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