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instructive metaphor, the path of the just is described in Scripture to be as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.* It is the dawn of a glorious morning, which increases by degrees to meridian splendour; and as the morning dawn, though dim and feeble, is nevertheless a ray of the same light which forms the brightness of noon-day, we are hereby taught to conceive, that the piety and virtue of good men now, is a degree of celestial nature already imparted to their souls, and differs from its perfection in a higher world, only as the twilight is inferior to noon. The path of the wicked man is directly the reverse of all this. Degraded by his vices, he is constantly declining more and more in a downward course. His path, instead of being as the shining light, is the dusk of evening begun: that darkness of the infernal regions to which his nature is tending, increases upon him gradually, till the shadows of night close upon his head at last, with endless and impenetrable gloom.-Thus fully is verified what the Psalmist had asserted in the verse preceding the text, Lo! they that are far from thee shall perish; while his own fixed sentiment he immediately declares — but it is good for me to draw near to God. I proceed,
II. To consider the other sense in which we may be said to draw near to God; that is, in acts of immediate devotion.
There are two ways by which these contribute to bring us near to God. The first is, by their strengthening in the soul that power of vital godliness and
* Prov. iv. 18.
virtue, in which consists our chief resemblance to God; for it is never to be forgotten that all our devotional exercises are subservient to this great end. Herein consists their whole virtue and efficacy, that they purify and improve the soul, raise it above low passions, and thereby promote the elevation of the human nature towards the Divine. When they are considered merely as external services, which we are obliged to perform, but to which we address ourselves with cold and backward hearts; or when the glow of affection which they excite is merely momentary and soon forgotten, they cannot be held to have any influence in bringing us near to God. It is only when they are the service of the heart, when they are the genuine voice of the soul to God, when they serve to kindle those sacred aspirations which continue to breathe throughout the rest of life, that they assist us in rising towards heaven, and alliance with God.
When our acts of devotion are of this nature, they form the other sense in which the words of the text are to be understood. We therein draw near to God, as we enter into the most immediate intercourse with him, which the nature of our state admits. In one sense, we cannot be said to be nearer to God at any one time than another; as at all times his presence
' equally surrounds us ; in the fields, as in the temple; in the midst of the world, as much as in the retirement of the closet. But when with serious and devout affections we address ourselves to God, in prayer, and praise, and solemn worship, we then bring home that Divine presence to our feelings, and formally place ourselves in it. We may then be truly said to draw near to God: approaching to him through a great
Mediator and Intercessor; sending up those
prayers to which we are encouraged to believe that the Almighty is lending a gracious ear; resigning ourselves to his conduct, and offering up our souls to him, exercising, in short, all those acts of faith, love, and trust, which become dependent creatures, towards their Sovereign and Father.
This intellectual correspondence of the heart with our Maker and Redeemer, is termed, in the language of divines, communion with God. And, if there be truth in religion at all; if a Supreme Being exist, who is in any degree accessible to his creatures, and who is gracious to the good, it must be admitted to have a foundation in reason and truth.
There must be just ground to think, that the worship of pure and holy hearts is acceptable to him; and the gospel gives us full reason to believe that the energy of his spirit is concerned in stirring up within them the sentiments of devotion.
At the same time it is incumbent on me to warn you,
that the satisfaction which on such occasions we feel, must not be grounded merely on a belief which we allow ourselves to entertain, of some communication which we had received directly from God. In the warm and transporting moments of devotion there is always a hazard of our mistaking the exalted efforts of our own imagination, for supernatural impressions from Heaven. It is much safer to judge of the acceptance of our services, by an inference which we can warrantably draw from the state of our hearts and life, compared to God's written word. To the law and the testimony we must always have recourse in judging of our state ; and then only the testimony of God's spirit witnesseth with our spirits
that we are the children of God, when we can discern in ourselves those declared fruits of the Spirit, which are love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.
Carrying along with us this caution, it will be found that, on many accounts, it will be good for us to draw near to God in exercises of solemn devotion.
First, it is evidently good for us, to discharge those duties of worship, and to give proof of those pious affections, which are unquestionably due from us to
ur Heavenly Father. If we be wanting in these, we are clearly deficient in one essential part of religion. Morality without piety, constitutes a very imperfect character. It is neither stable in its foundation, nor universal in its influence; and gives us no ground to look for the rewards of those whose prayers, together with their alms, come up in memorial before God.
But, besides the obligations from duty which we are laid under to such religious exercises, it can clearly be shown that they are in themselves good for us, on account of the improvement, the satisfaction, and comfort, they enable us to enjoy, in a devout elevation of the heart towards God and celestial objects.
When we reflect on the languor that attends the ordinary circulation of the little occupations of life; on the insipidity of many of its amusements; and the depression of spirits that follows after them; we cannot but be sensible that occasional intercourse with God and Divine things, must furnish a comfortable relief to the mind. It is not, indeed, an inter
course for which we are at all times equal; but neither was the human mind formed to grovel at all times among low cares and objects. It has a demand for something higher and greater than what the common round of the world affords. Hence the
. extravagant and eccentric pursuits into which we sometimes deviate. We attempt some higher bliss than what we find here. But the attempt which is made by folly, can only be successfully executed by a wise and good man, in the elevation of his soul towards God. Some indeed are sunk so low in worldly gratifications, that nothing has any relish with them, but what either breathes the air of giddy dissipation, or tastes of the impure stream of sensual pleasure. But this vitiated taste, contracted by long corrupt habits, is unnatural in itself, and by proper discipline can be corrected and reformed. Let the mind be restored to its sound and natural state, and its relish for what is more great and noble will return.
Besides the imperfection and emptiness of the ordinary pleasures of the world, many pains and distresses are always mingled with them. No more effectual relief from them can be found than that which may be enjoyed in drawing near to God. Passions corrode the mind. Cares and anxieties fester in it. We are fretted by the ingratitude of friends; soured by the calumnies of enemies; harassed with the competition of rivals. The very bustle and agitation of the world wear out and oppress the mind that longs for tranquillity. In religious retirement, and in those exercises of devotion that bring us near to God, we attain a pleasing region of calm and repose. There, worldly passions are silent; worldly cares are hushed and forgotten. The mind retires