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cause they had access to the presence of so wise and magnificent a king, bow inconceivably more happy are the friends, nay, the children of the King of kings, who have the infinitely perfect and all sufficient Jehovah continually near to them? Which leads me to observe, in the
3d place, That the constant presence of God with his people is the blessing expressly contained in his promise, “ I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” All other things may forsake you. Riches may take wings and fly away; friends may desert you, or they may die; your reputation may be blasted; your health and strength may fail and decay; yea, memory, judgment, and all the faculties of your mind, may be weakened or destroyed : “ But I will never leave you, I will never forsake you;" my friendship is unchangeable; “ And whom I love, I love to the end." All this, saith the Apostle, God hath said; but he doth not tell us when or where he hath said it, because he bath said it so often, and upon such various occasions, that it is to be met with almost every where in Scripture, and in a manner sounds through the whole revelation of his will. And indeed I cannot illustrate this head better, than by reciting some of those passages where this general and comprehensive promise is particularly applied for the comfort of God's people, under the various trials and afflictions to which they are exposed in this world. All who are acquainted with their Bibles, will remember to bave read such passages as these: “ When thou passest through the wa. ters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee; wben thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burnt, neither shall the flame kindle upon thee; for I am the Lord thy God.” “ W'ben the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the Lord will hear them,
I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.” “ The Lord will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in time of trouble.” “ The Lord will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.” “ He shall dwell on high, his defence shall be the munition of rocks. Bread shall be given him, his waters shall be sure." ^ The Lord will strengthen him npon the bed of languishing. Thou wilt make all his bed in his sickness." " A father of the fatherless, a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation.”—“ Fear not,” saith he, "for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for I am thy God. I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness."
I might quote many other texts, where God promis. eth to be with his people in every case of distress that can he supposed; but I shall have said enough to give you some notion of the vast extent of this comfortable promise, when I have added, that it reacheth beyond the grave, and comprehends no less than eternity itself. As God will not leave bis people in life, as he will not forsake them at death; so he will at last receive them into glory, and make them to dwell for ever in his immediate presence. But who are bis people? Who are the happy persons that may apply the comfort of this promise to themselves? This is the
Second thing I proposed to inquire into.
And, in general, this promise is addressed to believ. ers in Christ Jesus, and to them only, exclusive of all others; for this is the order which God hath established. He first gives us his Son; and when this, “unspeakable gift” is thankfully received, then, together with him, he freely gives us all other things.” Men may fancy them. selves in good terms with God upon account of some moral qualifications of which they are possessed; and I greatly suspect, that many among us are ruined by this mistake: but I am not afraid to affirm, that no moral qualifications whatever can reconcile a sinner to God, or entitle him to plead any one promise from the beginning of the Bible to the end of it. The reason is plain: All the blessings promised in the gospel were purchased by Christ with the price of his own blood. To him they belong of right; for in regard of “his humbling himself, and becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, God hath highly exalted him," and “ hath put all things under his feet, and hath given him to be head over all things to the church.” Accordingly Christ himself says (Matth. xi. 27.) “ All things are delivered unto me of my Father;" and (Matth. xxviii. 18.) “ All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Every good and perfect gift, therefore, must be conveyed to us through bis hands; and it is not only a vain, but I may even call it an impious attempt, to address God immediately for those blessings which he hath already given to his Son, and committed to his disposal as King of Zion, for the behoof of his true and spiritual subjects. All the promises in Scripture must necessarily be explained in à consistency with this great fundamental truth: and when the persons to whom they are addressed are described by any moral qualification, such as righteousness, mercifulness, and the like, it must always be understood, that they are previously in a state of friendship with God; and that these qualifications are mentioned, not as the terms of their acceptance with bim, but only as the fruits and evidences of that faith which unites them to Christ, in whom all the promises are " Yea and Amen."
Would any then know, whether they may apply to themselves the gracious and comfortable promise in my text, they must first of all try their relation to Christ. If they are still unacquainted with this great and only Mediator between God and man; if they have never fled to him as their city of refuge, nor accepted of him as the “ Lord their righteousness and their strength;" it is certain that they have no part nor lot in this matter. For potbing can be more express than those words of John the Baptist, (John iii. 36.) “ He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life; but be that believeth not the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." Whereas, on the other hand, if, from a deep conviction of your guilt and inisery, you have cordially accepted the Lord Jesus Christ for all the purposes of a Saviour; if you can say without any known guile, that, renouncing all other grounds of confidence, you depend on him alone for pardon and peace, for grace and glory, and every good thing; if you have the evidence of your faith in Christ, and of your union to bim, which arises from the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost on your tempers and your lives, determining you to deny ungod- . liness and worldly lusts, and to live soberly, and righteously, and godly in the world; then are you the friends of God, and may lawfully consider yourselves as the persons to whom he hath said, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.” And, for your farther encouragement, I shall now go on to the
Third general head, and briefly suggest to you some of those grounds of assurance upon which you may confidently rely for the accomplishment of this promise, Cousider, then,
1st, Who he is that hath said this. “He is not man, that he should lie, nor the son of man, that he should
repent." These are the words of God himself, who is incapable of deceit, and with whom “ there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”_"He is the rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are judgment, a God of truth, and without iniquity, just and right is he."
-“ The mountains shall depart, and the bills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord, that hath mercy upon thee." And is not the word, the promise of such a God, a sufficient ground of trust? Yea, he hath not only said it, but he hath also sworn it. “For God being willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, hath confirmed it by an oath, that by two immutable things, in wbich it was impossible for God to lie, they might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before them.” And can our souls desire a better security? What can establish our faith, if this doth not establish it?
2dly. Believers in Christ Jesus are the children of God, adopted into his family, and beautified with his image: and this is another pledge of his gracious promise; for surely he will never abandon his own offspring. “Can a mother forget her sucking child," saith God," that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, she may forget, yet will not I forget thee.” The affection and tenderness of an earthly parent are but saint resemblances of God's paternal love. In him love is an infinite overflowing fountain of benefi. cence. And then bis love is as permanent as it is extensive. He is always in one mind, and therefore can never leave nor forsake his people.
3dly. The constant intercession of our glorious HighPriest effectually secures the accomplishment of this