND WILL SUP WITH HIM, AND HE

WITH ME." Rev. 3:20.

I SHALL now proceed to show you,

III. THE TRANSCENDENT EXCELLENCY of this life of communion with God: it is the life of our life, the joy of our hearts; a heaven upon earth——as will appear by these twenty excellencies thereof.

EXCELLENCY 1. It is the assimilating instrument whereby the soul is moulded after the image of God. This is the excellency of communion with God, to make the soul like him. There is a twofold assimilation or conformity of the soul to God, the one perfect and complete, the other imperfect and in part. Perfect assimilation is the privilege of the perfect state, resulting from the immediate vision and perfect communion the soul has with God in glory : “When he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” 1 John, 3:2. Perfect vision produces perfect assimilation ; but the soul's assimilation or imperfect conformity to God in this world, is wrought and gradually carried on by daily communion with him. And as our communion with God here grows up more and more into spirituality and power, so in an answerable degree does our conformity to him advance: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinth. 3 : 18. All sorts of communion among men have an assimilating efficacy: he that walks in vain company is vainer than he was before ; and he that walks in spiritual, heavenly company, will be more serious than before. But nothing so transforms the spirit of a man

as communion with God. Those are most like God that converse most frequently with him. The beauty of the Lord is upon those souls ; it changes the spirit of a man after the divine pattern..

EXCELLENCY 2. It is the beauty of the soul, in the eyes of God and all good men; it makes the face to shine. No outward splendor attracts like this ; it makes a man the most desirable companion in the whole world : “That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that ye also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John, 1:3. This is the great inducement the apostle makes use of to draw the world into fellowship with the saints, that their fellowship is with God. And if there were ten thousand other inducements, there could be none like this. You read of a blessed time, when the earth shall be full of holiness; when the Jews, now as a lost generation, shall be called, and an eminent degree of sanctification shall be visible in them; and then see the effect of this : “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirts of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.” Zech. 8:23. This is the powerful attractive, the Lord is with you; it is the effect of communion with God, which makes the righteous more excellent than his neighbor. Prov. 12:26. What a visible difference does this make between one man and another. How heavenly, sweet, and desirable are the conversation and company of some men; how frothy, burdensome, and unprofitable is the company of others; and what makes the difference but only this, the one walks in communion with God, the other is alienated from the life of God?

EXCELLENCY 3. It is the centre on which rests the weary soulthe rest and refreshment of a man's spirit : “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.” Psa. 116:7. When we attain perfect communion with God in heaven, we attain to perfect rest; and all the rest the spirit of man finds on earth, is in communion with God. Take a sanctified person who has intermitted for some time his communion with the Lord, and ask him, Is your soul at rest and ease? He will tell you, No. The motions of his soul are like those of a member of his body out of joint, neither comely nor easy. Let him recover his spiritual frame again, and with it he recovers his rest and cornfort. Christians, you meet with a variety of troubles in this world ; many a sweet comfort is cut off, many a hopeful project dashed by the hand of Providence; and what, think you, is the meaning of these blasting, disappointing providences ? Surely this is their design and errand, to disturb your false rest in the bosom of the creature; to pluck away the pillows you were laying your heads upon, that you may be led back to God, recover your lost communion with him, and say with David, “Return unto thy rest, O my soul.” Sometimes we are settling ourselves to rest in an estate, in a child, or the like : at such a time it is usual for God to say, Go, losses, smite such a man's estate ; go, death, and take away the desire of his eyes with a stroke, that my child may find rest nowhere but in me. God is the ark; the soul, like the dove Noah sent forth, let it fly where it will, shall find no rest till it come back to God.

EXCELLENCY 4. It is the desire of all gracious souls throughout the world. Wherever there is a gracious soul, its desires work after communion with God. As Christ was called, “The Desire of all nations,” Hag. 2:7, so communion with him is the desire of all nations; and this speaks the excellency of it: “One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after ; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple.” Psa. 27:4. That is to enjoy communion with him in the public duties of his worship. One thing have I desired, that is, one thing above all others; such an one, that if God shall give it me, I can comfortably bear the want of other things. Let him deny me what he will, if he will not deny me this one thing ; this shall richly recompense the want of all other things. Hence the desires of the saints are so intense after this one thing: “As the hart panteth after the water-brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, O God;" and, “My soul fainteth for thy salvation;" “When wilt thou come unto me?” Psalm 42:1; 119:81; 101:2. No duties can satisfy without it, the soul cannot bear the delay, much less the denial of this communion. Christians reckon their lives worth nothing without it. Ministers may come, ordinances and sabbaths may come; but there is no satisfaction to the desires of a gracious heart, till God comes too: “O when wilt thou come unto me?

EXCELLENCY 5. As it is the desire, so it is the delight of all the children of God, both in heaven and earth. As communion with the saints is the delight of Christ, “Let me hear thy voice ;” and again, “ The companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it;" so communion with Christ is the delight of his people : "I sat down under his shadow with great delight, and his fruit was sweet to my taste.” Sol. Song 2: 14; 8:13; 2:3. It is the pleasure of Christ to see the earnest countenances, the blushing cheeks, the weeping eyes of his people on their knees; and it is the delight of the saints to see a smile upon his face, and to hear a voice of pardon and peace from his lips. I must tell you, Christians, you must look for no such delights as these in any earthly enjoyment; there are none better than these, till you come home to glory. Communion with God then appears most excellent, inasmuch as it is the desire and delight of all gracious souls.

EXCELLENCY 6. It is the envy of Satan, that which mortifies and disappoints that wicked spirit. O how it grates and galls that proud and envious spirit, to see men enjoying the pleasure of communion with God, from which he himself is fallen and cut off for ever; to see the saints in delightful communion with Christ, while he feels the pangs of horror and despair: this he cannot endure to behold. And therefore you find in your experience, that times of communion with God are usually busy times of temptation from the devil. “And he showed me Joshua the high-priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” Zech. 3:1. It is well for thee, Christian, that thou hast an Advocate standing at God's right hand to resist and frustrate his attempts upon thee ; otherwise Satan would thus destroy your communion with God, and make that which is now your delight, your terror. Many ways doth the devil oppose the saints' communion with God: sometimes he labors to divert them from it; this business shall fall in, or that occasion fall out, on purpose to divert thy soul's approach to God; but if he cannot prevail in this, then he labors to distract your thoughts into a thousand vanities; or if he succeed not there, he attacks you in your return from duty, with spiritual pride and security. These fierce oppositions of hell show the worth and excellency of communion with God.

EXCELLENCY 7. It is the design of all the ordinances and duties of religion. God has instituted every ordinance and duty, whether public or private, to beget and maintain communion between himself and our souls. What are ordinances, duties, and graces, but perspective-glasses to give us a sight of God and help us to communion with him ? God never intended his ordinances to be our rest, but mediums of communion with himself, who is our true rest. When wo go into a boat, it is not with an intention to dwell there, but to be ferried over the water where our business lies. If a man miss of communion with God in the best ordinance or duty, it yields him little comfort. He comes back from it, like a man that hath travelled many miles to meet a dear

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