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He has numbered your prayers. What, think you, will be the amount, when that number is rehearsed at the final day ? He has inhabited your closets. How many times has he seen you visit those secret recesses to converse with him? He has met you in his house. Have you found him there? Had you truly seen his presence, could you have sent your thoughts on vain and sinful excursions to the ends of the earth? Could you have laughed, and whispered, and wantoned away the golden hours of salvation? Could you have slept before the mercy-seat, and dozed away your accepted time at the foot of the cross? The Sabbath is the day, the sanctuary is the house of God. Both were instituted to bring you directly into his presence. Has this ever been their effect? Have you not even here felt, that God was afar off in an unknown and distant country called heaven, where he was wholly occupied with his own concerns, and had neither leisure nor inclination to attend to you? Upon how many Sabbaths can you look back with comfort, or even with hope? Is there one, the transactions of which, you would be willing to have rehearsed at the day of judgment, or made the ground of your future reward?
Could you go on
Could you so
Could you daily and hourly say, "Thou God seest me, and feel what you said, would it be possible for you to be so quiet, so hardened, so stupid in your sins? so quietly towards the miseries of perdition? gaily, so sportively, see the distance between you and heaven become every day greater and greater? Would you not tremble at the thought of provoking afresh the anger of this great and terrible Being? Would not your instinctive language, at the sight of every temptation, at the approach of every sin, be, "How can I do this great wickedness, and sin 66 against God."
Remember that in all this conduct you are inexcusable. To realize the presence of God is absolutely in your power. It demands no supernatural assistance any more than to think or to feel, to study or to labour.
II. Let me urge upon the sinners in this house the great duty
of bringing home to their hearts the character and presence of God.
If you are ever to have a just sense of your sins, you must derive it from this source. All our obligations to obey God arise from his character as a being of supreme perfection; and from the fact that we are indebted to him for our existence, and for all its blessings and hopes; from the perfect nature of his law, and its absolute tendency to glorify him, and to produce the complete happiness of his immense and eternal kingdom. Of such importance is this tendency, as to justify the declaration on his part, that heaven and earth shall sooner pass away, than one jot or one tittle of the law shall fail, until all shall be fulfilled. In proportion to these things is the guilt of sin great and terrible.
But this truth cannot be felt unless you bring home to your hearts the character and presence of your Creator. Were this duty done, you could no longer be at ease in Zion, no longer secure and light-minded in your iniquity, and gay on the brink of destruction. It is because God is not in all your thoughts that you do not flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.
When the Israelites, at the foot of Mount Sinai, beheld the presence of God in clear view, all the people that were in the camp trembled; and earnestly besought him that he would speak to them no more, except by the mouth of Moses. But a few days afterwards, they made a molten calf, and worshipped it, and sacrificed thereunto, and said, "These are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee up out of the land "of Egypt." The reason of this otherwise inexplicable conduct was nothing else but that they had forgotten God their Saviour, who had done such great things in Egypt. All other sinners are, in these respects, exact copies of the Israelites. Whenever they bring the divine character and presence to their hearts, they begin to see their sins in some measure as they are, they learn their true character, they open their eyes upon their guilt, they tremble at their danger. But when, as is the usual fact, God is not in all their thoughts, they become secure, bold, strong, impious, regardless of sin
and hell, of holiness and salvation, of God and their own souls. The language of their hearts, if not of their lips, is, "Tomorrow shall be as this day, and much more abundant.” "Who is the Almighty that we should serve him? or what profit shall we have if we pray unto him ?" All the difference between the most hopeful thoughts and emotions in the mind of a convinced sinner, and the most hopeless circumstances of a stupid impenitent, may be explained by the existence and the want of a solemn, proper, and affecting sense of the character and presence of God. What a mad man is he, then, who forces this awful but immensely profitable subject out of his mind, and who is satisfied to go to perdition if he may only have a smooth and quiet passage!
III. Let me urge this great duty also upon the Christians in this assembly.
You, my brethren, are no less bound to advance in holiness than sinners are to become holy; for both these duties are enjoined by the same authority. At the same time, there is "a law in your members warring continually against the law in your minds, and bringing you under captivity to the law of sin "which is in your members." You, like all other Christians, are perpetually prone to forget God, your duty, and your salvation. All these, let me exhort you to remember, are forgotten together. The world takes their place. Sin resumes its power. Temptations crowd upon the soul; transgression succeeds; our duty is feebly done, or left undone; and the door is opened wide for repentance and sorrow.
