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BY REV. G. A. CALHOUN, D.D.,
NORTH COVENTRY, CT.
ADVANTAGES OF GOD'S GRACIOUS PRESENCE.
"And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them."-Ex. xxv. 8.
Were you to destroy your bibles, demolish your sanctuary, make common the Sabbath, close the lips of the preacher, and cause the voice of prayer no more to be heard; you would occasion a great diminution of present enjoyment. There are not a few, who take pleasure in reading the Bible. There are those who hail with joy the approaching Sabbath; there are those who esteem it a blessed privilege to enter the courts of the Lord; there are those, who would deeply regret a denial of the rites of baptism, and the Lord's Supper; and there are those, who would hang their harps upon the willows, and mourn in bitterness, were they refused the privilege of prayer.
We see a company assembling for public worship, with anticipations of much satisfaction in the transactions before them. During the services of the occasion, we observe a fixed attention, a glow of animation, an expression of joy excited by the presence of God. The assembly is dismissed, and many of them retire, having had a feast more satisfactory to them, than that of "a stalled ox." Look at that man, who seldom, if ever, enters the house of God; has he enjoyment like this?
We hear Christian friends in conversation.
Now their theme is the perfections of Jehovah; and admiration and joy swell their breasts. Now redeeming grace is their topic, and how mild and placid their countenances. Now they speak of the progress of the Gospel-the increase of the faithful-the success attending the cause of benevolence-and the final triumph of the cause of Christ; and how elevated and celestial their feelings. Look at that man, who disregards religious institutions; has he comforts like these?
We now silently approach a dwelling. It is the dwelling of the pious. As we are about to tread the threshold, the voice of prayer greets our ears. The father, and mother, and children, around their family altar, are on their knees before God. The fire of love is kindled in their breasts. The God of love is spe
cially present. Their faces shine while they boldly intercede, that they may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Look at that irreligious father, who spurns at the duty of family devotion; has his household peace and comfort like this?
To-day we meet a pious father. As he affectionately takes our hand, tears of joy flow from eyes unaccustomed to weep. What causes this overflowing of heart? Oh, his long lost child,—the child of his hopes, the child of his prayers, and the child of his tears, is found. And found by him who came to seek and save that which is lost. Has the ungodly father joy like this?
We now walk in secret places, and what objects are these which we behold? Yonder is an aged pilgrim, wearied with the calls of the world, and the noise of her companions to the grave who has retired with her Bible to enjoy a season of undisturbed communion with God. Oh, how refreshing, how sweet to her taste this communion with her heavenly Father! Yonder, too, is a youth, who has recently been adopted into the family of God. He is presenting his thank-offering for converting grace, and pleading at the throne of mercy for his companions in sin. In the attitude of supplication, he lingers and pleads, and lingers and pleads. His lips break their silence. We hear him saying, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me "-except thou convert and save my companions. Look at those, who scoff at the religion of the cross; are they found in places so sacred, and in employments so delightful, so heavenly as these?
We now visit houses of affliction. Entering one, we find a man of forty-five. A short time since he was the picture of health. This man did not pray in his family. He did not frequent the house of God. To the sacredness of the Sabbath he paid but little attention. And for the support of religious institutions he made no sacrifices. Disease has grasped the springs of life, and in full strength he is writhing and groaning with tortures of body; and this is not all which renders the sight appalling. He is now brought to see himself in the hands of death, unprepared for the retributions of eternity. He entreats us to instruct him, and pray for him. And with a countenance terrific, a soul filled with anguish, and the darkness of despair gathering around him, his cries for pardon and salvation are incessant, until death closes the scene, and there is a great and awful silence. Well did wicked Balaam say, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his."
But as afflictions are not confined to the families of the ungodly, we will enter another dwelling. Here we find an emaciated body, worn out with disease and distress. This person is a female, a tender plant, which has been watched, and nourished, with all the attention and solicitude of a fond mother's care; but the rough winds, and violent storms of death, are now beating upon her. Her eyes are sunk, her bosom heaves, her lips quiver-all, all bespeak the presence of the king of terrors.
And yet there is a meekness in her aspect, like the love of Jesus -there is a calmness, like a summer's evening-there is the stillness of peace-the softness of quietude-and the joy of bright prospects. We ask her, whence this triumph in death? She replies, God is dwelling with me; in him do I triumph. We ask her mother, who stands gazing on her dying child, how can you be so calm and cheerful in this heart-rending hour? She replies, God is dwelling with me-in his will do I rejoice. Tell me, oh, tell me, my hearers, did you ever witness a scene so affecting, so comforting, and so heavenly, in the dwellings of those, who neglect the institutions of our holy religion?
