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and put it under a bushel, but on a candle-, we are not slothful in business, among all our stick; and it giveth light unto all that are in cares, one thing is needful; and admonishes the house. Let your light so shine before us to choose that good part which shall not men, that they may see your good works, and be taken away from us. It brings us more glorify your father which is in heaven.” It immediately into the presence of God: and is, therefore, possible for a Christian to be gives us an opportunity to examine our alone, when he ought to be abroad; and to be character and our condition. It renews those indulging a favourite inclination, when he pious impressions which our intercourse with should exercise self-denial, in order to meet the things of time and sense is continually the calls of Providence. It may be much wearing off. It is in this view the believer more pleasing often to sit alone, reading or prizes it; calling the Sabbath a delight, the reflecting, than to be called forth to give ad-holy of the Lord, honourable. vice, or to visit the afflicted-but, as we
“Now from the crowd withdrawn away, “have opportunity, we must do good unto all
He seems to breathe a diff'rent air; men, especially to them that are of the house- Compos'd and soften'd by the day,
All things another aspect wear." hold of faith."
But what our subject demands is, compara- The light he beholds is the Lord's. The tive and occasional secession for moral and ground he treads is sacred. Even the public spiritual purposes.
This will be found a worship is a seclusion from the world: it is duty; and God says to you, as he did to the exchange of secular employment for reEzekiel, “Go forth, and I will talk with ligious; of civil society for spiritual; of the thee."
| ledger for the Bible; of the shop for the And says he not this by express commands? sanctuary. But it affords him a season for I hope you acknowledge his authority; and the more large and particular exercises of in the true spirit of obedience ask, “ Lord, private devotion—and the return of every what wilt thou have me to do?" And can Saturday evening cries, “ To-morrow is the you be ignorant that he has said, by the mouth rest of the holy Sabbath unto the Lord.” of his servant and of his Son, “Stand in awe, “Go forth into the plain, and there will I and sin not: commune with your own heart talk with thee.” upon your bed, and be still. Enter into thy And says he not this by the dispensations closet; and when thou hast shut thy door, of his Providence? Affliction often at once pray to thy Father which is in secret, and disinclines us to social circles, and disqualifies thy Father which is in secret shall reward us for them. Sickness separates a man from thee openly.”
the crowd, and confines him on the bed of And
says he not this by example ? “ Isaac languishing, there to ask, “Where is God went out into the field at eventide to medi- my maker, who giveth songs in the night ?" tate. Jacob was left alone, and there A reduced condition will diminish your aswrestled with him a man, until the dawning sociates. It will drive off the selfish herd, of the day.” “ Then went king David in, who think that a friend is born for prosperity; and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who but it will bring you Christians and minisam I, O Lord God? and what is my house, ters, whose religion teaches them to comfort that thou hast brought me hitherto? And those that are cast down; and they will bring this was yet a small thing in thy sight, o God. “ Lover and friend hast thou put far Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy from me, and mine acquaintance into darkservant's house for a great while to come. ness"—is a groan that is, in time, wrung And is this the manner of man, O Lord from every heart. What a solitude—what a God?” Daniel retired three times a day. dreariness does the death of relations for a Peter went up to the house-top to pray about time produce! The death of a child will the sixth hour, and received a Divine com- desolate the world in feeling, if not in fact. munication. Of our Saviour, whose life has " He sitteth alone, and keepeth silence:" or the force of a law, it is said; “In the morn- sighs, “ I watch, and am as a sparrow alone ing, rising up a great while before day, he upon the house-top."--Some have been dewent out, and departed into a solitary place, serted by weakness and perfidy: Job could and there prayed.” At another time " he say, “ My brethren have dealt deceitfully as went out into a mountain to pray, and con- a brook, and as the stream of brooks they tinued all night in prayer to God.”.