Purity of life is maintained, and improvement in holiness acquired, only by a constant and lively sense of the presence of God. He is the sovereign who demands this character of us. No other being is lord of the conscience; no other being can direct the faith, or enjoin the duty of intelligent beings.
He is always present to see whether we obey or refuse to obey this solemn requisition. What he sees he records, whether it be good or whether it be evil.
By what solemn obligations, then,-by what amazing interests are you bound to realize his presence, and to remember
that his all-searching eye is open, day and night, with an awful survey upon your hearts, and upon your lives. A clear apprehension of this truth cannot fail deeply to affect your minds; to take strong hold on your hearts; to prevent, or drive away, temptation; to rouse you from sloth, and sleep; and to awaken you to the dangers of this seducing world. When God is before your eyes, can you fail to remember the riches of his grace? the wonders of redeeming, forgiving, and sanctifying love? the solemnity of the covenant, in which you have consecrated yourselves to his service, and your mighty, as well as endearing, obligations to purify yourselves, even as he is pure? When God is before your eyes, can you fail to remember how delightful it is to please him; how odious to dishonour him; how mischievous, how painful, to wound religion, and to pierce the hearts of your fellow-Christians? In the presence of that awful Being, how can your sins fail to appear in their black and proper colours? How can they fail of being detested, renounced, and, in a good degree, forsaken? A constant dread of sinning will, therefore, seize upon your hearts, and become a governing principle of your moral conduct.
To forget, or to be insensible of, the presence of God, is to lose sight of your best good; to weaken your sense of duty; and to expose yourselves to every temptation. Had David remembered this glorious and awful Being; had he called to mind the just and sublime thoughts which he has uttered in the 139th Psalm, when he commenced the career of his iniquity with Bathsheba,-what a long train of dreadful crimes, what a long course of bitter repentance, what a melancholy series of excruciating distresses, would have been prevented! Had Peter remembered the inspection of the all-seeing eye, he would not have denied his Lord, the pages of the gospel would not have been stained by the record of his fall; and his own soul would have been saved from the anguish of many sorrows. The nature of these is the nature of all good men. In themselves weak, frail, and backsliding, they have no safety but in God. But where shall we find a promise, that the
Divine Protector will extend his guardianship to any man, at seasons, in which he is forgotten. Were it possible for the inhabitants of heaven to cease from a consciousness of the presence of God, there is reason to fear, that they would cease, also, from their unspotted virtue.
To prompt and to aid mankind to the performance of the duty, enjoined in this discourse, is one of the great benefits, intended by the worship instituted in the Gospel. The sanctuary derives its importance, its solemnity, its sacred character, not from the splendour with which it may be built, nor from the rites with which it may be consecrated, but from its Divine Inhabitant. On the door-posts, on the altar, of every temple, every Christian should read the name of the city, seen in vision by Ezekiel," Jehovah is here." "Surely," said Jacob," Jehovah is in this place; and I knew it not. How "awful is this place! It is none other than the house of God, "and the gate of heaven." Hither we come to see his face and seek his favour; to confess our sins and supplicate his mercy. Here he meets us to pity, to forgive, to bless, and to save. All our transactions here are with God; and irresistibly bring this glorious Being immediately before our eyes. Every good man, every man in whom piety is alive, will feel, therefore, as a pious Israelite felt when he stood before the cloud in the temple, from the bosom of which the awful voice of JEHOVAH answered the prayers of the people, and uttered the oracles of life.
From the house of God these solemn apprehensions are carried with us to our own habitations. They revive, they are invigorated in the morning and evening sacrifice. But they are especially quickened in the closet. From this sacred retreat the world is shut out. No earthly eye looks on; no earthly object intrudes. Here we bow before our Maker, and converse with him face to face. Our souls are naked before him. Our lives pass in review; our sins are set in the light of his countenance; our penitence, our faith, our love, our comforts, and our hopes. God, thus intimately seen in this private temple, is seen through the day, till we revisit the