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crísy, sufferance is but vexation ; for such were the alms of the pharisee, the fast of Jezabel, the prayer of Judah reproved by the prophet Isaiah, the humiliation of Ahab, the martyrdom of heretics; in which nothing is given to God, but the body, or the forms of religion; but the soul and the power of godliness is wholly wanting
3. We are to consider, that no intention can sanctify an unholy or unlawful action. Saul, the king, disobeyed God's commandment, and spared the cattle of Amalek to reserve the best for sacrifice: and Saul, the pharisee, persecuted the church of God, with a design to do God service: and they that killed the apostles, had also good purposes, but they had unhallowed actions. When there is both truth in election, and charity in the intention '; when we go to God in ways of his own choosing or approving, then our eye is single, and our hands are clean, and our hearts are pure. But when a man does evil, that good may come of it, or good to an evil purpose, that man does like him, that rolls himself in thorns, that he may sleep easily; he roasts himself in the fire, that he may quench his thirst with his own sweat ; he turns his face to the east, that he may go to bed with the sun. I end this with the saying of a wise heathen w: “ He is to be called evil, that is good only for his own sake. Regard not, how full hands you bring to God, but how pure. Many cease from sin out of fear alone, not out of innocence or love of virtue;" and they, as yet, are not to be called innocent but timorous.
SECT. III. .
The third general instrument of holy Living : or the
Practice of the Presence of God.
That God is present in all places, that he sees every action, hears all discourses, and understands every thought, is no strange thing to a Christian ear, who hath been taught this doctrine, not only by right reason, and the consent of all the wise men in the world, but also by God himself in holy Scripture. “ Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and
St. Bern. lib. de Præcept.
w Publius Mimus. .
not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places, that I shall not see him ? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth * ?” “ Neither is there any creature, that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and open to the eyes of him, with whom we have to do y.” “ For in him we live, and move, and have our being ?.” God is wholly in every place; included in no place; not bound with cords, except those of love; not divided into parts, not changeable into several shapes ; filling heaven and earth with his present power, and with his never absent nature. So St. Augustine a expresses this article. So that we may imagine God to be as the air and the sea ; and we all enclosed in his circle, wrapped up in the lap of his infinite nature; or as infants in the wombs of their pregnant mothers : and we can no more be removed from the presence of God, than from our own being.
Several manners of the Divine Presence. The presence of God is understood by us, in several manners, and to several purposes.
1. God is present by his essence; which, because it is infinite, cannot be contained within the limits of any place; and because he is of an essential purity and spiritual nature, he cannot be undervalued by being supposed present in the places of unnatural uncleanness : because as the sun, reflecting upon the mud of strands and shores, is unpolluted in its beams, so is God not dishonoured, when we suppose him in every of his creatures, and in every part of every one of them; and is still as unmixt with any unhandsome adherence, as is the soul in the bowels of the body.
2. God is every where present by his power b. He rolls the orbs of heaven with his hand; he fixes the earth with his foot; he guides all the creatures with his eye, and refreshes them with his influence : he makes the powers of hell to shake with his terrors, and binds the devils with his word, and throws them out with his command ; and sends the angels on embassies with his decrees : he hardens the joints of infants, and confirms the bones, when they are fashioned beneath secretly in the earth. He it is, that assists at the numerous productions of fishes; and there is not one hollowness in the bottom of the sea, but he shews himself to be Lord of it, by sustaining there the creatures, that come to dwell in it: and in the wilderness, the bittern and the stork, the dragon and the satyr, the unicorn and the elk, live upon his provisions, and revere his power, and feel the force of his almightiness. .
* Jer. xxiii. 23, 24.
Heb. iv. 13. 2 Acts, vii. 28. a Lib. vii. de Civit. C. xxx. 5 θεός περιέχει τη βουλήσει το πάν, μείζων του παντός ώσπερ τη ουσία, ούτως και αξία.
Resp. ad Orthod.
3. God is more specially present, in some places, by the several and more special manifestations of himself to extraordinary purposes. First, by glory. Thus his seat is in heaven; because, there he sits encircled with all the outward demonstrations of his glory, which he is pleased to shew to all the inhabitants of those his inward and secret courts. And thus they, that “ die in the Lord,” may be properly said to be “ gone to God ;" with whom although they were before, yet now they enter into his courts, into the secret of his tabernacle, into the retinue and splendour of his glory. That is called walking with God; but this is dwelling, or being, with him. “I desire to be dissolved and to be with Christ;” so said St. Paul. But this manner of Divine presence is reserved for the elect people of God, and for their portion in their country.