pass away; which are blackish by reason of Says he not this by the institution of the the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what Sabbath? We are not to consider the ap- time they wax warm, they vanish: when it pointment of the Sabbath as a display of the is hot they are consumed out of their place." Divine prerogative only: “the Sabbath was " At my first answer," says Paul, “no man made for man.” It has a merciful reference, stood by me, but all men forsook me”—but, even to his body; by conducing to cleanli- adds he, “nevertheless the Lord stood by me, ness, comfort, and health ; but the provision and strengthened me.” For the Christian is principally regards the welfare of the soul. often never less alone than when alone. The Sabbath comes, and tells us, that while When Joseph was sent to prison, and he tells
us God sent him there, “ the Lord was with | forth into the fields, let us lodge in the vil Joseph.” When John was banished to the lages." And says God of his people, "Be isle of Patmos, he was indulged with the hold, I will allure her, and bring her into the manifestations of the Almighty. Paul, in wilderness, and there will I speak comfortaprison, wrote many of his Epistles: and there bly unto her.” many others, whose works praise them in the II. Let us consider THE PRIVILEGE Pro gate, composed their most admired and useful mised—" And I will there talk with thee. publications They were ordered out of the Mark, First—The condescension of the world, that God might talk with them! Speaker. We admire the nobleman that
Says he not this by the influence of his kindly notices a peasant; and the sovereign grace ?
This agency always produces in its that deigns to converse with one of his poor. subjects certain sentiments and dispositions, est subjects. But who is it that here sayswhich urge and attach them to retirement. I “There I will talk with thee?" And with will mention four of these.
whom does he hold this converse? It is the The First is a devotional temper. Who Creator talking with the creature. It is the ever delights in prayer will delight in retire- God of heaven and earth, holding communion ment; because it is so favourable to the fre- with man that is a worm, and the son of man quency and freedom of the exercise. There that is a worm. we can divulge what we could not communi- Nor is this all-annexed to our meanness cate in the presence of the dearest earthly are our unworthiness, and our guilt. Here friend. There words are unnecessary—“our is, therefore, the condescension not only of desire is before him; our groaning is not hid goodness, but of mercy and grace." Lord, from him :" the eye poureth out tears unto what is man, that thou art mindful of him, or God; and he hears the voice of our weeping the son of man, that thou visitest him !"
The Second is a desire to rise above the Secondly. Observe the happiness of the world. This will induce a man to retire. believer. By what scale can we judge of How often does the Christian lament that his blessedness so rightly as the degree of nearconversation is so little in heaven, and that ness to God, the supreme good, the fountain he is so much governed by things that are of life? In his presence there is fulness of seen and temporal! But where is the world joy, and at his right hand there are pleasures conquered ? In a crowd? No: but—alone. for evermore. How blessed, then, is the man In the midst of its active pursuits? No—but whom God chooses, and causes to approach viewed as an object of solitary contemplation; unto him now. Yet “ such honour have all viewed in the presence of Jehovah ; viewed his saints.” How would a man be envied if in the remembrances of eternity. Then its the king was to favour him with his presence emptiness appears—Then the fascination is and intimacy! Especially if he was known dissolved— Then we look upward and say, to meet him by appointment, from time to “Now what wait I for? my hope is in thee?” time, alone. Yet is this no more than every
The Third is a wish to obtain self-know- Christian expects and enjoys. He has insured ledge. This will induce a man to withdraw. interviews with the blessed and only PotenIt is only alone that he can examine his slate; tate. Some of us cannot aspire after interthat he can estimate his attainments; that he course with many of our fellow-creatures, by can explore his defects; that he can discern reason of our condition and our talents. We the sources of his past dangers or falls; and may wish to be in their company, yet shrink set a watch against future temptation. from their notice: we may long to hear them
The Fourth is love to God.— This will lead talk, yet could not talk with them—we should a man to retire. When we are supremely be swallowed up—we should deem it impos attached to a person, his presence is all we sible for them to listen to our weakness want; he will be the chief attraction, even But, whatever be our condition, or our tain company; how desirable then to meet him lents, we have a free and invited access to alone, where he seems wholly ours, and we God- we have boldness to enter into the ho can yield and receive undivided attention. liest by the blood of Jesus—He hears our Friendship deals much in secrecy; kindred praises and complaints—and " there," says souls have a thousand things to hear and to he, “will I talk with thee!". utter that are not for a common ear. This Thirdly. What is the subject of commuis pre-eminently the case with the intimacy nication ? It is variously expressed in the subsisting between God and the believer. Scripture. It is called his secret, and his coThere is a peculiarity in every part of the venant: “The secret of the Lord is with Christian's experience. “ The heart knoweth them that fear him, and he will show them his own bitterness, and a stranger intermed- his covenant." It is called judgment, and his dleth not with his joy :” but both his pains way: “ The meek will he guide in judgment, and pleasures bring with them evidence that and the meek will he teach his way." It is they are from God-for they dispose the soul peace: “ He will speak peace unto his peo to hold communion with him. “Come," says ple.” It regards every thing that is importthe Church, “come, my Beloved, let us go ant to their welfare, or interesting to their feelings and hopes. It takes in what he has | couraging unhallowed freedoms, gives a man done for them, what he is doing, and what he such intimate views of the peculiar glory of will do. He speaks concerning them for time God as fill him with godly fear. Thus it and eternity; he gives them exceeding great was with our prophet. Ii was the same with and precious promises; and adds to his word Jacob, with Moses, with Elijah, with Job, his oath, that “by two immutable things, in with Isaiah, with Peter. which it is impossible for God to lie, they Secondly. It will draw forth unquenchamight have strong consolation who have fled ble desires after additional indulgence. That for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set be- which contents the believer makes him also fore them."
