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this morning has done for many what it has done for me-made them ashamed of their religion. It is so cold, so low, so languid, and remote from what I wish it to be, that I would fain cry, “Quicken thou me, Lord;" quicken thou me, that I may know what it is to run in the way of thy commandments, with an enlarged heart, to mount up with the wings of eagles, to obtain admission into the presence of the Most High, and pray, preach, sing, and hearken, as one absorbed in Deity. This shall be the consummation of our Christianity ; and why should we not pant after it now? The Psalmist had evidently set his heart upon this attainment when he said, “My soul thirstest after the living God." What, David, is it not enough that thou hast something from God to lean upon-His Word, His precious promises, and grace to keep thee alive? No," said he; “I must have the enjoyment of God Himself. I must be embosomed in the Father by the merit of the Son, under the powerful operations of the Holy Ghost, or my religion is a faint and feeble thing.' My soul was overwhelmed with this description of enjoyment whilst shut up in secret yesterday; and the sensation is renewed this morning until it seems alinost to demand the bursting of the narrow limits of the human intellect to range through the expanse of unveiled Deity, and enjoy the presence of God without interruption. “I have seen, said the old patriarch, “I have seen God face to face." Why, it is not an uncommon thing for persons to imagine that this is never to be expected till we have dropped the body and have got within the veil. But here is an instance in olden time, in patriarchal Christianity, in this runaway from his father's house, this supplanter of his own brother, who had obtained the promise, being moved by the Spirit of God to take fast hold of the God-man Jesus, who had manifested Himself unto him, and wrestled with him until the break of day; and then he exultingly exclaims, “I have seen God face to face!” and, as if overwhelmed with wonder at the prodigy, he adds, “and my life is preserved."
There are two features in our subject this morning to which I desire to invite your prayerful attention : and oh that God may open them to our view with great sweetness and power!
The first is, the admission of a poor ruined sinner into intimacy with God. “I have seen God face to face."
The second is, his miraculous preservation under such overwhelming circumstances. "My life is preserved.”
I.-0, Holy Ghost! descend, descend, and let us realize what this sacred history contains. “ I have seen God face to face." I beseech you here to accept one word of caution. This is no visionary matter. It is not the enthusiastic movings of natural passions which will present us with dreams and visions, as if something extraordinary, something unearthly, had come down to poor old nature's vision. Whenever I hear of such things, I always treat them as romances—I always treat them as phantoms and visionary falsehoods; and I place no confidence in them at all. I give this caution, because the first idea with which my mind is filled, is that a spiritual capacity is not the common privilege of all the human race--that it is not the common privilege of any of Adam's children in their unregeneracy. In order to see God face to face, as Jacob did, and as all Jacob's seed do, sooner or later, there must be a spiritual capacity. If a blind man were admitted into your house, of course he could not go away and say that he had seen you; and if a deaf man had been there, neither could he say that he had heard your voice. Something more is intended here, a spiritual capacity, which is a new creation. Old Adam-nature was driven from the presence of God and turned out of Paradise in consequence of the fall, and became incapable of holding communion with God. It requires, then, a new creation, forming a spiritual capacity in the soul of man, before my text can be realized in a spiritual sense. And then there is a spiritual discernment given, which looks within the veil, just in accordance with the statement of the apostle to the Corinthians " The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned; but he that is spiritual, judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.” How strongly does this mark the contrast between the natural man and the spiritual man. This is the first point of importance, and all the rest that follows will be unintelligible, unless this first feature be duly weighed and spiritually possessed—discernment that can fix upon the Persons and the perfections of Deity spiritually—an eye-sight that can look within the veil—a sacred power of perception imparted to the soul, in which Jehovah is seen in the spirituality of His law, in the purity, preciousness, and freeness of His gospel—in the person of His Son-in the order of His providence, and especially in the economy of His grace.
