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ing presence of the Most High, “who is about our path and about our bed, and spieth out all our ways;" of whom, not in the field of Luz alone, but wherever our footsteps carry us, it may be said, that“ surely God is in this place;" to whom the whole firmament of the skies is as a tent to well in, and the universal earth His footstool; and in whose sight and through whose favour it is, let our pilgrimage lie where it will, that every where is the gate of Heaven!
This notion of God as an Almighty, All-present, All-seeing and Unseen Existence, who " is not far from
any and in whom we live and move and have our being,” is, unquestionably, a strange and awful subject of thought, and one which cannot be agitated in our minds without a deep and almost a painful and terrifying sense of our owu weakness and dependance. Even to a good man, and to one who is, on good grounds, assured of the protection and favour of his Maker, this presence not to be shunned, this power not to be resisted, this awful eye for ever bent on our ways is, at times, oppressive as well as surprising. “ Whither," said the Psalmist,“ shall I go then from Thy Spirit, or whither shall I go then from Thy presence? If i climb up into Heaven Thou art there. If I go down into hell Thou art there also. If I take the wings of the morning and remain in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there also shall Thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.
If I say, peradventure the darkness shall cover me, then shall my night be turned to day. Yea, the darkness is no darkness with Thee, but the night is as clear as the day; the darkness and light to Thee are both alike !"
We are lost in the meditation of such greatness. In this sea of glory our powers, our wisdom, our life, appear to sink into nothing. What is man, (we are apt to say) that God should condescend to regard him? and what are the thoughts, the words, and works of man, that they should be able to endure the constant inspection of a Judge so wise, so great, so terrible ?
But if even good men, if even the best of men, must be thus at times affected by the sense of God's unseen and continual presence; if they too must, at times, find the
place dreadful where they thus stood before Him; how. grievous must this recollection be to those who live without God in the world; who are conscious that by their daily sins they have drawn on themselves His heaviest anger, and that they have done before His face, and under the beam of His indignant eye, such actions as they would have been afraid or ashamed to have fallen into in the presence of a mere mortal bystander ?
It is a dreadful thing, when conscience reckons up her catalogue of secret guilt, to remember that every one of those crimes which were most hateful to God and to man were done with the knowledge, and in the presence, of the Judge, the severe and upright Judge of men and angels. A dreadful thing it is to know that He from whom nothing is hidden while doing, and by whom nothing is forgotten when done, was there in the midst of our foulest lurkingplace, in the assembly of our guilty friends and accomplices, His eye bent on our deeds, His anger kindled by our wickedness, and His arm, perhaps, upraised to strike us down to death and hell, if His mercy had not interfered to afford us a little longer time for repentance. A dreadful thing it is to say, “ surely God was in this place, when I cast my eyes so carefully round and flattered myself that my uncleanness, my robbery, or my fraud was hid in darkness and solitude. God was in this place, when I deformed His image with drunkenness, and when my mouth was filled with the words of lust and blasphemy.
God was in this place, when I called on His holy name to obtain credit for my falsehood, and challenged His power to punish me if I dealt untruly with my neighbour. And God is in this place, and beholds my present hardness and impenitent heart;
He knows and sees my lingering fondness for the sins which I am pretending to abandon; and He is waiting, perhaps, even now, for the conduct which I shall now adopt, the resolution which I shall now follow, to determine whether my lot shall be hereafter among the children of light, or whether His Spirit shall be withdrawn from me, (it may be,) for ever!"
Surely, my friends, the presence of our Creator, our Saviour, our Judge, and our King, is to all of us a matter of
deep and serious concernment! If the Almighty were at this moment to make Himself visible to our eyes; if we beheld, like the Israelites in Horeb, His glory as it were a consuming fire, shining forth from amid the darkness of the cloudy firmament; if we beheld Him, like Isaiah, on His throne exceeding high, with the many winged seraphim around, exclaiming Holy, Holy, Holy; if we were caught up, like St. John in the Revelation, to the open gates of Heaven, and beheld in the midst of its sea of glass, and beneath its rainbow canopy, that seat on which He who sitteth is in brightness as a jasper and a sardine stone; or if that vision were shown to us which came to Daniel, when the Ancient of Days did sit on the cloud with His ten thousand times ten thousand angels, when the fiery stream went forth before Him, when the judgment was begun, and the books of life were opened ;-should we not be led in this case to cry out with the Israelites, let not God speak with us lest we die ;-should we not say, with Isaiah, wo is me for I have seen the Lord the God of Israel !—or what posture of body should we think sufficiently humble; what form of behaviour too strict, too cautious, too reverent, in such a presence? How should we endeavour to restrain our lips from evil, our thoughts from wandering, and our inclinations from whatever might offend Him?