insatiable. From his intercourse with him Fourthly. What is the mode of address ? he desires no more than God; but he will He does not talk with us in a preternatural desire more of him; and from every fresh manner, as he did sometimes of old with his discovery the prayer will arise, “I beseech people. He came down and spake with Mo- thee, show me thy glory." ses as a man talketh with his friend. Moses Thirdly. It will produce likeness. “He saw his glory, and heard his voice. But it is that walketh with wise men shall be wise.” enthusiasm in us to expect dreams, and vi- We soon acquire the tone and the manner sions, and sudden impulses, and audible sounds. of those who converse much with us, espeThere are no new communications from God cially if they are our superiors, and we very now : I mean, new in themselves, and such highly love or revere them. Some boast of as were not to be found in the Bible before; being much with God; but so censurable for as to us they may be, and will be often are their conduct and temper, that few of new. If a man born blind was to be restored their fellow-creatures would like to be much to sight, the sun, which he never saw before, with them. If you are selfish, and covetous, and would be new to him; but it would not be a censorious, and revengeful, some other being new sun. We may begin to feel truths which has been talking with you: this spirit cometh we never thought of before; yet the truths not from him who calleth you: it is from themselves are as old as the revelation of God beneath; and is earthly, sensual, devilish. to man. But he opens our eyes to see won- " But the wisdom that is from above is first drous things out of his law. He opens our pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be understandings that we may know the Scrip- entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, tures. He leads us into all truth. He ap- without partiality, and without hypocrisy. plies the doctrines and promises of his word And the fruit of righteousness is sown in by his Spirit; and by enabling us to realize peace of them that make peace.” our own interest in them, he says to our From this subject-Some are to be censouls, I am thy salvation.
sured. Finally. What is the evidence of the fact ? Such are those who call themselves Chris How shall we know that he does talk with tians, and are regular in their attendance us? Remember the two disciples going to on public ordinances, but are seldom alone. Emmaus. Our Lord joined them as they They who hear much, and reflect little, are journeyed, and inquired after the subject of always found very imperfect characters their conversation and concern. “ And be- for it is not what we devour, but what we ginning at Moses, and all the prophets, he digest, that aids health and supports life. expounded to them in all the Scriptures the Others never retire-and what is the reathings concerning himself." Yet all this time son? “0, we have not time; so numerous they took him for a stranger. But at supper and pressing are the cares and avocations of their eyes were opened, and they knew him, life.” Have you more engagements than and he vanished out of their sight. And this David, who had to govern a large and diswas the reflection they made on the occur- tracted empire, surrounded with enemies rence; “ Did not our heart burn within us yet could he say, “ Evening, and morning, while he talked with us by the way, and and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and while he opened to us the Scriptures?" As he shall hear my voice. Seven times a day if they had said—“ Is it not astonishing that do I praise thee, because of thy righteous we did not know him earlier ? That we did judgments.” Do you not trifle away more not discover him upon the road-For who time every day of your lives than is required could have conversed with us as he did ? for the purpose of devotion? Could you not, Who could have made such impression on the by order, and diligence, and rising earlier, heart?"
secure more leisure than you now command ? Determine the Divine converse with you Where there is a will there is a way. Disin the same way.
