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transgressions, thou shalt purge them away. The blood of Jesus Christ, God's Son, cleanseth us from all sin.”. This light lets them see a fulness of merit in him to take away the guilt of sin, and a fulness of the Spirit, to take away the stains, dominion and indwelling power of sin.
Let us now, Secondly, Show they desire it.
1. They desire it above all. This is the chief desire of their souls. “ Whom have I in heaven but thee, and there is none upon earth that I desire besides thee.” All other things are in their esteem but loss and dung, in comparison of this. The world is but a bulky vanity and fair nothing in their eyes. If they had but one choice to make, one petition to put up, it would be this.
2. They desire it so as they would be content with it, instead of all. Carnal men may desire the favour of God, and the love of Christ; but they see not such fulness in Christ, as to be content with him alone. But the gracious soul longing for this, would think itself happy in the enjoyment of it, though it should be stripped naked of all other comforts, and all the world should look down upon it, Matth. xiii. 45, 46.
They have good reasons for thus desiring the light of the Lord's countenance. Their life lies in his favour. “For his anger endureth but for a moment; in his favour is life.” Their comfort depends on the light of his countenance. What a melancholy life would the world have without the light of the sun? So would the Christian be without the light of his Father's countenance. His frowns are bitter as death to the gracious soul.
Use 1. Of Exhortation. Let this be the desire of your souls, that the Lord may lift up the light of his countenance upon you. Seek this and make it your choice.
Motive 1. You cannot otherwise give evidence that you are in a gracious state. If this be not the great desire of your souls, you are on the same side with the world. If God be your Father, you will prize the light of his countenance. Can a child be satisfied though he had the countenance of all the servants about the house, if he have not his father's ?
2. It will be but a heavy communion you will have of it, if the Lord lift not up the light of his countenance upon you; if you be not in a state of favour with God, you will but wound your own souls more; if there be a standing controversy still betwixt God and you, you can have no communion with him. “ Can two walk together except they be agreed ?" It is sad to be at Jerusalem and not see the King's face.
3. The Lord will not refuse it, if you be heartily concerned for it. He offers you his favour and grace, Jer. iii. 1—22.
Direction 1. Lay hold upon the Lord Jesus Christ, Isa. xxvii. 5. Wash in his blood, Heb. ix. 14. Look to God through the vail of the flesh of Christ. God is a consuming fire. There is fire in his countenance against sinners as they are in themselves, but Christ is as a crystal wall betwixt God and the sinner, through him the light of the fire may come to refresh, but not the flame to burn.
2. Turn from your sins that have provoked him to turn his face from you, Isa. lxix. 2. See that there be no unrepented of lust to stand betwixt God and your souls, Psal. lxvi. 18. If you would have his favour, let these go away. Break your league with your sins, and say with Ephraim, “ What have I to do any more with idols ?" Amen.
Monday's Sermon, Morbattle, June, 1707.
[The same subject continued.]
THE GREAT DESIRE OF THE SAINTS.
Psalm iv. 7.
Use 2. Of reproof to, and lamentation over those who sit in woful darkness, and have not had the light of the Lord's countenance in any measure lifted up on them, and yet are not affected with it, they are not earnestly desiring it, and pressing after it. If they would speak their minds, they dare not say the great desire of their soul is this, “ Lord lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”
In managing this, I shall
First, Shew you how that this is not the great desire of the souls of many. Secondly, How it comes to pass, that this is not their great desire ; and Thirdly, The lamentable nature of this case. I am then,
I. To show you that this is not the great desire of the souls of many. It appears if you consider,
1. That ardent desire that there is in many after the world, and their lusts. “Who, say they, will shew us any good ?” They are mad upon their idols. This desire is natural to us, and also it has never been quenched in many to this day. How then can this be
the great desire of their souls. They may as easily bring together the two poles as reconcile these. “If any man love the world the love of the Father is not in him."
2. The peaceable life that many have without the favour of God, or the least true ground of hope of it. Are there not many of whom it is true, God is not in all their thoughts. “ They reign as kings without him," Jer. ii. 31. While others are looking heavenwards, they do contentedly look still downwards to the earth. Many can sleep in a sound skin, and never once examine whether they be in a state of friendship with God or not.
3. The easy life that many professors have of it, their rest being never interrupted, but when at any time they fall into gross and scandalous sins. There are many who, like children, can with pleasure wallow among the sand as long as it holds out of their eyes. They are not concerned for the light of the Lord's countenance. It is a light easily overclouded, and so will require great watchfulness to keep it up, and when iniquity prevails to take it away it will disturb the quiet of the gracious soul. Thou didst hide thy face and I was troubled.