Religion, in the life that now is, presents its hundred-fold reward. And were all beyond the grave but an empty void; were death, when it dissolves the body, to annihilate the soul; we could not do too much in rearing a Sanctuary, that we might secure the presence of God among us.
We should not, however, omit to contemplate, for a moment, the benefits resulting from God's dwelling with a people, which they will experience in the world to come.
Life is a vapor, and time is but a narrow isthmus, separating eternity past from eternity future. Whatever are the blessings of God's special presence experienced in this world, compared with those to be experienced in the world of spirits, they are a drop to the ocean, an atom to the universe. Persons must rear a sanctuary, and thus secure the dwelling of God with them in this life, or they cannot dwell with him in the life to come. "And holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord." It is a privilege of those who attend on the means of grace with a cordial reliance on Christ for pardon and acceptance, to be delivered from a woe indescribable, a woe eternal-from the worm which never dieth, and from the fire which is never quenched. It is also their privilege to be like Christ, to be with Christ, to behold his glory, to taste of his love, and drink of the river of pleasure which issues from his throne forever and ever. Brethren, were there no present advantages derived from serving God -were our attempts to serve him attended with toil, disappointment and sorrow, with no one emotion of joy-were the wicked to be the people of prosperity, of undisturbed peace, and unalloyed comfort in this world; and were the righteous, as was their Saviour, to be forsaken in death: when faith presents us a vision of the miseries of the damned, and of the glories of the redeemed, we are prepared to say, Let us live the life, and die the death of the righteous, and let our last end be like his.
PASTOR OF THE FOURTEENTH STREET PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, NEW YORK.
"Let every man be swift to hear.”—JAMES i. 19.
A precious faculty is that of hearing, and in a multitude of ways it is a source of delight to us all. Pleasant to us are the sounds even of inanimate nature-of zephyrs that sigh softly over banks of flowers; of brooks that glide with gentle murmur along their rocky channels; of mighty winds that sweep over forest-crowned mountains; of old ocean pealing forth the gravest notes of the universal anthem. The varied minstrelsy of birds, those dear relics of Eden; the hum of bees and the lowing of herds,-nay even the hoarse baying of the watch-dog, have all, in their several methods and measures, a power and a charm for us. Dearer still are the tones that fall from human lips,-the accents of friendship, the utterances of parental love, the voices of children, the notes of "men-singers and women-singers,"
"With many a winding bout
the "words that breathe and thoughts that burn," of those who have the gift of a lofty and commanding eloquence. A golden gate, surely, is that of the town of Mansoul, which Bun
yan has made so prominent in his famous old allegory of the Holy War.
But of all the many sorts of hearing, that which is most important, and which should be most highly prized by us, is the hearing of God's Word. Large provision has God made for it. An order of men is instituted, a day is appointed, the better to secure this privilege. The noise of business is hushed, its clamorous demands are suspended, a peace typifying that of heaven overspreads the land, that God may speak to man, and that man may listen to God. The shedding of the Saviour's blood hath secured this boon; blessed memories of Gethsemane and Calvary woo men to the sanctuary. "Swift to hear" in other relations they may well show themselves-to listen to words of kindness, to expositions of science, to counsels of human wisdom; but swifter should they be to hear the glorious Gospel of the Son of God. It is not a vain thing for them, it is their life. For "faith cometh by hearing." It begins thus, and thus commonly it springs up toward perfection. It is they only "that be planted in the house of the Lord," that "shall flourish like the palmtree," that "shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon." The most eminent servants of God in every age have understood this. Their language has been like that of David, "One thing have I desired of the Lord, and that will I seek after, that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to inquire in his temple."
There is, however, a class of persons in our religious congregations-some of them have been recognized even within the pale of the Church-whose temper is obviously of quite an opposite sort. The terms of my statement intimate that they do not utterly forsake the sanctuary; nay, they ordinarily suffer no Sabbath to pass without resorting to it. But their thirst for its privileges seems to be easily slaked. A single service is apt to suffice. They may be properly characterized as half-day hearers. Their "goodness" is too literally "as a morning cloud and the early dew." In respect to the afternoon service, they do but illustrate negatively the precept of our text. It is of these HALFDAY HEARERS I propose to discourse.
Yet let me not be supposed to speak without discrimination. Far be it from me to ignore in this relation, providential hindrances. Aged persons there are, whose infirmity makes even a single visit to the house of God a great Sabbath labor. Persons of all classes are liable to the assaults of disease. It is indeed somewhat remarkable, that attacks of this sort should happen so often upon the Sabbath. How are we to account for these hebdomadal visitations? To what occult influence shall we ascribe it, that just as holy time begins, cruel rheumatisms tighten their grasp, and hoarse colds clog the channels of respiration, and crushing headaches settle down upon the brain? Can it be that the God of this world has still some partial power over the