Judge of it by its influ- inclination loves to shelter itself behind difences and effects. Three effects will always ficulties. The slothful cries, “There is a arise from it.
lion in the way;" and so there is; but he First. It will produce a deep and solemn puts it there. Zeal clears the road, and will sense of our vanity and vileness. Commu- often convert hinderances into helps. nion with God, instead of gendering and en- Let me ask whether you do not decline
being alone, because you are afraid to awaken | not only his relation to the Messiah, but the or to meet inquiry? If so—Are you not peculiar providences wat distinguished him. ashamed of a peace of mind that is only pre- He is one of the most interesting characters served by shunning reflection ?-And will recorded in all history. His life was singtyou be always able to shun it?-If you can-larly eventful; and as in nature we do not not meet conscience, how will you meet wish for a continuity of level, or an uniforGod? If you live in company, remember ity of aspect, but are most gratified with this-you must die alone.
hill and valley, and wood and lawn, and inBut he whom you have neglected and termixtures of the beautiful and sublime : 59 contemned has yet thoughts towards you, we are most attracted to the lives of those and they are thoughts of peace. He has who have been placed in a variety of scenes, opened a new and living way to himself. He especially in conditions so opposite and er waits to be gracious, and is exalted to have treme, that we marvel by what kind of pro mercy upon you. Return to him through an cess they could have passed the gulph beatoning and interceding Saviour, and live. tween. Had we seen David a stripling in Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at the field of Bethlehem, keeping his father's peace; thereby good shall come unto thee. sheep, who could have thought that he
The subject requires us to comfort others. would emerge from obscurity, and become
Perhaps you approve of all we have said the champion of Goliath, the terror of the but you are so straitened in your circum- Philistines, the conqueror of the Ammonites, stances that you have not a room to retire and Moabites, and Edomites; and one of the in—and are so necessarily engrossed with most renowned heroes, monarchs, legislators, the difficulties of life, that it is scarcely pos- and writers of the East ! sible to secure a moment for devotional soli- His religious experience is as interesting tude in the field.
as the events of his life. Indeed much of See that this is not your fault, but your the one grew out of the other, and was diaffliction, and you may hope that God will versified by them. Many of his psalms, as indemnify you in some other way,
we see by the titles, were composed in coBut others are more favoured. You not sequence of his dangers and afflictions His only love retirement, but you are able to en- trying situation produced the language I have joy it. Yet you find it much easier to with read. It consists of two parts-His Feardraw the body than to separate the mind and his FOLLY. from earthly things. The world follows you, I. His FEAR—“ David said in his heart, I and invades and defiles the very sanctuary shall now perish one day by the hand of of silence. You value the presence of Him Saul.”. who manifests himself to his people and not II. His FOLLY.—“There is nothing better unto the world; and wherever he meets with than that I should speedily escape into the you, the place is none other than the house land of the Philistines." of God and the gate of heaven. You would O Thou by whose inspiration all Scripture gladly pass in such enjoyment the hours that is given, render these words profitable for duty requires to be devoted to inferior claims. doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and inYour intercourse with God, therefore, is short struction in righteousness! and interrupted; but it is refreshing and in
I. Observe HIS FEAR. structive. It shows you what heaven is, and It was the language, not of his lips, but makes it desirable. “Ah," you say, “if these of his feelings-he " said in his heart, I shall views, these feelings, were but perfect and now one day perish by the hand of Saul." permanent!” Well, soon, very soon, they He does not seem to have uttered it in words will be perfect and permanent; and you will -restrained probably by prudence and kind be for ever with the Lord.
ness. It is not necessary, or proper, to trouble others with all our uneasy feelings. It is a noble and magnanimous mind that can
suffer without complaint. Indeed, if a man DISCOURSE XCIX.
hawks about his trouble from door to door; if he loves to talk of his trials in every com
pany he meets, we may be assured he will DAVID'S FEAR AND FOLLY. never die of grief. Profound sorrow, like And David said in his heart, I shall now wounded at heart, like the smitten deer,
the deep river, flows noiseless: the man perish one day by the hand of Saul; there leaves the herd for the shade—“ He sitteth is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape into the land of the Philis- alone, and keepeth silence: he putteth his
mouth in the dust, if so be there may be tines.-1 Sam. xxvii, 1.
