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sinful man, O Lord.” They see his glory and bis seat, they admire the happiness of those that stand before him, as the queen of Sheba did the attendants of Solomon, 1 Kings . 8. But they dare not draw near, but stand afar off, under a deep sense of unworthiness. Like the publican, they cannot lift up their eyes to heaven, but smite upon their breasts, saying, God be merciful to as sinners, Luke xviii. 13. They cannot conceive how such vile malefactors can face the Judge, how such prodigals can set their foot again in their Father's house, how such filthy, loathsome, beggarly creatures, can presume to come forward to the throne. If at any time they break forward, it is like offering violence to themselves. They take their life in their hand, and, like Esther, go in to the king, chap. iv. 16. And then the legs of their confidence tremble, the hands of faith shake, and they are ready to start back : but " let us draw near.”—This brings us,
II. To shew, that we may draw near to God. Glad news this to poor sensible sinners! Come in, ye blessed of the Lord; why do you stand back ? you may draw near to God.-For,
1. God is on a throne of grace in Jesus Christ : 2 Cor. v. 19, “ To wit, that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them, and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” God has in Christ laid aside his red garments, being to pursue the war no longer against those that come to him through Christ. He wears the white garment of peace, and breathes nothing from hence, but peace, love, and good-will. To look on an absolute God out of Christ, is enough to make a devil tremble. You are not called to draw near to him as sach. Indeed, some presumptuous sinners will, like beasts, touch the mountain ; but darts of wrath will strike through their consciences, and drive them back at length. But you are to draw near to God, as on his throne of grace, in Christ.
2. There is a way to the throne never trode, nor designed to be trode, by any but sinners such as you, and the like of you. This is no back entry, but the most glorious way to the throne. Adam had a way to it, but that is blocked up; there is a new and living way consecrated for us, Heb. X. 20. And may wo not draw near by it? It lies through the vail of Christ's flesh, and leads into the holiest, the seat of God! It is a way paved with glory to God, peace on earth, and good-will to men. It will vail all your weaknesses, wants and blemishes; yea, it vails the fiery law, wraps it up out of sight; it vails the sword of justice. The smiles of a reconciled God shine through it, to revive and refresh the hearts of the guilty.
3. He is a friend of ours who is set over the house of God: Heb.
X. 21, " And having an High-Priest over the house of God," that is Jesus Christ. He was taken out from among us, being “ bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.” Psalm lxxxix. 19, “ Thou spakest in vision to thy Holy One, and saidst, I have laid help upon one that is mighty, I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” He is for us, in things pertaining to God, to employ his power and interest for us in the court of heaven. He bears the keys of the house, and admits whom he will, gives them what he will, brings as far forward as he will : John v. 22, “For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment to the Son." And he is a Priest, a High-Priest, who will take all our services, wash away all their pollution, and offer them for us with the much incence of his merits and intercession.We now proceed,
III. To shew that we ought to draw dear : " Let us draw near.". For,
1. It is the command of God: James iv. 8, “ Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” God commands runaways to return, and draw near to him. He commands returning sinners to come forward, and come near him. He gives them no thanks for standing afar off. Though he can bear with them long, yet he is not pleased when a sense of sin makes poor sensible sinners stand off from him as affrighted at him. His fatherly bowels yearn toward them: Luke xv. 20,“ And he arose, and came to his father ; but when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him."
2. If we do not draw near to God, we dishonour his Son, and so dishonour himself, in so far as we frustrate the great design of the mystery of Christ: John v. 23, “ That all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which sent him.” Eph. ii. 13, 14, “ But now in Christ Jesus, ye who sometimes were afar off, are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle-wall of partition between us." So far as we stand afar off from God, we dishonour the friendship of God, the blood of the Son of God in its efficacy and virtue, while we dare not trust ourselves in the new and living way and under the covert of the Redeemer's blood.-We now proceed,
IV. To a practical improvement of the subject, in an ase of exhortation,
Let us, then, draw near to God. Return, sinners, 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 restlessness 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, saith the Lord.” Ver. 22," Return, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we come unto thee, 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 Christ. You may get near him ere you come to heaven; in his ordinances in the lower house, there you
1 may have access to him. Particularly, let us draw near to 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 form 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 : 1 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 sacramentally 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, indemnity 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 bolds forth the golden sceptre to thee, though thou deservest the iron rod. Start not back by unbelief. If it be too much for thee to expect when thou lookest 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 sits on the throne of bis grace, he says to all who have accepted his peace, as Ahasuerus did to Esther, “ What is thy petition, and it shall be granted thee?" Let us not, then, slight the season of petitioning. Be sensible of your soul-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 npon him, and behold his glory: Psalm 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 see 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. iii. 18. Lay this over thy soul, wrap thyself in it, come thus forward, and welcome.
4. As friends; friends of God, to have fellowship with him, who may freely converso with him: to unbosom ourselves to him, and to be let into the secrets 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 sit ? as little will he approve the Christian's carrying froward-like, and standing afar off from him at that table which he has covered for his friends. Nay, draw dear,
6. As children to a Father in Christ, to receive the portion of children. Is not the soul which hath closed with Christ a son 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 children's bread given them at the table ? Believe, then, and say to God in Christ, “ 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,
Lastly, As a spouse 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 rent: Song viii. 6,“ Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for 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 sacrament 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. Hypocrisy 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 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 sins impartially, and see if you be willing to part with them without exception : Psalm 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 sanctifying Spirit, as well as his justifying blood. If it be thus, you may warrantably come