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know assuredly, that if they awe not their hearts and spirits continually with the thoughts and apprehensions of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, that he is always with them, and his eye always upon them, they will not be preserved from snares and sinful miscarriages.
Yea, such thoughts are needful unto the best of us all, and in the best of our societies, that we behave not ourselves indecently in them at any time.
Again, unto some, privacy, secrecy, and opportunity, are occasions of temptation and sin. They are so unto persons under convictions not wholly turned to God. Many a good beginning hath been utterly ruined by this occasion and temptation. Privacy and opportunity have overthrown many such persons in the best of their resolutions and they are so unto all persons not yet flagitiously wicked. Cursed fruits proceed every day from these occasions. We need no other demonstration of their power and efficacy in tempting unto sin, but the visible effects of them: and what they are unto any, they may be unto all, if not diligently watched against. So the apostle reflects on the shameful things that are done in the dark,' in a concurrence of secrecy and opportunity. This, therefore, gives a just season unto thoughts of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, and they will not be wanting in some measure in them that are spiritually minded.
God is in this place, the darkness is no darkness unto him, light and darkness are with him both alike; are sufficient considerations to lay in the balance against any temptation springing out of secrecy and opportunity. One thought of the actual presence of the holy God, and the open view of his all-seeing eye, will do more to cool those affections which lust may put into a tumult on such occasions, than any other consideration whatever. A speedy retreat hereunto upon the first perplexing thought wherewith temptation assaults the soul, will be its strong tower, where it shall be safe.
2. A second season calling for the exercise of our minds in thoughts of the omnipresence and omniscience of God, is made up of our solitudes and retirements. These give us the most genuine trials whether we are spiritually minded What we are in them, that we are and no more,
But yet in some of them, as in walking and journeying, or the like, vain thoughts and foolish imaginations are exceeding apt to solicit our minds. Whatever is stored up in the affections or memory, will at such a time offer itself for our present entertainment: and where men have accustomed themselves unto any sort of things, they will press on them for the possession of their thoughts, as it were, whether they will or no. The psalmist gives us the way to prevent this evil; Psal. xvi. 7, 8. I will bless the Lord who hath given me counsel; my reins also instruct me in the night season. I have set the Lord always before me, because he is at my right hand.' His reins, that is, his affections, and secret thoughts, gave him counsel, and instructed him in all such seasons: but whence had they that wisdom and faithfulness? in themselves they are the seat of all lusts and corruptions, nor could do any thing but seduce him into an evil frame. It was from hence alone that he set the Lord always before him.' Continual apprehensions of the presence of God with him, kept his mind, his heart and affections, in that awe and reverence of him, as that they always instructed him unto his duty. But as I remember, I spake somewhat as unto the due management of our thoughts in this season before.
3. Times of great difficulties, dangers, and perplexities of mind thereon, are a season calling for the same duty. Suppose a man is left alone in his trials for the profession of the gospel, as it was with Paul, when all men forsook him, and no man stood by him.' Suppose him to be brought before princes, rulers, or judges that are filled with rage and armed with power against him, all things being disposed to affect him with dread and terror. It is the duty of such a one to call off his thoughts from all things visibly present, and to fix them on the omnipresence and omniscience of God. He sits amongst those judges though they acknowledge him not; he rules over them at his pleasure; he knows the cause of the oppressed, and justifies them whenever the world condemns; and can deliver them when he pleaseth. With the thoughts hereof did those holy souls support themselves when they stood before the fiery countenance of the bloody tyrant on the one hand, and the burning fiery furnace on the other, Dan. iii. 17, 18. Our God whom we serve
is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king; but if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.' Thoughts of the presence and power of God, gave them not only comfort and supportment under their distress, when they were alone and helpless, but courage and resolution to defy the tyrant to his face. And when the apostle was brought before Nero, that monster of cruelty and villany, and all men forsook him, he affirms, That the Lord stood by him and strengthened him;' 2 Tim. iv. 17. He refreshed himself with thoughts of his presence, and had the blessed fruit of it.
Wherefore, on such occasions, when the hearts of men are ready to quake, when they see all things about them filled with dread and terror, and all help far away, it is, I say, their duty and wisdom to abstract and take off their thoughts from all outward and present appearances, and to fix them on the presence of God. This will greatly change the scene of things in their minds; and they will find that strength, and power, and wisdom are on their side alone; all that appears against them, being but vanity, folly, and weakness.