I pray you here to pause for a moment to think of the delusion that has gone abroad in the world, and under the spell of which men meet that plain passage of Scripture, “the natural man discerneth not the things of the Spirit of God," with a declaration that they can, and with an effort, through the medium of literature, science, and deep reading, to falsify God's word and promise. This is the religion of the present day.' Whilst God says "man cannot discern,” proud man says, can, and we are determined that we will." But in every instance they are disappointed, and never since Adain was driven out of Paradise has any human being discerned spiritual things to a saving purpose, but as the Holy Ghost created a new vision, and gave spiritual discernment. Moreover, there must be a spiritual hearing; for by nature men are compared to the deaf adder," which will not hearken to the voice of charmers, charming never so wisely.” In speaking of the dumb idols made by Heathens, and which many of God's Israel followed to worship, it is said, “they have eyes, and see not; they have ears, and hear not;" and “they who make them are like unto them, and so is every one who trusteth in them.” So that a human being who never heard the voice of the
Holy Ghost, of Christ, or of the Father-never heard the sacred, delightful, encouraging declaration of the Father, “I will be a God unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters;” never obtained the fulfilment of the precious promise, in which the Son
says, “ The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and shall live;" 'never knew what the whispers of the Spirit mean when He sweetly and powerfully testifies of the things that are Christ's, is still a stranger to vital godliness. But the man who
can see God face to face hath a spiritual hearing, hears His voice, feels His everlasting arm sustaining him, discovers His glory, and beholds Him for himself. As saith Job, ** whom I shall see for myself
, and not for another.” more is requisite (though many deny it) for seeing God face to face, and that is affection. You know that when persons are at variance
, that the weaker party is afraid to see the other, to see his face, or come near, lest vengeance should be executed. Just so is man. There is an instinct in man which is obliged to admit that Jehovah is
superior in power, that He is almighty; and while there is guilt on the conscience, and the "carnal mind is enmity against God,” there can be no seeing his face, or drawing into communion with Him, or holding sweet intercourse and fellowship with Him ; but when “the love of God is shed abroad in the heart," by this new creation, the poor soul can draw nigh unto God, and listen to His love and the sweet accents of His Spirit-can draw nigh to Him, affectionately longing after Him, and panting to enjoy the communications of His grace and the tokens of His Divine favour. Now will you inquire of yourselves whether you have these features of the new creation? Have you the spiritual capacity? Have you seen Jehovah in His word, and secretly approached His throne, looking within the veil? Have you heard His voice speaking powerfully to your heart? Have you an affection to Him, so as to be longing after more fellowship with the Father and His Son Jesus Christ? That is Christianity. Is it yours?
Let us go on to mark that where the spiritual capacity exists, the adoption character is proved; and where that is so, the poor sinner, feeling that he is a child born from above, that regeneration work is accomplished in his personal experience, and that the Holy Ghost has given him life divine. Feeling all this, he can come near to enjoy sweeter intimacy and closer fellowship with the Father, as Watts expresses it :
"I would no longer lie,
Like slaves, beneath thy throne;
And thou the kindred own." That is coming face to face when we cry, " Abba, Father,” and God owns the relationship, when He sends forth the Spirit of adoption into the heart, and enables the poor soul to deal with Him as with a parent with all filial affection and confidence. That is sweet enjoyment, and seeing God face to face. But where a spiritual birth is vouchsafed, and the soul is brought into spiritual adoption, there are two or three things to be noticed as accompaniments. I will give them to you in three words: heirship, holiness, honour. The soul that is born from above, and is capable of seeing God face to face, hath heirship, and is made to understand and enjoy it. “ If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ.” Holiness; for without holiness no man can see the Lord. Hence the solemn injunction, “ As He which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy." And every heaven-born soul delights in holy company, feasts on holy provisions, wears holy garments, the imputed righteousness of Christ, enjoys holy intercourse with God in His family, and is growing up into Jesus Christ.
Moreover, it must be accounted a high honour to be related to that God who is the “searcher of the heart.” Not a few vain worms in our day are remarkably proud of the honour of having descended from great personages, mighty warriors, or renowned individuals, especially if these be of noble or royal origin. They feel it an honour to bear such or such a name, or to have such or such a relationship, however distant; but we pass it by as the empty wind; for what is it after all but the relationship of one worm to another worm? It is utterly beneath the child of God, whose honour it is to be a child of God the Father, and the brother of the Son of God, a pupil of the Holy Ghost, a temple for Jehovah to dwell in, to be related to all the persons in the Deity, to have all the angels of heaven ministering servants, the world as school-room, all the privileges of grace as his portion on earth, and the blessedness of heaven as his patrimony on high. Oh the happiness of being capable of seeing God face to face! Faith in Christ is the only Fay of obtaining this intimacy. I never knew the man, and I believe there never was the man on earth, who found this intimacy in any other way; for the Son of God has Himself declared, that “no man cometh to the Father but by Me.” If you look into the Epistle to the Corinthians, you will find the apostle stating how it is that we get a face to face interview with Jehovah. He says, "For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts." The work is all His. What for? “ To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God"—the very thing we want, a face to face interview, "the light of the knowledge of the glory of God. "But where? “In the face of Jesus Christ." Nowhere else. And he who is a stranger to Christ is a stranger to God altogether. He who rejects the eternal Deity of Christ is an Infidel. He who rejects the mediation of Christ has no possible way of access unto God. This is the way to get a view of the person of His dear Son. You will remember what is said of the person of Christ in the first chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews, that " He is the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person." So that to have a view of Christ, as set forth in His word, His official character, His essential Deity, His gracious condescension, His perfect work, and His relationship to His Church, is to have a view of the brightness of the Father's glory. Is not that face to face to have a view of the express image of His person? Oh, for more nearness to Christ! more intimacy with Jesus! more love for Jesus, that I may have a face to face intimacy with the Most High!