Alas, have we forgotten how thin a screen that is which separates us from this glorious and awful spectacle of Jehovah's majesty! Let but the word go forth from His mouth, let but one of His innumerable ministers cut the thread of our days, and set our spirit free from the curtains of this bodily tabernacle, and in a moment we should perhaps be introduced to that very scene of which the thought is so dreadful to us. In a moment our soul would find itself introduced to the vast world of invisible beings; would behold, it may be, the angels of God ascending and descending as ministers of His will between Heaven and earth! and our Maker Himself in His boundless glory, and our Redeemer standing at His right hand! This moment, while I speak, this prospect is offered for the first time to many who, in the different nations of the world, are passing from life to eternity ; this moment it may be offered to any of us who are here assembled. Surely the Lord is in this place, and we knew it not, how dreadful is this place! This place may.to each of us become, according as we are prepared for the passage, the gate of hell or Heaven !
The practical effects which considerations like these should produce in our lives and actions, are too plain to need my pointing out to you. If these things are true, (and their truth is proved, not only from revealed but natural religion) what inanner of persons ought we to be in holiness and pureness of living? But if there be one time or place more than another where the feeling of this presence of God should possess or govern us, it must be when we are avowedly assembled for the purpose of acknowledging His presence by prayer and praise in these holy buildings which are called after His name, and which the usual and decent reverence of mankind has concurred to set apart from profane and secular purposes.
This separation, indeed, by some outward mark of reverence, of things devoted to the service of God from those which serve the ordinary uses of the present life, is a practice, which seems enjoined by nature itself, and which has been observed by all nations and by almost all religious sects or parties.
It is, indeed, most true, (and I have laboured in vain if I have not brought the conviction home to your minds,) it is true that the earth is the Lord's and all that is therein; that the open field, the private dwelling, the ship, the house of merchandise, the highway, the forest and the fell, are, each of them, on proper occasions, a suitable scene of prayer; and each and all of them, as scenes of God's pervading presence, should be hallowed by our unending duty, by our aspirations ever bent on Heaven, our innocency of heart and of life, our submission of every word and thought to the governance and glory of the Most High. But such is the eakness of our mortal state, that a religion thus widely diffused would infallibly become weaken. ed and diluted, unless there were some certain rallying points of attention and of reverence, in which our hearts
should be more closely drawn to God, and our thoughts composed to a stricter sense of His neighbourhood.
We find it in the institution of the Sabbath, (an institution which, if it were of human authority alone, would, for its practical wisdom and utility, deserve the praise and imitation of all who give laws or set examples to mankind,) we find how needful it is that the love and service which we ought to render every day, should, if we would have them paid at all, be on some days paid more strictly. And, if we desire to remember God on the ocean and in the field, if we desire to bear His image with us through the crowded and busy walks of life, and to recollect effectually that the universe is His temple, it is well that some portions of this vast whole should be divided and set apart in our ideas, as associated with customary piety, and unprofaned by secular mixtures.
Accordingly, even in the heathen world, sacra profanis," was accounted the duty of a king, while kings were yet the priests as well as leaders of their people. The rude stone pillars of the ancient patriarchs, yea the very pillar of Luz, which this Jacob reared in memory of his glorious vision, were, by solemn prayer and by the pouring on of oil and wine, devoted to the thoughts of an invisible world and the service of the God of Abraham. The tabernacle first, and afterwards either temple, had their solemn feasts of dedication; and even in the latter days of the Jewish covenant, and when the temple of God in Jerusalem was so soon to be given up by its Heavenly King to that common destruction which chastised His rebellious subjects, we still see the Son of God, all gentle and gracious as was His usual character, aroused to a sense of wrath by the indignities offered to His Father's shrine; and on this provocation, and in this quarrel only, assuming to Himself the power of an earthly king, and inflicting on the corrupt guardians of the sanctuary the terrors of an earthly chastisement.
The God of the ancient patriarchs, the God of the Jews, the God and Father of Him whose name we bear, is the God of the Christians still; human nature is still the same, and in us, no less than in them, it requires those outward