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IV. To a practical improvement of the subject, in an use of exhortation.
Let us, then, draw near to God. Return, Inners, and come back to God, ye who have gone away from him; and having come back, come forward to him in Christ, come forward even to his seat; the nearer you come the better, and always the nearer the more welcome.
1. Come back, sinners, draw near towards God and duty. What have you gained by going from him? Satan, the world, and lusts, made you fair promises to get you away from God. But what have you made of your rambling, wandering life through the mountains of vanity? You have got a reltlessness in your hearts, a blindness in your minds, a deadness in your affections to what is good. You have got your lusts strengthened, and a conscience full of guilt and stings, when you seriously reflect. Our Lord is ready to take runaways home again : Jer. iii. 1. “ Return again to me, faith the Lord.” Ver. 22. “ Return, ye backfliding children, and I will heal your backdidings. Behold, we come unto me, for thou art the Lord our God.” He is again casting open the doors of his house to receive backsliders; nay, his arms of love and mercy are ready to receive you. Come back, then, smiting on your breast, as grieved for that backsliding heart of yours; smiting on your thigh, as grieved at those wandering feet of yours, which have not continued in the paths of righteousness.
2. Not only draw towards God, but come forward, and draw near to him as a God in Chrift. You may get near him ere you come to heaven; in his ordinances in the lower house, there you may have access to him. Particularly, let us draw near him,
In prayer: Heb. iv. 16. “ Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of
grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” This should be a praying time with us, a time of wrestling for the blessing. It may be you have not neglected the forın of prayer; but though God was near you in your mouth, yet perhaps he was far from your reins. But pray now, and draw near in prayer, press forward even unto his seat, with the arms of faith and love. Many have got very near him in that exercise; they have broke the shell on which many gnaw all their days, while they are never the better, and they have got into the kernel ; like Jacob, they have succeeded : “He had power over the angel, and prevailed; he wept, and made supplication unto him; he found him in Bethel, and there he spake with us.”
Draw near in the holy sacrament of the supper. God is again coming to us in that ordinance; an ordinance appointed for the most special nearness out of heaven: i Cor. x. 16. “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ ? the bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ ?" Here we may facramentally touch his precious body and blood, and feed upon it. Oh ! let us be sure to meet him there; he will not break the appointment. Let us draw near, draw by the vail with the hand of faith ; whatever be betwixt him and us, let us closely unite with God in his Son, and come even to his seat, come forward, for we will be welcome. But if we abide in the outward court, contenting ourselves with the bare elements, better we sit not down at this table. Let us draw near in these ordinances, 1. As rebels accepting the King's peace, in
demnity in the blood of his Son ; draw near, and welcome : Isa. xxvii. 5. " Let him take hold of my strength, that he may make peace with me; and he shall make peace with me.” He holds forth the golden sceptre to thee, though thou deservedst the iron rod. Start not back by unbelief. If it be too much for thee to expect when thou lookeft to thyself, it is not too much for him to give; for he is infinite in goodness, and the blood of Christ purchased it for the undeserving;
and the price of blood will not be kept back. Then, let us draw yet nearer,
2. As petitioners to the King. While God Gts on the throne of his grace, he says to all who have accepted his peace, as Ahasuerus did to Efther, “ What is thy petition, and it shall be granted thee?” Let us not, then, flight the season of pea titioning. Be fensible of your foul-wants ; labour to get desires of supply wrought in your hearts by the Spirit of Christ. And draw near with your petitions as particular as you can make them. Come, and welcome; though there be blots in them, they will be accepted out of the Mediator's hand. Nay more,
3. Draw near as servants of the house, to serve our Lord, to wait upon him, and behold his glory: Psal. cxvi. 16. « O Lord, truly I am thy servant ; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid : thou hast loosed my bonds," Rev. xxii. 3. “ And his servants shall serve him. And they shall fee his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads." Though our ragged garments are very unlike our Master's honour, yet he allows us a livery in which to appear, of which we need not be ashamed, and which will cover all our filthy rags. He gives us white raiment, that we may be clothed, that the shame of our nakedness do not appear, Rev. iü. 18. Lay this over thy soul, wrap thyself in it, come thus forward, and welcome.Draw near,
4. As friends; friends of God, to have fellowship with him, who may freely converse with him ; to unbosom ourselves to him, and to be let into the sea crets of the covenant: John, xv. 15. “Henceforth," says he, “I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his Lord doth; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” He treats you as such, setting you down at his table; and the less reserved you are, and the more you improve the privileges through Christ, the more welcome you are.
Does he approve the kneelers at the sacrament, when he has ordered them to fit? as little will he approve the Christian's carrying frowardlike, and standing afar off from him at that table which he has covered for his friends. Nay, draw near,
5. As children to a Father in Christ, to receive the portion of children. Is not the foul which hath closed with Christ a fon by adoption ? « To as many as received him, to them he gave power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." A child of the house by marriage with the King's son. Is not the chile dren's bread given them at the table ? Believe, then, and fay to God in Chrift, “ Abba, Father." If he did not love the compellation from those that are his, his Spirit would not put it into their mouths, Rom. viii. 15.-Draw near,
Laftly, As a fpoufe to an Husband, for our Maker is our Husband. Let us embrace him in the arms of faith, give the love of the heart to him a full vent : Song, viii. 6... Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon
thine love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave; the coals thereof are coals of fire, which
hath a most vehement flame.” Rejoice in him, delight in him, and bless ourselves in our choice of him. The facrament of the supper is appointed for that very end, that we may unite more closely with him, have more intimate fellowship with our Lord, and may joy in the blessed Husband, while at the feast of espousals. Think not strange of drawing near at this rate ; for, if ever we come to heaven to be happy, we will be nearer than all this, nearer God than we can now conceive. The blood of God will be close cement betwixt God and his own creatures ; and this is the only way of our nearness.
But how must the business of our drawing near to God be managed? The apostle here lays down four directions.
(1.) Draw near to God sincerely. Hypocrify is a disease in the vitals of religion; it pretends one thing, and intends another. The tongue and external behaviour in gospel-ordinances are no true interpreters of the hypocrite's mind. Beware of this : Matth. xv. 8. “ This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips ; but their heart is far from me.” If you be to take Christ, let those go away. If you join hands with him in this ordinance, join heart with him also. Seek out your fins impartially, and see if you be willing to part with them without exception : Pfal. lxvi. 18. “ If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” Consider and deliberate on the cost of the covenant, and see if there be nothing at which your heart stands. Consider if you be for Christ and his salvation, for his fanctifying Spirit, as well as his justifying blood. If it be thus, you may warrantably come forward, even to his seat; but if otherwise, you will never get near to him.