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AN ACQUAINTANCE WITH GOD THE BEST SUP
PORT UNDER AFFLICTIONS. THE exceeding corruption and folly of man are in nothing more manifest, than in his averseness to entertain any friendship or familiarity with God; though he was framed for that very end, and endued with faculties fittest to attain it; though he stands, and cannot but be sensible that he stands, in the utmost want of it; though he be invited, and encouraged to it, frequently and earnestly, by God himself; and though it be his chief honour, advantage, and happiness, as well as his duty, to comply with those invitations.
In all cases where the body is affected with pain or sickness, we are forward enough to look out for remedies, to listen greedily to every one that suggests them, and, upon the least hopes of success, from the reports of others, immediately to apply them. And yet, notwithstanding that we find and feel our souls disordered and restless, tossed and disquieted by various passions, distracted between contrary ends and interests, ever seeking happiness in the enjoyments of this world, and ever missing what they seek; notwithstanding that we are assured from other men's experience, and from our own inward convictions, that the only way of regulating these disorders is, to call
off our minds from too close an attention to the things of sense, and to employ them often in a sweet intercourse with our Maker, the Author of our Being, and fountain of all our ease and happi. ness; yet are we strangely backward to lay hold of this safe, this only method of cure : we go on, still nourishing the distemper under which we groan, and choose rather to feel the pain, than to apply the remedy. Excellent, therefore, was the advice to Job, in the midst of his great trouble and pressures, “Acquaint thyself now with God, and be at peace.” Take this opportunity of improving thy acquaintance with him, to which he always, but now especially, invites thee: make the true use of those afflictions which his hand, mercifully severe, hath been pleased to lay upon thee; and be led by the means of them, though thou hast endeavoured to know and serve him already, to know and serve him still better; to desire and love him
Calm the disorders of thy mind by reflections on his paternal goodness and tenderness; on the wisdom, and equity, and absolute rectitude of all his proceedings : comfort thyself with such thoughts at all times, but chiefly at that time when all earthly comforts fail thee.
We shall, in the first place, consider what this Scripture-phrase, of " acquainting ourselves with God,” implies, and wherein the duty particularly recommended by it consists.
We are prone by nature to engage ourselves in too close and strict
an acquaintance with the things of this world, which immediately and strongly strike our senses; with the business, the pleasures, and the amusements of it; we give ourselves up too greedily to the pursuit, and immerse ourselves too deeply in the enjoyment of them; and contract
at last such an intimacy and familiarity with them, as makes it difficult and irksome for us to call off our minds to a better employment, and to think intensely on any thing besides them. To check and correct this ill tendency, it is requisite that we should “ acquaint ourselves with God;" that we should frequently disengage our hearts from earthly pursuits, and fix them on divine things; that we should apply ourselves to study the blessed nature and perfections of God, and to procure lively and vigorous impressions of his perpetual presence with us, and inspection over us; that we should contemplate carnestly and 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: that we should inure ourselves to such thoughts till they have worked up our souls into that filial awe and love of him, that humble and implicit dependence upon him, which is the root and principle of all manner of goodness; 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, and expressing all our fears, and opening all our griefs to him, with that holy freedom and confidence to which the saints and true servants of God are entitled.
The first step towards an "acquaintance with God,” is a due knowledge of him. I mean not a speculative knowledge, built on abstracted reasonings about his nature and essence, such as philosophical minds often busy themselves in, without reaping thence any advantage towards regulating their passions, or improving their manners; but I mcan a practical knowledge of those attributes of his, which invito us nearly to approach him, and closely to unite ourselves to him ; a thorough sense 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 a Creator and a Redeemer, an Observer and a Pattern, a Lawgiver and a Judge; which are aptest to incline our wills, and to raise our affections towards him, and either to awe or allure us into a stricter performance of every branch of our duty. These, and the like moral and relative perfections of the Deity, are most necessary, and most easy to be understood by us; upon the least reflection and inquiry, we cannot miss them; though the oftener, and more attentively we consider them, the better, and more perfectly still shall we know them.
The acquaintance, thus begun, cannot continue, without frequent access to him ; without “ seeking his face continually,” in all the methods of spiritual address; in contemplation, and in prayer; in his word, and in his ordinances ; in the public service of the sanctuary, and in the private devotions of the closet; and chiefly in the latter of these, which are, on several accounts, most useful towards promoting this holy correspondence. By these means, and in these duties, is he to be approached and found; and, notwithstanding our infinite distance, will “ draw near to them who thus draw near to him," and show himself to be “a God” that "is at hand,” and “not afar off.”
But in vain shall we approach him, unless we endeavour to be like him. A similitude of nature and manners (in such a degree as we are capable