4. God is, by grace and benediction, specially present in holy places, and in the solemn assemblies of his servants. If holy people meet in grots and dens of the earth, when persecution or a public necessity disturbs the public order, circumstance and convenience, God fails not to come thither to them: but God is also, by the same or a greater reason, present there, where they meet ordinarily, by order, and public authority: there God is present ordinarily, that is, at every such meeting. God will go out of his way to meet his saints, when themselves are forced out of their way of order by a sad necessity : but else, God's usual way is to be present in those places where his servants are appointed ordinarily d to meet. But his presence there signifies nothing, but a readiness to hear their prayers, to bless their persons, to accept their offices, and to like even the circumstance of orderly and public meeting. For thither the prayers of consecration, the public authority separating it, and God's love of order, and the reasonable customs of religion, have, in ordinary, and in a certain degree, fixed this manner of his presence; and he loves to have it so.
( Mat. xviii. 20. Heb. x. 25.
d 1 Kings, v. 9. Psalm cxxxviii. 1, 2.
5. God is especially present, in the hearts of his people, by his Holy Spirit: and indeed the hearts of holy men are temples in the truth of things, and, in type and shadow, they are heaven itself. For God reigns in the hearts of his servants : there is his kingdom. The power of grace hath subdued all his enemies : there is his power. They serve him night and day, and give him thanks and praise : that is his . glory. This is the religion and worship of God in the temple. The temple itself is the heart of man ; Christ is the high-priest, who from thence sends up the incense of prayers, and joins them to his own intercession, and presents all together to his Father; and the Holy Ghost, by his dwelling there, hath also consecrated it into a templee; and God dwells in our hearts by faith, and Christ by his Spirit, and the Spirit by his purities : so that we are also cabinets of the mysterious Trinity; and what is this short of heaven itself, but as infancy is short of manhood, and letters of words? The same state of life it is, but not the same age. It is heaven in a looking-glass, dark, but yet true, representing the beauties of the soul, and the graces of God, and the images of his eternal glory, by the reality of a special presence.
6. God is specially present in the consciences of all persons, good and bad, by way of testimony and judgment : that is, he is there a remembrancer to call our actions to mind, a witness to bring them to judgment, and a judge to acquit or to condemn. And although this manner of presence is, in this life, after the manner of this life, that is, imperfect, and we forget many actions of our lives; yet the greatest changes of our state of grace or sin, our most considerable actions, are always present, like capital letters to an aged and dim eye: and, at the day of judgment, God shall draw aside the cloud, and manifest this manner of his pre
1 Cor. iii. 16. 2 Cor. vi. 16.
sence more notoriously, and make it appear, that he was an observer of our very thoughts; and that he only laid those things by, which, because we covered with dust and negligence, were not then discerned. But when we are risen from our dust and imperfection, they all appear plain and legible.
Now the consideration of this great truth is of a very universal use, in the whole course of the life of a Christian. All the consequents and effects of it are universal. He that remembers, that God stands a witness and a judge, beholding every secrecy, besides his impiety, must have put on impudence, if he be not much restrained in his temptation to sin. “ For the greatest part of sin is taken aways, if a man have a witness of his conversation : and he is a great despiser of God, who sends a boy away, when he is going to commit fornication, and yet will dare to do it, though he knows God is present, and cannot be sent off: as if the eye of a little boy were more awful, than the all-seeing eye of God. He is to be feared in public, he is to be feared in private : if you go forth, he spies you ; if you go in, he sees you : when you light the candle, he observes you; when you put it out, then also God marks you. Be sure, that while you are in his sight, you behave yourself, as becomes so holy a presence.” But if you will sin, retire yourself wisely, and go where God cannot see: for no where else can you be safe. And certainly, if men would always actually consider, and really esteem this truth, that God is the great eye of the world, always watching over our actions, and an ever-open ear to hear all our words, and an unwearied arm ever lifted up to crush a sinner into ruin, it would be the readiest way in the world, to make sin to cease from amongst the children of men, and for men to approach to the blessed estate of the saints in heaven, who cannot sin, for they always walk in the presence, and behold the face of God. This instrument is to be reduced to practice, according to the following rules.
Rules of exercising this consideration. 1. Let this actual thought often return, that God is omnipresent, filling every place; and say with Davids, “ Whither
' S. Aug. de verbis Dominicis, c. iii.
Psal. xiii. 7, 8.