4. Persons contenting themselves with the bare performance of duties without finding God in them. Many go with Mary to an empty sepulchre, but few with her come away weeping. They are narrow souls, they seek little and get as little ; bread and wine, but no Christ. They never come into the inner court of duties, where they would see the beauty of the Lord. Lastly, Persons not following their desires with suitable endea
Many have languishing desires and faint wishes after the light of God's countenance. They may occasionally say, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.” But it is not their great desire, their hearts are not in good earnest set on it, else they would add suitable endeavours to their desires, that is, they would seek it resolutely, as Jacob, “I will not let thee go except thou bless me," Psal. xxvii. 7, 8. But it is with them as Solomon saith, “ The desire of the slothful killeth him, for his hands refuse to labour.” We are now,
II. To show how it comes to pass, that this is not their great desire.
1. Because they are not sensible of their need of it. Why is not Christ prized, but because the whole need not a physician. Many are in Laodicea's case, they think they are rich, increased in goods and stand in need of nothing. If a man's house were all in flames, if he knew it not, it would give him no concern.
“ The full soul loatheth the honey comb;" but felt need breaks through every obstacle.
2. Because they have not seen the light. What the eye sees not, the heart receives not. A man that never saw the sun, mid-night and mid-day are alike to him; but the man that has seen the light, darkness is wearisome to him, and he longs till the day break.
3. The world and their lusts were never made tasteless or bitter to them. The gracious soul desires the light of God's countenance, because gall and worm wood have been laid on the breasts of their lusts; and so they cannot draw comfort from them. But as for others if the Lord do not hear them, they know of another, to whom they can go. Hence they sit down and take their rest.
4. Because their hearts were never changed, and the natural bent of their souls, go another way than to God. In the time of a great flood, a river may have several streams, but still the great stream is in the ordinary channel. So grace makes the affections run in a new channel, and the great desire of the soul is after God, though there may be inferior desires after the creatures in time of temptation, but when it ceases all go right again in one channel. Most men have too many pursuits, and so some of them must be neglected; when a wife has none but her husband, then all her desire is towards him ; but when she has a great many weeping hungry babes, crying out after her, these arrest her affections and care. now proceed,
III. To consider the lamentable nature of this case. It deserves to be lamented with tears of blood, that there should be such a generation whose great desire is not after the light of the Lord's countenance. It is lamentable if you consider,
1. That it is a sign they are of the multitude that go to destruction, not of the few that are saved : that when the world is to be divided they must quit their place among the gracious, and stand upon the other side with the graceless.
2. That they have never seen the beauty of the Lord, and the transcendent excellency of Christ. Had they seen this they could not have so slighted him. His beautiful face, seen by the eye of faith, attracts the heart, Song i. 3.
That they live unacquainted with themselves, with their own heart's state and case. ( what a silly empty thing is man without God! Did they see the evil of sin, and the danger of their state while under it, the favour of God would be their desire.
4. They are busy catching at shadows and let the substance go. The soul of man will always be taken up about something. If it be not going out after God it is going after the creature ; and behold what they are doing. “For my people have committed two evils, they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewn them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” All these things are uncertain and insufficient, greater in expectation than fruition.
Lastly, This will land them in everlasting darkness, where the worm never dieth, and where the fire shall not be quenched. Where the light shall be down on them irrecoverably through all eternity.
Use 3. Of comfort to those whose desire is the light of the Lord's countenance above all and instead of all, and yet they are in darkness and distressed with it. Their souls are vexed and disquieted because the Lord hides his face from thein. They have been seeking Christ, but they found an empty grave. To which I would say,
I. It is well that you are sensible of your case, that you are not like Samson, who wist not that the Lord was departed from him. The knowledge of the disease is the first step to the cure. Now there is another thing I would have you to know, and then you will be in a fair way of recovery, and that is the cause of the distemper and darkness, why God hath withholden the light of his countenance from you. And,
1. Consider whether or not there hath been a defect in your preparation to meet the Lord. Perhaps you have not been at pains to prepare yourselves, and so you may wonder more that the Lord hath not made a breach upon you, than that he hath hid his face from you, Song iii. 1.
2. Look that there hath been no sin unrepented of, no guilt lying on your souls, some bosom lust, some of the old leaven, some Achan in the camp, and if so, begin now and remove it, cast it out.
3. Look that you have not sat down on your preparation. When we are secure, we are ever ready to fall. O it is hard for us to do any thing, and not to think much of it. And thus the soul, like the bee, may drown itself in its own work. If so, mourn over it, and go to Christ for pardon. II. I would say to you, perhaps you complain more than you
have The sun does not shine always equally clear, and there are different degrees of light of the Lord's countenance, and if
have had but a fainter light be thankful for it and wait for more. Then shall you know, if you follow on to know the Lord; "his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto you, as the latter and former rain unto the earth." Sometimes it is with the Christian as with Jocob, when he said, “ surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” And this mistake may arise from two things.
1. Because they may feel the storm is not yet entirely blown over, they may be still assaulted with doubts, fears and temptations. The light may be only so strong as to keep them from being over