So when the servant of Elisha saw the place where they were compassed with a host, both horses and chariots that came to take them, he cried out for fear, 'Alas! my master, how shall we do?' But upon the prayer of the prophet, the Lord opening the eyes of the young man, to see the heavenly guard that he had sent unto him, the mountain being full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, his fear and trouble departed; 2 Kings vi. 15-17. And when in the like extremity God opens the eye of faith to behold his glorious presence, we shall no more be afraid of the dread of men. Herein did the holy martyrs triumph of old, and even despised their bloody persecutors. Our Saviour himself made it the ground of his supportment on the like occasion; John xvi. 32. Behold' (saith he to his disciples, his only friends), 'the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered every one to his own, and leave me alone, and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.' Can we but possess our souls with the apprehension, that when we are left alone in our trials and dan
gers, from any countenance of friends, or help of men, yet that indeed we are not alone, because the Father is with us, it will support us under our despondencies, and enable us unto our duties.
4. Especial providential warnings call for thoughts of God's omnipresence and omniscience. So Jacob, in his nightly vision, instantly made this conclusion; God is in this place, and I knew it not.' We have frequently such warnings given unto us. Sometimes we have so in the things which are esteemed accidental, whence it may be we are strangely delivered. Sometimes we have so in the things which we see to befall others, by thunder, lightning, storms at sea or land. For all the works of God, especially those that are rare and strange, have a voice whereby he speaks unto us. The first thing suggested unto a spiritual mind in such seasons, will be, God is in this place, he is present that liveth and seeth, as Hagar confessed on the like occasion; Gen. xvi. 13, 14.
Thirdly, Have frequent thoughts of God's omnipotency, or his almighty power. This mostm en, it may be, suppose they need not much exhortation unto; for none ever doubted of it; who doth not grant it on all occasions? Men grant it indeed in general; for eternal power is inseparable from the first notion of the Divine Being. So are they conjoined by the apostle, his eternal power and Godhead,' Rom. i. 20. Yet few believe it for themselves, and as they ought. Indeed, to believe the almighty power of God, with reference unto ourselves and all our concernments, temporal and eternal, is one of the highest and most noble acts of faith, which includes all others in it. For this is that which God at first proposed alone as the proper object of our faith, in our entrance into covenant with him, Gen. xvii. 1. 'I am God Almighty' that which Job arrived unto after his long exercise and trial: 'I know,' saith he, 'thou canst do every thing, and no thought of thine can be hindered;' chap. xlii. 2. 'God hath spoken once' saith the psalmist, 'twice have I heard this, that power belongs unto God;' Psal. Ixii. 11. It was that which God saw it necessary frequently to instruct him in. For we are ready to be affected with the appearances of present power in creatures, and to suppose that all things will go according unto their wills, because of their
power. But it is quite otherwise; all creatures are poor feeble ciphers that can do nothing: power belongs unto God; it is a flower of his crown imperial, which he will suffer none to usurp; if the proudest of them go beyond the bounds and limits of his present permission, he will send worms to eat them up, as he did to Herod.
It is utterly impossible we should walk before God, unto his glory, or with any real peace, comfort, or satisfaction in our own souls, unless our minds are continually exercised with thoughts of his almighty power. Every thing that befalls us, every thing that we hear of, which hath the least of danger in it, will discompose our minds, and either make us tremble like the leaves of the forest that are shaken with the wind, or betake ourselves to foolish or sinful relief, unless we are firmly established in the faith hereof. Consider the promises of God unto the church which are upon record, and as yet unaccomplished; consider the present state of the church in the world, with all that belongs unto it; in all the fears and dangers they are exposed unto, in all the evils they are exercised withal, and we shall quickly find that unless this sheet-anchor be well fixed, we shall be tossed up and down at all uncertainties, and exposed to most violent temptations; Rev. xix. 6. Unto this end are we called hereunto by God himself, in his answer unto the despondent complaints of the church in its greatest dangers and calamities; Isa. xl. 28-31. Hast thou not known, hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might, he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: but they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.'
Take one instance, which is the continual concernment of us all. We are obnoxious unto death every moment. It is never the farther from any of us because we think not of it as we ought. This will lay our bodies in the dust, from whence they will have no more disposition nor power in themselves to rise again, than any other part of the mould of