hope.” The memoirs of David occupy a large Religious people should be concerned peproportion of the Old Testament; and we culiarly to appear peaceful and cheerful. need not wonder at this, when we consider, | Nothing recommends godliness more, or is
more necessary to counteract the prejudice afraid ?" now said in his heart, “I shall one so commonly and injuriously entertained day perish.”. against it, as the mother and nurse of mo- By perishing, he means dying. There is pishness and melancholy. We would not a perdition of a more dreadful import. It wish you to be hypocrites, avowing joys to means not annihilation, but misery; not the which you are strangers; but you are not destruction of being, but of all comfort and required to publish all your painful emotions, hope. This perdition the sacred writers especially before those who cannot under- never pretend to detine. They tell us that stand, and are likely to misinterpret, them. it is “a fearful thing," but not how fearful a I have often admired the holy delicacy of thing "to fall into the hands of the living Ezra, when returning to Jerusalern from Ba- God.” Indeed they could not; for who bylon with a number of his countrymen. knoweth the power of his anger ?". From Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river this destruction a Christian is secured: he is of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves be- redeemed from the curse of the law; he is fore our God, to seek of him a right way for delivered from the wrath to come; and there us, and for our little ones, and for all our sub- is nothing penal in all the sufferings he enstance. For I was ashamed to require of the dures. Yet he is not always free from apking a band of soldiers and horsemen to help prehension, but feels many a shivering us against the enemy in the way: because thought how it may go with him at last. Is we had spoken unto the king, saying, The there a Christian present that has not somehand of our God is upon all them for good times, if not often, said, “I shall one day that seek him; but his power and his wrath perish!" And you could have drawn no is against all them that forsake him.” There other conclusion while you considered only was really no inconsistency between his pro your own ignorance and weakness, and the fession of confidence in God, and asking for enemies that were seeking your soul to dea convoy; for God works by means. But so stroy it: but having obtained help of God, it might have appeared to a heathen prince: you continue to this day the living, the living he would therefore rather expose himself to to praise him. You are now saying, to his peril than bring a cause, dearer to him than glory, “Our heart is not turned back, neither life, not only under reflection, but under sus- have our steps declined from thy way; though picion.
thou hast sore broken us in the place of draWhen we see persons filling up their sta- gons, and covered us with the shadow of tions in life with diligence, and declining no death.” And what is the Saviour saying ? duty in their power, how little can we often" My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, imagine what they feel, at the very time, and they follow me: and I give unto them within !-Truly “the heart knoweth his own eternal life; and they shall never perish, bitterness." While David appeared cheerful neither shall any pluck them out of my and courageous, lest by his deportment he hand.”—But, by perishing, David means dyshould confound or dismay his followers, hising. very soul was cast down within him.
" I shall one day perish by the hand of And was this the case with a man of such Saul.” And suppose he had? This was all superior attainments ?- Where are the hands the injury he could have done him: and we that never hang down: and knees that never are forbidden to fear those that kill the body, tremble? We are prone to think that many and after that have no more that they can do. of our feelings are peculiar, and to cry, If I He must have died according to the course am his, why am I thus ?-Here we see the of nature, in a few years: and what is death advantage of pious intercourse. The com- in any form, to a good man, but falling asleep, munication of Christian experience will con- or going home? He ought then, you say, to vince us that nothing has befallen us that is have risen above the fear of death. But the not common to the partakers of divine grace; fear of death is a natural principle; and there and thus, things that were stumbling-blocks is nothing in it more sinful than in hunger or before become way-marks, and marks of our thirst. Adam had it in a state of innocency; being in the way everlasting.” We some- or there would have been no threatening in times think that the saints recorded in Scrip- the words, “ In the day that thou eatest ture were a class of beings very different thereof thou shalt surely die.” Our Lord from ourselves; but the Spirit of God has himself felt it, and " with strong cryings and taken care to show us that there was nature tears made supplication to him who was able in them, as well as grace; and that while to save him from death.” There was no they were made holy, they were left human. want of resignation in this; it was the effect We see their sorrows, as well as their joys; of a natural aversion to suffering, and which their conflicts, as well as their victories. Da- rendered his submission the more illustrious vid, who, in the triumphs of faith, had exult
--when he said, “Nevertheless, not my will, ed, « The Lord is my light and my salva- but thine be done.” Had we no appetite for tion; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the food, there would be no virtue in fasting. Death strength of my life; of whom shall I be is not always desirable even to a good man.