Take one portion which was dropped from His own lips in confirmation of this. When Philip asked Him, “ Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us,” His answer was, “ Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father: and how sayest thou then, show us the Father ?" Can anything be more explicit than this? " He that hath seen me hath seen the Father also; and how then sayest thou, show us the Father?”. Again He says, “ I and my Father are one." So that the soul who is brought to Jesus can look up into Jesus' countenance, and behold His blood and righteousness for his acceptance under the influence of the Holy Ghost, and by the acting of living faith has seen God, has seen the Father. But now I want to draw a little closer. For many, many years past, certainly more than forty, have I known something of this; and I have found out only this week that my soul lies at too great a distance from Him now, though there are moments of sweet intimacy, of face to face communion with Him. I bless His name for this, but I would never have it interrupted. I would have it perpetuated; so settled, confirmed, and continued, that I might ever be near to God, and not "afar off.” I know that there is such a thing as walking with God. I know there is such a thing as coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on the Beloved, and cleaving to the Lord with full purpose of heart. I know there is such a thing as the response going on as described by the prophet, “I will say it is my people, and they shall say the Lord is my God” in sweet, holy, unctuous fellowship and communion. And when these sweet seasons are realized, what a little thing the world appears! How contemptible all things then become! What toys are the highest attractions and all that pertains to this world! Soaring on high, in fellowship with God, and by the faith which He bestows to penetrate the veil, I look on the throne, and claim relationship to Him who lived, who died, who rose again, and now dwells within the veil; absorbed in Deity, lost to the things of time and sense, wrapt up in that allglorious robe which Jesus wrought, I am half glorified in this sweet enjoyment of my covenant God. At such delightful seasons my soul seems waiting to soar away, where no obstacles intervene between my God and me; and when I sink back in the consciousness that I am still in the body, this is my consolation, that it cannot be long, that the period is not distant, when I shall see Him as He is, and be like Him for evermore.
Oh! draw me nearer, nearer still, has often been my cry.
Oh! draw me nearer, nearer still, in fellowship with thee. The look, the touch, the smile, the promise fulfilled, the communications of grace bestowed, the mighty quickenings of grace in experience, zeal brought forth, and all the powers of the mind engaged with God, will frequently so transport the believer from this vale of tears, that the winds may roar, the rains descend, the floods swell, sorrows increase, sickness and death surround, and troubles and calamities grow--yet all is well. He is safe; his heart is embosomed in Deity; he is communing with the Most High; and only waits the command to “enter into the joy of the Lord.”
My hearers, I feel that my vocabulary is exhausted; I feel that idea is poverty; I feel that thought is limited, and tied and bound to the earth by the poor circumscribed powers of a fallen intellect ; but the day will come when the vast expanse of the immensity of God will be only sufficient for the soul to range in throughout eternity. “I have seen God face to face.” Is this, my beloved, even in the poor feeble manner in which I have attempted to set it forth, at all like the contemptible thing which they call Christianity in the present day? Is it like the dry rounds of stiff forms and vile idolatries which are made up by Antichrist, and called Christianity? They appear to me to be as contrary to each other as light and darkness, as distant from each other as heaven and hell, and as much opposed to each other as God and the devil.
Just let us now draw from Jacob's example the experimental dealing with God that goes on when this intimacy-face to face-is realized. What use did Jacob make of it? He got a fast hold. He told God all about his dangers, his fears, and his apprehensions. He pleaded God's promise, “Thou saidst I will surely do thee good.” He could appeal to the Most High that he was in the way whither He had sent him; as if he had said, in dealing with God face to face, “There can be no danger in the way thou hast sent me, because thou hast said that I should return unto my country, and given me the promise that thou wilt surely do me good.' He lays his fears before God, asks that the promise may be fulfilled, wrestles with the angel of the covenant till the break of day, and refuses to let him go till he gets the blessing; and the blessing he gets. Oh, that my soul had a little more of Jacob's religion! Oh, that my soul had more of patriarchal Christianity! What, beloved, have you never tasted somewhat of of Jacob's privilege in this experimental dealing with God? Have you not, in secret, when drawing nigh to Him, told Him all of your fears, not from Esau, but from self, from sin, from Satan, and the world? Have you not said, concerning them, “ I fear them lest they