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on the very palate of your souls. To this spiritual sense of the believing Hebrews the apostle appealed when he said, ye “ took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better, and an enduring substance.” Heb. 10 : 34. This knowing in ourselves is more certain and sweet than all the traditional reports we can get from others: “Whom having not seen, ye love ; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory.” 1 Peter, 1 : 8. There is more of heaven felt and tasted in this world than men are aware of; it is one thing to hear of such countries as Spain, Italy, and Turkey by the reports we heard of them in our childhood, and another thing to understand them by the rich commodities imported from them, in the way of commerce. O did we but know what other Christians have felt and tasted, we should not have such doubtful thoughts about invisible things. But the secret comforts of religion are, and ought to be for the most part, hidden things. Religion lays not all open ; the Christian life is a hidden life.
2. If such a height of communion with God be atlainable on earth, then most Christians live below the duties and comforts of Christianity. Alas, the best of us are but at the foot of this pleasant mount Pisgah. As we are but in the infancy of our graces, so we are but in the infancy of our comforts. What a poor table is kept by many of God's own children; living between hopes and fears, seldom tasting the riches and joys of assurance. And would you know the reasons of it? There are five things which usually keep them poor and low as to spiritual joys. First, the incumbrances of the world, which divert them from, or distract them in their duties of communion with God, and so keep them low in their spiritual comforts. They have so much to do on earth, that they have little time for heavenly employments. ( what a noise and din do the trifles of this world make in the heads and hearts of many Christians. How dear do we pay for such trifles as these. Second, a spirit of formality creeping into the duties of religion impoverishes its vital spirit, like the embraces of the ivy, which binds and starves the tree it clasps about. Religion cannot thrive under formality, which it is difficult to keep out of a settled course of duty, and much more when duties are intermitted. Third, frequent temptations annoy the minds of many Christians, especially such as are of melancholy temperament. How importunate and restless are these temptations with some Christians. They can gain little comfort or advantage in duty, by reason of them. Fourth, heartapostasy, the inward decay of our first love, is another reason why our duties prosper so little. “Thou hast left thy first love." Rev. 2:4. You were not wont to serve God with such coldness. Fifth, in a word, spiritual pride impoverishes our comforts; the joys of the Spirit, like brisk wines, are too strong for our weak heads. For these causes, many Christians are kept low in spiritual comforts.
3. How sweet and desirable is the society of the saints. It must needs be desirable to walk with them who walk with God. 1 John, 1:3. There are no such companions as the saints. What benefit or pleasure can we find in converse with sensual worldlings? All we can carry away out of such company is guilt or grief. David speaks of his delight as being with the saints, the excellent of the earth. Psalm 16:3. And their society would certainly be much more sweet and desirable than it is, did they live more in communion with God than they do. There was a time when the communion of the saints was exceedingly lovely, Mal. 3:16; Acts 2:46, 47; the Lord restore it to its primitive glory and sweetness.
4. What an unspeakable mercy is conversion, which lets the soul into such a state of spiritual pleasure. Here is the beginning of your acquaintance with God—the first spiritual pleasures, of which there shall never be an end. All the time men have spent in an unconverted state, has been a time of estrangement and alienation from God; when the Lord brings a man to Christ, in the way of conversion, he begins his first acquaintance with God. “Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace; thereby good shall come unto thee.” Job 22:21. This your first acquaintance with the Lord, will grow; every visit you give him in prayer increases intimacy, and humble, holy familiarity between him and you. And 0 what a paradise of pleasure does this let the soul into; the life of religion abounds with pleasures. Psalm 16:11. “Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.” Prov. 3:17. Now you know where to go for relief from any trouble that presses your hearts; whatever prejudices and scandal Satan and his instruments cast on religion, this I will affirm of it, that that man must necessarily be a stranger to true pleasure, and empty of real comfort, who is a stranger to Christ and communion with him. True, here is no allowance for sinful pleasures; nor is there any lack of spiritual pleasures. Bless God, therefore, for converting grace, you that have it; and lift up a cry to heaven for it, you that want it.
5. If there be so much delight in our imperfect, and often interrupted communion with God here, then what is heaven; what are the immediate visions of his face in the perfect state? “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.” 1 Cor. 2:9. You have heard glorious and ravishing reports in the gospel of that blessed future state, things which the angels desire to look into. You have felt and tasted joys unspeakable and full of glory, in the actings of your faith and love upon Christ; yet all you have heard, and all you have felt and tasted in the way to glory, falls so short of the perfection and blessedness of that state, that heaven will and must be a great surprise to them who have now the best acquaintance with it. Though the present comforts of the saints are sometimes as much as they can bear, for they say, “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples; for I am sick of lovē,” Sol. Song 2:5; yet these high tides of joy are but shallows, compared with the joys of his immediate presence. 1 Cor. 13 : 12. And as they run not so deep, so they are not constant and continued, as they shall be above : “So shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thess. 4:17.
6. Is this the privileged state into which all believers are admitted by conversion ? then strive for the highest attainment of communion with God in this world : be not contented with just so much grace as will secure you from hell, but labor after such a height of grace and communion with God as may bring you into the suburbs of heaven on earth. Forget the things that are behind you, as to satisfaction in them, and press towards the mark for the prize of your high calling. It is greatly to your loss that you live at such a distance from God, and are so seldom with him. Think not that the ablest ministers or the choicest books will ever be able to satisfy your doubts or comfort your hearts, while you let down your communion with God to so low a degree. O that you may be persuaded now to hearken obediently to three or four necessary words of counsel
(1.) Make communion with God the very level and aim of your soul in all your approaches to him in the ordinances and duties of religion. Set it upon the point of your compass, let it be the very thing your soul designs; let the desire and hope of communion with God be the thing that draws you to every sermon and prayer: “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 was the mark David aimed at; and men's success in duties is usually according to the spiritual aims and intentions of their hearts in them : both sincerity and comfort lie much in men's aims.
(2.) In all your approaches to God, plead hard with him for the manifestation of his love, and further communications of his grace: “Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice: have mercy also upon me, and answer me. When thou saidst, Seek ye my face; my heart said unto thee, Thy face, Lord, will I seek. Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger.” Psalm 27 : 7–9. How full of pleas and arguments for communion with God was this prayer of David. Lord, I am come, in obedience to thy command; thou saidst, “ Seek ye my face,” thou badest me come to thee, and wilt thou put away thy servant in anger? Thou hast been my help, I have had sweet experience of thy goodness, thou dost not use to put me off and turn me away empty.
(3.) Desire not comfort for its own sake, but comforts and refreshments for service and obedience' sake; that thereby you may be strengthened to go on in the ways of your duty with more cheerfulness. “I will run the way of thy commandments, when thou shalt enlarge my heart.” Psa. 119:32. As if he should say, O Lord, the comforts thou shalt give me, shall be returned again in cheerful services to thee. I desire them as oil to the wheels of obedience, not as food for my pride.
(4.) As ever you expect much comfort in the way of communion with God, see that you are strict and circumspect in your conversation. It is the looseness and carelessness of our hearts and lives which impoverishes our spiritual comforts. A little pride, a little carelessness frustrates a great deal of comfort which was very near us, almost in our hands. “When I would have healed Israel, then the iniquity of Ephraim was discovered.” Hosea 7:1. So, just when the desire of thy heart was at the door, some sin stept in the way of it. “Your iniquities have separated