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of their dens in the darkness of the night, and shrink back again when the sun ariseth, Psa. 104 : 20–22 ; so do the fears and inward troubles of the people of God, when this light shines upon their souls. Nay more, this is a light which scatters the very darkness of death itself. It was the saying of a worthy divine of Germany upon his death-bed, when his eyesight was gone, being asked how it was within : “ Why,” said he, “ though all be dark about me,” yet, pointing as well as he could to his breast, “ here is light enough.”
EXCELLENCY 16. It is liberty to the imprisoned soul, and the most comfortable and excellent liberty in the whole world. He only walks at liberty who walks with God: “I will walk at liberty; for I seek thy precepts.” Psa. 119 : 45. Wicked men cry out of bands and cords in religion ; they look upon the duties of godliness as the greatest bondage and thraldom. “Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us." Psa. 2:3. Away with this strictness and preciseness, it extinguishes the joy and pleasure of our lives; give us our cups instead of Bibles, our jovial songs instead of spiritual psalms, our sports and pastimes instead of prayers and sermons. Alas, poor creatures, how do they dance in their chains, when, in reality, the sweetest liberty is enjoyed in the duties at which they thus scoff. The law of Christ is the law of liberty; the soul of man never enjoys more freedom than when it is bound with the strictest bonds of duty to God. Here is liberty from enthralling lusts, and from enslaving fears : “ The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” Rom. 8:2. And here is freedom indeed : “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed." John 8:36. And here is freedom from fears. Luke 1 : 74, 75. Those that will not endure any restraint from their lusts, will have their freedom to sin ; a freedom they shall have, such as it is. “When ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.” Rom. 6:20. Let none therefore be prejudiced against the ways of duty and godliness. The law of Christ is the perfect law of liberty, James 1:25_not liberty to sin ; but liberty from sin.
EXCELLENCY 17. It is a mercy purchased by the blood of Christ for believers, and one of the principal mercies settled upon them by the new covenant. A peculiar mercy, which none but the redeemed of the Lord partake of a mercy the purchase of which cost the blood of Christ. I do not deny but there are thousands of other mercies bestowed upon the unregenerate : they have health, wealth, children, honors, pleasures, and all the delights of this life ; but communion with God, and the pleasures which result therefrom, they are incapable of enjoying. There can be no supping with Christ on such excellent privileges and mercies as these, till the heart is opened to him by faith ; you cannot come nigh to God, until you are first made nigh by reconciliation. Eph. 2:13; Heb. 10:19–22. What would your lives, Christians, be worth to you, if this mercy were cut off from you? There would be little sweetness or savor in all your outward mercies, were it not for this that sweetens them all. And there is this difference, among many others, between this and all outward mercies : you may be cut off from the enjoyment of those, but you cannot from this ; no prison can keep out the Comforter. O bless God for this invaluable mercy.
EXCELLENCY 18. It is natural to the new creature; the inclination of the newly regenerated soul leads to communion with God. It is as natural to him to desire it and work after it, as it is to the new-born babe to seek the breast : “ As new-born babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” 1 Pet. 2:2. There is a law upon the regenerate soul, which inwardly and powerfully constrains it to acts of duty, and fellowship with God in
them. Communion with God arises out of the principles of grace. You know all creatures act according to the laws of nature : the sun will rise and the sea will flow at their appointed times; and the gracious soul will make towards its God in the times and seasons of communion with him. It is not forced to these duties by the frights of conscience and the fears of hell, so much as by the natural inclination of the new creature. Two things demonstrate communion with God to be conatural to the regenerate soul, the inner-man, the hidden-man of the heart : namely, first, the restlessness of a gracious soul without it. The church had sought her Beloved, but found him not. Does she sit down satisfied in his absence ? No; “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.” Sol. Song 3:2. Second, the satisfaction and pleasure which the soul feels in the enjoyment of communion with God, plainly show it to be agreeable to the new nature : “My soul shall be satisfied as with marrow and fatness; and my mouth shall praise thee with joyful lips; when I remember thee upon my bed.” Psa. 63:5, 6. And when it is thus, duties become easy and pleasant to the soul : “ His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John, 5:3. Yea, such a soul will be constant and assiduous in those duties. That which is natural, is constant as well as pleasant. What is the reason hypocrites renounce the duties of religion in times of difficulty, but because they have not an inward principle agreeable to them? The motives to duty lie without them, not within them.
