« הקודםהמשך »
I. 'We arc to consider, What this scripture, phrase of " Acquainting ourselves with'God," implies, and wherein the duty recommended by it particularly consists. The phrase itself occurs, 1 think, no where else in Holy Writ; however, the true meaning of it is very obvious and easy.
We are prone by nature to engage ourselves in. too close and strict an acquaintance with the things of this world, which immediately and strongly strike our senses ; with the business, the pleasures, and the amusements of it; we give ourselves up. too greedily to the pursuit, and immerse ourselves too deeply in the enjoyment of them; and contract at last such an intimacy and familiarity with them, as makes it difficult and irksome for us to call off our minds to a better employment, and a think intensely on any thing besides them. To check and correct this ill tendency, it is requisite that we Ihould acqU-tint ourle'ves -with Godt that we should frequently disengage our hearts from earthly pursuits, and six them on divine things; that we should apply ourselves to study the blessed nature and perfections of God, and to procure lively and vigorous impressions of his perpetual presence with us, and inspection.over us i that we should contemplate earnestly and reverently the works of nature and grace, by which he manisests himself to us; the inscrutable ways of his providence, and all the wonderful methods of his dealing with the sons of men: That we should inure ourselves to such thoughts, till they have worked up our souls into that silial awe and love oi Him, that humble and implicit dependence
tnce upon Him, which is root and principle o£ all manner of goodness; till we have made out* duty in this respect, our pleasure, and can addrels ourselves to Him, on all occasions, with readiness and delight; imparting all our wants, and expressing all our feais, and opening all our. griefs to Him, with that holy freedom and considence to which the faints and true servants of God are entitled, having " received the Spirit o£ ** adoption, whereby they cry, Abba, Father!"' In this fense ought we to acquaint e ves uith Gad. to set Htm always btjoie us, as the scripture elsewhere speaks; "to draw near to him, an- to
delight in approaching him.*
But this is only a general account of what our acquaintance .with God implies: It may be useful to mention some particulars also, wherein it chiefly consists; and to fay somewhat distinctly upon each of them.
In order to begin, and improve human friendships, Five things are principally requisite; knowledge, access, a similitude of manners, an entire considence and love: and by these also the divine friendship, of which we are treating, mult be cemented and upheld.
The sirst step towards an acquaintance with God, is, a due knowledge of him: I mean not a speculative knowledge, built on abstracted reasonings about his nature and essence; such as philosophical minds often busy themselves in, without reaping from thence any advantage towards regulating their passions, or improving their manners t But I mean a practical knowledge of those'attributes of his, which invite us nearly to approach him, and closely to unite ourselves to him; a thorough sense, and vital experience of his paternal care over us, and concern for us; of his unIpotted holiness, his indexible justice, his unerring wisdom, and his diffusive goodness; a reprepresentation of him to ourselves, under those affecting characters of a Creator and a Redeemer, an Observer and a Pattern, a Law-giver .and a Judge; which are aptest to incline our wills, and to raise our affections toward him, and either to awe or allure us into a stricter performance of every branch of our duty. These, and the like moral and relative persections of the Deity, are most necessary and most easy to be understood by us; upon the least reflexion and enquiry we cannot miss of them; tho' the ofmer and more attentively we consider them, the better and more persectly still shall we know them.
The acquaintance, thus begun, cannot continue, without frequent access to him; without Jieking hit sait continually (as the good Psalmist's phrase is) in all the methods of spiritual address: in contemplation and prayer; in his word, and in his ordinances; in the public service of the sanctuary, and in the private devotions of the closet; and chiefly in the latter of these, which are, on several accounts, most use towards promoting this holy correspondence. By these means, and in these duties, is he to be approached, and found; and, notwithstanding our insinite distance, will "draw near to them who thus draw "near to Him," and shew himself to be a God that " is at hand, and not asar off."
Hut in vain lhall we approach him, unless we
endeavour to be like him: A similitude of nature and manners ^in such a degree as we are capable of) must tie the holy knot, and rivet the friendship between us. Whomsoever we desire to approve, we labour also to conform ourselves to; to be "not only almost, but altogether such as they are," if it be possible; that so they, seeing themselves in us, may like us, for the fake of themselves and go out (as it were) to meet and embrace their own image and resemblance. Would we then be admitted into an acquaintance with God? let us study to resemble him; we must be "partakers of a divine nature," in order to partake of this high privilege and alliance! M For what sellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness ? and what communion hath light with darkness?"
Yet forther, one essential ingredient in all true friendship, is, asirmunshaken reliance on him who is our friend. Have we such towards God ? Do we entirely ti ust in him ? Do our souls lean on him, as a child that is weaned of his mother ? Do we resign ourselves, and our affairs, absolutely to be disposed of by him? and think all our concerns laser in his hands, than in our own? and resolve to believe every thing to be best and sittest for us, which he sees best should befal us! Are we still under his rod, without a murmur? without de» spondency of mind, and without charging God foosishly? Do we unbosom all our secrets to him, and neither endeavour nor pretend to hide any thing that passeth in the depth of our hearts from him? Do we enquire of him for his advice and and assistance in every thing i and hearken to
what what Our Lord God shall soy to us, either by the inward whispers of our consciences, or the out* ward ministry of his word or the awakening ealls of his providence? and give heed diligently to fulsil all the ksist intimations of his good pleasure, .that are any ways made known to us? Then.have we entered deep into, and advanced far in, that 'holy intimacy which the text recommend : O well 'it is with us! Happy are we, and shall we be!
However, "yet one thing more we lack" to be .perfect; Love, which is the fulsilling of this law <>s friendship, the surest test, and most exalted .improvement of it.
Let us consider therefore, whether we do in* «Ieed "love the Lord our God, with all our *' heart, and with all our soul, and with all our "mind, and with all our strength:" Whether .Our approaches to Him are always sweet and refreshing; and we are uneasy and impatient under #ny long discontinuance of our converfation with Him; and retire into our closet from the crowd, in order to meet Him whom our soul loveth, With a pleasure far excetding theirs, who " Chant *' to the found of the viol," and are "joyful in "the strength of new wine:" whether our hearts burn within us, at the perufal of his holy word; and the relish and favour of it upon our minds be such, as that, in comparison of it, all the most exquisite human composures seem low and mean, flat and insipid to us? whether we have an even and ever-burning zeal for his honour and service; and are always contriving somewhat, and doing somewhat, to promote his interest, without aris immediate regard to our own? Whether we de