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A PIOUS COMMUNION WITH GOD, THE BEST SUPPORT UNDER AFFLICTION.
JOB XXII. 21.—“Acquaint now thyself with him, and be at peace."
THE corruption of the human heart is in nothing more manifest, than in our disinclination to entertain intercourse with God. Though we were created for that very end, and endued with faculties to attain it; though we stand in the utmost need of it; though we are graciously invited and encouraged to it, by God Himself; and though it is our chief honour, advantage, and happiness, as well as our duty, to comply with his invitations ;-yet, notwithstanding all these weighty considerations,-like our first unhappy parent, in the garden of Eden, after he had fallen from innocency, we are too apt to shun God; and instead of seeking his face, to fly from him: thus affording a lamentable proof that we are indeed fallen also. Now,
it must be acknowledged, that such conduct forms an exception to our general practice in temporal matters. For instance, when the body is affected with pain, or sickness, we are by no means tardy in seeking for remedies: we listen to every one that suggests them, and upon the least hope of success, immediately apply them. And yet, notwithstanding we feel our souls disordered and disquieted by various pursuits,distracted by contrary interests,—ever, in vain, seeking happiness in the enjoyments of this world, which passeth away ;-notwithstanding we are assured, from the experience of others, and from our own inward convictions, that the only way of regulating these disorders, is to detach our minds from too close an attention to the things of sense, and to employ them often in converse with our Maker,-the author of our being, and fountain of all our happiness; yet are we extremely unwilling to adopt this only method of cure: we go on still nourishing the fatal distemper by which we are consumed, and choose rather to feel the pain, than to apply the remedy. Excellent, therefore, was the advice of Eliphaz to Job, when, in the midst of his great troubles and afflictions, he thus addressed him," Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace:"-as if he had said,- Take this opportunity of improving thy acquaintance with God, to which He now more urgently invites
thee; make the true use of those afflictions which His Hand, mercifully severe, hath laid upon thee, and be induced by them to know, and to love, and to serve Him better. Calm the disquietudes of thy mind, by reflections on his parental tenderness and mercy, -on the wisdom and equity of all his proceedings. Comfort thyself with such thoughts at all times, but at the present time especially, when all earthly comforts fail thee, "acquaint thyself with Him, and be at peace.
Conceiving that, (by the divine blessing,) it may be beneficial to us all,-more particularly to such among us, as are suffering under God's kindly-chastening hand, -to consider what is implied by the phrase "Acquaint now thyself with Him, and be at peace,"—and wherein consists the duty recommended by it; I would direct your attention brethren, to these important points; and endeavour also to shew, that it is only by cultivating a close and intimate acquaintance with the Giver of all Good, that we can hope for any permanent, satisfying peace in this life, or look with the eye of faith, beyond the grave, to the enjoyment of that eternal "rest which remaineth for the people of God."
Unhappily, we are prone, by nature, to engage too closely with the things of this world, -its concerns and pleasures, surrendering our hearts too eagerly to the pursuit, and immersing ourselves too deeply in the enjoyment of them;
till at last we form such familiarity with these things, as makes it irksome to fix our minds on a better employment. To correct this, it is requisite that we "acquaint ourselves with God;" that we frequently disengage our hearts from earthly objects, and raise them to heavenly things; that we apply ourselves to study the perfections of God, and to cherish lively impressions of his perpetual presence; that contemplate, reverently, the works of nature and grace, by which He manifests himself to us; the inscrutable ways of his providence, and all the wonderful methods of his dealing with the sons of men ;-more especially, his redemption of them by Jesus Christ: that we accustom ourselves to such thoughts, till by divine grace they inspire our souls with that filial awe and love of him, that humble and implicit dependance upon him, which is the root and principle of all religion;-till we have made our duty in this respect, our pleasure, and can address ourselves to him, on all occasions, with readiness and delight; imparting all our wants, expressing all our fears and all our griefs to him, with that holy confidence, to which the true servants of God are entitled, having "received the spirit of adoption, whereby they cry Abba, Father!" In this exalted sense ought we to "acquaint ourselves with God," to "set him always before us," to draw near to him," and to "take delight in approaching him." It may moreover be
useful to mention some particulars, wherein such sanctifying acquaintance consists.
In order to cultivate human friendships, the things principally requisite are-knowledge of character, access, similitude of manners, an entire confidence and love: and by these also the divine friendship, of which we are treating, must be cemented and upheld.
The first requisite towards an acquaintance with God, is a due knowledge of him: I mean not a speculative knowledge, built on abstract reasonings about his nature and essence; but a practical knowledge of those attributes, which invite us to approach him, and closely to unite ourselves to him; a thorough conviction and vital experience of his paternal care over us, and concern for us; of his unspotted holiness, his inflexible justice, his unerring wisdom, and his diffusive goodness; a representation of him to ourselves under those affecting characters of Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier, Lawgiver, and Judge; which are most suited to raise our affections towards him, and either to awe or incline us to a stricter performance of our duty. These moral and relative perfections of God, are most necessary, and most easy to be understood by us. The acquaintance, thus begun, cannot continue, without frequent access to him, in prayer, in his Word, and in his ordinances; in the private devotions of the closet, in the public service of the sanctuary, and at the altar. By