EXCELLENCY 19. It is the holy commerce of all sanctified persons, and the richest trade ever engaged in by men. Thus they grow rich in spiritual treasures; the revenues of it are better than silver and gold. Many of you have traded long for this world, and it comes to little; and had you gained your designs, you had gained but trifles. This is the rich and profitable occupation : "Our conversation is in heaven.” Phil. 3:20. Our commerce lies that way, so the word signifies. There are few Christians who have engaged in this soul-enriching trade any considerable time, but can show some spiritual treasures which they have gotten by it: “This I had, because I kept thy precepts.” Psa. 119:56. As merchants can show the gold and silver, the lands and houses, the rich goods and furniture, which they have obtained by their successful adventures abroad; and tell their friends, so much I got by such a voyage, and so much by another; so Christians have invaluable treasures, though their humility conceals them, which they have gained by this heavenly commerce of communion with God. Their souls are weak, but by communion with God they have gotten strength : “I cried, and thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul.” Psa. 138:3. They have gained peace by it, a treasure inestimable : “Great peace have they which love thy law; and nothing shall offend them.” Psa. 119: 165. They have obtained purity by it: “They also do no iniquity : they walk in his ways." Psa. 119: 3. O what rich returns are here; nay, they sometimes get full assurance by it. The riches of both the Indies will not purchase from a Christian the least of these mercies. These are the rich rewards of our pains in the duties of religion ; in keeping his commandments there is great reward. Psa. 19: 11.
EXCELLENCY 20. It is oil to the wheels of obedience, which makes the soul go on cheerfully in the ways of the Lord : “ I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Psa. 119 : 32. Oiled wheels run freely. How prompt and ready for any act of obedience is a soul under the influence of communion with God. Then it cries, as Isaiah, having gotten a sight of God, “Here am I, send me." Isa. 6:8.
Hereby the soul is prepared for the duties of active obedience, to which it applies itself with delight: “Then will Flrtet Knocking
I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy," Psa. 43: 4; or, as it is in the Hebrew, "the gladness of my joy.” The soul goes to prayer as a hungry man to a feast, or a covetous man to his treasures : "I have rejoiced in the way of thy testimonies, as much as in all riches.” Psa. 119: 14.
It prepares the soul for passive obedience, and makes a man rejoice in his sufferings. Col. 1:24. It will make a Christian stand ready to receive any burden that God may lay on his shoulders, and even be thankful to be so employed : .“ The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Neh. 8:10. A Christian under the cheerful influences of near communion with God, can with more cheerfulness lay down his neck for Christ, than other men can lay out a shilling for him. In all these twenty particulars, you have an account of the excellency of this privilege; but O how short an account have I given of it. What remains, is the application of this doctrine.
INFERENCE 1. How certain it is, that there is a God, and a state of glory prepared for sanctified souls. These things are undeniable. God has set them before our spiritual eyes and senses. Besides the revelation of heaven 'in the gospel, which without any thing more makes it infallible, the Lord, for our abundant satisfaction, has brought these things down to the touch and test of our spiritual senses and experience. You who have had so many sights of God by faith, so many sweet tastes of heaven in the duties of religion, O what a confirmation and seal have you of the reality of invisible things. You may say of heaven, and the joys above, as the apostle did of Him that purchased it, “ Which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled," 1 John, 1:1; for God has set these things in some degree before your eyes, and put the first-fruits of them into your hands. The sweet relish of the joy of the Lord is